5 Things I Liked: Michigan ’12

Manti Te'o - Michigan 2012

There was a lot to like – and plenty not to like (more on that later) – in Notre Dame’s 13-6 win over Michigan on Saturday night.  This week’s installment of 5 Things I Liked takes a look at what I liked the most from Notre Dame’s 4th win in four tries this season.

The superhuman performance by Manti Te’o

On Friday night an emotional Manti Te’o proved once again why he is such a special member of the Notre Dame community with a heartfelt speech at the pep rally.  On Saturday night he turned in a performance that will be talked about for a long time among Notre Dame fans.  The Hawaiian native is now easily in the conversation of who is the best defensive player in the entire country after a 2 interception, 8 tackle performance while leading the Irish defense as they held a top 20 opponent without a touchdown for back to back weeks.

Te’o’s performance was enough to earned him the Lott Impact Player of the Week for the 2nd consecutive week and has quietly started to get him some hype for the Heisman – hype that is clearly well deserved after he’s collected 3 interceptions, 2 fumble recoveries, and 38 tackles (2 for loss) through four games.

The incredible pass rush without needing to blitz

Notre Dame’s defensive land pretty much manhandled the Michigan offensive line most of the night and didn’t let Denard Robinson get comfortable at any point throughout the game.  The pressure the defensive line generated directly resulted in turnovers as Robinson rarely had time to pass the ball forcing him to throw without being fully set.  All of the defensive linemen played a role in in harassing Robinson allowing Notre Dame to keep linebackers back in space and take away throwing lanes.

After Saturday, Notre Dame has 14 sacks on the season led by Stephon Tuitt’s six .  Tuitt picked up number six on Saturday and now has a sack in every game.  He’s also on pace to shatter Justin Tuck’s single season sack record.  Tuck picked up 13.5 sacks in 2003, but Tuitt is on pace for 18 this season through four games.  It’s not just Tuitt though.  Sheldon Day, Kapron Lewis-Moore, Louis Nix, Tony Springmann, et all are giving Notre Dame the best defensive line we’ve seen in a long time.

The play of the young secondary

I’m not going to lie.  I was terrified about the Irish secondary before Lo Wood was lost for the season so needless to say, I was even more worried once he got injured in fall camp.  The young Irish secondary, however, has played about as well as could have been expected given the lack of experience collectively amongst the group.

Bennett Jackson has picked off three passes already this season in his first four starts of his career after intercepting Denard Robinson on Saturday night while Kei’Varae Russell added his first career pick this weekend.  Fellow freshman Nicky Baratti picked up his first career pick on the ill-advised half back pass by Michigan at the goal line in the victory as well.  All in all, the young secondary turned in a great performance again this week and is growing up very fast.

The coming of age of several freshmen

I already mentioned the play of Russell and Baratti in the defensive backfield and Sheldon Day up front, but it bears repeating.  All three played major roles in Notre Dame’s strong defensive showing Saturday night that limited an offense and a quarterback that has terrorized the Irish defense the last three seasons in check all night.

What makes the contributions of these three so significant is that other than Day, none were really expected to make huge impacts when they signed in February.  Russell came in as a wide receiver/running back and Baratti was seen as possibly a special teams player as a frosh.  Both have stepped up and answered the call when upper classmen have gone down with injury.

Another freshman, Chris Brown, is getting closer and closer to making an impact on offense too.  For the second week in a row Brown got behind a defense and looked like he had a chance for a big play, but was missed again this week.  Pretty soon he’s going to haul one of those in.

The closing out of the game by the Irish offense

Notre Dame’s offense struggled to say the least throughout the game, but in crunch time, when it mattered most, they got a score and closed out a game when they needed to.  After Michigan cut Notre Dame’s lead to 10-3 at the start of the 4th quarter, Tommy Rees led a 11 play, 53 yard field goal drive, that consumed 6:26 of the clock and pushed Notre Dame’s lead back to two scores.

When Michigan cut the lead to a single score a second time in the fourth quarter, Rees and the Irish offense lined up and killed the clock thanks to a clutch throw from Rees to Tyler Efiert on the game’s crucial third down and then a nice run by Theo Riddick to convert the final third down of the game.  Notre Dame’s offense has a long way to go, but unlike years past, the Irish offense has been able to salt away games late in back to back to back weeks with clutch drives and conversions.

Check back later today for the weekly installment of things I didn’t like from this week’s game.

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  1. It seems to me of all the quarterbacks that have played for Kelly the last couple of years Christ, Reese, Hendricks and Golson, the only one Kelly runs on desighned plays is Hendricks. When Hendricks played against Stanford last year I saw quarterback draws, zone read options, roll out runs, option pitchouts. Kelly should be doing these things with Golson.

    1. Pete-You are right on target here! Think you could get Coach Kelly an e mail on this suggestion?! Hendrix was deadly on the run; can you imagine what EG would do? Blessed Mother!

    2. Perhaps Hendrix has had more designed runs because he is 6’2″ 220.

      Golson is listed as 6’0″ 185.

      That’s a difference of 2 inches and 35 lbs.

      Perhaps Kelly wanted to limit the hits on Golson early on, and give him a few games to settle in before subjecting him to the physical demands of a running QB?

      I wouldn’t be surprised to see more option plays with Golson as the season progresses.

      1. Shaz-I never thought about tha size difference; which is substantial to say the least. I think EG might be even lighter…

        I remember Flutie and EG has more on his plate than the ‘Hail Mary Maker’. So your idea is sound but when would you let him loose? Miami is no slouch and needs watching.

      2. I remember watching Golson run some option pretty effectivly in the spring game so I’m sure it’s coming.

        In Denard Robinson’s first year under RichRod at Michigan, the kid set the college football world on fire with his early season running ability.
        He was 80% of their offence.

        By the 7th or 8 game, and having faced a number of Big Ten defences, Robinson was batter, bruised, and gassed.

        I think Kelly understands this but only he really knows
        when his QB is ready to take on more.

        Either way, I think it will be gradual which seems to be Kelly’s style when it come to Golson.

        As far as Miami goes, every ND fan knows that the Irish always play with a target on their backs reguardless of their record.

        Now that they are 4-0 and ranked in the top 10 the target grows larger.

        The good news is that Kelly now knows this and has an extra week to prepare and seem to be using his time wisely.

  2. To add to #1 on the list, I think that Manti should have been credited with a forced fumble along with the two picks. If you watch Robinson’s fumble in the red zone, as Robinson is burrowing into the pile, #5 flashes around behind Robinson and punches the ball out. Spond was the next to make contact, and was credited with the forced fumble, but I think that one was all Teo.

  3. I’d like to know where Cierre Wood was on the final drive. I’m taking nothing away from Theo Riddick—he was fantastic, especially when got that eight yards and half a football on third and eight that salted the game away. Still, Wood is supposed to be the bell cow back. Why wasn’t he in the game then? Was he hurt? Did I miss something? Does anyone have any insight on this for me?

    1. FT-We were also wondering where the ‘Bell Cow’ was too. So far there has been no logical explanation for his sideline watch.

  4. E. Golson’s got to continue to iron out the eye/hand coordination. Not just his own but coordination of QB to reciever. Timing on pass routes is crucial. I freely admit all I’ve written today here is simple and obvious however it is the most important development “to be” in ND’S future.

  5. I too was impressed by the defensive secondary. So far they have done a good job considering the situation they were put in, esp. since a lot of them are converted players. The defensive coaches are doing a good job this year getting out of position players to play well.

    Kelly seems to be cautious with Everett Golson. In some ways I understand that. There are times I think he could spring him loose but I think they are taking baby steps in the early going. I think as the season goes on, though, you will see EG have more control and play until the end of the game more often. I agree with Kelly’s decision to put in Rees, though. Michigan does have an excellent defense that was really messing around with EG. I think it would have been far worse to leave EG in there and end up making mistakes that cost ND the game. That would have affected his confidence more than anything. And I think the coaches probably are making sure he knows he is the quarterback for ND.

  6. Spot on article as usual Frank. One of the things I have noticed that needs to be “ironed out” is the number of times guys are WIDE OPEN on long passes and are overthrown and also the number of times guys wide open are not seen and qb’s throw into tight dbl coverage. Eifert was wide open at least twice on Sat and Brown and Daniels once and TJ Jones was standing in the end Zone doing Jumping Jacks when once again we were trying to force it to a “covered” primary receiver. It seems like Hendrix has become the FORGOTTEN man in these opening 4 games. I was under the impression there was not much between him and EG for the starting spot vs Navy yet TR gets the call twice and AH stands twittling his thumbs on sideline. If it wasn’t for the fact the kid is pre-med and obviously values a ND degree I would figure he is a lock to bolt next year to somewhere he can at least be given an opportunity to play. In the few limited chances he had last year he certainly deserved to be the No 2 guy in vs Michigan when there were virtually 3 qtr to be played. It was not a final 2 minutes scenario like Purdue when TR getting the call made sense (although it Hail Mary to Goodman could just have easily gone for a pick six and we would not have been extolling the virtues of Turnover like we are now. Agree the kid did a good job vs MU but still believe AH would have played like he did vs Air Force and Stanford and got us the W.) Would like Kelly to let EG run when kid feels the need to do so He is so paranoid about NOT SCRAMBLING after Purdue fumble he threw second pick when he could have almost ran for the TD. Your thoughts.

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