November 13, 2011 // Notre Dame Football

Initial Impressions – Notre Dame 45, Maryland 21

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Lo Wood recorded his first career interception and returned it 57 yards for a touchdown. (Photo / Icon SMI)

Notre Dame improved to 3-0 in its yearly off-site home game with a relatively easy victory over Maryland on Saturday night – the third blowout win for the Irish in three years in what is now being dubbed the Shamrock Series.

Before I get into the game details, I will say that I did really like the way the new helmets looked on TV.  The only thing I didn’t like about the uniforms was that the gold in the helmet and the gold in the pants and on the jerseys didn’t match up.  If you are going to go all out with helmets like that, go all out with the uniform and have the colors match up better.

Offense

  • Very efficient game from Tommy Rees.  He completed 30 of 38 passes utilizing the short passing game almost exclusively while totaling just under 300 yards and a pair of touchdowns. Most importantly though, Rees protected the football and didn’t turn it over once.   The only nit with Rees’s game was the lack of downfield passing.
  • Jonas Gray is simply becoming the beast of a running back everyone thought he would be coming out of high school.  Gray recorded his first career 100 yard performance with 136 yards on 21 carries with a pair of touchdowns.
  • Cierre Wood ran the ball well too with 99 yards and a touchdown.  Wood also had a decleating block to spring Tyler Eifert on Notre Dame’s final touchdown of the game.
  • Speaking of Eifert, he had a heck of a game too with 8 catches for 83 yards.  Eifert is on pace to have a more productive season than Anthony Fasano, Kyle Rudolph, or John Carlson ever did at Notre Dame.
  • Third down offense was absolutely fantastic.  Notre Dame converted 10 of 16 third downs compared to 3 of 12 for Maryland.  Notre Dame kept drives alive all night by coming up huge on 3rd down and that was really the difference in the game.
  • Robby Toma was great filling in for Theo Riddick as the slot wide receiver.  Toma set a career high in receptions and yards with 7 receptions for 73 yards and looked natural playing out of the slot. I still think Theo Riddick can be a playmaker in this offense, but Toma certainly made a case for more playing time even when Riddick is healthy.
  • Would have liked to see Andrew Hendrix get some more playing time given how comfortably Notre Dame was winning.
  • Really liked the tempo Notre Dame was playing at.  In an ideal world, I would imagine Kelly would like his offense playing even faster, but they are getting better at it.
  • Mike Golic Jr played well in his first career start.  Golic will have two more weeks to make a case for coming back next season.
  • Unfortunately the Irish offensive line finally allowed a sack after Notre Dame went 195 straight attempts without allowing one.

Defense

  • Overall the defense was solid, but didn’t make too many big plays outside of Lo Wood’s interception return for a touchdown which came as a result of a horrible pass.  Notre Dame only had 1 tackle for loss and no sacks in the game.
  • Notre Dame’s last interception return for a touchdown?  Last year’s off-site game in Yankee Stadium when Darrin Walls picked off Army and returned it for 6.
  • Third down defense was excellent limiting Maryland to just three conversions on 12 attempts in the game.  The Notre Dame defense did a heck of a job getting off the field all game long.
  • Notre Dame linebackers really struggled in coverage throughout the game.  It’ll be interesting to see how the linebacker position shakes out next year.  I wouldn’t be surprised if there was some shuffling around depending on whether or not Manti Te’o leaves for the NFL.
  • Liked what I saw out of the young defensive line again this week.  With another off-season in the weight room and another full spring and fall camp, the Irish defensive line could really be something next year.
  • Harrison Smith took a poor angle on CJ Brown’s touchdown run in the 4th quarter.  Smith could have had him well before the goal line, but Brown ended up running right by him.

Special Teams

  • Loved seeing David Ruffer connecting on a 52 yard field goal.  After going through a rough patch by hitting just one of four attempts in the Pitt and Purdue games, Ruffer has hit his last four attempts.
  • That may have been the best game of Ben Turk’s career.  He pinned Maryland deep when he had the chance and connected on a booming 58 yarder.
  • I really hope we get to see at least one half decent punt return before the end of the season.  As is, Notre Dame still has a grand total of just three yards on the season on punt returns.

Comments to this Article

  • Kyle commented on November 14th, 2011 at 12:01 am

    In defense of Harrison Smith on the TD run, he got absolutely picked by the referee.

    [Reply]

  • JOe commented on November 14th, 2011 at 12:17 am

    I’m sorry but somebody has to say it: Te’o is overrated. I know he’s hurt but even when he’s healthy he makes no splash plays – rarely gets a big hit, sack, pick, forced fumble or even a tackle behind the line of scrimmage. He makes a ton of tackles sure – but I bet AT LEAST 60% of those are 4+ yards past the line of scrimmage. Also, he’s not very fast. I don’t get the worship of this guy. I like him, but he’s above average and not even close to great.

    [Reply]

    Shazamrock replied on November 14th, 2011 at 8:09 am

    Te’o overrated?

    I guess we will have to wait to see how the NFL rates him.
    They are, after all, the ones who shell out millions for these players. If anyone knows, its them.

    I can only imagine what our defense would be like without him.

    [Reply]

    Nigel Tufnel replied on November 14th, 2011 at 9:39 am

    Sadly, I agree. It’s about time we admit that the king has no clothes. I don’t know if it’s due to injury, but Manti has simply looked bad this year. He’s often out of position, has a tough time shedding blocks and really struggles to cover receivers out of the backfield.

    I can’t imagine that going early is even an option for him at this point.

    [Reply]

    Sad Warrior replied on November 14th, 2011 at 1:41 pm

    Manti is injured and more than so than you know.Trust me,he is that good.

    [Reply]

    Ron replied on November 14th, 2011 at 3:33 pm

    How good? Since you seem to know, can you give us an injury update status please?

    Irish Fan replied on November 14th, 2011 at 4:18 pm

    Well, he has a high ankle sprain, the same thing Ethan Johnson has, and he has been playing on that all season with very little break. He doesn’t even practice most of the time. If Ethan has had to miss 4 games because of his injury, can you imagine how tough Te’o is? I imagine Te’o is still playing because he doesn’t have anyone in the same league as him or Tuitt to back him up so he had no choice but to play as long as he can walk. He was a beast last year, I doubt he has gone backwards and he has shown glimpses of what he is capable this season. I have had many ankle sprains and it is very hard to cut and move as quickly as you would like. That can definitely be the reason he is slower to get to the play but he is still better injured than any other healthy ILB is behind him on the depth chart.

    Shazamrock replied on November 14th, 2011 at 10:45 am

    Instead of personal opinion,
    I’ll give you facts.

    According to the early NFL 2012 draft rankings, the first inside LB listed is Luke Luechly from BC at #25.
    (who we will get to see next Saturday)

    The next ILB is Donta’
    Hightower from Alabama at #27.

    The third is Manti Te’o from ND at #31.

    Maybe we should admit that if he is considered the 31st best college football player available (which is a late FIRST ROUNDER)in the nation,
    then there is probably
    a good chance he would go.

    With fans like these, I would!

    [Reply]

    John1985 replied on November 14th, 2011 at 12:24 pm

    To make it more impressive, he’s #31 playing on one leg. That’s also playing with some pretty slow partners in the middle. I live and breath ND football. I have since I can remember. I graduated during the Faust years (talk about a bad time for ND Football). The one thing I can’t stand about ND fans are they love the next guy in. When it was Clausen, they wanted Crist. When it was Crist, they wanted Rees. Now many want Hendrix. (I was a Clausen guy and have been a Crist guy since Clausen left.) Now Teo isn’t good. Again I ask. What crack pipe are you people smoking?

    [Reply]

    JOe replied on November 14th, 2011 at 12:39 pm

    dude – I love Te’o – he mine and my kids’ favorite player. bottom line is he is not the elite player nbc, espn, an nd fans make him out to be. he could be but he’s just not producing. he has not made one huge, game-changing play in 3 years period. he’s a tackle machine, yes, but that doesn’t make you elite. I root for him and i’ll be pulling for him on draft day. don’t confuse constructive critcism for those who expect more from big-time 5-star players with a lot of hype. I don’t want the next guy in – I want the guy in there now to be who he has the potential to be. peace brother – we’re all friend in here :)

    John1985 replied on November 14th, 2011 at 12:18 pm

    What crack pipe are you smoking?

    [Reply]

  • storespook commented on November 14th, 2011 at 1:20 am

    I would have liked to see Hendrix get some playing time. When ND was ahead by 30+ points, it’s time to get the backup QB some extended playing time. Again, if the fair haired boy goes down unexpectedly, I think there will be more output of feeback by the fan base questioning why the backup(s) didn’t get more time to play so they would be ready if the fair haired boy gets hurt. I would have loved even more running plays than what was called last night. Ruffer’s 52 yarder was nice to see. Eifert for 1st team All American TE, he deserves it.

    Didn’t mind the green uni’s, hated the gaudy candy gold, big fricking shamrocked helmets. Oh well, things could be a lot worse. At least we don’t have any coaches taking showers with 10 yr olds.

    Go Irish

    [Reply]

    Chris replied on November 14th, 2011 at 11:35 am

    The backup is actually Crist still. However, this season is over. We are going to a 3rd tier bowl game again. Crist is going to transfer, so why wouldn’t you get Hendrix out there to really see what he has with game experience!?!? I don’t understand because nobody knows if Rees is the long-term answer. He definitely doesn’t fit the ideal Kelly offense (meaning he can’t run), so I think you HAVE to get Hendrix out there as much as possible. Going into next year, Rees is going to be the front-runner of the qb competition based on experience alone. We may never know if Hendrix has anything to give in the games. Supposedly the kid can chuck it 70 – 80 yards too, so he already has two upsides to him that Rees doesn’t…arm strength and the ability to run. Let’s see if he can read defenses as well as Rees. The only way to do that is give him game experience and let him pass the ball.

    [Reply]

    storespook replied on November 14th, 2011 at 12:01 pm

    Yep, right with you Chris. Hell, I am at the point whether it was AH or DC, backups should have seen some time so as not to risk the fair-haired wonder boy getting hurt. I don’t think TR is the answer for QB if the head honcho is really wanting to implement the offensive scheme he claims he wants to because TR can’t run it (literally).I wonder if the head honcho has some personal issues with AH. You can’t give experience, it has to be earned.

    [Reply]

  • JC commented on November 14th, 2011 at 1:39 am

    We need the same performance or better against BC! Yeah Frank, the punt returns are crazy like it’s crazy not giving Hendrix much playing time. Especially, since BK has written off Crist. The whole 4th quarter could have been quality time for Hendrix.

    The big positive we saw was indeed a brief two back set with Wood and Gray. Hopefully, a preview of things to come for BC and Stanford. I hope our running game will be effective against Stanford because they are human and beatable. And both teams are banged-up!

    Well, if we end up 8-3 on Standford’s door step prepared for the game; it could possibly be a good cliff hanger. The real concern is, if we need a deep ball to win or for a comeback; where is it going to come from??

    [Reply]

  • Sal commented on November 14th, 2011 at 2:49 am

    Awesome game Awesome uniforms. Notre Dame is getting hot at the right time. Stanford isn’t ready for this squad. GO IRISH!!

    [Reply]

  • blueandgold commented on November 14th, 2011 at 11:03 am

    It does not matter who is playing on our defense; we can’t stop anybody unless we get a head coach who is concerned about defense and a defensive coordinator who can coordinate a defense and make in-game adjustments.

    [Reply]

    cousinnap replied on November 14th, 2011 at 11:27 am

    there is movement there – look at Lynch, Tuitt, Nix and the others up front – yes there is a need for LB and DB those are being addressed – look at the committs for next year – not solid yet but going in right direction – again LB and CB killing the defense

    [Reply]

    blueandgold replied on November 14th, 2011 at 4:57 pm

    Why can’t we get to the opposing team’s qb even when we blitz (I know we rarely, rarely blitz)??? We seem to run right into blocks and can’t get off them.
    Our defense is passive; we wait for the ball carrier to reach us instead of us attacking the ball carrier. We let the wide recieve run to us instead of jamming him at the line and playing press coverage. ATTACK, ATTACK, ATTACK!

    [Reply]

    Chris replied on November 14th, 2011 at 11:39 am

    My biggest gripe about our defense is the fact that our DBs do NOT press the receivers, EVER. If you look at the NFL, the good defenses are always pressing the receivers with safeties over top. With a d-line like ours that gets pressure on the qb, the press coverage throws off timing, and the routes of the receivers which leads to more big plays on defense and stops the simple, easy pitch and catch throws of 7 yard pickups where our DBs are nowhere to be found. I’m going to throw up if I see Gary Gray with a ten yard drop in coverage, and a throw to a receiver who runs 5 yards and just turns around for a catch. Too easy!!!

    [Reply]

    blueandgold replied on November 14th, 2011 at 4:55 pm

    Exactly, Chris. I hate to say it but if I was the opposing coordinator for a team that was playing ND, all I would do is throw the ball. In fact, the first play from scrimmage would be a bomb right down the field. I mean look at all the passing plays by WF on their first posession.

    [Reply]

  • jack commented on November 14th, 2011 at 11:09 am

    Again I will say it, the offense goes as Tommy Reese goes. If I am a d-coordinator I will stack the box with 8, stop the run and dare Reese to throw deep. His deep out to Eifert would have been picked off against a fast defense. He is not the QB and a good defense will exploit his short comings. I am not satisfied with the QB play and it cost them 3 games this year. Standford is right for the pickins, but ND needs a QB that can run and throw deep and they just don’t have it.

    [Reply]

    John1985 replied on November 14th, 2011 at 12:31 pm

    Absolutely correct, except Crist can throw deep and he can run enough to keep a defense honest. He certainly gets away from at least a few of the sacks Rees gave up.

    [Reply]

    JohnDC replied on November 15th, 2011 at 6:17 pm

    Right on. If Crist were still the starter we’d probably be ranked #1 or #2 and EASILY win the national championship…why can’t Kelly figure that out!?

    [Reply]

    John1985 replied on November 15th, 2011 at 7:38 pm

    JohnDC, you GD brilliant. Must be reading my mind. Or, you quoted my post directly! Instead of your childish sarcasm, try making an actual point.

  • cousinnap commented on November 14th, 2011 at 11:32 am

    most points on target – I agree Hendrix needs more work – see what he can do = Rees trouble with deep routes and no mobility – a couple of times he had an open field if he could have taken off – all points to deal with both the rest of the year and next year – this is going to take some time – Thw Wake game would have been lost under CW – with no stops nor killing the clock

    [Reply]

  • Evan commented on November 14th, 2011 at 12:09 pm

    Has Golson been red-shirted yet? If not I would like to see him get a chance against BC.. or do you just leave it and wait until next year? He seems to fit the mold of this offense…

    [Reply]

  • westcoastirishfan commented on November 14th, 2011 at 12:31 pm

    Thank you for actually commenting on the questionable play of the defense. BIA (best in America) is what they chant from time-to-time, but a BIA defense doesn’t routinely give up nearly 400 yards. And, I’m tired of the “wait until they have their players in place” argument. You excel with what you have. Hell, Weis would still be coaching if he had a defense full of 5 star’s.

    Glaring issues with this defense have gone all season…no support for a LB group that cannot pass cover, minimal QB rush, minimal tackles for loss, limited turnovers and horrible angles by the DB’s. A solid offense can more than offset these issues against tier 2 teams but not against top 15 programs. Offense fills the stands, defense wins championships.

    [Reply]

  • JOe commented on November 14th, 2011 at 12:33 pm

    Not saying Manti won’t be a good pro – he could and should be. I know Kiper and all of the draft websites have him in the 1st round – I get that – he has ideal size and is a good kid and leader on the field. But after 3 years as a starter he still looks out of place and is definitely not terribly fast. He racks up a lot of tackles (never behind the line of scrimmage). He’ll probably be a better pro than a college player. But the fact is right now he is DEFINITELY not producing at an ELITE level – as I said before – NO impact plays in 3 years.

    [Reply]

    Shazamrock replied on November 14th, 2011 at 1:27 pm

    ELITE level???

    First, He is still just a Junior.

    He has gone from a 4-3, to a 3-4 , and then back to a 4-3.

    He has had 2 different Defensive co-ordinatore in 3 years and continues to play on a bad leg.

    His first two years he had no real defensive tackles playing in front of him who could keep blockers off him.

    Keep in mind that other teams don’t Target him very offten with their offensive game plans. There is something to be said for that.

    But as was stated, his production is down, but he is a tackling machine.

    If you haven’t seen any impact plays from him in 3 years fine, but don’t blame him for not paying attention, because I have seen plenty.

    [Reply]

    JOe replied on November 14th, 2011 at 1:54 pm

    Name one impact play in a big spot… Stonebreaker, Stams, Bolcar, all made BIG splash plays on top of making tons of tackles. I agree with you on the d-coord stuff and the d-line in front of him. I also agree that switching schemes doesn’t help. He’s definitely had some challenges. Hey – me and my kids are HUGE fans. I have his jersey so does my 6-year old. but he is NOT elite…at least not yet. get a big sack or cause a big fumble or get a pick-6 in a big game – do something other than making a tackle after the ball carrier already got 5 yards.

    [Reply]

    joey d replied on November 14th, 2011 at 4:49 pm

    I would definitely take Teo in the middle of the Bears defense to replace Urlacher.

  • jack commented on November 14th, 2011 at 2:09 pm

    When this defense was healthy it played at a higher level than now. You have lost a defensive tackle for the season, middle linebacker is on one leg, and the horrible turnovers from the offense. This defense in not elite by any stretch of the imagination, but it is good enough to win when it is healthy. The areas that cause concern right now are horrible corner play, and horrible OLB play. The outside linebackers play horrible in space and don’t cover crossing patterns and don’t redirect receivers. Our DB’s play 7 yds of the ball, no jamming at the line and with Blanton and Grey they are big and physical and should be playing up on receivers. Diaco has had to move Slaughter into a hybrid LB roll in order to stop the short passing game. They did not start giving up yardage against Air Force and Maryland until they dumped the line up and put in nothing but 2nd string and young players. Give them a break, this is a way better defense than we ever saw under Weis. They also can make adjustments at half time which Brown and Tenuta couldn’t do.

    [Reply]

  • Ping7Fe commented on November 14th, 2011 at 3:24 pm

    Number to watch this weekend…93. Cierre Wood has rushed for 907 yards this year. Could we finally see a 1,000 yard rusher. Was the last one Darius Walker in ’06? When was the last time we had two 1,000 yard rushers? Gray needs 270.

    [Reply]

  • Mike commented on November 14th, 2011 at 5:18 pm

    That was the worst 30 of 38 performance I have ever seen. Please tell me Rees is a backup starting next year. Even the announcers mentioned how easy he is to defend because he cannot run. Hendrix or Golsten please.

    [Reply]

    Patrick replied on November 14th, 2011 at 8:03 pm

    Yeah, 30-38, 296 and 2 TD’s is horrible. I’d rather have either a freshman or sophomore with no game experience in. That way, we can watch them throw into triple coverage while they learn the nuances of playing QB at a major D-1 school. Get real man.

    You may not like Rees, but I’ll take him running the offense (right now) over anyone else on the roster. Or wait, were you one of those guys begging for Crist to start at the beginning of the year? He can run. Has a cannon arm. But can’t take a snap or delivery when it matters.

    How’s that workin’ out for ya (or him)?

    [Reply]

  • jeremy commented on November 14th, 2011 at 5:34 pm

    really?

    [Reply]

  • GraceHall1980 commented on November 14th, 2011 at 8:30 pm

    For the record, Manti has 91 tackles for the year, 47 unassisted and 44 assisted. Of those, 11 (12.1%) were tackles for loss with 4.5 (5.0%) were sacks (leading the team in both categories). I don’t know whether that is “elite” or not, but is better than the posts above would lead you to believe.

    [Reply]

  • Castine83d commented on November 14th, 2011 at 9:45 pm

    Love the uniforms and love the win even more! GO IRISH!

    [Reply]

  • JC commented on November 14th, 2011 at 11:36 pm

    The way this season is coming to a close with the best we can do is 10-3 or worse? No BCS Bowl this year and slim to none next year. Especially, if all back-up quarterbacks continue to wear their niffty red signal caller hats, for the duration of this season and next?

    Astronomically it is incomprehensible, that this team can only advance a single punt this year for a team total of 3 yards and counting??

    I wonder if BK will be rewarded with a contract extension at the end of his 2nd year like CW? I also wonder if BK will be notified: “We need to be in the BCS bowl discussion” for his 3rd year like CW? I also wonder if his notice will be revealed in the media like CW? I also wonder if BK will be covertly fired in the media like CW was at the close of his 3rd year for no BCS bowl appearences?

    I now empirically see a HC existential threat on the horizon for BK if history repeats itself. Impatient alums?? Yeah, without a doubt! Decades to be exact! Excruciating painful thought! I hope I’m definately wrong! Only the positive test of time will tell.

    Goooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooo…Irish!

    [Reply]

  • Joeyknuklehead commented on November 14th, 2011 at 11:53 pm

    Interesting stats – 3 punt return yards and 2 muffed punts Ouch
    Have seen the importance of a good kickoff returner this season.

    [Reply]

    Shazamrock replied on November 15th, 2011 at 9:38 am

    Let’s not forget the one punt that ND went after this year.

    To open the second half agianst PITT the ND defense forced a 3 and out. The Pitt punter stood at his own 5 yard line.

    Collinsworth broke through, but wiffed on the bolck and then ran into the kicker.

    First down PITT.

    12 Plays and 8 minutes later Pitt scored.

    [Reply]

  • tommy651 commented on November 15th, 2011 at 11:38 pm

    i don’t know why they don’t try atkinson or collingsworth or jackson on punt returns. atkinson and collingsworth have done a good job returning kickoffs. jackson and collingsworth were both recruited as recievers so they should have good hands and the way they cover on kicksoffs they’re crazy enough to return punts

    [Reply]

    KyleValpoU'15 replied on November 16th, 2011 at 12:44 am

    I agree we should try them too, but the way I see it as we do not for crap on punt returns. There has been a small handful of PR’s that we could have returned, but Goodman decided to call a FC. Goodman has had good hands back there except for the muff against Mich St(?) was not completely his fault (granite you should not let it happen either way). Until Notre Dame figures out a better blocking scheme they are just going to call FC one after another given whoever is back there. Anyone agree?

    Go Irish and beat the eagels (and the trees)!!!!!

    [Reply]

  • james A Judge commented on December 29th, 2011 at 10:46 pm

    Rees is terrified by Brian Kelly…..Rees has tunnel vison…..0ne receiver and he has o throw to him,,,,,Florida state game……receiver covered by two yet Rees throws to him…..why…some one else is open….nterception againinthe end zone

    [Reply]

  • james A Judge commented on December 29th, 2011 at 10:48 pm

    you can’t add to a dumb season

    [Reply]

  • james A Judge commented on December 29th, 2011 at 10:50 pm

    and to think that I climbed the fence at Yankke stadium to watch Lujack save the game agaainst Army Blanchard and davis

    [Reply]

  • james A Judge commented on December 29th, 2011 at 10:52 pm

    I’m 84 now and still goin to South Bend and driving from Boston…….ask Chuck Webber

    [Reply]

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