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Keys to Victory: Oklahoma ’12

Notre Dame Fighting Irish wide receiver Davonte’ Neal (19) in game action. The Notre Dame Fighting Irish defeated the Michigan Wolverines by the score of 13-06, at Notre Dame Stadium, in South Bend, IN. (Photo: Robin Alam / IconSMI)

Notre Dame has its work cut out for it this weekend when they square off with #8 Oklahoma on the road.  The 5th ranked Irish head to Norman a double digit underdog despite a top 5 ranking and a goose egg in the loss column at the end of October.  The reason for that is the fact that Oklahoma is by far the toughest test the 2012 Fighting Irish have faced so far this year.

The Irish were uninspiring last week in a three point win over BYU.  A smilar performance this week and Notre Dame will be out of the national championship picture faster than you can say Boomer Sooner.  Despite what some in the media would lead you to believe though, the Irish have a chance to pull off the upset and head back to South Bend with their title dreams still intact.

Here’s what needs to happen for those dreams to become a reality.

Get Everett Golson on the Run

Take away Everett Golson’s fumbles against Stanford and that game would have never went to overtime because Notre Dame could have won comfortably.  That’s a terrible “what if” since Stanford had something to do with them, but all three fumbles were completely avoidable by Notre Dame’s sophomore quarterback.  On his first, he’s got to feel the pass rush and be extra careful with the ball in the end zone, on his second Golson made a poor exchange for an unforced error, and on his last, he should have stepped out of bounds without ever putting himself in position to fumble.

The point here isn’t to rehash the Stanford game or make the case that Notre Dame should have won that game easier.  Rather, it’s to point out that without those fumbles, the Irish offense was moving the ball on the Stanford defense – a defense that is arguably better than the one they’ll face this weekend – once Golson started taking off.

Notre Dame has to get Golson ont he run with some designed runs to keep the Oklahoma defense honest.  Last week we saw a new wrinkle of George Atkinson on the field at the same time as Cierre Wood with Atkinson being set in motion.  Throw in a mobile quarterback would can now handle off to Atkinson on the move, give it to Wood next to him, or take off on his own and there’s another dimenson to the offense.

Getting Golson on the run has also settled down the young quarterback in the passing department too.  His best games running the ball – Miami and Stanford – were also two of his best performances throwing the ball.  Bottom line – when Golson runs (and holds onto the football), good things happen for the Notre Dame offense.

Protect the Football

Now, the double edge sword with getting Golson on the move is the possibility of Golson turning it over.  I outlined above how all three of his fumbles against Stanford were avoidable had Golson just been a little more cautious and known the situation, but the problem is, he knew the situation and still turned the ball over.  I am sure Brian Kelly has made Golson watch each of those fumbles over and over again, but ball security has been an issue for Golson all season so its probably unrealistic to expect that a week off due to his concussion has suddenly corrected the issue.

As I said above though, Notre Dame is going to have to roll the dice and let Golson run in order to get this offense moving against the Oklahoma defense.   So, it will be up to Golson to hold onto the ball and make smarter decisions this week.  Decisions like sliding instead of taking big hits and ducking out of bounds instead of fighting for an extra two or three yards.  It sounds simple enough, but as a fan of an NFL team that employs Michael Vick as its starting quarterback, I can tell you seeing that put in practice with mobile quarterbacks is anything but a simple process.

Cut Out the Silly Penalties

This one goes without saying in a big game, but Notre Dame has had far too many procedure and personal foul penalties over the last few weeks – penalties they just can’t have this weekend.  Emotions will be running high so Notre Dame has to be careful to not get flagged for late hits and the like.  That is sometimes tough with an agressive defense like Notre Dame’s because they are always flying to the ball, but Oklahoma’s offense is jut too good to give them a free 15 yards at any time.

On the offensive side of the ball, Notre Dame has to stop shooting itself in the foot with false starts near the red-zone.  This has been an issue the last few weeks with the Irish playing at home in Notre Dame Stadium which makes me particularly nervous for what might happen here with them playing in front of a raucous crowd in Norman.

Smack Oklahoma in the Mouth Early

Notre Dame has to set the tone in order to keep this one within arms reach reach early.  Oklahoma has the kind of fire power to jump out in front of any defense – even one as stout as Notre Dame’s – if you let them.  To combat that, Notre Dame has to come out early and set the tone that this will be a knock down, drag out fight – not a track meet.  Notre Dame’s offense isn’t evolved enough right now to hang in a track meet with Oklahoma, but if they can come out and slow the game down and hit Oklahoma in the mouth early to let them know this is going to be a heavyweight fight, the Irish will be in this one throughout.

The best case scenario for the Irish actually would be to start the game with the ball and have a slow, methodical drive down the field featuring a heavy dose of Theo Riddick and Cierre Wood that ends in some points.  Any points will do actually as long as Notre Dame comes out and establishes the run, controls the clock, and settles down the crowd a little.  If Notre Dame comes out and proceeds to produce a three and out and give Oklahoma the ball with good field position or lets the Sooner offense march down the field should they start with the ball, it’ll set a tone that will be tough to overcome.

Find the X-Factor

Almost every time Notre Dame has played in a big game where it’s been the underdog and has either won or been in the game over the last 20 years or so they have found an x-factor.  Against Miami in ’88 Pat Terrell returned that interception for a touchdown.  Against the Hurricanes in ’90 Rocket Ismail took a kickoff to the house.  In ’05 Tommy Zbikowski returned that punt for a touchdown. When Nebraska came to town in 2000 Joey Getherall took a punt back for six and Julius Jones did the same on a kickoff.

Facing its toughest opponent, on the road, with an offense that has been inconsistent, Notre Dame is going to need a play like that in order to come out with the win.  It doesn’t need to be a kick return or a pick six though.  Notre Dame has some youngsters on its roster that have seen the field but not been a factor yet that could provide that x-factor tomorrow.

I am talking about Chris Brown and Davonte Neal.  Brown got behind both the Purdue and Michigan State defenses in weeks 2 and 3 but Golson missed him both times.  We haven’t seen him since, but if there was ever a time for Notre Dame to revisit getting Brown on the field to take a shot, it would be this weekend.  Same goes for Neal.  We’ve seen him show just a few glimpses on punt returns, but outside of the first few weeks we haven’t seen him on offense.  If Kelly and Chuck Martin have a trick play or two designed for Neal, now would be the time to unveil it.

Special Teams Perfection

Notre Dame’s special teams have been spotty to say the least this year.  Both the kick and punt return units have been nonfactors and punting has been inconsistent all season long.  Place kicking had been the most stable unit of the special teams prior to last week, but then Kyle Brindza missed field goals from 28 and 40 yards to finish just 1 for 3 on the game.   Two weeks ago Notre Dame left points on the board at the end of the first half too when a botch snap on a field goal at the end of the first half resulted in no points for the Irish and set up Stanford for a field goal of their own – a six point swing right before the half.

If Notre Dame is to improve to 8-0 on the season, they can’t leave points on the field this week as they have in recent weeks.  Brindza needs to be spot on on field goals, Turk needs to help Notre Dame win the field position game and let the Irish defense do its thing, and there isn’t a better time for George Atkinson III or Davonte Neal to rip off a big return.

People keep talking about the OU offense vs. the ND defense and even the OU defense vs. the ND offense, but special teams could very well be the difference this week.



  1. Your comments as always prove how truly mature you are JC. Congratulations you can act like a schoolyard bully, a true necessary commodities in today’s society.
    And yes I do remember you making that comment, seems like desperate pitch at conformity so that you can say I told you so, never admitting you where wrong also mature.
    To answer your rebuttal, The Irish had a lot of bad habits that needed to be broken from years of obscurity. And to break bad habits you can not be a players coach. He was purposeful in his tactics. He was a players coach at Cincinnati, it’s not like that is a new concept to him.
    And the name is and will ever be reminder to you and everyone about your maturity level, names are just that, names. And they do nothing but show the maturity level of the two parties.

    • Ah, now your diagnostician offering a differential diagnosis of excuse for intentional failure.

      Amazing, your a bottomless treasure chest of bloviating disillusionment.

      Here come the Irish!

  2. Frank should be sainted. He predicted the keys to victory even counting in the fact of the missed field goal. No turnovers, one penalty, brown with big catch, Golson running to keep drives alive and we scored early, stayed in the game and held on when critical. ND is for real. I predicted an ND appearance in a BCS game in year 3 for Kelly but after the last two seasons I wondered if it was ever possible let alone year 3. I don’t want to jinx them since we have lost to Tulsa, Syracuse and the likes of them during the past two seasons, but ND looks like a team on a mission.

    BTW Bennett Jackson is a stud cornerback. He is so much better than anything we have had for several years. Russell is developing nicely and I think we can shut down our next three foes and get them ready for an under-achieving USC team.


  3. Aren’t the worst fights always between brothers?! Aren’t the worse wars civil wars?!

    In spite of our different backgrounds, histories, opinions, etc., recall that we’re all brothers from the same Mother, Our Blessed Lady!

    Let’s glorify her name and that of the fruit of her womb, Jesus!

    Hail, Mary!

    Pray for us sinners!

    Fight on, ND!!!

  4. It really does hurt to be wrong doesn’t it. It tell you why you can’t see it. People that are not leaders don’t understand what a leader is doing when they make unpopular decisions for the benefit of the whole program. People that are not leaders don’t understand that a leader will call out their top performers to empower ownership. People that are not leaders don’t understand that a leader will not only transform those around him but will also transform oneself to achieve success. People that are not leaders do not understand that leaders don’t just turn others into better players they transform those around them into leaders. It’s often hard to understand but instead of spending night and day on this website maybe do something of value and then you may understand. For things to change first you must change.

    • So tell us old wise leader how many companies have you owned….superior to all others, of course! Please, don’t tell us what your student loan balance is for such a waste of taxpayers’ money.

      Go ahead, overwhelm us with your superior resume.

      Further, tell us which jet is your’s at South Bend’s Airport runway on game day! That’s slot# what?

      Now the real vainglorious drivel is uncovered here. Hahahaha!

      Blood pressure up a couple of ticks, tiger? Yeah, we are all suffering from a severe case of leadership acatalepsia in your world. Hahahahaha! Bush League!

      You sure your not a Baptist Preacher?

      Here come the Irish!

      • Honestly, JC beside the schoolyard banter. You seem like a good guy, you do have good analysis, you do have good football knowledge. I know our opinions differ in our opinion of who should be head coach. I really just want to she’d to light that there is a proper way to act in society, there will always be differing opinions, but its how we react to those opinions that separate us from animals. We have a choice and can either be proactive to our surrounding or be reactive. That’s what separates all people, and makes us either successful or not.
        Regardless of who I am or what I have done, I am secure in knowing that I will die with a clear conscience when it is all over.
        So I will be the first to say that I am sorry that my opinion offends you.

      • Your opinion does not offend me your entitled to it. You knew who you were calling out.

        For your information, there is more to coaching than just being a good coach. You seem to have a severe problem with that. Without question, you are vindictive by nature as demostrated in your initial diatribe.

        Your looking in the wrong place if you think your going to tread on morality issues with HC’s on this site.

        Hmmm…..”that separate us from animals,” But your sorry? Hahahahahaha!

        Here come the Irish!

  5. It hurts when others are right!

  6. Still hung over from the win last night! These guys walked into Norman and left proud!! BK has built one hell of defense… Held them to .6 yards per rushing attempt!!! WOW! Keep building that D Kelly!

  7. I think Oklahoma’s gameplan centered around big plays (plays over 20 yards). When the final whistle blew, OU had only 2 plays that gain more than 20 yards (one of those plays was in garbage time). Notre Dame’s gameplan centered around moving the chains. They were very effective doing so, especially in the 2nd half. I think it was great that ND ended up with more plays over 20 yards than OU (Wood’s TD run, Golson scramble out of the shadow of their own goalpost, and Chris Brown’s big reception).

  8. B-Dumb,

    How long do you plan on whining your vindictive vile as the expert MR.POSITIVE. Ah of course, another sanctimonious Mr. “I told you so” dime a dozen preachers! Hey if you don’t like the conversation here pack up and leave TOWN CRYER.

    We all know your deeply in love with BK Cinderfella so get over yourself! Oh, I forgot, your part of the Rain Dancers Association. Choose Wisely, B-Dumb! We have not run the table yet! Check back at the end of the season for more fun.

    One Proud Naysayer especially when your around! How’s that for laying claim? Do you need a bibb? Hahahahaha!

    Here come the Irish!

    • It hurts to be wrong doesn’t it. Check the back log. I never claimed they would go undefeated this year, I actually said that this would be a rebuilding year with Golson at the helm. I just said that Kelly was the right leader and he knew what he was doing. I bet you wish we had Stoops know. I for one am not delusional to think that we can be perfect in all aspects and run the table every year. And whine and cry when we are 8-0 but we don’t have the bet special teams in the country. So if being optimistic and right in the assessment of The program is dumb then I will take dumb any day. Thank you for the compliment. We can’t all be geniuses like you, go Stoops fire Kelly talk. Ouch!

      • B-dumb, or Bleed Vendetta!

        Sorry your such an angry-eagle! Yes, ignore the fact that even BK admitted at the begining of the season, he was indeed on the wrong path to success as a leader.

        BK decided to change from a CEO coach to now a player’s coach! And I accepted his new transformation. Seems to be working well, imagine that!

        Check the record I gave him credit for getting on the correct path of being a Player’s coach!

        Sorry you don’t like the TRUTH vs agreeing with you 100%. Yeah, we are only entitled to your constipated bravado opinion. Ouch! Hahahahaha!

        If you like being a shameless lying liar about the 1st two years of skeletons in the closet for BK be my quest.

        I on the other hand, like the new team chemistry without the player name calling in the media! Stay blind and dumb!

        Here come the Irish!

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