Tag Archives: Cody Riggs

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

Irish blow past Rice. A Weekend Review

-Sgt Shamrock 

Notre Dame kicked off the 2014 season off with a 48-17 bludgeoning of the Rice Owls at Notre Dame Stadium Saturday afternoon. From start to finish the Irish were in complete control of the game and even while Rice was able to tie the game in the first quarter there was never really a doubt that the Irish would cruise to an easy and impressive victory. The offense looked very crisp with Golson back under center and even though the receiving corps came into the game with little to no experience, they preformed very well (minus a few drops). The three headed monster known as the Notre Dame backfield preformed very well with a solid performance from Bryant, Folston, and McDaniel as they amassed over 280 yards on the ground against the Rice defense. However as good as the offense looked, nothing looking better than Everett Golson. Golson accounted for five touchdowns himself including three scores on the ground and finished the day with 295 passing yards and 41 rushing yards. Even more impressive than the stats for Golson was the throws he was making. His throw to CJ Prosise near the end of the second quarter, that was a sure touchdown had Prosise not dropped it, was an absolutely beautiful pass and the following pass to Prosice that was caught for a touchdown was equally as impressive. Its evident that Golson’s time with George Whitfield was very well spent.

The defense also played well in the season opener. Jaylon Smith again showed just how good of a player he is and can continue to be. He was flying all over the field and making plays. Joe Schmidt led the team in tackles and looked very impressive against the run. While there was a lot of concern regarding the defensive line headed into the season, the unit preformed very well. Jarron Jones and Sheldon Day were able to put pressure on the quarterback and were stout in run defense. The defense gave up a total of 367 total yards however a large portion of that occurred once all the starters had left the field when the game was already won. Their performance in the first half was very encouraging and while there were some missed assignments early on, they rebounded and there is no reason to think that they wont continue to improve as the season progresses (And hopefully they get some players back at some point as well).

Other Observations:

  • It was great to finally be excited about the special teams unit. Amir Carlise, Cody Riggs, and Greg Bryant all had very good returns and were able to set up the offense the entire game. Its much easier to score when you start at the 40 yard line instead of the 20. A great change from the “Fair Catch Approach”
  • Notre Dame only had two penalties the entire game for a total of 10 yards. Thats impressive in any game but even more impressive in a season opener, since teams sometimes come out a bit rusty in a game situation. I can’t remember the last time Notre Dame played that clean of a game and I really hope to see that trend continue throughout the season.
  • Both Cole Luke and Cody Riggs looked very impressive yesterday. They had their receivers locked down for most of the game and looked great in coverage as well as run defense. While KeiVarae Russell is still the best corner on the roster (and one of the best in the nation) should he not be allowed to return to the team, I am very confident that Riggs and Luke can more than handle their own in the secondary.
  • Speaking of the whole Russell and academic probe deal, did you notice which starter remained on the field when the second team defense came into the game in the fourth quarter? I did and found it very interesting given the entire academic suspension ordeal. Cole Luke was the only starter that stayed on the field with the second team. Now why would Brian Kelly keep that particular starter in the game when the Irish were up by so many points? It really makes me think that the staff is at least very optimistic they will be getting Russell back at some point in the future. Cole Luke was originally the backup for Russell and should Russell return, Luke will return to that spot on the depth chart. Just something that really caught my eye.
  • The field turf looks absolutely amazing and I couldn’t be happier how it turned out. It does however make the temperature a lot higher than normal with the rubber that is included in the playing surface. It will be interesting to see if that effects any of the players in future home games in terms of conditioning and hydration.
  • Of all three of the running backs, Greg Bryant is clearly the most talented in my opinion. He carried the ball eight times for 71 yards and one touchdown which is impressive by itself. But even more impressive was his 8.9 yards per carry statistic and that is with his longest run of the game being 17 yards. He was clearly the most impressive of the three backs Saturday and it will be interesting to see if he begins to get more carries from the staff. 

It is now officially Michigan week so make sure you stay with us here at Down the Tunnel for all your Irish coverage in preparation for the showdown with the Skunkbears on Saturday night. 

  

Notre Dame Fall Camp Primer

notre-dame-schedules

-Sgt Shamrock

Fall camp starts next week. Damn it felt good to type that. After an off season filled with fans arguing over the tradition of grass, complaining about the size of an Under Armour logo on team travel bags, and the always pleasant and completely idiotic comments on the Notre Dame Football Facebook page, it is time for some actual football. I have always likened the start of fall camp every year to Opening Day in baseball. Each year on Opening Day, every teams fan base starts the long baseball season filled with excitement, hope, and optimism that this was their year to make the playoffs and win the World Series. Well except for the Cubs, who are eliminated from playoff contention as soon as the season starts. Sorry Cubs fans I had to.

The same feelings felt on Opening day by baseball fans are felt by Irish fans everywhere as Fall Camp of the 2014 season gets ready to begin at Culver Academy next week. There is an abundance of story lines headed into camp this year and how these story lines play out will most likely determine whether the 2014 campaign will be full of promise and success or disappointment and defeat. Will Everett Golson return better than when he left? How will Brian Van Gorder’s defensive scheme work at Notre Dame? Who will step up on defense now that Louis Nix and Stephon Tuitt have left for the NFL? Ill do my best to answer those questions along with many many more. First up. The Offense

Offense

As we enter year five with Brian Kelly as the head coach I think it is safe to say that the offensive output over the last few years hasn’t been what everyone expected when Kelly came over from Cincinnati. Now there are a couple factors that have not helped matters. Having your starting quarterback from a team that made it to the National Championship game get suspended for a season due to “academic dishonesty” is definitely not going to help the offense improve. And having a quarterback that seemingly had cement in his shoes that also had the ability to fumble the football without even being touched REALLY doesnt help (Yes I still have not and probably will never forget or get over the game against Michigan in 2011). Previous years offenses have been different than the offense we will probably see this season and to be honest its a very good thing. Most of the previous seasons the offense had one “go to guy” such as Michael Floyd or Tyler Eiffert and the rest were role player types like Robby Toma. Last year TJ Jones was the main go to guy but we finally started seeing the ball being distributed to more and more receivers who while may not be as experienced as previous seasons receivers, are equally or even more talented than previous years. This goes for the running back corps as well. Lots and lots of talent.

Position Battles:

Quarterback- Im going to come right out and say this. Regardless what Brian Kelly says about Malik Zaire being able to compete for the starting job, Everett Golson will be the starting quarterback for the entire 2014 football season. While Malik Zaire is a very good quarterback, Everett Golson is just the flat out better quarterback. After spending the his time away from Notre Dame with George Witfield, Golson should be better than ever and I expect a big season out of him.

Wide Receiver- Its time to see if Davaris Daniels can finally have a season of consistent production. He has all the physical tools to be a star receiver however consistency has always been his major issue. The remainder of the receiving corps is very young but very talented. Daniels, Brown, Robinson, Fuller, and incoming freshman Justin Brent have loads of potential and talent.

Running Back- The duo of Greg Bryant and Tarean Folston has me more excited than just about any other position group on the team this season. Bryant and Folston are the clear 1A and 1B and they will carry the majority of the load. Cam McDaniel will still get his carries however if Bryant and Folston play to the level that I believe they will, his carries will drop off significantly from last season. With all of the Irish running backs running behind a strong and steady offensive line, the potential for a big season for the Irish running attack is there

 

Tight End- Ben Koyack will be the number one tight end. He showed flashes of brilliance last season playing behind Troy Niklas and there are already many NFL Draft analysts that believe Koyack could be one of the first tight ends taken in the 2015 draft. While Koyack will be the starting tight end, keep an eye out for Durham Smythe. He will contribute early and often this season as Brian Kelly loves to use a two Tight end set.

Offensive Line- Losing a starter like Zach Martin is never easy to replace but if any team can do it its Notre Dame. The recruiting of offensive lineman has been outstanding the last few years and Ronnie Stanley, Steve Elmer, John Montelus, and Hunter Bivin will all get playing time this season along with Connor Hanratty and Matt Hegarty.

Defense

Its a whole new year for the Irish defense and its going to look a whole lot different than it has the past few years. Its time to see life after the Nix and Tuitt combo on the defensive line. The last few seasons the front seven of the Irish defense has been the anchor of the defense while the back end has been a weak point (Gary Gray, Bennett Jackson). However it seems like that will all be changing this year. The front seven has transformed from the rock of the defense to a bunch of question marks. Sheldon Day will be the marque player on the defensive line while Jarron Jones and incoming Freshman Jay Hayes. The linebacking corps is very suspect except for superstar Jaylon Smith, who was moved to inside linebacker this off season. Meanwhile the defensive backfield looks to be very solid. Kavairee Russell is a bona fide stud who will be in the running for the Thorpe award this season. Cole Luke, and 5th year transfer from Florida Cody Riggs will all be difference makers on the edges while Max Redfield, Austin Collinsworth and Elijah Shumate look to be solid in the back end. All of this with a new defensive coordinator who brings a completely new defensive scheme to South Bend that calls for alot of aggression and placing corners on an Island.

Position Battles:

Defensive Line- The bottom line here is that almost every scholarship player on the defensive line will play due to very thin depth. Recruiting along the defensive line has hit a few bumps in the road over the last few years and the depth on the roster shows it. Sheldon Day and Jarron Jones are the marquee players within the group however with Ishaq Williams being moved into a defensive end position within Van Gorders new 4-3 scheme he also has the potential to FINALLY play to his potential.

Linebackers- The only non question mark here is Jaylon Smith who everyone by now knows is a superstar. Beyond that are a lot of questions. It is still unclear if Jarrett Grace will be ready to go week one due to injury and the depth on the roster is thin. Michael Deeb should get a few looks this season and by all accounts he is a hard hitter. Of the entire team, the linebacker position is my biggest concern this season. Jaylon Smith cant cover the entire field himself.

Secondary- Russell has his spot at corner locked up as his is by far the best corner on the team as well as one of the best corners in the nation. Beyond that Mathias Farley, Cody Riggs, and Cole Luke will be fighting for the other corner position however depending on the package on the field they may all be on the field at the same time. Austin Collinsworth and Max Redfield seem to be the favorites at the two safety positions while Elijah Shumate still is fighting to stay on the field.

Fall camp starts next week. Down the Tunnel will have all the Fall camp coverage so stay tuned for updates as the the 2014 season gets underway. Get excited everyone. Football is back.       

Irish add Florida CB Transfer to the Roster

-Sgt Shamrock

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For weeks, Irish fans have been worried that Notre Dame would have 85 scholarship players on the roster for the 2014 football season. After the Irish signed 23 new recruits in the 2014 recruiting cycle, it looked like Notre Dame would only have 84 scholarships. However it looks as if that will not be the case. Notre Dame and Coach Brian Kelly have announced that Cody Riggs, a former University of Florida cornerback/safety who has been looking for a new school for graduate school, will transfer to Notre Dame and be immediately eligible for the 2014 season thanks to the NCAA graduate student transfer rule. During his four seasons at Florida Riggs started 26 games, including every game last season.

Adding Riggs is a huge pickup for the Irish. Not only is Riggs a very talented defensive back, but he brings something to South Bend that no team can say they have too much of. SPEED. Hot, nasty, badass speed. Now I can already hear the skeptics trying to tell me that he cant be good because Florida was so bad last season. While it is true that the Gators were a complete and utter dumpster fire last season, finishing 4-8 including a loss to GEORIGA SOUTHERN, most of the blame could and should be put on the offense, which looked hilariously inept. The defense however, was still a very talented unit and the Gator’s secondary was rated as one of the top units in the country. Riggs being a starter in the SEC can not be overlooked. He is bringing a lot of experience to South Bend that will not only make him an instant impact in the Irish secondary, but also help the development of younger players like Devin Butler, Cole Luke, Rashad Kinlaw, and incoming freshman Nick Watkins. It is not a certainty that Riggs will immediately take over a starting spot, but with the skill set that he is bringing, it is going to be very very hard to keep him off the field.

Overall this is a homerun for the Irish and Riggs will contribute right away. However while it does seem pretty obvious that Riggs joining the Irish is a great move, there will inevitably be those out there who come up with some sort of reason why its a bad move regardless of how stupid that reason is. That’s fine with me though. More choices for my “Kiffy” nomination for the next episode of “Roughing the Passer”.