Duranko’s Digest: What did we see against Boston College?

While we had cognitive dissonance over Alabama’s loss to A&M, and while dreaming dreams and seeing visions of BCS glory,  we saw an excellent, big swift, skilled Notre Dame team, comfortable outside of South Bend, dominate BC with cold efficiency and cooler passion. The Irish, surprisingly leading D-1A in drives of five minutes or more, controlled the ball at will for the first three quarters, but squandered scoring opportunities with atypical fumbles from the running backs.

Kelly, know for audacity in seeking victory, coached as if he were merely avoiding a loss.  Knowing he had enough points with 21, he basically buttoned it up in the 4th stanza.

It was a simple formula, balancing the run and the pass, converting third downs, stopping BC’s run, letting Rettig’s receivers catch the ball, then tackling them immediately.  Diaco let Rettig dink and dunk, garnering less than 9 yards per completion (golson’s was a healthy 12 per completion).

For the fourth time this season. with Michigan State, Michigan, Miami the first three, the Irish D pitched not a shutout, but did not allow a touchdown.

Warm fuzzy feeling award: Goodman catching a touchdown pass Is this guy improving as much as we think award??:  Danny Spond




Defenses are entire units but the anvil and the hammer of this Irish defense is in its front seven.  The starters are filled with NFL prospects.  This unit will stop the run and not let you rely on it.  You are only allowed to run after you have established the pass.  The power of Tuitt, Nix, and KLM is daunting. They offer nearly a half of a ton of mass themselves, and they play with attitude.  There is enough depth, especially with the precocious Day, to  keep them fresh in the 4th quarter.

The linebackers are led by the remarkable Te’o, but the others are worthy enough of being on the field with him.  Shembo carries a sledgehammer onto the field, is a sledgehammer on the field after the whistle blows. Fox/Calabrese are a veteran duo, with Fox skilled at covering receivers, and Calabrese a sure tackler.  Spond has improved significantly this year, and can stay on the field in passing situations.

The unit is not a great pass-rushing group, but if you hold the ball too long….

The secondary has improved, and is still protected by Diaco with his cornucopia of zone defenses.  Their tackling has improved, and Jackson and Russell have improved in their man-to-man coverage skills.  They are among the top five defenses in America, whether by the eyeball test or statistically.

You want data? #1 in scoring defense (we’re haircutting the Tide because they played Western Kentucky and the might OWLS of Florida Atlantic), 10th in Pass Efficiency Defense, 8th in Total

Defense, 6th in Rush Defense.  REMARKABLE!


A New Year’s Day  Bowl Quality Offense.

Started slowly in September, breaking in a new QB, young receivers, and new blocking schemes.
The vet OL jelled after the September break and has led the offense.
The Irish offense has increased its  ability to engineer sustained drives, cleverly mixing running and passing.
The quarterback has grown, and has brought the young receiving corps with him.
Kelly enjoys playing  multiple TE packages, and while the nonpareil Eifert will sneak out on pass plays,
his blocking is now NFL caliber. The Irish are capable of wearing you down in the 4th quarter,
Stanford style.

This offense is improving throughtout the season. To justify their now higher rating, let’s examine some numbers.


Now, among you quants “data-mining” is a capital sin, but I’m about to commit it. We look at the data for the 4 September games.  Then we examine the string of games from Miami through Pitt.  We have calculated the averages for points, rushing offense, passing offense, total offense and compared them to the GROSS averages for all of D-1 through games of 11/3.  Here are the totals and the “pro forma” rankings.

In the first 4 games, the Irish AVERAGED 25.75 points, 19 First Downs, 140 yards per game rushing at 3.5 a carry, 211 yards passing at 57.5% completion average and 351 yards per game total offense.   The averages for the Miami through Pitt were 28 points, 24.2 First Downs, 231 yards per game rushing at 5.1 yards per carry, 201 yards per game passing at 57% completion rate for 459 yards per game.


Up from 25.75 to 28.  A modest 9% increase.  But if you throw out the two non-BCS conference teams, Navy early and BYU in October, the averages become 17.7 and 30 ppg.  This is a 70% jump in ppg. 30 per game would rank 55th in the nation.

First downs moved from 19 per game to 24.2 per game, a 28% increase, but more importantly, an extra first down per quarter is a HUGE difference in ball control.

Rushing yardage went from 140 per game to 248.4, a 77% increase. The rank would be 12th in rushing yardage nationally.  The more intriguing improvement is from 3.5 yards per carry to 5.1 yards per carry.  This is moving from a measurement on third down, to having gobbled up the first down in two plays.  It was never “three yards and a cloud of dust” it was “four yards and a cloud of dust.”

The passing yards actually decreased by 4% with the same completion rate.  The rank here is 90th.

The total offense increased from 351 per game to 459 per game, a 30% increase. 459 would rank us 30th in the country.

Now, note two things:  In the October/November traunch, we played three very good defensive teams-Stanford, BYU and OU, one competent one, Pitt, and a sieve in Miami.So these numbers came against sound competition.

Second, the final thing to arrive in any offense is red zone efficiency and, in Phil Steele’s favorite number, yards per point (like golf, lower is better)  This means you leave fewer points on the field.


Is this team done improving?  Again, we have the rest of the regular season and then 5 weeks between SC and the BCS bowl game.

The offense that takes the field in the BCS game will be a far better offense than the one that opened the season, and better than the one that played in October.  Stick around, this could be fun!


Bowl quality

The first principle is that we have, in deference to our defensive dominance, a conservative approach to special teams.

Brindza, subbing for Tausch, while gritty, has missed some kicks.

On the empirical side, Phil Steele’s blended ranking is as good as we have.  The Irish were 46th through the game of November 3rd.

We don’t win games on special teams.  We don’t lose games on special teams.


Many, like the Oklahoma Sooners, are taken aback by the sheer length and mass of the Notre Dame team.  Back when the regime began, Kelly and Diaco talked about the size (height) profile of the players in the front seven, the cornerbacks, et. al.  Kelly also mentioned the importance of Paul Longo.

The eye becomes indifferent to what we see routinely (do you really look at the paintings on the wall of your house?)

But each time the Irish take the field, they are never out physiqued.  And we often outphysique the opponent.  Football is not a contact sport, thank you Mr. Lombardi, dancing is a contact sport, while football is a collision sport.  And the Irish are well-equipped to initiate, withstand and prevail in collisions.

This will not go away, it will only become more prevalent.  For a glimpse, just examine the three 2014 commitments who are not yet in the second half of their junior year (which means that they, if they redshirt, will be playing in Longo developed bodies in 2018) They are Brent, Martini, Hayes, 6’3″ 196, 6’3″ 220, 6’5″ 270. BIG


The schedule giveth and the schedule taketh away.
Out-Miami, BC, Wake Forest
In- Arizona State, Air Force Academy, Temple

Two open dates-one between Arizona State and USC, another between Pitt and BYU.  We lose the advantage of opening with Navy and getting that out of the way, but we do, after SC, play Air Force and Navy back-to-back. So the defense will practice against the option for two successive weeks.

There are so many supervening, intervening events, coaching changes, attrition, injury, transfers. It would be  a fool’s errand to even attempt to project the relative strength of our 2013 opponents.  But as Elvis sung, fools rush in…..

THE BCS game candidates

Michigan, Oklahoma, Stanford, Southern Cal.  Only Stanford returns its quarterback, whether Hogan or Nunes.  This flips the script on the other three, as we bid adieu to Robinson, Jones and Barkley.
Let’s try this:

(1) Michigan-The key here is that Hoke is in his third year.  Some think he’s an outstanding coach, and we saw what Kelly did in his third year (overall improvement, record improves while breaking in new quarterback).  Hoke has recruited up a storm, and Mattison builds defenses.  Borges has had to work around Denard Robinson’s nuances.  Whether it is Gardner, workmanlike against Minnesota and Northwestern, or wunderkind Morris, Borges will have a serviceable quarterback next Fall.
(2) Stanford-a remarkable physical football team, rock steady.  While Shaw may be dropping off in recruiting, he has one more year of Harbaugh’s pipeline.  And remember that OL recruiting class of Garnett, Murphy and Peat.  They will be our final 2013 game.  It will be brutal.
(3) OU-will have skill players if they can find a QB.  They’ve known Landry is leaving, so we’d expect they will.  Mike Stoops will be in his second year and the defense will be better.
(4) SC-They are hard to get a fix on in 2012, who knows what they’ll be like next October?
We’ll be home.  Check the ball pressure.


Arizona State, Michigan State, Pitt, Byu.
(5) Arizona State-Kelly is only a soph, and Todd Graham, in 2010 at Tulsa, and in 2011 at Pitt gave the Irish all they wanted.  Expect him to hit JC recruiting hard. Neutral Dallas.  Hey, they always loved us in the Cotton Bowl!
(6) Michigan State-Dantonio produces the Big X’s most consistent performance each year.  They will be modest offensively and tough defensively.  Even with their massive defensive losses this year.  A tough out.
(7) Pitt-two extraordinary coaching stories in Pennsylvania this year, what Bill O’brien  did in State College, and Chryst stabilizing  the ship and then righting it at Pitt.  QB? Remember, he’s the one who brought in Russell Wilson at Wisconsin for his senior year.  Don’t bet against him going back to that well.
(8) BYU-Nelson graduates, and their new hero, Taysom Hill will take over at QB.  He will rush for a lot of yardage and many touchdowns.  But NOT against Notre Dame!


Air Force, Navy, Purdue, Temple.
(9) Air Force Academy-though they lost to both other academies this Fall, should be  the strongest.  Reason? Recruiting advantage-kids would rather prepare for a career in the airline industry than getting shot at in the Army.
(10)Navy-last seen in hot pursuit of the galloping ghost of Dublin, Stephon Tuitt, they are 6-3. Niumatalolo is a wonder!
(11) Purdue-sunk without trace this year, signature win over Marshall! Yikes!
(12) Temple-from the Golden Pastures of North Broad Street.  Do you bring kids for the campus visit at night?


(1) More than seniors like Te’o, Klm, Golic, Motta, who will be looking through  salty teary eyes and play accordingly.  It is a rite of November in South Bend.
(2) Kelly continues to expand the passing game to prepare for SC and the BCS game.
(3) Riley Skinner will stress-test our secondary, but they only get 3.3 ypc rushing against mere mortals.  Wait until they get a load of our front seven!
(4) Hopefully a lot of depth, a lot of young players. This will fuel their practice enthusiasm as we go through the next six weeks.
(5) A funny look from fans and players as they leave the stadium.  SC is next.

And we can assume NOTHING!

Go Irish!

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  1. Irish fan in Los Angeles her. Barkley is having an MRI tomorrow. USC announcers reported after the game a “pretty serious injury”.

  2. Oregon bounces the field goal try off the upright back in the field of play. The Cardinal win! Notre Dame now the number one team in the nation!!

  3. ND is #1!

    Most important game in a generation next week.

    Any news on M. Barkley?

    If ND wins it will most likely be ND vs. SEC champ.

  4. I’ve been playing on the PC too long. Just went to look at the Baylor/KSU game. KSU is getting smoked.

    Well,boys, it looks like ND has it’s destiny in it’s own hands. Oregon and Stanford going to OT. Wow.

    Any white smoke coming out of the chimney at ND. I am ready to nominate BK to replace Benedict Sixteen. (insert smiley face emoticon).

  5. If both lose and the Irish handle USC more than likely ND faces Alabama in the title game.

    I think we match up best with Kansas State. Any of the three would be one hell of a ball game. I am tired of seeing the SEC dominate the BCS. I guess I would rather see KSU win out and Oregon go down. If they get by Stanford, they have to deal with USC and UCLA. So who do you want to play in the title game?

  6. oregon and k state both having trouble so far

    -personally i don’t want BOTH to lose. obviously i don’t expect either one to blow it, but if i had a choice i’d only want one of the two to go down tonight.

    being #1 is trouble. heavy is the head that wears the crown, and all that.

    NOTHING matters right now other than the trojans. i’m perfectly happy being #2 up until and after that point. number two gets into the championship game just as much as number one

  7. That wasn’t a totally incompetent O the Irish shut out. The QB, WRs, and RBs have put up some big numbers against good (albeit not great) ACC Ds. Much more impressive than Bama’s shut out.

  8. usc losing AGAIN hurts a little bit (oregon too though)

    but overall couldn’t have asked for a better senior day

    –S.F.R. i agree, nbc did an excellent job today

  9. As much as I dislike the NBC game announcers, the network did a great job with the pre-game and senior presentations. Wow! Very emotional!

    Great start for the Irish. Keep it up!

  10. Laf Irish,

    Yes, very true.

    But I would go even further and say inside the redzone, esp. once inside the 10, we cannot continue to leave 7 points on the field and off the scoreboard. Sooner or later that too will be a win/lose factor.

    Beat Wake!

    Go Irish!

  11. Special teams, especially the field goal kicking hasn’t hurt ND. Not yet. They cannot continue to leave 3 points on the field now and again. Sooner or later it will be a win/lose factor.

  12. usc game is for alL the marbles

    IN 2005 USC’s 34-31 victory at South Bend featured the ILLEGAL “Bush Push” when Heisman Trophy tailback Reggie Bush pushed quarterback Matt Leinart into the end zone for the SO CALLED winning touchdown on the final offensive play of the game/ NOTRE DAME’S RETURN TO GLORY COLLAPSED AND went downhill for 7 yrs, dont let that happen again.

    1. If, when we spend 7 minutes driving down the field, which we will, it results in a touchdown, we may win. One thing that concerns me about this team in particular is we don’t really have that type of intense pass-rush to do to Barclay what Stanford did. I hope Diaco can work something out there. Someone has to put a hurting on Barclay for tose “quitter” comments from last year.

    2. Good point about the Stanford pass rush.
      They are currently ranked #1 in the country in sacks.

      ND? They don’t appear until all the way down the list at a woeful 12th in the nation with only 30 sacks on the season thus far. (for a measley 209 yards)

      Most of those sacks have come without blitzing.
      (Whats wrong with this Diaco guy anyway?)

      Next time you decide to watch a ND football game you might want to turn the TV on first.

      (For those of you who don’t know me… this is sarcasm at it’s finest)

      By the way, USC is currently ranked 5th in the nation in sacks with 37 on the season.
      That should be a bit more of a concern.

      Also, USC did not win the “Bush Push” game. The win was stripped from them (along with all the others) by the NCAA for cheating.
      And Reggie Bush is not a Heismen Trophy tailback. He rented it for a few years, tarnished it, then was shamed into giving it back.
      The good news is, that being such an honorable and stand up guy, it only took him a mere 7 years to do it!

  13. I would rather ND have a bunch of four star “team” players, than a bunch of 5 star “me” players.

    Besides… long before he can come to ND he has to prove that he can count to 21 with his shoes on and his fly closed!

    1. Clemson is ACC so he can probably do that much. Now that he is looking at the SEC…well, you know what the SEC players get on the SATs? Drool.

      1. There will be a list of USC decommits in the next couple of months. After Hayden fires Kiffin, the new coach will have to figure out how much he was offering all these guys to play at USC.

        I’m also tired of hearing about style points. ND defense is more impressive than Oregon’s offense!

  14. go get this guy/Nkemdiche

    Is ‘Bama or Ole Miss the Favorite for Nation’s No. 1 Recruit Robert Nkemdiche?By Full Ride(Senior Analyst) on November 8, 2012 39,899 reads

    the consensus top recruit in the country for the Class of 2013, has decommitted from the Clemson Tigers.

    Nkemdiche shocked the recruiting world back in June when he committed to Clemson, but now he’s back on the open market. Nkemdiche’s mother, Beverly Nkemdiche, has been unhappy with her son’s commitment to Clemson and has hoped he would switch to another program.

    1. I’m not sure on this guy. Definitely impressive athlete. But i recall reading he essentially blackmailed Clemson into signing pretty close to his entire high school team to get the commitment. Then backed out.

  15. With so many of us focused on this year’s success, very little has been said about recruiting.

    ND, somewhat quietly (if there is such a thing) has been on a steady climb upward in the Rankings.

    (Team recruiting rankings as of today)

    ESPN: USC-1
    Notre Dame-4

    SCOUT: Michigan-1
    Notre Dame-2
    USC – 3
    Tex A&M-4

    Rivals: USC – 1
    LSU – 2
    ND- 3
    Mich -4

    USC and Notre Dame are the ony two teams at this point, who made it in the top four in each of the 3 recruiting ranking services.

    As any ND fan can tell you, Febuary signing day is still a long way off.
    You’er gonna win some, and you’er lose some between now and then.
    But it is still pretty impressive!
    You might also think that to reach these high rankings that there would be a bunch of 5 star guys… but you would be wrong.

    1. Shaz,

      You’ll note I’ve commented on recruiting a bit. But thanks for the updated rankings.

      While it’s only right to focus on this exciting season and the games ahead, we shouldn’t lose sight of recruiting.

      Finishing #1 or #2 will probably mean ND gets all the remaining players it wants. BK will find a way to make room for them.

      We’re still in play for a couple of 5 and 4 star recruits. Let’s go get them! Unlike CW, BK knows how to get the best out of his talent.

      Go Irish!

    2. There are only a handful of 5-star recruits available every year and most of them cant read and write so they wind up at Alabama and USC. Kelly and his staff seem to be doing a great job of recruiting. Unfortunately that bowl loss to Florida St. last year probably cost us Darby, Greenberry, and Sheppard. My guess is that 2 out of these 3 probably cant read and write either so we would have lost them anyways. Lets hope this trend doesnt continue.

      1. jeff,

        That might be a bit harsh.

        Regardless, ND gets its fair share of elite real student-athletes. In fact, from what I hear, the problem with Tee was that his grades were inflated and he couldn’t handle the coursework at ND.

        I totally agree about the loss to FSU cost us those recruits. ND will due its due diligence to make sure all its recruits will be eligible. Mistakes will happen from time to time, however.

      2. Rivals 2013 recruiting class ranks only 22 players as 5-star. So far 11 of those 22 are going to SEC schools or USC. 6 are still undecided. Jaylan Smith is only 5-star commitment for the Irish but its still early and we could land a couple more.

  16. Agree 100% with majority of comments shown. Certainly can see the frustration showing in Neal on punts as he is desperate to do anything other then fair catch just to show what he can do. GAIII has shown little this year almost never even getting back to the 25 it would be interesting if BK was to let Neal return kickoffs as well as punts (since there are no returns there) to see what kid has to offer. I would think a duo of Davonte and Cam McDaniel would do a great job and wouldn’t mind the odd double reverse or throw back to opp side of the field just for SOMETHING DIFFERENT BK. Also now with Daniels out another chance to use Neal and McDaniel on bubble screens or long bombs to Neal ala Chris Brown who may take up some of Daniels patterns. We won’t be holding USC and Barkley/Lee/Woods to a couple of field goals and won’t have time to march 80 yds on each series if we get behind 14 pts. Would like to see a punter and another FG kicker for next year even if they are walk ons. Turk has done zero in his career a lifetime 39yd avg guy and Brindza is even a question mark on PAT’s and can’t get the ball into the end zone on kickoffs so what happened to that BOOMING LEG we heard so much about last year??

  17. Delta,

    STs have been a problem for 3 years. Last year GAIII masked some of those deficiencies. This year, for whatever reason, injuries, illness, Sophmore slump, scheme, combination of all these, he hasn’t looked the same.

    Good point about ND leading the FBS in 5 minute drives. Hadn’t occurred to me, but you’re right. It’s basic math.

    The Neal situation is infuriating. What a waste! Is that being negative or just realistic. I think the latter.



    1. Absolutely. BK came in and made D a priority and we see the results. O is apparently next in line and we see flashes of what can be…so hopefully that comes to fruition as well. ST just seems to be on the back burner. Usually as you increase in talent on D and O, that talent bleeds into ST. But when you scheme for touchbacks and fair catches, why waste eligibility of super skilled players that can help your O and D?

      That decision, and putting TR in against Pitt when EG was firing on all cylinders are the two things that baffle me this year. But, thats an improvement over last year too. I was baffled most of the time last year.

      then, I’m easily baffled and thats why I am just an old leatherneck on a keyboard and BK makes millions coaching my beloved Irish. So, somebody explain those decisions to me like I am a 3rd grader. I think BK is the right man for the job and has us in a great place a year ahead of schedule. But I need those answers before I think he is a genius ball coach.


      1. No offense, but I hate this idea that the commander of an offensive juggernaut comes in and makes great defense his priority because his fan base is captive and he doesn’t need to fill seats. Defense is the foundation, then we build offense, then special teams are the roof. Sorry, seems goofy. I can certainly see having priorities, but if offense is what you built your reputation and career on, why not have it a little further along? A defense quite like this is not going to be easy to replicate year in, year out. If this defense was coupled with a top quartile offense, we could be in the BCS Championship with a very good chance to win in what is a slightly down year for elite teams. This is a great year to get a title that doesn’t come around too often.

      2. Because Kelly was/is smart enough to realize that ND’s schedule is not the same as a Conference USA or Big East schedule etc. That DEFENSE wins games and championships. It’s not easy to replicate a great/”top quartile” offense year in and year out either. It all takes time and Kelly’s managed to do it defensively in 2.5 years. The offense is improving and I think it’s quite likely our O will be “elite” (whatever that means) in a short amount of time. Recruiting will improve with the results from 2012. Let’s say that our offense had put up more points than it has this year. Would we necessarily be ranked higher in the BCS or AP poll, ahead of Kstate or Oregon at this point? Not necessarily.

        Last week you wrote: “Alabama and Oregon will not lose.” You were wrong about Alabama and Oregon still has to face Stanford and Oregon State, with a crap defense. If I were you I’d wait patiently.

  18. SFR,

    Right on with burning 25% of neals eligibility. And GAIII does looked reigned in. No wonder we lead FBS on drives over 5 minutes. We are always driving the full lenghth.

    Oh well. May ST will catch up with the d and o next year.


  19. Overall, nice analysis of the team. I too agree that ST’s have not “pulled their weight” in the overall team process. I see plenty of other teams returning punts. We’re not and that could be costing us plenty. Again, considering how bad they were last year, I thought more emphasis would be placed upon that aspect.

    Beat the Deamon Deacons
    Let’s see a good last home game performance from the boys in Blue & Gold!

    Goooooooooooooooooooooo Irishhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh

  20. Geoff,


    I try to keep my analysis to football matters. You can agree or disagree with my analysis, but so long as it’s about football matters, that’s OK. I’m trying hard to avoid the mud slinging I’m prone to when others take gratuitous personal shots at me. One can’t handle how others behave, but one can try to work on oneself to be the better human being.

    As for STs, the problem, I believe, is that BK has been handling them. It shows. There’s no sense of consistency other than being consistently bad.
    We need a specialist for next season. BK need to demonstrate some humility and realize he can’t be the HC, OC, head recruiter, and STs coach all at once. I’d be happy with him also turning the play calling to some one else as well. Being the HC at ND is tough enough.

    Good to hear from you, Geoff. Seems I hadn’t heard from you in a while.

  21. Agree with Rob 100% (Rob, we certainly seem to be agreeing a lot this year.) A specialist needs to be brought into the long term strategy moving forward, although it is a moot point for this season. We won’t see any major improvements the next 2 games. As long as we don’t lose the ball on a muffed punt though, you won’t hear me complaining.

    I do agree that wasting Neal’s eligibility to basically fair catch was pointless. Figured we might see him in the slot on offense but not so much. It’d be nice if we could just get something started in the return game. Even a 10 yard return would be nice once in a blue moon.

  22. Delta,

    I think you’re being too generous.

    STs have taken a step back. Does Atkinson look the same to you on KO returns? Also, why did we blow a year of D. Neal’s eligibility to basically fair catch? John Goodman couldn’t do that?!

    I hear a lot about how it’s tough to return punts today. But on a weekly basis I see long punt returns on the highlights of other games. So that’s just an excuse.

    Frankly, our O isn’t consistent enough to sacrifice field position. We need to improve on STs. To do that BK is going to have to hire a specialist. Hire the best one possible. Having one in place for the USC game might not be a bad idea, but of course we know that won’t happen.

  23. ST isn’t winning us games or losing us games, huh? True…but we have certainly left some opportunities at “style points” on the board by essentially ceding field position every punt.

    It’s almost like BK has PTSD from “Little Giants” and runs “Punt Safe” every single time. I’d gladly foot the Xanax bill if it would help him figure out how to drop a couple blockers back so the return man has a chance.

    Oh well, gotta have something to complain about I guess.


  24. What we saw in the ND vs BC game is a team waiting to face USC. This season is a good example of why playing a good S.O.Schedule is a bright idea.

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