Stanford Game Same Old Story for Notre Dame Football 2013

Wayne Lyons - INT vs. Notre Dame
Stanford Cardinal cornerback Wayne Lyons (2) intercepts a pass intended for Notre Dame Fighting Irish wide receiver William Fuller (15) in the fourth quarter at Stanford Stadium. Stanford won 27-20. Mandatory Credit: Matt Cashore-USA TODAY Sports

Notre Dame fans hoping to see the Irish pull off the upset as a two touchdown underdog last night were instead treated to the same old story of Notre Dame Football in 2013.  Fall behind early.  Rally back.  Turn the ball over at the worst time and fall short.

In three of Notre Dame’s four losses this season, the Irish were down double digits before they could blink.  Against Michigan, the Wolverines jumped out to a 10-0 lead.  Notre Dame battled back valiantly that September night in Ann Arbor, but a Tommy Rees interception in the end-zone on 1st and goal put the final nail in Notre Dame’s coffin.

Against Oklahoma a few weeks later, the Sooners jumped out to a 14-0 lead just 1:10 into the game after a Tommy Rees interception was returned for a touchdown on the first drive only to be followed up by an interception on Notre Dame’s very next play.  Again, Notre Dame battled back and was within 6 points in the 4th quarter.  After an Oklahoma touchdown put the Sooners up 14 though, the Irish went three and out on three consecutive drives and lost by 14.

Last night the Irish yet again found themselves in an early hole.  Stanford marched down the field and scored touchdowns on each of their first two drives to take a 14-3 lead in the first quarter.  Notre Dame once again battled back only to have their comeback bid fall short though when Tommy Rees threw not one, but two back breaking interceptions in the final 6 minutes – both of which came with the Irish trailing by just 7 points.

Three games.  Three early holes.  Three unsuccessful comeback attempts.  Three losses.

Notre Dame’s 4th loss didn’t follow the exact template, but did include another killer interception in the end-zone with the Irish poised to take the lead on Pitt in the 4th quarter before falling to the unranked and less talented Panthers.

And therein lies the difference between 2012 and 2013.  A year ago Notre Dame avoided the killer turnovers for the most part and were able to navigate the regular season undefeated.  This year, however, the back breaking turnover has become the norm, rather than the exception much like it was in 2011 when the Irish also stumbled to a 8-4 regular season mark.

This year will be labeled a disappointment by most and following a berth in the national championship game there really is no other way to slice it, but it didn’t have to be.  In all four of Notre Dame’s losses the Irish had their chances but failed to make the plays necessary to overcome early deficits that were in large part self inflicted.

Much like in 2011 when Notre Dame was its own worst enemy in losses to South Florida, Michigan, and USC; the Irish once again couldn’t get out of their way more often than not.  That’s why Notre Dame will be playing in the Pinstripes Bowl or some other lesser bowl this year instead of getting ready for another BCS bowl.

Yes, Notre Dame has faced a rash of injuries the likes of which we haven’t seen in a while – at least at critical positions – but at the same time, they were in a position to win every game this year.  In every single loss this year, Notre Dame was either tied or trailed by just one possession at some point in the 4th quarter.

With just over 9 minutes remaining against Michigan, the Irish trailed just 34-30 before losing 41-30.  In the loss to Oklahoma the Irish pulled within 27-21 with just over 14 minutes remaining before falling 35-21.  Against Pitt the Irish were tied at 21 ready to take the lead before the interception in the end-zone and subsequently losing 28-21.  Last night Notre Dame had the ball twice with less than 8 minutes remaining down 27-20 but could never get closer.

In those four losses, the Notre Dame offense scored a total of 10 points in the 4th quarter while the Irish defense contributed 7 points.  That kind of offensive production in the 4th quarter is just not going to get it done and for Notre Dame to end the 2014 season on a much better note, Brian Kelly and his offensive staff are going to need to find a way to score points in the 4th quarter.   If they don’t, well, then 2014 might be the same old story for Notre Dame as well.

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  1. When I played football and I did not play at this level – you recognized a good coach from a bad coach by conditioning and organization. ND was in very good condition and well organized. But what ND didn’t have was a QB that could run the ball and without great receivers and/or a great running threat – everything is on the defense. Injuries hurt them because the defense was not deep – ND is not LSU or Alabama with 30 6’4 240 lb players that can run 4.55 to 4.7 40 yard dash times. Only the SEC and the Florida schools gets that kind of talent. So yes Golston would have won 3 more games than Rees – Tommy is a game player but because of the lack of foot speed came up short. Accept it and remember we have 2 mobile threats next year. GO Notre Dame.

  2. It is the first time Im glad the season is over. This team is very poorly
    coached. They will be more exciting next year with a new QB and depth at
    running back. However, with the defense being so timid as they are coached
    and BK ruining the running backs I say 8-4 again.

  3. They truth of the matter is that the Irish were not a good football team this year. Starting with Rees, Atkinson, Carlisle,and an inconsistent offensive and defensive line. They beat one very good team this year and that was Michigan State. They lost to Pitt, inexcusable! Playing close games or playing a good second half doesn’t make for any wins or make you a good team. Another 8-4 season for Kelly. There was a time when 8-4 seasons meant a possible change in leadership but not this time. Kelly is more likely to leave ND, then ND getting rid of him. He has brought the program back to respectability but how many more 8-4 season will the ND faithful put up with? Things can still get better at ND and hopefully they will and quickly. GO IRISH!

  4. Sports is funny. Nick Saban has championship after championship and a statue of him and is considered the best coach since god and after last saturday he is a piece of garbage for losing to auburn. Pretty funny!

    1. Coach Saban is a wonderful man – a member of the Knights of Columbus. He is probably the best coach in college football. With Meyer probably #2 and BK is not that far behind.

  5. There were 4 interceptions in the game.
    2 by each team. 2 by each starting QB.

    That’s a wash.

    The real difference… ND ran the ball for 64 yards. Stanford… 265.

    Other Notables:

    After 12 games, ND still can’t cover a kickoff.
    After 12 games ND is still taking delay of game penilties on offense.
    Every time ND starts to gain momentum on offense, they kill it by calling a timeout.
    Almost everytime ND calls a blitz they get to the QB. Problem is that’s once out of every 12 offensive plays. (Stanford brought it on almost every down)
    Big plays by the special teams are game changers(just ask Auburn – Alabama)
    When was the last time ND returned a punt or a kickoff for a TD?
    When was the last time ND blocked a punt… or even attempted to block one?

    I can’t see what ND works on in practice from week to week.

    I haven’t seen much improvement in special teams, I haven’t seen much improvement in our secondary, our coverage, or their ability to tackle in the open field.

    Aside from one dismal halfback/ WR reciever pass, I see very little advancement, or outside the box thinking, in the play calling.

    I happened to catch a little bit of the USC / UCLA game. UCLA had the ball inside the USC 5 yardline and was looking for a goal line, short yardage TD. They put in a freshmen D-Lineman in the backfield to power run the ball and sure enough the kid ran plowed it ahead for a TD. His name was Vanderdose. Eddie Vanderdose. Sound familiar? Think that would have ever happened here?)

    While I would like to see ND end the season with a bowl win, the real benefit at this point will be the additional practice time allotted and a final chance to correct some lingering issues on offense, defense, and special teams, while offering a renewed chance to engage and challenge the players one final time.

    1. Very good post Shazam. I’ve been amazed at the almost total lack of progress in the areas you mentioned. I could not believe I was watching Senior after Senior making the same mistakes. I could not believe it was the last game of the year and this team still can’t figure out how to run a sideline/playclock. It’s just pathetic.

      And Rees was the skin of a tooth away from a third INT, had Davaris Daniels not make an outstanding play by ripping the ball out of the Stanford defender’s hands!

      The 2013 ND team are “The Groundhogs”, named for Groundhog Day. I was watching the Stanford game with that sick, yet knowing feeling of deja vu.

      1. JDH,

        I guess what bothers me most about this game is how Kelly and his staff decided on how to approach the situation.

        ND already had 8 wins.
        From the BCS and a bowl standpoint, not much, if anything, was going to change for ND win or lose this game.

        You’er a 14 point dog, on the road, against a top 10 team.
        You have no BCS game or conference championship to look forward to.
        What in the hell do you have to lose by not holding anything back?

        Block a punt, try an onsides kick, fake a fieldgoal, take a damn chance, show some guts, have some friggin fun.

        Where was our speed in this game?

        Not one play for Chris Brown, CJ Prosise, or Amir Carlisle.
        Are these guys hurt or suspended? Is there something we’re missing here?

        Where was our blitz, where was our pressure?
        Was it really more fun for our guys to get run over and picked apart all day because it was better to play it safe?

        I mean if you are going to go down in this game, at least go down swinging. Take a chance, send a message…. to them, to the fans, to your own team, to anybody!

        This was the perfect time and place in which to to do so.
        We had everything to gain.

        Instead we answer a question with another question.

  6. C-Dog and SteelFanRob,

    I waited some time before I evaluated what I saw Saturday night and all season long. Here are my observations:

    Tommy Rees is a solid kid. Unfortunately God only gave him limited physical gifts with an amazing mind for football. Most times Tommy has turned the ball over (Turnover Tommy)is because he sees a play that is there for a split second, but doesn’t have the athletic ability to make the play. I hope he stays on as a Grad Assistant and coaches the QB’s and wouldn’t be suprised to see him coaching a team within the next 10 years.

    Injuries this year: I understand how we can blame the coach for not conditioning this team, but I blame someone else, ND administration. Most of these injuries occurred on the home field. The injuries were either high ankle sprains or knees. The turf on the field and footing was horrible and usually contributed to these injuries. It’s time for ND to stop screwing around and come into the 21st century. Replace the field turf with something else and do it now

    ND’s status as a National Power House: I disagree with C-Dog in this sense. If the administration would allow a couple of kids to get in that are border line like they did under Lou they could compete. The main problem with this team is depth along the defensive lines and middle linebacker. Right now there is a kid that is a wide receiver that wants to commit but since his test scores aren’t all that he is being made to wait. This needs to stop and the Trustee that wants to make this school the Harvard of the midwest needs to realize that football made ND. In the great Catholic Tradition give a chance to a kid, you might be suprised when he takes it and becomes and ND man and graduates as a productive member of society.

    Finally, BK: Get a running game!!!!!!!!! Find a back and give him the ball. You need a more balanced attack, instead of getting into a play calling rythm that is predictable and pass happy. Look at your stats, when ND runs the ball and throws under 30 times a game they are well over 500. He has recruited very well along the offensive line and can have a dominate line.

    Do I think BK is a great coach, I don’t know. If I compare BK to Lou or Ara he is not in their league. When I compare him to CW, Willingham, and Davie he is heads and tails better. Here are the things I like about BK:

    1. Recruits needs
    2. Develops players
    3. Teams are more conditioned in the 4th quarter

    Things I don’t like:

    1. Gets impatient in games and calls to many passes
    2. Need to see the up tempo offense to keep teams off balance
    3. Bend but don’t break defense needs to change
    4. Special teams are the worst I have seen at ND in 20 years. Punt return, kick-off teams are the worst.

    1. Agree with your evaluation of BK up to this point. He still has a ways to go to be one of the greats, but there’s not doubt in my mind, at least, he is an improvement over our last 3 coaches. ND still has a ways to go, but I do think they are moving in the right direction. And he needs to be more patient with the run game and special teams certainly needs work. I think the up tempo offense may have been sacrificed this year because Rees isn’t equipped to run that type of offense. I think if EG comes back (or Zaire starts) you may see more up-tempo next year. Esp. since they are both mobile QB’s.

      I disagree somewhat with SFR’s eval of BK up to this point. I keep going back to the QB situation. I believe that really hampered ND this year. If EG were QB, I really do believe and expect ND would have been playing for a BCS bowl at least this year.

      But I do agree with SFR about the next 2 years. With the players this team should have, the RB’s, WR’s, QB, along with the defense, next year’s team should be playing in a high profile bowl next year, if not the 4 team playoff.

      If BK can work on some of the point’s Jack and others noted, there’s no reason ND shouldn’t have a more successful year next year.

      So yes, I sort of gave BK a get out of jail free card this year. Firing BK now would be a huge mistake and put ND firmly at square one. But if they are 8-4 this time next year, I will have some serious doubts.

    2. Jack,
      While I disagree on one or two points, I like your post and definitely like your analysis.

      The turf issue is one I don’t buy. ND has had a quality grass field most years I since at least 1980. I tend to think Kelly wants the issue to force artificial turf on the administration.

      I am concerned when 2 5th year guys transfer. There just seems like something isn’t right.

      1. C-Dog,

        Transfers for Wood and Welch is really the best case scenario for everyone.

        ND offered, and in true ND tradition, honored the full 4 year scholorship.
        Wood and Welch both earned their degrees from ND. They will get to transfer to other programs with the hope of serious playing time and a final chance at a possible pro career.

        And it also free’s up 2 vital scholarships for the future.

        If Wood and Welch had held scholorships from Alabama, you can bet they would have been yanked back long before either student athlete ever sniffed a degree from the school… unless of course they decided to greyshirt and pay their own way!

      2. C-Dog,

        We are not sure that Welch and Wood would be offered a 5th year or they would apply for a Master’s program which is the requirement at ND.

    3. Hi Jack. In college football foot speed is incredibly important – and its even more important in the pros – ND doesn’t get the 40 240 lb players with great 40 times that some of the other schools get – Golston was their best QB in many years and he flunked out. Great running backs are attracted to the option anc the Veer where they are highlighted – Oklahoma’s wishbone USC’s Veer – but you need 2 fast QB’s to pull that off – they will have that next year so don’t give up hope.

  7. As usual, C-Dog, pitch perfect and spot on. Now get ready for the ad hominem attacks and rationalizations from the apologists for ND mediocrity.

    BK needs to do some soul searching. I just don’t know if he’s capable of such self reflection. He seems to me from the outside looking in as a man who is stubborn. What’s worked for him in the past isn’t at ND.

    Next year will tell us whether 2012 or 2013 will be the norm under BK. Let’s all hope that the norm is 2012, except that it includes a NC at some point.

  8. Blame? No.
    Accountability? Yes.

    In both 2011 and 2013, Rees accounted for so many critical turnovers, game changers…..that it bears discussion. I have questioned to myself and here that Vegas could be involved, but I retract that and say here and now that Rees is a solid kid. But I do think he has sme psychological demon that drives him to turn the ball over at just the worst time. Almost like he feels guilty for starting or something. Whatever the cause, he should have had a sports shrink working out those demons. That is on the coach.

    The injury pattern is also on the coach. Those also seem more numerous.

    The regression of both the defense and the offense this year are on the coach.

    The bad spot the team was put in at QB to begin with is on the coach.

    Inconsistent play and flashes of brilliance are on the coach.

    Kelly is definitely a good coach and good leader. He can win more often than not. But is he great? I don’t know. That’s an unanswered question. And if not will everyone still cheer for an Irish program that is good, achieves almost to its potential and once in a while has a great year and almost goes all the way? Will allof you cheer on a team that I like Northwestern, Vanderbilt, maybe Duke, or a decent big ten team? I will. But I won’t pay top dollar for tickets and merchandise. Marketing the hope of return to past glory is ethical for only so long. Then it looks like a con job.

    So are the elements going to come together in 2014? Hmmmm!

  9. Certainly plenty of blame to go around. I’ve always believed Rees plateaued, this is as good as he is. It’s really a talent issue. He’s not a quitter, but he throws interceptions, esp. when pressured or under stress. But, when EG was tossed and I knew Rees was going to be the QB, I knew a BCS was probably unrealistic. I agree with the decision to use Rees (since we know Hendrix is a poor passer and I never thought burning Zaire’s redshirt was smart if EG returns as a starter).

    I sort of gave BK a pass this year. QB is an extremely important position, and not having the best at that position is going to hamper the team. Then the injuries didn’t help too. I expected 3 to 4 losses. The loss against Pitt was probably the worse. Stanford, I sort of expected that would be a tough game to win, but not Pitt. Next year, though, I’d expect to see improvement. We’ll see. A bowl win would help. It won’t be a BCS bowl, but I always believed going out with a win is always a good way to set up for next year.

  10. Considering the rash of key injuries on D, with 3 NGs, (NIx, Kona and Springman),
    2 outstanding OLBs ( Spond & Councell), losing our best MLB (Grace) vs. the run,
    and without Shumate for about half of the games, and
    with our dynamic D’ line trio of Nix, Tuitt, and Day together for less than 30 plays ALL YEAR,
    it was incumbent upon the offense to score more and turn it over less.

    That’s what I took from Frank’s post; don’t characterize clear
    accurate analysis for blame. It was what it was.

    I do feel BK fell short, first, schematically, running the pistol almost exclusively,
    which requires a QB threat to run, especially on 3rd and 4th and short.
    He never accepted what TR wasn’t, and disregarded TRs established propensities,
    putting too much on TR,
    as if Tommy was more than he could be. That’s on BK, not Tommy.

    Throw it up for grabs is not the formula for a productive offense, culminating in the 50 yard pass interception
    late vs. Stanford because Tommy “could only throw it 45 yards”. Really ?
    That’s the explanation for that call ?

    My main concern is whether BK can adapt to what his personnel can do best
    (see: Redfield, Shumate, Tommy rather than evaluating them on how well they fit into
    what you wanted from them before the season/rash of injuries started.

    I remain uncertain about his coaching acumen four years into his tenure.

    Adapting to injuries and adjusting in game preparations and
    game day situations separate the good coaches from the great ones.

    Finally, no one ought to minimize the effort put forth against a senior-dominated
    elite Stanford team. There may not be moral victories for ND, but the odds were very much
    stacked against us and the overall effort didn’t disappoint me.

    1. We get our clear verdict next, if we can’t average more than 30 a game with this talent, then BK is doing something fundamentally flawed and we are doomed.

  11. It was a pathetic season, when considering last year, we were just one game away from becoming National Champions. Next year, Golson should make a difference, but I don’t want to get my hopes up too high and then be let down.

  12. Should of played straight man and brought one of our safeties up in the box to stop the run. I know they both can’t tackle that well, but to have 2 safeties 15 to 20 yards off the ball every play when they are jamming it down your throat just doesn’t make sense. I know they are a 3-4 defense and played in the 4 a lot last night, but watching them try to stop the run with 6 or 7 in the box against Stanford is crazy. Take some chances diaco, safeties needed to be closer to the line of scrimmage all night.

  13. The one thing for me thats been frustrating to watch this year is the running game. I cant stand to watch BK rotate four or five RBs into the game. I dont know how any of the RBs can get into the flow of the game when there constantly being replaced. Pick one RB next year preferably Folston or Bryant and feed them the ball 25 times a game.

  14. I would agree the fair hair wonder boy certainly wasn’t completely at fault but his decision making and those untimely picks did play a big contribution. TR being a senior and not a newbie, still made decisions as if he were some frosh or soph. This has NOT BEEN a new phenomena with him this year and that’s the point. Frankly, one more game with him is more than enough for me once we accept a bid to the Tumble Weed bowl or whatever shitless l
    No name bowl we play in. QB and special teams really need a lot of work for 2014. I wasn’t surprised we lost and yes there were opportunities to win. They werenot capitalized on to pull it off.

  15. Your blaming Tommy Rees for this and our other losses is unwarranted.

    Stanford mauled our defense and ran all over them. Injuries and punishment notwithstanding, our team is undermanned on the defensive line and at middle linebacker. Stanford, even better than most other teams, stopped our poor running game cold. Our offensive line is young and couldn’t open holes. Our defense on special teams gave up another long return that hurt us.

    Stanford won the time of possession by nine minutes and out-gained us by 175 yards. Yet you suggest we could have, might, have, almost did win the game; you suggest Tommy Rees’ interceptions did us in again. That’s nonsense, Frank. The main reason we were CLOSE is because of Rees. When the other team controls the ball, dominates on the ground and is better at almost all phases of the game, that team almost always wins.

    A miracle win would have been sweet. But Stanford dominated that game by far more than the final score.

    1. Oldschool, I would have to respectfully disagree on how much blame to assess to TR and how close the game was. Tommy did what he always does – he threw horrible interceptions at exactly the wrong time. He also threw at least 3 more that should have been intercepted. Daniels might have been the defensive player of the game with 2 pass breakups of horrendous throws. My wife who never watches even commented “why does that Notre Dame QB keep throwing the ball to Stanford?” Not that the whole game was his fault but Tommy’s inability to be consistent sandwiched around several good throws cost us dearly. As for the game, ND was down 7 in the 4th quarter and had the ball twice. That is a pretty even game. Yes, Stanford dominated yardage but after it went to 21-6 in the 3rd quarter the Irish controlled the rest of the game. Holding Stanford to 2 field goals allowed the offense the chance to get back in the game. Unfortunately, Tommy did what he usually does and throws huge INT’s at the wrong time. A great effort overall against a highly motivated team.

  16. I hope your wrong Frank, we should be able to keep our opponents off balance to a degree with mobile QB. Would lie to see BK bring back Tommy as a QB coach.

  17. I sure hope Golson’s return is akin to the second coming as many active posters are predicting. Regardless, Kelly and Diaco should be doing some serious soul searching this offseason, because beyond the turnovers noted above, their coaching was sub-par this year.

    2014 will be an important year for the program. It will reveal which of 2012 or 2013 will be the norm. Although, the excuses for a porous defense already are bubbling to the surface, so I guess we really just need to wait until 2015. I used to think “wait until next year” was exclusive to the Cleveland Browns.

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