Bye Week Concerns for Notre Dame

team feature um12
22 September, 2012: Notre Dame Fighting Irish wide receiver Davonte’ Neal (19) celebrates in a team huddle in game action. The Notre Dame Fighting Irish defeated the Michigan Wolverines by the score of 13-06, at Notre Dame Stadium, in South Bend, IN.

Another week, another hard fought victory for the Irish. There were a lot of positives last Saturday night against the Wolverines, just as there has been all season long. Irish fans witnessed the exorcism of the evil that Denard Robinson has cast over Notre Dame the prior three years by a defensive group that some might claim was possessed itself. The strong effort on the defensive side of the ball for Notre Dame started at kick-off and ended when the clock hit zero. The front seven applied pressure all evening long, and in turn caused the Michigan offense to hurry and never find a true balance or chemistry. The Irish defense forced 6 turnovers and for the second week in a row, kept their opponent out of the end zone.

Thatâs not to say that everything was in rhythm for Notre Dame Saturday, as they struggled on the offensive side of the ball themselves. Both Theo Riddick and Cierra Wood struggled as they ran for a collective 91 yards, and Everett Golson threw two interceptions and struggled with consistency all first half before being replaced by back-up QB Tommy Rees. Although the Irish won 13-6, the score could have been much worse for Wolverine fans if the Irish offense had been more successful. Irish fans had their own set of problems, and worry what might have happened if Michigan did not have 6 total turnovers.

Now the Irish have a bye-week in which to get healthy and work on some problem areas before the next 4 games that include (3-1) Miami, #8 Stanford, (2-2)BYU, and a trip to Norman to face #16 Oklahoma.  All four of these games will present certain problems for the Irish in their own way, but what will help alleviate some of the issues of the upcoming schedule is the Irish focusing on and fixing some of their own problems.


Most Irish fans understand that when you have a 1st year starter at the most important position on the team, there will be growing pains and a strong learning curve. While the young Irish quarterback has shown flashes of brilliance, he has struggled with smart fundamental decisions. Coach Kelly officially named Golson the starter for Miami, with Rees providing support again in case of trouble. Kelly and staff need to make sure that the confidence level of their young QB has not dwindled, and he understands his role. Golson has provided some awesome moments this year for Irish fans, but any future success the team may see will heavily rely of his continued growth as an athlete and a man.


The offensive line was supposed to be a point a strength and consistency in 2012 and while it has had its moments the bad outweighs the good here. Over the two weeks before Miami, Offensive line Coach Harry Hiestand needs to find a way to get more production out of them, and at a higher level. The health of the Line isnât helping the Irish as they have had to shuffle a couple people around, and the weak passing game is not a friend either. Michigan routinely stacked the box and other teams will also if the Irish do not find a way to get this group going.


The Secondary is one area that while young and inexperienced, has shown the most consistent growth from game to game. Miami’s quarterback Stephon Morris may not have as much national pub as Landry Jones or Matt Barkley, that doesn’t mean he can’t hurt the Irish through the air as the Georgia Tech secondary can attest to. This group needs to dedicate hours on game film and continue to work on good technique and play recognition. They have no room for errors and cannot afford to take any days off before the game next Saturday night in Soldier Field. It isnât out of the question that this group which was once thought of as a weekly liability, may end up being a true strength by seasonâs end.


The Irish rank a very average 65th on kick-off return avg. and a very concerning 101st in punt returns avg. Some will say itâs the blocking scheme the Irish are using, others will lay the blame on the youth of the group. At this point, it doesnât really matter. What does matter though is the Irish finding a way to make this a strength. They have speed and athleticism at the return position in the form of George Atkinson and Davonte Neal, but each have struggled to make much of an impact at their respective positions. The team that calls Soldier Field home in the NFL in which the Irish next game is being held, the Chicago Bears, can tell anyone and everyone all about what an impact special teams can have. Hopefully this will be a strong point of emphasis over the bye-week as it can have such an impact on field position for a young Irish offense still trying to find its way.

The Irish coaching staff will not be able to fix everything over the two week span, and most intelligent fans do not expect them to do so. What fans are hoping to see is the continued growth of a young group, and the commitment to having a top-caliber team in all phases of the game. Saturday nightâs game against Miami will be another nationally televised game for the Irish, and another chance for them to continue shedding the stigma of mediocrity.

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  1. Reason for concern: some ND fans aren’t satisfied being 4-0 with a heisman an candidate. And no team on their remaining schedule being ranked higher.

    1. The heisman trophy and awards, SI Cover, accolades etc are ultimatley irrelevant. IMHO the only thing that matters is “p.r.e.p.e.r.a.t.i.o.n.”

  2. Outstanding write-up Bob!

    I agree with your diagnosis on all points. Especially, can’t fix it all in one by-week! Hopefully, EG comes out and lights up Miami with his feet and arm, coupled with zero turnovers.

    Yeah, we are way over due for a punt return, however, I’ll definately take a return from GForceIII. Definately in need of some game changing dynamics! And it’s refreshing to see BYU acknowledged and back our schedule!

    Here come the Irish!

  3. While there are some concerns, let’s not forget that despite these flaws, ND is winning. It’s games like Purdue, Michigan State, and Michigan that gives the team confidence and toughness.

    It was not too long ago, these games would have been losses. This team is transforming before our eyes and I think they are starting to believe they can beat anyone on their schedule.

    Going into the Miami game ranked #9 in the country, it’s time to make a statement as we start the month of October.

  4. We also need to see BK have some killer instinct against Miami. In the last couple of games the hurriCONS have let there opponents get ahead then they come roaring back. If we get a lead, getting comfortable and conservative is a recipe for disaster.

    1. Offense Strategy vs. Miami
      Author: RHIT38 (245 Posts – Original UHND Member)

      Posted at 4:30 pm on Oct 1, 2012
      It is important that this team puts points on the board. The defense isn’t going to be able to pitch shutouts all the time. They have had two weeks to figure it out. There is no way they should be performing this poorly, even if the play calling is vanilla. ND must, must, must establish the run. The need to run, run, and run. Run inside and outside. Find one place it is working and go with it. They needs to pound them into submission. I want to see a heavy dose of Cierre Wood.

      Also, I would like to see Golson run some. He needs to run. If he gets hit and hurt, then ND has Rees and Hendrix behind him. But teams must respect his feet, that will help teams to respect his arm. K State had a field day with a running QB. I think ND could do that same. Miami struggles against mobile QBs. Ga Tech doesn’t count because in the option, the QB is basically another running back. Golson brings the dimension that he can run, but he can also burn you with the pass.

      Once the run is established, I would like to see ND go down field. I would like to see this week a couple of really long touchdown passes. ND needs to put up about 35-40 points and win by 3 touchdowns. Now is the time they need to start putting it together. This game will tell a lot. It will also show the coaching that has been done. Coming off a bye week, there is no excuse not to torch this team.

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