Keys to Victory: Notre Dame vs. Stanford ’12

Notre Dame Fighting Irish quarterback Everett Golson (5) scores a touchdown in the second quarter against the Michigan State Spartans at Spartan Stadium. (Photo: Matt Cashore / US PRESSWIRE)

Notre Dame has lost to Stanford the last three years while being tormented by Andrew Luck.  Luck is throwing passes on Sundays now, but snapping the Cardinal’s winning streak will take a little more than the luck of the Irish this weekend.  Here are the keys to victory for Notre Dame against Stanford.

Get Everett Golson on the move

For the first time this season, Brian Kelly and Chuck Martin let Everett Golson run the ball on some designed runs and zone read plays.  Making some plays with his legs appeared to let the sophomore quarterback settle down some and as a result he had his most efficient day passing the football as well.  Just like Notre Dame will want to pressure and confuse Nunes, Stanford will be looking to do exactly the same to Golson.  If the Cardinal defense gets too aggressive and over-pursues  some running lanes could open up for Golson to exploit.

When Golson was on the run last week he also just looked faster and quicker than he did earlier in the season when he wasn’t as comfortable.  Last week though he was light on his feet and made Miami defenders miss with some nifty moves.  I don’t think Golson needs to carry the ball 10 times for the Irish offense to move the ball, but if he can pick up another 50-60 yards like he did last week, Notre Dame should score some points.

Get after Josh Nunes early and often

Stanford quarterback Josh Nunes has had an up and down year in his first season as the starting quarterback for the Cardinal. He led Stanford to a win over USC before playing poorly on the road in a loss to Washington only to follow that up with a 360 yard performance against Arizona last week.  The Washington game is Nunes’s only road start this year so that could bode well for the Irish, but the Notre Dame front will still need to get after Nunes to rattle him a little because if they let him get comfortable, he could easily ride the success he had last week to another strong performance.

Bob Diaco will need to find ways to get pressure on Nunes without blitzing too much because doing so could open up the passing game to Stanford’s talented tight ends.  The Irish were very successful earlier this season as creating pressure with their front line before last week so hopefully they can get back to that this weekend.

Let Cierre Wood work his magic

I’ve been saying for weeks that Cierre Wood needs to be running the ball more.  Last week Wood ended up with the most carries among the Irish running backs after Theo Riddick was lost with an injury, and he responded with his first 100 yard game of the season – an 18 carry, 118 yard, 2 touchdown performance.  Through three games this season since returning from his suspension, Wood has run for 213 yards on 35 carries for an average of 6.1 yards a run.  Riddick meanwhile has carried almost twice as much, 68 attempts, but has gained just 50 yards more.

For Notre Dame to be successful tomorrow against a pretty good Stanford defense, Wood is going to need to run the 20 times and make the most out of each one of them.  Then, once the second half rolls around and the Cardinal defense is just a bit slower, bring in George Atkinson III and go looking for the home run.  Atkinson’s speed is second to none in the Irish backfield and can be exploited tomorrow afternoon for some more big plays.

Avoid the distractions

With College Gameday in town, midterms, and all of the hype that is building around this team, it would be very easy for the distractions to get the better of a young team.  With all of the veterans on this team, however, that shouldn’t be the case this weekend.  Call me jaded though, but I can’t help to think back to last year’s USC game when the stars looked like they were aligning for Notre Dame to make a statement that it was headed in the right direction only to see the Irish take a big step backward by coming out flat.

Midterm weeks have historically been rough on Notre Dame – especially when Stanford has been in town (see ’90 and ’92) – and Notre Dame’s record when Gameday is on campus is just 3-4.  Add all of that up and there are a lot of off the field issues working against the Irish this weekend.  It’ll be up to Brian Kelly and the senior leaders on the team to make sure the Irish are focused on nothing but improving to 6-0 on the season.

Win the field position battle

With two strong defenses and two offenses lef by young quarterbacks, the field position battle is going to be key to winning tomorrow.  Notre Dame needs big plays from its special teams units to reverse field position when possible and will need a big game from Ben Turk to set up Stanford with some less than favorable starting positions.

Notre Dame’s return units have been severely lacking this season thus far.  It would certainly be nice to see them step up and make an impact tomorrow.

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  1. Chillax!

    This ND football!

    We demand a return to not just relevance but excellence.

    Chillax at the “friendly confines of Wrigley Field” with all the losers who settle for less rather than demand more and better.

    ND won a game. Great. But what all true ND fans is a NC. Period.

    BTW: ND can’t play like this and expect to realistically beat OU or USC on the road.

  2. Man, ND gets behind in a ballgame for the first time this year and out come the naysayers. Chillax folks, ND just played one hell of a football game. Was the offense what you would like to see? They drove the field to tie and put the ball in the endzone in OT. Stanford is no slouch. Good game, boys.

    Pretty sure WVU fans feel alot worse than ND fans right about now.

  3. Oh, and every chance you get, remind folks that ND has 11 national championships. The Stanford radio broadcasters said 7. ESPN has said 7. It’s 11 and hopefully a 12th on the way. Remind people of that so the revisionists don’t take 4 away. GO IRISH!!!

  4. Really huge win. It’s a team thing. Everything that has happened has taken the entire team to get there.
    They should be proud, and happy…….but not yet satisfied. So far so good. Gotta love it!!!

  5. Now we see why Riddick is the starter over Wood — he’s the better receiver and pass blocker. It’s obvious that when Wood is in the backfield the Irish are running the ball.

  6. Give the Cardinal credit. But when we needed our D to get a 3 and out if failed. This is how you lose momentum.

    Let’s get a TD.

  7. We’re on the brink of losing all the momentum we’ve built. ND needs to win this game because playing like this we’ll certainly lose on the road to OU and USC. Lose this game and I can see things unraveling on us. Come back and win this game and the momentum continues to build.

  8. By the way, you might as well throw hendrix in there, it is pretty obvious a running QB can gash these guys. Just have to hold on to the freaking ball.

  9. AH is not going to happen.

    To answer your question, fxm, BK isn’t the genius people think he is. He’s pedestrian. Besides, like I’ve said, this is a gimmicky O. I’d rather have the Stanford O system. Line up and hit people in the face and move the chains. Get inside the 20 and score TDs on the ground and off play action. Gunner K. would be ideal in that system.

    I hope we can comeback and take advantage of WVU’s loss (if they do lose).

    1. I agree about the O, right now it is a “taint-O” taint spread or power. He better get his act together, because I can’t imagine Diaco not being picked up at year-end.

  10. I actually think this is more painful than being a West Virginia fan (check out their first half). If you look around the country explosive offenses are a dime a dozen and special Ds are rare.

  11. Our over-rated O line is getting man-handled once more. What a disappointment this group has been when it has played any team with a minimum of D talent. In addition to getting a ST’s coach, BK should be in the market for a new O line coach. This unit is a joke!

    Hopefully, our D does something to win this game. I don’t see our O doing much of anything this game.

    Dare I say it: Is it TR time?! God this is sad to even contemplate.

    I had a bad feeling about this game with all the hoopla. NBC hour special. College Game Day on campus.

  12. I just deleted two paragraphs of rant. I will just leave on this, how is it in year 3 we have made zero progress on offense. We actually pat ourselves on the backs for not turning it over.

  13. Wasted year of eligibility for Davonte Neal as he perfects the Art of the Fair Catch. Goodman or Riddick couldve done this. Also Kelly refuses to let Cierre Wood get any touches which is a Joke.

    1. i m not sure if Cierre would do anything that Theo hasn’t to this point.

      i think its more the play calling and awful over all blocking by the Oline.

      stanford seems like their blitzing 3 quarters of the time
      …the best way to counter that is screen plays and delayed runs.
      stop putting golson in situations were he has to think so much. lets get some quick hitting plays up the seams

  14. When you settle for FGs you lose!

    Red Zone trips need to net TDs at least 75% of the time.

    The Steelers will probably not make the playoffs because of bad Red Zone O. Lose this game and ND will most likely not play for a BCS bowl because of bad Red Zone play.

    I’m getting that sick feeling in my stomach I’ve had for over 20 years. I hope I’m wrong, but….

  15. the irish are losing this on their own merit…

    ….but i HATE having to deal with the other team’s conferences’ refs in our own stadium. always have.

  16. This was my comment above from yesterday: “I would highly recommend he “seek professional help” and hire a pro to focus exclusively on special teams and not do it by part-time committee. I bet in the long run it would give you 1 more “W” a year, and I think that is worth a couple hundred grand.”

    In addition, it might just be my impression but I feel like the Irish and Steelers kick way too many field goals.

  17. Like I said get an f’ing Special Teams coach, BK!

    Our season is going down the drain because of bad Special Teams play and no running game.

  18. irisheye62,

    Welcome back for an exciting season! Thank you for the kind comments, however, SteelFanRob, irisheye62, Jack, JTRAIN, DELTA, SCAV, Todd Swisher, Chris, bj and Sad Warrior would certainly all make better assistant coach choices over me! Especially, with their excellent technical football analysis. Further, I enjoy reading yours and theirs before each game, makes for great insight before we even kick-off!

    I am also very thankful to this site for all the great posts and opportunities to respond! Frank and Kyle represent high quality ND football information and expertise no can duplicate.

    Here come the Irish!

    1. Whoops! Add storespook and C-Dog to my list. Sorry guys, my sometimers kicked in.

      While I’m at it incert “one” (last sentence): ‘no one can duplicate.’ Over due for more coffee!

      Here come the Irish!

  19. JC–right on the money again. I just watched Mark May before watching local High School results in our area. The man hates ND–and does not even realize how insecure he is coupled with his arrogance. I bet his wife is glad to see the back of his head in the morning as he leaves the house. For Stanford to win they will have to play a stronger d. —ND wins have been a result of good d. Luck is now somewhere on Sundays. Distractions are in the favor of Palo Alto. The hunger will be the key factor. We cannot look ahead. This October is tough–more so than anywhere else. Good running game, a special teams return combined with a non symphony crowd spells success. It would be great to see another game without a TD. It would be even greater to see Mark May eat humble pie for a change as conceit and know it all is his middle name. ( It’s not his hate for the Irish-it’s how he says it over and over. Hate the Irish? Stand in line. Arrogant galore? Stand in front with the so called expertise of Mark May.) As for ND, just keep playing the good d. and as the very wise Steel Fan Rob said—return punts and stop the returns. We need Steel Fan and JC as assistant coaches. Let’s just win folks. Win big–we can do this! BTW, Mark arrogant May said “Stanford was smart.” What is Notre Dame? In his world it is chopped liver but last time I looked–the Undergraduates and the Grad Schools are making moves up the ladder and then some. Top 20 ( and higher) in the nation in Academia–and consistenly–and even higher than that. So Stanford is smart. Bully for them. So are We. BTW, next time we play the tree –,let’s do so in November for obvious reasons when they come to South Bend. GO IRISH!!!!!!!

  20. Amen Frank,

    “Avoid the distractions,” Big Time! Further, all three of the ESPN College Gameday smucks (Lou not included of course!) are only here for a…”I told you so moment.” These guys would rather hate ND than eat ice cream. Not to mention, there are bigger match-ups around the country so why are they here? Easy, they want to be on board if there is any chance whatsoever we might lose. Unfortunately, most ESPN commentators are incurably self-absorbed and self-proclaimed college football experts with obvious narrow vision. Many of them are already red-faced being wrong in our march to 5-0! So I will definately enjoy watching their dismay again when we are 6-0.

    Here come the Irish!

  21. …with a defense this good I’m fine with the fair catches at this stage in the rebuilding process. The risk/reward of fumbles or penalties vs some yardage isn’t worth it on kicks under 40 yds. My issue is wasting D.Neal for a year on something J.Goodman has perfected.

  22. I’m convinced BK is not interested in returning punts. I’m beginning to think that all BK wants is to field punts and get the ball to his O. This is very poor. The Irish O isn’t some unstoppable machine that can go 80 yards on a consistent basis. It would be nice to get a few decent returns to shorten the field.

    What ND does is send half its players half-heartedly at the punter and let the opponents go upfield unchallenged. The other half seem to get caught somewhere between the line and the return man. The return man has no blocking and very little choice but to call a fair catch or try to get as many (or few) yards as he can on his own. I just don’t understand this punt-return alignment. It hasn’t worked since BK’s been at ND. It’s time for a philosophical and strategic change here.

    1. That would be unfortunate if thats the case…special teams are an integal part of the offense and defense and close to Lou’s heart. Say it aint so…I do agree however the results on the field speak otherwise… GO IRISH!

      I believe this is a signature game. NEED to get this Stanford monkey off the programs back toot sweet~!!GO IRISH!!!

    2. I think BK still has a “hang-over” from the Sparty fake field goal and seems so terrified of fakes in general that we end up with that weird looking, half-hearted, I am not trying to block the kick because I don’t want to run into him and I don’t want to set up the return because there might be a fake. I would highly recommend he “seek professional help” and hire a pro to focus exclusively on special teams and not do it by part-time committee. I bet in the long run it would give you 1 more “W” a year, and I think that is worth a couple hundred grand.

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