This week’s initial impressions is coming a little late. The UHND crew was in South Bend this weekend for the game and a lack of internet and some travel snafus have delayed my normal posting. With all that said, here are some thoughts on the Michigan game.
- It goes without saying at this point, but Notre Dame is in serious trouble if Dayne Crist misses any more time this season. Both Tommy Rees and Nate Montana looked very over matched and Brian Kelly admitted later that he needs to do a better job preparing the backups. Hopefully we won’t have to find out if he’s done a better job at that again this season.
- Back to Crist, I think it’s hard to be any but impressed with his performance so far this year. Here’s a kid who had 20 career pass attempts before this year who had to learn and entirely new offensive system all while recovering from an ACL injury that happened just 10 months ago. He had one bad decision on Saturday, but other than that he was very sharp and threw for 277 yards despite missing almost half of the game.
- Now, all of that said, Crist is still a work in progress and I think he and his coach would agree with that. He needs to work on his accuracy – especially when throwing to the end zone – and needs to learn the intricacies of the position, but it’s very clear after two games he has a very bright future.
- Armando Allen isn’t becoming the back everyone thought he would be – the big time home run hitter – but he is developing into a better all around back than most felt he could be. He’s running harder than ever and is going to have an opportunity to put up some big numbers this year. He’s already on pace for over 1,000 yards and he hasn’t exactly been the focal point of the gameplan either week.
- Allen’s 29 yard run was a career long and it would have went for a lot more if Michael Floyd would have sealed the edge. Floyd whiffed on the block though and the hole closed.
- Cierre Wood had a disappointing day, but we’ll see more games like from Wood as he continues to develop. Backs like Wood,potential home run threats, are many times all or nothing and Wood will experience some growing pains until he gets more time in the weight room.
- Michael Floyd needs to be involved in the game plan much, much more. Floyd was barely heard from until the very end against a secondary he should have been able to terrorize. The last two weeks Floyd has put up solid numbers but it hasn’t felt like he’s being focused on in the game plan.
- Freshman TJ Jones is going to be a playmaker, but needs to learn to hold on to the ball until he’s well into the end zone. Jones touchdown could have easily been called back because he toss the ball into the end zone before he crossed the line. Luckily no one from Michigan picked up the ball. More importantly, luckily the ball didn’t go out of the end zone either. Had the ball went out of bounds, not only would the touchdown been taken off the board, but Notre Dame would have also lost possession of the ball.
- A lot of NFL scouts had to take notice to Kyle Rudolph being able to race to the end zone and hold off a defensive back. Heck of a play by Rudolph. He is just a match-up nightmare for almost any college defense and needs to be targeted early and often every week.
- Very surprised we didn’t see more of Theo Riddick this week. There was a lot of talk about how well he’s locked down the slot receiver spot, but after two games Riddick has just 4 catches for 52 yards. Kelly needs to find a way to get Riddick the ball in hands in space.
- Denard Robinson made some highlight reel plays, but it’s hard to fault the defense for allowing the 87 yard scamper at the end of the first half after all of the time they spent on the field. Robinson is an outstanding athlete who is going to make plays if given that many opportunities.
- Carlo Calabrese has to be the nicest surprise on the defensive side of the ball. For all of the talk of his lack of speed and suspect coverage skills, Calabrese has shown that he can play plenty fast. He had another 10 tackles Saturday to go with 9 last week. That puts him on pace for 114 tackles this season which would be 43 more than last year’s leading linebacker tackler (Brian Smith, 71).
- Calabrese’s partner in crime at inside linebacker isn’t too bad either. Mant Te’o paced the Irish with 13 tackles and was all over the field again this week. The great thing here is Te’o still has a lot of room for improvement.
- Safety depth was exposed. Jamoris Slaughter is going to need to be on the field a lot this year once he’s back from the injury. Hopefully Wayne Lyons saw the lack of depth at safety for the Irish first hand.
- The defense is definitely better this year, but it’s still a work in progress.
- Have not been too impressed with the play of the outside linebackers after two games. There was a lot of talk about the depth at OLB with Darius Fleming, Kerry Neal, Brian Smith, and Steve Filer forming a formidable unit on paper, but after two games none have really stood out.
- The defensive line didn’t get enough pressure this week to slow down Robinson. The key to shutting down a quarterback like Robinson is getting a great push from your defensive line to give the linebackers some more time to pursue.
- After getting 4 sacks in week 1, Notre Dame didn’t record a single sack Saturday and had just two tackles for loss – that’s not going to cut it against an offense like Michigan’s. Had the defense gotten some negative plays on first down it could have put Michigan in down and distances outside their comfort zone.
- Saturday showed that Notre Dame still does need to upgrade it’s speed and athleticism on the defensive side of the ball. The situation isn’t as dire as Kirk Herbstreit would have you believe, but it does need to be addressed through recruiting – especially in the front 7.
- With the offense sputtering as much as it was on the first half without Crist in the game, a long return sure would have been nice. Unfortunately the return game was very quiet.
- Ben Turk had a solid day punting with 4 of his 8 punts getting pinned inside the 20, but his punts just don’t seem to have all of the leg behind them that they did towards the end of last season. Turk started off slowly last year too though.
- Coverage units were solid again this week.
- While I didn’t agree with Kelly’s decision to go for the touchdown at the end of the first half, that wasn’t my biggest beef with the coaching in Saturday’s loss. Why Kelly didn’t call a timeout after Michigan converted their 3rd down to the 2 yard line with less than a minute just made no sense whatsoever to me. Had Kelly called the timeout, there would have been an additional 15 seconds or more on the clock when Notre Dame got the ball back.
- Kelly hasn’t been under the media scrutiny that he’ll experience at Notre Dame before so it will be interesting to see how he handles this week and bounces back Saturday.
- David Ruffer connected on his only field goal attempt and now has hit all 9 field goals he’s attempted in his career.