Tag Archives: Jack Swarbrick

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

5 HOT (and Quick) Takes from Blue/Gold Game

Spring practice is in the books!  Can I use the terms/phrases “practice” and “in the books” for employees? Kidding, kidding…put the pitch forks away. I’ll give you plenty better opportunities to skewer me. While the Sarge continues to lead the DTT Spring game experience on-site, thought I’d provide a few quick observations from the Blue/Gold Game. For full disclosure, I am not of the opinion that a lot can be gleaned from what amounts to a glorified practice. It’s far more special and relevant for those able to make the trip than those of us looking to extrapolate what it means going forward. Nonetheless, people LOVE to extrapolate (even when they don’t know what that word means), so let’s get down to business:

1. QB “Battle”: Unquestionably, the number one “thing to watch” for today was the quarterback position. The return of the prodigal son, Everett Golson vs. the self-confident Malik Zaire. Twitter and Mike Mayock have declared the big winner of the day to be Zaire. I’m critical of Mayock’s analysis though because he did not tell me Zaire’s height and weight. Mayock, when in full lather over a particular player always tells you the size measurements while wiping some drool from the corner of his mouth. He did it for Golson pre-game. He did it for Jaylon Smith. Perhaps I just missed it.

Now to the game. I would *generally* agree that Zaire had the better performance. The stats bear that out. His reads came out quicker, he was more accurate, and most importantly to me….he looked like he wanted to compete for the starting gig. Golson was perhaps most disappointing with his reluctance to cut the ball loose. This issue plagued him at times during 2012, and I think many hoped he’d display a greater command of progressions after a one year quarterback boot camp. It’s important to remember a few things though: 1) This is but one practice. Folks need to realize Brian Kelly will not be making any final decisions based upon this one game. However, that Zaire looked ready to compete may create some intrigue for the inter web-professional-football-analysis-society from the summer months. 2) When you have 2 mobile quarterbacks battling in a “game” where they can’t be hit, it’s difficult to assess their true effectiveness. The refs were generally willing to let the QB’s continue to run around (and eventually throw) in situations where they will not be as fortunate in game situations. Golson’s rushing TD was a clear example. He scored. In a game, he’d have been pancaked between two rather large defensive players. To go along with this: Why in the WORLD was a screen pass run????? It happened early, but just seemed ludicrous to me. QB can’t be touched (and knows it), line comes flying through…Well executed(?) I suppose.

My more general take: First of all, I wet myself just a bit (it was early) to see both of our QB’s scramble, look elusive, and demonstrate plus arm-strength on the run. The Tommy Rees era is over, and I for one (all) couldn’t be happier to have it reaffirmed that it is possible to both run and throw the ball. Both quarterbacks exhibited the arm strength necessary to take advantage of the team’s speed and depth at the wide receiver position. While a function of the flag football game atmosphere, there were many deep attempts and routes down field suggesting a perhaps more vertical passing game while utilizing the TE and RB positions as safety valves.

2. FIELD TURF!!!! OMG OMG OMG OMG OMG OMG OMG: In a super fun troll job by the ND administration, Jack Swarbrick confirmed once and for all that field turf is a-coming to Notre Dame following Spring commencement ceremonies. So many words and blood have been spilled over this topic over the past few years that there’s no need to re-hash it. It’s a business decision, it’s a completely reasonable decision, and it will not impact game play for the negative in any material respect. Something I’ve harped on in the past is that something is not tradition just because it’s been done for a while. Rockne’s teams played on grass because that was more desirable to playing on dirt. ND never jumped the gun to install the horrendous astro-turf surfaces that led to many an injury in the 70’s, 80’s, and 90’s. However, field turf’s come a long way. It’s not tradition to embrace a technological advancement that is more economical, provides greater reliability of playing surface, and doesn’t impact injury concerns. Get with it folks, or tell me why I’m wrong in the comments without mentioning the word “tradition.” I *might* listen then.

3. Hello Running backs: Greg Bryant did Greg Bryant things the way we’d all been Greg Bryant’ing he’d do. See what I did there? I used his name like the word “Smurf” was used back in the day. Bryant, of course, is not smurf. Rather, his speed and agility are more reminiscent of Sonic the Hedgehog coming out of a 360 degree loop and catapulting up into the atmosphere to claim rings and decimate all obstacles in his way. Take the spring game for what it is: confirmation that all angst associated with the unsubstantiated rumors of Bryant’s transfer were well deserved. I look forward to seeing him decimate all obstacles in his way in an effort to claim another type of ring.

In the meantime, Tarean Folston was quite active catching passes. Again, there’s a limit to attempting to extrapolate that this is a new trend, but he demonstrated good hands and improvisation as a safety-valve pass catching option. This facet was missing from ND’s offense last year. However, with a return to a more free flowing mobile quarterback style, a good pass catching option coming out of the backfield should not be under-appreciated. Theo Riddick was good at this in 2012 when, you might remember, good things happen for the team at large. I like to see things that *could* convert to a new offensive wrinkle in the season to come, and this fits the bill quite nicely.

4. The Defense…Lost? Okay…what does that mean? I have a difficult time really grading anything that occurs on the defensive side of the ball. The inability to hit/sack the quarterback is such an impediment that it’s difficult to consider the defense’s effectiveness.  Add that to the team still learning a new defensive-system and philosophy and the always straight-forward vanilla game plan, and you aren’t left with too many takeaways. I thought Cole Luke looked generally good and made some great plays on the ball in difficult situations. I thought Austin Collinsworth looked severely under-sized and slow attempting to cover the wide receivers, but I’m not going to read too much into that. Perhaps more telling, Brian Kelly during a second half interview explained that he asked BVG to dial back some of the pressure schemes so the offense could get the “looks” it wanted to run plays. Does that mean the line is better than expected? Does it mean the offensive line is a little bit worse? Perhaps a mixture? Yeah….I’ll go with mixture for the day.

5. The BVG: Finally, the most legit thing I saw all day was in fact VanGorder stomping around the sideline. He’s intense, rocks as legit a ‘stache as any in the business, and I give him bonus points for his 1970’s hair dew. I think fans are going to be pleasantly surprised in the short-term with VanGorder’s increased aggression. He comes into a great situation where the experience of the secondary may let him get more exotic up front to compensate for the losses of Louis Nix and Stephon Tuitt. We’ve been down the road of a hyper aggressive defensive coordinator trying to make something out of nothing (I’m looking at you Jon Tenuta), but the caliber of athlete BVG has available is superior to what Tenuta dealt with, and the secondary is an entirely different animal. Perhaps grasping at straws, I also enjoyed seeing BVG on the sidelines. Being cerebral and up in the booth fit Bobby Diaco quite well. The same holds true for seeing VanGorder stalk the sidelines.

We now enter the dark days where there won’t be much to report or look forward to for several months. Share your comments or thoughts and feelings about the B/G Game and what you’re looking forward to for 2014 in the comments below. I’m sure Sarge will be back sooner rather than later to fill you in on the Down the Tunnel Tailgate and the reception to our sponsors the Indiana Whiskey Company being gracious enough to come on out this morning.

Cheers!

– Moons