Duranko’s Digest: What Did We See Against Louisville?

Kyle Brindza - Notre Dame K
Notre Dame Fighting Irish kicker Kyle Brindza (27) misses a field goal attempt in the fourth quarter against the Louisville Cardinals at Notre Dame Stadium. Louisville won 31-28. Mandatory Credit: Matt Cashore-USA TODAY Sports

The Fighting Irish lost their third straight game as the Louisville Cardinals befouled Senior Day, 31-28.

It is axiomatic to football’s unforgiving math that a team’s stronger units must compensate for its weaker units.  In 2012, Notre Dame’s fierce defense carried a young offense on the defense’s back to a 12-0 season and the National Championship Game.  On Saturday, the Notre Dame offense and special teams could not carry the beleaguered Fighting Irish defense over the finish line to victory.

The game did not follow expectations.  The prolific Fighting Irish offense did not score a touchdown in the first half. Notre Dame’s oft-maligned ground attack rushed for 161 yards (netting out the sacks and the horrific reverse fumblerooski in the second quarter).  The Irish front seven outsacked Louisville, 4-3.

But when push came to meet shove, the Irish had a first and goal at the Cardinal 10 with a luxurious 1:42 to go.  The Irish offense could not score a touchdown and the Irish special teams could not convert the field goal.  Therein, Louisville  31, Notre Dame 28.


Andrew Trumbetti – a warrior, freshman or not. A winter with Paul Longo, a Spring with Elston and Van Gorder, and Andrew just might  “contribute” in 2015.

Isaac Rochell – “Just like a tree that’s standing by the water, he shall not be moved.”  One tough customer.

Cole Luke – the Devante Parker moment of challenge was not at all too big for Luke.  He’s a pretty good solution as the lead cornerback.  You wonder how he would do as the second cornerback option playing next to KeiVarae Russell in 2015.


Jaylon Smith,  donning his buddy Joe Schmidt’s jersey Saturday just as he donned Danny Spond’s last November, cleaned up an awful lot of plays.  The first half  of his Notre Dame career has been special.  And we may not yet have seen the best of Jaylon.

Will Fuller – in the homestretch for the national title in touchdown receptions.  His touchdown catch on the bounce reminded us of two of football’s ancient truisms:

(a) Luck is the residue of design
(b) Luck is infatuated with effort (Frank Broyles)


Brian Kelly surveyed the battlefield and stuck with Everett Golson in the second half.  Golson played much better. This may just have been a rite of passage.


Placekicks, snaps and holder.  Still shaky may not stabilize until the Bowl Game. A certain point of emphasis in the offseason.


Vulnerability to mobile quarterbacks.  Gross rushing yards (net of sacks): 139 for Marquise Williams, 69 for Keenan Reynods,  46 for Trevor Siemian,  67 for Reggie Bonafon.  It is a challenge of football in this era, but a weakeness that Van Gorder will attack  before we play all the mobile quarterbacks of 2015.  The best are Justin “the Jet” Thomas of Georgia Tech, Keenan Reynolds of Navy  and Deshaun Watson of Clemson.  The second tier is comprised of Tyrone Swoopes of Texas, Chad Voytik of Pitt and P.J. Walker of Temple.


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

The next three are against Louisville, USC, a bowl opponent and Texas.


(1) A very good quarterback, Cody Kessler, whose productivity is enhanced by a young, but spectacularly athletic receiving corps.  First it was Robert Woods, then Marquise Lee then Nelson Agholor, the lead dog.  Despite the presence of speedy George Farmer, Juju Smith may be the second best receiver.  But Kessler is immobile.

(2) A team much more depth-challenged than the Irish, and because of the recruiting restrictions, hold the title of the most depth-challenged team in the Big Five Conferences.  Sarkisian dressed 48 scholarship players for the UCLA game.

(3) The lack of depth has particularly impacted Troy’s offensive line, which starts two true frosh since the able Chad Wheeler went down.  Buck Allen has rushed for more than 1,000 yards most of it when Wheeler was around.  He’s much less of a threat now.

(4) The second impact of depth is that the Trojan defense simply wears out.  If you measure the last six opponents before SC played UCLA,  you must separate the first 40 minutes defensive performance from the last 20. The difference is startling.  If you extrapolate each segment to a full 60 minutes here are the results:  The fresh Trojan defense (first 40 minutes) allows a rate of  340 yards and 22.5 points per game.  The tired depthless Trojan defense (last 20 minutes) allows a rate of 615 yards and 46.5 points per game.

(5) Adoree Jackson is the playing the best frosh cornerback since Patrick Peterson patrolled Death Valley for LSU.

(6) Sarkisian will target three areas of the Notre Dame defense: Middle linebacker Martini in the first half and Morgan in the second, and the two safeties whoever they are.  He will use motion, stacks and slots to isolate one of his studs on the ND safeties, while not letting Cole Luke rest against Agholor..

(7) The LA Coliseum where expectations, in either direction, come to die.  The ND-USC series, in South Bend,  plays closer to form, but perhaps the Coliseum’s proximity to Hollywood makes the LA games stranger.

Go Irish

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  1. canada, am not a student of the advanced nuances of defensive schemes.

    But am a student of change and installing an agenda and a program to move forward. When you make a retooling change, you generally don’t have an immediate increase in productivity, but a decline initially until the change is implemented/understood and then the rise begins, it takes some time to reach the previous plateau and then you continue on the upslope until you reach a plateau that’s significantly higher than your original.

    This year is delicate on the defense, as nearly every position has different responsibilities than in the previous year, blending the switch from the 3-4 to the 4-3 to much more emphasis on man-to-man. The three positions that have playcalling responsibility are the Mikeand the two safeties. I thought from the start of the year they were coaching the 2014 defense, but installing a defensive foundation for 2015 and the years beyond.

    For example, with the injuries to Day, Jones and Cage, they chose not to revert to a 3-4, but just shove Hayes in and lose his redshirt.

    Further, these positions are highly interrelated. think of it as a geometric equation rather than a linear equation.

    Player development and recruiting are the yin and yang of this, as recruits will now be screened for all aspects of the position they are designated to occupy in the Van gorder defense.

    the coaches chose a tradeoff, inserting Collinsworth even with his self-sdmitted physical limitations with tackling and wrapping up. each such decision has risk and reward. but I think the whole erector set comes tumbling down if you radically change the responsibilities of the safeties or the Mike.

    With Burgundy, I await the inevitable onslaught of the experts.

    I am traumatized, in a non-related matter, at Pendergast’s vegetable soup metaphor. Anybody got any consomme or clear broth????

  2. I think every post had merit,good perspective and a dose of “boy is that right”. These guys are playing their asses off. In my opinion while we have the talent, we don’t have experience or the same guys working together for any length of time. At this time the team reminds me of a can of vegetable soup ” All the letters are there they just don’t spell anything”

  3. Just too young on the defensive side. With the suspensions it was going to
    catch up with them as the season went on with injuries etc.

  4. Sorry – I did not finish. I was going to say: perhaps those of you with a better feel for the game can comment on this. I have wondered about this for a few weeks now.

    1. I literally cannot wait to hear our experts chime in on this. Get the popcorn and your favorite holiday beverage ready.

  5. Duranko,

    I am curious about your take on the perceived lack of adjustment of the defensive schemes given the injuries. I don’t know enough about the game to criticize BVG, but it seems at least plausible to me that when your defensive play-caller (Schmidt) is injured and your two best safeties are more athletic and instinctive than football-IQ guys, that you would adjust the complexity of the defense somewhat to play to your personnel strengths. I seem to hear that offensive schemes are constantly adjusting to maximize the existing personnel. Golson in 2012 was given a simplified playbook, apparently, and it worked.

    I cannot definitively tell, but it feels to me that the defense never really changed it’s schemes or complexity during the season despite all the changes to personnel, and the realization that Shumate and Redfield struggle with reads. Perhaps

  6. The attrition on defense from the suspended players to the injuries is alarming. You can’t lose Russell and the others on defense. Then lose Schmidt, Day, Jones, etc. I like what I’ve seen from Tranquill, Trumbetti, and Martini but ND has been hit hard. What’s up with the safeties? I’d still take Shumate and Redfield with Tranquill as the next guy. Collinsworth is an okay player.

    However, the offense just isn’t holding up its end of the bargain. I think the big missing ingredient this year is at tight end. Koyack just isn’t Rudolph or Eifert or Niklas.

    Sometimes its not about the X’s and O’s its about the Jim’s and Joe’s.

  7. I think Everett Golson should have been replaced after the first turnover to drive home the fact that loose and sloppy ball handling cannot be tolerated. Look at what Belichik did Sunday. Jonas Gray runs for 200 yards and 4 touchdowns the previous Sunday, is late for a team meeting and doesn’t play a down the next game. Despite my comment above I have been disappointed that Golson doesn’t run the ball more often. He never keeps it on that read-option play, even though the defense is selling out, going for the running back ecery time. On ND’s first possession of the game if he had kept the ball on the read-option at the 10 yard line and run around left end he would have walked into the end zone? Is Golson not running the play right or has Kelly instructed him never to run? I thought one of the benefits of a mobile running QB was that he occasionally runs and keeps the defense honest. Everett showed what he can do on that 2 point conversion when he reversed fields and outran everybody to the end zone. I think he needs to run more when the play breaks down, too. Part of the reason he fumbles is that he keeps the ball out in his right hand trying to throw the ball when he should tuck it and run. And he does need to tuck it.

  8. How do we know that Golson gives us the best chance to win if we’ve never seen the backup play? That’s shortsighted for sure. Maybe EG is the better option but we don’t know right now. Here’s part of my problem. All we here from the head coach is accountability and the need to improve and he drops hints that EG may get pulled if he doesn’t improve. So what do we see in a game where EG looks just as badly as he has in stretches all year? Nothing. I don’t hate EG but the 2nd Qtr. was awful and EG deserved to sit, maybe not for the game, but at why not a series or two to shake things up? Everyone praises his 2nd half but he still made some mistakes and Fuller’s TD was a terrible decision that got rewarded….luckily. I’m sick of Kelly preaching accountability and benching a Max Redfield for lack of production while the QB continues to turn the ball over at an alarming rate. I really wonder if BK is worried that if he did put Zaire in, and he did well, if that would make him look badly for not pulling the trigger on replacing EG sooner? I’m souring on BK lately for many reasons not worth mentioning here but I’ll give him next year, when a large % of players are back before I call for his removal. Next year needs to be a final four season to me. Losing to the Northwesterns of the world don’t cut it for me next year….Go Irish

  9. The season-ending injuries to numerous key more experienced players on the D’ and the added losses of Grace, and then Russell and Ishaq through suspensions for the entire season for whatever high crimes they’re accused of committing have proven very significant to the Ds overall diminishing performance, forcing not ready for prime time Frosh (and several Sophs) into being major players instead of minor complementary contributors. While they hopefully continue to learn and improve, ND currently shows an alarming inability to stop the run even when it’s likely a run is coming. That seldom translates into winning, at any level.
    BK and staff have certainly forgotten more about schemes and team preparation than all of the posters combined ever knew. But it appears it’s not just Golson whose in-game decisions have gone south since ND headed back north from Tallahassee. Coach Kelly isn’t going back to Florida to coach a different team, not going to be fired anytime soon, nor do I consider it a timely or advantageous plan to consider. But turnovers (including kicking miscues) and the key injuries have seemingly taken a toll on BK’s focus.

    I wish I could ask him about a few decisions he clings to regarding pass schemes & pass protection, and recent special teams’ changes.

    I know throwing from a pocket opens up the entire field, but, with EGs height and past big play successes, wouldn’t using a moving pocket/roll out more often allow him more freedom to see the play develop and make plays with his legs as well as his arm? His instincts while in motion set him apart. Too often the pocket has collapsed on him, especially up the middle. Which begs the next question: Can we try or at least rotate other OL in ? Isn’t that where our depth was considered greatest? No excuse for a QB as mobile and athletic as EG sacked so often this season, and that’s not counting Everett’s forced errors caused by OL breakdowns. And although their run-blocking has improved, it hasn’t been exactly consistent or dominant, especially against better teams. I’m not for benching EG for next week, but can we reconsider that Malik was recruited as a QB, not a holder. It’s not working. Other than Stanford in the rain, I can only recall Hunter mishandling one other snap this season. Is there any doubt anymore Brindza is less comfortable now with the dynamic of timing and placement of the ball than he has at any time this season, or in his entire ND kicking career for that matter?
    We need TDs to carry a young D’ vs. $C – but kicking has been decisive in these last two games’ outcomes.
    BK quipped last week at a press conference he’s open to suggestions. Have at ‘em, Coach.

    1. Much like the scoring 31 and still not done can we please retire the $C. It was cute back in the 70’s when somebody did it the first time.

      1. You did say please, $o I’ll reconsider.But
        “Mikey likes haiku”, so get ready for new haiku coming your way soon. And
        I’ll bet you were cute back in the 70’s, too. Stay classy, Burgundy.

  10. The Soy Bean Hay Bale Bowl in the cornfield outside in my backyard is looking great because that is the type of bowl we most likely will end up in again. At least I could watch from my deck and drink cold beer. Last game of the regular season. Hope they win and beat Shit Cal at the coliseum.

    Go ND

  11. Thought Greer contributed in limited action toward the end of the game. Plugged the A-gap and even appeared to be barking out the defensive signals.

    Very cool analysis of the effect of wear and tear on the Trojan defense.

  12. west coast, three things

    (1) Clearly we differ on perception of both the current snapshot of the program and where the narrative (the film, not the shapshot, but the ongoing film) is heading. Good. Differences of opinion create a dialogue (occasionally a fist fight, but at least a dialogue) Passion about the Irish is like passion about raising kids and the business world. Disagreement is natural, resolution vital. I expect our differences to continue, with honesty and passion.

    (2) you have labeled in words that suggest that I am a Pollyanna. So be it. But I ceased being an ND Pollyana the day that Florida State beat ND in Faust’s first year, in 1981. I had drunk the Kool-Aid at the reunion with the rest of the chumps as we were bragging about how Gerry’s creative formationswould dazzle college football. Of course, we were drunk as Gerry whirlwinded through the beer tents. But I realized that day against FSU that our coach was in over his head. My confreres didn’t and it was always “change the coordinator” and all would be well. I KNEW, not thought, but knew that Faust was doomed. Years later I ran into Gene Corrigan at the Final Four at the bar of the St. Paul Hotel (’92?) he was still coy, but all but admitted that they tried to buy Faust out well before his five years was over. And I knew, I mean KNEW the Weis decision was awful when he opened his fat, drooling, Haystacks Calhoun Jabba the Hutt mouth. By then I had internalized Parseghian’s admonition about 13 years. And westcoast when he pulled the David Nelson stunt I knew what an incompetent, disloyal emotional dwarf he was. I could go one, and will another day. Nobody saw me near the Irish during that apostate’s devilish reign.

    (3) In the lean periods, I became a student of college football programs and what makes them wax and wane. A similar student of businesses which are always rising and falling in America. And the why. the whys and hows. The indicators, the redherrings and what is illusion what is false hope and what are leading indicators.

    More to say
    another day

    And I expect we’ll tangle
    but it may be that the passionate disagreements may spring from the same fountain…..

  13. It is time for a change. If we wouldn’t have wasted last year playing Rees then Zaire would have been ready for this season. Golson has certainly been horrible and if he comes back next year I hope he improves immensely.

    Season over loss to USC and I don’t even want them to play in a bowl game so they can lose that too.

  14. Kelly stuck with Golson out of a weakness of his own character, nothing admirable or leadership-related. He simply did not have the ‘buck-stops-with-me’ coaching gonads to put Malik in. The kid must deserve a shot, if for no other reason than Golson has more than earned seeing the bench.

    Kelly stuck with Golson because that’s who he (in his ever-noted 23 years of coaching experience) hooked his coaching wagon to, for good or for bad. And that wagon is engulfed in flames.

    The kid throws a nice ball. But he is simply not a football player. He has no football smarts, instincts or toughness whatsoever.

    1. David. Tell me. What was your thoughts on Golson the 1st 7 games of the year.

      Do you still believe “The kid throws a nice ball. But he is simply not a football player. He has no football smarts, instincts or toughness whatsoever.”

      It’s absurdity and laughable. Golson shows more fight and vigor out of a football player than I’ve seen in a long…loong time.

      Everybody who is calling for a QB change and suddenly calling Golson a bad QB has an aweful short term memory. Let’s not forget that he was on the heisman watch for his efforts the 7 games of the season. Come from behind victories, spreading the ball and using all his receivers, leadership.:.

      Given the problems he’s had with ball security, loosing games….he still straps up and leads.

      I’ll take Golson over 95% of college qb’s in the nation.

      1. I agree with David, most football games are won by the team that makes the least mistakes. In a BK offense the QB controls the game. Golson has more turnovers than whole teams do. He’ll keep turning the ball over as long as he knows he won’t be benched..no consequences, no reason to change.

    2. David,
      I don’t agree with some of what you say. EG is a good QB, he is not the best QB. He makes lots of mistakes–the bigest one is letting the ball go too late. But that said, he is our best chance to win and that’s the way BK sees it too.

      If he saw it different and still played EG then your point is well taken. But you can’t compare EG to a player that has not played.

      We are what we are–a team riddled with injury and very young players–and it shows. Not an excuse–but fact.

      USC will exploit our weeknesses and who has the ball last will probably win the game.

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