I finally got a chance to watch a recording of the game to post my full thoughts on the game.
- James Aldridge looked to have a nice burst against Navy, but went down on arm tackles on a few occasions where he had a chance for big gains. On the first play of the game, for instance, Aldridge exploded through the hole only get brought down by an arm tackle from a from a Navy defensive back. By the end of his junior year, he should be able to run right through that tackle.
- Armando Allen is starting to look very good on screen plays. Notre Dame ran the screen very effective at times on Saturday with Eric Olsen and Dan Wenger leading the way most of the time.
- Jimmy Clausen’s 3 first half turnovers gives him 11 turnovers since half time of the UNC game. That’s 11 turnovers in 3.5 games. Don’t know what happened to Jimmy at halftime of UNC, but he hasn’t been the same quarterback since then and Weis’s decision to run, run, run against one of the worst pass defenses in Division 1A football doesn’t show a whole lot of confidence in his passing game.
- The one exception came on a second down in the fourth quarter when James Aldridge had 3 OL in front of him to set up a screen only to have a Navy defender split all 3 and blow the screen up.
- Robert Hughes ran as strong as he has all season. He looked like the running back we saw at the end of 2007 for the first time this year. He finished with 64 yards on 13 carries. Not amazing numbers, but pretty solid. Hughes also scored his 3rd touchdown of the season and I have no seen all of Hughes’s touchdowns in person this year so expect a couple Hughes TDs next week.
- While Hughes ran pretty well, we looked lost on the onside kick return team – so did the rest of the onside kick return team though. Have they practice recovering onside kicks at all this year?
- Robert Blanton’s tackle on the first play of the game was one of the better tackles I have seen a corner make for Notre Dame since the days of Shane Walton earned consensus All American status. Blanton still needs to become more consistent in this area, but he is showing a lot of promise.
- David Bruton has all of the measurables, but is going to need to show some better hands be a first day draft pick. Bruton dropped two sure interceptions in the first quarter.
- I don’t mind that the decision to use the wildcat formation since we have the personnel for it to be effective. I do, however, think it wasn’t wise to show the formation at the end of the first quarter without enough time to get the play off and then the decision to stick with it at the start of the second quarter. It gave Navy time to prepare a suitable defense for it.
- Speaking of the wildcat formation, despite tipping our hand by showing it at the end of the first quarter, there was the potential for a HUGE gain if Golden Tate takes the ball and turns it outside. The outside edge was sealed and there was a ton of wide open space with the corner giving a huge cushion.
- There were, however, a few play calls which were rather questionable. The first was the QB sneak on 3rd and 4 at the ND 13 yard line. The other was the fade to Tate at the end of the second quarter. With a 6’5″ wide receiver in Duval Kamara, why not call the fade to him and let him go up and get it. Tate’s been great at coming down with the ball, but at 5’11” the fade isn’t his forte.
- The first drive in the second half featured excellent play calling. It was Charlie Weis play calling circa 2005. Short flare passes and effective runs. It had Navy on its heels and the blocking allowed for all of the plays to be effective.
- Speaking of blocking, the offensive line had a good push all day long and the wide receivers did some of their best blocking of the season. When it came to pass blocking though, there were a few instances where Navy beat Irish OL with simple pass rush moves. The OL still reacts more often than it attacks in pass protection.
- The Notre Dame defensive line controlled the line of scrimmage most of the game with Justin Brown, Ian Williams, and Pat Kuntz all turning in great games. Williams especially played well and had his best game of the season.
- Remember when Golden Tate talked about the Irish letting up in games? Well after Robbie Parris batted the first Navy onside kick forward out of bounds, he was shown laughing on the sidelines about the penalty. The penalty ended up be pretty costly as Navy recovered the the rekick and their comeback was on. It might seem trivial, but it shows a lack of focus by the players. They thought the game was over when it clearly wasn’t.
- Speaking of a lack of focus at the end of the game, the roughing the kicker penalty on David Bruton after Navy’s first fourth quarter touchdown ended up giving the Middies great field position when they recovered a second onside kick.
- Third down defense was excellent. After Notre Dame’s first touchdown of the second half, Navy faced a 3rd and 3 that Ian Williams blew up. For the game, Navy converted just 1 of 13 third downs.
- How about the game Toryan Smith turned in filling in for Brian Smith? Smith recorded 10 tackles and returned a blocked punt for a touchdown. I could, however, have done without the excessive celebration.
- How did Raeshon McNeil let a Navy WR behind him in the final two minutes? Wish I knew.
I am just happy we won and ended our two game losing streak.
I’d guess what happened to Clausen at halftime of UNC was Butch Davis. The book now on JC certainly looks to be “jump the route.” You might get beat, but if you think about it, before everyone started jumping his first read route, he seemed to be beating everyone anyway.
I think the lack of passing had to do with Jimmy’s health. I know it sounds like just another excuse, but those of us who were at the game may have seen him being the last one coming on to the field (correct me if he does this EVERY game, this was my first in-person game of the Clausen era). I turned and said to someone “he doesn’t look like he’s running right.” He seemed to be running very gingerly. Also during the game, a bunch of his passes were quick hitters where he didn’t really take a drop. He had very few drop back passes all game, and I really feel like he wasn’t entirely healthy.
The pass-heavy play calling could have also been due to the mentality of: If we can’t run on Navy, we can’t run on anyone. Not a bad idea to try to get some confidence for those backs and the line. Regardless, it became much more of an interesting game than it should have been.
I just wonde if all the running backs aren’t coming along because of the decision to run three feature backs in a game. I feel like Aldridge really only has one season game experience at this point. Just my view, you should have one feature back per game and rotate the other two if that back tires. These backs just aren’t getting enough touches per game to hit their stride.
I personally thought that the Toryan Smith excessive celebration was a good penalty or penalty that I didn’t mind. Finally we saw some emotion and swagger from this team.
I think the decision to run, run, run had a lot to do with Floyd being injured – and less to do with Weis not showing confidence in Clausen.