Notre Dame vs. Arizona State: 5 Things I Liked

Prince Shembo - Notre Dame vs. Arizona State
Notre Dame Fighting Irish linebacker Prince Shembo (55) sacks Arizona State Sun Devils quarterback Taylor Kelly (10) during the game between the Shamrock Series Arizona State University Sun Devils and the University of Notre Dame Fighting Irish at AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas. Notre Dame wins against Arizona State, 37-34. (Photo: Patrick Green: Icon SMI)

Notre Dame looked sluggish early, but came on strong in the second half Saturday before holding on to a three point victory over #22 ranked Arizona State for their fourth win of the season.

Before officially jumping into the five things I liked from Notre Dame’s 37-34 victory over Arizona State, it should go without saying that I LOVED the Notre Dame uniforms, helmets, shoes, gloves, etc.  The entire ensemble was great and was hands down the best Shamrock Series uniform to date and it’s not even close.  Ironically the replica jerseys being sold don’t do the real deal any justice or they would be a much hotter seller for Notre Dame.

Ok, now to the fun stuff since the Irish held on for the much needed win.

The play of the offensive line

We all know Tommy Rees isn’t going to evade many pass rushes and Arizona State decided to come after him early and often throughout the contest.  The Notre Dame offense line, however, rose to the occasion after a slow start and gave Rees a pocket to throw in all night long.  The Sun Devils did get their hands on a couple of passes at the line, but they didn’t sack Rees once.

In the second half there was a lot of room for the Irish running backs as well.  The backs didn’t always find it, but it was there.  Most notably, George Atkinson missed an open hole on 3rd and 1 at a critical juncture in the 4th quarter when there was more than enough room to get the first down.  That’s a whole other story though.  My point here is that the line more than did their job tonight from a blocking standpoint.  They did have some very untimely penalties including a false start in the 4th from Zack Martin, but when they were needed to give Rees time to pass, they answered the call.

The pass rush from Prince Shembo

Welcome to the 2013 season Prince Shembo.  Coming into last night’s game, Shembo did not have a single sack on the season.  In fact, he had just 13 tackles,  no sacks, and no tackles for loss.  Last night Shembo came through with 7 tackles and 3 HUGE sacks of Taylor Kelly all of which came int he second half.  As a team, Notre Dame had just four sacks through the first five games of the season.  Last night they had six for a loss of 45 yards.

With Stephon Tuitt still not quite the same player from a year ago, Notre Dame needs Shembo to have more nights like last night in order to close out this season strong.   Shembo’s pass rush seemed to rejuvenate the entire line last night when he started storming in after Kelly.  If that carries over against USC in two weeks, the Irish will have a good chance to find themselves victorious over their arch rival at home for the first time in over a decade.

The emergence of Jaylon Smith

Sometimes the recruiting services get it right when they label someone a 5-star prospect and it sure looks like they got it right with Jaylon Smith.  After a few uneventful games to start his career, Smith burst onto the scene last night and announced his presence to the college football world.  The freshman outside linebacker led the Irish with 9 tackles while picking up 1.5 tackles for loss.  He should have gotten credit for a sack too but it was credited as a “team” sack when Kelly surrendered on a second quarter rollout attempt on 3rd down too.

Smith was all over the field last night and was a primary reason the Irish were not trailing by more than six points because of his play in the redzone to help force a couple of field goals early on while the Irish offense was struggling.  Smith also forced a fumble and broke up a pass on the night.  Arizona State looked like they were specifically targetting him on some quick passes, but Smith responded by flying to the ball like a heat syncing missile.

This kid is going to be a whole lot of fun to watch for the next few years.

The clutch catching and returning of TJ Jones

TJ Jones had a quiet couple of weeks after a fast start to the season, but was back in the spotlight light night with one of the best performances of his career.  Jones hauled in 8 Tommy Rees passes for 135 yards – his second 100 yard performance of the season – and a touchdown.  He nearly added a second touchdown in the third quarter too with a 27 punt return where he was tripped up with one man to beat on a play you could tell he was frustrated over since he probably makes that one guy miss nine times out of ten.

Regardless of his near miss in the return game, Jones was sharp on Saturday night in picking up his second 100+ yard game of the season.  Anytime the ball was in his vicinity, he caught it and usually picked up some yards after the catch as well.

The turnovers from the Notre Dame defense

The Notre Dame defense hasn’t been coming up with big turnovers when they are needed this season as they did a year ago.  That changed a bit on Saturday night though with the Irish creating three second half turnovers of the Sun Devils, including a pick six from Dan Fox with just over a minute to go.  Matthias Farley added an interception of his own in the final two minutes and earlier in the second half Bennett Jackson made a heck of a play to force a fumble that led to Troy Niklas’s touchdown grab.

Now, it could be argued that Farley in all honesty should have just batted down his interception since it would have given the Irish the ball at the ASU 20 in chip shot field goal range instead of near midfield after a block in the back penalty and that Fox should have taken a knee instead of diving into the endzone to ice the game, but seeing the Notre Dame defense create turnovers was a welcomed sight.

Notre Dame wouldn’t have beaten Stanford or Michigan last year without creating turnovers and they will need to do more of what they did last night over the final six games of the season.

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  1. Niklas is having a monster season. He is from my HS. That makes me extra proud!

    Happy that Koyack got a TD, as well.

    Go Irish! Beat Trojans…


  2. Did any one else scream when dan fox scored on the pick 6? My god dan go down and let tommy come out in victory formation. My wife thought I was crazy as I explained to her what could happen and then it almost did with asu scoring a td then almost recovering the onside kick

  3. boys, get your money saved up cause I see us in the nc game 2014 or 2015. we will have eg back along with mz @ qbs. like I said patients is a blessing if accepted .our time has come. I was looking at who alabama and osu play, what a joke. both teams are a bunch of hype. I think oregon could beat both of them. stanford would give osu’ defence say what you want but we will be in the big game 2014 or 2015. need I say anymore.

    1. ndkid,

      It should be noted that Golson isn’t just sitting around waiting for January so he can re-enroll at ND.

      Him and his parents fit the entire financial bill for him to spend 3 months in San Diego working with QB guru George Whitfield Jr.

      Whitfield is known as thee guy for helping develop top QB talent.
      His client list includes Andrew Luck, Cam Newton, Tajh Boyd, Braxton Miller, Johnny Manziel (twice) and even Steeler’s QB Ben Rothlisberger during his 2010 6 game suspension.
      He works with High schoolers, colllege, and pro atheletes.

      Golson is determined to earn his ND degree. He has the support of the University, and the Football coaching staff.
      I fully exspect him to return to ND in January.

      And since the time that college coaches can spend with any one players is limited, his dismisal from the school, and his working with a QB expert for 3 months may actually be a blessing for ND come the 2014 season.

  4. As Notre Dame took control of the game in the 3rd quarter I was watching with several non-ND fans who expressed that Rees was not nearly s bad as I had made him out to be. I casually said “wait until he throws a game changing pick 6.” 3 plays later….I keep coming back to Rees. It is not personal but I cannot fathom why BK still runs him out there. The constant checking and running the clock down drives me nuts. I kept hearing how well he played but he completed less than half his passes and had several that could have been picked. At least the defense showed some signs of life. 9-3 looks realistic now. Welcome to the season Prince Shembo. GA3 took a big step back. TJ Jones is money. OL should have a game ball. I hope the secondary maintains this level of play.

  5. I should add that Troy Nicklas is a fantastic TE. I believe he is the biggest TE ND has had since ND has been labeled TE University. The touchdown only shows how much he has progressed. He never quit on the play when Rees went to scramble. He broke his route and got into Rees’s line of vision. Then using his size and strength to outleap the ASU safety for a quality TD. He is a big time player. I believe NFL scouts are grading him highly. When the 2015 Draft comes around, barring injury, he might be playing himself into the first two rounds.

  6. Jaylon Smith is the type of athlete that ND needs to recruit throughout the defense. I feel really bad for Jarret Grace’s injury. I know he was playing very hard and he is a spirital leader on the defense. Jarret Grace is not the type of athlete Notre Dame should be recruiting. Oklahoma, Purdue, Michigan, all made big plays because of Grace’s inabilities. I’ve notice his lack of speed and his inability to keep the play in front of him. To make it worst, he was unblocked. I want to put the blame on Brian Kelly for offering a player who lacks speed and athletic ability a spot on the team. Don’t get me started on Austin Collinsworth. I can’t believe he plays Division One, let alone playing for ND.

    1. That’s funny, 3 SEC schools, Stanford, Ohio St and Michigan all thought he was a good enough athlete as they each offered him out of high school.

      1. They should be salavating that he didn’t sign for them. Go look at the films against Purdue and Oklahoma. The plays were ran right at Grace and his lack of speed cost ND. Like I said it was even worst that he was unblocked. It sucks that ND has nothing to back him up. If Fox or Calabrese go down, then ND is really in a bind.

      2. I must concur on Grace spicey. But I would ask the question why would Grace and Calabrese even see the field against Oklahoma? Maybe the occasional play when a run stopper is needed but why the heck did they play at the same time? Against everyone but Stanford we need to have more safeties or small/fast LB’s (like J. Smith) on the field. As for Grace, it sounds like he is a great kid but he is slow and mechanical. Put 30 pounds on him and make him a DL. Then take a few safeties and bulk them up 15-20 pounds and make them LB’s. We need more speed!!!

  7. Great win last night…really enjoyed it.

    Shembo looked awesome and Nix and Tuitt were stellar. I really noticed Jaylon Smith. He flat-out flies! Jaylon Smith is the best athlete on the team, IMO.

    Guys, George Atkinson had a couple runs where he cut back and lost yardage. Without those mistakes, we could have cruised in for the victory. He doesn’t have the right instincts for a RB. We need to get the ball to Cam, Greg and Tarean more.

    I thought we deserved the win and outplayed ASU decisively. Great job ND!!!


    PS Agree…loved the uniforms!

    1. It will be tough to get Greg the ball considering he is done for the year but good points on the RB situation.

      Cam is clearly the best guy but just doesn’t have the upside the others have. Regardless, any 3rd and short yardage situation GA 3 has no business running the ball.

  8. Returning to the theme of Frank’s post:

    Excellent examples of 5 key positives from Texas. I’ll add four more:

    1) TR, when throwing the short quick pass, is at his best.
    2) Fox fit the bill as “next man in” replacing Grace, even beyond the key INT.
    3) I love the spirit of Josh Atkinson (#24) from the sideline. Instead of brooding
    about not getting playing time, he seemed to be the first guy greeting players after key plays.
    4) Best Bennett Jackson game this year. More to come.
    5) Team again proves they are at their best in tight games.

    I’ll hold off on the negatives until Frank posts, because there were several that could have spelled
    disaster. But, for now,

    4-2 and a week off to prepare for $C. Keep it rolling- maybe this game can provide needed momentum.

      1. Biggest positive is easy: W!

        This was a huge game on so many levels. Let’s not forget key recruits on hand.

        Now it’s time to get on a roll in all 3 phases. Would be great to anhilate SC. Not just beat them, but beat them up.

        Time to get on a roll. We’ll cross the Stanford bridge when we get there.

        GO IRISH! BEAT USC!!!

  9. My bad, JC. I’d sure like those tickets!

    Stats. Gotta love them. Still here some fellow Stillers fans tell me that Pittsburh’s had the best D stat-wise for years. Sure! Stats are for losers.

  10. bj,

    Meyer is a scumbag, coaching for a scumbag team. He would’ve brought disrepute to ND or wouldn’t have won. He wins at schools that don’t demand that their players actually be students and the boosters can give them what they want. Why do you think he left UF?

    1. But gee Robby,

      Don’t you want to be our good will ambassador for OSU like our ‘prestigious’ well known inhouse professor? I’m sure he will loan you season tickets for all the OSU games. Remember though, fill out your stat sheet properly with your name at the top. Don’t intentionally leave off any missed opportunities! Otherwise we will give you two demerits for rigging the numbers and seat your in the Michigan Alum XOXO section next year!

      Be a good boy now! You don’t want to jeopardize an opportunity for 2050 ND vs OSU National Championship tickets now do you?


  11. Great Team win against a ranked opponent I’m still in shock we had a legit punt return craziness the O line played outstanding and the pass rush in the second half was awesome no one gave ND a chance and all the experts will now say Guess ASU is not that good lol embrace the hate

  12. The ASU punt returner bailed Farley out by letting the ball bounce to the 1. That negated Farley’s bonehead play. The INT is fine but the cut back running which lost yards, esp. after the penalty, was just stupid. Either knock the ball down or pick it off ang go straight and get as many yards as possible. That’s a real lack of awareness of the situation, which I hate to say goes back to coaching and preparation.

    On the flip side, minus a few false start penalties, the O line was about perfect. I don’t recall a single holding call or ASU sack. TR had time to throw and in crunch time the line created running room for the RBs. Great job by Heistand and Co.!

    I think this could be a season changing win if BK and staff build on it. I say IF. Let’s see.

    Go Irish!

  13. thanks tommy, but the defense though a bit tougher gave up 34 pts, now giving up on average 32.5 pts a game since bama, if you exclude the temple high school team, will wonders never cease, field goal man saves the day!

    1. bj,

      I’m as critical of the D as you are. However, recall that 7 of the 34 were from a TR pick 6. Another 7 were at the very end of the game playing soft, soft prevent D. This was a very good O and the D did just enough. Now lets’s not overlook the O playing keep-away from ASU.

      Your point is well-taken, though. Of course, Ron Burgundy will tell you that the ND is the second-coming of the Steel Curtain.

  14. Since I worship ASU + ND along with one other unnamed university’s CFB program I’ll put it this way: “This fight lived up to the highest standard.”

  15. I had my doubts Notre Dame was going to win last night. However, looking ahead in order for Notre Dame to be a consistent elite team , they are going to have to become great on offense. I believe next year we will be able to fully grade Kelly as far as his future offenses are concerned. He will have 8 starters back including a true dual threat quarterback Golson. If Notre Dame’s offense struggles next year then Kelly has no choice but to go out and hire a great offensive coordinator like Les Miles did. I’m giving Kelly a pass this year because I believe the offense is really restricted with Tommy.

      1. I would say his receivers, O line, and to a lesser extent, CM, did more FOR HIM than his outstanding play on the field. He still making consistent dumb decisions that as a Senior he shouldn’t be making. Stat wise, yes he looked pretty good from that perspective.

      2. I feel the same eay as you mr brown, I also think Tommy’s liabilities hold down our offense.

    1. Yeah, the fair hair wonder boy of Kelly is not taking us to the promised land. I don’t know if we should truly count on if Golson is even returning. If not, we would be looking at a 5th straight year of no strong continuity at the QB position. One of the very reasons Kelly was hired to bring that concept to an offensive scheme here at ND.

      1. Spot on storespook, we should have been leading by 30 points and Zaire if OK’d to play should have been closing out the game. Zaire will never play this year because all the games from here on out will come down to the wire. I can’t wait for all the whining next year we should have gotten Zaire some real ‘Game Experience!” Especially if Golson does not show up.

        We definately have one foot on the banana peel this year! If we slip, we are in the jock-strap bowl, period. If and when that happens we better get Zaire ready for next year!

        Hey if we can win out with RT so be it and good luck with the QB position next year. QB’s are not BK’s forte in the big leagues, four years has proven that. Oh yeah, all the BCS bowl teams have underperforming QB’s too. The game football goes to offensive line for giving TR three days to throw the football…the good news! Plus the Defense come out of hibernation for the 1st time this year and the kicking game was stellar. Winning by 3 was a moral victory?

        Even Devine bagged a National Championship before BK!

        Kudos to ‘uhnd authors’ Zack and Tyler for having the crystal balls to predicting the score to almost perfection. I want to tag along when these guys go to vegas!


      2. -Where is th jock strap bowl played?
        -What conferences are aligned?
        -Are tickets available?
        -Does the trophy resemble said jock strap?

      3. PS: I’m sure all the “Fair and Balanced” inhouse stat people, will not leave all the ‘Missed Opportunities’ off their columns of stats either! Don’t panic Shaz just a joke! Remember, I’m fair and your unbalanced! Hahaha!

      4. JC, Last I heard about two weeks ago on Irish Illustrated was that EG was currently in San Diego working with some QB guru by the last name whitfield. Same guy that Manziel has been working with the last two years. His plans are to re-enroll at ND in January. This sounds like great news but keep in mind that EG still has to pass his classes which could be a hurdle. Ive said this before that BK has kinda whiffed when it comes to recruiting QBs. The EG debacle is not BKs fault but why did he and his staff spend so much effort on luring Gunner to ND when he is not the type of QB wants in his system. BK will have 3 dual threat QBs next year but its taken him five years to do so. On the flip side if EG passes his classes we might be sitting pretty right now at 6-0.

      5. Whooops! I did it again! Insert RB instead of Ron…Sorry Good Ron! RB go ahead and change your handle again for the 5th time on this site! Help us out here as a matter of convenience. Thank you for your thoughtful consideration in advance!

        Anchor Man sounds good to me, then we could throw you in the Ocean to see if you float!
        Hahaha! Just Kidding RB!

      6. Jeff,

        Good points, Golson will also have to beat out Zaire. If Golson comes back Zaire will leave as I view it. 5-star QB’s are not bench warmers! We found that out with Kiel. Yes, the Golson deal was not BK’s fault! On the other hand, he is not doing anything to be prepaired for next year (the so called NC year again) and next year can easily blow up with the QB’s again! If Zaire is as good as billed, red shirt practice is no substitute for real game mop-up duty! We are not setting pretty this year either! It has been the Achilles Heel’ of this team since BK has been here.

      7. Sorry Jeff, I did not answer your question on Kiel. Hey, I believe Kiel was star filler material just to keep the recruiting class rankings high. Bama does that to have pick of the litter, and to keep the star total in the top ten to attract more recruits! We do it on a smaller level. If you remember there were no more mobile QB’s available at the time interested in ND. Kiel was a last minute deal and ND was his third choice. Therefore, I believe the coaching staff knew Kiel would not stick around, yet great for star totals. So here we are again, short handed with real National Championship QB talent! Oh yeah, next year and next!

      8. Short of Tommy Rees being injured and unable to play for an extended period of time, I’d bet anything that I a have that Malik Zaire will not see a single snap this season. Along with Golson, Zaire is a serious prospect(still has to prove himself obviously) to stability at the QB position. As of right now, perserving that redshirt year is Kelly’s priority. I anxious for a dual threat at center just like anyone else, but holding off on Zaire this season is definitely the smartest choice I think. But what do I know!

      9. Very good points Jeff. I observe teams like Oregon who have a stockpile of dual threat QBs. Then Notre Dame who loses one dual threat QB and they replace him with a QB who has the scrambling abilities of a 40 yr old Vinny Testaverde. It is Brian Kelly’s fault for not getting enough dual threat QBs in his first three seasons. Tommy Rees, Gunner Kiel do not fit the offense at all. Andrew Hendrix can run, but we’ve never seen him get enough opportunities.

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