5 Things I Didn’t Like: Stanford ’12

Notre Dame Fighting Irish quarterback Everett Golson (5) fumbles the ball in the end zone as Stanford Cardinal linebacker Chase Thomas (44) moves in to recover the fumble. Thomas recovered the ball in the end zone for a Stanford touchdown in the second quarter at Notre Dame Stadium. (Photo: Matt Cashore / US PRESSWIRE)

The easiest time to find things to not like in a game is after a team wins a hard fought, ugly game over a quality opponent. You still feel good enough about the win, but at the same time realize there is a lot of room for improvement and that is exactly the scenario we find ourselves in this week in the wake of Notre Dame’s overtime win over Stanford.

There was definitely a lot to like in the thrilling win, but at the same time, there was plenty of things that caused Irish fans to pull out there hair even though the end result was a win that snapped a 3-game winning streak for Stanford over the Irish that vaulted Notre Dame into the top 5 of the first BCS standings of the season.

Play calling with the offense backed up

There were so many things to not like about the play that resulted in Stanford’s only touchdown of the game.  Poor blocking, a lack of a sense of the pass rush  by Golson, the fumble itself, but in my opinion the worst part about that play was the actual play call itself.  With Notre Dame backed up and struggling to move the ball through the air, why were the Irish passing in that situation to being with?

Notre Dame’s defense had been playing well up to that point so why risk a negative play at all if the defense was playing well and you have the lead?  Kelly and Chuck Martin have run the ball more than in the past at times this year, but that was one call that really backfired on them by resulting in the first touchdown scored on Notre Dame since the fourth quarter of the second week of the season.

Ball security from Everett Golson

Everett Golson took a big step forward against Miami, but that progressed stalled some against Stanford due to three lost fumbles – the aforementioned fumble in the end-zone, a botched handoff, and a third lost fumble at the end of a great run after being forced from the pocket.  All three fumbles were extremely costly for the Irish and had Notre Dame not prevailed in overtime, all one would have needed to do to figure out why Notre Dame was no longer undefeated would have been to look at these three plays.

Golson’s fumble in the end-zone directly led to points for Stanford since they recovered it for a touchdown while the other two came with the Notre Dame offense moving the ball.  Golson has shown flashes at times this year – he even showed some flashes on Saturday despite the miscues – but he’s also shown signs of being a first year starter who didn’t play at all last year as well.

The worst part of Golson’s fumbles on Saturday are that they could prevent Kelly and Martin from calling designed runs for Golson – a component of his game that is slowly starting to be a very potent weapon when the play ends with Notre Dame still in possession of the ball.  Those runs by Golson have also seemed to help settle him into games making them even more important for the success of the Irish offense.

Too many false start penalties

When playing at home in front of your own fans, you just can’t have as many false start penalties as Notre Dame had last weekend.  Notre Dame ended up with five false starts – all on the offensive line against Stanford.  With road contests coming up this season in Norman asked Oklahoma and in Los Angeles against USC, Notre Dame is going to have to clean this up or it could back to bite them.  Luckily for the Irish on Saturday, none of the false starts prevented Notre Dame from eventually gaining a first down on the same set of downs, but that might not be the case in the future with that many procedure penalties.

Lack of any return game

At this point, it is fair to question what type of priority is placed on the return games by the Irish coaching staff because it has been a year and a half since there has been any semblance of a punt return game.  There was a lot of excitement regarding the punt return unit when Davonte Neal won the job in fall camp, but so far this yea the speedy freshman has not been able to stretch his legs on returns because there hasn’t been anywhere for him to go.  Neal is too dangerous a returnman for him not to have broken a decent return or two already this year – especially considering how well the Irish defense has played in terms of forcing punts.

Blitz pick up by the Irish tight ends

It was a rough day for Notre Dame tight ends in the blocking department.  Stanford has some great pass rushers off the edge and they had their way with the Irish tight ends most of the day.  This is going to be an area to watch the rest of the season since the depth behind Tyler Eifert is as inexperienced as it is after Notre Dame lost Alex Welch for the season in training camp.  At times this year Troy Niklas has showed promise as a blocker such as two weeks ago against Miami, but Saturday he and Ben Koyack definitely experienced some growing pains.  Hopefully the Irish coaching staff uses Saturday’s game tape as a teaching point because the Irish tight ends likely won’t face a set of edge rushers better than what they saw against Stanford for the rest of the season.


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  1. i’d add the offensive line to that list. everyone seems to think the offensive is not that good but in the two games where notre dame’s offensive line outplayed the opponent they scored 50 and 41 points quite good for mediocre ofensive. in the games againist purdue, michigan and stanford the line was outplayed and notre dame struggled. it took relief pitching to win those games. if the offensive line can improve enough to get a standoff againist the rest of the opponents they could very well win every game. there is enough talent on the offensive to score a reasonable amount of points againist any opponent if they can get get some decent blocking. you have quarterback that has been up and down so far but in the games where he has gotten decent protection he has played well. you have one great reciever and several decent ones to go with him. you have four good running backs. so with some decent blocking they have proven they can score and with the defense they have i doubt they are ever going to have to get in a shootout with anybody. so come on line lets get some better blocking and fewer penalties.

  2. Come on… my first and foremost complaint regarding the “5 Things I didnt like about Stanford” is no frigging passes to the endzone on the 20 with 50+ seconds, with by the way, the best frappin’ tight end in the country!!!! Not one! Are you kidding me BK? That was the most gutless non call I have seen from the man! Aint no reason that game goes to OT.

    Bottomline the “D is for real – for sure! Awesome stand by the Irish! For anyone who has been reading last Friday, I told you all, my friend Jerry said no worries on the Stanford game. Jerry rules and HOW ABOUT THEM IRISH”??!!??!!?????!!!!!!

  3. Not sure that this has been said already, but it seems EG has trouble at home this season. We look at Purdue, Michigan, and now Stanford and every game Tommy Rees has come in to help. EG is much better on other fields that are not in South Bend (Navy, Miami, Mich. St.)

    All those fields have field turf or much shorter grass than in South Bend. It may be the pressures of the home crowd, but I think he is more comfortable with a quicker field.

    Maybe its time to cut the grass shorter now that we have speed. EG played on field turf in high school where he ripped it up too.

  4. I agree with all areas. As to EG, I fully expected some bumps given the lack of playing time he has had, but, he does need to figure out how he is going to hang on to the ball better and continue to gain that 6th sense of knowing what is going on in the “blind side.”

    What irritates me the most was the false starts and more so, the damn return (or should I say lack of return) game. Given we had a total of 2 yards all last season in this areaa, I am bit surprised more is not being done how scheme set-ups are being employed to help make returns a little more likely. It seems we have a high proportion of fair catches, balls in the end zones and minimal returns compared to other teams playing college ball. Slightly better than last year but that is a piss poor comparison.

    I think play calling will get better as EG progresses. If he stays healthy, I truly believe EG is going to be an outstanding QB. I agree, the pass calls seemed risky and sure enough, the Stanford D exploited that.

    Go Irish

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