Notre Dame v. North Carolina ’14: Countdown to Kickoff

Notre Dame Fighting Irish head coach Brian Kelly waits with his players before taking the field against the Stanford Cardinal at Notre Dame Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Matt Cashore-USA TODAY Sports
Notre Dame Fighting Irish head coach Brian Kelly waits with his players before taking the field against the Stanford Cardinal at Notre Dame Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Matt Cashore-USA TODAY Sports

Notre Dame and North Carolina are set to kick-off later this afternoon.  As you get ready for the game, here are a few story lines to follow throughout the game as the Irish look to improve to 6-0 on the season and potentially set up one of the biggest regular season games of the season next week.

Can the Notre Dame offensive line gel? 

In my weekly question for the Irish Blogger Gathering, I asked if my fellow bloggers felt the reshuffled offensive line would look better this week after being tested by the blitz happy Syracuse defense and the stout Stanford DL the last two weeks.   I asked because so far I haven’t been overly encouraged by the play of the offensive line.

Golson has had time to pass, but the run blocking simply isn’t there yet.  Not only that, but even though the pass blocking has been OK, there were entirely too many instances of the Irish OL simply getting blown up by Stanford.  It’s one thing to get beat but its another to be completely bull rushed and knocked over.

The North Carolina defense is probably the weakest defense this team has seen all year next to maybe Rice.  There’s no reason for the offensive line to struggle to control the line of scrimmage this week.

Everett Golson - Touchdown vs. Stanford
October 4, 2014: Notre Dame Fighting Irish quarterback Everett Golson (5) rolls to the outside during a football game between the Notre Dame Fighting Irish and Stanford Cardinals at Notre Dame Stadium in South Bend, IN.
(Photo: Zach Bolinger/Icon Sportswire

Can Everett Golson cut out the turnovers? 

Through three games Everett Golson had a pristine turnover column in his stat sheet.  In the last two weeks, however, he’s turned the ball over six times (3 interceptions, 3 fumbles).  Luckily the Irish escaped both with victories, but that kind of luck will eventually run out.

Facing a weak defense, Golson has to do a better job of protecting the football.  Weather for this weekend in South Bend looks gorgeous so he shouldn’t have to worry about the conditions impacting ball security either.  For Notre Dame to really have a chance at a playoff run Golson needs to clean up that part of his game and turn in the type of performance he has against Rice and Michigan this weekend.

While at this point it’s still premature, Golson also needs to cut out the turnovers if he wants any chance of being invited to New York City for the Heisman Trophy Presentation in December too.

Can the Irish defense continue to dominate?

Even the most homerish of homer Notre Dame fans could not have predicted Brian VanGorder would have put together the kind of defense he has.  Notre Dame has yet to allow more than 16 points in a single game and the Irish defense is the reason Everett Golson even had a chance at his 4th quarter heroics last weekend.

Led by a young group of fast and hungry defenders, the Irish defense is playing fast, aggressive defense without many of the mental breakdowns that many (including myself) figured were unavoidable.  Now, the Irish haven’t really faced an elite offense yet so it will be interesting to see what teams like Florida State and Arizona State will do against the Notre Dame defense, but so far opposing offensive coordinators haven’t cracked VanGorder’s code.

I expect VanGorder to continue bringing pressure this week and not allowing North Carolina any time to get comfortable.  If he blitzed on 4th and the ball game last week against Stanford with a young defense, he will keep doing it.

After a tough and physical game last week though it will be interesting to watch how the Irish defense responds later today against the Tar Heels.

Can Notre Dame avoid the let down?

Any time you have an emotional, thrilling game like last weekend there is always the threat of a let down.   Two years ago following Notre Dame’s epic goal line stand against Stanford the Irish struggled against BYU at home with Tommy Rees filling in for a concussed Everett Golson.  Were the struggles from a let down or from adjusting to a completely different style quarterback?

Even earlier this year the Irish had a bit of a let down against Purdue following their shut out victory over Michigan.  For the Irish to stay in the playoff race though they will need to avoid a let down today and have a solid victory over North Carolina.  Even if the Irish stay unbeaten but continue to have closer games against weak opponents, the playoff committee will almost certainly take notice.

North Carolina came into the season ranked, but has been one of the most disappointing teams in the country.  There defense has been ravaged by lesser offenses than the one they will face later today.  Notre Dame needs to avoid the let down and take care of business.

Can they also prevent themselves from looking ahead?

As if avoiding a let down this weekend wasn’t hard enough, Notre Dame also has the added element of the chance of looking ahead to next weekend’s showdown with Florida State in Tallahassee.  If the Irish and Seminoles both take care of business today, next week’s game will be one of the most hyped games of the entire season and is the biggest hurdle in Notre Dame’s path to the playoffs.  An Irish win would not only validate Notre Dame’s place in the polls but would put them in the driver’s seat towards a playoff selection.

With all of that on the table next week, it would be very easy for the Irish to look ahead given North Carolina’s less than stellar record this year.  I’m sure Brian Kelly drilled that home to every player this week, but it wouldn’t be the first time a team overlooked an easier opponent with a big game on the horizon.  A slow start from the Irish will only raise concerns over the Irish looking ahead of suffering from a let down this week.

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  1. bruce, at the risk of confusing you with the facts, your posts in this thread are more aberrant and detached from reality than the usual.

    Regarding your plan to beat FSU in a “low-scoring game” you demonstrate that you have no, nada, sense of Notre Dame history. In ’93 we beat FSU
    31-24 in South Bend. That ain’t low scoring. When we beat them in Tallahasee in ’02 it was 34-24. Again, not low scoring.
    When they beat us in Orlando in ’11 it was 18-14 in favor of FSU.

    Read my historical lips, bruce-high scoring games favor Notre Dame,
    low scoring games favor FSU.

    Despite your fetish for special teams there were no significant special teams plays in either ND win.

    Your reality-detachment is even worse in talking about our being gashed in the middle and Stanford running “at will” up the middle. Stanford aggregated 63 yards rushing.

    And the long runs were 11 by Remound Wright and 10 by Hogan.

    Larn you sum hist’ry, son
    Get you some facts

  2. Agree 100 percent also shazamrock and the other stooge. I am surprise that the moderator has allowed this low class group to insult and ridicule people who just happen to love ND football. I am quite sure they are not nd alumni. This my final blog – stop insulting the integrity of ND by allowing this.

    1. Is this the type of comments you would like to see more of?

      Edward commented on September 18th, 2013 at 12:43 pm
      We lost manti motta Klm then springman spond baretti and future all American vanderdoes. Offense we lost eifert wood riddick devonte golson. The plan truth is now we do not have good players. Also Longo most overrated of all time.

    2. @ Edward,

      It’s called freedom of speech / expression.

      Something else you should agree with 100%.

      Also, whether you realize it or not, since your wee bit of ridicule from last week, your postings in clarity and punctuation has improved considerably…. which reflects positively on all of us here (yourself included) … alumni or not.

      Farewell and be well!

    3. @Edward:

      “I am quite sure they are not nd alumni.”

      Speaking of which, if you are an ND alum my opinion of the school just fell through the basement floor. It may be advisable for you to order Rosetta Stone- English.

      Have the best day ever.

    1. 47 rushing yards on the day is not at will.

      watch the film.

      Now if you want to complain about ND giving up 2 TD’s so be it… we’ve come to exspect nothing less from you.

  3. Who feels that Ron Burgundy has ruined this website? I’ve been coming on this website for about 10 years and it has always been a great place to talk Irish football. For the last few years it has sucked because of some sarcastic twit, who feels powerful by trying to make people feel small, has to make pathetic comments. If this is comedy, well that joke isn’t funny anymore. I’m sure Ron feels great having someone spend 5 minutes typing about him. He will probably brag about this to co-workers and act like a god around them because he is getting under the skin of many. Hopefully he will realize that he is pathetic later on in his life.

    1. Like him or not, I’ll tell you this… if someone, anyone, says something smart, factual, and intelligent, regardless of past history, he will acknowledge it as such.

      And if someone, anyone, says something stupid, overly self-opinionated, and blatently unsubstantiated, he will acknowledge it as such as well.

      Is that ruined?
      That’s a matter of personal opinion.

    2. spicey,

      Don’t let Burgundy get to you. It’s that simple. If you don’t like something he says or don’t like the way he says it, just give it back to him two-fold. This is a public forum. Like it or not, we can’t stop people from coming in here and saying what they want, how they want.

      Most of what Burgundy says is tongue in cheek. I do wish, however, we would have the common decency of not sexualizing spouses on here in a gross and offensive way. There are low blows and then there are low blows. Some are way too low.

      GO IRISH!

  4. they gotta plug the middle stanford and unc ran at will it seemed at times up the middle, van gorder has to constantly change the defensive set ups like barry alvarez in the catholics v convicts game, 4-4-3 was the parseghian set up but he had fast lbs, i am clueless how they are going to stop them, go van gorder!

  5. How to beat fsu
    A strong ball control offense
    A low score
    A high risk defense with constant blitzing
    Special teams
    A few scores from kickoff or punt returns
    An Irish prayer

  6. 6-0 not so bad. Should it have been a blowout, yep probably so. But thats not ND football. They do win but always make it hard on themselves thats just the way it is. Enjoy 6-0……. Burgundy your such asshole. Get a life. Obviously your not married or girlfriend.

  7. Umm, dudes, somebody saw this coming. I wonder who it was????

    (excerpt from quarterly report)

    (5) North Carolina TarHeels. Notre Dame Stadium, October 11

    This is the most pristine example of a “sandwich” game that Notre Dame has experienced in recent years.
    Stanford and FSU are repeat BCS bowl teams, one owns a 3-1 record against the Kelly regime
    and one is the defending National Champion. North Carolina will be an emotional challenge as well as a football challenge. In fairness,
    Carolina will be coming into the game off a difficult three game run, @ East Carolina in a surprisingly emotional in state revenge game,
    @ Clemson and a home game against always nettlesome Virginia Tech.

    Larry Fedora arrived in Chapel Hill, big boots stomping, loud with promises of what he was going to do.
    Fedora put up an 8-4 his first year. But in year two, his team was struggling, losing to ECU 55-21 at home and was 1-5 when Bryn Renner was
    hurt, going out for the year.
    In came Marquise Williams, and Fedora exhaled, a quarterback whose style fit Fedora’s.
    The Tar Heels roared down the stretch, winning 6 of their last 7
    including a bowl romp over Cincinnatti, losing only to Division Champions Duke, 25-27.

    You know the routine, North Carolina will find a way to get up for the challenge of the Irish.

    You heard it here first, this game may be ugly in every way imaginable. Make up your own mind, but some of us will accept an ugly mistake filled
    game. Think Purdue on steroids”

    Don’t spit in the wind,
    don’t tug on Superman’s cape
    and don’t ignore your uncle duranko’s counsel!!

  8. Poor defensive tackling also didn’t help. I am betting we’ll see some improvements next week on the D side.

    Go Irish

    1. I agree, Storespook. And the OL, although improving, had too many breakdowns. But missing tackles and and blocks are also results of the intensity NC brought. Letdowns after emotional wins against elite teams (like Stanford) and before playing the reigning national champs are going to happen despite t-shirts and preparation. This was a stumbling NC’s chance at redemption- on national TV- and we still survived. NC has an explosive offense, were focused, and their QB played his best game.By now, ND fans ought to be used to that. To survive, and just win, is becoming the legacy of ND, especially these last three seasons.
      Time for an epic road victory to add to this team’s gutty resilient resume.

  9. Up tempo killed this defense. FSU doesn’t run that fast, Winston is the factor they need to prepare for, he will kill you with his accuracy and arm. BVG wasn’t the problem the kids couldn’t read and get lined up fast enough. I think BVG will correct this problem.

  10. I guess the BVG honeymoon is over. In any event great to be 6-0. Let’s roll the dice next week and see what happens.

    1. I wouldn’t say it’s over. But surprising the university of North Carolina gave him a very good preview of what Florida State can do. Only FSU is good football team.

      Coach Kelly hopefully learned that it’s important to keep the ball away from the offense that’s scoring at will…..With a RUN GAME. Lol

      Hopefully the heisman talk can end in regards to Golson. Infact the one man offensive machine should probably be spread out a bit.

      Folston can play some football. He proved it tonight. He needs 20 touches a game and we will demolish teams. Golson, fuller, folston….and cast.

  11. And this is why we RUN the football coach. Folston is gonna get 20+ and he gets BETTER with every additional touch!! Let the kid take some weight off Golson. Keep the opposing offense on the side line.

    Ugh. So frustrating.

  12. every single one of you that predicted an easy irish victory/ blow out……….i got one question

    -have you been watching ND football for the past 20+ years?? cuz i seriously doubt it.

    do us all a favor, in the future when you’re posting on the internet the week leading up to an “inferior” opponent (especially @ home) and you feel like bragging and letting everyone know how good the Irish are…DONT.

      1. what can i say, I’m a trend setter.

        the very first person to ever go on a team’s sports blog and “bitch and moan” during a game.

        im honored to set such a precedent.

  13. i feel like Hood is going to go off. hope I’m wrong, but i am definitely nervous.

    teams of the past would find a way to blow this game.

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