5 Things I Didn’t Like: Michigan State ’12

everett golson msu
Notre Dame Fighting Irish quarterback Everett Golson (5) is sacked by Michigan State Spartans defensive end Shilique Calhoun (89) during the first half at Spartan Stadium. (Photo - Mike Carter / US PRESSWIRE)

There’s wasn’t a whole lot not to like in Notre Dame’s win over #10 Michigan State Saturday night, but there were a few areas in which Notre Dame will need to improve in a hurry in order to keep their winning ways going.

3rd Down Conversion on Offense

The one glaring negative coming out of an otherwise promising performance was the production, or lack there of, of the offense when it came to 3rd downs.  Notre Dame converted on just one of 14 attempts on third down – a conversion rate that normally does not end in a comfortable victory.  After having great success on third downs in his first two starts, Everett Golson struggled converting them this week.  This is normal for a young quarterback, but after the success Golson saw in weeks one and two, it was a bit disappointing to see such futility on third downs this week.

In order for this team to reach its full potential, the offense has to execute better on third down and the coaching staff needs to do a better job of putting the offense in a position to succeed.  Now, play calling wasn’t necessarily poor on third downs, but for whatever reason, Michigan State had Notre Dame’s number when it came time to keep drives moving.  For Notre Dame to make it to the October 27th showdown with Oklahoma unscathed in the loss column, that improvement will have to happen in a hurry.

Too Few Touches for Cierre Wood

Cierre Wood was back on the field for Notre Dame fresh off of his two game suspension and it seemed clear that the staff was working him back into the flow slowly.  What was also clear, however, was that even if he was a bit rusty, he was still the best running back on the Irish squad Saturday night.  No other back had the same kind of burst as Wood and as a result he was on the field the most in the 4th quarter.  The question I have is why wasn’t that the case for the first three quarters?

No other Irish back, at this time, has Wood’s combination of size, speed, and vision.  George Atkinson III has the potential to reach Wood’s level by the time he is finished at Notre Dame, but he just isn’t quite there yet and Theo Riddick lacks the burst and vision Wood possesses.  Hopefully Wood sees more action this week against Michigan.  If he does, I suspect he could be in for a big, big game.

Playing Time for Chris Brown,Justin Ferguson, and Davonte Neal

Earlier in the week Brian Kelly mentioned that Chris Brown needed to play more.  Well, we saw him break free downfield early on only to have Golson over shoot him by a little bit and then we didn’t see him again.  I loved seeing Kelly get him on the field for a deep play early because this offense is in need of a deep threat to keep defenses honest, but for all the hype we heard over the summer, Brown has zero catches three games into the season.

We also heard a good bit of talk about Justin Ferguson in the pre-season and other than some light action against Navy, we haven’t seen much action for him either.  Davonte Neal has been the primary punt returner, but he didn’t have his number called on offense this week either.  The last two weeks Neal had a few plays drawn up for him, but this week he wasn’t heard from on offense.

Notre Dame’s offense is still a work in progress and is in need of a playmaker or two to step up.  I’ve loved what I’ve seen out of TJ Jones and Roby Toma so far this season and John Goodman’s only two catches have been the biggest two catches of the season, but Notre Dame needs a playmaker to emerge.  Each of the three freshmen receivers have the potential to be big play guys.  Getting one of them ready to be that big play guy sooner rather than later could end up being the difference between this being a good year and a great year.

Injury to Jamoris Slaughter

The loss of Jamoris Slaughter for the season is a devastating blow to a secondary that was already without starters Lo Wood and Austin Collinsworth.  Without Slaughter, the Irish will be starting a third converted offensive player in Matthias Farley who while very talented is still a bit raw as he learns the safety position.

A week after suffering a number of less severe injuries against Purdue, Slaughter was the only injury of note this week, but it was a major one for a Notre Dame defense that has been playing as good as we’ve seen a Notre Dame defense play in a long time.   The Irish have been very resilient in the secondary with the youngsters really stepping up and playing well, but what they lose with Slaughter sidelined in terms of production and leadership is going to be very difficult to overcome with some truly elite quarterbacks on the upcoming schedule.

The Disappearing Act of Tyler Eifert

I know Michigan State wanted to take Tyler Eiferty out of the ball game, but I am pretty sure Purdue wanted to as well and yet Kelly and Chuck Martin were still able to find ways to get the ball in big #80’s hands against the Boilermakers.  Eifert is one of the best tight ends in the country, but he did not have his number called very often on Saturday.  Kelly and Martin have to do a better job of finding ways to get Eifert open if Notre Dame is going to improve to 4-0 this weekend.


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  1. The offense needs some production because MU seems to play a step above themselves when they play ND. If the D can repeat with level of consistency (or better) from last week, this will really favor ND. I hope Diaco looked at what Alabama did to them from a D point of view. Bama, though, was efficient offensively too, which along with that crushing D, hammered the Michie’s. There is no reason ND can not perform a similar feat. I truly believe they have the talent level to achieve it. A problem though, is, we don’t seem to play nearly as well at home lately compared to on the road. That has to change. Saturday night will definitely show us where this team is at, both physically, and more importantly, mentally-as to how they see themselves (the ND team).

    Bring on the Blue & Gold Tsunami, let it wash the Michie’s away, Go Irish

  2. ND should have one focus and one focus alone going into this weeks game…retribution! Last years loss was a disgrace to the program! It needs to be amended at 8pm in ND stadium.

    What I dont want to see is ND going conservative with 18 minutes to go in the game like last week! I know another poster took some heat saying the same thing but I agreed with him and BK should not repeat that mistake this week. Of course you dont want stupid plays if you are ahead but you do not take your foot off the gas! You keep the other team off balance and you fight to control the ball and move the chains until the final whistle! The game is 60 minutes long and the Irish need to play the FULL 60 minutes and amend one of the worse losses I ever witnessed last year. Gee – I think they went conservative last year too against Michigan which allowed them back in the game which turned into a run away train. GO IRISH – pummel Michigan!

  3. Mr Robinson better tie up those laces and buckle that chin strap up tight. I forsee him getting Shembombed all nite.


  4. Yes, ND was pretty bad on third down conversions (1-14 7%)
    But MSU wasn’t much better agianst our defence (5-17 29%)

    ND was better on 4th down conversions going 1-2 50%
    while MSU went 0-2 0%

    Moral of the story… ND didn’t force the footbal. There were zero turnovers!

    ND ran the ball by committee in the first half.
    In the second half, after the MSU defence was worn down some, ND featured Cierre wood more.
    ND drove the ball 90+ yards late in the game for the clinching field goal.
    That was a thing of beauty. Really liked ND’s strategy here and the way they used their backs.

    Playing on the road in a big prime-time night game, our most experienced recievers stepped up.(Goodman, Jones, & Toma) Isn’t that what we want in that situation?

    Can’t replace a 5th year Saftey like Slaughter. The only saving grace is the next QB we face isn’t exactly Andrew Luck. Get through the next game and with the bye, ND will have some extra practice time to work with their young secondary.
    Now whether the coaches decide to use that time for that purpose is another story.
    Last year Kelly gave his players that time off. The following game was agianst SoCal and we all know how that turned out.

    MSU doubled Eifert all night. I think for a ND QB playing in just his third game, to go out there and not force the ball into double coverage to his favorite reciever is a testament to Golson and his coaches.

    Moral of the story…. when ND doesn’t commit turn-overs, they are a pretty good team!

  5. Keys to the Michigan Game:

    1. Keep the ball and get first downs, keeps Denard off the field
    3. Don’t turn the ball over.

    ND needs to stay away from letting Denard beat them. Keep the ball and run Cierra Wood all the time. When ND gets a shot on Denard make it count. Keep him contained in the pocket and remember your gap discpline. Until he graduates I will worry about the fourth quarter come back. ND needs to win this game period.

    1. Excellent plan Jack,

      And I would like to see Goodman start and play the whole game. He is 6′-3″ with excellent speed and has size advantage over most backs.

      That 55 yard one arm catch in the end zone ought to tell us something! Especially with the defensive back hanging all over him.

      I don’t know how much more of a ‘Big Play’ qualifies to start? Plenty of youthful backups if it don’t pan out.

      Goodman is ready for a big break out game in my view, give him a shot BK!

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