5 Things I Liked: Pitt ’12

Notre Dame QB Everett Golston in game action during the NCAA football game between the Pittsburgh Panthers and the Notre Dame Fighting Irish at Notre Dame Stadium in South Bend, IN. (Photo: Matt Quinnan/Icon SMI)

While there may have been a lot to not like about last weekend’s win over Pitt – we’ll get to that later – there was still more than enough to be happy about Saturday night as Notre Dame improved to 9-0 for the first time in 19 years with a great chance to improve on that record over the next two weeks at least.

Dan Hicks doing the play by play for NBC

It i by no means a secret that I am not a fan of Tom Hammond as the play by play announcer for Notre Dame games on NBC.  I don’t think Hammond adds much to the games and in fact think he is a poor play by play commentator.  Call me narrow minded, but anyone who announces figure skating should not be allowed to announce football games as well.

Anyway, with Hammond unavailable this week, NBC tapped Dan Hicks to do the play by play and I thought it a refreshing change from Hammond – especially considering how excited Mike Mayock seemed to be the entire time Notre Dame was losing (more on this in my 5 things I Didn’t Like column).  This isn’t the first time NBC has had someone fill in for Hammond that has been clearly better.  For the 2007 home opener against Georgia Tech Bob Poppa filled in for Hammond and despite an awful game to watch, Poppa did a good job.

Maybe someone at NBC watching the game thought the same as me and we see a change, but after all of this time, I doubt Hammond will be leaving the booth anytime soon.

Everett Golson bouncing back in the 4th quarter

After Tommy Rees failed to spark the Notre Dame offense int he third quarter, Brian Kelly went back with his sophomore quarterback for the fourth quarter and despite one bad turnover in the endzone, Everett Golson turned in a hell of a final 15 minutes to lead the Irish back from a 14 point deficit.  Golson guided two touchdown drives – on top of a 3rd drive that ended in the endzone with the aforementioned interception – and even tacked on a two point conversion on the second score after Kyle Brindza missed an earlier PAT that kept the Irish down 8.

During that 4th quarter Golson looked about as comfortable as we’ve seen him under center for the Irish.  He was able to sling the ball more than he has in the past and was also able to run quite a bit when plays broke down.  We got a glimpse of what Golson could do for this offense when things click for him.  Golson is still missing some reads and hesitant to pull the trigger on some throws, but he is improving week to week and we all saw him grow up quite a bit in that fourth quarter.

Davaris Daniels emerging as the go to receiver for Golson

One of the most improve positions on the Notre Dame roster from week one to now is wide receiver.  Notre Dame is still lacking a legit go-to, #1 wide receiver but sophomore Davaris Daniels is starting to grow into that role and Saturday was evidence of that.  Daniels had a a career high 86 yards highlighted by a 45 yard bomb on a good old fashion scramble drill play.  Had Golson spotted Daniels a little earlier and led his classmate, the play would have been even longer and ended in a touchdown, but the play still showed the developing chemistry between Daniels and Golson.

TJ Jones and Robby Toma have done a great job for the Irish at wide receiver as well, but of the group Daniels has the most potential and he is starting to tap into it.  Look for he and Golson to continue to hook up on some downfield passes over the next few weeks.

Notre Dame’s defense stepping up in the 4th quarter and overtime

Notre Dame’s stout defense looked a little shaky at times with Ray Graham gashing them like no other running back has been able to this year, but in the 4th quarter and overtime, the Irish defense seized control and shut down the Pitt offense.  After Golson’s interception with just over four minutes remaining, the defense was tasked with getting the offense the ball back and they did just that by forcing a three and out.

The Notre Dame defensive line came alive in the 4th quarter and overtime led by Louis Nix who played despite a bout with being sick earlier in the week.  It wasn’t their finest performance of the season by any stretch, but in crunch time, the defense found a way to make stops when they were needed and kept Pitt out of the endzone in overtime.

Kei’Varae Russell’s hustle

In a defensive performance marred by sloppy tackling by the Irish defense, Kei’Varae Russell’s hustle was able to save two touchdowns on long Ray Graham runs that ended up saving Notre Dame points when the Panthers had to settle for field goals.  Had Russell not been able to track down Graham from behind, Graham would hav likely dashed into the endzone and Golson and offenses 4th quarter heroics wouldn’t have been enough.

Because he has played so well this year I think people tend to forget that Russell is starting at one of the toughest positions to start as a true freshman and he is doing it after being recruited to play offense.  If there is an unsung hero on this team, it’s got to be Russell.


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  1. We have the worst radio and TV play by play duo in all of the country. Not even close. I find it absolutely painful to listen to the Irish since the legendary Tony Roberts left, and Hammond is just outright embarrassing.

  2. Frank,

    EG played fantastic, contrary to those who instead gave full credit to our coaching Messiah at the expense of EG’s elite talent.

    EG was never rattled, only our coaching Messiah and his perfect season was! EG has arrived, especially after last week! Unfortunately, the same coaching chaos continues. If this QB coaching madness continues, without question it will cost us a game.

    Yeah, you bet the results are hard to argue with, I did’nt see BK’s A$$ flying over the goal line or TR’s!

    Here come the Irish!

    1. Hard to argue with how BK has handled 2 QB’s.
      I did disagree with TR starting the second half last week. That to me was his first mistake with the QB’s and I for one would rather just see EG play out the year.

  3. Four factors in ND’s game performance will cost them the NC unless they are immediately addressed.
    1. Red zone play calling. We need to stop relying on individual athleticism;
    2. special teams. One third the game. Our punt and kick off return schemes are awful.
    3. QB progressions. We’ve left too many wide open receivers while throwing into tight double coverage
    4. Squared away game management by the coaching staff. Unforgivable mistakes in substitutions, delayed play calling, time out and clock management, double numbers, etc. The coaching staff needs to affirm and ensure that THEY will never lose a football game.

    Fix these over the next two weeks and the rest will take care of itself. We can win it all.

      1. I don’t think redzone offense is the issue, I think a young QB who can be inconsistent at times is the issue. BK needs to stay with him and let him play a full game. Also out of Golson’s 11 turnovers 10 have come at home. He has played his worst football at home. They need to figure out why he is having this issue.

  4. Gidday from Down Under again Frank and as usual enjoyed the article. I think many have made too much about Pitt game as a let down by the team but after Stanford/BYU/Oklahoma it was not an “impossibility” that any team may not be up for its fourth game in 4 weeks. Now let’s look at the positives of season to date. 9-0 and top list of recruits “jumping on board” as team gets POSITIVE nationwide coverage for first time in years. Golson ‘growing’ with each down he stays on the field (if he stays injury free) could make people forget about Dennard Robinson in next few years as he is a much better passer and I think we will see MUCH MORE of his running prowess. Next year the secondary loses Motta and Teo but regains Wood/Collinsworth/Slaughter et al and may have a couple of Blue Chippers like Redfield/Alexander also in the mix which would make for depth we could only have dreamed about this year. For a change in tact could you list the possible starters for NEXT September that will/could come back for 2013. Not including New Recruits but maybe some of the current red-shirts (if you think they would be good enough to start in 13′) as well as any possible 5th yr seniors who COULD come back. I think it would surprise many Irish supporters to see how many of this years team could start NEXT YEAR. Thanks again mate. Cheers Dale

  5. Delta,


    I think Tee left due to academics, however. Apparently the kid’s HS coursework suffered from grade inflation and the ND load was too much for him. So to save face for Tee, the rumors started about some kind of health concern.

    Too bad. I think Tee loved ND and would’ve been a solid contributor.

  6. Darby. Shepherd. Greenberry. Lynch. It would have been great to have these guys. But, things have a funny way of working out. Its obvious the guys playing now love ND, are RKGs, support eachother and their play is greater than the sum of its parts.

    Not saying the guys we lost are bad guys. But they didn’t want to be at ND for some reason. If you put one guy on that field irregardless or his talent that doesn’t play with his heart or his head securely with the team and we are not at 9-0.

    Thanks to crazy equations and ridiculous polls, ND may not play for a national championship this year. But make no mistake, this team is special. A perfect cohesion of the right guys with the right coaches at the right time. As a long suffering but continuously believing fan, I won’t question the fates and destinies the put this team together

  7. It cant be overstated how important Lousi Nix is to this defense. Nothing against Schwenke but the offensive linemen for Pitt didn’t have to double Kona and were getting to Manti freely. Nix eating blocks is a must for Manti to be at his most effective. That’s why Ray Lewis always praises Ngata in Baltimore makes it much easier for him to rome when he is eating up blocks.

  8. I was just thinking, Aaron Lynch just has to be kicking himself at this point! It is a shame he lost ND and ND lost him! This would have been his defense next yesr with Manti gone and man how much more awesome would the Irish be this year if he was still around??!! …Aaron..Dude,… bad move!

    1. Or you could look at it that he felt that being a MAN and owning up to his responsibilities was more important than football. Any ND fan that criticizes Lynch for his decision really has no understanding of what ND values are all about.

    1. Really? This 9-0 team makes you miss two 8-5 teams with Floyd?

      No doubt Floyd was the best wide receiver ND has had . . . but I wouldn’t trade him for 5 losses.

      1. Joey,

        Disagree totally. Darby is already a lock-down CB at FSU.


        No doubt ND would be better this season on O with Floyd than it has been without. For starters, teams simply couldn’t double Eifert like they’ve been doing. Second, MF didn’t play on D the last 2 seasons. D was a large reason ND lost 5 games. MF also didn’t play QB the last 2 seasons. Another reason ND lost so many games.

        So, yes, I’d love to have Floyd this season.

        But all of this is idle talk anyway since he was ineligible to do so any way.

      2. You dont get it Patrick. Teams are doubling eifert and taking him out of the equation. Daniels, smith , jones arent even close to making the impact floyd made in the passing game. And BTW losing darby, shepard, and greenbary were huge losses.

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