Notre Dame v. Michigan ’14 – 5 Things I Liked

It’s been much too long since Notre Dame put on a performance like the one that we all witnessed on Saturday.  With Michigan in town for the last time, Notre Dame took it to their nemesis to the north and sent the Wolverines back to Ann Arbor with their tales between their legs following a 31-0 shutout.   Prior to Saturday Notre Dame had never shut out Michigan and as a program, Michigan hadn’t been shut out by anyone since 1984.

Obviously, there was a whole lot to love about this week’s game so let’s just start with the obvious.

1. A 31 Point Beatdown

To start things off, it is impossible for any Notre Dame fan to not love the fact that in the last meeting between Notre Dame and Michigan, the Irish recorded their first shutout of the series and dominated the Wolverines from start to finish.  During the down years of Willingham and Wies, Michigan delivered a couple similar beatings to the Irish making Saturday all that much more enjoyable for Notre Dame.

Over the last few years Notre Dame has made games with Michigan much more interesting than they needed to be.  In 2012, Notre Dame could have blown out Michigan if the offense was able to take advantage of all of the turnovers the defense produced.  In 2011, the Irish surrendered a double digit fourth quarter lead and lost in crushing fashion.  That didn’t happen on Saturday.  Notre Dame jumped out to a lead and then kept the pressure up until the clock read 0:00.

2. A defense that was flying around all over the field

The Notre Dame defense looked a little shaky early on when Michigan was able to drive the ball down the field with some success before missing two field goals, but once they dialed up the pressure Michigan couldn’t do much.  Notre Dame ended up sacking Devin Gardner three times and limiting him to a total of 5 net rushing yards.  They also intercepted him three times and forced him to fumble for a 4th Michigan turnover as well.

Two games into the season, it is very apparent how different Brian VanGorder’s defense is than the one we saw from Bob Diaco the last four years.  It’s still way too early to say that one is better than the other since Diaco’s 2012 defense will long be remembered as one of the best in school history.  It is not too early to say, however, that it is a lot of fun watching VanGorder’s defense and seeing a much more aggressive style of defense.   Jaylon Smith and Joe Schmidt specially seemed to be seemingly all over the field throughout the night.

I also loved seeing the improvement in the communication between the safeties this week.  Against Rice there were multiple breakdowns in communication that led to two Rice scores.  That didn’t happen this week.  Elijah Shumate and Max Redfield worked in tandem like the pair of ridiculously talented and physically gifted athletes they are.  With Purdue, a bye week, and Syracuse up the next three weeks, the two will get plenty of more time to work on that communication before that rough October stretch of games gets here.

3. Special teams continuing to be special

Special teams have been atrocious at Notre Dame over the last few years, but two games into the 2014 season, the Notre Dame special teams units have been a strength.  Thanks primarily to Cody Riggs, Notre Dame has more punt return yards in 2014 than they did in all of 2013.  He did have one miscue that could have been costly, but James Onwualu was Johnny on the spot with the recovery.

Kyle Brindza has made kick-offs almost an after thought with all but one of his kick-offs this year going for touchdown backs.  He’s been more than solid on punts too pinning Michigan inside the 20 yard line two.  On the flip side, Michigan was 0-2 on field goal attempts with both misses coming while Notre Dame had seven or fewer points.

It was tough to judge the Notre Dame kick return game just because Michigan only kicked off once.  You know because they were shut out.   Being able to say that is not going to get old.  Ever.  

4. Not laying an egg in front of recruits

Notre Dame had a lot of elite recruits on campus this weekend for the yearly night game in Notre Dame Stadium – something they’ve done the last few years since reintroducing home night games to the schedule – but unlike years past, this year Notre Dame put on a show for the recruits on hand.  In 2011, 2012, and 2013 Notre Dame was underwhelming in their “all in” recruiting weekends.  In 2011 Notre Dame lost to a bad USC team.  In 2012 and 2013, Notre Dame may have won both games but both performances were  not the kind of showings that grab a recruits attention.  The same could not be said about last night.

Notre Dame Stadium was electric on Saturday night – more on that in a moment – and the dividends from the beating the Irish gave the Wolverines should continue to come in for the next few weeks and months.  If Notre Dame ends up landing Soso Jamabo and Tevon Coney in this year’s class, Saturday night’s performance will likely have played a role in getting them there.  Add in some of the elite underclassmen recruits on campus like 2016 #1 ranked quarterback Malik Henry and it’s easy to see why Saturday’s beating will pay off for Notre Dame beyond this weekend.

5. The Environment in Notre Dame Stadium

There’s a reason the picture for this article has Brian Kelly front and center with his team behind him about to run out of the tunnel through a smoke machine, it added even more to an atmosphere that was already electric.  In many ways, Saturday night’s environment highlights the changes that Brian Kelly has made to the program.  Five years ago there wouldn’t have been a night game, there wouldn’t be FieldTurf, there wouldn’t have been music being played over the speakers in Notre Dame stadium.  All of those have arrived since Brian Kelly took over the program and show how much of a mark Kelly is leaving on Notre Dame.

I’m sure there were some fans who weren’t happy about the fog machine, but I bet if you ask the players who ran through it or the recruits who were right there what their thoughts were and I’d imagine you’d be hard pressed to find one that didn’t love it.  Notre Dame Stadium became a place that did not intimidate opponents post Holtz and while I don’t think you can say it’s become entirely intimidating to this point, the game day atmosphere has certainly improved.

Saturday night Notre Dame put on a show on and off the field for the students, alumni, and fans of the University.

There was a lot more to like about Saturday night too such as the play of freshman Drue Tranquil and Kolin Hill; the emergence of Amir Carlisle who scored the first two touchdowns of his career, the control with which the Irish defense had on the line of scrimmage; and of course the play of Everett Golson who has now accounted for 8 touchdowns and 0 turnovers through two games this season.

Like last week, it’s always a great problem to have when then’s more than 5 things to like.  Hopefully that trend continues.

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  1. “Dangerous tackling is one of the most important issues in football …attacking somebody is criminal…whether it happens on the football pitch or elsewhere…it is criminal and should be treated as such”.

    1. Should there have been a penalty? Of course, but it sounds like you want this young man in prison for a long prison term.

    2. Outside of a baseball game it is probably not in good taste to throw a ball at someone traveling 90+ mph. However, no pitchers have gone to jail recently.

    3. Yes indeed. Once again Bruce/BJ is a sage. What we need in this nation are MORE laws. If there is a helmet to helmet, arrest the football player immediately. Assault is generally defined as “any unwanted contact or touching”. Therefore, the slightest scuffle on the field should result in the immediate arrest of all parties involved. And this should apply to all ages, children’s sports to pros. In fact, there should be an entirely new federal law enforcement agency that devotes all of its time and resources to stamping these practices out. After all, we don’t have enough LEO agencies as it is, especially federal. Please raise my taxes to pay for them. After all, it’s all for the children.

      BJ, you are perpetually the voice of reason and intellect. Thank you sir.

  2. Hill should have been thrown out of the game for the helmet to helmet hit on trumbetti. It was a criminal act as I viewed it. Expect more from the trash at fsu if we don’t stand up against such conduct. This has no place in the game. Are we using the new ant concussion helmets that some pro and college teams use.

    No wonder so many linemen die early because of the concussions.

    1. Still “waiting for the electricity”. Wow. Total domination. The stadium was reportedly rocking/as loud as it has ever been. You’re likely going to be waiting a long time.

    2. Electricity like “watt” the Rocket generated is fun, but a slow, burning bleed-out takes the out the opposition’s will over the long haul. A boa-like strangulation is fun, too.

    3. bj,

      So you’re STILL waiting for the electricity uh?

      Well try this… tie one end of a wire cable around the clock tower and the other end around your balls and wait for the lightning strike…. this should generate the 1.21 gigawatts needed to send you back to 1966!

      Take that you mutated sum bitch!

      1. If it were raining vaginas, BJ would be posting youtube videos of how it used to rain more vaginas.

    4. I think Notre Dame Stadium has had some great moments in the past few years. I know Dayne didn’t live up to all the hype after his knee injuries, but this 95 yarder to Kyle Rudolph was an absolute thing of beauty, and veryone in the stadium was going bonkers. Then we lost…

      1. JDub’s timing is impeccable. If we beat Florida State JDub, please make sure to come on this site and tell us about when your dog died.

      2. Dub-Dub’s dog isn’t dead…
        its just missing.

        By the way..

        If anyone should come across a three legged mutt with the mange that happens to be blind in one eye, with a ear that looks like it was ripped off by a rabid coon, who’s tail is flat like it was run over by a soccer mom in a minivan, and appears to have has been recently castrated, Remember… he answers to the name of “Lucky”

  3. I was surprised by how soft Michigan was and the officials should expect a player wearing #98 to get hit on an interception return.

    1. Excellent point. Why exactly does he get to wear #98 anyway? Those rules must be different in college than the pros?

      1. There is no rule for a QB number, only offensive linemen. They have to be 50-79. The only other restriction is you can’t have the same number playing the same position in the game.

  4. I think Diaco’s style of defense worked well for the players we had in 2012. I don’t think VanGorder is better or worse than Diaco, just that the players we have on defense play better in his system. It’s certainly more exciting to watch. Though who can forget the goal line stand against USC in 2012, when USC had like what, 50 chances to get it in and they couldn’t. Pass, run, the defense was like a brick wall. So far the defense has done well.

    Offensively, other than a few miscues early on they did excellent. I wasn’t happy about the early timeouts but I figured the excitement got to them a bit. That could be costly down the road but I’m confident they’ll improve.

    You can’t say enough about having the right QB for BK’s system. I gave BK a pass for last year because he did not have his QB in place. But I think we can already see having the QB that plays into BK’s system is playing huge dividends. And EG has matured considerably. He is no longer as quick to run out of the pocket. He stays with the plays unless he absolutely can’t, then he makes plays on his own. He also has the inate ability to escape, reset and still make an accurate pass, and his decisions are improved, esp. knowing when it’s time to throw the ball away.

    My only, minor complaint is against both Rice and Michigan I thought BK maybe should have put Zaire in one series before he did. I’m certainly no coach, but with blowouts mid 4th quarter, I just thought that would be an ideal time to get your next QB some meaningful reps against an opposing team. You won’t always get those chances and I just think you take them when you can. Zaire is going to be an excellent QB too. I love the look he has, I mean, he looks like he hunts Lions on his free time.

    1. And Daniiel Cage who subs for him, isn’t small, either! What’s evident is the D’ has bought into and thoroughly enjoys BVG’s schemes. As a fan, I love watching the pressure-occasionally giving up meaningful yards, but also forcing bad throws and decisions on the QB under siege. EG’s mobility and feel for the game handling the pressuring opponent’s D’s is other-worldly. And the OL and DL is solid- a work in progress- and will get even better. Frank is going to have to expand this weekly to “10 things I liked’. And my pre-season surprise pick to excel, Drue Tranquil, is- like so many other youngsters- a “player.” Finally, the safeties play, Farley, Shumate, and Redfield, improved astronomically in just one week.
      My heart soars like a hawk!

      1. I’m out of town and haven’t been able to see anything live – I’m suffering from Irish withdrawal right now. What I’m seeing through secondary source analysis is two things:

        1) Brian van Gorder seems to be coaching these student athletes. This factor often goes unmentioned. They are student athletes and not professionals waiting to happen. I get the impression that they will not often make the same mistake too many times. The improved communication in the secondary is a good example of that. Let’s hope this is a trend that continues.
        2) Success and excellence is contagious. With Golson and the offence running so smoothly there is no way that the defence wants to be sen as the weakness. They will be looking for the same level of excellence as their buddies on the other side of the scrimmage line. This is about as healthy a competition as you will find.

        Next week Purdue and I’ll miss that game too. Maybe I should stay away until they lose?:)

        Go Irish

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