In wrapping up the Pitt game, here is a quicker than usual look at the 5 things I didn’t like seeing out of the Irish this past weekend.
Mike Mayock’s giddyness in the 4th quarter and OT
Almost everything that was gained in production value of the NBC broadcast with Dan Hicks doing the play by play was lost due to Mike Mayock’s uncharacteristic giddiness over Notre Dame’s struggles throughout the game. I have loved the addition of Mayock as Pat Haden’s replacement once Haden left to be the AD for USC, but on Saturday his constant “this is fun” remarks throughout the second half and overtime was more than a little annoying.
I try not to play the “the announcers hate us” angle outside of anything related to Brent Musberger, but after reading various blogs, forums, and monitoring Twitter, I wasn’t the only one who felt this way. Mayock is a great analyst and provides a lot of insight that I don’t think Haden ever did, but he was far from
Notre Dame’s red-zone offense
Two long first quarter drives that ate up over 16 minutes of clock and lasted 32 plays netted Notre Dame just six points when the offense stalled inside the red-zone. Another two trips into the endzone ended with turnovers – one Everett Golson interception in the fourth quarter and one Cierre Wood fumble in the second overtime. Despite those four trips into the red-zone ending with just 6 points going up on the scoreboard for the Irish, Notre Dame was able to come out on top, but that was only possible because they were playing a very average Pitt team that made it’s fair share of mistakes as well.
Notre Dame’s red-zone offense has almost been as bad as its red-zone offense has been been good this year and last weekend’s performance highlighted those struggles. Part of the problem has been a lack of a go-to option in the passing game with opposing defenses really keying on Tyler Eifert once the Irish get near the goalline, but even when Eifert has found himself open – as he was on Golson’s interception – he hasn’t seen the ball. This offense is getting closer and closer to be where it needs to be, but until the Irish improve in the red-zone, defense is going to have to carry this team.
Brian Kelly continuing the quarterback carousel
It’s about time that Everett Golson stays under center unless he is hurt for Notre Dame. After leading the Irish back from a 14 point 4th quarter deficit against PItt, Golson has earned that much. Golson has done enough to prove that he has the potential to take this offense where it needs to go. Whether or not he is able to put it all together and actually lead the offense to that place remains to be seen, but Brian Kelly needs to roll the dice with Golson and see what happens the rest of the way.
Up to this point, Kelly has played the two quarterback system about as well as he could have and it’s very hard to argue with the results considering Notre Dame is 9-0 for the first time since 1993 but it’s time to let Golson run the show and let him continue to learn on the job. Golson has improved quite a bit already this year and Saturday’s 4th quarter comeback was a big step forward for the sophomore.
Sloppy tackling and Ray Graham gashing the Irish defense
Since a really poor tackling effort against Purdue, the Irish defense has been more than just solid in terms of tackling at each level of the defense, but Saturday we saw the defense revert to that Purdue game form with one of their worst tackling efforts of the season. Now, the Irish defense has been playing at such a high level all season that at some point they were bound to have an off performance so hopefully this was it because this unit has shown that it is capable of playing much better than what we saw Saturday.
Notre Dame held some very talented running backs and rushing attacks well below their yearly averages so far this year, but on Saturday Pitt’s Ray Graham racked up 172 yards on 24 carries while running for just the second rushing touchdown allowed by the irish defense this year. Graham averaged 7.2 yards per carry and made several defenders miss on a pair of long runs that accounted for a large percentage of those yards.
Two #2’s on the field at the same time
By now it has been discussed ad nauseum – Notre Dame had two #2’s on the field for Pitt’s ill-fated 33 yard field foal attempt in the second overtime when wide receiver Chris Brown came on the field for his leaping ability at the same time that cornerback Bennett Jackson was already on the field. Both wear #2 and both were on the field for the kick.
Did having two #2’s on the field cause Kevin Harper to miss? No, but there is no reason for this ever to be an issue. The Notre Dame coaching staff has to be aware of who they are sending on the field because it would be absolutely ridiculous had such a gaffe cost Notre Dame a perfect season.