Notre Dame’s Fighting Irish overcame potentially fatal offensive turnovers and the first signs of vulnerability from the hitherto impregnable defense to survive North Carolina 50 -43. Though the tilt was a textbook demonstration of the perils of a sandwich game, the Irish moved to
Ev continues to confound us. As a sophomore, albeit RUNNING LESS FREQUENTLY, he demonstrated excellent ball security. His TD/int ratio of 12/6 was lofty for a redshirt frosh. But on Saturday he threw his second pick six in three games which endowed the Tar Heels with a 14-0 First Quarter lead. His maddening lack of ball security when in the pocket or running allowed Carolina short fields of 37 and 23 yards for 14 easy points.
Perhaps of greater concern were four vulnerabilities of the defense:
(1) The chronic inability to corral Marquise Williams and keep him from making runs for first downs. He did it six times. SIX TIMES!!
(2) Missed tackles. This is the sub-optimization most explicable by the sandwich game syndrome. The Irish have tackled very well for the first five games; they did not on Saturday.
(3) Inability to pressure the passer even when blitzing. This was the first time this surfaced all year.
(4) The consequences of lack of depth on the front seven. Carolina accumulated 230 yards on their last four drives of the game. In their first 56 plays the Tar Heels accumulated 280 yards, or 5 yards per play. In those last four drives, they only needed 28 plays to accumulate 230 yards. That’s 8.2 yards per play. The Irish defense looked fatigued and slower under the cumulative burden of the 84 offensive plays Carolina ran. Alas, even #9 looked like a mere mortal. The Irish defense, simply, can not afford any substitution pattern which leaves them tired in the fourth quarter. That is non-negotiable.
NOW FOR THE GOOD NEWS!!
The Irish offense is explosive and becoming more explosive. This offense generated a dozen chunk plays against the vexing defense of Stanford, and will continue to aggregate chunk plays. The offensive line, but for the anomalous three holding calls, two by Stanley, one by Elmer (none of three of which was ‘necessary’) is showing improvement each week since the Purdue game. Perhaps it is glacial, but it is improving. They OL had its best game in getting to the second level on running plays. On Saturday, two recent additions to the offensive repertoire received heightened levels of utilization. This involved the effective use of the jet sweep (the fake of which is not chopped liver, and is a linebacker/safety distractor) and:
PASSING GAME TO THE RUNNING BACKS
In 2013, the Irish completed 25 passes to running backs for a whopping 150 yards and no TDS. Since unveiling this ordnance against Purdue, the Irish, with six regular season games to go, have connected with the Running Backs for 21 completions for 219 yards (a tidy 10 yards per reception) and a TD. This will become more significant as the season progresses.
DID TAREAN FOLSTON ‘ARRIVE” ON SATURDAY?
Folston is shifty, strong, clever and leans forward when running. It was not the yardage Saturday, but the efficiency of his runs that was noteworthy. And he is highly capable as a receiver. Remember this: Folston’s “arrival” is not mutually exclusive with Bryant’s “imminent” arrival.
WHAT DID WE LEARN ON SATURDAY?
That until proven otherwise, Golson has ball security and turnover problems. It is, after 9 turnovers in 3 games, a habit. While not fatal against a defenseless Carolina, it will be against better opponents if not corrected. Fix it, with extreme prejudice.
The Irish defense may have a problem with an offense that runs a lot of plays and has a lot of speedy skill players. With the concentration in the heavy legged Big Ten, Upstate New York portion of the schedule, that vulnerability had been neither tested nor exposed. Chronic or correctable? FSU’s quarterback is not as nimble as Marquise Williams, but he is a far, far better passer.
This was the most points given up by Notre Dame since Charlie Weis’s finale against Stanford giving up 45 to the Cardinal in Palo Alto. His other impressive landmarks were allowing 46 at home to Navy in 2007. NAVY! In the civilian arena of incompetence, his Irish gave up 47 to Michigan in ’06. Best of all, after that 45 point yield to Stanford he proceeded to shamelessly loot the Notre Dame Treasury. “Some people rob you wih a six gun, some people with a fountain pen,” from “Pretty Boy Floyd,” by Woody Guthrie How sharper it is than a serpent’s tooth to have a thankless alleged fellow alum!
NOTRE DAME’S “ROAD” ADVANTAGE
In the hype-filled atmosphere of South bend, it is sometimes salutary that the team escapes the adulation and the back-slapping. Is good to get away from the dewy-eyed, breathless fellow students (and, here I am just talking about the Male students!) and bond as team. This is particularly apropos this season as they get away from the entanglement with the suspended five players and the ensuing drama, unauthorized practice of law, misapplication of the constitution, forelock-tugging and hand-wringing. Once they get on the bus to take the plane to Tallahassee it is just players, coaches and support staff. They may bring books (is “textbook” an anachronism?), but it’s all football, and they see only each other, remembering the importance of being Notre Dame football players.
Being road warriors is part of Notre Dame’s DNA all the way back to Rockne’s Ramblers. Later, the Irish played Army in New York for 16 years in a row. Frank Leahy’s teams played only four home games a year. They we have Ara’s bowl triumphs in Dallas, New Orleans and Miami,
Dan Devine’s stirring victory over the Bear in Birmingham in 1980. We are a national program, and it is our legacy to travel well. And We’re 1-0 at Doak Campbell.
WHAT WILL WE SEE AGAINST FLORIDA STATE?
(1) The defending National Champion earned by beating an SEC team. But they’re different this year. In 2013, after 6 games, the ‘Noles were beating opponents by an average margin of 53-12. This year it’s an impressive, but not breathtaking 39-21.
(2) The returning Heisman Trophy Winner. The Irish have done this before, Doc Blanchard in ’46, Glenn Davis in ’47, Roger Staubach, in ’64, Matt Leinart in ’05.
(3) A veteran offensive line, 5 returning seniors, coached by Rick Trickett a legendary line coach. This line has not played up to 2013 standards yet, garnering only 142 yards per game on the ground versus a startling 203 per game in the championship run in ’13, but a visiting Fighting Irish team may be just the motivation they need.
(4) the Pageantry of College Football. The Seminole War chant, the tomahawk chop, Chief Osceola, astride Renegade, throwing the Flaming spear into the midfield logo. It is good stuff.
(5) Old Friend Ronald Darby playing all-america, NFL draft level cornerback for the ‘Noles.
(6) The second most-talented roster in the country, trailing only Alabama’s, if you trust the recruiting rankings.
(7) Jameis Winston getting hit. One of Brian Van Gorder’s core principles is that the best offensive player for Notre Dame’s opponent must be hit and hit hard, early and often. Devin Gardner, Terrell Hunt and Ty Montgomery all llimpedoff the field at some point only to return. Jameis Winston will feel contact.
(8) A Doak Campbell Stadium where the irish are 1-0 against the ‘Noles, who have defeated the Irish in South Bend, Orlando and Miami.
(9) An FSU defense that was just too quick for the Irish offense after the 2011 season in the Champs Sports Bowl in Orlando. Kelly’s offense has come a long way since then, but can the Irish athleticism on offense now elude the lightning quick ‘Noles?
(9) A Notre Dame moment-When coaches recruit players to play at Notre Dame, and when those recruits say yes, part of the bargain is to play in games like this: The #1 team on the road, Jameis Winston throwing Heisman glory at the Irish D, in a hostile environment. A win would put the Irish in a pole position for one of the four slots, subject to conditions subsequent. Heck, man this is why we are Notre Dame!! Buckle your chin straps, lads, You KNOW the Irish will!!