Initial Analysis: Notre Dame 17, BYU 14

Notre Dame Fighting Irish defensive end Stephon Tuitt (7) sacks BYU Cougars quarterback Riley Nelson (13) during the first quarter at Notre Dame Stadium. Notre Dame won 17-14. (Photo: Matt Cashore / US PRESSWIRE)

For a couple of quarters it looked like Notre Dame was going to fall victim to a classic let down/trap game.  Coming off an emotional win over Stanford and with a showdown with Oklahoma on the horizon, the Irish came out flat against an inspired BYU team that nearly made enough plays to derail Notre Dame’s undefeated season.

A ground game that came alive in the second half and a defense that survived the first two offensive touchdowns it had allowed in 17 quarters, however, powered Notre Dame to its first 7-0 start since 2002.  Here are some initial thoughts on the Irish’s latest victory.

Offense

  • I have been very adamant about Cierre Wood getting more carries each week, but Theo Riddick played out of his mind today and was one of the few players on offense that didn’t come out flat.  15 carries for 143 yards including – many of which came after initial contact.  Yes, Riddick got caught behind on a long run from behind, but without #6’s tough running today, Notre Dame loses.  Hands down, this was Riddick’s best game of his career by far.
  • Cierre Wood was good again this week too with another 100 yard performance thanks to an 18 carry, 114 yard effort.  Wood is still averaging over 6 yards a carry on the season.
  • Tommy Rees started off really good by hitting Tyler Eifert 4 times for 73 yards in the first quarter alone, but then failed to connect with him again for the rest of the game.  Rees has been great in relief this year, but quarters 2-4 highlighted his limitations when facing strong defenses.  After the first quarter, Rees completed just one pass.
  • Uncharacteristically, Rees also made a number of poor reads – most notably in the second quarter when he missed a wide open Eifert and then a wide open Robby Toma on back to back drives.
  • The offensive line had a pretty good game this week opening up holes for Riddick and Wood and paving the way for 270 rushing yards by the offense, but the false starts really need to stop happening – especially in the red zone.
  • Brian Kelly and Chuck Martin called this game like they were only concerned with winning the game and not gaining any style points by completely abandoning the pass on the second half.  Their dedication to the run game ended up paying off with Notre Dame taking the lead in the 4th and then running off enough time on their final drive to ice the game.
  • Andrew Hendrix’s cameo performance was a nice change of pace and showed why this offense is much more potent when the quarterback is a threat to run.  Hendrix only came in for two plays but converted a 3rd down with a 14 yard run on one of them.
  • Notre Dame should have scored a lot more points concerning they averaged over 6 yards a carry as a team.
  • The red-zone offense was, putting it nicely, poor this weak.  Rees was not at his best once the offense got down near the goal line today and as a result Notre Dame failed to score on two different trips inside the 20.
  • Just to reiterate, Theo Riddick played a whale of a football game and I will gladly eat a little crow for talking about how much I thought Cierre Wood should get more of his carries.

Defense

  • The touchdownless streak was bound to end sometime and I guess if it had to end, having it end on a busted coverage instead of just a bad play isn’t a terrible way for it to end.
  • Other than the two touchdown drives that the defense surrendered in the 2nd quarter, the defense held tough throughout the game and came up with several big plays to stop BYU drives.
  • Stephon Tuitt added another 1.5 sacks to his season total and now has 7.5 through 7 games.  He hasn’t been able to keep up the crazy pace he was on earlier this season, but at his current rate, he will still challenge Justin Tuck’s school record.  Tuitt has a couple quiet games on the sack front, but now has 3.5 the past two weeks.
  • Manti Te’o is building a Heisman resume and at this rate, I think there is a good chance he will at least be invited to New York that first weekend in December.  Te’o added another 10 tackles and picked off his 4th pass of the season.
  • Kapron Lewis-Moore might have played the best game of his career on Saturday.  He was very disruptive and his impact was felt from start to finish.  It was also great to see the 5th year senior captain teaching Troy Niklas on the sidelines after his personal foul penalty.
  • the 2nd quarter was a little rough for the Irish secondary, but they were bound to have some growing pains at some point.  They rebounded nicely though and played very well int eh second half.
  • It was great to see the defense wrack up 4 sacks after the pass rush had been slowed down a bit over the last few weeks.
  • After how well Danny Spond has played this season, it was nice to see him get his first career interception to end the game.
  • It was even nicer to see Manti Te’o get on the field for the last play of the game when Notre Dame knelt down to end the game.

Special Teams

  • Hopefully today was just an off day for Kyle Brindza.  He has been kicking extremely well this season, but he missed two very makable field goals that would have kept the Irish in the lead through most of the game. Next week Notre Dame won’t be able to afford missing opportunities like that again.
  • Don’t know what to say about the punt return game at this point.  Was there even a single punt where Davonte Neal had any chance for a decent return?

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44 comments

  1. Jimbo 7 years ago

    I sure wish Kelly would get Davonte Neal involved with the offense any way possible. Screen from backfield, short pass as WR, reverse etc. This kid is fast and with the lack of scoring production at times he can add to production.

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  2. Geoff G 7 years ago

    Rob,

    I agree with you. I guess I read the comments in general and got the sense that people are waiting for this offense to do a 180 one of these weeks and just open things up and start slinging the ball all over the field.

    I think we would have to win this game similar to how we beat MSU. Solid defense, a good running game, and just enough big plays down field to get some points on the board. I hope we bring back that delayed HB counter draw that we ran with GA3 against MSU this coming week. That is a sweet play and I don’t remember seeing it since our win in East Lansing.

    As for the QBs on the roster….. Not sure how all of that will play out. I think our first reaction is always that if a top QB recruit isn’t playing that it means he is going to transfer. Rightfully so, because we have witnessed that in the past. However, we weren’t winning football games either. I think if you build a competitive program, then you will start to bring in top talent who won’t expect to start as a 1st or 2nd year man. We may not keep all these guys, but ideally, you want to have enough depth at QB where they are starting their Jr. and Sr. seasons. USC was able to do it year in and year out and they were always National Championship contenders. So hopefully we have the right guys that are buying into the University and the Program BK is building. I could see EG eventually getting frustrated with his role if he is stepped over in future years. Hendrix isn’t going anywhere. I believe he is a pre-med student and is at ND just as much for an education as he is for a starting QB role.

    Should be interesting to see how it all plays out.

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  3. SteelFanRob 7 years ago

    Geoff,

    Agreed, although I don’t think anyone here suggested we try to match OU score for score. We can;t play like that.

    What I think scav, JC, and I were suggesting was letting EG use his athleticism on the OU D’s edges. That way as OU starts to cheat up to stop our RB trio and EG, we can take some shots with our passing game.

    I also agree with you that we have some nice young talent at WR for the future. We are also still in play for a couple of elite WR/ATH recruits.

    I don’t see ND being able to keep AH, EG, GK, MZ all happy. One or two will likely transfer. That’s OK so long as we keep the best 2.

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  4. Geoff G 7 years ago

    While everyone is hoping and praying for our offense to “open up” and come out clicking on all cylinders, I just don’t see it happening. Our team isn’t going to beat a top team in the air. We are a running football team. We don’t have the WRs needed to open up and spread the field. I think Daniels has great potential and in future years Ferguson, Brown, and Neal…. but it isn’t happening this year.

    Our recipe for success next week is to protect the football, run the football, and catch the OU defense sleeping for a couple of big plays. If we get into a shootout like the OU vs Texas game, then we are going to find ourselves on the same end as Texas did in that game.

    As for the future of Gunner, I hate to even talk about it because it is a year away…. but the kid is going to get his turn. We all know that Tommy and Hendrix are not the answers. EG is athletic and I really like the kid, but I don’t think he will be as good a passer as Gunner. Just relax and let this season play out. We have some tough football ahead of us….. this game next week scares the crap out of me.

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    1. storespook 7 years ago

      i think you are really underestimating EG.i see this kid being right up there with tony rice but being a better passer once he gains Just my thought. i could be wrong.

      go irish

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    2. Jimbo 7 years ago

      I think Neal can make a difference. See my previous post.

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  5. SteelFanRob 7 years ago

    Excellent analysis, scav!

    I hope BK does exactly as you say. Open up the playbook. Let EG stretch both his legs and the field. I hope our O line got a big boost of confidence against BYU. That was a pretty stout run D they dominated!

    As for the D, they need to expect L. Jones to take some deep shots early like Miami did. We shouldn’t have to rely on drops, however. Be prepared to be tested vertically early and often. Be ready K. Russell.

    This would be the ideal time for Ishaq Williams to break out and complement Tuitt and KLM.

    If we beat OU, I wonder what the excuses from the national media will be? Would love to hear it!

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    1. JC 7 years ago

      Amen Rob,

      If we beat OU, let’s hope the media is NOT still whistling Dixie.

      Here come the Irish!

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    2. D-Train 65 7 years ago

      I have not heard I Williams name mentioned in weeks Is kid still getting on the field??

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  6. JC 7 years ago

    NBC has an article only talking about the success of the top four, and how dare an undeafted ND team move ahead of a one loss Bama or LSU? So don’t expect any gimme’s from the media. We either run the table to shut them up or hope for 10 wins. I like our chances on both issues! I like EG’s chances also of having a big game. EG certainly seems to favor away games.

    8-0 is the only goal this week!

    Here comes the Irish!

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    1. storespook 7 years ago

      I LOVE the fact it’s in Norman because right now, the Blue & Gold boys seem to play better away from home (EG certainly seems so). I already have a lot of friends telling me just how bad ND is going to get the shit smacked out of them because they are playing a “real team” for a change. Well, I’m here to say, that this game, I have a feeling, is not going to be a ND smackdown by OU. I recall BYU beating OU a few years ago when OU was heavily favored. We will definitely see just how the character of this team & coaching staff is, when the clock reached 0.00 in the 4th quarter of the game. I relish this opportunity to see the Blue & Gold boys getting to play OU.

      Go Irish

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  7. scav 7 years ago

    Food for thought…Kelly has mentioned that Golson has been banged up even before the head injury.

    Do you think he wanted to give him a week to heal because we are going to see a big dose of read-option against OU?

    I’m sure Kelly and Martin have some things planned for OU that we have not seen yet. They know that the best way from keeping OU turning this into a track meet is by limiting their offensive possessions.

    If you get our 3 backs going and mix in some QB runs, ND will be hard to defend.

    I’m already excited about next’s week’s game and it’s only Sunday.

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  8. SteelFanRob 7 years ago

    Amen, scav, amen!

    What are your thoughts on the game?

    I think we need 75% TD execution on redzone possesions. Thus, if we get into the redzone 4 times, we get at least 21 to 24 points. Add another 6 to 9 points from drives that reach at least the OU 30, and that adds up to 30 to 33 points. I think with our D that should be enough barring any D or STs points against us.

    If things go according to this albeit ideal plan I say ND wins let’s say 30 to 24.

    Go Irish!

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    1. scav 7 years ago

      My thoughts are simple, while everyone is saying that ND will not be able to handle the OU offense, I’m wondering how OU will handle the ND defense.

      Personaly, I think if ND comes out and punches them in the mouth so to speak, it will take OU out of their game.

      Jones does not perform well when he is pressured and I don’t think they have played anyone as talented as ND up front.

      I think OU will have a hard time scoring and I think ND will open up the run game with Golson running more read option.

      After playing against Stanford and BYU, I expect ND to find OU a little easier. I’m alos not worried about their speed because look what we did to Miami’s speed.

      Power football, running down their throat, and hitting the hard is the key to victory in my option.

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      1. scav 7 years ago

        On the run, lots of typos, but I think you get where I’m coming from.

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