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Author Archives: Scott Janssen

What’s Next for Notre Dame Football

Photo: Matt Cashore // USA TODAY Sports

After an unexpected 4-8 season – the second worst in program history in over five decades – Notre Dame athletic director Jack Swarbrick faces a crossroads project with far more long-term implications than the $400 million renovation project of Notre Dame Stadium with the same name.  Whatever direction Notre Dame takes over the next several weeks there is one thing that is absolutely certain: the program cannot have a repeat of the 2016 season.   Given Swarbrick has only two options moving forward, it’s time to evaluate what must be done to be successful moving forward regardless of which path is ...

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Same Old Story for Notre Dame, Brian Kelly

Photo: Matt Cashore / USA Today Sports

Shortly before the start of the 2016 season I wrote an article stating Notre Dame had an opportunity to do something this fall that it had not done in 23 years: post back-to-back 10-win seasons.  Instead, Brian Kelly’s team doubled-down and managed to do something that has not been done in South Bend in 56 years: fail to win two games in a row for an entire season.  There really isn’t a better way to juxtapose the high expectations of this football team heading into September to the reality of how low Notre Dame has truly sunk this season. Yes, ...

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The Beginning of the End for Brian Kelly

Photo: Logan Bowles // USA TODAY Sports

The only thing I felt was numb when Connecticut running back Andre Dixon rushed into the endzone to secure a 33-30 triple overtime victory.  The fact Connecticut had only been a Division I football program for less than a decade made the deafening “U-C-O-N-N” chant I was hearing from the Huskies fan base inside a deathly silent Notre Dame Stadium much, much harder to take. “Are you okay?” my then-girlfriend kindly asked, squeezing my hand on that dark day in 2009 while we watched the Connecticut sideline celebrate, and all I could muster was a quiet, “No.”  It was at ...

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Beating the Miami Hurricanes Still Feels Damn Good

Photo: Brian Spurlock // USA TODAY Sports

I was five years old when the infamous Notre Dame-Miami game took place in 1988.  I didn’t understand the significance of the game or why, when it ended, my parents celebrated like it was the happiest day of their lives.  Nor did I understand why my parents would watch the tape of the game over and over in the weeks after its ending.  And considering the Hurricanes had not set foot in Notre Dame Stadium in 26 years prior to last Saturday, everything I know of the rivalry lives in grainy footage and stories of Lou Holtz’s famed “Save Jimmy ...

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Notre Dame Battles through Noise, Distractions to Prepare for Miami

Photo: Matt Cashore-USA TODAY Sports

It’s probably the understatement of the year, but Notre Dame’s 2016 football season has not gone according to plan.  This fall was one of tremendous promise and expectations after Notre Dame posted double digits in the victory column for only the second time in head coach Brian Kelly’s tenure in South Bend In 2015, and fell just shy of a playoff berth.  Both Malik Zaire and DeShone Kizer were named to Heisman Trophy watch lists and NFL experts drooled over a Notre Dame offensive line that continues to churn out high draft picks, with Pro Football Focus even being so ...

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Notre Dame Football: What We’ve Learned at the Midpoint

Photo: Matt Cashore // USA TODAY Sports

A bye week serves a useful purpose for college football teams, particularly when it occurs during the halfway point of the season.  In addition to a week of rest and recovery for players, the extra time off allows for a period of self-evaluation of what is and isn’t working for a program.  For Notre Dame, the question is whether one week is long enough to address the ever-expanding list of concerns. This was supposed to be a year where the stars aligned for Notre Dame.  Talent was never a question.  In August Pro Football Focus awarded Notre Dame the distinction ...

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Notre Dame, Offensive Line Limp into Stanford Week

Photo: Brian Utesch // Icon Sportswire

On Saturday Notre Dame finally began to turn around two units that have hindered them all season: defense and special teams.  Such an achievement was thought to be impossible until an off-season of evaluation and adjustments.  Interim defensive coordinator Greg Hudson’s unit limited an opponent to 3 points and less than 200 yards of total offense, all while holding N.C. State to a 14-percent third-down conversion rate and forcing two turnovers.  Sophomore kicker Justin Yoon, who has struggled this season, even hit a 40-yard line-drive field goal in the face of hurricane-force winds.  Given Notre Dame’s biggest shortcomings finally came ...

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Notre Dame Special Teams Failures Require Kelly’s Focus


Notre Dame fans have had very little to cheer about this fall, a fact that finally began to change Saturday afternoon against Syracuse in New Jersey.  Notre Dame’s defense surrendered piles of yardage and 33 points, but the defense won big on a very important statistic: third down.  Newly appointed defensive coordinator Greg Hudson held Syracuse’s up-tempo offensive attack to a 20-percent conversion rate on third downs, providing Notre Dame’s offense enough opportunities to put the game away.  While the defense is far from fixed, it was stabilized enough to draw attention to other areas of concern that have plagued ...

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Is There a Power Struggle at Notre Dame?

Brian Kelly - Notre Dame Head Coach

The statistics are nothing new. Notre Dame’s defense is ranked No. 101 nationally in points surrendered per game (33.5). The defense has allowed over 200 yards rushing per game under Brian VanGorder’s leadership and was the last of all the 128 FBS teams to register a sack, performances so poor it shouldn’t have been shocking when Duke handed Notre Dame its biggest upset in decades. Yet it was hard to feel anything but disbelief as the same Blue Devils team that mustered only 27 points in its first two games piled on nearly 500 yards of total offense and 38 ...

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Notre Dame Football On Verge of Doing Something it Hasn’t Done in 23 Years

Photo: Matt Cashore // USA TODAY Sports

It will have been 247 days and approximately 5,928 hours since Notre Dame last took the field by the time the Fighting Irish square off against the Texas Longhorns this upcoming Sunday  (but who’s counting?) in Austin, and there are countless storylines that will occupy Irish fans this week until zero hour.  Will DeShone Kizer or Malik Zaire emerge as the starting quarterback?  Can Notre Dame overcome the loss of Max Redfield at safety?  How will defensive coordinator Brian VanGorder create an effective pass rush, or does Notre Dame simply lack the weaponry to do so?  While relevant, all of ...

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Notre Dame Football’s 2016 Season Prediction – Part III

Deshone Kizer is 1-0 in his career against USC (Photo: Matt Cashore // USA TODAY Sports_

Two weeks ago Notre Dame’s September opponents were previewed with the Irish earning big victories over Texas and Michigan State, and last week took a look at October’s slate of games, leaving Notre Dame with an undefeated record heading into November for only the second time in the Brian Kelly era.  Can Notre Dame wrap up November with an unblemished record? Notre Dame at Navy (EverBank Field, Jacksonville, FL) Head coach Ken Niumatalolo has more than kept Navy’s upward trajectory since taking over for former coach Paul Johnson in 2008.  Niumatalolo has had only one losing season in his seven ...

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Notre Dame Football’s 2016 Season Prediction – Part II

Photo: Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

Last week Notre Dame’s September foes were previewed, resulting in big wins over Texas, Michigan State and Duke, and an uncomfortably tight match with Nevada.  The Irish head into October undefeated for the third year in a row under head coach Brian Kelly with stiff challenges from the likes of Stanford and Miami.  Can Notre Dame exist October with an undefeated record still intact? [Related: Full 2016 Notre Dame Football Schedule] Notre Dame at Syracuse (MetLife Stadium, East Rutherford, NJ) Syracuse is putting its dreadful 4-8 season from last year behind them and saying hello to new head coach Dino ...

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Notre Dame Football’s 2016 Season Prediction – Part I


With the 2016 football season a few short weeks away the time has finally come for everyone, whether a fan or writer, to put on record their predictions for the season for future bragging rights.  While injuries can occur – who could have predicted DeShone Kizer would have Notre Dame knocking on the door of a playoff appearance? – and momentum varies throughout the year, a preseason prediction allows you to reflect on your assumptions.  Last year I correctly predicted a 10-2 regular season for Notre Dame but expected the two losses to come at the hands of Georgia Tech ...

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Nyles Morgan: Notre Dame Football Now or Never ’16

Notre Dame LB Nyles Morgan (Photo: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports)

Over the past six weeks UHND has previewed a host of players for its annual “Now or Never” series, from quarterback Malik Zaire, wide receivers Torii Hunter and Corey Holmes, tight end Durham Smythe, running back Tarean Folston and safety Max Redfield.  This week UHND concludes the series with an in-depth look at new starting Mike linebacker, Nyles Morgan. Pedigree Nyles Morgan was a highly coveted 4-star inside linebacker prospect from Crete, Ill., with scholarship offers from the nation’s top programs, including Alabama, Ohio State and USC.  Despite the elite offer list Notre Dame found itself in a battle with ...

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Max Redfield: Notre Dame Football Now or Never ’16

Max Redfield - Notre Dame S

In the past month UHND’s “Now or Never” series has previewed the offensive side of the ball, from quarterback Malik Zaire, wide receivers Torii Hunter and Corey Holmes, tight end Durham Smythe and running back Tarean Folston.  This week UHND moves to the defensive side of the ball to take a look at the up-and-down career of senior safety Max Redfield. Pedigree Max Redfield was one of the crown jewels of Notre Dame’s 2013 recruiting class.  A 5-star prospect from Mission Viejo, Cal., with scholarship offers from the likes of LSU, Nebraska and Oregon, Redfield committed to the USC Trojans ...

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