The Notre Dame defense led the Irish to their first win over bitter rival Michigan since 2008 with a dominating performance that carried a sluggish offense that struggled to put points on the board. Here are some notes based on initial review.
- The game sped up on Everett Golson this week. Golson was progressing nicely week to week, but this week the game sped back up on Golson and he took a step backwards in his progression. The good news for him is that Brian Kelly said that he is still the starter and he has a bye week to regroup, watch some film, and get ready for his next start. There are going to be games like this for young quarterbacks. What separates the great ones though are their ability to take games like this and regroup and learn from them. We’ll get an idea of where Golson lies in the first quarter in Soldier Field in two weeks.
- Tommy Rees deserves some credit. Rees was booed when he came off the bench against Purdue and all he did was lead the game winning drive. This week he came off the bench again and while he wasn’t spectacular, he protected the football and guided Notre Dame to another win this week.
- Cierre Wood needs to run the ball more… a lot more. I’m not sure why Wood didn’t get more carries this week, but he’s averaged 5.6 yards a carry to Theo Riddick’s 2.8. Wood is literally averaging twice as many yards a carry than Riddick and still, Riddick has received 29 carries to Wood’s 17. If this offense is going to turn things around and give the defense a break from time to time, we are going to have to see a healthy does of #20.
- Why not throw it to Tyler Efiert more downfield? I loved the throw to Efiert in the 4th quarter on the crucial 3rd down, but why wait until the end of the game to attempt it? Kelly has a lot of issues to address on offense during the bye week, but finding ways to get #80 more involved in the offense has to be right up at the top of his priority list.
- Manti Te’o played like a man possessed. Manti has been on en emotional roller coaster the last two weeks and that ride continued with perhaps his most dominating performance as a collegiate football player. Te’o had 8 tackles (1 for loss) to go along with 2 interceptions. After not having a an INT through his first three seasons, Te’o has three picks through four games this season. Te’o is putting his name in serious consideration for all of the major defensive player of the year awards he received pre-season recognition for.
- Stephon Tuitt is still a beast. Tuitt now has a sack in every game this season after picking up his sixth on the season this weekend. At his current pace, Tuitt will have 18 on the season – a number that would shatter Justin Tuck’s Notre Dame single season record of 13.5. Based on the havoc Tuitt is causing already this year, it is hard to not think about just how much better this line could have been had Aaron Lynch not transfered, but as is, Tuitt is making the loss of Lynch much more tolerable than anyone thought it would be.
- Danny Spond’s return has strengthened the defense a lot. When Spond returned to the lineup last week, it allowed Notre Dame to shuffle its linebackers exactly how they wanted them and the result has been a defense that hasn’t allowed a single offensive touchdown in back to back weeks. Spond was all over the field last night with
- Bennett Jackson and Kei’Varae Russell are growing up fast. Both Notre Dame corners are really starting to play well. Jackson and Russell each picked up an interception on Saturday night while Jackson also led the Irish with 9 tackles and added a fumble recovery. The Notre Dame pass rush really helped the secondary last night, but they still turned in a great performance.
- Sheldon Day might be growing up faster. While Jackson and Russell are certainly growing up in a hurry, the true freshman defensive end is growing up even faster. Day picked up another sack last night and is very quickly becoming a force to be reckoned with off the edge of the Irish defense.
- Matthias Farley and Nicky Baratti stepped up in Jamoris Slaughter’s absence. Notre Dame suffered a major loss last week when 5th year senior Jamoris Slaughter was lost for the season, but for at least this week, sophomore Matthias Farley and freshman Nicky Baratti filled in admirably with Baratti picking up his first career interception.
- Kyle Brindza continues to impress. Kyle Brindza hit both of his field goals this weekend and is now 6 for 7 on the season – connecting on his last 6 attempts. Brindza’s kicking has been very steady since missing his first collegiate attempt making field goals more and more of reliable option.
- Ben Turk had a rough night. After the best back to back weeks of his career, Ben Turk had a rough night with a couple of bad punts at really inopportune times. Turk has been very solid this year though so hopefully he can shake it off and bounce back in two weeks.