Tag Archives: Brian VanGorder

The Down the Tunnel Radio Show – Placing Blame and Holding People Accountable

-GoIrishGlory

Talking the embarrassing performance by Notre Dame yesterday and who was to blame. Lots of great callers.

http://www.blogtalkradio.com/downthetunnel/2014/11/17/the-down-the-tunnel-radio-show–placing-blame-and-holding-people-accountable

Rumble in the Desert – A Weekend Preview

-GoIrishGlory

Sun Devils

Its elimination weekend in college football as there are multiple marquee games around the country between playoff contending teams. Among those games is Notre Dame traveling to take on Arizona State in a high profile top 10 matchup that will help dictate the rest of the season for both teams. Both the Irish and the Sun Devils enter the contest ranked 10th and 9th respectively. Each team only has one loss on their record with the Irish losing a close game at Florida State, while Arizona State got absolutely steamrolled by UCLA earlier this season. Both teams are desperate for a marquee win to add to their resume. Arizona State’s best win so far this season is against 17th ranked Utah while Notre Dame has yet to defeat a top 25 team yet this season and whose “best” win came against a four loss Stanford team. Both teams need no extra motivation for this one. Its pretty simple what lies ahead. The winner stays alive in the College Football Playoff picture. The loser is eliminated. Brian Kelly has a history of getting his team ready to play in big games away from Notre Dame (except Alabama but lets just forget that happened) and a win against Arizona State on the road would be a huge boost the Notre Dame’s playoff hopes.

Notre Dame’s offense is firing on all cylinders right now. While the game against Navy was much closer than most had expected or hoped, it was not due to a lack of production on offense. Since going on a three game streak of having huge turnover problems earlier in the season, Everett Golson is taking much better care of the football having thrown only two interceptions in the last two games. The key for the Irish offense against the Sun Devils this weekend is getting the running game going early to set up the play action pass to attack downfield and take advantage of the stable of athletes that Notre Dame has at the wide receiver position. Arizona State’s defense utilizes their safeties heavily in the running game so if the Irish are able to successfully run the ball and continue to suck in the safeties to play the run, they can then beat them over the top with the play action pass that is such a vital part of the Irish offense. Tarean Folson has burst onto the scene for the Irish in the past three games and he should be able to continue his success against the Sun Devil run defense that is giving up over 180 yards on the ground per game ranking 88th nationally.

folston navy

Somewhat similarly to the Irish defensive scheme, Arizona State loves to bring pressure and blitz the quarterback early and often. The Sun Devils send five or more pass rushers on 55 percent of their plays which is second nationally. Everett Golson has gotten much better in noticing and adjusting to defenses blitzes and it will be vital this week against a very aggressive defense that will do their best to force turnovers. Golson is the best quarterback the Sun Devils have faced so far this season however and he should be able to move the ball effectively. UCLA’s Brett Hundley shredded Arizona State for 355 yards passing and four touchdowns with zero interceptions in their blowout win earlier this season and I see no reason why Golson can not have the same success. The Irish offensive line has really come together since the Florida State game and is playing their best football of the season. If Notre Dame can protect Golson like they have in recent weeks, he should have plenty of time to find Will Fuller, Corey Robinson, or CJ Prosise for big plays. With Fuller, Robinson, and Prosise all being dangerous threats, the Sun Devils are not able to put their focus on just one which will leave a lot of one-on-one match ups down the field. Simply put, with how successful the offense has been for the Irish, they should have no problem scoring a lot of points.

golson

The play of the Notre Dame defense will dictate whether or not Notre Dame wins or loses this game. After looking like one of the best defenses in the country early on in the season, shaky performances against North Carolina and Navy have brought expectations for the defensive unit down a bit. Add the loss of starting middle linebacker and leader of the defense Joe Schmidt into the mix and it can be very understandable why many are nervous about how the defense will perform against one of the nations most potent offenses. Arizona State is 38th nationally in scoring averaging 34.4 points per game largely in part to their success throwing the football. The Sun Devils are 23rd in passing offense averaging 291 yards through the air per game. The big play threat for Arizona State is star receiver Jalen Strong who already this season has 57 receptions for 821 yards and 8 touchdowns. It is paramount for Notre Dame to not let Strong beat them as he is by far their best player on offense. Quarterback Taylor Kelly has not played particularly well in his last two games since returning from injury and has been sacked eleven times in the last two games. Sheldon Day and Jarron Jones have been doing a great job on the defensive line getting pressure on opposing quarterbacks and that should continue this week. Brian VanGorder will bring pressure early and often to rattle Kelly which has spelled trouble for Arizona State all season. Turnovers have been a big problem for the Sun Devils and its no secret that the Irish will do their best to force Kelly to make bad decisions which lead to take aways. Nyles Morgan will be making his first start at middle linebacker for the Irish and he will be responsible for all of the defensive calls. He played well last week when Schmidt went down and it will be interesting to see how he performs in his first full game on such a big stage. It is not reasonable to expect the Irish defense to completely shut down Arizona State. However they should be able to slow down the Sun Devil’s, who have struggled in the last two weeks against tough defenses.

defense

Prediction 

Get your guns ready folks because this one is going to be a shootout. Both of these offenses are very good units that are filled with skill players. What the game will come down too is which team makes the least amount of mistakes and which team is able to make just enough defensive stops. In the last few weeks Notre Dame’s offensive line has been playing their best football while Arizona State’s offensive line has struggled protecting Taylor Kelly. This will be the difference in the game. The young but aggressive defense of Notre Dame will play like they did against Florida State a few weeks ago and wreck havoc on Taylor Kelly making him make bad decisions. The defense will give up some big plays but overall they play an overall solid game. Golson and company continue to perform at a high level on offense and lead the Irish to victory. Notre Dame 38 Arizona State 30

Other Games Around the Country

5 Alabama at 16 LSU – LSU has already done Notre Dame one favor this season, handing Ole Miss their first loss of the season, and they will be looking to do it again. After looking pretty bad early in the season the Tigers are playing really good physical football and have been winning with good defense and a very physical running game. While Alabama gets all the respect from the talking heads because they are Alabama, when you look at who they have played they have not been all that impressive. Death Valley is a really tough place to play especially at night. LSU helps out Notre Dame yet again. LSU 23 Alabama 20

4 Oregon at 17 Utah- The Utes are fresh off a tough loss to Arizona State last week but their defense played one of their better games of the season holding the Sun Devils to only 19 points. They face another tough challenge this week as Marcus Mariotta and the Oregon Ducks come to town. Utah will play well and keep it close for a while but I just don’t see their offense scoring enough points to win. Oregon 37 Utah 24

7 Kansas State at 6 TCU – TCU is fresh off a tough game against West Virginia last week and looks to put another win over a tough opponent on their resume. Treyvon Boykin has played very well this season but struggled a bit last week against a West Virginia defense that has not been very good this season. Kansas State is one of the better defenses in the Big 12 which will provide for another tough challenge for TCU. Notre Dame fans are really pulling for Kansas State to win here. The Wildcats helped Notre Dame out in 2012 by losing and this season will again help out the Irish by winning. Kansas State 31 TCU 30

The Down the Tunnel Radio Show – Navy Preview

-GoIrishGlory

On this weeks show we talk about the newly released College Football Playoff Rankings and what Notre Dame needs for the playoff. We also previewed the game with Navy this weekend as well as other key games that have implications for the Irish.

http://tobtr.com/s/7057531

The Down the Tunnel Radio Show – Florida State Throw down Edition

-Kevin

The Down the Tunnel Radio show is back as we preview the big game against Florida State this weekend in Tallahassee. Had a great group of callers this week. We will be back on the air on Sunday night to review the outcome of Notre Dame and Florida State.

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Ishaq Williams Will Not Play This Season. Hopes to Return in 2015

– Kevin

Brian Kelly announced today during his press conference that Notre Dame defensive end Ishaq Williams will not play for the Irish this season due to the findings of the academic fraud investigation that has been going on since before the start of the season. This news comes on the same day that Davaris Daniels announced that he too will not play for Notre Dame this season.

Ishaq Williams was a big time recruit when he arrived at Notre Dame but his performance never quite matched the expectations that went with his talent. There was a large amount of excitement for Williams to move back to defensive end in Coach Brian VanGorder’s new defensive scheme for the Irish but fans will have to wait until next season to see if the new scheme would allow Williams to finally live up to the big expectations that he brought to South Bend. It should be no surprise that Williams is planning on returning to Notre Dame next season. Williams wants to play in the NFL however his production has not warranted a realistic goal of being drafted. While he may not play this season having Williams return to Notre Dame next season along with KeiVarae Russell, who also stated he plans to return for next season, has got to have Irish fans excited about a defense that could possibly return 11 starts from this years team that has started 6-0 and played much better than people had anticipated.

Carolina on the Minds of the Irish – A Weekend Preview

-Kevin

Notre Dame looks to remain undefeated this weekend as the welcome the Tar Heels of North Carolina to South Bend Saturday in the second of four games against ACC opponents this season. Fresh off an excited comeback win over Stanford last weekend in the cold and rain, the Irish will look to avoid a letdown against a North Carolina team that has underperformed preseason expectations. North Carolina comes into the matchup with Notre Dame with a 2-3 record and having dropped their last three games by a combined score of 154 to 93 and allowing 70 points to East Carolina University. Meanwhile the Irish are 5-0 and are continuing to exceed the expectations that many people had for the 2014 Notre Dame Football team prior to the season, and that was before five Irish players were suspended for academic fraud. The main task for the Irish this weekend is to make sure they are not looking past this game to next week when Notre Dame travels to play top ranked Florida State in Tallahassee. While North Carolina has not played well this season, they do have weapons on offense and have the ability to score points. As most have come to know from past experiences, opposing teams that come to Notre Dame Stadium tend to play their best games of the season against the Irish and it will be key for Notre Dame to stay focused on the task at hand.

If there was ever a defense that a team would want to play the week before playing the number one team in the nation, North Carolina’s defensive unit would be at the top of the wish list. Simply put, North Carolina’s defense is just flat out bad. The Tar Heels rank 121st in the nation in scoring defense allowing an average of 42 points per game and rank 117th in total defense giving up an average of 505.8 yards per game. Everett Golson and the entire Notre Dame offense has to be salivating at their chance to carve up a defense that really has no strengths to speak of. The Tar Heels are 92nd nationally in rushing defense allowing 186.2 yards per game on the ground and 121st nationally in passing defense allowing 319.6 yards per game through the air. With the Irish offense struggling a bit last week against Stanford (the weather didn’t help either), this is the perfect matchup to get the Irish offense firing on all cylinders before the big game with FSU next weekend. Look for the Irish to turn to the running game early and often in an effort to get a rushing attack going early, something that Notre Dame has had trouble with all season long. The offensive line looked much better in the second half against Stanford last weekend and if they can build off of their success against a tough and physical Stanford front and replicate that this week, not only will the running backs have lanes to run through but Everett Golson will has plenty of time to stand in the pocket and make throws downfield. Notre Dame’s passing offense, which is averaging 276.6 yards per game and is ranked 36th nationally, is the most dangerous part of the Irish offense and I fully expect Golson to have plenty of time to throw and pick apart the Tar Heel defense.

Notre Dame’s defense has really been the surprise of the season so far. While it was know that the unit had a lot of pure talent, it was also seen to be a young an inexperienced unit that would have growing pains throughout the season. After last weeks performance against Stanford, it sure looks like the Notre Dame defense, which ranks 3rd nationally in scoring defense allowing only 12 points per game, has matured much faster than anyone could have expected and has shown to be one of the elite defenses in the country. Cole Luke has really stood out in relieve of suspended All American corner Keivarae Russell and young players like Andrew Trumbetti and Kolin Hill are thriving in Brian VanGorder’s defensive scheme that the players describe as “really fun”. The rejuvenated Irish defense will face their toughest challenge of the season going up against a North Carolina offense that is very capable of scoring points in bunches. The Tar Heels are 33rd nationally in scoring offense averaging 36 points per game and get most of the their offense by means of their passing attack. Quarterback Marquise Williams has show the ability to make big plays in the passing game and he also leads the Tar Heel’s offense in rushing. The outcome of this game is really going to depend on Notre Dame’s ability to contain North Carolina’s passing game. Like Notre Dame, North Carolina has had trouble running the ball this season, averaging 138.6 yards per game putting them 89th nationally. The Irish running defense has been outstanding all season long ranking 9th nationally allowing only 95.8 yards per game. So basically if North Carolina is going to try to run the football, they are going to have a very tough time moving the football against the Irish defense. We have all been waiting to see if the defense will relax a bit after gaining tons of confidence over the first 5 games of the season and if they don’t play their best, North Carolina will be able to throw the ball and put some points on the board. However if the defense comes out with the same intensity it has shown all season long it should be a long day for the Tar Heels.

The question for me this week is not whether Notre Dame will win this week but by how much they will win by. I do not see any excuse for Notre Dame to not score at least 40 points against this abysmal North Carolina defense and anything less than 40 points will be a disappointment in my mind. The bottom line is that Notre Dame has far to many playmakers on offense to score points at will. The North Carolina defense is so bad that I will be a bit disappointed if Notre Dame punts more than one time on Saturday. The main thing I will be watching for this weekend is the intensity level of the defense to see if they may be looking ahead a bit to Florida State. While the players have been saying all the right things, it has got to be difficult to not at least think about it throughout the week with the amount of attention the matchup is already receiving. Notre Dame should take control of this game early on and never look back. The defense plays well again but gives up some points later in the game after the offense has already provided a large lead. Notre Dame 51 North Carolina 20

Other Games Around the Country 

2 Auburn at 3 Mississippi State- After a big win against Texas A&M last weekend Mississippi State hopes to keep the momentum going as they welcome Auburn to town. While beating Texas A&M was a good win for the Bulldogs, the Aggies are not the same Aggies we are used to seeing. Their big win over South Carolina looks less impressive by the day and they were very close to losing to an unranked Arkansas team. The party ends this weekend in Starkville. Auburn 34 Mississippi State 24

3 Ole Miss at 14 Texas A&M- Speaking of Texas A&M, the Aggies will look to rebound this weekend after getting beat down by Mississippi State last week. Texas A&M has the ability to score bunches of points in a hurry and Ole Miss may still be riding a bit high after beating Alabama. Ole Miss quarterback Bo Wallace is always due to have a bad game or two and this weekend will be one of them. Texas A&M 31 Ole Miss 27

9 TCU at 5 Baylor- I rode with TCU last week against Oklahoma and it paid off. This week TCU travels to take on Baylor who has an outstanding offense yet again this season. However Baylor hasn’t played any team that is even close to respectable this season and TCU will be their first test of the season. Baylor’s offense didn’t look as good as it has been against a bad Texas team last week which doesn’t bode well going against a much much better TCU squad. TCU 28 Baylor 24

Irish Chop Down the Trees – A Weekend Review

– Kevin

BVG Thumbs up

In a day that was filled heavy rain, cold winds, and sloppy conditions, Notre Dame was able to overcome adversity and swing their axes to chop down the trees of Stanford in the final minute of the game to complete a thrilling 17-14 come from behind win. Even while Everett Golson didn’t play his best (and apparently had the flu according to Coach Kelly), he was still able to complete the game winning pass to Ben Koyack in the corner of the end zone on 4th and 11 with only 1:06 left on the clock to seal the Irish victory. Statistically, the Notre Dame offense dominated Stanford all game long and really should have won this game by more points than they did. Stanford’s defense was viewed as one of the best in the nation, and the Irish offense racked up 370 yards of total offense including 129 yards rushing in horrific weather conditions. However its points and not yards that win football games and Notre Dame had trouble putting up points on the scoreboard only scoring 17 points. For the second week in a row, turnovers were an issue for Everett Golson, fumbling and throwing an interception in the red zone which took away chances at points for the Irish. Throughout most of the game, and even on some of the plays in the final drive, Golson looked a bit out of sync, throwing behind his receivers on multiple occassions and holding on to the ball too long.

The Irish running game still struggled this week against a tough defensive front. While the stat line says that Notre Dame rushed for 129 yards, the running backs only accounted for 69 of those yards while the remainder came from a 33 yard run by Golson and a 26 yard run on a jet sweep by CJ Prosise. Now nobody was anticipating a breakout game for the Irish running attack against Stanford but there are still some issues that need to be addressed as Notre Dame gets into the meat of the schedule. The offensive line is still not being as physical as expected before the season began. While the production has improved since Brian Kelly shuffled around some players along the line after the game against Purdue, they still are struggling at times in run blocking. Greg Bryant has been a player that everyone has been expecting to breakout but in the last few games he has really had trouble running North and South and finished with only 14 yards on 6 carries against Stanford. Tarean Folston was hurt during the game and only finished with 14 yards on 3 carries. That left Cam McDaniel to lead the team with 41 yards on 15 carries. At this point in the season I have no problem saying that Notre Dame’s strength on offense is their passing game. However in order to maintain the success that the Irish have had through the first five games, they will need to improve their running game with games at Florida State and USC still left this season.

While Golson’s game winning pass at the end of the game was the highlight of the game, it was not the main reason why Notre Dame was victorious against Stanford. That honor goes to the defense, which has continued to impress every week after looking to a be a weak point of the team at the beginning of the season. The Irish defense dominated Stanford from the start of the game to the final play holding the Cardinal to 205 TOTAL YARDS. Thats not a typo. Even more impressive is the fact that the defense held a Stanford running attack, which has been the staple of their offense, to only 47 yards rushing. Thats right, 47 yards. Stanford had not been held to that few rushing yards since 2006. The ability of the defense to shut down the run really set up the Irish for success forcing David Shaw to change his stratagy from his normal two tight end sets to more of a spread attack which played right into what Notre Dame wanted to do defensively. With the running game shut down the Cardinal was forced to pass more than they had planned for and the Irish defense responded. Kevin Hogan went 18-36 for 158 yards and two interceptions, both by Cole Luke, who probably played his best game of the season. Brian VanGorder kept Stanford guessing the entire game with his defensive game plan and never allowed the Cardinal to get in any sort of rhythm. Notre Dame’s third down defense impressed again only allowing Stanford to convert 5 of 14 third down attempts. Had it not been for Everett Golson’s fumble deep in the redone in the first quarter, it is safe to assume that the Cardinal may have only scored 7 points. Stanford’s score in the fourth quarter was the only drive that was able to move down the field against the Irish. In a game where Stanford’s defense was supposed to be the elite unit, Notre Dame’s defense out played the Cardinal and made a loud and definitive statement to the rest of the college football world.

Notre Dame won the game sure but they really should have won the game by much more than they did. They left a lot of points on the field and played a pretty sloppy game in the grand scheme of things. And to me thats what makes this win over Stanford even more impressive. The Irish made their fair share of mistakes, had players playing with the flu, and had to deal with awful weather conditions and they were still able to beat a Stanford team that most predicted to come into South Bend and win. Notre Dame still needs to clean up some things on both sides of the ball but their potential for an outstanding season is through the roof. This team’s play has already exceeded what I expected for this season and if they are able to fix some of the issues they still have they will be hard for anyone to beat.

Tuesday Chat with Brian Kelly – Syracuse Week

-SSG Shamrock

Brian Kelly met with the media today to discuss this weekend’s contest with the Syracuse Orangemen as well provide some new information on the ongoing academic investigation. Down the Tunnel was there and has all the pertinent information from Coach Kelly’s weekly press conference.

Key Information 

  • On the weekly depth chart release there was a significant shake up on the offensive line. The revamped offensive line has Ronnie Stanley at LT, Nick Martin at LG, Matt Hegarty at Center, Steve Elmer at RG, and Christian Lombard at RT. Coach Kelly did make sure to note that this may not be the exact offensive line that starts on Saturday and that Connor Hanratty and Mike McGlinchey will also receive first team reps this week.
  • Amir Carlise is OUT this week against Syracuse and is should be seen as questionable for next week against Stanford. Coach Kelly said that Carlise has been responding well to his PRP treatments and will start moving him around at the end of the week.
  • Torii Hunter is slated to make his Notre Dame debut this weekend and will get work with CJ Prosise in the slot.
  • Austin Collinsworth will be back in the lineup this weekend after missing the first three games with an MCL sprain.
  • Brian Kelly said that he was informed last Friday that the academic committee had been official formed and that if all goes well the hearings should be concluded by the end of NEXT week. Kelly also made it clear he was not a spokesman of the administration and that when a student is notified of a violation, only the student is notified and not the parents.
  • Coach Kelly stated that there is still not a “go to number one” running back in the backfield. Greg Bryant has been doing a very good job of understanding schemes but he has to unseat two players in Tarean Folston and Cam McDaniel that have played a lot of football game. Bryant has only played in three college games and still has work to do.
  • Kelly talked about the ACC conference alignment and how the main factors that went into the decision was ensuring high quality bowl tie-ins as well as a conference that made geographic sense for Notre Dame.
  • Kelly said that Malik Zaire is getting 60% of the reps in practice on Tuesdays and Wednesdays and 40% of the reps on Thursday. The amount of reps that Zaire gets just shows how confident the staff is in Golson as the quarterback. Kelly said there is no temptation to play Zaire at all.
  • Kelly gave credit to Paul Longo and Brian VanGorder for having so many freshman ready to play and contribute on the defensive side of the ball. Kelly also said they knew before the season that the staff knew they were going to have to play freshman but they didn’t know exactly who would emerge.

Check back all week long for all your Notre Dame coverage of this weekends matchup against Syracuse and dont forget to tune into the first broadcast of the Down the Tunnel Radio show on Thursday night. We will be taking your calls live!

Grading Out the First Three Weeks

-Sgt Shamrock

The first quarter of the season is complete and with this week being the first bye week of the season, now would be as good a time as ever to look back at the first three games of the season to see just where the Irish stand. Record wise nobody is complaining with the Irish being 3-0 with wins over Rice, Michigan, and Purdue and the outlook of the entire season looking much brighter than it did a few weeks ago. Even with the academic investigation not complete and dragging into the season, the Irish have been able to plug and play players to fill in the holes and have so far done a pretty good job of it. Lets take a look at some interesting statistics from the first three weeks and also give out grades for each position group for the first quarter of the season

Stats and Notes:

  • Notre Dame has scored at least 30 points in their first three games of the season, the first time that has happened since Brian Kelly arrived at Notre Dame
  • Through three games Notre Dame is converting 47% of its third downs while holding their opponents to a 37% conversion rate.
  • Notre Dame has been in the red zone fourteen times so far this season. The Irish are 14/14 in those trips in scoring with ten touchdowns and four field goals.
  • The Irish have intercepted six passes by through three games. Those six interceptions were intercepted by six different players
  • Notre Dame has scored 13 touchdowns in their first three games while only allowing opponents into the end zone four times.
  • Notre Dame has won each of its first three games by at least 16 points. The last time an Irish team did that was in 1987
  • Notre Dame ranks 4th nationally in scoring defense allowing only 10.3 points per game.

Quarterback 

There is really not a more impressive way for Everett Golson to start of the season. After sitting out the entire 2013 season, Golson has quickly put himself in the Heisman Trophy conversation. After the first three games, Golson is 62 of 96 passing for 780 yards, seven touchdowns and ZERO interceptions or fumbles. Notre Dame ranks 51st nationally in Passing offense averaging 260 yards per game. Even with a receiving corps full of new faces, Golson has had pretty good chemistry with his receivers and has looked very crisp and comfortable in the pocket. Irish fans can only hope that Golson keeps up this performance because if he plays at this level, the wins will keep piling up. Grade: A

Running backs

The running game has been a bit underwhelming in the first quarter of the season. After a strong performance against Rice, Notre Dame had two lackluster performances running the football against Michigan and Purdue. The Irish are currently ranked 70th nationally averaging a very average 158 yards per game. Greg Bryant leads the team in rushing with 119 yards while Tarean Folston is a close second with 110 yards. Those types of numbers are what we were hoping these guys to have in one game, not three games. With the amount of talent in the Irish backfield it is vital to get the running game going in order to keep defenses off balance to open up the passing game for Everett Golson. Grade: C

Receiving Corps

With Davaris Daniels still being held out as the academic investigation continues, Will Fuller has been the breakout star in the Irish receiving corps early on this season. While he has had some drops early on, he leads the team with 19 receptions for 225 yards and three touchdowns. He has really shown the speed that we all expected. Amir Carlise and CJ Prosice have been very effective in the slot and are adding even more speedy weapons to Golson’s arsenal. Torii Hunter will return to the lineup next week against Syracuse to make his Notre Dame debut which should add another weapon to the offense. Chris Brown has been disappointing thus far, being very inconsistent and really not playing to the level that many thought he would. There have been some miscues in terms of communication with the receivers in terms of routes and play calls as well as a couple drops. That is going to need to get cleaned up quickly. Grade: B-

Offensive Line

If there was one part of the offense that has not looked impressive through the first three weeks it would be the offensive line. There have been some major issues in both run and pass blocking that are real concerns for the Irish. The offensive line along with not really opening running lanes to allow the running game going, they have also given up six sacks in the first three games. At times the offensive line has had real trouble maintaining blocks in the passing game, especially against Purdue. Brian Kelly said following the win over Purdue that he was going to talk to the coaching staff about possibly moving some players to different positions along the line. After the first three games performance that is a pretty good idea. Grade: C-

Defensive Line

So far this season the defensive line has really been Doctor Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. They looked not bad against Rice, played a fantastic game against Michigan, but then look to take a step back after a fairly lackluster performance against Purdue. The line had a hard time getting any pressure on the Purdue quarterback this past weekend and that is not a good sign with much tougher opponents looming on the schedule. Sheldon Day however has played very well so far this season and is really looking like he is turning into a dominant force on defense. Jarron Jones has also shown some flashes of brilliance which is a reason for some optimism. We saw that the defensive line can play very well in Brian VanGorders scheme in the Michigan game. Now we have to see if they can get back to that level and stay there. Grade: B-

Linebackers

Let me go ahead and get this out of the way. Jaylon Smith is a beast and is without a doubt the best player on defense. Other than Jaylon Smith the linebackers have had a pretty season so far. Joe Schmidt is playing far better than people expected him too and he looks nothing like a former walk on. VanGorder has shown he is not afraid to mix up the blitz packages and bring linebackers from all areas of the field to get pressure on the quarterback. While we have not seen much of Ben Council, expect that to change once Stanford comes to town in a few weeks as Brian Kelly will bring him in to help against the physical offense of the Cardinal. Jared Grace is still out with an injury however he is getting closer and closer to playing time. He will not play against Syracuse but I don’t think its out of the realm of possibly he could return for Stanford. The group hasn’t been super flashy early on but they have not made many mistakes either. Oh yea and Jaylon Smith is a beast. Grade: B+

Secondary 

In my opinion even without KeiVarae Russell playing right now, the secondary is the strength of the Irish defense at this point in the season and I believe it will stay that way all year long. The Irish have already intercepted six passes through three games and the entire unit is really thriving in VanGorder’s scheme. Mathias Farley, a player that after a lackluster performance last year, has really thrived and is playing his best football in his new nickel corner position. Both Cole Luke and Cody Riggs are doing more than enough in coverage at the corner positions. Redfield and Shumate have played really well at the safety positions and Austin Collinsworth should return to the lineup soon after missing the first three games with a strained MCL. The only issue with the secondary that worries me going forward is depth. Going on the assumption that Russell will not return this season (I dont know that is the case I am just assuming) and Nikki Barrati being out for the remainder of the season with a shoulder injury, Notre Dame can not afford any more injuries. Grade A-

Special Teams

In years past this is normally where I would be talking about how the special teams is a mess yet again and trying to figure out what to do due to fix it. However that is not the case this season. Cody Riggs and Greg Bryant has finally provided and successful punt return unit and Amir Carlise has looked good on kickoffs as well. Kyle Brindza is a valuable weapon in all facets of the kicking game especially on kickoffs. Forcing your opponent to start on the 25 without a chance at a return is always good and is a big part of Notre Dame’s success. Grade: A-

Irish Invade Indy. A Weekend Preview

-Sgt Shamrock

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The 11th ranked Notre Dame Fighting Irish head down to Indianapolis this weekend to take on the Purdue Boilermakers in the annual Shamrock Series game. Notre Dame (2-0) is fresh off a complete destruction of Michigan while Purdue (1-1) got blown out last weekend by CENTRAL MICHIGAN AT HOME. That fact alone paints a pretty good picture of how this game should play out this weekend. Now normally this is the type of game that Irish fans have had to worry about in the past. Coming fresh off a huge win and playing a completely inferior opponent the following week has spelled trouble for the Irish in the past and I have already seen a bit of concern from some fans about if the Irish will come out flat Saturday night. Normally I could sort of understand that sentiment. I mean it has been a problem in the past and Notre Dame has lost to teams that they had no business losing too however that will not be the case this season. When Notre Dame originally announced that the Shamrock Series was going to be played in Indianapolis, this early in the season, against PURDUE, I was a bit confused. In the past Notre Dame had traveled to places like Dallas, New York City, and Chicago to play against opponents like Arizona State, Army, and Miami. The locations were places where in areas where Notre Dame usually didn’t play that often and against teams that are not on the schedule as much as maybe some of the normal staples like Navy or Stanford. However now I can completely appreciate the choosing of this game and per usual Jack Swarbrick is a smart smart man. The Irish knew headed into the season that their first big test of the season was against Michigan and that the first bye week of the season was fairly early (Its in week 4 this year). I actually had a chance to talk to Jack Swarbrick last weekend when some of my buddies and I ran into him in the bookstore. He was great and took some time to talk to the three of us. When talking about the Shamrock series he said that the program knew if they good get to the first bye week at 3-0 that the season would start taking shape very nicely. Having the Shamrock Series in week 3 against a team that is just not very good is going to completely get rid of the chance of a letdown game. The players are not only excited to wear the special Shamrock Series uniforms but are also just as excited to play in an NFL stadium. The players will be amped and I really expect them to come out firing on all cylinders from the time the game starts to when the backups are closing out the game.

Offense

Everett Golson has looked fantastic through the first two games of the season. After looking a bit wide eyed in the early stages against Michigan this past weekend, he quickly got a hold of himself and made some fantastic throws and led the Irish to a 31-0 win over the Wolverines. Golson has eight touchdowns to his name thru the first two games of the season but has yet to throw for over 300 yards. If you look at it closer though the yardage can really be attributed to the fact that Notre Dame has had fantastic starting field position in each of the first two games. Regardless, this week he will break that 300 yard mark and I actually think he has a good shot at 400 yards. The Purdue defense is pretty bad ranking 108th in the country in scoring defense allowing an average of 34.5 points per game so far this season. They are also giving up close to 225 yards through the air per game and that was against two very mediocre quarterbacks. Golson is on a completely different level than what Purdue has seen so far and their secondary is going to be in for a LONG day. Speaking of long days the front 7 for Purdue is in for one too. While the Irish didn’t run the ball nearly as effectively against Michigan as they did against Rice, part of that was due to Michigan’s defensive game plan of trying to stop the run and make Golson throw. As dumb as that sounds, that was their plan and the Irish were more than happy to oblige. This week expect the Irish backfield to have a field day against a Purdue run defense that for lack of a better word is..well..BAD. The Boilermakers rank 97th nationally allowing a whopping  187 yards on the ground per game. The Irish should have no problem dominating the line of scrimmage and running the ball at will. I dont think it is farfetched for the Irish to have 300 total rushing yards by games end.

Defense

I could not be more surprised by how the defense has played through the first two games of the season. After losing the big names of Nix, Tuitt, and Shembo to the NFL Draft and Williams and Russell to the ongoing academic fraud investigation, I had very tempered expectations of just how the defense was going to play this season. That defensive unit has gone above and beyond those expectations and the great thing is I think they can keep getting better. Cody Riggs has been a huge addition to the team and Cole Luke has more than just filled in for Russell. After a pretty plain look against Rice, Brian VanGorder unleashed the dogs against Michigan with multiple blitz packages that had the Wolverines guessing the entire game. Expect that to continue. Purdue’s offense is nothing to write home about either ranking 95th nationally and averaging close to 350 yards per game. And those games were against Western and Central Michigan. Thats not good. Add on the fact that Purdue still doesn’t even know who is going to start at quarterback saturday and its pretty safe to say the Purdue offense has some major issues. Something that I noticed when looking back at the defenses performance through the first two games of the season really caught me by surprise. Through the first two games, Notre Dame has played EIGHT freshman on defense and have committed only ONE penalty. With the amount of young players on the field, that is just insane to think they have only been called for one penalty. The younger players while inexperienced, have a ton of speed and are really out performing my initial expectations. Not only does that bode well for this season but it makes the future look very bright for the Irish defense.

Prediction 

Notre Dame opened up as a 30 point favorite and I believe the line has dropped to 28. Both of those are too low and if you are a betting man put your money on the Irish. Notre Dame is a flat out better team in every aspect and its not even close. I fully expect the Irish to have close to 600 total yards of offense and the defense should have another stellar performance. Notre Dame rolls over Purdue and heads into the bye week at 3-0 and a possible top 10 ranking. Notre Dame 51 Purdue 6

Other Games around the country

This weekend has a bunch of dud games and not very many good match ups but here a couple of the not so bad, bad games.

Tennessee at 4 Oklahoma- While I don’t think Oklahoma is as good as everyone is giving them credit for, they are going to be too much for Tennessee. Butch Jones is taking the Vols in the right direction and will have them back in contention in the SEC but not this year. Oklahoma 35 Tennessee 17

6 Georgia at 24 South Carolina- Georgia looks like a bonafide SEC title contender and playoff team hopeful led by Heisman candidate Todd Gurley. Gurley is a beast and by far the best running back in the nation. I have no idea how South Carolina is even still ranked at this point after getting flat out embarrassed by Texas A&M but that ranking will be gone soon enough. Georgia 31 South Carolina 20

12 UCLA at Texas (Arlington Stadium)- UCLA received a bunch of preseason hype as a playoff contender for some reason but through the first two weeks of the season they look far then impressive. However they are taking on a Texas team this weekend that is practically in shambles. The Longhorns are missing their starting quarterback as well as countless other players. UCLA 41 Texas 14