Tag Archives: Everett Golson

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’s With Brian Kelly – Stanford Week

-SSG Shamrock

Brian Kelly met with the media for his weekly Tuesday press conference as the Irish prepare to take on Stanford on Saturday at Notre Dame Stadium. Down the Tunnel was there and sifts through the coach speak to provide you the key tidbits.

  • Coach Kelly talked about the challenge Stanford will present this weekend. He praised their veteran players including quarterback Kevin Hogan and receiver Ty Montgomery. He also called Stanford’s defense the best in the country
  • In discussing some of the turnovers from the Syracuse game Coach Kelly talked about the fumble on the direct snap when Golson was trying to spike the ball at the end of the first half. Kelly said that Golson heard the whistle blow and he stopped playing which is the way he was taught.
  • Coach Kelly also talked about the play of the receiving corps through the first four games of the season. He was very impressed with the entire group and praised their perimeter blocking. Coach mentioned that Will Fuller is getting more and more confident every week.
  • Everett Golson was the FBS Independent Offensive Player of the week however when Coach Kelly told Golson he wasn’t all that excited about it and maybe felt that he didn’t deserve it.
  • Ben Council will be a part of the defensive rotation this weekend against Stanford
  • Amir Carlise is clear for all activities and should be good to go this weekend. Austin Collinsworth should also be able to contribute this weekend.
  • Jared Grace is continuing to make progress everyday but its unclear when he will have that “break through day”
  • Coach Kelly stated that he has no idea what the process is this week with the academic hearings and also does not know when the decisions of the hears will be completed.
  • Kelly make it clear that Notre Dame is going to need to get big chunk plays on offense if they expect to beat Stanford. Coming into the game Stanford has only allowed four plays of 20 yards or more all season long.
  • In the most bizarre question of the day, someone actually asked Coach Kelly if he had any thoughts of inserting Malik Zaire into the game against Syracuse. Not joking. And to be expected Kelly stated the thought never crossed his mind.
  • Kelly praised CJ Prosise’s skill set of having a burst, he can catch the football, and he can block very well. He still needs to work on route running and tracking he deep ball but Kelly is pleased with his play so far.

Everett Golson for Heisman. Down The Tunnel Style

-SSG Shamrock

golson4heisman

We are five weeks into the college football season and after an outstanding start to the season, Everett Golson is in the thick of the Heisman trophy conversation. Every year there are always Heisman trophy “campaigns” for players in the conversation and we here at Down the Tunnel want to get that campaign kick started. In order to make it more fun for everyone we have decided to start a contest that will get the Golson for Heisman Campaign started. Here is how the contest will work:

  • Make a sign that says “Golson for Heisman” and include Down the Tunnel somewhere on the sign. Either the name of the site or the site logo.
  • Bring your newly made “Golson for Heisman” sign with you and get a picture with you holding it in as many different places as possible. The idea is to bring it to all sorts of events for mass exposure to show your support of Golson for Heisman!
  • Every time you tweet or email us a picture of you with your sign you will earn a point. If your sign makes it on TV (And you can prove it) you earn five points. So if anyone is near a campus where College GameDay is going to be that would be a great chance to earn points.
  • Each week through the rest of the season there will be an updated leaderboard of who has the most points. At the end of the regular season the individual with the most points will win any two free Down The Tunnel T-Shirts of their choice!

So basically you make a sign that says “Golson for Heisman” with DTT somewhere on the sign and than you take pictures of yourself with it in as many places as possible! TAKING A PICTURE WITH THE SIGN IN YOUR HOUSE DOES NOT COUNT. Get out there in public, at sporting events, in the big city, and anywhere else you think would be an interesting place to show your support for Notre Dame’s Heisman Trophy Candidate!

To submit your photo’s you must either tweet them too us @DwnTheTunnel or you can email them to kjburke10@gmail.com. The contest ends the Sunday following the last game of the regular season. Now get out there and get the “Golson for Heisman” campaign started!

Getting to Know Thy Enemy – Syracuse Week

-SSG Shamrock

Syracuse week rolls on and before we dive into how the game will play out from our perspective its important to look at the matchup from the other side of the table. In a week where we are already introducing the new Down the Tunnel radio show (premiering tomorrow night) we at Down the Tunnel are bringing you yet another new weekly feature. Each week we will have a Q&A with a media member from the opponent the Irish will face that week. This week we were joined by Brent Axe (@BrentAxeMedia), an ESPN Radio host in Syracuse covering Syracuse athletics and is also an AP voter. Brent answers some of our questions about Syracuse and how he thinks the game this weekend will play out.

DTT – After looking back on the first three games of the season, what would you say that the major strength of Syracuse is at this point? What is the major weakness?
Brent – Ironically their biggest strength could also be perceived as a weakness as well as quarterback Terrel Hunt is the team’s leading rusher with 273 yards so far this season. Hunt has done a good job on zone-read plays and is much more decisive this season in Syracuse’s fast-paced offense, but his yardage also has to be attributed to the weakness of wide receivers to get separation, forcing him to take off and run more. Running back Prince-Tyson Gulley is capable of breaking off a big run at any time and Linebacker Cam Lynch has been a major strength as well. He is Top 10 in the country in several defensive categories and looks like he has been shot out of a cannon to begin the year.

The weaknesses have been the struggle of the wide receivers to gain separation. Syracuse’s passing game has been short-range on bubble screens and short routes. The secondary is also a big question mark. The history is there for this unit failing to keep up with athletic receivers.

DTT – Syracuse comes into this game with one of the top 20 rushing offenses in the country while Notre Dame touts a top 20 rushing defense? What makes the Orange rushing attack so potent? How do you think they will far against the Irish defense?
Brent – Versatility. What helps is that Syracuse basically has another running back on the field with Hunt. He’s not a burner, but is elusive and can get to the first-down marker when needed on 3rd down. Gulley is the No.1 guy and has the speed to get to the outside and ability to find the hole. Adonis Ameen-Moore is the power back. He is very similar this year to what Jerome Smith was to the Orange last year. Very hard to bring down. Devante McFarlane and Erv Phillips bring speed. George Morris II has flashed at times, but he has kind of been the odd man out this year.

I’m very curious to see how they do against Notre Dame defense because it is far and away the best they have seen this season.

DTT – Syracuse has seemingly had some trouble in the passing game so far this season. Why do you think that is?
Brent – I think it’s a combination of the receivers struggling to find separation, Hunt still developing as a passer and Syracuse’s offensive philosophy. Offensive Coordinator George McDonald has joined the party of coordinators that want to run as many plays as possible, so I think the tendency is Hunt will take the safe route and keep the chains moving by utilizing the H-back a lot. One big key for this game is Hunt will not have his safety valve in this game as Ashton Broyld got hurt last week against Maryland.

DTT – Who are two Syracuse players that Notre Dame fans have not heard of but will know by the end of the game on Saturday?
Brent – I’ll go with Cam Lynch and Brisly Estime. Watch Sean Hickey at left tackle as well. He is going to be an early-round NFL draft pick.

DTT – How do you see the game playing out? What is your prediction?
Brent – I think their best hope is to put pressure on Golson and try to force him into a few mistakes, which won’t be easy considering how he has played this year. Syracuse will play physical “hard-nosed” football, as head coach Scott Shafer likes to say, and will blitz a lot. But the offense just isn’t ready to keep pace. McDonald better have a few tricks up his sleeve. But at the end of the day I think they will be physically dominated by the Irish ‘D. and will struggle to score. Their kicking game is a mess right now. If they can’t finish drives with points, this game will get away from them fast.

I’ve got Notre Dame 41, Syracuse 14.

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

Irish Slaughter the Skunkbears. A Weekend Review

-Sgt Shamrock 

What. A. Game. To be honest I’m still pinching myself to make sure that its all real. Notre Dame absolutely embarrassed Michigan last night in prime time in front of the entire country the final scheduled meeting of the rivalry. Anytime you beat a rival its a good feeling but when you beat a rival as bad as Notre Dame beat Michigan it makes that feeling even better. The Skunkbears were completely outmatched and out coached from start to finish Saturday night. Everett Golson cemented his position on the Heisman watch list with another stellar performance, throwing for 226 yards and three touchdowns and the young Irish receiving corps once again showcased their speed against the Skunkbear defense. The offense only gained 280 total yards however having really good field position to start most of their drives can be a pretty large factor in those numbers. I guess the Skunkbears thought they were playing against the 2012 version of Golson for some reason because their defensive game plan seemed more focused in stopping the run instead of getting pressure on the quarterback. Notre Dame gladly accepted this and focused their offensive attack on the passing attack that shredded the Skunkbear defense. The Irish only rushed for 54 yards but it didn’t matter one bit and I wouldn’t be too worried about the lack of a running game. The Irish have three very good backs and they were really just playing what the defense gave them. It obviously worked.

With as good as Golson and the offense looked, the defense looked even better. Of course they pitched a shutout against a hated rival which is always awesome but they also only gave up 289 total yards and only allowed Devin Gardner to throw for 189 yards. The Irish defense was all over Gardner the entire game making him uncomfortable in the pocket and forcing four turnovers. Brian VanGorder’s new defensive scheme worked magic against the Skunkbears as they were never able to truly get anything going. And just as awesome as how well the defense played, was Brian VanGorder’s reaction to how awesome the defense played. It was truly epic. 

 BVG

 

After a game against Rice where the defensive line got very little pressure on the quarterback, the Irish defense turned up the heat putting constant pressure on Gardner making him look like a deer in the headlights. The defensive line looked fantastic and was really the key to the disruption of the Skunkbear offense and the secondary was just as vital keeping a lid on Devin Funchess and not allowing any deep passes down the field. It was just an outstanding effort all around for the entire defensive unit. 

Key Observations:

  • First and foremost I have to give a huge shout out to every single fan that was at the game. The atmosphere was ELECTRIC. Myself and everyone around us stood for the entire game. When the entire stadium started chanting “Hey-Hey-Hey Goodbye” I got chills. It was awesome. Bravo fans. Bravo.
  • I don’t know if its the move to the nickel position or if its the new scheme but Mathias Farley has had himself a spectacular start to the season. He was flying all over the field and making big plays. Last season fans remember him for some blown coverages and missed tackles but he has really found a spot in this defense. 
  • There still is not a “go-to guy” in the back field and to be honest I don’t think there will be and thats ok. Each of the last two weeks the carries have been spread out pretty evenly between the three running backs. Each of the backs has a strength and I don’t see it being a problem.
  • How big was the addition of Cody Riggs in the offseason? He has been outstanding in secondary thus far this season in his coverage. Not only that but he has been very valuable in special teams as well. He had his first interception of the season last night when he beautifully jumped a route. With the recent academic investigation and the fate of KeiVarae Russell unknown, having Riggs on the roster is huge.
  • Ill probably be saying this every week this season but Jaylon Smith is a BEAST. He is so fast and was making plays all over the place Saturday night. He finished the night with 10 tackles but his contribution was much larger with the amount of plays he influenced. Brian Kelly moving him to the inside this season is looking more and more like a genius idea each week.
  • The defensive line played their asses off. Jarron Jones and Sheldon Day were in the backfield all night long and never allowed Devin Gardner to get in any sort of rhythm. Freshman Daniel Cage looked very impressive in his first game of major action after getting a few snaps against Rice. Kolin Hill did make his Notre Dame debut and he did not disappoint. He really reminds me of a Prince Shembo type player.
  • This was the second game where the Irish played crisp and clean football. Notre Dame committed zero turnovers for the second straight week and only committed three penalties for the entire game. That kind of discipline makes it much easier to win football games. 
  • Welcome to the show Amir Carlise. After having an undefined role last season as he tried to find a role in the offense, he is coming into his own as a slot receiver. I cant wait to continue to watch him grow and develop. Having a dangerous slot receiver makes an offense so much more difficult to defend. 

One Last time. A Michigan Preview

-Sgt Shamrock

Even with as much as its been talked about leading up to this game, its still hard to believe that this weekend’s matchup between Notre Dame and Michigan will be the last one for the foreseeable future. Notre Dame has played Michigan almost every single year that I have been alive to watch Irish football and while they are not our BIGGEST rival (that is Southern Cal and if you don’t think so you may want your head examined) I always views them as a big rival and a big time game. But here we are, the last game in the series upon us and per usual it is a big game for both teams. Fresh off their demolishment of Rice last Saturday, the Irish welcome the hated Michigan Wolverines (who I will refer to as Skunkbears from here on out) into Notre Dame Stadium for a early season, marquee matchup that will shape the outcome of the entire season for the Irish. While Brian Kelly has been very successful at Notre Dame since his arrival in 2010, he is only 1-3 against Michigan with his only win coming in the 2012 season. This is the last crack at the Skunkbears for Brian Kelly and while he may not publicly come out and say it, you can tell my his body language and rhetoric this week that beating Michigan in the final meeting is very important to him and the Notre Dame Football program.

The Skunkbears come into this game fresh off their own season opening thrashing of Appalachian State. Devin Gardner looked pretty good passing the ball and their running attack was gaining yards by the handful. But lets be honest. It was Appalachian State, a program that is in its first year in FBS and has nowhere near the amount of talent of the 2007 squad that pulled off the historic upset that we all remember so clearly. Bottom line is that Appalachian State is not a very good team and is going to really struggle this season to win three or four games. Now I can hear Notre Dame and for that matter Michigan fans screaming, “But Notre Dame played Rice! Its the same thing as playing Appalachian State!”. My response is this. NO ITS NOT. It really isn’t anything alike. The only thing similar between the two teams was that they were both supposed to get blown out in their first game of the season (which they did). Other than that they could not be more different. Rice was the Conference USA Champion last season and while they did lost a lot of starters, they still had talented players on the roster and will be in the mix to repeat in Conference USA this year. Appalachian State on the other hand is a brand new FBS program that will be lucky to win a few games this year. But hey don’t tell Skunkbear fans that. They are convinced that they will beat Notre Dame this weekend handily. Let them think that. It will just make all the Skunkbear tears taste that much sweeter this weekend. The bottom line is that Notre Dame has superior talent at the key positions and, baring a complete collapse, should win this game. 

Offense:

Everett Golson looked fantastic last week in his return to the field for the Irish. Actually the entire offense looked fantastic last week as it was clicking on all cylinders. While the Skunkbears defense will be a more formidable unit than the one that the Irish faced last week against Rice, I don’t think it is anything to be scared about either. Over the last few years the Skunkbear defense has been nothing to write home about and that could spell trouble to Brady Hoke this season. Golson will be one of the best quarterbacks that the Skunkbear defense will face all season. As we all saw last weekend, the receiving corps is loaded down with speed. Hot, nasty speed. It was glorious to watch. However part of the reason why the Irish receivers were able to get down the field so quickly was due to Rice’s odd game plan of playing off of the Irish wideouts. I fully believe that the Skunkbears will not make this mistake and play tight and physical on the line of scrimmage. A huge key to this game is going to be if the Irish receivers can break the press coverage. If they can its going to be a long day for the Skunkbear defense as there are so many weapons in the Irish passing attack. The Irish running game also had a big game last week and all three backs played well. However Greg Bryant really stood out to me as a type of back that is truly a game changer. I expect him to get a few more touches this week and I fully expect him to take advantage of them. Bottom line about the offense is that if they continue to play clean and mistake free football like they did last week, than they should be able to drop a lot of points on the Skunkbear defense. 

Defense:

While there were a few instances of miscommunication in the secondary last week, the defense as a whole played really well in their first game in a completely new defensive scheme. Add in the fact that the unit was missing some key defensive starters due to the ongoing academic investigation (Russell and Williams) and another to injury (Austin Collinsworth) only makes the effort even more impressive. Brian Kelly’s game plan was not to really to rush the passer but to keep him in the pocket and to make him throw. The defensive line played pretty well and were able to get some pressure throughout the game. However this week the defensive line is going to really need to step up and take advantage of a Skunkbear offensive line that is full of new faces and that also is missing some depth. Devin Gardner has never played well or made good decisions with the football when he is under pressure and I don’t see that changing in this game or even this entire season. He is an average quarterback at best who really only has one true offensive weapon to throw to, Devin Funchess. Its going to be up to the secondary to contain Funchess Saturday. Looking back at last week, the Skunkbears seemed to really like the “just toss it up to Funchess” strategy in the passing game. The key is for the front seven to put pressure on Gardner and force him to make bad throws. Its really hard to judge the Skunkbear rushing attack because of just how bad the defensive line was that they played against last week. They were literally pushing back the defensive line 5-10 yards on almost every play. However the Skunkbears will not have the same fortune this week against an Irish D-line that while young, is very talented and showed some promise last week.

Prediction:

Notre Dame is favored in this game and they should be. They have the better quarterback, better receiving corps, and more talented backfield. The Irish also have the best defender between both teams in Jaylon Smith. In the past the game with the Skunkbears has always had funny bounces and the Irish have been unlucky. That will not be the case this season. Notre Dame is flat out more talented than the Skunkbears and it will show on the field on Saturday night. Notre Dame 34 Skunkbears 21

Other Games This Weekend:

7 Michigan State at 3 Oregon- A lot of people think that Sparty has a good shot in this game since they play a similar brand of football that Stanford plays and Stanford has had success against Oregon in recent years. However I am not one of those people. Oregon is dangerous on offense and the Michigan State defense lost some key players from last years team. Michigan State is going to need to score points and they wont score nearly enough. Oregon 38 Michigan State 17

14 USC at 13 Stanford- Speaking of Stanford, they continue to play the brand of football that they have become known for in the last decade. They take on a USC team that beat up on Fresno State last week. While it may have looked pretty on TV the Trojans are up for a much tougher challenge as Stanford is going to be way more physical on both sides of the ball. The lack of depth will end up being the killer for USC Stanford 31 USC 24

Michigan Week Press Conference Recap

-Sgt Shamrock

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Its Michigan week and Brian Kelly met with the media today at the Gug to give his final thoughts on the victory over Rice before diving into this weekends big time showdown with the Michigan Wolverines on Saturday night at Notre Dame Stadium. Of course we all know that press conferences are notorious for being full of coach speak so we will do our best to sift through it and provide all the pertinent updates as the Irish prepare to take on the Wolverines.

Key Points:

  • Brian Kelly kicked off the press conference with a bang by channeling his inner Rodney Dangerfield, wearing a sport jacket that was SNAZZY 
  • Kelly mentioned the great starting field position for ND against Rice as a huge factor in the success of the offense
  • Kelly really gave a lot of praise to the special teams unit. Stated they put in great effort and that if the special teams unit can continuously provide that type of production the team is going to be in a very good position to win football games
  • Gardner and Funchess are a one-two combo that provide a touch matchup for anyone. Kelly also brought up that Gardner has had great success against Notre Dame in the past.
  • Kelly stated that he had no updates on the “Irish Five” and their status as of today but did say that the situation could change rapidly should he receive updates. Should he get information mid-week that some/all the players were able to return to the team he wouldn’t rule them out for the weekend.
  • In regards to the communication with the safeties (or lack thereof) Kelly said that VanGorder was very vocal with the safeties. He than proceeded to say “I was in the quarterback meeting room and I could hear them ‘communicating’ VERY well during film study.”
  • Having the all-time winning percentage is important to Brian Kelly as it shows the elite nature of the program and helps on the recruiting trail, however it does nothing to help this years team
  • Torii Hunter has made great progress in his recovery and will be participating in some individual drills this week. Depending on how it goes he could be available next week for Purdue
  • Jared Grace has made significant progress but is still not 100 percent and is still a few weeks away. Kelly is confident he will be able to help the team this season.
  • Corey Robinson’s hand held up well following a minor surgery. The hand was a little sore after catching a laser of a pass from Golson but overall it held up really well. 
  • Kelly points to the new playing surface as a contributing factor in the success of the special teams
  • The plan now is to continue using both Greg Bryant and Cody Riggs on punt returns. Kelly pointed out that Riggs is too valuable to lose and wants to make sure he doesn’t get hurt.
  • James Onwualu was the special teams player of the week for the Rice game
  • Kelly pointed out that while its not good that the series with Michigan is ending, that the silver lining is having the ability to play top notch programs like Georgia and Texas

Stay tuned to Down the Tunnel for all your Michigan week coverage.