Notre Dame went on the road and beat a top 10 team for the first time in a long, long time Saturday night with a 20-3 win over the 10th ranked Spartans of Michigan State thanks to a dominant defensive performance led by it’s front seven. Here are my initial thoughts.
- Everett Golson is improving and is getting closer to being the kind of quarterback we all think he can be, but he still has some work to do. He looked more comfortable out on the field this week even though he had the least impressive numbers to date with a 14 of 32 performance for 178 yards and a touchdown to go along with 7 yards rushing and a second touchdown on the ground. Most importantly though, Golson did not turn the ball over for the first time this season despite playing the toughest defense to date.
- Cierre Wood is by far the best running back on this football team. None of the other backs have his combination of size, speed, strength and above all else, vision. Wood pulled out some great runs towards the end of the game and finished with 56 yards on 10 carries.
- Side note, if Wood gets the handoff in the 4th quarter where Theo Riddick was tripped up with a field worth of green in front of him… he is still running.
- Tyler Eifert was essentially taken out of the game by Michigan State and Notre Dame still moved the ball through the air somewhat although it was clear that the Irish passing game was very limited with big old #80 getting a heavy dose of the football.
- Davaris Daniels played, but was not on the field much. Looks like he was a little more banged up than we thought – hopefully he is 100% by next weekend when Michigan comes into town.
- Great rebound game by the offensive line. A week after Purdue put a hurting on them, they bounced back in a big way against a very good defensive front seven. Hats off to Harry Hiestand, Chuck Martin, and Brian Kelly here.
- GREAT catch by John Goodman in the end zone on his 2nd career touchdown. Goodman only had one catch, but it may have been the most important one of the game.
- Would have liked to see more short passes to TJ Jones and Roby Toma. If Notre Dame can find a deep threat, both Toma and Jones could have some big games catching the quick throws from Golson and turning them into big gains.]
- One major concern coming out of this game, however, is 3rd down conversions. Notre Dame was just 1 of 14 on 3rd down tonight.
- Absolutely dominating performance by the Irish defense out there tonight. That was probably the best I have seen a Notre Dame defense play in a really long time. Le’Veon Bell had a lot of hype coming in and the Irish D held him to just 77 yards on 19 carries.
- Notre Dame’s defensive line turned in a monster of a football game. They got pressure on Andrew Maxwell all night without the need of extra blitzers. Stephon Tuitt picked up another sack tonight giving him five on the season.
- Another great performance by Prince Shembo. Shembo’s prowess as a pass rusher was one of the 5 things I liked in the win over Purdue last week and he was in rare form tonight as well. Shembo was a disruptive force and ended the game with 9 tackles and a sack.
- Great performance by Manti Te’o after a very tough week off the field for the senior captain. Te’o picked up another 12 tackles and another fumble recovery.
- Notre Dame’s young secondary is starting to come of age. Kei’Varae Russell, Bennett Jackson, and Elijah Shumate all had great games out there tonight and are looking better each week. Major tests still lie ahead when they will be tested by the likes of Landry Jones and Matt Barkley, but so far this season they are passing their early tests.
- Overall, tackling was much, much better this week. There were very few missed tackles. There were still some bad angles taken, but nothing like we saw a week ago against Purdue.
- Sheldon Day had another nice game and looks to have a very bright future for the Irish on the defensive line.
- The defense did a good job getting off the field tonight limiting Michigan State to just 5 of 17 on 3rd down and 0 for 2 on 4th down.
- Ben Turk had one bad punt, but overall turned in another great game by pinning Michigan State inside their 20 yard line 4 times out of 8 punts.
- Kyle Brindza had another strong outing too. After a shaky start to his career, he’s hit on his last 4 attempts including a 47 yarder tonight that not only cleared the cross bar with plenty of distance, but split the uprights. Brindza looks like he could be a good one.
- Not much going on in the return game tonight. George Atkinson only had 1 kick that was returnable and Davonte Neal didn’t have much room to work with.