It was tough to find five things I didn’t like about a 38 rout of Miami – something I honestly never thought possible heading into the season – but after some careful consideration, here is this week’s edition of 5 Things I Didn’t Like.
No turnovers or sacks for the first time
It’s hard to find things to not like in a 41-3 blowout of a legit opponent, but if I had to nit pick about another dominating performance by the Notre Dame defense, I would have to say that it was a little disappointing to see the Irish fail to register a sack or a turnover for the first time this season. Notre Dame had been collecting both at a rapid pace heading into the game but decided to play conservatively and keep the speed of the Miami offense in front of them. It was a strategy that ended up playing dividends for Notre Dame with the Hurricanes getting frustrated and not being able to put points on the board without the use of the big play.
Miami’s first offensive drive
The only aspect of Notre Dame’s defense that was tough to like was the first offense drive for Miami when the Hurricanes missed out on not one, but two touchdowns solely because Phillip Doresett dropped two passes that Stephen Morris dropped perfectly in his hands. Dorsett blew right by the young Irish secondary on the first one while Zeke Motta let him get behind him and wide open in the corner of the end zone for the second one.
Luckily for Notre Dame, Dorsett dropped both passes and Miami only seriously threatened again on their second drive when a Morris touchdown run was called back for holding, but the sequence was still a little unsettling since Landry Jones and Matt Barkley will surely see those clips and envision what they can do in a similar situation.
Notre Dame’s only punt
Notre Dame only punted once on Saturday, but it was a painful attempt to watch. Pinned up against the back of his own end-zone, Ben Turk got off just a 32 yard kick that set up Miami at the Notre Dame 35 yard line. Amazingly, the Irish defense held strong and kept Miami off of the scoreboard in that instance, but Notre Dame can’t count on the defense to bail them out of situations like that all year.
Turk has really had an up and down season so far. He has had some of his best performances in a Notre Dame uniform, but at the same time, he’s had some moments like Saturday that can’t happen. A senior, 4-year starting punter needs to be able to come through in that situation and help bal out the offense and set up the defense better for success by winning back some of the field position battle. He’s done that pretty well at times this season, but Saturday wasn’t one of those times.
Notre Dame’s helmets
I’m sorry. I’ve largely left my comments on the helmets and uniforms from Saturday go, but the helmets were just awful. Had they been all gold like they were last year I would have been totally fine with them, but the blue portion with the leprechaun was bad. I can appreciate the craftsmanship in putting each one together after watching the video of the making of them, but that doesn’t mean I have to like the aesthetic of the end product.
That being said, I did really like the the rest of the uniform and if the helmets were all gold would have thought that Notre Dame was on to something for the alternate uniforms they intend on wearing for the yearly Shamrock Series games.
And just for the record, I am not a traditionalist who doesn’t want to see any changes at all to the uniforms. I liked last year’s uniforms for the game against Maryland and loved the uniforms Notre Dame wore last year against Michigan. Heck, I am even pro jumbotron and field turf. The helmets on Saturday night though… those need to get put in storage and not brought back out for games again.
The punt return game
I am convinced that the problem with Notre Dame’s punt return game isn’t with the returnman this year. Davonte Neal has speed to burn and has moves in the open field, but he just isn’t getting opportunities to return punts so far this year. I do, however, suspect that the blocking schemes are the main culprit here.
Notre Dame opponents have punted 25 times this season, but Notre Dame has managed just 8 returns on those 25 punts including just one for no gain on Saturday against Miami. There has been some improvement here over last year, but Notre Dame needs to start getting something out of the punt return game to help out the offense from time to time.