April 12, 2014 // Notre Dame Football

2014 Notre Dame Blue Gold Game – First Impressions

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The Notre Dame Fighting Irish huddle before the Blue-Gold Game at Notre Dame Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Matt Cashore-USA TODAY Sports

The Notre Dame Fighting Irish huddle before the 2014 Blue-Gold Game. Mandatory Credit: Matt Cashore-USA TODAY Sports

Lost in the hysteria of Notre Dame deciding to install FieldTurf later this spring after commencement was the actual 2014 Notre Dame Blue-Gold game.  Notre Dame battled itself this afternoon in the annual culmination of spring practice in what has turned out to be the last time a Notre Dame team will play a game on natural grass in Notre Dame Stadium.

Here are a few first impressions of the 2014 Fighting Irish from this afternoon’s scrimmage.

Notre Dame Offense

  • Malik Zaire looked a lot more polished than I was expecting based on practice reports.  I expected him to be pretty good, but he was a very pleasant surprise with how well he played.  He stayed in the pocket a bit too long at times, but he showed solid accuracy and great velocity and moved the ball well.  If he is the #2 QB this fall, Notre Dame is in great shape.
  • Everett Golson looked a bit rusty early on.  He missed a wide open Amir Carlisle on a 3rd and long on what would have been a touchdown early on and he was a bit too quick to pull it down and run but all of that is to be expected considering he missed all of last year.
  • Both quarterbacks looked to have good command of the offense though and it seems abundantly clear that the Golson-Zaire combination puts Notre Dame in a much, much better position than the Rees-Hendrix combination last year.  You can file that observation in the thanks captain obvious folder.
  • Notre Dame is loaded at running back.  Tarean Folston looked better than last year and Greg Bryant showed why he has been getting rave reviews all spring on a 51 yard jaunt in the 2nd half.  With McDaniel as a third option Notre Dame has one of the best stables of backs we’ve seen in a while.
  • Speaking of the backs, it was great seeing them involved in the passing game with some nice screens.  The screen game has been really lacking the last couple of seasons but we got a glimpse of what Brian Kelly has in store for the fall with a couple of nice screens early on.
  • CJ Prosise was really impressive on his touchdown catch from Zaire.  He’s been described mainly as a big bodied wide receiver but he showed plenty of speed on his catch and run setting up what should be a great battle for the starting slot position with Amir Carlisle.
  • Among the other wide receivers, Will Fuller, Torii Hunter Jr, and Corey Robinson all had their moments, but Chris Brown showed that he might be ready to step into an every down role.
  • There were a couple drops by the tight ends on less than perfect throws but throws that need to be caught.  There is a lot of talent left at this position even with Troy Niklas headed to the NFL, but it looks like Notre Dame has a little work to do here this summer.

Notre Dame Defense

  • It’s tough to take too much from the defense in this game because the schemes were kept vanilla and the players are really still just learning Brian VanGorder’s defense, but one thing was very apparent – the bend, don’t break approach definitely appears to have left with Bob Diaco.  Even with vanilla schemes the Irish brought a lot of pressure.
  • Romeo Okwara looked like one of the biggest beneficiaries from Notre Dame’s new defensive philosophy.  It’s hard to know how many sacks he would have had if this were a real game since the refs were quick with the whistle when the defense got pressure, but he was credited with 3 sacks in the game.
  • You didn’t really hear Keivarae Russell’s name much other than when Mike Mayock was gushing about him.  Expect that to be the case for most of the fall because teams are not going to be throwing his way.
  • Russell’s counterpart at corner, Cole Luke, however, did find himself in the action and he looked up for the task.  Luke and Russell are going to give Notre Dame a heck of a combo at cornerback this fall.
  • Elijah Shumate had one really nice breakup on a pass from Golson to Carlisle that was a little late.  An earlier throw would have been a completion but Shumate did make a good break on the ball and broke it up.  Notre Dame desperately needs someone to emerge at safety this fall – maybe Shumate is that guy.
  • Early enrollee Andrew Trumbetti looked better than expected given he is playing a position that is tough for a true freshman, let alone a kid that should still be in high school to make an early impact.  If Trumbetti becomes best friends with Paul Longo and can provide Notre Dame with even just a few quality snaps a game, that would be a huge boost for the defensive line.
  • In case you forgot how freakishly good Jaylon Smith is, he reminded us all in the first half when it looked like Folston had the corner for a huge gain.  Not so much when the guy chasing you down is Jaylon Smith.  Smith made what was an outstanding play look routine.  He also looks like he packed on some good weight this off-season and obviously hasn’t lost his speed.
  • Didn’t see a whole lot out of the linebackers today that aren’t named Jaylon and that could be alarming since the other linebacker positions are a major concern for 2014.  Still would not be surprised at all if Nyles Morgan wasn’t starting or at the very least playing a significant role early into the season.


Comments to this Article

  • duranko commented on April 12th, 2014 at 4:52 pm

    first rate, Frank, as always.

    You picked the Smith tackle of Folston as a comment bullet, and that was the play when I made the loudest scream. I am going to enjoy Jaylon Smith as long as we have him.

    regarding the TES, after watching Heuerman I thought that if this is a disaster area, then having I guy like Mike Heuerman as your third string TE is kind of acceptable as a disaster.

    Prosise was especially noteworthy. Because he is not as fast as Brown and Fuller, his speed often gets overlooked, but not by the coaching staff.
    He is ready for prime time.

    Van Gorder. He is confident, he knows what he is doing and has the maturity to dial it down for the Blue-Gold game and not worry about it.
    He makes me confident.


  • jimbasil commented on April 12th, 2014 at 5:37 pm

    Nice report – thanks

    That said – I’m not one of those who is going to cheer for fake turf. I think it’s a myth you all have bought into that it is safer and faster.

    It’s more likely easier to maintain which is a copout in football. Football is an outdoor game with rain – mud and sun, not a living room table top afterschool sideline.


  • Jerry Coldiron commented on April 12th, 2014 at 5:46 pm

    Very disappointed in the decision by ND, and as an agronomist it’s a cop out. Simple mismanagement and not constructing the field properly (band aid) has lead to poor turf, & as pointed out in above post silly excuse. Truth is Coach Kelly wants FT feeling it’s a quicker surface ;-). Debatable. Anyways no worries, but trust me grass could and should no be problem at a facility with ND budget!!


    Ron Burgundy replied on April 14th, 2014 at 6:56 pm

    As an anchorman, I think it is a terrific move!


  • HURLS commented on April 13th, 2014 at 1:08 am

    I’m aggressive. I’m an Aires, damnit! Diaco philosophy made me puke. VanHalen VanGorder defense is ready to rock our opponents like defenses must do, rather than wait and try to react. Like wussies. It still baffles me how we went 12-0 with Diaco. But then again, it ended-up 12-1 not 13-0, didn’t it? Reacting is for losers. Aggressive defenses win. MAKE THE OFFENSE REACT + ADJUST. AGGRESS. That is champion-attitude.


  • Woody O’Hardy commented on April 13th, 2014 at 1:32 am

    I think modern turf is the way to go. Our field has been an absolute disgrace the last couple of years.

    Good job, Jack!


    PS Thumbs up to Hurls comment. Amen, brother!!! Diaco’s approach only works if you can shut them down in red zone…like we did in 2012.


  • bj commented on April 13th, 2014 at 6:32 am

    swarbrick is a joke


    kiwifan replied on April 13th, 2014 at 10:26 pm

    Why, because he doesn’t agree with you?

    Go back to NDNation with the rest of the crazies.


  • duranko commented on April 13th, 2014 at 1:09 pm

    The linebacking corps is still a cause for concern. I sure hope that Nyles Morgan is ready. And further, I respect Hurl’s point about defensive aggressiveness. But there ain’t no free lunches. Risk and reward are an efficient frontier. I just wonder if folks will accept that math the first time we get torched when we are in an aggressive defense.

    But for many reasons, I am all in on Brian Van Gorder. He is the right man for the right time.


  • JDriveSthND commented on April 13th, 2014 at 2:25 pm

    Why do we feel the need to apologize for Golson? He’s a Senior, started 11 games in the 2012-2013 season including the National Championship, spent all last season working on mechanics with a private NFL caliber Qb coach, and to quote Top Gun, “[He] should be doing it better and cleaner than the other guy. Now, what is it with [him]?”

    He has all the advantages over Zaire. But wait you say, no he doesn’t.

    1) The crummy field – Oh, wait, Zaire had to play on that same field.
    2) Timing of with new WRs – Oh, wait, Zaire was 3rd string last year and barely threw to those guys himself.
    3) The crowd rattled him – Oh, wait, Golson started in the NC Game in 2013 as well as at Oklahoma, USC, and Michigan State all regular season wins, and yet he’s rattled by a home crowd of 28,000 – not likely.

    The bottom line is that Golson, should be better than he was yesterday, and should be much better and more consistently better than he’s able to be at this point in his career. If he doesn’t show early and often in fall camp and Zaire does, then I’d give the keys to Zaire.

    I find it very interesting as was that we consider Golson the throwing QB and Zaire the running QB, yet Golson was the one yesterday that was much more likely to bail on his progressions, leave the pocket and just try to do something with his feet. Now, don’t get me wrong, that ability excites me, but Zaire’s got the same ability only better. He can from a running offense in high school and can move the ball with his feet in his sleep. So, the BG game yesterday was really a chance to take stock of the two QB’s ability to throw the football, and in that first look at the 2014 season, Zaire out-shined Golson decisively.

    Zaire: 18-25 for 292 yards, 2 TD, 0 INT, 16.22 ypc, 11.68 ypa
    Golson: 13-24 for 154 yards, 0 TD, 0 INT, 11.85 ypc, 6.42 ypa, and 1 Rush TD (in a game where he couldn’t be tackled).

    In other words, Zaire threw for 90% more yardage and 5 more completions with just 1 more passing attempt all game than Golson, to say nothing of the 2-to-0 passing TD comparison which included a redzone laser to Carlisle (kudos to Carlisle on that catch as well). Finally, Zaire’s passes did more damage as his yards-per-attempt were almost as much as Golson’s yards-per-completion.


    Ron Burgundy replied on April 13th, 2014 at 3:01 pm

    I fell asleep after the word Why.


  • Bruce johnson commented on April 13th, 2014 at 9:24 pm

    Fire swarbrick the real estate developer


    Shazamrock replied on April 14th, 2014 at 8:44 am


    You can feel better knowing that Grand Valley St plays on Field Turf too!

    Just look at what Kelly and his assistant coaches did there while playing on turf.

    Kelly and his assistants have a lot of experience with turf.

    They know all about turf wear, turf temprature, wet turf, dry turf, turkey turf, turf toe, tunnel turf, turf wars, the turfical advantage, murphy turfy, turf-n-tuck, turf tear, and of course, surf & turf.

    Jack knows TURF!

    Turf, turf, turf, turf,turf, turf, turf!


  • Bob commented on April 13th, 2014 at 9:47 pm

    Anyone who says Swarbrick “is a joke” or implies that he’s not doing a great job should lose their posting privileges. Asinine !!

    As for those who are stuck on “tradition” having something to do with the playing surface the Irish play on, time to play catch up. I’m sure you’re all serf using to use smartphones and still using pay phones?


    Ron Burgundy replied on April 14th, 2014 at 6:59 pm

    Exactly how does one serf?


    Bob replied on April 14th, 2014 at 11:25 pm

    “Still”… I apologize for the typo. Please forgive me.


  • storespook commented on April 14th, 2014 at 12:43 am

    I agree with a lot of the points in the article. I thought MZ looked much better than what I expected, even for a spring game, it does offer some glimpses of the offense we as fans have been waiting for since Kelly got here. EG didn’t perform as well in the game but I don’t think I it precludes him from starting unless MZ flat out beats him in the fall. The QB’s, RB’s, and WR’s all looked good in yesterday’s spring outing. I am excited to see the RB trio in action come fall. I also think the D will be better coached. I haven’t felt this excited about an upcoming season since the Holtz days of the late 80′s & early 90′s.

    Field turf, well, time will judge if it was the best move. Frankly, I won’t lose sleep losing what amounted to a natural grass pasture the team was playing on no longer being there.

    Go Irishhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh


  • bleednd82 commented on April 14th, 2014 at 4:05 am

    I hope they add another night game in coming year. Every game @ LSU seems like a night game. Also, I hope they get some type of Jumbo Tron. Not a huge out of control one just two under the score boards. That would work. They could place them under the score board. I like the new pricing system for tix but lets be honest, the reason the cheaper games are more loud is because they have younger fans and fans who really want to cheer. The tix with a larger price tag usually have older folks there who sit and complain about either how bad the team is playing or how they cant see because someone is standing up in front of them. Do us a favor and stay home. I have had season tix since I was 13. I am now 31 and I am so happy they are playing music during tv timeouts and have night games now. I am excited for the new renovations also.


    Ron Burgundy replied on April 14th, 2014 at 10:44 am

    That paper route must have paid well at 13 to be able to afford season tickets.


  • Jerry Seppanen commented on April 14th, 2014 at 12:07 pm

    The Irish are back!


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