November 5, 2012 // Notre Dame Football

Duranko’s Digest: What did we see against Pitt?

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Nov. 3, 2012; South Bend, IN, USA; Notre Dame Fighting Irish quarterback Everett Golson (5) celebrates after scoring the game winning touchdown against the Pittsburgh Panthers in the third overtime at Notre Dame Stadium. Notre Dame won 29-26. Mandatory Credit: Matt Cashore-US PRESSWIRE

We saw a gritty Notre Dame that is better at winning games than looking pretty.

We saw an Irish team that plays better outside of Indiana (Navy, Michigan State, Miami, Oklahoma) than it does where the St. Joe River takes its southward bend (Purdue, Michigan, Stanford, BYU, Pitt).

We saw an Irish team whose defense can carry its offense for a whole game, but whose offense cannot return the favor.  YET (but that offense is very, very, very close.)

We saw, a few days after Halloween, the ghost of 2011, with two turnovers in the end zone, Golson’s interception and Wood’s leaping fumble.

We saw the burden of the schedule, in which every team gets WAY up for the Irish, and all 9 opponents, at the time of the game, present some threat to the Irish.

We saw a quarterback who at his focused and best, is a maddening challenge to opposing defenses and defensive coordinators. Please, go back and look at the internals of the touchdown pass to Riddick and the ensuing run for two points.  Everett Golson, riverboat gambler, semi-retired point guard is at his most focused, ALIVE, in fluid chaos, making and executing great decisions.

We saw, for the first time in 20 autumns, before we knew what “Google” meant, when Mark Zuckerberg was 9 years old, a 9-0 Irish team.

The contest began with Kelly trying to establish the passing game, with passes on four of the first six first downs. In a nearly eerie reversal of the Oklahoma script, the Irish, in the first two drives, possessed the ball for 32 plays for 149 yards in 16 minutes, while the Panthers  had just seven plays for 52 yards in 3.5 minutes. The contraindicator was that the Irish only led 6-3.

Pitt was game.  This Pitt team started the season with two ugly double-digit losses, but then coalesced under Chryst, upsetting  Virginia Tech on the way to a 4-2 record in the next six games. This was not the team that lost to the mighty Penguins of Youngstown State in the season opener.

In the second quarter, the Irish offense paraffined, and the hitherto impregnable defense played its worst two quarters of the season. The scoreboard at the end of the third quarter was ominous: Pittsburgh 20-Notre Dame 6. Gulp. Well, fans did, but this gritty Irish team never gulped; they never do.

The defense stiffened, and then some, allowing a piddling 18 yards to Pitt’s offense in the 4th quarter. They were daunting, intimidating in the fourth quarter and OT.

The Irish offense came alive, thrice thrusting into the end zone, once ending by interception  twice scoring two touchdowns, and a grand and needed total of two extra points, hard way.

The team moved to 9-0, the best start since the nearly-magical season of 1993. In 1993 the Irish won the first ten. (yes, I know this was covered above, but redundancy never applies to mention of a 9-0 record.  9-0, 9-0! See?) The ’93 Irish did not win the 11th.

 HOW GOOD ARE THE IRISH?

We return to rating the units:

 BCS Bowl Level

FRONT SEVEN

Riddle me this: When has a unit of a Notre Dame team improved as much over the prior season as the 2012 front seven has?  Led by the uncanny Te’o each of the seven starters is significantly, demonstrably better than the prior year.  And they are deep.  Even with Hounshell’s injury, and the year being saved for the large Jarron Jones, the subs are excellent. They have yielded 11.7 points per game, second only to mighty Alabama.

THANK YOU!- This Notre Dame team is going to be NotreDamely successful for years to come,
and while I can’t speak for you, I will be ever grateful to this front seven, for they were the
first to reach the mountaintop. And they, gleefully, have been pulling the rest of the team up there
with them!

RUNNING BACKS

Small minds think disjunctively (either/or) great minds think abundantly, conjunctively (both/and). Kelly and Martin are too wise and seasoned to think of Wood versus Riddick.  It is Wood AND Riddick, and they will ever think and act thus, while the madding crowd pathetically slouches toward disjunctive thinking.  Mr. Atkinson has improved some this season. Wood, Riddick and Atkinson each have a run of 55 yards or more. The eyeball test says they’re not “explosive;” the facts suggest otherwise.

TES

Tyler Eifert is dangerous when he catches the ball, and when he gets double teamed, it shifts the fulcrum of the offensive/defensive balance.  The threesome blocks well enough (we talk here about Niklas’ pass-blocking disaster against Stanford for the last time) to allow liberal use of the Stanfordesque multiple TE groupings.

OL

While the 4 sacks against Stanford were unsettling, the unit allowed only two other sacks in October, and played three solid defenses in Stanford, BYU and Oklahoma.  But the reason for the bump (provisional) to BCS Bowl Level is they averaged over 250 yards a game rushing against the four October opponents, and that would have ranked the Irish 8th in America (behind such as the 3 academies and Georgia Tech, inter alii). They stay here if they keep protecting the passers, but we may face a terrifying pass rush in the BCS bowl game.

 Bowl Level

QB-first, we have the most effective and productive backup quarterback in America in Tommy Rees. He requires neither adulation, nor advance notice, nor warmup time. He only needs two things: an opportunity and relief from the burden of starting.

The starter, Ev Golson, has improved. He is guilty until proven innocent on ball security while running, but he has, mostly, been judicious when passing the ball, and has heeded Kelly’s admonitions about throwing the ball away.

He is accurate and has decent range. KELLY IS STARTING TO TURN HIM LOOSE ON INTERMEDIATE TO LONG PASSES. We will see in the next three weeks if the bomb he threw to Brown in Norman was luck or skill. One other note: Kelly and Martin have done a marvelous job with the quarterbacks and with Golson particularly.  He has never been set up for failure, and he is growing before our eyes. Now if he can locate all of the wide open receivers…….

WRS-Good patterns, good blockers (the uppereclassmen are, the kids are trying and will get better), aggressive going after the ball, good hands, reliable in the clutch.  Playmakers, not gamebreakers. who may be challenged getting separation against the secondary of the BCS game opponent. Future star in Daniels.

DBS-survived their first stern test in Norman.  Will receive pop quizzes against Rettig and Skinner, but then the unforgiving moment in the Coliseum arrives. Marquise Lee, Robert Woods, Algohlor, who may have arrived last night,  their TES and Matt Barkley. Our secondary still has depth issues due to the absences of Wood, Slaughter and Collinsworth.  Farley, a good tackler normally, could not wrap up Graham on the TD run.  With that injured arm, he might not have started or played as much on a team with true depth.

 WILL THIS TEAM KEEP IMPROVING?

There are at LEAST 8 weeks before the BCS Bowl game.  We could see against Navy that the team had improved from 2011.  Yet, they’ve improved quite a bit in September and October, with the 30-13 crescendo in Norman.  We don’t know if they’ll continue improving apace in November and December, but you have to like our chances. Areas of focus: reducing sacks, medium range and long passing including better recognition and finding secondary and tertiary receivers, nickel and dime packages (Hi, Elijah, you’re ALMOST there) and opportunistic blitzes.  And QB ball security while running.

NOTRE DAME AND ITS OPPONENTS

(1) NOTRE Dame-unbeaten, has taken on all comers.  No other team on this list has fewer than 2 losses.

(2) Oklahoma-explosive offensively (at least against mortals!) quick defensively, and playing in America’s most balanced conference.  At least 8 Big XII teams should make bowl games, with
only the Rock Chalkers and Waco staying home.

(3) Stanford-though soon to face their most annoying matchup, the Quack Attack, are tough and would probably beat SC again in the same type of game.

(4) Michigan-as Nebraska loss showed, they can’t beat a good team without Denard. Still  have a good shot at BCS game.

(5) SC-Best roster of offensive players and NFL offensive prospects in America.  But coaching, team
unity and effort matters. Kiffin has squandered the magnificent defensive legacy that Carroll left.  Before we meet them on the 24th they play ASU and UCLA, and those are not gimmes for this grossly underachieving band of Trojans.

(6) Miami-quietly, and patiently, Golden improves them.  Probably on target for a rematch with the ‘Noles for the BCS berth.

(7) MSU-they are determined and steady  If SC performed every Saturday with MSU’s determination, focus and effort…….

(8) BYU-three patsies to finish the season. a bowl team.

STAY HOME

(9)  Pitt-Chryst can coach a little.  Can he recruit as well as the unappreciated and underrated Wanny?

(10) Wake-gritty under Grobe, will probably finish one win shy of bowl eligibility.

(11) Purdue-if Boilers can’t get it done with this level of experience, then they are probably in a long, irreversible secular decline.

(12) BC-nice knowing you Spaz, we’ll let you know if any defensive jobs come open.

(13) Navy-What? They’re Bowl Eligible.  Tough coach. Tough players.  Anchors Aweigh!

Next week, for variety, we’ll rate the 2013 opponents on our schedule.

ACC -DID YOU KNOW?

As we are in the middle of the three game ACC segment of our schedule, we must note the national championship history of the teams that will be in the 2013 ACC. From 1976-1999, the last quarter of the 20th century,  2013 ACC teams won 9 of the 25 championships, just shy of 40%. They were Pitt, ’76 (Dorsett), Clemson ’81 (Danny Ford) , Miami, ’83, 87, ’89, Georgia Tech ’90 (Bobby Ross), Miami ’91 and FSU ’93 (ahem!!) and ’99 (Weinke and Warrick). With the SEC dominance in this century, only the Miami superteam of 2001, formed by Butch Davis, but coached by current UTSA coach Larry Coker, won a National Championship.

WHAT WILL SEE AGAINST BC IN Chestnut Hill?

(1) The team, the school, that, when we were unbeaten at 8-0 in 2002, right after a big road win in Doak, beat the Irish in South Bend, 14-7.  The team, the school, that, when (here’s to ya Kevin McDougal and our four great captains, Tim Ruddy, Aaron Taylor, Bryant Young and Jeff Burris) we were unbeaten at 10-0 after the stirring win over top ranked FSU (how many times did Derrick Brooks hobble off the field?!!!) defeated us 41-39. In South Bend.

(2) The Eagles have fallen on hard times, with its only wins over Maine’s Black Bears and a Maryland team that was on its fifth string QB.  Just for a reference point, that would be as if our fighting Irish were playing Luke Massa or Nicky Baratti at QB.

(3) The great BC rush defenses, assembled and coached by Spaziani, led by players like Toal, Raji, Kiwanuka, Herzlich and Kuechly, have vaporized.  The Eagles allow over 250 yards per game on the ground.

(4) Rettig is OK and had a passer rating of over 130 heading into Saturday’s game against Wake. His throws will test our secondary. Good.  We need it.

(5) Can the Irish maintain the high level achieved OUTSIDE of South Bend?

(6) Will Kelly keep putting pressure on Golson and the receivers to extend, expand and sharpen the passing game? We will need to pass against SC and in the BCS game.

9-0!

Comments to this Article

  • JDH commented on November 5th, 2012 at 10:57 am

    I give ample credit to the boys for never giving up. Golson is a gamer and may very well win the Heisman someday. He could be that good. But man oh man was luck on our side Saturday. Besides everything else, I just read that PITT should have been able to kick that field goal again (the critical game-preserving miss). We had two #2s on the field at the same time, which is illegal and a penalty. (coaching error)

    Wow did we dodge a bullet.

    [Reply]

    Kirk replied on November 5th, 2012 at 11:53 am

    While I think it would be really hard for a ref to see that (they are trying to count 11 everytime, so matching numbers is close to impossible), I do not understand why we have players with the same number even if they only play one side of the ball. Do we have to make these college players so happy that we give them all their favorite number or something. We arent playing more than 100 guys a game, so why do ANY of them have the same number?

    [Reply]

    JDH replied on November 5th, 2012 at 12:28 pm

    I don’t really understand that either. I imagine it does have to do with recruiting.

    [Reply]

    ND Southy replied on November 5th, 2012 at 1:28 pm

    Combination of those things, plus certain numbers are only available at certain positions so its not as if you can just go 1-99 and assign numbers.

    [Reply]

  • ChrisJ commented on November 5th, 2012 at 10:58 am

    Unbelievable comeback from the Irish being down 14 in the 4th. However, I want to point out something that is very, very frustrating to me and I just can’t understand why…

    Kelly’s playcalling when we get to the red zone is terrible sometimes. The one from Saturday, we ran the exact same play three times in a row and got stuffed all three times. I know Kelly really wanted Riddick to get into the endzone after the hard runs he had getting us down to the goalline, but cmon. NOBODY has been able to stop Golson on the QB sprint play out of the shotgun when we spread receivers out and let our O-Line get the push. Not to mention that when you’re on the half yard line, why does any coach in football ever call a run play for the running back??? What sense does it make to move the ball back 2 to 3 yards when you have half of a yard to get a TD??? QB SNEAK EVERY TIME!!!!! If a team can stop you on 3 QB sneaks from the half yard line, then your O-Line flat out sucks that bad.

    So enough venting about the sneak and shotgun QB sprint…the red zone play calls just drive me nuts. We have a mobile QB and some serious threats at running back. Why are we passing so much???? Especially when we are inside the 10?? Let Golson and the backs run!! How about some read-option runs or something?? Denard Robinson is almost unstoppable inside the 10 yard line when he runs the read-option. We have the exact same thing in Golson so why not use it!!!!

    [Reply]

    ChrisJ replied on November 5th, 2012 at 11:00 am

    BTW, I love Kelly and think he is doing an outstanding job. I think he is a terrific coach and I’m really glad to have him. He hasn’t done too much that is wrong since he’s been here. I’m just pointing out something I feel he should utilize more.

    [Reply]

  • irisheye62 commented on November 5th, 2012 at 1:17 pm

    After Saturday, All I could say was WHEW and AMEN!
    ( Thanks Pitt for missing that FG)
    Down 14 and tying and winning in 3OT.
    I had a feeling for a let down of some sort –but not this.
    A win IS a WIN–but boy oh boy.
    CHris J. -like you stated above -I think Kelly is getting it done like the days of Lou. Like you, I wondered about play calling in the red zone.
    Pitt outplayed us MOST of the time—but ND came through when we needed it–but the heart disease in my body increased.WHEW.
    Defense was not as sharp. FG kicking and PAT –hello? In the end it was all fine. BUT Boston has had ND’s number for a few years here and there.
    THIS CANNOT HAPPEN IN CHESTNUT HILL. THEY WILL LOOK AT THIS LIKE THEIR BOWL GAME. I would not feel badly about running up the score by the third period –because we CAN–and SHOULD and NEED to for the sake of a statement. Still Many teams have too much of a let down and lose. ND did NOT lose. THE BEST PART????? MARK MAY IS GRINDING HIS TEETH OVER THIS ONE AND WILL BE FOR YEARS!! GO IRISH!!! LOVE ND FOREVER!!!

    [Reply]

  • irisheye62 commented on November 5th, 2012 at 1:29 pm

    To all of my fellow ND ALUM and Fans:

    My DVR deleted the miami Game.
    Will that game be available to purchase somewhere?
    Highlights will be on You Tube I’m sure–but the entire game OR highlights is what I would like to have. Thanks DVR for nothing.
    THanks DOMER FANS for any insight into this.
    * Irish 41-miami 3- hahahahahahahahaahahah–Let’s see that score in the rest of the games!!!
    Go Irish! WE ARE ND! WE LOVE ND!

    [Reply]

    JDH replied on November 5th, 2012 at 2:25 pm

    You can usually watch entire games archived on the ND NBC site.

    [Reply]

    irisheye62 replied on November 5th, 2012 at 11:03 pm

    Thanks—I appreciate that. I just wanted to have a copy of that game ( yes I still use the VHS along with DVD and DVR and wanted a copy of the miami game) I appreciate the info. GO IRISH.

    [Reply]

  • chi-town copper commented on November 5th, 2012 at 3:04 pm

    Is it just me or are we the most scrutinized team in the nation? I didnt get to catch the whole game due in part to being summoned constantly to be part of the baby daddy removal team in the ghetto’s of Chicago’s West Side, but all im hearing about is a bogus interference call on Eifert that went ND’s way, then the Chicago SCUM-times running a story about how we had two players with the same number on the field at the same time that should have allowed Pitt to win the game. Add all the “eye test” commentary in the media and it seems like the whole world is piling on us, even in “subway alum” territory. Ohio State had to pull off something similar against Purdue but i dont remember all the disecting of that W.

    [Reply]

    irisheye62 replied on November 5th, 2012 at 11:02 pm

    No you are right–
    You should have read the Columbus Dispatch this week. Or better yet, ignore it. It is called jealous. We are successful in the academic realm, embrace people of all faiths, keep the Catholic Identity very strong and hang on to standards. This happens whether we are 2-9 or better than that. GO IRISH ( and we do so with a tough schedule!)

    [Reply]

  • duranko commented on November 5th, 2012 at 3:17 pm

    Re “Luck”

    “Luck is infatuated with effort.” Frank Broyles actually said that
    once when doing a telecast with Keith Jackson.

    “Luck is what happens when preparation meets opportunity.”

    On Notre Dame reality vs. Notre Dame perception.

    I’d much rather be good than be incorrectly perceived as good.

    9-0 is more eloguent than the finest prose we can locate.

    It is Notre Dame’s lot in life and frankly I find it comforting. It means we are back. This team knows how good it is. Kelly knows how good it is.
    I’ve watched every snap and know how good it is. I can’t speak for all,
    but I really don’t care what the media or other fans say.

    Let me add another point: Mike Mayock strives to be objective. He is well-intentioned, but sometimes he overcompensates, and in the course of that overcompensation, he is likely to spend more time and words on
    when Notre Game got a break, than when it should have gotten a break.

    “Shoulda, coulda, woulda.” The lament of the loser.

    I am completely on board for this: the better we get the more vociferously
    and frequently will we be unfairly criticized. Well, I’m okay with that.
    Give me the team excellence AND the W’s and throw me into that briar patch.

    I once was in a Washington Lawyer’s office. He had worked on a nerdy
    securities law case against Roy Cohn. The case is nerd-famous “Fifth Avenue Bus Lines v. SEC” Mike, the lawyer, had been on the SEC staff and
    right over his right shoulder, in a place you couldn’t miss, he had
    a scathing letter from Roy Cohn, noted McCarthyite and pederast, accusing Mike and the SEC and the US of breaching due process of law and undermining economic freedom.

    Right above that scatching letter was a plaque with a quote from John F. Kennedy. It said “You can tell a lot about a man by the nature of his enemies.”

    Well, you can tell a lot about Notre Dame’s return to glory by the nature of our new and Roy Cohn-esque enemies!!

    Go Irish!

    [Reply]

    Ron replied on November 5th, 2012 at 8:14 pm

    Well said Sir!

    [Reply]

  • BruceB commented on November 5th, 2012 at 7:32 pm

    After years of mediocre play, exacerbated by what seemed like every break and close call going against us, it’s great to see some really good play accompanied by some lucky breaks and phantom calls. Go Irish

    [Reply]

  • George commented on November 5th, 2012 at 11:15 pm

    Starting Rees in the second half was a mistake. I don’t get it

    Despite his fumble, Wood needs to be the primary RB. I like Riddick a lot, but Wood is better

    Red zone offense is bad. That second possession of the game was baffling. It almost looked like ND was conceding and going for a FG… ALMOST. Since when does ND try to emulate Stanford and run it up the gut 3 times in a row?

    We need a new kicker ASAP. End of story.

    [Reply]

    kingwill replied on November 6th, 2012 at 12:31 am

    I disagree, Riddick is the better back than Wood. Riddick is the most Elusive back on the team but is used like a Power back but in space he makes people miss with Ease. Dont get me Wrong Wood is a Good Runner but Riddick is more complete in other phases of the game.

    [Reply]

    jeff replied on November 6th, 2012 at 10:53 am

    Riddick is a better receiver than Wood but not a better runner. I believe CW should be getting the bulk of the carries.

    [Reply]

    George replied on November 6th, 2012 at 9:11 pm

    Exactly. Wood is clearly a better RB. Look at all the long runs he’s had over the years. Riddick broke one long run vs. BYU but got chased down easily. Wood is a lot faster and breaks just as many tackles

  • Jack W commented on November 6th, 2012 at 6:47 am

    Does anyone know what happened to Sheldon Day? I haven’t seen him playing.

    [Reply]

  • Jack W commented on November 6th, 2012 at 6:48 am

    Does anyone know what happened to Sheldon Day? I haven’t seen him playing.
    Thanks

    [Reply]

  • duranko commented on November 6th, 2012 at 4:07 pm

    Jack W.

    Sheldon Day has been subbing, somewhat liberally. However he is not
    playing as much as he was earlier in the year. That is because Kapron Lewis moore had been injured, and Day was gobbling up most of his minutes.

    Sheldon will yet make some plays this year, but next year, after Captain Kapron departs, he will most probably start-and excel.

    [Reply]

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