Duranko’s Digest: What did we see against Oklahoma?

brian kelly ok 2012
Oct 27, 2012; Norman, OK, USA; Notre Dame Fighting Irish head coach Brian Kelly celebrates a victory against the Oklahoma Sooners at Oklahoma Memorial Stadium. The Irish beat the Sooners 30-13. Mandatory Credit: Matthew Emmons-US PRESSWIRE

In a magnificent performance against the best football team on its regular season schedule, the Irish moved to a glistening 8-0. As if heeding the call of Jim Morrison, the Irish did, indeed, “Break on through to the other side” in the 30-13 win over Oklahoma’s proud Sooners. As the Irish flew home, they left behind not only a humbled Sooner team, but also doubt, irrelevance, mediocrity and skepticism.

Psst!! Lads, We’re back!!

As suggested here last week, the Irish had to survive the opening salvo. The Sooners attacked the Irish secondary from the opening snap with the best bevy of receivers the Irish have seen, with veteran Landry Jones at the top of his game. Jones used quick huddles, quick snaps, quick reads and quick throws with frightening accuracy. On the first two drives (wrapped around a Notre Dame three-and-out) Jones completed 9 of 12 passes for 109 yards to four different receivers. In the game’s first seven minutes! Yet, the Irish defense of Bob Diaco, aided by a haste-maketh-waste bad snap and a tipped pass by our dancing Irish Chocolate Bear, Louis Nix, did not break. Diaco, fiery on the outside is polar icecap cold, wrapped in Hattori Honzo steel, on the inside, had held OU to a “mere” 3-0 lead.

That lead lasted for 41 seconds, as Cierre Wood shot up the middle, bursting past the upcreeping Sooner secondary, bursting into the endzone 62 yards later, and bursting the hyperoptimism bubble of the OU fans. The game then settled in.

To start the second half the Irish offense scrapped and clawed to take control of the game. In two drives, they held the ball for 26 plays for 130 yards and over 12 minutes. The tone, the sweet IRISH tone, was set.

Even after the best Sooner drive resulted in a Belldozer touchdown to tie the game, the Irish millstones kept grinding the Sooners down, grinding slow, but grinding exceeding small.

The Irish defense was like a python. In the first quarter it observed its prey. In the second quarter, it made contact with its prey. In the third quarter it encircled and put pressure on its prey. In the fourth quarter it strangled, suffocated and killed its prey.

Persistence award-Kyle Brindza- the “next man in” after Tausch’s injury, he missed a field goal in the third quarter but then made two big ones in the fourth quarter.

Freshman of the match-Chris Brown-sure it was one play, but he fulfilled the prophecy: he took the top off the defense.

He’s a freshman? award-KeiVarae Russell

Best game of his career award-Ev Golson-did no harm (ball security when running!!) AND made plays.

Notre Dame plays football at a BCS Game level. This is independent of opinion polling and electoral preferences, which the parasitic BCS, preying on the college football host, was yesterday, is today and will be tomorrow.

This is an outstanding football team. Here’s a “Scouting Report.”

Notre Dame is led by a top-caliber defense, built on the foundation of a massive, quick, physical, hard-tackling front seven. The Irish secondary, purportedly young and vulnerable, has, emboldened by the front seven, come together, now ranking 11th in Passing Efficiency Defense. The novice Irish corners are not yet lock-down corners (but might be that in 2013) and are protected by a buffet of zone coverages.

Manti Te’o and Stephon Tuitt are worthy of being First Team All-Americas. The maturing Louis Nix at Nose Guard, and the fierce Prince Shembo at “Cat” (outside) linebacker are worthy of All-America honorable mention.

How do you attack this defense?
(1)-Neutralize (you can not overpower) the Front Seven
(2)-Attack the secondary early.
(3)-Mix the run in later. (a mobile QB helps you here)

The Irish offense is competent, but in big games, still rides on the shoulders of the defense.

Everett Golson, in his first year at quarterback, is no threat before the ball is snapped. But he has command presence, has an accurate arm to middle distance and is mobile enough to get running yards. He has an uncanny ability to keep his eyes downfield and complete passes after he’s rolled, moved or scrambled. He has an Achilles heel, ball security when he runs. He just does not throw interceptions.

The Irish have playmakers, but not gamebreakers at the receiver position. TE Tyler Eifert is the best pass-catching tight end in America. The wide receiver corps of Riddick, Jones, Toma and Daniels are sure handed vets, but none can rip the lid off the defense.

Running backs Wood, Riddick and Atkinson have power and speed and are elusive. They also block. The offensive line is mature and skilled, just one-half notch short of dominant.

Notre Dame is conservative on special teams. The priority is to avoid the fake, the blocked kick, the long return, and they do all three well. Atkinson returns kicks and can break one. Neal is the punt returner, but he mostly just fair catches the ball. Turk, the punter, and Brindza, kickoff specialist and fill-in place kicker are adequate and fairly consistent. Neither is an NFL player.

To understand Notre Dame we must add one other observation, usually not included in these scouting reports because it is both an intangible and rare. But this Notre Dame team has extraordinary team trust and unity, horizontally among the players across the roster, and vertically between and among the coaches and players. While difficult to quantify, it gives Notre Dame an edge against certain, and most, teams.

This team is clearly a BCS caliber squad.

It’s different this time.

The position on the battlefield and the mission, strategy and tactics change significantly for the rest of the season. Kelly’s task shifts. The first 8 opponents were real challenges, exhilirating enough to keep adrenaline pumping. This was especially true for a team scaling the escarpment from adequacy to glory. Tough challenges were confronted and overcome. Kelly’s job now is trickier, more subtle. “Success is more dangerous than failure; the ripples break over a wider coastline.” Graham Greene.

And the schedule is very quirky. There are the three ACC opponents, then Southern Cal, then a BCS game in which Notre Dame, in its thirteeenth game, should face its best opponent.

The next three foes, Pitt, BC and Wake are much weaker than it would have seemed when we saw the schedule. These frequent bowl teams, especially recently, are a combined 10-14, off their recent standards. So fighting overconfidence and lack of respect for an opponent is on Kelly’s checklist.

If you look at the five games, it seems like a hockey stick being held on a table with the blade up and to the right. The ACC three are the flat length of the stick. Then arrives USC, halfway up the blade, and the BCS opponent at the top of the blade.

CAUTIONARY NOTE: SC has a great roster. They do not have a great team. They are looking down the barrel of a green and yellow gun this week. SC might, MIGHT rally and come to Nov. 24th with a 9-2 record. Or not. Things could come unglued very quickly in Heritage Hall. The opponents after Oregon are ASU and UCLA. In the grand history of college football, we have seen many stranger occurences than a team like Southern Cal coming into our game at 6-5. Look closely at Kiffin, as his Adam’s apple jumps and beads of sweat dot his forehead. Again, they could be 9-2, or Kiffin could be fired after the Notre Dame game. Politically correct statements or not, Kiffin is not the cup of tea (remember, Mike Garrett hired Lane) of the very Catholic, the very moral, the very Rhodes-scholaresqu, the very Cardinal and Gold Pat Haden.

There are several areas where the Irish team can improve the next three games:
(1) Golson’s ball security when he runs.
(2) Boosting the intermediate to long passing game.
(3) Continued receiver improvement, including the backs and TES.
(4) Getting more DBS game ready for nickel and dime packages.
(5) Working on some blitz packages, just to have in the silo, even if seldom used.

(1) The good thing is that Pitt has a veteran quarterback in Tino Sunseri. He will be the first of three veterans in a row (Rettig at BC and Skinner for Wake) that will shoot at our secondary. Thank you. Throw us into that briar patch, please.
(2) Just enough Pitt running to keep our Front Seven sharp while they’re in, because…
(3) We should play a lot of depth on both sides of the ball. This is excellent for both morale and player development. Think lots of reps for Shumate, Brown, Atkinson, Baratti, Councell Grace, Moore.
(4) Golson, relative to recent weeks, passing more, more deeply, and running less. He seems frail and can’t take a lot of hits. Never the “Goldozer.”
(5) Diaco toying with some blitzes.

We conclude numerically:


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  1. patrick, only the mildest of nits. I believe this team has improved
    all season long, but it’s possible that they will not, literally “peak”
    but rather improve steadily. Tomorrow is All Saint’s Day, 11/1.
    They have a full 60 days until the BCS bowl game. They have great leadership from the captains, they are still hungry, and I think the team
    in the BCS bowl will be significantly better than the November team,
    PARTICULARLY on offense.

  2. Memo to self: Give the ghost of Joe Moore a wide path!

    Are you still doing two packs of Camels a day in the afterlife, Joe?

  3. I think quite a bit of the credit to the defense is their conditioning, and what Coach Longo has done in the weight room. These guys flat out FINISH games. No more sucking wind and hands on hips during crunch time. They are a well coached, well conditioned team, and these types of teams are what we see in the BCS year after year.

    1. The entire team’s training schedule has trained dramatically. Just one more thing that Kelly was mortified by when he came to South Bend. He couldn’t believe how *($@ed up Weis’s table was.

  4. This team is realizing what it can do over a 60 minute game. That is huge for maintaining composure.

    What this team can do is beat the snot out of it’s opponent, regardless of score. Look at how beat up the Oklahoma players were by the end of the game. On both sides of the ball. Their guys were limping and collapsing all over.

    Gotta love how their receiver completely lost his composure. He’ll be living out of a bag or in a crack house in a few years.

    The Irish cannot let down against Pitt. They need to put the game away early and mix reserves in as much as possible. They need to try things and execute them on offense. Creation of a potent offense before USC is paramount. Adding some wrinkles to the defense can’t hurt either.

    1. C-Dog, your last paragraph is right on. This team (and its fans, including myself) can not look beyond Pitt and better prepare as if Pitt was unbeaten. We don’t need another game like the 2002 or 1993 game against BC. Handling winning is just as important in handling losing.

      Go Irish

  5. I think this team is peaking at the right time. They’ve steadily improved all facets of their game and I think getting “hot” towards the end will help this historic run.

    As long as they focus on each week, take care of business, the rest will sort itself out. Of the remaining Top 5 in the BCS, Kansas State and Notre Dame have the easiest roads to going undefeated.

    I can’t see Alabama not being challenged by LSU, Texas A&M and the conference championship. Likewise, I can’t see Oregon not having a tough game against USC, Oregon State or their conference championship either.

  6. I was watching the BCS Countdown show on ESPNU, last night, and ND is still not getting the respect it deserves. They were talking about possible bowl matchups, and of course ND came up, and one of those clowns said, “Well, maybe Oklahoma was not as good as everyone thought they were”. What a load of crap! Just cause ND embarrassed them, that means that suddenly they weren’t deserving of their #8 ranking?? Give ND the credit they deserve, they dismantled #8 Oklahoma, and they did it in convincing style. I really hope they go undefeated, just to piss off some of these sportscasters who despise ND and then they will HAVE to acknowledge they indeed are deserving of a top ranking. GO IRISH and Beat the crap out of Mark May’s Panthers.

    1. Zeke-Mark ‘The Oneonta Oaf’ May is the Anti-Christ of humor and intellectualism. He is the poster child of that old saying ‘A face that only a mother could love.’ Time to ignore the Oaf.

      Beat Pitt! Go Irish! Hooah!

  7. All I can say is when you get em on the ground, keep yer foot on their necks! Lots of monkeys coming off this programs back this year! Focus will be key and we should execute without mercy against Pitt this weekend. These breather games coming up should be played with great intensity always trying to get to the next level. Play in these next 3 games will be a good gauge of how tremendous this team truly is. GO IRISH!

  8. The big breakthrough on OF was Chris Brown. For the first time this season, the Irish went deep and executed the play. This will change the OF from now on. Now we have a chance against USC.

    Now to go long 4 to 5 times.

  9. Looking at the weather back east, it looks like Pittsburgh/Western Pennsylvania is going to get the worst of the Tropical Storm Sandy tonight. That means the area will deal with loss of power, flooding and other foreseen and unforeseen damages. Thoughts and prays for those in the path of this storm.

  10. Michael, agree with you on Irish being difficult to prepare for.
    Just like you can’t simulate Denard, you can’t simulate the fire breathers with mass like KLM Nix and Tuitt.

    For Diaco, using the blitz rarely is even more effective than blitzing frequently.

  11. Right on the mark, Duranko.

    I especially like your call for “Diaco toying with blitzes.”

    ND is a nightmare to prepare for- how do you simulate a Teo, that front seven, an elusive QB who can pass while on the run in pre-game practices?

    Throwing in a few unexpecteds (such as blitzes) make us even more difficult to prepare for.

    But I do like the idea of making them stop our running game, whomever we play.

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