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

Nov 15, 2014; South Bend, IN, USA; Notre Dame Fighting Irish tight end Ben Koyack (18) goes up for a pass that was thrown just out of his reach during a game against the Northwestern Wildcats at Notre Dame Stadium. Northwestern defeated Notre Dame in overtime 43-40. Mandatory Credit: Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports
Nov 15, 2014; South Bend, IN, USA; Notre Dame Fighting Irish tight end Ben Koyack (18) goes up for a pass that was thrown just out of his reach during a game against the Northwestern Wildcats at Notre Dame Stadium. Northwestern defeated Notre Dame in overtime 43-40. Mandatory Credit: Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports

Northwestern beat Notre Dame 43-40 in a game that was as repulsive in its unfolding as the result. It was a bad loss to a bad football team, which may be weaker than Tulsa 2010 or USF 2011. The Fighting Irish played hard, but with shattered confidence. Irish fear and doubt may have been Northwestern’s most valuable assets.


While the symptom is never the disease, the conversion/placekicking mess was illustrative. Notre Dame scored six touchdowns. On the six ensuing conversion attempts, Notre Dame scored 4 points, Northwestern 2 points.

Northwestern scored four touchdowns. On the four ensuing conversion attempts, Northwestern scored 5 points, the Irish none. Subtotal so far, Northwestern 7 conversion points, Notre Dame 4.

Northwestern converted 4 field goals, Notre Dame none. That yielded 12 points for the Wildcats, none for the Irish.


  • Northwestern 19
  • Notre Dame 4


Every one of the four levels of the defense has current issues.

Every level of the defense is playing less effectively than in September.

Defensive Line – The decision to redshirt Peter Mokwuah and Jonathan Bonner was the kind of decision that championship programs make. That decision will yield eventual rewards, but in football’s efficient frontier of risk and reward, it did not come without risk. Four

Defensive tackles is a risky number in the days of high tempo, pass-happy offenses. It’s probably two too few, but at least one too few. Jones and Day are showing wear and tear, and the early season ferocious pass rush is much tamer. Cage’s injury forced Matuska, either one more year away or a career squadman, to play some and Jones and Day to play too much. Did Cage’s injury beget Day’s?

A high motor player like Day can not play every down. It is an issue of physiology not will or heart.

Linebackers –  Joe Schmidt’s injury forced Nyles Morgan into the starting lineup. Northwestern had two long first quarter runs, one by Justin Jackson for 44 yards and one by Treyvon Green for 45 yards. Nyles Morgan was exploited on both. Chickens, simply, came home to roost. Those two plays advanced the Wildcats field position but were booster shots to the “Yes We can!” theme of the previously fragile Purple psyche. Now, Nyles Morgan did not slow Jarret Grace’s rehab and Nyles Morgan did not injure Joe Schmidt.

He will make us smile gleefully in games and years to come, and actually, albeit with a couple of missteps, played better in the final three quarters. He is forceful, aggressive and physical. But his next test will come on November 29th, when Sarkisian will unleash the wickedness and snares of the Trojan offense against #5. Luv ya, Nyles. I got your back!

Cornerbacks –  Riggs is still hurt and below par. In Spring, it seemed that Luke and Butler would be an outstanding pair of backups to Russell and Riggs. But Luke and Butler are now starters and will be required to man up against Agholor and Juju on the 29th.

Safety – Soooo, Max Redfield is not good enough to play?

This position has more sublplots than reality TV. Is our priority here athleticism or experience, none of the above or all of the above?


The second rule of football is to not beat yourself. The Irish have been violating that for weeks. But the first rule of football is to believe in yourself, and the Irish are now suffering a huge deficit in confidence. It seemed yesterday that the players were waiting for the next freakish thing to go wrong, and they didn’t have to wait long. But this is why the adults in the room get paid lots of money. Player leadership is nice but this level of doubt can only be remedied by the coaching staff. Kelly, Van Gorder, Elliott, Hiestand, Alford, Elston, Cooks have lived through these crises before and it is on them to show the team the way to climb out of it. They have the scar tissue, vital at times like this, and the brain tissue. Though Saturday was fraught with tactical and execution errors, it is the belief, confidence and will that must come first. There is much at stake for the rest of the year. And the coaches must change the mood and confidence levels.


There are three games left and they will establish the foundation for what could be an intriguing year in 2015.

The next four games are against Louisville, USC, a bowl opponent and Texas. That’s good, solid stuff, not a gimmee in the bunch, and the squad has a chance to show that they can start fast and learn to finish games. There are no doovers, but the Irish can charge into bowl season and the offseason by focused effort and competence.

ISAAC ROCHELL – “Adversity does not build character, it reveals it.” The author meant you, Isaac. You were a rock.

CAPTAIN AUSTIN COLLINSWORTH – though born with a silver spoon, Mom’s looks and Daddy’s radio/tv voice, you have overcome plenty of adversity with position switches and multiple injuries. You have approached your five years here with the determination of a foundry worker from Johnstown.

You deserved your touchdown on Saturday. Thanks for the memories, Austin.


  • A Charley Strong-built defense with plenty of imported Florida Speed. The Cardinal staff will have watched and absorbed the ASU blitzfest. Good! Let’s see how the Irish have progressed, on all fronts, against a blitz heavy defense.
  • Bobby Petrino, who, along with Mike Gundy, Art Briles and Mike Leach is one of college football’s finest quarterback developers. Certainly, this year he toils without Bridgewater and with an out-for-the-year Gardner. But Petrino will have quarterbacks in the future, and we will see him again in Pizza stadium, and will observe his forces combatting our ACC foes.
  • Two emotional advantages for the Cardinals. They enjoyed a Saturday off while the Irish played Northwestern. Also, the 22d is Senior Day, when emotional farewells are often more memorable than the home squad’s performance. Nevertheless, the Fighting Irish are 4-0 on Senior Day in Kelly’s regime.
  • A farewell to arms: Brindza, McDaniel, Koyack, Riggs, Lombard, Collinsworth, Utopu and probably many, MANY more good players who will not be invited to return for a fifth year and may finish their career elsewhere. These Seniors committed while the Irish were still in the doldrums, and helped bring the program up several rungs.

Next is Thanksgiving break, and then a trip to the Coliseum, never uneventful.


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  1. I cant believe we’re still pining over Ben Councell. And now Kendall Moore?
    Yes, efforts to beat one of the worst teams in the Big Ten are futile without these studs.

      1. There are certainly more than enough Crist loyalists, but there seemed to be absolute reverence for Hendrix. I never thought I would know so much about the course loads, report cards, future education plans and ambitions of a 3rd string QB.

      2. Where’s Nate Montana, probably with Crist drinking a beer & watching the Irish play while sitting around in a sports bar, hahaha.

    1. My reply was about what’s ahead versus Louisville and $C. And who’s left to play against them. No need pining for Councell; he’s still there.

  2. oddly enough, we do have enough depth at DE for Rochell to slide over.
    And the two teams we are playing have had injury problems. USC is much, much, more snakebitten than we are in the injury column.

    What’s really weird is that in the four areas where we have the most depth: OL, RB, WR, TE we’ve had no injuries at all. It’s a strange game, college football, and you never have it figured out.

    1. Injuries at the key positions you allude to (CB,S, LB, and DL) are only part of the equation as to who’s left as “next-man-in” as we end the season. Lest we forget:
      ND has has lost one CB to injury, and he still might contribute some, but another to a year-long academic suspension. Having Russell back by now would make a difference.
      They’ve lost one key experienced DL to injury, another to a year long academic suspension.
      Having Ishaq back by now could have helped.
      We lost two ILBs to injury, although one was lost last year and never returned, and another to a year long academic suspension. Having Kendall Moore back by now would have helped, especially against the run.
      What happened to Ben Councell, who last Spring mentioned “we’ll have to get him on the field”‘?
      All our safeties are back. Did those year-long suspensions impact experienced depth ? Hell, yes!
      Such limitations from others decisions (both from students involved and those who passed judgment for whatever they violated, and if the punishment fit the crime) also impacted what’s left of this team’s experience and depth, always an issue at this time of year. These were not of Bks doings, or injuries, yet the consequences of others decisions might help “figure it out” at this point in this season regarding the quality of experienced depth remaining.
      “Just the facts, M’am” Joe Friday, Dragnet.

    2. Duranko,

      USC has been snake bitten by injury, but yet they keep winning in the tough PAC 12. Injuries happen it’s how you react to the injuries and I can say that ND hasn’t reacted well.

      BK is relying on the offense to not make mistakes and put up big numbers so he can outscore his opposition. We knew in the beginning of the year that the defense was going to be the weak spot on this team and the offense was going to have to outscore the opposition. However the offense has shot itself in the foot time and time again. After the third game of the year ND has had at least two turnovers in everyone of their games. The only game where I would point to that turnovers were not an issue would be FSU because the 2nd turnover was the last offensive play of the game.

      The defense is what it is, but the offense needs to step it up and play mistake free football while averaging about 40 a game. This is what I said in the beginning of the year and it still rings true now.

      I don’t want excuses I want results and there is no reason why they should have lost last Saturday if they took care of the football and the Disaster in the Desert would have been avoided if they could have held onto the football.

  3. great job beatha. The Redfield deal was mystifying. Tranquill will be outstanding in the future for the Irish, but not yet. At the risk of profiling, he reminds me a lot of Harrison Smith, at least at the college level. But Redfied brings so much to the table right now.

    The Golson thing is odd. In 2012 he was most dangerous when he moved up or out of the pocket and ran around behind the line until he lasered one downfield. He got big chunk plays doing that and with the gazelles we have in the receiving corps its surprising that it hasn’t happened more often. Great high school football player though he was, he was also a pianist, so there is a sensitive side.

    On uptempo, two notes. USC ran it to perfection in its opener against Fresno. But Sarkisian seemed to slow down after that to protect his very thin defense, which has no depth. USC’s defense has been getting torched in the last 20 clock minutes of their big games. If I can, I’ll work that up and insert it in this weekend’s article. I’ve never seen such a disparity between the first 40 minutes defensive performance and last 20 minutes defensive performance as I have with SC ’14. But aggression and audacity are good and maybe Kelly needs to just let it rip.

    The next two games are intriguing. Each is winnable. Each is losable. Each opponent has some great strengths and is well coached. Each has great weaknesses: Louisville’s true frosh QB and USC’s depth issues, which get worse with each passing week. Louisville should blitz us to death.
    And Sarkisian will try to find ways to isolate one of his 4X100 track team (Smith/Agholor/Jackson/Farmer) against our safeties.

    beatha, your post demands a more thorough response, but at my back time’s winged chariot I hear…..

    1. “The Golson thing”

      I would say in 2012, the ND QB’s had a considerably better offensive line in terms of pass protection.

      Hegarty, a senior, has been suspect all year, and more recently, Stanley, a junior, has been getting beaten with regularity.

      That results in QB pressure from up the middle and off the edge.

      The offense was much more simplified for Golson in 2012 with far fewer “gazelles” for him to manage.

      I was optimistic before the start of this 2014 season that the ND offensive line would be a real force this year, perhaps even being regarded as one of the best in all of college football having taken “the next step”.

      Then reality set in as Kelly and line coach Harry Hiestand tinkered and toyed with the line-up, still trying to settle on a starting five and where each would actually play that carried over well into the season.

      It took nearly four or five games before a reliable running game could even be established.

      These linemen have been carefully selected, recruited, and have been under Hiestand’s guidance for a while now.

      Upper Classmen like Nick Martin, Christian Lombard, Matt Hegarty, Conor Hanratty, Ronnie Stanley and Steve Elmer should all be
      Playing much better football.

      To not have them better developed, to not know who your starting five will be, to not have your guy’s settled in their starting spots and working
      together BEFORE the season opens is question for concern.

      In my opinion, at this juncture, these six lineman should be able to go out, line up, and dominate.

      Instead you see Golson getting sacked, running for his life, trying to operate Kelly’s offense while under constant pressure, taking far too many hits, and a offense that passes the ball on 3rd and 1 because there’s little confidence they can push a defense back one yard.

      Too much good, young, offensivr line talent on this roster to continue this way.

  4. Watch the players body language. Kelly has lost this team. They have no
    use for him or respect. It is scary with so many of the same ones coming back. I really hope it is true he might go pro. Remember just before the
    national championship game he interviewed with a pro team. The players knew
    it which really helped. I dont care what is record was elsewhere this job
    is above him.

    1. Can you provide examples of player’s body language that shows a causal/corrallary to their lack of respect for their coach? I’m not being a smartass; that’s an honest question. I will say that I have seen this on several occasions with Golson. It’s pretty clear he does not like to be yelled at or coached to after he turns the ball over (so 20 times now this year) and generally walks right past Kelly.

      If I was Kelly I’d have some pretty choice words for Golson about blowing me off. Then again, that only goes so far. Yelling, in and of itself, accomplishes nothing. If you have the right processes in place, trust, confidence etc., then fine. It’s no difference than parenting. Once a parent reverts to yelling at their kids on a regular/constant basis, the kids just tune them out. Yelling occasionally to light a fire or make your point is sometimes necessary, but the trust, love and respect have to be there first.

    2. First you say “he might go Pro” then say “this job is above him”

      So what you’re really telling us is that it is easier to coach in the NFL than to coach at the college level at Notre Dame?

      1. Re: BK going to the pros.

        If he continued his in-your-face yelling at the pros for every mistake made, it would lead to him getting pimp slapped across his round irish head all the way back to Grand Valley. No need to fire Kelly. But BK seems to be pressing and even more defensive about NDs lack of improvement and maybe that’s resulting in mounting poor in game decisions already mentioned, several last week that were potential game changers. Let me sign in as one of the “excuse makers” and agree that injuries and suspensions to key players/positions have led to ugly regression. The good news is it’s more on ND for losing than it is them getting decisively beaten, which offers a remedy and puts the onus of correcting and minimizing their shortcomings on themselves.I don’t know if it’s fixable in two weeks with whose left as “next men in’.

  5. I’m honestly sick of reading these message boards about Golson, Kelly, and the offense/turnovers. Yes, turnovers suck. Yes, they can sometimes put your defense in bad positions when committed on your own side of the field. But seriously everyone, what do you want Golson, Kelly, and this offense to do…put up 50+ every game to win? We are averaging close to 40 points a game. Our defense in the last 5 games is giving up 42 points per game. That is the real problem. Kelly is offensive minded. Sure he has made some head-scratching decisions with the 2 point conversion, handing it off instead of taking a knee, changing placeholders, etc. but we are scoring close to 40 points per game!!! What more do you want out of your offense??

    Our defense is now pathetic after showing so much promise earlier in the season. It’s the truth. But I’m not so sure it is because of the lack of athletes on this D. This is one of the fastest defenses I’ve seen at ND. However, when something simple isn’t addressed in scheme such as blitzing the QB and not having your DBs press the receivers to knock them off their routes, that is ALL on the coaching. Time and time again we see our guys blitz and then a receiver catches a simple slant route for 8 yards and a first down. The problem is the receiver isn’t being contacted until 8 yards down the field because our DBs are playing far off the line. That is ALL on the coaches and a poor scheme. Kelly obviously trusts VanGorder but its time he maybe step in and say something because the defense is NOT working one bit.

    1. “Our defense in the last 5 games is giving up 42 points per game.” And in those last 5 games we are averaging about 4 turnovers / game. No, the offense should not need to score 50 points/game, but it also should not spot the other team 2-4 TDs per game either.

      “Our defense is now pathetic after showing so much promise earlier in the season. It’s the truth. But I’m not so sure it is because of the lack of athletes on this D.” The amount of injuries cannot be overstated. This defense is absolutely decimated. People can talk all they want about that being an “excuse” or how ND needs to “rise above” etc. etc. But then there’s the real world instead of platitudes. Imagine what practice is like each week when your roster is reduced 30 or 40%. The impact is gargantuan.

      There are multiple reasons why this team is a dumpster fire. Turnovers, horrible coaching decisions, and a defense that is a skeleton of its former self. And I haven’t even mentioned the academic santions.

      1. Grace, Schmidt, Riggs, Springman, Baratti are just a few of the injured. Russell and Williams gone because of sanctions. Sheldon Day likely hobbled or out now.

        There are alot of true freshman and sophomores out there with no clue as to what they are doing.

      2. JDH,

        It is hard to play consistant football with so many key players missing.

        Aside from those you mentioned, Russell in the secondary is proving to be a huge loss as is Daniel Cage up front.

        7 different freshmen have seen significant playing time on defense this year and the latter part of season appears to be taking somewhat of a toll as it offten does with freshmen.

        Then factor in 2 players who probably should be here but aren’t.
        Stephon Tuitt & Eddie Vanderdose.

        That is a lot of missing talent.

        Which puts a lot of pressure on the younger players.

      3. You are making excuses for this defense. How many turnovers have gone for TDs in the last 5 games…2? It is the defense giving up the TDs, not the offense and their turnovers. The D still has to play D right? Remember 2012 when we hardly ever gave up points, even when our offense wasn’t producing crap? What would you rather have? Scoring around 20 a game, punting more than scoring, with less turnovers? Or scoring near 40 a game with occasional turnovers? I’ll take the latter any day. No team, especially North f’ing Western should be scoring 40+ on us. No excuses JDH…the D needs to step up.

      4. Chris J:

        Just like Ron, you are too dense to understand the difference between “excuse” and “factor”. Moreover, I even spelled those words out in phrases more than once. Plus, this statement of yours: “How many turnovers have gone for TDs in the last 5 games…2?” BWAHAHA?

        Are you serious with that question? Are you watching the games? Arizona State alone had 3 picks sixes. Yeah you’re right on target.

      5. And to answer your other 2 statements:

        “What would you rather have? Scoring around 20 a game, punting more than scoring, with less turnovers? Or scoring near 40 a game with occasional turnovers? I’ll take the latter any day.”

        Umm, I don’t know I guess that depends. Define “less turnovers” and “more turnovers”. We are averaging 4/game. What is your point?

        “I’ll take the latter any day. No team, especially North f’ing Western should be scoring 40+ on us.”

        Can you point out where I wrote, at any time, that Northwestern should be scoring 40 points on us? No, because I’m looking at the regression of the last 5-6 games, not simply hyperventilating and going apoplectic about only the Northwestern game. But thanks for putting words in my mouth so to speak.

    2. Chris,

      After the suspensions everyone knew the defense would struggle, but the offense can not shoot itself in the foot and yes if they want to win they will have to score over 40. That is why the offense has to be perfect because I don’t see this defense stopping anyone especially USC and Louisville.

      1. JDH,

        The point is simple. This defense sucks and our offense is rocking. If we are scoring 40 a game, we should be winning. It shouldn’t take scoring 50 to win. And btw, ASU had 2 pick sixes and no other picks or fumbles have gone for TDs. And let me remind you those were both tipped passes, which in turn is bad luck. Golson is playing fine, even with the turnovers because of the amount of points we are scoring. Less turnovers would be great, but it happens. If we were scoring 20 and turning the ball over 5 times consistently, then that is a SERIOUS problem. But that isn’t happening is it?

  6. Losing Joe hurts…say what you want about him athletically, but the guy is a coach on the field and always seemed to be in the right place at the right time. By the way, this isn’t the end of Notre Dame football..remember some way some how we were still in that game against ASU even after all of those turnovers and we would’ve beat the brakes off of Northwestern without costly turnovers. You know what this tells me? This team is very young and I think some adversity is just what they need. We need to finish the season strong and come into 2015 hungry for a national title.

  7. Sandy Koufax. Golson’s shoulder took a hit and he was okay to stay in. What if ND were to be still in play off picture and Golson get’s injured in USC game. NOW finally Zaire get’s to play ! Golson is the starter , but Zaire should be getting game time since early part of season. Coley O’Brian had to spell Hanratty a few times. Remember USC and Michigan State ? Kelly will get fired if things don’t turn around. University of Notre Dame has fired Brennan , Kuharch , Davies , Willingham and Weis. Ara and Lou are the only two ND coaches since Leahy 1953 to last past 5/6 game career. Kelly’s time is dwindling.

  8. A wonderful article…It could use a peppering of profanity and a salty joke to fun the read, but otherwise it was both well written and apt. And I agree with everything exressed, even the optimistic tone. I mean, what is he supposed to say guys; “The Irish are Doomed!!!”? certainly, both of the remaining regular opponents have the tools to take ND apart. But, this isn’t the fault of coaches or players in my opinion. The team simply doesn’t have the tools to beat a few basic attacks. Defensively, we lack the experience to react quickly to the Up Tempo offense. We didn’t see much of it in the beginning of the season, but when we did, it was too obvious. Now, it’s just common knowledge. As I said in a previous post, Louisville scares me more than USC. They’re actually designed to exploit our weaknesses. USC has youth and inexperience as well at key positions. They can’t run the tempo as quickly as Louisville (even with the back up QB). And, ideally, The Irish will bring all they have at every position for that one.

    On that note though, I was also wondering whet the hell was going on with the Tranquill sub for Redfield? Tranquill struggled all first half. He directly resulted in two TD’s, as well as a host of other missed reads for gains and bad positioning on runs. He seems a tough and athletic kid, but he’s still powder new. When you’re already struggling with defensive understanding, why start the frosh? I haven’t seen anything out of the ordinary from Redfield other than a Safety crushlust that has led to a few penalties and an ejection early on. He’s missed a read now and then, but Tranquill was a wreck. Even when they brought Redfield back on in the third, he was out again by the fourth. What gives?

    Offensively, The problems are also probably what they’re going to be for the remainder of the season. The Archangel brought up a great illustration of it, however unintentionally, above. The scoring run by Golson…was the same play as the fumble by Golson on the 5 yard line. Both are the same read option play to opposite sides. On the first Golson keeps, which he almost never does, and runs for a great TD. The other, he fails to make up his mind, when he should have again kept, and results in a painful fumble. He just couldn’t see the development quickly enough, which has been the case in every game he has played, 2012 and 2014. So, you can see Kelly’s frustration. If he could just do it right, he and Folston would be a tremendous combination. Both are athletic, elusive, and play makers. Unfortunately, he can’t seem to wrap his head around the option decision; and he can’t settle in a pocket, or feel pressure. (Apparently Whitfield is a throwing coach more than a modern QB coach.)

    Which leads to the next great point that Mike Blick brought up, and has been driving me crazy the last several games. The seeming disrespect Golson has for his coach. Kelly has admitted to augmenting his approach to Golson to meet his emotional needs…but it hasn’t done any good in the crunch. He also seems to have the same approach to all other players as well, which begs the question; did ND administration come down on him after the purple faced “What the F+ are You Doing” moment on national TV?

    Either way, as a player I would have much prefered the profane tirade from a coach when I screwed up, to the pinched, passive aggressive crap he does now. An ass chewing from Sergeant Hartmann is better than a loud whining from Gilbert Godfrey. The fury adds to the emotion, while the whining not only grates, but has also been shown in studies to be the reason Jewish boys don’t play sports.

    I honestly believe that even with the defensive limitations, if Golson could just make his reads and know when and how to utilize his tremendous athleticism, the Irish would be a playoff team. The recieving corps is great, and becoming among the elite. The running game would be nearly impossible, and mentally fatiguing, with two very talented options to slow pursuit at every hand off. With the right reads, and zones developing as their designed, the OL wouldn’t be left in the position of what they know, versus what they’re hearing. But, in fairness to Golson, this is his second year running the offense. He’s had enough real snaps to have pulled it together by now in my opinion, but maybe next year. (yeah, YEAH, Yeah…like Barry White, I’m just slippin the excuses into ya.)

    The answer may be as simple as running desperation fast up tempo. Let Golson run on intuition alone, and except the occasional mistakes. He makes far fewer when he’s running hurry up and his reads are limited. Let the play call dictate give/keep on the option.

    ***The line is ND by 4.5. I’m simply incapable of making the bet against them, but for those of you that are souless enough; there’s nothing wrong with making Vegas broke.

    1. Of course BK got admonished by the administration after the purple faced incident. That was the first time BK realized he wasn’t in Kansas anymore.

      1. Sure, I think we were all thinking the same thing when the event occurred, but what I’m curious about is the degree of restraints or expectations the administration might have put on him. His entire demeanor seems to have changed.

  9. Is it possible to be over coached? I wonder if that is what I see when watching EG. His hesitation looks like it could be that no matter what decision he makes it will be the wrong one? Maybe let him play naturally? He is a great QB but he needs to come out for awhile and let someone else take some of the load.


  11. good one George,Woody said thatafter he trucked Michiga in ’68 and went for 2 to get the final score to 50. Then came Bo Schembchler in to coach andhe exated his revenge against Woody 24-12 in 1969 beating Woody, Ker
    Tatum and the rest.

  12. What I saw was a QB who was tentative in the first half, and injured in the second half- and not particularly sharp before or after the injury. I feel it was Golson’s worst game of the year, not because of his turnovers, but because he didn’t have his usual momentum changing moments we’re used to.
    The sad truth is you should be able to overcome your QBs mediocre game against a team like Northwestern and it could have still resulted in a victory had ND:
    1) not been outscored 17-4 in PATs and FGs, as duranko pointed out
    2) developed a gameplan in which you could trust your run game to get a fourth and one, or get yards inside the opponents ten by this point in the season.
    3) been dominated on both LOS, one breakdown leading to a slapstick-like bounce off NDs lineman standing alone blocking no one, whose helmet provided the deflection for EG’s interception, due to a QB blind side hit resulting from another missed block on the same play, similar to the costly INT to start the third quarter against Az.St. last week at their goal line. It’d be funny had it not become a recurring part of our passing attack these last two weeks; their D didn’t deflect any passes, so our lineman’s helmet decided to keep the streak alive. Put a tent on that circus! Where are the dancing bears ? Or at least OL who can either run or pass block? At this point, I’d settle for either.
    4) two fumbles in the red zone, one at the goal line on second down, the other on a first down turnover less than eight yards from the goal line, both used due to
    5) given up 43 points to a team that had scored only 50 their last five games
    against the likes of Iowa, Minnesota, and Michigan included , that’s an average 10 points a game their last five.

    Now for a brief review of the brain synapse misfires of BK this week.
    1) First and goal- never try to run a traditional handoff to whomever you have as a RB; Try to outsmart them instead. If your OL and TE can’t beat NW’s line off the ball, you have the wrong OL playing. If they fill the gaps, advise your RBs it’s allowed to break the play outside.
    2) Go for “2” when you only need a PAT to move to a three score margin in the fourth quarter.
    3) have your initial QB keeper gain over 60 yards and never try that play again.
    4) then NW has one time out left, under two minutes left,
    then you decide to run the traditional handoff,
    when taking a knee would have all but ended their chances to score with the remaining time left.
    “But Cam never fumbles”. Everybody fumbles some time. Taking the knee prevents further damage control on a team whose execution had become a train wreck. I’m confident I neglected to mention numerous others. So when your D, coaches’ prep, in game calls, and your QB have their worst games, even NW can beat you. Ask Wisconsin.

    What I saw were two opponents ready and prepared both schematically and psychologically who, despite their miscues, were focused enough and determined they’d win. What I saw was an ND team whose confidence and belief in themselves appears to be in serious doubt. I wondered after the FSU game if this staff and the youth on the field would be able to bounce back from such a devastating loss? Well, they didn’t versus Navy or Az.St.
    A quarter here or there, but not much since that dastardly desert defeat. My doubt persists and far more importantly, it looks like the players’ doubt grows.

    What I saw was a team that may have lost the belief they can win; these last two games the players against us believed they’d make enough plays to beat ND, even when NW dropped far more passes and turned the ball over as many times as ND did. Redirecting a team’s attention after a loss, or even a sloppy but fortunate win, is on the coaches at least as much as its on the players. Certainly a change in preparation is in order if what you’ve been doing isn’t successful. THat “great week of preparation vs. NW didn’t look so great come game time.
    Start with having Zaire focus on QB duties, and give him a series or three. And maybe, let him pass-if even just once. ( Golson’s shoulder and the need for Zaire to narrow his focus on QB preps would relieve BK of admitting the switch in holders was a bad idea. At least we used to have enough confidence in the holder that we could go for a game clinching PAT, if that was BK’s reasoning for going for that two).

    We’ll find out soon if BK has lost this team- not necessarily if they lose, but instead by how they play.
    Because maybe ND is at the point where next man left to be “next man in” isn’t ready to compete with the likes of our next three opponents? Stay tuned.

      1. Burgundy-
        at least you’re paying attention . . .

        I’ve had to adjust my pre-season haiku. Unlike BK, I’m not adverse to change or adjustments, especially when it’s proven to be insufficient, especially in light of NDs last five games total scoring averages:

        Scored thirty seven
        While giving up 41
        Just won’t get it done.

        My heart does “soar like a hawk” often,
        so quit “shoulding” on me; but re: ND, only when they’re winning, not just scoring. But, whatever gets you through. Although I usually find cyberspace bullies annoying, keep those snide snippets of snark coming. Some of them are actually amusing. Since you can’t stay classy,stay crassy

      2. I write more about it below MtA, but you should know that the Golson TD, and the Golson fumble, were the same play. Kelly has tried since he’s started to run the zone read option. He really didn’t have the guy until he got Golson, or so he thought. He has all the physical prowess, but can’t make the read yet. What’s weird is that Zaire apparently can’t either? Is Kelly’s offensive, and BVG’s defensive, schemes just too heavy for a largely FR an SO talent class?

  13. Let the rumors begin everyone is speculating BK going to Florida or the NFL. If he doesn’t refute these rumors the recruiting class is done.

  14. I read a couple of interviews where the players talked about what a great week of practice they had before the Northwestern game. It’s hard to believe that they could be so ill-prepared.

    A bunch of folks in last week’s blog were calling for Zaire to get some game time experience. Now is the time. Some say that he’s not game ready but for the life of me I cannot understand how anyone can become game ready if they don’t play in a game. What’s the plan here? Play him in his final year? I don’t get it.

    On BK, I keep holding my tongue and in my mind I’m hoping it all works out but I am really starting to wonder now after two terrible weeks. I’ll be in town for the Louisville game and I sure hope they don’t disappoint again.

    Go Irish!!!! (please?)

    1. Coaching bad. Playing bad. And horrible crowd. Too quiet for a top tier program. Maybe a letdown after a second loss, but WE need to b the twelfth man! Come on Irish!

  15. the decision to go for the two point conversion was beyond dumb, unless the coaching staff firmly believed they had a better chance converting the two point conversion, than the one point kick.

    1. Brian Kelly has been a successful college head football coach for 26 years.

      He has lead several teams to undefeated seasons and won two titles at Grand Valley State.

      He obviously knows how to add.

      Sometimes coaches do things that seem unorthodox in order to get their teams’ attention, light a fire under players, instill confidence, send a message, or stress the importance of the moment.

      A coach that realizes that his team is in a funk and does nothing…. that to me is poor coaching.

  16. ND players need to worry less about how many tattoos they can fit on their arms and more about blocking, tackling and playing smart football. It is time to quit blaming the coaching staff for their troubles.

    1. Disagree. This team was unprepared to play, they continued to commit turnovers, the defense couldn’t get off the field mostly because the players were out of position and were tackling poorly. The cocah doesn’t know when not to try for a 2 pt. conversion and he can’t find a holder who can hold onto the ball. the kids are playing without confidence. This is all the result of poor coaching.

      BK is the one making millions and when his team makes him look bad, he refuses to man up and take the blame. This has been going on for 5 years now

  17. What we saw was a nightmare! I am beginning to wonder if more blame should be given to the coaching staff on two fronts. The first being the team was ill prepared to face NW. How that is possible, I don’t know, but the Irish looked confused and inept at stopping a team that had trouble moving the ball and scoring one week early. Golson, forget him, the turnover bug is embedded in his head with no signs of him getting better. Now, he has transmitted it to Cam, the sure-handed running back!
    I would like someone to tell or explain to me who is calling the plays and how do you decide to go for two? Why do that? If it was Kelly, then someone needs to smack him in the back of the head and say WAKE UP DUMMY! Talk about ridiculous, that call tops the cake! If it was one of the coaches then fire him immediately. The defense looks like chickens running around with their heads cut off. Talk about a program that has done a 360 in 35 days….that’s the Irish! Give Malik a shot, what do you have to lose? Not a darn thing. Louisville and USC coming up, oh billy,can you say another rather disappointing season for the Irish! That would make them what 7-6. Wake up ND and Kelly!

  18. This game reminded me of some of the Weis debacles with Clausen: a ridiculously talented team that sucked at the easy stuff and lost.


    Let’s get the wheels back on the bus, boys!

  19. What did we see? A poor coaching effort by BK and his staff and when questioned about it, he throws his players under the bus.

    Turnovers are still the biggest problem. The defense couldn’t get off the field. Can’t find a decent holder. We are late in Year 5 of the BK regime. That these issues continue to plague ND is nobody’s fault other than BK. He needs be as accountable as he expects his players to be and then he needs to fix the problems.

    I thought this team would be 10-3 this year. They still can be but the problems need to be fixed now.

    1. It’s not the coach’s fault there have been all the turnovers. The staff says they have worked with the culprit.
      It just hasn’t worked, he still carries the ball in a careless fashion.
      If he takes him out everyone will scream about that..

      In the end, the game is played by players and if players don’t execute basic fundamental skills like tackling, ball control, blocking etc. then it’s the players fault.

      BK has been a winner every place he’s gone and he has done a good job at Notre Dame.

      All this talk about throwing players under the bus is rubbish. I’ve watched a lot of the post game conferences where he and the coaches have taken some blame.
      When you’re gonna play football at the college and pro level you’d better be ready for public scrutiny about every facet of your game.

  20. I fell like I;m back in the ’80’s with Faust as head coach. Talent out the wazzo, but the game day play calling and execution leaves me completely frustrated. Players act like they don’t need to listen to Kelly when they come off the field, they just walk by him when he is talking to them, which I find both disturbing and disrespectful.

    1. You never had a coach or a teacher who would yell and scream about everything that even when the screaming was necessary, you took it as “more of the same”? I did.

      A ton of errors and miscues; but if your kicker is uncomfortable about the holder change, return the other holder. If your reason for going for a “two” is you don’t think your holder and kicker can execute a PAT, you have a serious problem. It’s one thing to throw your players under the bus because you need to pout and blame right after a game; it’s quite another when your decisions start impacting your team negatively during the next game’s prep and during the game.

      1. I would prefer that Kelly go back to just giving a player a good old fashioned ass chewing when they screw up a play that has been practiced over and over or continues to make the same mistakes.

        A coach has to be able to use all the tools of the trade when dealing with a bunch of 18-21 year olds who’s minds can, and will, go a hundred different directions.

        Sometimes that’s in the form of praise, sometimes reassurance, sometimes direction, sometimes recognition, and sometimes you have to rattle their cage and get in their face, and strike some fear in their hearts.

        Kelly caught hell for his purple face blow-up during a game back on Sept 7th 2011.

        The following year, in 2012, his team (with many of the same players who were on the sideline that day) played almost flawless, mistake free football on their way to 12-0 season.

        All the time? No.
        Once in a while when needed? Absolutly!

      2. I agree. I sometimes think people forget Dr Lou used to grab kids by the facemask and scream at them. Sure, now he seems a nice grandfatherly presense (esp. compared to the annoying Mark May), but he wasn’t always that way.

        Should BK throw the kids under the bus on post-game conferences, probably not. I’d rather he chew them out during the game then after.

        But at the same time, Weis was always one of those “It’s my fault, I’m the coach blame me” guys and where did that get us.

      3. Totally agree. Think a purple face is tough? Try any military boot camp! That’s where one becomes part of a TEAM. And learns to listen and follow orders when given without thinking.

      4. @PatrickM: Apples and oranges. Basic Training is a methodology that seeks to dehumanize and eradicate the “individual” thinking of each recruit. Sports psychology is a totally different animal.

        Note: I am not saying that Kelly shouldn’t yell at his players at times. In fact, like I’ve already said, I believe that he should announce “ALL POSITIONS ARE UP FOR GRABS.” Granted, he bears a ton of responsibility for certain aspects of this downturn, but when trust and confidence in eachother are the main issues right now, sometimes a complete shakeup is appropriate.

      5. Nick Saban, the games highest paid coach, and one of the most successful, screams at his players on the sidelines more than Brian Kelly does his players.

        Saban, 95% of the time, emits an air of calm confidence.

        But make no mistake, he will jump the shit of a player or players if he feels the need.

        And when faced with overtime… you won’t find Saban on the sideline waving his hand in the air summoning his players to gather around him so he can speak to them as a team.

        Those kids know that they had better keep their head in the game or they risk finding Saban foot up their ass.

      6. @JDH, “dehumanize”? I never felt that. As for removing individual thinking, yup, that’s what TEAM is about.

        In general, look at what individual achievement has done to sports. Utes Clay drops ball a yard SHORT of goal so he can dance. And how many ligament damage is happening because of sack dancing?

      7. I don’t mind him blowing a gasket every now and then. What I mind is him throwing his kids under the bus. This isn’t the 1st time. He’s the head coach. It’s his responsibility. It’s his fault. He wants his kids to be accountable? Show them what that means, don’t tell him what that means.

      8. Agree with all the above points. Lou would be the first to grab a player by the facemask and get his message across. But he also made sure to give them that reassuring pat on the back or butt when finished as if to say: “mistakes happen and I am holding you accountable, but I still love you.”

        But Lou never tossed individuals or his team under the bus like Kelly has over the last few weeks.

        Not sure the dynamics of the Golson-Kelly relationship, but Kelly is the boss. If I walked away from my boss like Golson seems to do all the time, my butt would be in HR!

      9. Lou also never had to deal with today’s modern player who is highly influenced by instant messaging, texting, the sports medis, as well as social media.

        Kelly employed a similar tactic a couple of years back…

        and it really pissed off some of the players…

        one in particular was Manti Teo’…

        who immediately stood up, went on record, and backed his teammates up.

        From that moment forward Teo’ became a strong forceful Leader, and the vital piece of leadership, that up until then, had been missing.

  21. My faith in BK has been shaken. There is not good way to see the loss to Northwestern, no excuses. We should have beaten Northwestern handily.

    BK will get another year. Next year all the pieces will be in place. ND is getting the talent. Both Weis and BK have been able to recruit top talent. Until this weekend I thought BK was doing a good job developing the team, but they took a huge step back.

    Defensively they need to get back to basics (how many times have we said that, but I digress). Tackle and assignments. Stop trying to be cute. The last 3 games they looked more like the defenses under Weis. Bend and break.

    On offense, when EG turns the ball over, they need to sit him for the next series. EG is a competitor, if he knows his job is in jeapordy, he will compete and get his head back in gear. I still think he is a great QB but he needs to be pushed. If Zaire is put in for a series, EG is not going to sit and cry about being benched. He will play more determined and with more focus.

    And BK needs to do a better job playcalling. There are times to go for the 2 point conversion. But Saturday that was not the time. That reminded me of something Weis would have done, which is why he is not coaching now. And they need to do a better job running the ball every game. I love pass plays as much as the next guy. They’re exciting when executed well. But there needs to be balanced.

    ND does not need to relax their academic requirements while in school. ND is getting top recruits. That is not the problem. It comes down to the coaching and they need to get it together now.

    ND is first and foremost an academic institution. That is the reason for its existence. I do not support the idea that they need to become an NFL development league. Money be damned, besides, I believe their alumni would pull their support if they went the way of FSU or Miami. I am a fan of ND because they at least try to do college football the right way.

  22. ND is currently 7-3.
    It is mathematically impossible to go 6-6 with only 2 games remaining.

    Also, PSU condoned the employment of a pedophile within their football program.

    That’s as low as a program can go.

    Logically, the only way for their program to go would be up.

    But don’t take my word for it.

    1. Shaz 7-6 with a bowl game loss. You missed and early post when I said I was close to my prediction. You can go 7-5 and with a loss in a bowl game it’s 7-6, just to clarify.


      Your missing my point. I don’t want ND to be like UNC, but I want the academic community at ND to be supportive. I feel there is a pissing match between professors and the athletic dept. I also don’t like the fact that ND isn’t giving some kids that are borderline a chance and if they do they are not helping them like they helped Rice and Zorich. I think the University has it’s nose in the air and needs to come down a few pegs. I think the academic portion of the University looks at the football program as a necessary evil for funding. Also, quote me how much of the University staff is clergy? I think that is a real issue.

      1. Sorry Jack, but the university has an endowment of nearly 10 BILLION dollars. They do not rely on the football program for “funding”.
        Also, the university was founded by the Congregation of Holy Cross and continues to be a significant apostolate for the community. Too much clergy presence? Really?

      2. Everett,

        I want more clergy presence, that was the meaning of my question. When this was a clergy run institution and not educrates, the clergy looked to help the student grow as a person.

        As far as your endowment is concerned how did ND get it’s notoriety as a University. Maybe the Chicago Catholic schools sent people there, but the east Coast Catholics could send there kids to other institutions like Villonova, Georgetown, Loyal(MD), St. Mary’s and other schools. Football gave ND the national notoriety and the national fan base to recruit not only the best athletes but the best academic prospects.

    2. I live in PSU country and I find it disturbing how indignant they get about the sanctions. Maybe the NCAA should have done their own investigation first instead of relying solely on the Freeh report. But the fact remains, people in power were told something was wrong with Sandusky and not only did they do nothing, they continued to allow him to bring kids on campus AFTER being made aware something was wrong.

      They got their scholarships and bowls back a year early. But they are still not happy with that. No they want Paterno’s wins restored. Frankly that is the one punishment that makes the most sense of them all, since that is punishing the team when everything was going on.

      I never really had an axe to grind with PSU before this. They weren’t really a rival anymore. I wouldn’t mind having a regular series with them just because I live in PA and it makes for great drama locally. I never really understood the Paterno worship. But PSU fans are almost delusional. It’s distrubing. I get really angry about it frankly. Kids were raped. And everytime a PSU fan rants about the unfairness of it all, it’s like those kids are being assaulted all over again.

      If the same thing happened to ND and they reacted the same way, I honestly do not think I would be able to be a fan anymore. That would be one offense I don’t think I could forgive.

  23. Duranko,

    Now you made a point of calling me out three weeks ago. Wow has this team really gone the way I said it would. They will lose to both Louisville and USC by a large margins. I give Kelly one more year and he is gone. He will be some stupid pundit like Davie talking about the culture at ND and how you can not win with the restrictions. I’m having to listen to Penn State fans drone on today about how their program is on the rise. It is because of people like you with your rainbows and unicorns that have not forced the administration of this University to get their collective head of our their ass. You could dig up Knute Rockne and he wouldn’t win with this University Administration. Sorry Duranko but BK will be gone soon and I see no savior in sight.

    1. Wow, you make me want to slit my wrists. If anything, Kelly’s tenure, even Weis’, has shown that ND can get top tier talent. If you’re statement implies that ND should go the way of UNC and make up fake majors or the way of Alabama and look at only a player’s on-the-field worth, you’re rooting for the wrong team.

      In fact, the talent is there. That’s why I’m concened about this year’s performance. ND has not looked great this year, yet’s its talent is at a top 10 level.

      1. Westcoast,

        One other thing, it’s talent for recruiting high school players is top ten. It lacks depth and can’t handle injuries as shown this season. In 2012 ND experienced minimal injuries to it’s team.

      2. Jack is correct, this is not a top 10 talent overall team. Maybe at some individuals, but overall, it’s a top 35 team. Thanks for coming boys, you’ve lost the season and some recruits now, so next year is a make or break for Kelly.

  24. Duranko,

    Your denial is tough to swallow this week. Northwestern was a team defeated by Northern Illinois, hammered by Iowa and lost, LOST, to Michigan in a low-scoring affair. There is more going on than not enough depth at DL and the loss of a LB that had rarely seen the field prior to this year.

    BVG has gone Diaco and moved to a defense that seems too complex for the players. The OL continues to struggle. The special teams play has been a consistent black mark in the program since Kelly arrived. Turnovers are rampant with little repercussions. Play calling often is a head scratcher. How you let Kelly’s math skills escape your article is befuddling.

    Great programs get better as the year moves along. ND is moving backwards, which is not new to this coaching staff. Though the staff may previously have “lived through these crises,” there is very little in its track record to assume it has any idea how to handle a “crises” like this.

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