Final Review: Notre Dame v. Michigan State ’06

Late hit on N’Dukwe was borderline
The late hit on N’Dukwe caused a whole lot of controversy after the fracas that ensued, but I think the penalty was borderline to begin with. While watching it live I thought Stanton was clearly out of bounds, but when you watch the replay, both of Stanton’s feet are clearly in bounds so I think the call was a bit questionable. If a similar hit was placed on Brady, I would probably be looking for the call too, but I think it could have went either way.

It was nice to see the players get fired up during the sideline melee
Some fans might not have liked seeing the Notre Dame players mix it up on the sideline, but I liked seeing some fire out of the team. They might have been on the road, but that was their sideline and they weren’t going to let Michigan State come over and start anything.

As for the coaches pulling Trannon off the sideline. I don’t have a problem with that either. The way John L Smith talked about the situation, you would have thought that Stanton was getting mauled by the Notre Dame reserves on the sideline after he was hit in bounds and went flying. I’m all for protecting your quarterback, but don’t start anything on the sideline in the process. Again, if the roles ere reversed maybe my viewpoint would be a little different, but I like seeing the team not taking crap from anyone.

No holding calls on MSU till the fourth quarter when they had a 16 point lead
I find it just a bit coincidental that there were no holding calls on Michigan State until it looked like they had the game in hand during the fourth quarter. After the lack of calls last week by the Big 10 refs, it is seriously time to consider changing the policy of using the opposing team’s conference’s officials. The Big 10 crews this year have been inconsistent at best. I wonder how the Irish’s defensive statistics would look if holding got called occasionally on ND’s opponents.

Geoff Price Rules

Enough said.

Running game is in trouble

This one probably goes without saying, but Notre Dame seriously needs to find a running game to be a serious BCS contender. I have addressed the various reasons why the game is struggling over the last couple weeks, but there haven’t been many answers for the ground attack. If James Aldridge is cleared to play this week, it will be interesting to see if he can get some meaningful carries to lighten the load on Darius Walker. Notre Dame needs a strong between the tackles runner and if Aldridge can add that to the offense, it makes the Irish offense much more balanced. It’s a lot to expect of a freshman, but freshman backs at Notre Dame have been known to make an impact.

Notre Dame is severely lacking depth at receiver

For the third time this season only two wide receivers caught a pass for the Irish. Jeff Samardzija and Rhema McKnight were huge, but Notre Dame needs some other receivers to step up so they can utilize some four and five receivers sets to spread out a defense. Right now, only David Grimes looks ready to be a regular contributor at the receiver position. Could one of the freshman step up down the stretch?

John Carlson will be drafted higher than Anthony Fasano was

Carlson has some serious wheels for a tight end. His 62 yard touchdown in the third quarter was pretty impressive as a lot of tight ends would have been caught from behind. He got his first 100 yard receiving game and is on pace for a huge year. At his current pace, he will end the season with 51 catches for 890 yards and 4 touchdowns.

Mike Richardson is the most improved player, by far

There hasn’t been a more criticized player on the Notre Dame defense over the last few years than Mike Richardson, but the fifth year senior has really improved his game this year. His coverage skills have improved, he’s become a very strong tackler for a corner, and he’s flying around the field making plays. It’s nice to see Richardson elevate his game this year and help the defense after being the brunt of a lot of jokes on the message boards over the last few seasons. While he may lack the speed to play corner in the NFL, if he continues to make plays and tackle well, he could play himself into the draft as a safety/special teams player.

Defensive line was strong
I really like the way the defensive line is playing. The gaudy rushing stats for Michigan State have a lot more to do with poor tackling than they do with a lack of penetration from the defensive line. The starting group of Trevor Laws, Victor Abiamiri, Derek Landri, and Chris Frome is going to have a true breakout game at some point over these next seven games. They have faced some pretty good offensive lines so far this year and they have really played well.

Great to see Lambert redeem himself after last week

After the week Terrail Lambert must have had after Mario Manningham got him for two touchdowns, you can’t help but feel good for Lambert this week. He took a lot of abuse on the boards over the last week and he responded with his breakout game. The corner position is just as much mental as it is physical and hopefully this performance is a turning point in the junior’s career at Notre Dame.

John L Smith really annoys me

I think Smith might annoy me more than another other opposing coach. More than Lloyd Carr. More then Pete Carroll. More than anyone. He has that stupid grin on his face when he’s up and his interview about the flag planting ticked me off. Supposedly the incident set Smith off if you believe some of the articles than came out last week that stated he “chewed” those players out. You wouldn’t know it from the interview where he was laughing about how they missed mid-field and only planted the flag at the 35.

I almost feel bad for Michigan State fans for having Smith as their coach because he has had Notre Dame’s number two years in a row and let the Irish back in the game both times. Last year he held onto the win, but this year the Irish got him.

Linebackers continue to be a liability
The linebackers and even the safeties this week showed some poor tackling this week which allowed the Michigan State running game to gouge the Notre Dame defense. Any team with a power running game is going to give this team trouble and if I was an opposing offensive coordinator I would run it right at Notre Dame until they show they can stop it.

Loved that the Irish players had no retaliation for the flag plant
Some fans wanted to see Notre Dame plant their flag if they won, but I for one loved that they didn’t. The win was enough for the Irish and they spent their time celebrating with their fans and singing the alma mater which to me says a lot about the team.

I’d really like to see Prince get a couple screens called for him

Prince was split wide numerous times against Georgia Tech and we really haven’t seen much of that at all since then. Prince might not be ready to carry much of a load at running back, but his speed and quickness could create some big plays if he gets the ball in his hands in the open field.

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