5 Things I Liked: Michigan ’13

Kyle Brindza - Notre Dame K
Notre Dame Fighting Irish kicker Kyle Brindza (27) kicks a field goal over Michigan Wolverines defensive tackle Quinton Washington (76) in the first half at Michigan Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports

Notre Dame’s last trip to Ann Arbor ended ugly for the Irish, but despite an overall lackluster performance there were a few bright spots.  We’ll get into the negatives in the 5 Things I didn’t like tomorrow – if I can whittle down my list to just 5 things.  For now though, here are some of the things that I did like from Notre Dame’s 41-30 loss to Michigan.

The running of Amir Carlisle

Amir Carlisle is really starting to look like the dangerous weapon everyone thought he would be if he could stay healthy.  Carlisle had the most carries among all of the Notre Dame running backs on Saturday and based on the play of some of the other backs, that should continue unless one of the freshmen can unseat Carlisle at this point.  Given his injury past, the staff might be a little hesitant to give Carlisle too much of the workload, but two games into the season he is running harder than anyone else and has shown much, much better hands in the passing game than George Atkinson.

Carlisle gained 64 yards on 12 carries for a 5.3 yards per carry average and added a couple catches for 9 yards.  I don’t think any Notre Dame would be upset to see Carlisle increase that carry total to at least 20 this weekend against Purdue. 

The development of Troy Niklas

Last week Troy Niklas had a highlight reel play with a 66 yard touchdown against Temple.  This past weekend, Niklas had a much better all around effort in the receiving and blocking department.  Niklas caught 6 passes for 76 yards including a 20 yard 3rd quarter touchdown from Tommy Rees.  Niklas was a reliable security blanket for Rees and if anything, should be getting his number called more time as he is showing that he has what it takes to continue Notre Dame’s tradition of great tight end play.

Niklas already has two touchdowns this season after the first two games.  Last year Eifert,

Jaylon Smith & Ishaq Williams

He is learning on the job, but Jaylon Smith is showing why he was such a highly rated recruit.  After picking up just one tackle in his collegiate debut, Smith had five against Michigan and made a couple of plays were his athleticism really stood out.  He still has a ways to go, but it is hard not to be excited about the future of #9 on defense.

It was tough to find much to like from the defensive performance but Smith’s play and the first career sack of Ishaq Williams’s career were nice to see on Saturday night.  Williams looked good rushing the passer last week and Saturday night he got the only sack of Devin Gardner.  It’s taken him much longer to get here than many thought it would but as a junior Williams is starting to make his presence felt.

Improved special teams

In week one special teams looked like  a train wreck.  Notre Dame missed two field goals including a knuckle ball of a kick from a very makable distance and the punting game killed Notre Dame in the field position game.  Saturday night, however, the special teams were one of the bright spots.

Kyle Brindza resumed control of the Notre Dame place kicking duties and was 3 for 3 including two makes from 40 or more yards out.  He also averaged 40 yards on his two punts and didn’t boom any out of the endzzone while trying to pouch punt as he did a week ago against Temple.   Brian Kelly keeps reiterating that he will be careful with Brindza’s volume of work, but it certainly looks like he is the best place kicker on this team by far.

In the return game, George Atkinson had a 50 yard kick return and TJ Jones had an 18 yard punt return.  On the season Jones is averaged over 10 yards a return with 41 punt return yards on 4 attempts.  Last season Notre Dame totaled 46 punt return yards as a team over the course of 13 games.   Jones looks like he is on the verge of breaking a big return and it wouldn’t surprise anyone if he did so this weekend.

The overall depth at wide receiver

While I would love to see Notre Dame run the football more – especially with freshmen running backs Greg Braynt and Tarean Folston – the depth at wide receiver is great to see.  TJ Jones was a gamer on Saturday night almost notching another 100 yard performance despite getting banged up early on.  Jones ended the game with 94 yards on 9 catches and picked up his first touchdown of the season.

DaVaris Daniels had another good game too with 63 yards on 6 catches and Chris Brown added three of his own for 28 yards.  Daniels is averaging 66 yards an outing two games into the season and is showing the consistency that he did not display a year ago.

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  1. A little perspective can be a very good thing.

    The breifly ranked (#24) Southern Cal Trojans, just lost last week to unranked, and PAC-12 doormat Washington St at home.

    USC QB’s threw for a combined 54 yards passing. (and yes, Wide Reciever Marqise Lee did play!)

    If he could, Lane Kiffin would take Tommy Rees in a heart beat.
    He would lean on Rees to help win games and save his job which Rees would do.

    As the saying goes… “one man’s trash is another man’s treasure”

    1. TR is neither trash nor treasure. He is a guy that will be the QB for an ND team that wins 8-9 games this year. Everett Golson would’ve had 10 wins with this team with an outside shot at a BCS game.

      1. Hmmm… neither trash or treasure?

        I guess that only leaves some type of inanimate object… say like, a leg lamp… giving off the soft glow of electric sex gleaming in the window.

  2. Kelly needs to learn his lesson about running the football. I would have thought that the national championship game would have tought him that. the team that runs the ball controls the tempo an the out come of the game.Notre Dame was getting over 5 yards a carry an he didnt stick with running the ball an give his defence a breather an punishing michigans. I would also like to see more draws an screen passes to help Tommy out. I also dont like the read an react defence we play. we need to let the studs up front attack an be aggressive more like Bama plays! Yes you give up afew big plays but you also make big plays. When you have better talent that turns more to your favor, an Notre Dame has better talent then Michigan had in that game. We let them dictate instead of the other way around. RUN THE BALL an get the freshman running backs involved. Bama always plays their freshman running backs(Ingram,Richardson,Yeldon) an by November they are key components of the running game.

    1. ND has a stable of good to potentially great RB’s this year. Although, a bit Smurfy for my taste. Should have upsized Mahone to 235 lbs in off season. It’s not like you would knock off a ton of speed at that size. And of all the RB’s he seems to run downhill the most.

  3. I can’t say that ND was pathetic in that loss to Michigan. The game was closer than the score would indicate. What really stood out was the ability of Devin Gardner to make plays with his legs. In my opinion we lost the game on 4 plays, the poor tackling that allowed #21 to score and the three pass interference calls. Tommy Reese did more than enough to win the game, the offense put up thirty points. Cam is not the best back they have (he is better than Atkinson), the two freshman (Bryant & Folston) are better. If Amir can stay healthy he is the read deal. When Golson gets back, these guys will be great.

  4. I am with Jack and his comments above. Kelly did his usual “panic stations” routine as soon as we dropped behind by 10 pts and took back the play-calling job and then it was his usual ABANDON the running game scenario. We have a top O-Line and some top running backs (5.9 yds per carry this week and more last week) and we were still in first half and he goes to his Poster Boy Turnover to win the game for us. So how did that workout for you BK???) Facts: TR cannot throw a tight spiral over any distance, he overthrows and throws behind receivers all the time and they have to make circus catches to bail him out, he cannot run 5 yds to extend a play without throwing a pick, and worst of all he stares down ONE solitary reciver rather then seeing the field and consequently misses WIDE OPEN receives all the time while either throwing the ball away to avoid being tackled or forcing passes into tight coverage. Please do not point out what he did vs Temple there are high school teams in Florida and Texas that could beat Temple. Give the ball to McDaniel and the two freshman to run it and throw it to Carlisle who looks like another Riddick. Get Hendrix on the field to change up offense with the odd running play, to throw 30yd plus passes down the field and to keep plays alive. Defense is a whole different story to last years and at the moment has several big problems eg tackling in blitzes and on the edge,manning up at the LOS rather then playing safe 7yds off the line and being able to read deep throws. In second half Sat. it was obvious Gallon was the go to guy and we still had single coverages as safety’s were preoccupied looking after players who had not been thrown to a single time in the game what was with that Diaco. Gallon is the Lee of USC double cover him and blitz. Gardner’s stats when blitzed did not look very DAMAGING and we still sat back and let him have too much time. Finally find a way to limit QB’s running for 10-20 yd plays on third and long situations and lay-off pass int. scenarios. If we score only 35 vs Purdue it will be the wakeup call to this looking more like a 8-4 season and memories of another lost year under Tommy Turnover and goodbye to a top recruiting class. Once again we give a coach a contract extension based on ONE top year. We are still paying CW 6 million a year to coach at KU. When will athletic directors ever learn. Just my thoughts Frank. Cheers

  5. First tatoo’s are a non issue. If ND didn’t offer scholarships to people with tatoo’s then the wouldn’t have a team.

    Second, the depth issue at QB is due to the fact that one five star sisssy want the position handed to him and the starter got booted for doing something that is common place in the SEC.

    As far as the D-line is concerned the loss of Nix and Tuitt will not hurt as bad if they keep playing the way they are playing. Tuitt is not playing as bad as Nix. Nix need to remember his responsibilities and not try to make every tackle. I see a lot of players out of position and doing what they are suppose to do. The defense currently is playing like a bunch of individuals and not a team. This ship will need to be righted or this year could be 7-5 or 6-6 with the teams that they have to play. Here is what needs to happen:

    1. A player on defense needs to step up make calls on the field and get people into position. I think ND misses Teo, Motta and Kap for that reason. They were leaders, they made sure they lined everyone up and that everyone knew their responsibilities. I don’s see that from this defense

    2. Get a back that can carry the load. My vote is for Cam McDaniel, he is the best back ND has at getting up into the hole and gaining positive yardage. Carlisle will get hurt running in between the tackles and Atkinson runs to straight up and will get killed. Give the ball to Cam. Also, when ND gets inside the 10 lets beef up and put some meat on the field. They have a TE that is almost the size of a tackle and blocks with an attitude. Put him in there with the other TE Koyak or Welch as a H back or fullback and play smash mouth football. If Cam is to short put in the Freshman.

    3. Don’t force Tommy to win the game! Tommy presses when ND gets behind. That is why you saw the interception at the end of the first half. Stick to a game plan of running the ball and short passes. Get into a rythm with the offensive line and wear teams down. They did this last year and when ND has gone on a winnning streak it has been because of the consistant running game. ND needs to be in 3rd and less than five for Tommy to be effective.

    1. I agree. Cam got ONE carry the whole game but was the second leading rusher the game before with over a 5 yard per carry average. LET CAM RUN!

  6. Too many tattoos present. This does not show very good decision making by our athletes, and presents a poor example to those who are looking up to ND as a marker for excellence.

    1. Mark, I agree with your 2nd comment about the running game being non-existent. Much of that had to do with the fact that we were trailing the whole game, but still a point I can somewhat agree with. I didn’t think we ran the ball enough against Temple either. HOWEVER, did you really just tell us that a problem with the team is tattoos? Te’o (besides the hoax) is probably thought of as an epitome of a “student athlete” and he has tattoos all over his body. I don’t see how that plays into this at all….. very bizarre comment.

      Also, while the Michigan game was disappointing, in no way do I think it can be compared to the Bama game. We are clearly a different team than last year and should probably be around 9-3 this year with all things being considered. Maybe even 8-4. Golson was a huge blow as well as a lot of the young depth we have lost in the last 8 months due to transfers. We had a glimpse of greatness…. we still need a couple more solid years of depth building before we can rely on the “next man in” method.

      1. True, the depth at the QB position is still slim in BKs 4th year and the depth on the defensive line while not great now will be shattered next year when Tuitt and Nix are in the NFL. I still think 10-2 is possible this year if Diaco can right the ship on defense.

      2. Hoke hasn’t been recruiting longer but his team looked better. We played badly. Let’s not chalk this up to a talent disparity unless you want to admit TT will lose all our close games

    2. Tattoos have no bearing on the decision making of our players. They also provide zero insight into their mental and physical abilities. I’ve had this conversation with many people in the older generations. Tattoos today are simply a common occurrence nowadays. I’m a well established attorney in my early thirties with many tattoos. Would you say the same thing about me? Don’t knock it just because you don’t understand it. It’s ok for young people to be different from you.

    3. Mark has solved the riddle: too many tattoos.

      Probably should also avoid recruiting those with even numbered birthdays, left handlers, those with lightish brown hair, and anyone from a state ending in a vowel.

  7. no running game at all…you can’t win football games if you can’t establish a run. The run sets up the pass, for god sakes.

  8. what a complete letdown…..ND looked pathetic…..don’t try and sugarcoat the loss…This was almost as bad as the national Championship game!!!!The Irish sure look like they have a lot of work ahead of them if they desire to improve.

    1. No sugarcoat….”just a few bright spots” in a bad loss as Frank indicated.

      Not all players played bad. Tell us somemore obvious.

  9. I was impressed with Tommy’s arm strength. Some of his throws had zip to them. One of them in particular (although it should of been thrown away) was the interception in the fourth qtr.

    Disappointed in the lack of leadership on the D. Lots of room for improvement, fortunately they have time to work on that!

    Go Irish…beat Purdue!

  10. Excellent positives Frank,

    One more, at least we are still ranked #21 in most polls. Texas and USC were not so fortuitous.


      1. Toulmin,

        Shame on you, you left out the game crushing bad call that decided the game for Michigan….AGAIN!!! Definately canceled any chance for a comeback! I know through me a towel. But facts are facts. Yes, we were definitely playing bad but the ref’s did not need to finalize the outcome!

  11. Irish gave up on the running game way to easily. 5yrds a carry and only 20 carries. And the long was only 16yrds so nothing was throwing off the average. Good solid O-Line play.

  12. “In week one special teams looked like a train wreck. Notre Dame missed two field goals including a knuckle ball of a kick from a very makable distance and the punting game killed Notre Dame in the field position game. Saturday night, however, the special teams were one of the bright spots.”

    T.H.I.S. !!

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