Wow. I don’t think anyone imagined 11 months ago when Brian Kelly was hired that we’d be discussing back to back losses to Navy and Tulsa, but after an ill-advised decision to throw the football in the final seconds, that is exactly where we’re at. Here are some initial thoughts on the game.
- Despite the interceptions, Tommy Rees played about as well as could have been expected. Freshmen are going to make freshmen mistakes and that’s what his final interception was. He could have had a huge boost to his confidence if the Irish pulled this one out, but now he’ll have two weeks to think about that last interception. Still, 300+ yards and 4 touchdowns off the bench was solid. The 4 touchdowns
- Back to the final play. With a solid field goal kicker and a true freshman quarterback, a play like that just shouldn’t happen. If you are going to call a pass there, fine, explain to the QB during the timeout that he can only make the pass if the receiver is WIDE open. If not, throw the ball away and play for the field goal. Just a really, really bad call there. Kelly is going to receive a lot of much deserved criticism for this call over the next two weeks and during the off-season if this game ultimately costs Notre Dame the chance to go to a bowl.
- Very tough break for Dayne Crist. Almost a year to the day from his ACL injury he suffers another major knee injury to his other knee. He had a lot of ups and downs in his first season as the starter, but missing the final 3 games is going to hurt his development quite a bit.
- Offensive line got little push in the running game. There just wasn’t anywhere for Cierre Wood to go with the football most of the time. Pass protection was solid though.
- Very rough game for John Goodman. Multiple drops early on and a muffed punt. Roby Toma came in and played well in relief of Goodman and looks like he could be a promising wide receiver in this offense. Toma ended up with 4 catches for 67 yards.
- TJ Jones had a quiet game and is looking more like a freshman after his fast start.
- Up and down game for Tyler Eifert. He had a very critical drop on 3rd and 5 in the fourth quarter, but came up with a few nice grabs and blocked well.
- The offense continues to be its own worst enemy. They move well at times and then end drives with drops, missed receivers, penalties, etc.
- Notre Dame converted just 3 out of 14 third downs throughout the game. It’s tough to win any game with that low of a success rate on third down.
- After a very rough start to the game, the defense settled in an kept Tulsa off the scoreboard until their last field goal. Of the 28 points allowed today, 15 of them were given up by the offense and special teams.
- Despite the overall solid performance by the defense, Notre Dame’s lack os speed on defense was again evident. That isn’t something that will be fixed overnight either. It’s going to take a couple recruiting cycles before the speed on defense is at a high level.
- Notre Dame recorded 6 sacks with Darius Fleming and Ethan Johnson recording 2 of them. Kerry Neal and Brian Smith each chipped in one as well. Nice to see some production out of the outside linebackers.
- Chuck Martin needs to have the defensive backs practice catching drills all week. Notre Dame has it’s hands on a couple interceptions that fell to the ground today.
- Ian Williams was missed in the middle of the defensive line. Sean Cywar filled in admirably, but without Williams in the middle the Irish got very little push up the middle against the Tulsa running game.
- Kona Schwenke recorded a fumble recovery in his first action, but didn’t record a tackle. It doesn’t say a whole lot for the other reserve defensive end son the roster, however, that Schwenke was in the game as an undersized true freshman.
- Robert Blanton got juked out of his cleats on the first Tulsa touchdown, but after that he responded with a nice game. He blew up a screen pass and played well the rest of the game.
- This might have been the worst game for the special teams all year – a blocked PAT returned for 2 points, a punt return touchdown allowed, and a muffed punt. Yikes. Add in Turk’s booming punt through the end zone when a pooch punt was needed and it equals a very poor showing.
- Kick return blocking was weak again this week. Bennett Jackson had a nice return, but overall there weren’t many lanes for Jackson.
- Notre Dame came in to the game as the best punt coverage unit in the country and then gave up the 59 yard return to Damarius Johnson.
This loss is going to sting for a while and the bye week couldn’t come at a better time. Notre Dame needs to take these next two weeks to get healthy and regroup. Getting to a bowl game is going to take a win against either Utah or USC now and after the last two weeks, neither look too likely at this point. The coaches are going to need to spend some extra time working the phones to keep this recruiting class together as well because it’s going to be open season on commits by opposing coaches after this.