Initial Analysis: Notre Dame 20, Stanford 13

Notre Dame Fighting Irish linebacker Manti Te’o (5) celebrates after Notre Dame defeated the Stanford Cardinal 20-13 in overtime at Notre Dame Stadium. (Photo: Matt Cashore / US PRESSWIRE)

Wow.  After celebrating Notre Dame’s latest victory – a heart pounding, seven point, overtime thriller – over Stanford, my heart has slowed down enough to put some thoughts down on the game and season thus far.


  • Evertt Golson at quarterback was a roller coaster ride yesterday.  The kid is growing up in front of us, but along the way he is having some growing pains – often times very painful.  Golson’s 23 yard scramble in the 3rd quarter was a perfect example.  No other QB on Notre Dame’s roster escapes that situation and gets that many yards, but he followed that up by losing his 3rd fumble of the game.
  • Speaking of which, Brian Kelly and Chuck Martin need to make working with Golson on ball security objective #1 for the rest of the season.  Golson is showing that he can be a very dangerous runner, but if he can’t hold onto the football, that will be a weapon that he won’t be able to use much because Kelly and Martin won’t call designed runs for him.
  • Stanford’s lone touchdown that came on Golson’s first fumble of the game featured some rather poor blocking, but at the same time, Golson has to feel that pressure and not lose the football there.  And anyway, why was Notre Dame passing the football there if Kelly has expressed concerns over Golson’s handling of the football in the past?
  • In general, why was Notre Dame chucking the ball all over the field yesterday when they were having success running the football?  Cierre Wood averaged 5.5 yards per carry and George Atkinson III averaged 7 and they combined for just 15 carries.  It might sound like I’m beating a dead horse here, but Theo Riddick averaged just 3.8 yards a carry and got 12 by himself.  Still cannot figure out for the life of me why Wood isn’t getting more carries.
  • I’ve been talking about how much I’ve liked the play of TJ Jones for weeks now and he keeps impressing.  If and when the Notre Dame passing game really starts to gel, Jones is going to put up some great numbers.
  • Yikes, how did I get this far into this post without talking about Tommy Rees?  If you aren’t happy for #11 this morning you don’t have a heart.  Rees has received far more criticism than he’s deserved from Notre Dame fans (from this blogger included) and still, all the kid does is come off the bench, complete 4 of 4 passes while capping off the game tying drive after Golson got hurt and then engineering the game winner in over time.  For all the criticism he’s gotten, he deserves more than his fair share of the credit for this year’s 6-0 record.
  • Notre Dame has some weapons at tight end in the receiving department to replace Tyler Eifert at the end of the season, but yesterday showed how much improvement they need in the blocking department.  Very rough game for Irish tight ends from that perspective.
  • Speaking of Eifert, wow.  What a catch on the pass from Golson.  Efiert’s numbers have been effected by the growing pains of the offense, but that touchdown catch could be put on an instructional video for how to catch a ball at its highest point in coverage.  Is there a football equivalent of the Tom Emanski tapes?
  • Without calling anyone out individually, let’s just say there might be an offensive lineman that is running some extra sprints this week after repeated false starts.  You just can’t make those kinds of mistakes when you are facing a tough defense and are having trouble moving the football.  That needs to be cleaned up ASAP.


  • Wow.  Just wow.  Don’t know how else to describe this defense at this point.  Any remaining questions about how good this defense really is are getting answered every week.  Stanford’s offense is far from a juggernaut with the questions they have at quarterback, but the Notre Dame defense went blow for blow with a very physical football team and didn’t allow a touchdown for the fourth week in a row.
  • Think about that for a second.  Notre Dame has gone 16 quarters without allowing a touchdown on defense (since Stanford’s lone touchdown was scored by their defense) and they have done it against quality opponents.  Michigan State.  Michigan.  Miami.  Stanford.  16 quarters.  0 touchdowns.  Wow.
  • Manti Te’o is playing out of his mind right now.  For all the talk about how he turned down millions of dollars to return, he is actually making millions of dollars each week because he is skyrocketing up draft boards at this point.
  • I wrote a lot this summer about how concerned I was about the secondary.  They have put to rest those concerns with another stellar outing.  Zeke Motta had an excellent game yesterday with 9 tackles and Matthias Farley had by far the best game of his young career with a pick and a huge tackle for loss.  Bennett Jackson picked off his 3rd pass of the season and Kei’Varae Russeell was hardly seen because Stanford wasn’t throwing at him.
  • Danny Spond really is the unsung hero of the Irish defense this year.  I really don’t think there is any coincidence that his return has coincided with Notre Dame’s streak of not allowing an offensive touchdown.
  • Props to Dan Fox for coming up with a huge tackle for loss too.  Like Rees, he has been  whipping boy on all of the Notre Dame forums, but he played very well yesterday.
  • Through six games, Notre Dame has allowed just 52 points – the best 6 game stretch to start a season since 1976.
  • This defense is just playing lights out football right now.  It’s tough to really analyze because there are only so many ways to describe just how good they been.

Special Teams

  • Ben Turk was having a great bounce back game in the first half with three 40+ yard punts, but then hit back to back 37 and 36 yarders in the second half when Notre Dame needed to start wining the field position game.
  • Kyle Brindza wasn’t asked to kick any long field goals, but he was asked to kick a pretty pressure packed short one with less than a minute to go and he came through.
  • Both return games looked weak again.  Notre Dame has far too much speed and explosiveness in their returnmen for both the kick and punt return units to not be making a positive impact for them.


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  1. bj-We watched that hit over 50 times on some very sophisticated equipment. The db dropped his shoulders and then head into a rather helpless EG. Intentional? Without a doubt. The officials should have kicked him (db) out of the game. Criminal? Hard to say what was in his mind or if a coach had instructed him to do just that should the situation avail itself; as it did.

    Give Tommy Rees kudos. That is one cool dude under fire. He is key cog in this teams mantra. Very confident hombre. He will be EG best tutor.

    Can I mention the horror in Mark ‘The Oneonta Oaf’ May’s face upon learning that the Trees had been chopped down? I hate to see a grown man cry but hey, hey!!!

    Now on to the Cougars. Go Irish! Hooah!

    1. It was definitely a personal foul, helmet to helmet. I kind of doubt it “intentional”. I think Shaw is a class act and Stanford plays very hard and smart ball. In regards to May, it’s hilarious watching his reactions every week as ND keeps proving him wrong! Of course he is going to say Taylor got a TD on 4th down. What else can he claim, when his analysis about ND as a team has been wrong all year!

      Remember a few weeks ago he said, “If Notre Dame goes to a BCS Bowl I’ll dance around in a leprechaun suit in this studio.” So will that be XXL Mark?

      1. JDH-I’d say more like XXXXXL-that is one overstuffed Oaf! Warwick Davis will be cringing at the sight of the Oaf dancing!!!

        Go Irish! Hooah!

  2. THE OFFENSIVE LINE NEEDS TO HIT THE WIGHT ROOM, AT THE END OF regulation they were completely done, it used to be just the opposite, nd would wear the othr guy down. play calling is so weird. aND NO SPECIAL TEAMS HEROICS?

      1. Haha exactly. Check out the video on this site that shows BK’s halftime and post-game speeches. He specifically talks about how hard the team has been WORKING IN THE WEIGHT ROOM, and it’s that kind of toughness and ethic that allows you to win close games. I’m seriously doubting a HC gives credit where it is not due. Guess again.

      2. And is it possible they were “completely done” because it was probably the most physical football game of the year, in the entire country?


    1. Oh without a doubt bj! I heard the young man was arrested this morning. Turns out he is a wanted fugitive in 15 states.

  4. The biggest differance i see in the defense and why they are so good is that they hit-plain and simple they hit you every play. I was always very dismayed on how many ND defensive players of past would leave their feet to try and make tackle. Not this defense. They hit with full body force the way it should be.

  5. Great job by the defense again. Here I was worried about the secondary, silly me.

    Golson is coming along. I agree with others, coaches need to work on ball security, but part of this is new quarterback growing pains. It’s funny to think the media was trying to make out a quarterback controversy when Rees was put in the Purdue game. Andy Staples on SI put it best last week in his Power Rankings. He gave kudos to Kelly for how he has handled the situation, making it clear time and again that Golson is the man and there is no controversy. And you can see it each week, the play book opens up a little bit each week. Golson is going to be deadly next year.

    Funny, last year, I started having just a seed of a doubt about Kelly. While I’m not ready to see ND give him the 10 year extension quite yet 🙂 he certainly has put my doubts to rest. He focused on the defense and that has paid incredible dividends. If Weis were still at ND, we’d probably already have 3 to 4 losses this year.

  6. the biggest problem with the offense is the line. they have been manhandled by at least three of the teams played.

  7. These are the kinds of games you need to win to have a championship season. Seems like the good teams have these things turn their way and this year those things appear to be happening. Awesome defensive stand.

    Oh, and I don’t think Tommy was 4 for 4 was he? Wasn’t the pass thrown to Eifert near the end of the game that drew the pass interference penalty incomplete? I don’t recall him catching that pass. So he might have been 4 of 5.

    Someone needs to inform Golson to shift the ball to the arm closest to the out of bounds line. That last fumble may have gone out of bounds had it been in the correct arm. He really does run carelessly with the ball.

  8. I can’t recall the scores of the last 3 Stanford games but know ND was man handled. That goal line stand will easily be the moment ND fans point to as the symbolic turn around to the program. There’s a good liklihood of going 9-2 but that game and that goal line stand feels like a defining moment.

  9. I have a feeling that Cierre Wood, despite his obvious running prowess, may just be a poor pass blocker, a poor receiver, or both. Ask yourself if Wood would’ve even been close to catching that pass in overtime that Riddick caught.

    I also don’t see the criticism in the tight ends in pass-blocking, as the criticism should be solely towards Troy Niklas.

    Finally, Louis Nix was probably the most valuable player in that goal line stand. It was during the play of which Nix had to go out that Stanford made it to the one-inch line, but once Nix returned the Irish line didn’t budge.

    1. The point on Cierre is well taken, however, Cierre averages 2 more yards per carry and Atkinson has about the same yards as Riddick with 3/8 of the carries. So, I guess in Kelley’s eyes we don’t have a “complete back” because Riddick doesn’t produce enough from a pure run perspective.

  10. NDfaninmonterey,


    Lot to improve on O and ST.

    But let’s not get too ahead of ourselves. Perhaps we may have the best D. Perhaps. Let’s see what happens at Norman and in LA.

    But we are far from the best TEAM. Our O is inconsistent and our STs are nothing special.

    Let’s look for improvement and enjoy the process, like BK says.

  11. How do the running backs get into the flow of the game when they only get 8 to 12 carries a game. Give Cierre 18 to 25 carries a game and use Riddick out of the slot. It is baffling to me as to why Kelly continues to use Riddick the majority of the time. Riddick must be a better blocker because he certainly isnt a better runner.

    1. Lou Holtz used to use 4 to 5 different running backs in one game. The more players you use, the harder it is for the opposing team to game plan for you beacause not all players play with the same style and all players have different strengths and weaknesses. Having said that, your best players should be the first players to play.

      1. You have to use your players in a way that will help them and your team succeed. That way is using your players strengths to their advantage and not putting them in a situation where they and your team will not succeed.

    2. Riddick is being rewarded for not smoking weed like Cierre and leaving the team without a RB for two games, he let the team down and is still in the doghouse for it as he should be, the guys who are comitted to the team are the ones who should play.

  12. I am happy that we are 6-0, but we must get better in the areas I mentioned above if we want to be the best team in the country!

  13. The offensive play calling needs to improve! I want to see a dynamic, creative and dominate offense! Our offensive line play needs to improve, also! Why is the running back being handed the ball 5 yards deep in the backfield? Running holes and lanes close fast! The lineman have to hold their blocks longer and we don’t use a fullback. Why are we not throwing screen passes, slants, bootlegs, etc.? What about the flea flicker, reverse runs, end-a-rounds and misdirection plays? The defense is holding up its end of the bargain. Let’s get it going offense and special teams! We need to start trying to block punts and need to return punts!!!

      1. Because he is the 4th RB on the depth chart. Pretty easy to figure that out. What you should be asking is why isnt Cierre Wood getting more carries.

      2. I agree. GAIII needs more carries, too. Cierre Wood should have cut that carry in he had in the 2nd half up into the hole instead of bouncing it outside. He would have had a nice gain. Did you see that play? Cam McDaniel is very good running back. I have high on him since he was being recruited by Notre Dame. He is much, much better than his position on the depth chart. He has very good vision, is decisive and never gives up. He is one strong runner!

      3. Totally agree. The Woods non-usage needs to be answered. Something is not adding up here. And Atkinson – was he hurt?

    1. I agree about Cam McDaniel. I hope to God he doesnt get buried in the depth chart next year with that transfer RB from USC coming. It would be a huge wast to turn him into a DB or something. Do i think it might be risky just making him the #1 guy, of course. I just think that so far our running game hasnt been that great so why not give him one or two carries once in a while as a change of pace to see if he can do anything besides garbage time. Run Cam Run

  14. Why does ESPN feel it necessary to put on the ticker after the ND score “a controversial goal line call.” To me there was nothing controversial about it. They didnt rule it a TD on the field, they even reviewed it to make sure. Done deal. Why does it seem we cant get our due from the media or there at least seems to be more astericks with ND than with any other team out there in the papers and on tv.

    1. Because it doesn’t fit with their “We can’t talk right now because we’re too busy fellating the SEC” narrative. I think the controversy is non-existent. Taylor was stopped initially, then stopped again AND PUSHED BACKWARDS, then starts corkscrewing. While he’s corkscrewing the line judge waves his arms signalling the play is dead. Our players were celebrating because they saw that the play had been ruled dead. Only then did the ball cross the plane. You shouldn’t need a replay to confirm a TD when you are 1st and Goal from the 4.

  15. What another great recap. But then again, isn’t every recap great when we keep winning? I don’t know how to break the game down any better than Frank just did, but I’ll add a few comments.

    Golsen looked like he was playing backyard football at points in yesterday’s game. He was trying to scramble to buy time downfield and most times it just wasn’t working. We got the W, but he has to hang in the pocket a little more. I don’t put that fumble in the end zone solely on Golsen, although we do need to make sure we have a dumpoff pass available there if the first read isn’t available. Bottom line, Golsen still gives us better upside as an every down QB.

    With that being said on Golsen, you will not hear another bad word out of my mouth about Rees. I don’t know what it is about him, but he thrives in this role BK has created for him. Granted, his opportunity in the Stanford game was not by design, but nonetheless he was money. I still don’t know how he had the confidence to throw that slant to Eiffert, but he came through. Wow, what a throw that was. If Eiffert doesn’t get in front of that ball, the safety picks it and game is over.

    Not trying to be critical of Te’o, but he HAS to finish off that 4th and goal play in OT. If the whistle really blew, then that is one thing. But there have been mixed feelings on if the refs blew the play dead or not. Te’o needs to do a better job cleaning up the end of that play and making sure there is no question on whether the ball crossed the goaline. Fortunately, it didn’t bite us. It is nice to be on the winning end of such a crucial game.


    1. GeoffG, thanks for making the point about Te’o on the 4th down. Totally agreed. We had Te’o and others celebrating the stop while Taylor was still fighting for the goal line, leaving way too much to chance. Fortunately the replay went our way, but …

  16. ND overcame a HUGE obstacle today and that was can they match the physical nature of Stanford. ND proved beyond a shadow of a doubt that they are mentally and physically tough, which is something we have not seen for 20 years at ND.

    We can talk about the controversial call at the end, why Woods doesn’t carry the ball more (which I’m all for by the way) and Golson’s need for ball carrying instruction, but instead, I’d rather focus on the foundation Kelly is building this program on.

    We all thought that ND was going to be the Oregon of the Midwest with a high RPM offense that just outscored everyone. Well we learned when Weis was here and we saw yesterday when West Virginia got beat that while exciting, it does not build championship teams. I heard Kelly say this week that a high scoring team will get you a lot of wins but a top-ranked defense will get you championships.

    I have to admit that I thought this was the game where ND was going to get exposed on defense. I thought Stanford was going to be able to out physical ND and I was wrong. Now the last big test will be Oklahoma and we will see how this team responds to a true passing attack.

    6-0 and a likely Top 5 ranking, who would have thought at the beginning of the season. This team has bought in to the Brian Kelly message and I think the recruits are seeing what is going on as well. There were some decent recruits at the game last night, I wonder what they are thinking today. What defense player would not want to come and play on this defense right now.

    BYU is coming to town and could possibly be over-looked because of Oklahoma. My thoughts are the coaching staff will keep this team grounded, so I think 7-0 is probably going to happen.

  17. This defense and team is reminiscent of recent LSU teams. Fast explosive linebackers, speedy dbacks and a front that doesn’t give an inch. Despite minimal offensive help, those LSU teams have done pretty well.

    The goal line stand is a new Irish legend. Unfortunately, I am more convinced than ever that Diaco will be Arkansas, Auburn or some other teams head coach next year. Oh well, live in the moment. And at this moment its really easy to be green.

    Go Irish

    1. A major BCS school is going to have a hard time putting Diaco in charge of a team with no HC experience. Besides, who’s to say he even wants to be a HC. Some of the best DC’s in the country, Chavis comes mind, are pure and simple DC’s.

      1. I hope you’re right West. But I doubt it. The recent trend iss to hire young energetic coordinators. Florida went after a dc with no head experience. So did Florida State. Both are doing fine. And considering there will likely be 3 SEC openings (arkansas for sure, probably Kentucky and perhaps Auburn) and the SEC lives and dies by defense, I would be highly surprised if Diaco doesn’t get a call. Name a better young DC with recruiting ability and proof he can handle the exposure.

        Now, I agree I don’t know Diaco’s desire. Maybe he wants to be a Chavis or like the dc at VT. I agree he probably wouldn’t take a MAC type job. But I have a suspicion that if an SEC B1G Big 12 or PAC 12 school threw 3 to 4 million a year he would be hard to keep at ND.


  18. O-Line is not the “rock” that Cave described in the intros. The TD fumble I place on a combination of bad play calls and bad blocking. Yeah you can say he should have gotten rid of the ball faster but WHY are we running 3 straight shotgun pass plays out of our own end zone???

    Can’t agree with you more on Wood…why he doesn’t get 20+ carries a game is beyond me. And again with the bad play calls throwing all day, I know Stanfords secondary is weak but that doesn’t mean we should put all that on Golson’s shoulders when we are a pretty damn good running team.

    I am a huge critic of Rees and while it was great to see him come in and get us a win…can we all agree that Riddick made that play and TJ’s adjustment won us the game. The only good throw Rees made was to Eifert. Having said that Golson needs to be more like Tommy in one aspect…confidence. Put the ball up and let your playmakers make plays. Part of the problem lies in having getting pulled in two earlier games. I said it yesterday that it was nice to see Kelly finally let Golson play and learn how to win. He bounced back with a great drive and scored the only Offense TD in regulation. Mental Toughness.

    1. Haha, wow. Tommy put the ball only where his receiver could make the play. It’s amazing to me that some of you are still critical of his play when he is doing all the right things. He may be the MVP so far this year outside of Manti.

      1. Couldn’t agree more ChrisJ. The kid comes off the bench late in the game, helps lead the offense to the tying and game winning drives, and folks are still critical of him. Incredible.

        Rees has shown tremendous character this year and I believe he is one of the most important pieces of this team.

      2. Rees’s pass to Riddick on the sideline was a thing of beauty. I do not think Golson could/would have made that throw. Yes, it was a great catch by Theo, falling down etc. But he put up a rainbow and let his receiver find a way to haul it in. There is no question that Rees was not an ideal starter.

        But he’s found his niche. Golson’s confidence will come in time.

  19. Great analysis, Frank.

    Golson did fumble too often, but he was harrassed and pressured all day.

    His escapability and arm strength singles him out as the best option @ QB.

    I’m happy for Tommy, but his receivers bailed him out on two of the four completions.

    Tommy had a great pass against the blitz to the “7” in that final drive, though.

    The “D” is outstanding. I’d also like to see more touches for GAIII and Cierre.

    No game ball for the OLine this week.

    1. I completely disagree with you saying that Tommy’s receivers bailed him out twice. Tommy knows the right receiver to throw to every single time. He knows the athletes on his team are better than the DBs they are going up against. Why wouldn’t he just throw it up to them and allow them to make a play??? Two perfect decisions to Eifert (pass interference on a 1 on 1) and then to Riddick who was also 1 on 1. And both of these plays Stanford sent the house. He is a great decision maker and allows his guys to make plays. Golson missed so many opportunities with Eifert in 1 on 1 coverage, it wasn’t funny. That’s the difference with experience where Rees sees 1 on 1 pre-snap and changes the play to go that way, or even if the play is a hot route to another receiver, he recognizes the 1 on 1 with Eifert and throws to him anyway. Golson needs to learn this and do the same. Nobody is going to stop Eifert 1 on 1.

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