Tag Archives: Irish

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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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

The Down The Tunnel Radio Show – North Carolina Edition

-Kevin

The Down the Tunnel radio show is back. This week we discussed the ongoing academic investigation, look back at the Irish’s comeback win against Stanford, and look ahead to North Carolina. We were also joined by Douglas Farmer from Blue and Gold Illustrated.

http://tobtr.com/s/6986267

A Look at the Series History with North Carolina

-Kevin

As Notre Dame continues to prepare for their matchup with the North Carolina Tar Heels this weekend, now is as good a time as any to look into some of the history between the Irish and the Tar Heels. Notre Dame leads the series with North Carolina 16-2 and Notre Dame’s .889 winning percentage against the Tar Heels is the third best in Notre Dame football history only behind Wabash and Illinois. Notre Dame first met North Carolina in Yankee Stadium on November 12th, 1949 and the top ranked Irish won 42-6 en route to the National Championship. The Irish won the first ten meetings over the Tar Heels before North Carolina finally defeated Notre Dame 12-7 in Chapel Hill.

North Carolina comes to South Bend with a tough task ahead and history is not on their side. The Tar Heels are 0-11 when playing in Notre Dame Stadium and have only been able to defeat the Irish on two occasions, 1960 and 2008, both of which took place in Chapel Hill.  North Carolina is also 0-11 against Notre Dame when the Irish are the higher ranked team which is the case yet again this weekend. Notre Dame’s defense has risen to the challenge against North Carolina throughout the series, holding the Tar Heels to single digits in 9 of the 18 meetings including three shutouts. The Irish offense has also played well against North Carolina throughout the series history. Over their 18 meetings Notre Dame has outscored North Carolina by an average of 26.2 to 11.2 points. With North Carolina’s defense being one of the worst in the country this season it is safe to assume that this trend will continue.

Notre Dame and North Carolina also have some more recent connections that go beyond their series history. Notre Dame quarterback Everett Golson grew up in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina and was originally committed to North Carolina before he switched his commitment to Notre Dame. On the flip side, North Carolina running back Elijah Hood, who is the second leading rusher behind quarterback Marquise, was originally committed to Notre Dame in last years recruiting class before switching his commitment to the Tar Heels. North Carolina’s Athletic Director Bubba Cunningham earned his bachelors and masters degrees from Notre Dame and UNC sophomore Jon Heck is the son of Andy Heck, who was an All American at Notre Dame and played twelve seasons in the NFL. Notre Dame has had success recruiting in North Carolina in recent years and the Irish currently have  six players on the roster from North Carolina: Ben Council, Mathias Farley, Mark Harrell, Greer Martini, Romeo Okwara, and Kendall Moore (still suspended).

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

shamrock_logo_2014_final
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. 

  

The 2014 Campaign Begins. A Rice Preview.

-Sgt Shamrock

After a long awaited wait, the 2014 season is FINALLY upon us as Notre Dame begins their journey to gain a berth in the first ever College Football Playoff. Its time to put fall camp and the academic investigation behind us and get excited for some Notre Dame Football. First up on the chopping block is the Rice Owls. David Bailiffs Owls squad is coming of a 10 win season last year but most people remember them for there effort against Texas A&M to begin their 2013 season. Notre Dame and Rice have meet on 4 other occasions with Notre Dame winning every contest. However some look at Rice’s record last season as well as being the Conference USA Champion as a reason to worry about this matchup for the Irish. I don’t see it that way at all and here is why. Sure Rice won ten games last season. But has anyone looked at who they played? Besides playing Texas A&M on the road to start the season, Rice’s second most difficult opponent was Mississippi State in the Liberty bowl and Rice got run off the field in that game losing 44-7. After that Rice’s opponents were awful. So yes they won 10 games but the only two quality teams they played, Texas A&M and Mississippi State, they lost too. Speaking of Texas A&M, many people point to how well Rice played in that game as another reason that Notre Dame could be in for a tough game. But did Rice REALLY play well in that game? Not only did Johnny Manziel sit out the entire first half, but the Aggies defense was absolutely abysmal. I mean really really bad and to compound on how bad it was they were also missing 5 starters on their defensive unit. So basically what I am saying is don’t let the numbers fool you on Rice.

This years Rice team is also very different than last season. They are returning only about half of their starters and have been hit pretty hard by pre-season injuries. Their starting tight end Connor Cella is out 4-6 weeks with an injury and their star receiver Jordan Taylor is dealing with a foot injury that may hold him out against the Irish. Bottom line here is that Rice looked better on paper last season than they really were AND this years team doesn’t have the same amount of talent that that team did. So what can we expect out of Notre Dame against Rice to start the season? Lets find out.

Offense

Obviously the highlight of the offense for the first game and maybe even the entire season is the return of Everett Golson. It has been over 600 days since his last game against Alabama in the 2012 National Championship game. Reports out of fall camp are that Golson has matured as a leader, has grown physically, and has really taken the next step forward in the playbook. That spells success to me and while he may shake off some rust early on, I don’t see it lasting more than one or maybe two drives. With Davaris Daniels still in limbo regarding his “suspension” the only receiver to have ever caught a pass from Golson in a game is Chris Brown with his memorable catch against Oklahoma during the 2012 season. This season he will have a whole new receiving corps to throw the ball too that is not lacking in talent. Corey Robinson presents a pretty sizable mismatch for most defensive backs and Will Fuller’s speed that we saw glimpses of last season should be more up front and center especially against a Rice secondary that normally does not play against that type of speed. The Irish come into this game with a healthy and very talented offensive line led by newly named captain Nick Martin, which should not only give Golson plenty of time to throw the ball, but open running lanes for the three headed monster at running back with Bryant, Folston, and McDaniel. All three backs will present a challenge for the Rice defense led by their star defensive lineman Christian Covington, and they should be able to rack up a large chunk of rushing yards.

Defense

The recent academic investigation has really left the defense short handed with KeiVarae Russell, Ishaq Williams, Kendal Moore, and Eliar Hardy all set to be missing the Rice game this weekend for sure and who knows how much longer after that. There is not a lack of talent to fill in those positions however. Cole Luke, who played last year and very well in my opinion, will take Russell’s spot on the field opposite of Cody Riggs. Williams role will be replaced by using multiple underclassmen to help generate a pass rush. Obviously Jaylon Smith is the superstar of the defense and with him now anchoring the middle of the defense this season he really has the ability to be even better this season. Going into Rice the Irish defense’s main goal needs to be to force Rice quarterback Driphus Jackson to try and beat them with his arm. He is a dual threat guy with the ability to run. With VanGorders new scheme being tested in its first game at Notre Dame I fully expect the Irish to put pressure on the quarterback early and often to try to rattle a quarterback who is going to be playing in front of the largest crowd he will face all season. While the depth of the Irish defensive line is a concern throughout the season, I don’t see it playing to much of a factor into this game as Rice’s offensive line is going to have a handful dealing with Sheldon Day who looks to be in line to have a monster season.

Prediction

I am sure most people have either read or seen some of the Harry Potter books/movies. Remember that owl named Heddwig? Now picture that owl. And picture someone picking it up and stabbing it mercilessly to death. Thats exactly what this game is going to be like. Its going to be a bloodbath. I don’t want to hear the whole “Well Notre Dame doesn’t play well in season openers” argument. 2012 Navy says hello. Notre Dame is by far the better team on the field in every aspect of the game and its not even close. Rice is going to put up a good fight early but it will be all for not. Golson will play brilliant in his first game back from his exile, the running game runs the ball at will, and the young defense will play much better than many folks anticipate.

Notre Dame 45 Rice 17

 

Other Games Around the Country

1 Florida State at Oklahoma State (Arlington, TX)- The defending national champs and defending Heisman trophy winner open the season taking on a Oklahoma State team that doesn’t seem like it will be as competitive as years past under Mike Gundy. The offense should still do pretty well in the Big 12 but they won’t fare all that well against that FSU defense. This game may still be close at halftime but it wont end that way. Florida State 41 Oklahoma State 24

16 Clemson at 12 Georgia- In probably the best matchup of the weekend, we get to see how Clemson and Georgia respond with new quarterbacks at the helm with Taji Boyd and Aaron Murray both gone to the NFL. Georgia still has a very strong stable of running backs with Todd Gurley and Keith Marshal and that will be the difference in this game. Georgia 28 Clemson 21

14 Wisconsin at 13 LSU (Houston, TX)- If any team outside the SEC has the scheme and skill set to play with and beat LSU it would be Wisconsin. The Badgers love to run the ball and have a couple of very talented backs. But playing them the first game of the season is tough and LSU’s defense should be even tougher. LSU 24 Wisconsin 17

UPSET SPECIAL

5 Ohio State at Navy- With the loss of Braxton Miller at quarterback the offense for the Buckeyes, that was already replacing a huge chunk of their offensive line, is going to be under a large amount of pressure to score a lot of points. Carlos Hyde is gone to the NFL so the ability of a running back to step up and fill that void is very important. Navy is a running machine and Keenan Reynolds runs the triple option attack to perfection. The Buckeyes defense wasn’t great last year and they lost some key playmakers. Ohio State realizes very quickly that life without Braxton Miller will not be a good one. Navy 31 Ohio State 30

 

Rice Week Press Conference Recap

-Sgt Shamrock

Rice week is in full swing as Brian Kelly met with the media today at the Gug to talk about the Irish football team as they head into the season opener this weekend. In a new feature for our audience and fans, we will have a recap of each weekly press conference here on Down the Tunnel as we know that most people are unable to watch the press conference live. 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.

KEY POINTS:

  • Brian Kelly as well as the team has a great deal of respect for Rice. He praised their season last year in which they finished 10-4 and were the Conference USA Champions. Talked about the defense that plays a lot of man coverage and are very aggressive. Cited they finished top 30 in defense last season.
  • The players focus changes a bit once game week arrives. Classes are beginning and the excitement for the first game is out there. The key is to keep players focused on Rice. Unlike camp the team is preparing for a single opponent.
  • Brian Kelly approached the Unity council about the possibility of bringing back the Alma Mater after every game regardless of the outcome. The members voted and decided they wanted to go back to it. Kelly wants to make sure the voices of the players are heard.
  • Andrew Trumbetti will be starting over Romeo Okwara but both will play significant time
  • Jared Grace is ahead of schedule and recovering well but will not be available for Rice. Tori Hunter is also ahead of schedule. Kelly is going to try and have him run a bit next week and reevaluate.
  • Kelly has still not named captains but anticipates that being done within the next 24 hours. It is possible that Kelly could have game captains each week. He also stated he is not ruling out having one or two year long captains as well as week to week game captains
  • Keivare Russell, Ishaq Williams, Kendal Moore, and Davaris Daniels are officially ruled out for this weekend’s game. Brian Kelly has not received any updates and week seek some next week if he has not received any from Swarbrick. Kelly also stated that it is possible that SHOULD certain players be cleared in the middle of a week that they could be available for that Saturday’s game.
  • Kelly mentioned that the defense is both the most inexperienced but also athletic defenses he has coached throughout his career
  • Corey Robinson had a minor procedure last Friday for a fractured finger and a pin was placed in his hand. He was back practicing yesterday and will start against Rice.
  • Chris Brown has been impressive in camp and Kelly expects him to make big plays. He has great speed and can get off press coverage. He will get open.
  • Unlike seasons in the past there will not be as many offensive substitution’s when the offense is playing at a fast pace.

 

Make sure you check back with Down the Tunnel on Thursday to catch our first “Weekend Preview” of the season. We will break down the game against Rice this weekend, have players to watch, predict the score, as well as making predictions on other big games around the country.