Initial Analysis: Notre Dame 17, BYU 14

stephon tuitt byu
Notre Dame Fighting Irish defensive end Stephon Tuitt (7) sacks BYU Cougars quarterback Riley Nelson (13) during the first quarter at Notre Dame Stadium. Notre Dame won 17-14. (Photo: Matt Cashore / US PRESSWIRE)

For a couple of quarters it looked like Notre Dame was going to fall victim to a classic let down/trap game.  Coming off an emotional win over Stanford and with a showdown with Oklahoma on the horizon, the Irish came out flat against an inspired BYU team that nearly made enough plays to derail Notre Dame’s undefeated season.

A ground game that came alive in the second half and a defense that survived the first two offensive touchdowns it had allowed in 17 quarters, however, powered Notre Dame to its first 7-0 start since 2002.  Here are some initial thoughts on the Irish’s latest victory.


  • I have been very adamant about Cierre Wood getting more carries each week, but Theo Riddick played out of his mind today and was one of the few players on offense that didn’t come out flat.  15 carries for 143 yards including – many of which came after initial contact.  Yes, Riddick got caught behind on a long run from behind, but without #6’s tough running today, Notre Dame loses.  Hands down, this was Riddick’s best game of his career by far.
  • Cierre Wood was good again this week too with another 100 yard performance thanks to an 18 carry, 114 yard effort.  Wood is still averaging over 6 yards a carry on the season.
  • Tommy Rees started off really good by hitting Tyler Eifert 4 times for 73 yards in the first quarter alone, but then failed to connect with him again for the rest of the game.  Rees has been great in relief this year, but quarters 2-4 highlighted his limitations when facing strong defenses.  After the first quarter, Rees completed just one pass.
  • Uncharacteristically, Rees also made a number of poor reads – most notably in the second quarter when he missed a wide open Eifert and then a wide open Robby Toma on back to back drives.
  • The offensive line had a pretty good game this week opening up holes for Riddick and Wood and paving the way for 270 rushing yards by the offense, but the false starts really need to stop happening – especially in the red zone.
  • Brian Kelly and Chuck Martin called this game like they were only concerned with winning the game and not gaining any style points by completely abandoning the pass on the second half.  Their dedication to the run game ended up paying off with Notre Dame taking the lead in the 4th and then running off enough time on their final drive to ice the game.
  • Andrew Hendrix’s cameo performance was a nice change of pace and showed why this offense is much more potent when the quarterback is a threat to run.  Hendrix only came in for two plays but converted a 3rd down with a 14 yard run on one of them.
  • Notre Dame should have scored a lot more points concerning they averaged over 6 yards a carry as a team.
  • The red-zone offense was, putting it nicely, poor this weak.  Rees was not at his best once the offense got down near the goal line today and as a result Notre Dame failed to score on two different trips inside the 20.
  • Just to reiterate, Theo Riddick played a whale of a football game and I will gladly eat a little crow for talking about how much I thought Cierre Wood should get more of his carries.


  • The touchdownless streak was bound to end sometime and I guess if it had to end, having it end on a busted coverage instead of just a bad play isn’t a terrible way for it to end.
  • Other than the two touchdown drives that the defense surrendered in the 2nd quarter, the defense held tough throughout the game and came up with several big plays to stop BYU drives.
  • Stephon Tuitt added another 1.5 sacks to his season total and now has 7.5 through 7 games.  He hasn’t been able to keep up the crazy pace he was on earlier this season, but at his current rate, he will still challenge Justin Tuck’s school record.  Tuitt has a couple quiet games on the sack front, but now has 3.5 the past two weeks.
  • Manti Te’o is building a Heisman resume and at this rate, I think there is a good chance he will at least be invited to New York that first weekend in December.  Te’o added another 10 tackles and picked off his 4th pass of the season.
  • Kapron Lewis-Moore might have played the best game of his career on Saturday.  He was very disruptive and his impact was felt from start to finish.  It was also great to see the 5th year senior captain teaching Troy Niklas on the sidelines after his personal foul penalty.
  • the 2nd quarter was a little rough for the Irish secondary, but they were bound to have some growing pains at some point.  They rebounded nicely though and played very well int eh second half.
  • It was great to see the defense wrack up 4 sacks after the pass rush had been slowed down a bit over the last few weeks.
  • After how well Danny Spond has played this season, it was nice to see him get his first career interception to end the game.
  • It was even nicer to see Manti Te’o get on the field for the last play of the game when Notre Dame knelt down to end the game.

Special Teams

  • Hopefully today was just an off day for Kyle Brindza.  He has been kicking extremely well this season, but he missed two very makable field goals that would have kept the Irish in the lead through most of the game. Next week Notre Dame won’t be able to afford missing opportunities like that again.
  • Don’t know what to say about the punt return game at this point.  Was there even a single punt where Davonte Neal had any chance for a decent return?

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  1. I sure wish Kelly would get Davonte Neal involved with the offense any way possible. Screen from backfield, short pass as WR, reverse etc. This kid is fast and with the lack of scoring production at times he can add to production.

  2. Rob,

    I agree with you. I guess I read the comments in general and got the sense that people are waiting for this offense to do a 180 one of these weeks and just open things up and start slinging the ball all over the field.

    I think we would have to win this game similar to how we beat MSU. Solid defense, a good running game, and just enough big plays down field to get some points on the board. I hope we bring back that delayed HB counter draw that we ran with GA3 against MSU this coming week. That is a sweet play and I don’t remember seeing it since our win in East Lansing.

    As for the QBs on the roster….. Not sure how all of that will play out. I think our first reaction is always that if a top QB recruit isn’t playing that it means he is going to transfer. Rightfully so, because we have witnessed that in the past. However, we weren’t winning football games either. I think if you build a competitive program, then you will start to bring in top talent who won’t expect to start as a 1st or 2nd year man. We may not keep all these guys, but ideally, you want to have enough depth at QB where they are starting their Jr. and Sr. seasons. USC was able to do it year in and year out and they were always National Championship contenders. So hopefully we have the right guys that are buying into the University and the Program BK is building. I could see EG eventually getting frustrated with his role if he is stepped over in future years. Hendrix isn’t going anywhere. I believe he is a pre-med student and is at ND just as much for an education as he is for a starting QB role.

    Should be interesting to see how it all plays out.

  3. Geoff,

    Agreed, although I don’t think anyone here suggested we try to match OU score for score. We can;t play like that.

    What I think scav, JC, and I were suggesting was letting EG use his athleticism on the OU D’s edges. That way as OU starts to cheat up to stop our RB trio and EG, we can take some shots with our passing game.

    I also agree with you that we have some nice young talent at WR for the future. We are also still in play for a couple of elite WR/ATH recruits.

    I don’t see ND being able to keep AH, EG, GK, MZ all happy. One or two will likely transfer. That’s OK so long as we keep the best 2.

  4. While everyone is hoping and praying for our offense to “open up” and come out clicking on all cylinders, I just don’t see it happening. Our team isn’t going to beat a top team in the air. We are a running football team. We don’t have the WRs needed to open up and spread the field. I think Daniels has great potential and in future years Ferguson, Brown, and Neal…. but it isn’t happening this year.

    Our recipe for success next week is to protect the football, run the football, and catch the OU defense sleeping for a couple of big plays. If we get into a shootout like the OU vs Texas game, then we are going to find ourselves on the same end as Texas did in that game.

    As for the future of Gunner, I hate to even talk about it because it is a year away…. but the kid is going to get his turn. We all know that Tommy and Hendrix are not the answers. EG is athletic and I really like the kid, but I don’t think he will be as good a passer as Gunner. Just relax and let this season play out. We have some tough football ahead of us….. this game next week scares the crap out of me.

    1. i think you are really underestimating EG.i see this kid being right up there with tony rice but being a better passer once he gains Just my thought. i could be wrong.

      go irish

  5. Excellent analysis, scav!

    I hope BK does exactly as you say. Open up the playbook. Let EG stretch both his legs and the field. I hope our O line got a big boost of confidence against BYU. That was a pretty stout run D they dominated!

    As for the D, they need to expect L. Jones to take some deep shots early like Miami did. We shouldn’t have to rely on drops, however. Be prepared to be tested vertically early and often. Be ready K. Russell.

    This would be the ideal time for Ishaq Williams to break out and complement Tuitt and KLM.

    If we beat OU, I wonder what the excuses from the national media will be? Would love to hear it!

  6. NBC has an article only talking about the success of the top four, and how dare an undeafted ND team move ahead of a one loss Bama or LSU? So don’t expect any gimme’s from the media. We either run the table to shut them up or hope for 10 wins. I like our chances on both issues! I like EG’s chances also of having a big game. EG certainly seems to favor away games.

    8-0 is the only goal this week!

    Here comes the Irish!

    1. I LOVE the fact it’s in Norman because right now, the Blue & Gold boys seem to play better away from home (EG certainly seems so). I already have a lot of friends telling me just how bad ND is going to get the shit smacked out of them because they are playing a “real team” for a change. Well, I’m here to say, that this game, I have a feeling, is not going to be a ND smackdown by OU. I recall BYU beating OU a few years ago when OU was heavily favored. We will definitely see just how the character of this team & coaching staff is, when the clock reached 0.00 in the 4th quarter of the game. I relish this opportunity to see the Blue & Gold boys getting to play OU.

      Go Irish

  7. Food for thought…Kelly has mentioned that Golson has been banged up even before the head injury.

    Do you think he wanted to give him a week to heal because we are going to see a big dose of read-option against OU?

    I’m sure Kelly and Martin have some things planned for OU that we have not seen yet. They know that the best way from keeping OU turning this into a track meet is by limiting their offensive possessions.

    If you get our 3 backs going and mix in some QB runs, ND will be hard to defend.

    I’m already excited about next’s week’s game and it’s only Sunday.

  8. Amen, scav, amen!

    What are your thoughts on the game?

    I think we need 75% TD execution on redzone possesions. Thus, if we get into the redzone 4 times, we get at least 21 to 24 points. Add another 6 to 9 points from drives that reach at least the OU 30, and that adds up to 30 to 33 points. I think with our D that should be enough barring any D or STs points against us.

    If things go according to this albeit ideal plan I say ND wins let’s say 30 to 24.

    Go Irish!

    1. My thoughts are simple, while everyone is saying that ND will not be able to handle the OU offense, I’m wondering how OU will handle the ND defense.

      Personaly, I think if ND comes out and punches them in the mouth so to speak, it will take OU out of their game.

      Jones does not perform well when he is pressured and I don’t think they have played anyone as talented as ND up front.

      I think OU will have a hard time scoring and I think ND will open up the run game with Golson running more read option.

      After playing against Stanford and BYU, I expect ND to find OU a little easier. I’m alos not worried about their speed because look what we did to Miami’s speed.

      Power football, running down their throat, and hitting the hard is the key to victory in my option.

  9. Patrick:

    If so, then BK should’ve not burned a year of elegibility for D. Neal to fair-catch or let the ball bounce in front or behind him. Theo Riddick or John Goodman can do that!

    Also, I’ve seen some long punt returns, but you’re right it seems the there are fewer punt returns in the college game.That doesn’t account, however, for what seems to be a regression in our KO returns.

    fxm: Agreed! I think next year Gunner replaces AH and TR as #2. M. Zaire will “redshirt.” The year after that Gunner competes with EG for # 1. Either way, I expect Gunner to see a lot of action the next 2 seasons after this one. After that, Gunner or Zaire will have a decision to make. This is all assuming of course that EG plays at a starter at ND level.

    I wouldn’t be surprised if in 2014 the QB depth chart looks like this: EG or GK, MZ. Each with several seasons of elegilibilty.

    1. Would love to see Neal get a shot at returning kickoffs as GA3 not done much this year and never even seems able t get back to 25 much. At least would give kid a chance to show what he “might” be able to do.

  10. Some contributors above suggest Gunner should transfer. Here is the problem. BK has offensive schizophrenia right now. Although not run by committee, the offense looks like a camel. What is it? I can’t tell if it wants to be Alabama or Wisconsin as opposed to Oregon or Arizona. So, if Gunner is going to be your QB you need a different type of supporting cast than Golson or Zaire. And you can’t change your philosophy based on your talent. Get talent that matches your philosophy. My humble opinion is he should give up on what he had to do to be successful at Cincy and go in the direction on offense that the defense displays.

    1. ND is slowly making the commitment to having read-option in the game plan. Therefore, this team is always going to need at least 3 decent QB’s due to the risk of injury.

      I agree with SteelFanRob, Gunner will probably move up the depth chart next year and I believe it will be Hendrix who gets bumped, not Tommy. Kelly likes his ability to get the team into the right play, so he will have his place next year as well.

      1. Right off the top I will say I have been a Nix fan from day one. The problem for every QB since Kelly arrived and put Rees in is that we can never see if “another” QB can do ANYTHING (eg get the team into the right play, run the 2 minute off. etc)because TR is always the guy ON THE FIELD. Saturday was a perfect example We only threw the ball 3 times in 3 quarters and still TR is the QB The kid cannot run to save his life. Nix comes in and almost breaks a 12 yd third run for a TD (ala Air Force) throws one complete pass and PRESTO back to TR. We get first and goal inside the 7 and we run 3 playes into the back of Braxton Cave because TR cannot run a QB option What is it with BK can’t he see any other QB is capable of doing anything required to play the position OTHER THEN TR??? Kid has one game plan Throw to greatest TE in America even if he is triple covered rather then check down to a WIDE OPEN TOMA or TJ for a touchdown. In reality with a Brady Quinn/Clausen at QB on Saturday we put up minimum of 5 TD’s and look a GREAT chance vs OU. Instead EG misses another chance to get exp he so desperately needs while TR spends a whole game handing the ball off to the best running offense in the country. If TR has to play vs a defense like Alabama we would never get a first down passing. Love being 7-0 but time for a “reality check folks” if TR can get on the field ND is never going to win a NC Period.

  11. From what BK is saying about the new rules for punt return placement, we just aren’t going to see many punt returns this year. He flat out said it just isn’t worth the risk, and what little returns there are in college, they are pretty darn tiny returns.

    Punt returns for ND mean making the fair catch in front of the ten, letting it bounce out behind nine and below. *shrug*

  12. It seems they were a little hungover from the win last week. But they found a way to win, that’s what good teams do. I think they will come out completely focused and ready for OU. BK has done a tremendous job with these young men, I expect more of the same this week. As Lou’s famous speech says “YOU GOTTA BELIEVE” 7-0 is nice but 8-0 will be great! GO IRISH, BEAT THE SOONERS!

  13. scav,

    An ugly win is better than a pretty loss. For now, that’s OK.

    Next week against OU the way ND’s played the last 2 weeks that won’t be enough. I hope I’m wrong. Or, even better, i hope EG and the O put it all together and ND not only hangs with OU but beats them. (It would also help if we could do something on STs!)

    Here’s what I’m saying, scav. If we get blown out by OU next week, everything that’s been done this season will be undone nationally. Perhaps not for you or for me, but believe me that Mark May and Herbstreit will have a field day. That’s why I want more and better. If we settle for “enjoying the process” (BTW: Does this “process” ever come to an end and we start talking about excellence?!) but lose to the OUs and USCs of the world, our satisfaction with the “process” will be small consolation. Perhaps you enjoy ND being a laughing stock as we enjoy the “process,” but I sure don’t!

    Enjoy 7-0. Yes. But don’t settle. Settling will not be enough to get us back to the top.

    I hope BK expects more of his team here and now than some ND fans on this site do!

    1. I appreciate the comments, but please don’t read into this as I’m settling.

      First of all, I really do not care what Mark May has to say especially when he is paid to antagonize Lou when it comes to Notre Dame. Also, if they are blown out, it changes nothing about what’s been done so far this year.

      Brian Kelly has changed the culture at ND and they believe they can win, which was not the case with the last 2 coaches. I don’t understand how losing to OU in Norman would cause them to be a laughing stock. It is one of the hardest places to win at in college football.

      My point is simply this, Brian Kelly has ND pointed in the right direction when it comes to bringing ND back into a consistent Top 10 program. I am not going to place all my hopes for this team on one game in Oklahoma. It will simply tell us how far this team has to go, but it will not be an end all for the season.

      As far as expectation, I do not think my expectations can be any better then 7-0 at this point, because last I checked, the record is all that matters. So they are not scoring 50 a game, they are holding teams to around 10/game and they are winning.

      For his career, Kelly has won over 70% of his games and is the 5th highest in wins for active coaches. Let’s start giving him some credit that he knows what he’s doing with THIS team. One of the best comments from his press conference was that he had to tell his team to enjoy this win because they were disappointed in how they played. That to me is a sign of a team that is not settling and of a team that expects more.

      So, I’m going to let the coaches do their job and correct the mistakes and prepare the game plan this week. I’m going to enjoy the fact that ND is 7-0 this week and I hope they win next week.

      No settling, just enjoying.

      1. scav,

        You may not care but that’s a very parochial view. It’s more than just about May or Herbstreit. It’s about everyone who will gloat about idiot ND fans saying we’re back and relevant only to lose another big game.

        Perhaps you don’t care about ND being made a laughing stock but many of us do care. ND won’t be truly back until we win a NC. That’s a sad but true fact! We won’t win a NC by settling for nothing less than excellence, scav.

        You seem like a reasonable person. I hope you realize that we fundamentally agree on what we want, namely, seeing ND great again. I also hope that some of us here aren’t being disloyal by holding ND football to a very high standard on the field.

        Thanks for the imput, scav.

        I’m sure i speak for both of us by saying: 7-0, great job! Now go get # 8!!!

        GO IRISH — Beat OU!!!

      2. I am in agreement with you, I want ND to destroy Oklahoma and shut everyone up.

        However, if they don’t, it will not take away from everything they have done thus far. They out-muscled Mich State and Stanford, they made D Robinson look human, and they shut down Miami.

        I have made several posts talking about not looking at ND as being back, but rather, as ND arriving. ND will never be what it once was because college football has changed forever. With that being said, I truly believe that ND is arriving and will be a legimate Top 10 program for years to come because of the way Kelly is building the program.

        Hopefully, next week we can be discussing the fact that ND is 8-0 and OU was just another big step in the process.

  14. In response to D-train, that pass to Jones at the 7 was an audible. Look at the formation they came out in and then Rees audibled to that on his own. Maybe there has to be a limit to when he can change the play, but it was a bad audible and an even worse throw.

  15. Here we are on a sunny October morning and Notre Dame is 7-0 and ranked #5 in the BCS. Yet as I read some of the articles and forums this morning, if I didn’t know better, it seemed like ND lost.

    I have to admit that I was doing some of my own analysis after the game on where this team needs to improve. Then it hit me, this team is 7-0, so just enjoy the moment. Really, if someone would have told me that this team was going to be 7-0 going into the Oklahoma game with a secondary that lost Slaughter and Wood, a redshirt QB, and this schedule, I would not have believed them.

    But this team continues to impress me because they are tough and seem to play better in the second half. This team ran for almost 300 yards against a team that was only giving up 80/game. What makes this even more impressive is they did it running the same play over and over again.

    The identity of this team is pretty simple, defense and run the ball. Kelly understands that is the formula for success for this team. We are not going to see a wide open offense, it is going to be smash mouth football.

    Next week is going to be a great indicator to where this team is, but win or lose, I’m extremely proud of this team and the direction Kelly is taking it.

  16. Mark May said the boys of Blue & Gold are going to get their beatdown come primetime by OU. We’ll see Marky boy, we’ll see just how wrong you will be.

  17. true grit, the team won despite an illegal criminal act against golson last week and some bad lapses, they never gave up, a real fightin irish teAM

  18. To all the people who trashed me last week for saying Golson is a better QB then Rees I think yesterday proved that point.

    For my money I think Hendrix should have started. He is more mobile and has a cannon for a arm.

    What’s going to be interesting going forward into 2013 is what will Kelly do with Gunner Keil? You don’t sign a 5 star kid to sit on the bench and to that thought what about Malik Zaire?

    1. Don’t be surprised that GK will end up leaving when he sees the writing on the wall that EG and MZ (when he arrives)will be ahead of him. I could be wrong and don’t forget the fair hair wonder boy (AKA TR) will be around too.

      1. That will be interesting to say the least. Golson has shown that he can play the position and I chalk the mistakes up to be a first year starter. Malik Zaire they say has a high celing but will definitely be red shirted. Kiel will be the wild card. I am not sure what the fascination with Rees is. I was on board last year but it became readily apparent what his limitations are. Oh well, 7-0 is a good place to be

  19. I have a question concerning the use of Reese, why? I would have loved to see an offense with Hendrix running the ball like the kid from KSU. Power running with a powerful QB. If EG can’t go than put in Hendrixand shove the ball down their throat. Remember OU had trouble with KSU’s run game, plus it keeps OU’s oftenest off the field.

  20. I get the sense Riddick comes to play every day in the same sense Golden Tate came to play every game. I’ve noticed this since game 1. I’ll take more guys like him even if he doesn’t have breakaway speed. And he has great agility in traffic.

    1. Just entertain the thought for a second, as i am suffering from jetlag and awake at 2am in London, finished reading all the articles on the net about ND.

      What if BK was sandbagging it this whole time, knowing he could get by with a limited playbook, until OK? And then come this saturday, he opens her up, and BAM!

      Just a fun and silly delirious thought that would be the only explanation i can come up with regards to our offense as i try to fall asleep. Still excited about 7-0 anyway! Go Irish!

      1. Leo,that is a clever observation. Coach Kelly is a master of psyops. I am sure he will have a few tricks for the Okies.

        Go Irish! Hooah!

  21. In response to the previous comment, I really think that all our offense will have to do next week is not turn the ball over more than twice and score 3 TDs to beat OU. I think Jones is going to get rattled when the pocket collapses and do what he did against KSU. I don’t think they’re going to score more than 20 points on us because our defense is that good. Good defenses almost always shut down good offenses. Let’s hope that happens next week.

  22. Pretty much said it all Frank. We must lead the nation in missing OPEN receivers for touchdowns while we keep trying to FORCE it to Eifert in triple coverage. We CANNOT beat Okla/USC with an off that cannot score 20 pts and I don’t care HOW GOOD ARE D is/has been. Barclay in particular will throw 4-5 TD’s to Woods/Lee with our secondary coverage Last 3 games in particular should probably have given up 2 passing TD’s to Miami/Stanford/and BYU if their Qb’s were of Barclay’s standard. Kelly pass call to Jones that went out of bounds when we had ball inside 7yd line after bull dozing BYU down the field with our running game has got me mystified. That was like his call in Tulsa game Imagine if that is a pick 6 good by BCS. Nix should be in every time we have ball First and goal inside 10yd line He makes opp. anticipate a pass or QB run as well as hand of to the I back With Rees it is OBVIOUS he will NEVER run so they load up for our guys. Diaco will have t hole his nerve and blitz like first half vs FSU in bowl game last year and keep it up for whole game If Jones gets 4 sec count on any pass he will throw for 300 plus and Barclay for 400. If we could steal a win vs OU or USC (assuming we win games vs rest of schedule) this will have been a FABULOUS year If we lose to either OU/USC by 25 or more the old baggers will leap to the fore led by Mark May and Co. saying UND are same old same old. Would love to see a QB combo of EG and Nix only vs both OU/USC and let those 2 play ENTIRE game if we are going to lose at least see what they can do for the future vs QUALITY opposition No more TR please ONE COMPLETION IN # QTRS and that took a circus catch by Jones. Cheers

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