5 Things I Liked: BYU ’12

the riddick byu liked
Notre Dame Fighting Irish running back Theo Riddick (6) battles with Brigham Young Cougars defensive back Joe Sampson (1) in game action. The Notre Dame Fighting Irish defeated the Brigham Young Cougars by the score of 17-14 at Notre Dame Stadium in Notre Dame, IN. (Photo: Robin Alam / IconSMI)

Notre Dame squeaked out a three point victory on Saturday in a sloppy game in which they made more than their fair share of mistakes.  The Irish were able to overcome those miscues though and end up on top at the end of the game – something the 2011 squad had major issues doing.  So, while there were plenty of moments that had Notre Dame fans frustrated this weekend, there were also plenty of things to like about Notre Dame improving to 7-0 on the season.

Theo Riddick’s tough running

I don’t care what Brian Kelly insisted, Notre Dame came out flat against BYU.  Saturday was a classic letdown/trap game and the Irish nearly had their perfect season derailed by a solid, but hardly spectacular BYU team that was playing much more inspired football – at least early on.  One player for the Notre Dame offense that came to play, however, was Theo Riddick.  So far this season Riddick has taken some heat for producing a much lower yards per carry average than his fellow running backs while still receiving the bulk of the carries. Saturday Riddick showed why the Irish staff has stuck with him as the go to back though with a 15 carry, 143 yard performance featuring several tough runs where Riddick turned small gains into crucial first downs strictly because he refused to be tackled.

Riddick did get caught from behind on the longest run of his career – a 55 yard jaunt where Riddick should have been tackled at the line of scrimmage – but without the tough running of #6, Notre Dame probably loses yesterday.  After Riddick’s tough runs the Irish offense showed some signs of life before taking the lead and then chewing up enough clock on their final drive to put the game away.

Notre Dame grinding out another win

It wasn’t pretty, but not every game is.  Sandwiched between one of the most emotional wins in recent Notre Dame history and the Irish’s first trip to Norman, Oklahoma since 1966, this game had trap written all over it and Notre Dame played that way for the first three quarters.  The Irish moved the ball, but misucues, penalties, and sloppy play resulted in Notre Dame piling up some yards while scoring just 10 points through the first 45 minutes of the game.  In the fourth quarter though, the Notre Dame offensive line stepped up and paved the way for Riddick, Cierre Wood, and George Atksinon III to lead the Irish to the go ahead score.

Not every week is going to be pretty and sometimes you have to win ugly.  Every great season has its fair share of close calls and hopefully that is all the we saw  Saturday – a close call where Notre Dame almost got caught looking ahead.

Stephon Tuitt and the Notre Dame pass rush reemerging

The Notre Dame pass rush was excellent to start the season, but had slowed down a bit the last two weeks against Miami and Stanford.  After registering 14 sacks through the first four games of the season, the Notre Dame defense collected just one against the Hurricanes and Cardinal.  This past weekend though, the Irish defensive front started to reassert itself and got to BYU quarterback Riley Nelson four times led by big #7 – Stephon Tuit.

Like the rest of the defense, Tuitt got off to a torrid pace with six sacks in the first four games.  Over the last two weeks, however, he picked up just one.  Tuitt changed that with 1.5 sacks on Saturday to push his season total to 8.0 and he is now back on pace to challenge Justin Tuck’s single season sack record (13.5 in 2003).

The key for the pass rush with Notre Dame has been generating pressure with just the defensive line.  Tuitt, Louis Nix, and Kapron-Lewis Moore were all at the top of their games against the Cougars – a  very, very welcomed sight with the toughest challenge of the season just a few days away when the Irish defense faces Landry Jones and Oklahoma’s high powered offense.

Brian Kelly committing to running the football

Never thought I would be talking about how Brian Kelly’s commitment to the running game was the difference in a ball game after his infamous remarks following the Tulsa game in 2010, but here we are two years later discussing a second half of football where Notre Dame threw the ball just three times while grinding out a win. Kelly and Chuck Martin stuck with the run and wore down the BYU defense when it became clear that Tommy Rees wasn’t at the top of his game and that the BYU defense had the Irish ariel attack bottled up after Rees got the Irish off to a hot start through the air.

Rees connected with Tyler Eifert four times for 73 yards in the first quarter alone and it looked like Notre Dame would be off and running Saturday.  BYU adjusted though and Rees would go on to complete just one more pass after the first quarter.  Kelly and Martin realized this and stuck with the run until the offensive line eventually took over and Riddick and Wood began to gash the BYU defense.

Two years ago Brian Kelly does not play this game like he did on Saturday.  Two years ago he would have kept chucking the ball all over the field.  As we’ve seen in many areas though, Kelly has adjusted his style to match his team and the result was a win that Notre Dame probably wouldn’t have picked up if this were 2010 or 2011.

Bob Diaco and the Irish secondary’s adjustments

The touchdownless streak was bound to end at some point and in all honesty, it might be a good thing that it ended this week so that it was not something hanging over the defense heading into Norman this coming weekend.  It was, however, a little concerning to see the Irish secondary get hit for two touchdowns on back to back drives in less than three minutes though – even if one of the touchdowns came after a Tommy Rees interception.

After going 17 consecutive quarters of football without allowing an offensive touchdown, Riley Nelson tossed two touchdowns into the Irish secondary in the span of three minutes.  So, after 255+ minutes of football without letting an opposing offense cross the plane of the end-zone, BYU did it twice in less than three minutes.

What I liked seeing here, however, was defensive coordinator Bob Diaco refusing to hit the panic button with his young secondary and adjusting to what BYU was doing.   I liked seeing that young secondary refuse to flinch by regrouping and keeping BYU out of the end-zone and off the scoreboard for the final 30 minutes even more.  That second quarter was really the first bit of adversity the secondary has faced all season and they stood tall, dusted themselves off, and went right back to playing sound football.

That is the sign of a well coached, disciplined football team and I might even go so far as to say I loved, not just liked seeing that.



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  1. Jack-You are dead on concerning the defenses OU has faced. That is there achilles tendon, as well as the Big 12 defenses in general.Thus, this game will be predicated with patience. The Okies will surely try to stun ND right off the bat with a long bomb or two, kind of like shock and awe. EG and the run game will be the essential recipe for victory.

    Speaking of defenses! If I was Landry Jones I would be more than concerned about the constant carpet bombing that would be coming my way on Saturday night. He is not mobile and tends to become rattled when attacked.

    Oh yeah! Go Irish! Hooah!

  2. That 27-point average is misleading. 90 of those points came in two games – leaving about 17 average in the rest. Will 17 points beat OU? Maybe. Can the Irish score 17 against OU? Maybe not.

    1. Bruce B,

      I think if you look at OU who have they played with a top ten defense? I don’t even think KSU was a top ten defense. It will come down to ND’s defense holding OU under 20 points, if that happens ND wins. I also think if it get into a game that is decided in the fourth qt. ND will be able to wear down the OU defense and pound the football. If ND can handle the offensive explosion in the first half they have a good shot at winning the game. This team is not built to come from a 2 td deficit.

  3. I have reviewe OU’s schedule, there one loss and their roster. If ND does not commit turnovers and plays their style of game they can beat OU. KSU created turnovers and ran the ball on OU. OU is not a very stout defense. They are light in the linebacking core and defensive line. ND should be able to pound the rock against OU. On their offensive line they have had injuries. People also need to realize that the defenses in the BIG 12 are not very good and give up a lot of points. I see ND being able to run the football on OU and control the clock. If they are able to do that they can win the game. I am not predicting a victory, but I feel if ND gets them to play their style of game OU will lose. If OU is able to get the ball a lot ND is in for a long day.

    1. Jack:

      PLEASE -I HOPE you are RIGHT!
      Oklahoma is good–but last time I looked–so are WE! Running game, nothing fancy, no silly and stupid penalties we received at BYU ( all deserved to our beloved Irish) and special teams -close to perfect–and we can do this-on the road or Not! I believe this! I hope you are right Jack! WE ARE ND! GO IRISH!

  4. The O line will need to check in for this game. I see EG probably having to play his best game, including much more running (both design and scrambling) than what he has done up to this point. The D continuing to increase achieving what they have done so far. I see OU throwing aggressively on offense. Pash rush and blitzing will be important. OU is beatable in Norman, just ask Kansas St.

    Go Irish

  5. We were averaging 27.3 points a game prior to BYU. Not only will the defense have to have a great game with bump and run coverage but the offensive line must bring their A game and give time to Golson and open some holes! This would be a good game to break EG out of the pocket. That however might be doubtful given his recent concussion issues. 27 points however just aint gonna cut it. Throw on first downs and throw often. The offense play calling last week telegraphed consistantly and was pretty predictable. When they DID throw on first down – great things happened but as in years past they went away from it.

    What I didnt like about the game was not giving TR the hook. I felt Hendricks would have been much more effective as there was clear space in front and behind the BYU linebakcers all game. Taylor made for Everett – too bad he didnt play.

    I actually feel pretty good about this weeks game providing EG starts. Hoping the Irish are finally contenders and not pretenders. BK said “We will play everyone – anywhere”. Well, hey, here it is – get at it IRISH!!!

    1. I do think that holding OU to 21 points or less will be a victory for ND. It is very likely that OU will have to create yardage and points IN THE AIR. I just don’t see them doing it on the ground. Kansas State is the best defense they’ve faced and they were not able to get ground production. ND’s run defense is markedly better.

      Golson’s performance will be absolutely critical and can’t be overstated. If he has a breakout game, I do not see OU’s defense holding us below 21 points. Just my opinion.

  6. I did not like what I saw. The game was highly predictable from an offensive point of view. We certainly just got by in a low scoring affair like last year. We take the same slow motion approach against OU without any offensive firepower at a resonable level, (21-24 points) we lose. We cannot trail in this game!

    Now I am very curious, especially with a huge game on the line, will BK pull the plug early on EG and put in TR at the slightest “game panic” situation? We absolutely need EG’s wheels for almost the entire game. If EG can lead us to 21-24 points, our defense has a chance to keep OU one step behind us! Albeit, we will feel the heavy breathing on us for the whole game.

    Here come the Irish!

    1. Read it & tis worthy of a post:


      “ND is meant to play in these games. Risk vs reward, this is what we all wanted to be relevant again, so lets see what they do with the opportunity.”


  7. I actually liked what I saw of the game. Yes, Notre Dame was sloppy in the first half. But the sign of a good team is the ability to recover and they did. Frankly it’s also likely to wake them up for this week and get them focused to play on Saturday.

    I liked that the offense became very methodical in the second half. Patient but giving a 100% effort. The defense put the clamps down fairly well too.

    You think of how the offense might come together. Golson rested, practiced, ( possibly always game planning for Oklahoma even last week ), and Rees play solid. Golson will be looser away from home. And now we’ve established a running game again. That balance should pay off. The coaches need to keep the kids edgy, but not nervous. Things will go wrong this Saturday, but I like the chances if the team doesn’t panic and sticks to a game plan.

    If Notre Dame can hold Oklahoma within 2 touchdowns early, and can move the ball at all early, look for a grinding methodical run game to keep Oklahoma’s offense off the field in the second half and to wear down the Oklahoma defense. Those are big unknowns, but if we see those things start to unfold, the game is going to be close.

  8. I’m pretty sure Spond has been playing over Williams because he is much better in pass coverage. We haven’t been needing to send linebackers for a pass rush because our front has been doing the job. I did see him in on a few plays last game though. Next man in…it’s nice to have such talent, even as backups!!!

  9. Is Ishaq Williams playing at all?

    If so, would be nice to have him step his game up this week.

    We’ll need all the pass rush we can get on L. Jones!

    1. They claim they can’t find him any minutes because of Shembo playing so well. Seems like a crazy physical specimen to be sitting. And, if you are going to sit an athlete like that, Don’t waste his eligibility playing in clean-up time when you hardly ever kill anybody to let them get enough work to justify it.

      1. I agree. Rest Shembo for a few plays or a series at a time. Having a fresh defensive player late in a game is invaluable.

    2. He has played some but he backs up Prince Shembo and Prince has been having a hell of a season so unfortunately Ishaq is not getting the PT he did when he backed up Fleming last year. He will get his turn and possibly more the 2nd half of the season. It’s a good thing when we have a player playing so good that it’s keeping a guy like Ishaq off the field.

    3. This is Ishaq’s second year. He’s had opportunities to make plays, but he hasn’t produced. He made a play against Navy, but that’s about all I can recall. The dude was a 5 star recruit. He needs to get it together.

      1. George,

        I have a feeling he was a bit over-rated given his poor level of HS competition. Plus he was learning a new position.

        I hope we can get a bit more production from him this season to give him some momentum heading into next season.

        Can you imagine of Williams and Smith both reach or exceed their expectation levels? Imagine these guys cleaning up for Tuitt, Nix, Day!

      2. By Smith I’m referring to stud OLB recruit Jaylon Smith, who I think will be to the OLB position what Manti T’eo was to the ILB spot

      3. Yeah, it seems like NY is pretty weak for recruiting. Jarron Jones was getting ripped for playing against poor competition too.

        Jaylon is going to be an absolute stud!

        I wonder if Kendall Moore is ever going to get into the mix

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