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


Notre Dame - Navy
Navy running back Demond Brown (25) is tackled by Notre Dame linebacker Dan Fox (48) and cornerback Bennett Jackson (2) in the fourth quarter at Notre Dame Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Matt Cashore-USA TODAY Sports

Notre Dame survived a defensive performance dreadful in design and, at best, mediocre in execution using a dramatic late stop to outpoint Navy 38-34.

The previous week against the Air Force Academy, it took the Irish defense 20 minutes to adjust to the the Falcon offense before seizing control. But on Saturday the Irish never deciphered the Naval Code and yielded a nauseating 331 yards in 70 carries.

The burgeoning Irish offense was never stopped by Navy, never punted and had only 2 drives aborted without scores. Both ended on interceptions, the first on a pratfall by the usually nimble TJ Jones and the second on “one of those throws” by Rees.

Since the first quarter ended in the Shamrock Series game, the Irish have, but for the two quarters after Rees went down to Lamar Dawson and USC, put points on the board in every quarter. And , indeed, they have scored a touchdown in each of those 13 scoring quarters. The Irish receiving corps has been jelling all through October, and Koyack has finally arrived as a second receiving option at tight end. And with Folston’s emergence, the running back rotation among Atkinson, Folston and McDaniel is now established with Carlisle chomping at the bit on the outside, looking in. Rest assured, it will remain a running back ROTATION, and at least three will play.

The next three tests will be more physical than the academies were, and we will be able to stress test the reconfigured offensive line against Pitt, BYU and Stanford.

Lost in the despair over the defense, it was not insignificant that Rees rolled out twice, even though that tactic was not successful against the Air Force. Martin and Kelly want this rollout capability in the repertoire, and will work on it through November, including during the off week.

The defense, waiting to exhale for the last two weeks can now withdraw from guerrilla and asymmetrical warfare, and return to conventional warfare for the next three outings.We’re built for that.

The Irish, nervously winning their fourth in a row, moved to a 7-2 record, heading into the final three game set of the regular season.

The running game was featured more prominently. Of the 56 Irish offensive plays, 36 were rushing plays. Early tease: don’t be surprised by how often we run the ball against Stanford. In 2012 we ran the ball 44 times against the Cardinal, with only 28 passes.


In the last two outings, albeit against the academies, we are seeing that depth has now arrived in the Notre Dame program.

Injuries to Watt, Lombard, Williams, Shumate, Day, Nix, Grace have scarcely been felt. Yes, this is not extraordinary, it’s what a first rate program should exhibit. Notwithstanding, it has not been present in these precincts in recent years.

Right now, we are without Grace, Spond, Councell, and Williams. Well, real Notre Dame men don’t whine, and we will use our depth and coaching sagacity to field a respectable, if not breathtaking, linebacking corps. That would not have been true just a few short years ago.

Another aspect of the program’s development is that the subs, deep into the depth chart, are prepared to play and they look physical enoough. We’re not having any Pete Schivarelli’s waddle out there. Guys like Moore, Hardy, Utopu, Okwara, Hanratty,

Schmidt and others have looked and played the part. Our surmise here is that we are much stronger in players 41-85 than we have been since the early 90’s. Our further surmise is that next Fall, when this crop of 2014 recruits arrive, we will be even stronger at players 41-85.

Playing depth has many benefits. First, it makes the players feel that practice is worthwhile. They will now practice and Longo with even more vigor. Second, it puts meat on the conceptual skeletal frame of “next man in.” Third, it allows the coaching staff to be more judicious in sitting players out until they are fully recovered. Nix is Exhibit A. Fourth, it allows the coaching staff to bring the freshmen along in the right way, not throwing them out there both before they are ready and because there is just no one serviceable above them in the depth chart. This is another sign that the program is “arriving” at the upper level.


When history is written about the 2012 Fighting Irish, unbeaten in the regular season, there will be two areas that deserve special focus: the 2012 offensive line and the 2012 secondary. We were one injury away from DISASTER on the offensive line, which, as it was, was less than compelling on the right side. Injuries occur on the offensive line with frequency, and it is remarkable that we were able to whistle past that graveyard in 2012.

In the secondary, outside of the graduation losses, and the injuries to Collinsworth, Wood and Slaughter, what did we have to worry about? Three of our starters (frosh Russell, Farley and Jackson) were converts from running back/widce receiver. Our depth was Jalen Brown, Josh Atkinson, and frosh Nicky Baratti and Elijah Shumate (our surmise here is that both Baratti and Shumate will be big players in years to come.) Even before BonJovi’s kid arrived, we were livin’ on a prayer. Yet, somehow, 12-0.

Well, we’ve come a long way in the secondary, and they no longer have to be protected by zones. Jackson is good, KeiVarae Russell much better at man-to-man coverage, and it is feasible that Cole Luke may be more advanced this year than Russell was in 2012. Devin Butler, young, coltish, is a nice fourth option at cornerback. Collinsworth and Farley have issues, but Shumate, Hardy and Redfield provide depth and their potential is, mostly, untapped. Of all the secondary folks mentioned, only Jackson departs, along with Wood. Baratti returns, and who knows, there may be a recruit or two who might press for time in 2013. Perhaps a cornerback from Texas and a safety from California.

It’s a long way from August 2014, but it would not shock reason if the secondary was the strongest area of the team, and one of America’s best.


Michigan State and ASU won, while OU and Stanford were idle, resting for big Thursday night games against Baylor and Oregon, respectively.

Each of the four and all of the four still have a shot at a BCS game. ASU is in sound shape in the Pac XII South with their game against UCLA on 11/23 looming large. Michigan State is ahead at the top of the stretch to play Ohio State in Lucas Oil for the BCS automatic bid. And that game would be a letdown spot for Ohio State, coming the week after the tradition-and-emotion-encrusted game at Ann Arbor the week before.

Stanford and OU each are at a fork in the road on Thursday. They would do well to heed the advice of Lawrence Peter “Yogi” Berra: “When you come to a fork in the road, take it.”



Pitt is a poignant study in football and demographics. In the early aftermath of the American Industrial revolution, Pitt was sitting in the honeypot of American football talent, fueled by the ethnics who had arrived to work in iron and steel and coal. “All the Right Moves” with Tom Cruise as the aptly named Stefan Djordjevich was on point. In the 30’s, Pitt coach Jock Sutherland (in that hiatus between Rockne and Leahy, to be fair) led Pitt to THREE national championships. But the country would, post War, migrate South and West. Sure there was the Michelosen era and John Majors and Jackie Sherrill used players like Dorsett, Wannstedt, Hugh Green, Marino, Fralic and Spindler to lead the last hurrah. Now Pitt plays in a pro town in the Steelers’ tilted Heinz Stadium. Only 4 of ESPN’s top 300 high school prospects, and that is consistent with the last decade, are from Pennsylvania, which is now a football archive, not a pipeline.

(1) An ACC opponent! We will see more next year!

(2) Tom Savage, a freshman hotshot at Rutgers, who fell out of favor under Schiano, is competent, but not more, at quarterback. And he is not particularly mobile. Diaco and the defenders will probably slay a fatted calf on Monday to bid farewell to option football.

(3) A team that may be a little bit better than its 4-4 record. When Pitt got trampled by FSU in the opening weekend, few knew how good Jameis Winston and FSU really were. A ten point loss at Virginia Tech and an inexplicable 3 point loss to Navy were annoying, not embarassing. We are witnesses to how annoying it can be to play Navy.

(4) The Panthers have some nice skill players. Isaac Bennett averages over 5.5 yards per carry, and receivers Tyler Boyd and Devin Street each have over 30 catches. They are the best receiving corps we will have faced since Nelson Agholor served as a Trojan Army of one.

(5) Our defensive line and linebackers must adjust from two weeks of academy football to the more conventional brand that Chryst employs at Pitt.

(6) A defense which, while not great, will be sound enough to test our reconfigured offensive line and the rotation du jour of our running backs.

(7) A beautiful football venue, Ketchup Stadium is. Remarkable sight lines to the field, and a view of the Ohio River.

A win over Pitt puts the Irish at 8-2, going into a week with no game on Saturday. The Irish improved after the first hiatus, and the might again, going into the final stretch of two regular season games.

Go Irish!

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  1. Burgundy:

    You wrote: “I believe it best if we do not engage in conversation as it eventually turns to an insult being hurled my way or in the case of our last conversation race and the color of a mans skin being brought in to the argument.”

    When has hurling insults ever stopped you in the past. I guess you like to dish it out but can’t take it.

    Again, when did I invoke Mike Tomlin’s race? You made that leap all by your self “Mr. Sarcasm.” All I said is that he got his job because of “Affirmative Action.” Affirmative action isn’t all about race, Burgundy. Perhaps the Rooneys wanted a midget, ex-small college LB with no pro playing experience and very little coaching experience to diversify the profiles of his past 2 coaches, who both played pro football and had extensive coaching experience before coming to Pittsburgh. (Noll, Cowher, and Tomlin were all young when hired by the Rooneys, so that couldn’t be it.) Or perhaps they wanted an Omar Epps look alike for a future made-for-TV movie (“How Mike Tomlin Brought Down a Franchise,” starring Omar Epps in the title role. NBC. Sunday….)

    The logic a little too much for you, Ronnie baby?

    No sarcastic retort from you now that you’re “born again” as the patron saint of civility and do unto others….

    Why not try one more time to see if you can get jeff to do your fighting for you?

    Now you want to talk about the SEC instead. How brave of you, “Affirmative Action” Ron.

  2. Burgundy,

    You find bringing up a person’s race abhorrent? Is Mike Tomlin not black? Is he not the HC of the Steelers? Did YOU not bring up the Steelers? Was that not a thinly veiled attempt on your part to insult me? So what exactly was abhorrent about something you yourself stared and that is totally factual? Little thin-skinned, there, Burgundy? Why’s that? Are you related to Mike Tomlin? Sensitive about “Affirmative Action”? Last time I checked that policy had nothing to do with a particular race, class, creed, gender, sexual orientation, etc. Why did you assume that I was talking about race? Perhaps he got the job because the Catholic Rooneys wanted to hire a Protestant Evangelical to diversify? So why is race so sensitive to you, Burgundy, when just about anything else is subject to one of your sarcastic jabs?

    Having any fun yet?!

    I’m just getting started myself.

  3. You brought up the crappy way the Steelers are playing, not me, Burgundy! That in itself was a low blow to me and you know it. Then you want to get on your high horse and preach about respect when you’ve been one of the least respectful people on here since you first showed up.

    I brought up Mike Tomlin because YOU brought up the Steelers. I’m not the only one who thinks the reason he got the Pittsburgh job was his race. Ever hear of the “Rooney Rule”? BTW: I myself am a minority. Plus, if you knew anything about me as a Steelers fan, then you’d know I’ve never asked for Tomlin to be fired for one bad season but have suggested on Stillers’ sites that Dick LeBeau (who’s white!) should resign immediately. Perhaps it was you who could’ve showed better judgment and not brought up the Steelers as an attack against me, Burgundy. By YOU bringing up the Steelers, well, that opened it up for me to talk about their coach. And it’s my right to point up the fact that his resume prior to landing the Pittsburgh job smacks of “Affirmative Action.” That’s not a racist comment. (BTW: I happen to think Tony Dungy is one of the best coaches ever. What’s his race? Do you know which was his first coaching job?)

    So, Burgundy, if you want to get on your high horse now, after all the shit you’ve spewed on here, day after day, week after week, month after month, with your insults to people’s intelligence and sarcasm, go ahead hypocrite. BTW: Jesus Himself called plenty of people that so don’t pander to me by trying to sound like you respect people’s faiths.

    Frankly, I don’t give a damn if you’re black, white, Asian, Latino, or whatever. It seems pretty selective, however, to be able to bash people for almost any little thing like you’ve done since you’ve been on our site and now play the race card and say that topic is off limits. Why is that? Who died and made you “duranko” or “Frank”?

    You don’t want to engage me, fine. Run like a coward and hide behind your newly found and faux moralism. But I’m going to continue to call out your BS whenever and however I want.

    Recall that this started by me apologizing to jeff and you, Burgundy, trying to get a fight going between us, you hypocrite. Now you want to play “Mr. I’m Too Holy” for this. BS, Burgundy! I’m calling you out. I wanted to make up with jeff and you wanted to egg us on. You’re the sick one, Burgundy.

    You want to stay on here, fine by me. But I’m not going to let you dictate anything to anybody. You called me out for not ending it with jeff on your terms. Guess what, troll? I’m going to see this through to the end with you so long as you continue to belittle people on here with your sarcastic BS. Don’t like it. I guess it’s a free country and you can go make up another screen name and go troll somewhere else.

  4. Burgundy,

    How many times will be enough? It seems if you know what you’re doing, after seeing it once or twice you can stop it. So how many more times will Diaco get a pass with you? And don’t give me the BS about the Triple Option being so difficult to defend that you need to be the “Steel Curtain” or 85 Bears to do so. That’s bunk. If it were true, every team would still be using this glorified relic of high school football. When was the last time an Option team won the NC. The Huskers with Tommy Frazier? How many pro teams use the Triple Option? If it was such an unstoppable O even the pros couldn’t slow it down. But, oh, wait, no one uses it because when you have decent D coaches and D players, the Option attack doesn’t work.

    Yours is an excuse excuse masquerading as a fact.

    1. SFR,
      I believe it best if we do not engage in conversation as it eventually turns to an insult being hurled my way or in the case of our last conversation race and the color of a mans skin being brought in to the argument. I will attach my last response that I made a few days ago.

      I come on this site as a distraction of fun from the day but it turned for me the other day when skin color was the basis for a comment. I find that abhorrent.

      How one defends the option is not up to me. Navy played great and ND played less than spectacular on D. We were fortunate to win.

      Ron Burgundy replied on November 4th, 2013 at 1:44 pm
      I’m all for the witty sarcastic banter on here and I’m even ok with you calling me names like atheist and village idiot. But invoking race or the color of a mans skin to make a point in an argument is low class and beneath everybody on here.

      We are all nameless and faceless on here so it is easy to say things without repercussion but taking this to racial undertones frankly crosses a line. Nobody on here has any idea what our skin color is, racial or religious followings are. Or what are day to day lives are like.

      I’m sorry you went there because to read many of your posts it is obvious you have a deep understanding of Christianity and feel you got caught up in the moment and lost judgment. And for that I feel bad for you because it would be a shame for you to be judged on that.

      This is just a website to talk about a football team and have some fun but this sort of ruins the fun.

      Am I sarcastic on here, you betcha. Football is fun, it is not life and death. It doesn’t require name calling and this type of vitriol. It certainly shouldn’t veer off into race.

      I bid you good day sir.

  5. What is the difference between our defense and Sparty? O.K>, we have much better talent but they “Attack!” Look what they did to Devin Gardner or Denard for that matter. They suffocated them. We let our superior athleticism go to waste with the bend but don’t break crap. That is the way you play when you are coaching Cincy, not these guys.

    1. to fxm: right on, regarding the Spartans’ vs. our defense. Flicked to UM-MSU game during ND commercials. All i could think while watching MSU was, how i wish we’d be that aggressive on defense. Imagine, as fans, being as proud of our defense as we are of our offense? Believe me, when cut, i bleed Blue and Gold, but i’m not rooting for a BCS game with us deploying another ‘bend, don’t break’ defense.

    2. I’m with you. Good teams dictate to the offense what they will allow. They don’t sit back and react and hope for the best. That’s my problem with the ND secondary. When that ball goes up in the air it’s out there for anyone to catch, so go and get it. I see way too mucuh of the secondary being afraid of getting burned on the big play and then they give up short passes that turn into long drives. I too am a big ND fan but there is something sub-standard about this defence.

      Go Irish!

  6. A few extra bits.

    First, Pitt has one hell of a defensive tackle in Aaron Donald.
    In last week’s loss to Georgia Tech, Donald registered 11 tackles, 1 sac, and 2 forced fumbles. That is a full day’s work!
    If ND wishes to keep the running game going this week they are going to have to come up with a blocking scheme (with our reconfigured 0-Line) to account for Mr. Donald.

    Pitt, much like Navy, has been very up and down this year. In 3 of their 4 wins they have scored 35, 49, & 58 points. In their losses, 9, 10, 13, & 21, points.

    Last week, the GT defense attacked Pitt, especially on 3rd down where they had a number of tackles for loss. Pitt had no first downs in the first quarter and a total of 55 yards for the first half.
    With Pitt forced to pass (37 attempts) and being one dimensional, GT went on to sac Savage 5 times for a minus -24 yards, leading Pitt to a total rushing net yardage for the game at (Minus) -5 yards.

    After two consecutive option teams, I’m hoping players like Tuitt, Nix, and Shembo, really bust out against Pitt.

  7. Your opening stanza “Notre Dame survived a defensive performance dreadful in design and, at best, mediocre in execution using a dramatic late stop to outpoint Navy 38-34,” says it all. ND, specifically Kelly and Diaco, only have seen the option, what, 10 or 12 times in their 4 years at ND, yet the defensive performance was, indeed, dreadful in design.

    There is a reason why the triple option is rarely run in college anymore; good athletes executing their responsibilities can stop it. Sure, a triple option team will break the occasional hitter up the middle or bust a couple 10 or 12 yard plays, but there is no excuse for the amount of yards ND gave up over the weekend, especially given ND sees this same offense once or more every year.

    If Diaco can’t figure out how to beat the triple option (a simple search of Google will provide plenty of proven theories on how to stop it), why would anyone really think he can install a defense that will stand up over time? Yes, I know, the defense last year was solid, but that’s proving to be more of an abberation than a constant. And, if the loss of Teo and KLM are the big reasons why the defense has taken a step back, that points even more to last year being an abberation, because who knows when that type of senior leadership will be on the field again at ND.

    I give Kelly credit for at least winning the games ND should win, but it’s hard to look at the product on the field and say the performance is commensurate to the talent. And, as Weis proved, recruiting quality athletes to ND isn’t as hard as Willingham made it. The current record belies the development of the team.

    1. Good article, I saw guys struggling with cut blocks. We used to see it all the time back in the 50′ and 60’s set our feet in the turg with knees extended a bit lower then the a short stop in baseball would . If the timing was right the blocker would have at the very least a severe case of sore ribs after the first encounter.

    2. westcoast-er: loved the Google reference. It checked out. One link had some 20 plays Navy (specifically) uses, and how to defend against each. But i wonder, why pin it on Diaco? Can you see him convincing ‘bend, don’t break’ Kelly to deploy schemes that would put his DL inside the Navy backfield before the option materialized? You and Doug Flutie (game wrap-up) pointed to ND playing ‘reactionary’ defense to avoid the big gain. It might have worked in 2012, it ain’t workin’ this year. That wasn’t bluster, on the Navy HC’s part, when he told his offense after they re-gained the lead, with about 7-8 mins on the clock, “…even if ND scores, we’re getting the ball back and we’re scoring”. I think he was amazed that we’d deploy such a porous defense against his triple option attack, all game long. I keep asking myself, what is his motive for deploying the ‘bend, don’t break’ philosophy? Please don’t point to our near perfect 2012 season which, but for “divine intervention” we’d have 3 losses last year. Good, but far from perfect. I guess i’m still hurting over his ‘B-D-B’ disaster in the NC game. As you point out, it’s hard to look at the (defensive) product on the field, especially since it looks like we now have the talent.

  8. I like almost all of what you’ve noted. I hate to say it but I cannot agree that Bennet Jackson is good. I so much want to see him be a big time corner but he routinely gets bamboozled and is left chasing after the receiver like an out of shape hound dog chasing a rabbit. I do agree wholeheartedly, however, that Redfield looks like the real deal.

    My fingers are still crossed that they will win out the rest of the season but Pittsburgh is not going to be an easy game.

    Go Irish!!!

    1. Well, Brad, you have the better side of the argument re Jackson, but I am HIGHLY encouraged by what I see from Cole Luke and Devin Butler, both of whom have a zest for chasing down the runner and tackling the runner. And Watkins will merely add to that crew at CB in 2014.

      At Safety, if you told me that Collinsworth and Farley vaporized, and that we were stuck with Shumate, Hardy, Redfield, Baratti and Juju Smith, well, you can throw me into that briar patch all day.

      Collinsowrth and Farley are useful, and in 2014 it is not likely that we will often see both on the field at the same time.

      I think our 2014 secondary is going to be a real force.

    1. I’ve heard from coaches who run the triple option that the key to avoiding chop blocks is to get low and attack. ND instead uses their hands on shoulder pads to push off the low chop, engaging the smaller blocker with hands to the shoulders, thus, reacting to instead of attacking low. They claim the key is to stay low and clog the middle, freeing up your LBs and safeties to fill the gaps between offensive tackles. That of course demands CBs and OLBs effectively tackling to stop both the QB and pitch out.

  9. Thanks for the insights, duranko.

    Some of what I saw against Navy:

    1. Louis Nix proved in his recent absence he is defensive MVP-
    much to do next year along the DL – with Louis gone,
    and Kona and Shembo, and probably Tuitt, too.

    2. If Reynolds is healthy at QB with Navy next year when we play them, take Navy and the points.
    He runs their triple option (and can pass!) as well as any Navy QB has. I question the lack of aggression by our D’
    reacting to rather than attacking Reynolds. But Navy was determined not to be blown out again !
    Credit where credit is due. However:

    3. Poor tackling among our DBs, especially B.Jackspn and Farley. Anxious to see Shumate return,
    and Baratti next year, and a much bigger role for Redfield and Hardy.

    4. I don’t know who’s all on the kick return team, but if Redfied doesn’t make the play, it’s Brindza.
    Too much talent or depth to have such a mediocre Kick-off team.

    5. Playing the academies assures injuries, with their barely legal, dangerous chop blocking.
    Michigan, MSU, Purdue are all better choices in the future than Navy, who offers us nothing
    to gain from when we win, ridicule when we lose, and injuries to our D’, especially DLs when we play them.

    6. Our TEs and WRs have become elite, with:

    7. TJ as the epitome of a developed player under Kelly. I’m sure TJ has a lot to do with it, but BK
    and his staff should also get some credit for his rise to elite status.

    TJ Jones ! What a gamer !

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