Notre Dame defeated Navy 38-34 at Notre Dame stadium in a game that should never have been that close. Tommy Rees threw for 242 yards, two touchdowns, and two interceptions. The Irish defense, which played like it has never seen the option before, allowed Navy to do practically whatever it wanted on offense. Only on 4th down with less than a minute and a half to go did the Irish defense finally make a play, when Jaylon Smith made an outstanding play to preserve the Irish victory.
It appears Brian Kelly has seen the light with the running back situation. Tarean Folston, who out on a clinic enroute to 140 yards on the ground and a touchdown, split most of the carries with Cam McDaniel allowing the Irish rushing attack to run wild. George Atkinson scored the first touchdown of the game, but it was Folston and McDaniel who stole the show.
Jaylon Smith continues to shine and show why he was such an important recruit for the Irish. The defense as a whole however played awful and had arguably their worst game of the season. Irish escape with a win and move to 7-2 on the season. Pittsburg is up next. A more in depth recap of this game and others around the country will be up tomorrow.
The first football weekend of November is upon us, and with it brings a visit from longtime rivals from the Naval Academy. The Notre Dame vs. Navy matchup, which began in 1927, is the longest uninterrupted rivalry game in the country. This will be the 87th consecutive meeting between these two schools in what has been as lopsided a matchup as they come. Notre Dame leads the overall series 71-12-1 and held the longest winning streak over an opponent at 43 games before the 2007 overtime loss. Brian Kelly has lost to Navy once in his short career, the 2010 disaster that all of us would like to forget. However since that loss Brian Kelly and his staff seemed to have altered the game plan and figured out the option attack and have not lost since winning the remaining matchups to date by a large margin. Notre Dame is coming into this matchup off of a shellacking of Air Force last week in Colorado Springs 45-10. All aspects of the Irish team played well last week and its safe to expect the same against the Midshipmen
Last week I really thought the Irish were going to take advantage of the weak Air Force rushing defense to establish the running game, something the Irish really need to improve on if they want to make a run at the BCS. I did think that Tommy Rees would have a good game but I did not expect him to throw 5 touchdowns and play a practically flawless football. I have been very critical of Rees in the past and very outspoken about his limitations, but he is playing the best football of his career right now and its happening at the best time of the year as we head into November. Coming into the weekend Tommy Rees has throw for 20 TD’s only 6 interceptions and 1944 passing yards, which is 25th in all of FBS schools. However his greatest improvements are the intangibles. His pocket presence, his ball placement, and decision making have all improved vastly and are a key factor to his success. What may be the biggest improvement to me though, is his ability to distribute the ball evenly to different receivers. Last season and in 2011, Tommy Rees had the tendency to lock into his favorite targets of Michael Floyd and Tyler Eifert. This season Rees has been throwing to all of his receivers which makes the passing attack that much more lethal.
Unlike Air Force however, Navy had a pretty good passing defense giving up only 204.4 passing yards per game which ranks 21st nationally. The rushing defense is a different story. Navy is giving up 187.9 yards per game ranking 89th in all FBS schools which provides yet another chance for the Irish to get their running game going against a poor rushing defense. The Irish need to find the running game this week to get some much needed improvement before playing the stout defense of BYU and Stanford later in the season. A healthy dose of Cam “Blue Steel” McDaniel and Tarean Folston would be the ideal situation, since George Atkinson III and Amir Carlise have not been getting the job done.
The Irish defense has an almost identical matchup as they did a week ago. Its the staple of triple options teams. They run the ball very well and cant pass to save their life. This week is no different. Navy ranks near the bottom of the barrel in passing offense at 120th nationally averaging only 103.9 yards through the air per game. The strength of the Navy academy has been and continues to be their triple option rushing attack. The Midshipmen are averaging 292.1 yards on the ground putting them as the 10th best rushing attack in the nation. The Irish defense looks to face a bit more or a physical running attack than they did against Air Force but I expect more of the same and should have no problems stopping Navy from scoring.
Overall I expect Notre Dame to dominate this game as they should. Good teams do not lose to teams like this and good teams don’t even let teams like this hang around. Expect this game to be over by half time with Tommy Rees playing well again at home and the rushing attack to add some much needed balance before heading into a tough stretch to end the season. Navy will come out fired up like they always do, but Notre Dame is just a flat out better team in all aspects of the game.
Players to watch
Offense- Will Fuller caught is first touchdown pass of his young career last week against Air Force, showing off some serious speed as well. With the offense air attack getting hot at the right time of the season, I really see Fuller starting to get a bigger role. Im looking forward to seeing some of that speed this weekend.
Defense- Kavaire Russell played outstanding last week sealing the edge and making some key tackles. Facing another triple option team this week should be another chance for Russell to show his versatility on defense. After an outstanding rookie season last year, Russell seemed to have some sophomore struggles early in the season but over the last few weeks he has started playing at the level we expect from him
Notre Dame 49 Navy 13
Other games around the country
7 Miami at 3 Florida State- This may be the most lopsided top 10 matchup of the season. Miami, in my opinion, is one of the most over rated teams in the country and its going to show this weekend. Miami has played one of the weakest schedules of any of the top 20 teams in the country and have needed two straight 4th quarter comebacks to avoid the upset. Florida State is one of the hottest teams in the country and is oozing with NFL talent. Florida State is going to embarrass Miami this weekend. Florida State 41 Miami 17
21 Michigan at 22 Michigan State- Michigan State boasts one of the toughest defenses in the country this year. Michigan has had its struggles after beating the Irish earlier in the season. Michigan is going to have a tough time with that defense of the Spartans and Devin Gardner will probably continue to be a turnover machine. Michigan State 24 Michigan 21
18 Oklahoma State at 15 Texas Tech- Texas Tech has benefited from playing a very week schedule and finally lost when they played a good team in Oklahoma. Both Oklahoma State and Texas Tech rely on their offense to win but the Cowboys will bring a few more bullets to this shootout. Oklahoma State 45 Texas Tech 41
So this week has been a pretty slow week of work so far and thanks to technology I’ve been able to peruse the usual ND message boards to kill time. After what I saw, I really wish I hadn’t. There are actually people, and more than just a few, that actually prefer going 10-2 and NOT going to a BCS game to avoid getting blown out. That’s not a typo. Fans would actually rather the Irish go and play in some low tier Maxipad Bowl to try and get an easy win instead of playing on the national stage against a quality opponent. This is wrong. Very wrong.
Part of what makes Notre Dame what it is, is that the Irish always play one of the toughest schedules year in and year out all over the country. To put it simply, Notre Dame is never afraid to play anyone, anywhere. It’s always been that way and it damn well better stay that way. It’s part of the Notre Dame way.
Now don’t get me wrong, watching the Irish get destroyed on national TV is never fun. It sucks and I know over the last two decades fans have seen their fair share of it. I’ll never forget having to watch LSU and Jamarcus Russell, NFL bust of the century, destroy Notre Dame in the 2007 Sugar Bowl as I watched on a small TV in a government paid for hotel room the night before leaving for basic training. And watching the Irish get clocked in the mouth by Alabama in last years national championship game while watching in Afghanistan this past January was pretty damn awful too. But in no way shape or form do I ever regret playing in those games because you never know what can happen. It’s why you play the game.
Last season Louisville played Florida in the Sugar Bowl. Obviously Florida is in the SEC and obviously everyone thought they would roll over Louisville, who played in the lowly and now disbanded Big East Conference. In 2007 Boise State played Oklahoma in the Fiesta Bowl which projected to be a blowout win for the Sooners. Both of the underdogs, which nobody gave any chance to win, won their respective games shocking the college football world. Underdogs always have a chance, especially during bowl season.
Make no mistake, getting destroyed by Alabama was horrible. I couldn’t stand to watch and it made me sick. But in the darkness there is also light. Brian Kelly, his staff, learned that they had to have a different approach than what they had against Alabama. That loss, as bad as it was, showed the staff that changes needed to be made and a new plan for big post season games was needed. I’m not saying that Notre Dame will not ever lose a bowl game ever again, because that is not realistic. But I will say that I don’t think we will see a defeat of that margin again while Brian Kelly is the football coach at Notre Dame.
So to all Irish fans out there, who would rather play in a measly no nothing bowl instead of one last shot at a BCS bowl win, grow a pair. We are not the Big Ten, we are not the MAC, or any of these other lower tier teams and conferences. We are Notre Dame and to be the best you have to beat the best. Not by playing teams beneath you and declaring it a moral victory. The path to greatness is never easy but the taste of victory at the end is that much sweeter. Have some faith ND fans. You may just be pleasantly surprised.
An interview with estranged Notre Dame quarterback Everett Golson was released today by Sports Illustrated. In the interview Andy Staples asks Golson about what led him to being dismissed from Notre Dame. Golson pretty much admits to have cheated but maintained using the phrase “it was a test thing”. Golson, who led the Irish to the 2012 BCS title game against Alabama, has been in California working with renowned quarterback guru George Whitfield and maintains that he will return to Notre Dame this spring. We forgive you Everett and miss you. Hurry back. Your team and fans are eager to see you play again. You can watch the interview here. http://on.si.com/Ht7g1T
Notre Dame comes in at 25th in the latest BCS rankings released earlier tonight after beating Air Force 45-10 making it the first time being ranked in the BCS this season. The Irish, who were ranked 25th in the coaches poll and unranked in the AP poll, are looking to make a BCS bowl in the final season of the BCS system before the 4 team playoff system begins in 2014. Four teams on Notre Dames schedule were also ranked in the BCS top 25, with the marquee team being Stanford ranked at number 5. The Irish will play the Cardinal in Palo Alto to finish the season in what may be the deciding factor in making a BCS bowl this season. Notre Dame needs to have at least 9 wins and ranked in the top 14 of the BCS rankings to be considered for a BCS bowl, however its fairly clear that anything less than 10-2 will not be enough. The Irish will need to win out to get an at large bid for the BCS.
After sobering up from yesterday’s drunk fest and finally getting some sleep after college football kept me awake until around 3 am, I was finally able to really delve into the 45-10 win for the Irish over the Air Force Falcons. There were a lot of good things to take away from the win but one really stood out to me and should have caught everyone’s attention. The Irish freshman playmakers are really good. Both Corey Robinson and Will Fuller scored their first career touchdowns and did so in an impressive fashion. Corey Robinson opened up the scoring for the Irish, hauling in a 35 yard pass from Tommy Rees that I’m sure made everyone cringe. I sure as hell know I did. Tommy boy threw the ball off of his back foot and screamed interception until the Little Admiral grabbed it out of the air to tie the game. Will Fuller scored on a beautifully thrown pass by Tommy Rees. Fuller ran a strait seem route and flat out burned his defender, showing some serious speed that we have all been waiting to see.
Fuller and Robinson were not the only freshman to show some skill yesterday. Steve Elmer, who was making his first career start, played very well along an offensive line that only gave 1 sack and gave Tommy Rees all sorts of time to slice and dice the thin Falcons secondary. Jaylon Smith played like a beast. This is nothing new for Irish fans who have been watching him play this season. The speed he has for a linebacker is just remarkable and he is starting to make his presence felt more and more each week. He should have had his first career touchdown yesterday if not for the officials blowing the whistle way to early on an Air Force fumble. Both Cole Luke and Devin Butler got some serious playing time in the Irish secondary. Tarean Folston didn’t get as many carries as I thought he would early in the game, but I was very pleased to see Brian Kelly give him a ton of snaps with the first team offense before more of the backups came into close out the game. He showed some serious vision and speed that we all heard about during his recruitment.
What does this all mean? Yes they played well and the Irish won the game. That’s looking at in the short term. What has me very very excited is that this Irish team will continue to get better every year. Brian Kelly is one hell of a recruiter and he knows what kind of talent he wants. Tim Calhoun, the Air Force head coach, said something interesting yesterday in his post game press conference. He said that this may been the best receiving corps that Notre Dame has ever had. While I don’t know if its the best receiving corps EVER, I do agree its the best we have seen in a long while and they have the chance to be the best ever. And most of the receiving corps is still very young. The future for the Irish offense and the team overall is very bright and everyone should be very excited about what it means for the future of Notre Dame football.
This weeks polls
I have had about enough with these polls and the voters and coaches. It aggravates me so much. Notre Dame finally cracked the coaches poll this week checking in at 25 but the writers didn’t see it that way leaving the Irish on the outside looking in. That’s already bad enough put when look at the two team that checked in at 24 and 25 you will want to punch something. Michigan State and Arizona State. Yes both of those teams were beaten by the Irish. It makes no sense. Especially Arizona state who has the exact same record as Notre Dame.
Raise your hand if your not surprised about this one. An SEC team who loses doesn’t fall nearly as far as they should. Missouri who lost to number 21 South Carolina at home yesterday after blowing at 17 point fourth quarter lead fell from number 5 to number 10. How that team stays in the top 10 is beyond me but hey they are in the SEC so I guess its ok. Oh and that South Carolina team that just beat them? Ranked 14th. Yea that makes sense.
I’m not surprised that Texas A&M is ranked 12th even with two loses. Should they be ranked 12th? Absolutely not. Their defense is awful and the only good teams they have played have beaten them. But they have Johnny Field Goal and the media’s love affair with the SEC so that explains that.
What in the world is UCLA still doing in the top 20? They have now lost two games in a row and just got flat out embarrassed by the Oregon Ducks. Their best win this season? At Utah. They are just not that good.
Miami is one of the most over rated teams in America this season. Yes they are 7-0. They have played NOBODY. The best team they have played is Florida and they are awful. Not only that, but Miami has now almost lost to two straight unranked teams. But don’t worry folks they wont be up there at 7 for very long. They have the pleasure of getting waxed on national TV this weekend by Florida State. Its going to be murder.
Stanford is beatable. They really are. Yes their defense is very good as always but the offense is not as dangerous as it has been in the past especially through the air. Their dangerous tight ends have moved onto the NFL and Kevin Hogan has looked mediocre to say the least. It will be a tough game for the Irish but a win is not out of the question.
Don’t worry about Fresno State and Northern Illinois busting the BCS. Both of these teams will lose. Fresno State got lucky last night and will find a lose on their remaining schedule. I really believe Northern Illinois will end up losing to Ball State. Mark it down
Tommy Rees went 17 for 22 for 284 yards and 5 touchdowns in a 45-10 win over Air Force in Colorado Springs. Tommy Rees threw 5 touchdown passes to 5 different Irish receivers, the first time that has happened in Irish history. Two of those touchdown passes were completed to true freshman Will Fuller and Little Admiral Corey Robinson. The Notre Dame defense which looked a bit confused to start the game, settled down quickly and played the triple option as good as you could play it, only giving up 10 points and giving up 339 yards to the Falcons offense.
The Irish offense went over the 400 yard mark for the 5th time this season racking up 466 yards against a Falcons defense that looked lost the entire game. Chris Brown, Will Fuller, and Corey Robinson all caught their first career touchdown passes and TJ Jones and Ben Koyack added the other two scores. Cam “Blue Steel” McDaniel lead the Irish in rushing with 61 yards. Tarean Folston got a lot of carries in the second half once the game was in hand. He showed some brilliant moves and ran for 47 yards. Andrew Hendrix FINALLY completed a pass with a 45 yard bomb to Will Fuller and ran for a TD to close out the game.
The defense stepped up to the plate after a shaky start and forced two turnovers and shut down the Air Force triple offense attack. Jaylon Smith played outstanding against the option and should have had a touchdown on an Air Force fumble but the officials jumped the gun calling the play dead. Sheldon Day tweeked his ankle again and we will await for from Brian Kelly on his injury and his availability for next week.
The Irish play another triple option team in Navy next week in South Bend. Check back tomorrow for a more in depth recap of this game and others around the country once I sober up a bit.