Notre Dame Quarterback Malik Zaire Rare Bright Spot

Malik Zaire - Notre Dame QB v. USC
Notre Dame Fighting Irish quarterback Malik Zaire (8) drops back to pass against the Southern California Trojans during the second half at Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum. Mandatory Credit: Richard Mackson-USA TODAY Sports

Fighting Irish fans that tuned into Notre Dame’s annual rivalry game against Southern California this past Saturday hoping the ailing program would show signs of rejuvenation were sorely disappointed.  Instead they witnessed an intersectional death march where Notre Dame limped into the Coliseum and endured sixty minutes of agony before the Trojans finally put an end to the disappointment and misery that was the 2014 football season.  Unfortunately for the Brian Kelly-led Irish, it was far from a mercy killing.

Quarterback Everett Golson’s struggles and downward spiral continued.  The former Heisman candidate strung together six drives for a paltry 82-yards and a goose egg on the scoreboard before finally being yanked from the starting lineup.  Sadly, signs are beginning to emerge that Golson’s confidence has been severely damaged, possibly beyond repair.  On the rare occasion the senior signal caller doesn’t abandon the pocket, he displays happy feet, particularly when facing an impending blitz.  Everett also appears to have lost faith in what he sees from the defense, missing a wide open Will Fuller on several plays, including one where Fuller was so open he literally did jumping jacks near the sideline without a defender anywhere in sight.  But Golson was far from the only problem.

Notre Dame’s defense looked more like dry erase “x’s” drawn up on defensive coordinator Brian VanGorder’s white board than actual defenders.  The Trojan offense massacred the Irish defensive squad, with USC quarterback Cody Kessler becoming the first quarterback in Notre Dame’s 127 year history to throw six touchdowns in one game against the Fighting Irish.  And Kessler accomplished that feat early in the third quarter, meaning the savagery could have been so much worse.

The Trojan offense was so effective that USC had six different wide receivers that averaged 10 yards or more per reception.  Overall, out of USC’s ten offensive drives that didn’t include backup players or involve garbage time, seven resulted in touchdowns.  The only notch on the Irish defense’s belt was Notre Dame’s ability to hold USC under four yards per carry with a depleted defensive line, though the Trojans still managed to rack up 205 yards on the ground.

One of the only bright spots came courtesy of Malik Zaire, a backup quarterback who had yet to complete a pass prior to entering the USC game in Everett Golson’s stead.  Zaire proved to be an instant catalyst for Kelly’s offense, hitting wide receiver Chris Brown on a gorgeous 49-yard pass.  The redshirt freshman thrower capped off his first drive with an athletic 11-yard touchdown scamper, scoring in only three plays, a feat that fellow quarterback Everett Golson was unable to accomplish in twenty-nine attempts against USC.

Zaire and fellow redshirt freshman, running back Greg Bryant, proved to be extremely efficient running the zone read option, an area where Golson reportedly struggled.  Despite having impressive touch and placement with the football – as well as being a weapon with his legs – Notre Dame’s offense continued to self-destruct with numerous dropped passes.  Wide receiver Will Fuller has established himself as one of the top pass catchers in the country, but he still struggles with allowing passes to get into his body.

The 2015 football season was supposed to be the year Notre Dame seriously competes for a national championship.  Instead, the narrative will be whether or not Kelly can turn the program around.  And whether or not he will be able to pull it off is a fair question.

Notre Dame had a quarterback controversy on its hands well before Brian Kelly finally heeded the advice of experts and sat Golson, but now the issue is officially out in the open.  Who will start for Notre Dame in its bowl game?  If the Zaire era truly did begin in Los Angeles this past weekend, a rough road still awaits the Fighting Irish.  Zaire is young, and the path to experience is rarely smooth.  As redshirt freshman quarterback J.T. Barrett illustrated this season at Ohio State, even an inexperienced quarterback who succeeds to the point of being mentioned in the Heisman race drops a game they shouldn’t, such as Ohio State’s loss to a poor Virginia Tech team.  It would be unreasonable to not expect growing pains with a green starter at quarterback.

There is also concern as to which defense Notre Dame will field next season: the one that stunned critics and shut out the Michigan Wolverines for the first time in program history, or the defense that allowed 30 points or more for seven straight games, and surrendered 40 points or more four times.  Was VanGorder’s scheme exposed or was Notre Dame’s defensive meltdown due to an injury outbreak that impacted every segment of the defense?

The only thing that remains clear throughout all of the speculation is that Notre Dame is not where it needs to be as a program, and the Fighting Irish have regressed every season (9-4 in 2013 and currently 7-5 in 2014) since the 12-1 record in 2012.  Whatever the future may hold for Notre Dame football under Brian Kelly, Irish fans have eight long months to stew in the failed expectations of the 2014 season.

Scott Janssen is a blogger for the Huffington Post and has authored several nationally-featured articles, including an appearance on MSNBC as a sports contributor.  He talks football 24 hours a day, much to the chagrin of his wife and those around him.  Scott can be reached at [email protected].

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  1. Never a good sign when a walk on who missed 4 games is the team MVP. However, well done Joe. Should be a movie about this guy instead.

  2. its seems they all want to use glory’s mantle for their own profit

  3. swarbrick says he cant win without paying the players, what an egomaniacal, self agrandizing disaster, using the school for all its worth to him, fire him, fire kelly and start over, bleacher

  4. Jeff , you got it ! All ND fan’s will watch win or lose. It’s as simple as that. The comments on here are by knowledgeable ND fans–breaking down the problems of 2014 season–all well worth reading. However , how some , and not knocking their ND football knowledge , determine that ND should not play in a bowl game is absurd. To say “ND haters will have more to spout about” if Irish lose–so who gives a crap about them ? The other look is if ND turns down a bowl game–what is their to gain by that and ND haters would jump on that to. And what major college football team with a 6-6 , 7-5 record turns down a bowl game ? Notre Dame is playing LSU an SEC team in Music City Bowl–it’s balls , I love it. We got some posters on here scared of LSU–boo hoo , crying. Thank God our Notre Dame football team ain’t scared o’ shit. Win or Lose.

      1. Everybody that frequents this site will be watching the game in its entirety whether its live or DVR. If your not going to watch the game why would you waste your time on this site.

      2. For example, picking on political bloggers and threatening to snap their neck. Hypothetically speaking of course.

      3. Technically Ron I never threatened to snap your neck. If you’ll go back and read for comprehension I never threatened to snap the neck of the blogger/reporter either.
        Didn’t have to.
        So you can get off that kick or at least get it right.

      4. Just hypothetically coming up with things to do. You could also cut and paste YouTube clips that no one looks at, create haiku about the scoring output of an offense, tell stories about your time deep behind enemy lines. There are many options of things to do. Didn’t know that hypothetical option struck a chord with you.

    1. It’s not Kelly, the kid hasn’t been academically cleared so they can’t offer him. He’s enroll ing in January so the kid has to make a decision. Dead period starts on Monday.


    It would appear, at least on paper, that ND might match up a little better than you might think.

    LSU Offensive Leaders:
    Passing: Jennings – 104-213, 1460 yds, 10 tds
    Rushing: Fournette – 176 car, 891 yds, 8 tds
    Receiving: Dural – 37 rec, 758 yds, 7 tds

    Notre Dame offensive Leaders:
    Passing: Golson – 250-416, 3355 yds, 29 tds
    Rushing: Folston – 154 car, 816 yds, 5 tds
    Receiving: Fuller – 71 rec, 1037 yds, 14 tds

    Everett Golson currently ranks 14th in the nation in passing yardage.
    That puts him ahead of other notable QB’s such as:
    Bryce Petty, Blake Sims, Bo Wallace, Brett Hundley, Dak Prescott, Connor Cook, and JT Barrett among others.

    ND ranks 40th in the Nation in total offense, LSU… 82ND.

    The real difference is in team defense and turnovers.
    LSU is 8th in the nation in team defense, ND…. 70TH.

    But if ND can get at least some of their key defensive players back, and keep from turning the ball over, they should have a decent shot.

    1. I agree, I am all for playing someone who is “offensively challenged.” So, we get smashed 17-3. You add those numbers, 48 tds to 25 tds for the offensive leaders. I will take it. They went to OT with Bama but they also scored late to edge Wisconsin.

      1. You are also playing in Nashville in late December.

        What will the weather conditions be and who will they favor?

        And you are also going up against the “Mad Hatter” who has a reputation for taking risks, trying trick plays, and being aggressive on special teams in big games.

        Too bad “he has no heart” Gunner Kiel still isn’t with the Irish.

        He would probably be the undisputed starter right now which would make for a very interesting game.

      2. He’s doing great in Cincy almost set a school record for touchdowns. Looking forward to watching him against virginia tech

      3. whoopi UC shares 1st place in the conference.
        Golson was once a heisman candidate too..
        It’s a team sport..
        That said Carden will end up a decent QB in the NFL, he’s great at reading defenses and making decisions on the field.

    2. We need to put the Kool-Aid down and stop thinking this will be a good or close game. Going 1-5 down the stretch and losing to Northwestern, playing no defense against ASU or USC, and losing at home to Louisville doesn’t bode well. Neither does having to bench the starting QB because he is turnover prone. Or the defense falling apart at the mid-season mark.

      LSU’s offense may suck, but it’s good enough for 20-30 points against ND’s porous D. Can Zaire lead ND to 20-30 points? Not this year. Golson could, but he’d also give the other team 14-21 points off fumbles and interceptions.

      I won’t even give this game the consideration to check the scoreboard on ESPN later that night. I’ll just wait till next August and attempt to forget the debacle of the 2014 season.

      1. Win or lose I will watch every play of this game. I may have to hit the Makers Mark on the rocks a little harder to get through it but I will watch it.

    3. The big key is turnovers and if ND turns the ball over against LSU they’ll pay dearly. Just remember this was a team that took Alabama to an overtime. I don’t believe Golson is ever going to solve his propensity to turn the ball over.


  7. How can swarbrick be the ad when he lives in Indianapolis? It seems like he has no influence on Kelly or ability to get him to make changes that his ego won’t let him do?

    1. Plenty of opportunities to put that game away in the first half and ND failed. It shouldve never come down to that penalty at the end of the game. The funny thing to me was how pissed off so many people on this site were when ND was ranked 10th in the initial CFP poll. We were all drinking the kool-aide when ND was 6-0. I think Jack was the only one on this site that was still skepticle.

  8. If Kelly wanted a challenge he should play Northwestern or Navy again. Heck, anybody on this years schedule was a challenge.


  10. I doubt seriously the ND administration would’ve accepted a bowl game under such dire circumstances. Unfounded rumors for the sake of what exactly? I would expect this from an anti-ND troll.

    1. Saw it on Irisheyes and also a rumor about possible suspensions for two ND players. Not sure if there is merit but this is how the five suspension started as a rumor on these sites

  11. That a would be catastrophic to the program, transfers of talented athletes not involved and the end of Kelly. Hopefully no merit to these rumors!

  12. Rumors are flying out of South Bend possible NCAA sanctions, loss of scholarships and possible more suspensions. Just great!

    1. I have looked on Irish Eyes, ND Nation, ESPN, and done a Google search. I literally have not found one single reference to what you are talking about.

      1. Look at blog comments section under Irisheyes. Topics are rumors, they may have taken it down, but that’s how I found out a day before the frozen five came down

      2. Shaz,

        It’s not my rumor I was just reporting something I saw on another site to see if someone else could confirm..

    2. Why would there really be all that? ND suspended players when the accusations were made and kept them out of games. They even offered to self sanction.
      ND did everything the correct way, the way every University should handle it.
      Besides the NCAA doesn’t care about that, now if you sell autographs, that’s a major crime.

    1. I’ll bite at your trolling line, Burgy.9th best for what? Team recognition?
      Gate ? High viewer ratings? This would be evidence of bias for ND, right? Has there ever been less expectation for a ND victory than this next game? An impressive running attack vs. ND that has hardly even slowed down anyone their last five games, neither on land nor in the air, while hoping NDs offense can rebound and outscore an elite LSU D’. Hope and optimism are good things. Too much hope on the deck of a battered wreckage sets oneself up for drowning in the debris. Can ND surprise and be able to at least compete with a team that battled #1 Alabama into OT? We’ve seen it before, but evidence to the contrary seems overwhelming. You can bet Les Miles will have his team ready to pour it on a limping tentative ND. Will the outcome be worth the anticipated improvement this month’s practices hope to bring?
      These Jaylon Smith and Brian Kelly quotes caught my attention . . .
      “…This game in particular allows us to continue to not paint a false picture of who we are, but where we need to get better as we look towards 2015.” ( BK). How’s that for optimism? Be careful of what you wish for, coach.We get to see (again) how much better ND needs to get? I think we already have an idea. Will Les Miles have the compassion of Sark? And how hopeful is it that we need to rely on opponents’ benevolence to keep the score from being even more lopsided than it was in L.A? Was Louisville’s close loss more accurate as to where ND is than NW and the Trojans? More hope! We’ll know by the end of this month. Then there’s this.
      • ” (Jaylon)Smith was well aware of Kelly’s plans to open up the quarterback position to competition. He missed the memo about all positions theoretically being up for grabs following the loss to USC in the finale. ‘What do you mean by that?’ he asked the questioner. When the media member explained Kelly wanted an open competition for every job, Smith responded, ‘Like coaching?’ (Jaylon either has a quick sense of humor or is revealing a subtlety many fear is true).
      Then he gathered himself and spewed the company chorus.
      ‘I feel like competition is always great. It really is,’ he said. ‘It allows the individual within to work harder.’ ”
      Ah! If only hard work and excellent practices were enough!

  13. VanGorder’s Defense looked amazing in the first half of the season before the injuries started to pile up. All of our eggs were in the walk-on’s basket though. Remember that we lost 5 players for the year before the first snap and a ton of early draft exits. Up until the Navy game I thought that this team performed better than expected. The defensive failure can only be attributed to Vangorder relying too heavily on Joe Schmidt. I’m not calling for Vangorder’s head like some but there is one helluva defensive coordinator out on the waiver wire right now. Muschamp would be a big upgrade if we could get him.

  14. “Our special teams were average at best. There was no pride, enthusiasm or execution. So our coaches picked the players they thought had the best attitudes on the team and asked them to be on the special teams units….In life as on special teams, success starts with attitude.”

    Lou holtz, page 219, winners, losses and lessons

  15. Since Malik is the better quarterback at the read option and LSU’s defense had the most difficulty with teams that had good read option QBs then he should give the irish “their best chance to win”

    1. They also struggled with UF who has a QB who loves to turn the ball over so maybe EG is the best option. Then again they struggled with Wisconsin and Arkansas who like to line up and pound you with the run so maybe Kizer could come in and just hand off. The options are endless.

      1. They beat UF and Wisconsin.
        They got slaughtered by MS and Auburn two teams that predominately run the read option..I take it from your posts you must drink a lot or something. You always seem somewhat impaired.

      2. C’mon Miguel you are better than that. Of course I drink. Roughed up any bloggers lately?

      1. That’s not why I would consider him the best. A qb, no matter how good has to protect the football. Golson did a horrible job these year at protecting the football.

  16. Please keep in mind when judging Zaire he does not have experience because
    BK didnt play him in several games he should have for at least a couple

  17. No matter how you look at it this year was a complete failure! Blame whatever you’d like 7-5 or 7-6 after they play LSU in some meaning less bowl game is unacceptable. If the fall from grace continues next year, Kelly must go. That’s right Kelly must go! The have enough offensive power but the defense was invisible in the second half of the year. VanGorder might take the hit for Kelly if the “D” doesn’t improve. Either way someone will have to play for the lack of wins. 10-2 and a meaningful bowl game is the only thing that can save Kelly. Go Irish!

    1. There are several players who have been upgraded to “Hopeful” for the bowl game.

      Max Redfield Safety
      Cody Riggs Corner
      Sheldon Day DT
      Jay Hayes DT
      Daniel Cage DT
      Jacob Matuska DT
      Greer Martini LB

      Perhaps with the return of at least a few of these players the defense won’t be quite so invisible.

      But this is the second year in a row that late season injuries have taken a serious toll on the Irish defense.

      Seeing how and why so many players on the defensive side are getting hurt, and how those injuries might be avoided or reduced in the future would seem logical.

  18. The one thing LSU does well is run the football. When they win they run. ND can’t stop the run. LSU will control the clock limiting ND’S possessions this will put pressure on the offense who will turn it over like Tony Romo in December. It’s going to be a beat down as bad or even worse than USC. LSU ‘ S d-coordinator loves to bring the heat and our QB ‘ S can’t handle the heat and Oline sucks at run blocking. Can’t wait to watch this beating. At least the last time ND took a beating from LSU it was in the Sugar Bowl not the shitty Music City Bowl.

      1. Burgundy,

        Just stating the obvious. At least Shaz refutes with facts you just come up with a stupid movie quote or smart ass comment. Most people on this site look at you the same way I do, Court Jester. So play your little tambourine and dance around because you offer nothing else.

      2. I agree with you Jack. LSU will put a beat down on us. Until this team shows a little heart and Character they will be nothing. This is really sad! Too many damn excuses and not enough looking in the mirror!

  19. Ohio State is a fine team and Urban Meyer is an excellent coach, but I for one am not buying the 59-0 beating of Wisconsin.

    Wisconsin wouldn’t be the first team to take a powder in the name of conference inclusion.

    Up until a few days ago the woeful BIG10 was on the outside looking in.
    TCU was up to number 3 and winning big, and Baylor was knocking at the door making their case as well with a decisive win and strong finish.

    OSU was on the outside at number 5 and needed something truly dramatic for even a long shot of a making it.
    (ND can tell ya….. beating a terrible Michigan team aint’ gonna cut it)

    Then they played the Conference Championship.
    Against a sound, well established, and well coached, 10-2 Wisconsin team.
    At a neutral site.
    Who fails to score a single point?
    While surrendering 59?

    59?….. to Zero?….. in a Championship game?

    With Michigan’s continued back slide, MSU’s two loss stumble, Penn State’s ongoing attempts at recovery, Nebraska’s annual underachievement, and 9 out of the conferences 14 teams with 7 or fewer wins, the BIG10 got what they desperately needed…. a team in the final four.
    By hook or by crook.
    They’re in.

    The more things change…. the more they stay the same.

      1. Elvis is having his useual Peanutbutter and banana sandwich with extra beacon, Satcherino is just nibbling on some beef jerky and a few shrooms.

        You can go back to your lollipop now.

        “Who loves ya baby?”

    1. I’m not an OSU fan but I think they deserve the spot. Obliterating Wisconsin with a 3rd-string QB was quite impressive to me, the weakness of the Big 10 not withstanding. I mean, have you ever in your entire life thought, “Man they really should put in their 4th-string QB so they don’t run up the score.” 😉

  20. SFR., I too would like to see a convincing win. But I’d like to then be confident that it means something next year. Listening to the blog Nazis only have seen highlight reels but imagine they were even around for the truly good years is sad. I want a great Notre Dame squad. 1 year then 2 and so on. But they need to prove it. Kelly needs to prove he can get there.

  21. Oh great, A bowl game with LSU. I guess the beatings will continue until morale improves. I just don’t see playing someone like that in our current depleted state.

    1. Totally agree, fxm. Every sodomizing of ND takes away a bit more from the program’s luster and prestige. But some here are so brainwashed that they believe that in a few more weeks this team will be healthy and ready, that the locker room culture will change, that BK’s football acumen and savvy will increase, etc. In my opinion the few extra practices at this point do not outweigh the possibility (dare I say probability) of another demoralizing embarrassment in a bowl game. The only winners in this scenario are the legion of ND haters who will get a belated Christmas gift at our expense.

      1. Of course, since it’s a done deal now, I hope I’m wrong and ND wins, why not, crushes LSU. It just doesn’t seem realistic to think they can.

        BTW, fxm, I think I recall you saying that you, too, were a Stillers fan. If so, then I think the same way about Pittsburgh making the NFL POs. Why sneak in only to get the snot beaten by Brady or Manning and forfeit a higher draft pick? That team, like ND, needs all the talent they can get (plus a new coach wouldn’t hurt either!).

        GO IRISH!

      2. The Irish might crack the top 35 with a win. Why get 1400 or more votes in the polls when 1 vote is so much easier to count? Arguments and snarky blog posts for a team that has almost been great twice in this century sure beats having seen great Irish teams go all the way like they did a number of times last century. Last century’s greatness is for old timers. This century’s just better than average but with inflated ticket prices teams are so worth it.

      3. Hey Rob, The Steelers are a little maddening of late, I don’t think much of Tomlin, but at least success can still be seen in the rear view mirror. I am losing confidence in BK, I see a lot of other schools (Baylor, TCU, KSU, MSU) do a lot more with what the star system would suggest is a lot less. Can’t stomach him, but look at what Meyer is doing. Painful.

    1. I’ll bring my bottle of Sex Panther. Probably will help assist in attracting what I’ll need mentally after what occurs in that little bowl game. Tough opponent.

  22. I think you’re going to see changes because of the playoffs. I think eventually we’ll see just an SEC conference, no west or no east and then the two best teams in the conference play for the championship. The SEC west is full of so many good teams it eats itself up before the end of the season. Once one does it the others will follow suit.
    I also think you’ll see teams look for stronger non conference opponents to toughen their total schedule up especially in the SEC.

    1. Don’t really think that feasible. 14 teams playing an 8-9 game conf schedule would make it difficult to determine top 2 teams. How would you break ties? Things are cyclical. The East used to be much better than the West.

      1. determine it by record, 2 teams with best record go to championship. For example in 2011 LSU undefeated played Georgia who had two losses.
        Bama had only one loss and they were out of it.

      2. I would not be a fan of that if I was in a conference. Unbalanced schedules could really play into the rankings. At least within the division there is some similarity of schedules.

      3. From a recent news article

        Swofford agrees. The ACC, with 14 teams in two divisions, has tossed around the idea of eliminating its divisions and having a championship game matching the two highest-ranked teams in the conference.

        ”If given the opportunity, I don’t know whether we would change or not,” Swofford said. ”That would be up to our institutions. We’ve had some discussion about it without taking a formal vote.”

  23. A creative running game that can slug it inside and also dance it outside or with effective counter plays will open up the ability to pass in the spread. If ND turns to that and then also gets that defense into form, then the Irish can rebound and quickly.

    But here is a question. While folks on this board are arguing about which QB might or might not be ready to play on a Saturday, OSU has put 3 QBs in and succeeded offensively. That’s the “next man in” concept. Bama can put the “next man in” on defense and pretty much feel confident in ability. How after 5 years and no sanctions is Notre Dame still so thin that the “next man in” is such a drop off? USC didn’t have a next man in and creamed us. So maybe the debate needs to turn to development of 2nd and 3rd string players. How is ND not developing and retaining 2nd and 3rd stringer who can be that “next man in”?

    1. Well you’ve posed a lot of questions here. I’m not sure I have the time or bandwidth to answer all of them in a reasonable amount of time. On the other hand, perhaps this was rhetorical in nature.

      1. Ron you certainly have time. As much replying as you do on this blog? Come on. And it would be fun to hear what you seriously think on those questions.

  24. Anyone read in the South Bend Tribune about Wally Moore’s passing? Sounds like he was a heck of a guy and a great O-Line coach. All who focus on the head coach and the QB should think about how a great offensive line makes any team look good. When you can run 4 to 7 yards per carry, you can do just about anything on offense. Moore had a couple of years in which the Irish averaged over 300 rushing yds/game. In today’s era, one could translate that into 200 yds/game and pretty much expect a 10 plus win season, assuming mere competency in other facets of the game.

  25. So I guess if ND loses there is no chance for them to win the championship unless they join the ACC full time, and win the ACC title.

  26. To be clear, I hate the Seminoles but does anyone think they should be ranked #1 being 13-0? Better yet anyone think they should not be in the college playoffs? I do not like this new system. I’m curious as to what folks think because if we were 12-0 this season, not ranked #1 or 11-1 and not in the playoffs there would uproars. These two scenarios could have been very likely. Again I hate Jimbo and his criminals but they won out and should be #1 which they may be right now after 1230 announcement.

    1. The Big 12 is paying the price of not having a conference championship game. ND will always pay the price of being independent..They’ll have to have a perfect season against a very tough schedule to be considered.
      Yes FSU undefeated should be #1 seed but that must not be the main criteria they look at.

      1. Possibly, but if tOSU doesn’t obliterate UW last night Baylor is probably in the 4 spot.

    2. The Big 10 is a few seasons from losing the rest of it’s former mystique. Plus the Big 10 puts Northerners in seats and spending money in the warmer climate in Dec/Jan. Baylor and TCU must prove not only that they have developed a legacy of winning but that their fans and alums spend money. Then they can get a seat at the party. OSU in a glorified MAC conference still get a turnout.

      As for Notre Dame, yes they need to go undefeated. No way FSU gets a shot last year or this year without going undefeated. FSU has one opponent ( well now 2 ) in the top 25. I have more respect for the PAC-12 than any other conference for strength of non conference schedule, but the SEC is on top of the mountain, like it or not. Truthfully the SEC West is on top of the Mountain.

      Notre Dame is now on the outside looking in like it hasn’t been since 1913. That’s the truth. But win 11 or more in back to back seasons and the Irish could quickly re-establish themselves.

      1. Ahh yes, I forgot about Clemson. They are actually legit in their spot with 9 wins. Louisville might be a gift.

        My point is that FSU has barely beat everyone, and of those close games, many were against non ranked opponents. BUT, they did win them all and that’s why they are in. One loss TCU/Baylor/OSU with a one loss FSU scenario and consistent margin of victory against more or less same strength of schedule would come into play.

        Also of note, the committee is making a point about conference championships which puts Notre Dame at a disadvantage when stacking up similar win counts. The Irish will have to target being undefeated whereas conferences can rely on their political power and past seasons reputation.

  27. I would look at starting EG in the Corn Flakes Bowl. I’d have a small leash and minimal tolerance though if he exhibits the fine turnover qualities he has been engaging in this season. I then say put in MZ and really start looking toward NEXT SEASON (I hate that term)as to whether he should be moving into the number 1 slot. I agree the O line has a LOT TO DO with the lack of offensive execution but fair or not, the QB position receives too much praise or criticism for how the offense plays and that is never going to change. As a coach, your tasked to put in the personnel who puts you in the best position to win. Worrying about ego of a potentially displaced QB does not rate in the top 3 reasons to keep playing him. MZ should have been sent in to relieve many games ago but that’s past history. I would say EG has affected his own “fragile” ego by his own on-field decisions he has made. Just a damn disappointing season as a fan.

  28. I wouldn’t touch Golson. His stats (3355 yds passing,29 TDS, 14Ints) are not bad at all, here is some perspective, Jameis Winston(3250 yds passing, 21 TDS, 17Ints), Marcus Mariota (3783 yds passing,38 TDS, 2Ints). I believe the lack of an offensive line is the problem, which is reflected in the lack of a running game. If BK pulls Golson for Zaire, it would be the wrong move. Also, lets talk about the defense (injuries were a factor) not being able to stop anybody down the stretch. The Irish have bigger problems than Golson.

    1. Yes I agree and would add the Tight End play as being below the ND standard that weve been accustomed to seeing. Troy Niklas leaving early was a big loss and Koyack didnt exactly tear it up. The other TEs were pretty much invisible this year.

  29. No don’t agree on belonging to a conference to make playoffs. Solid schedule which
    ND has each year with no more than one loss will suffice. No 2 loss team will make it in with a 4 school bracket. Besides the playoffs will expand to at least 6 most likely 8. School Presidents/Atheletic Directors are not going stand pat with only 4 teams eligible. Not when there is over 115 or so schools. Adding to that schedules are going to be stiffened now because of more emphasis on “SOS” should help ND as perenial favorites will now have a tougher road to tow. More losses. Just will take some time for current schedule contracts to play or buy out of.

  30. Oh, and I think the article by Scott does stretch things a bit with Zaire. By then the game was pretty much out of hand and he didn’t do much that made me get too excited.

    But one thing I do agree with Scott on is Zaire seemed to give the offense a spark. The offense did appear to come out of life support when he took over. While there was no was they were going to pull out anything close to a win, the reaction of the offense with Zaire gave me some reason to have hope. We have great players on offense, they just need a leader to rally around. Maybe, just maybe Zaire can be that man.

    1. Though I would say that while Zaire wasn’t mind blowing, he was good. He made the right reads, decisions, adjustments. He stayed in the pocket. He ran with greater athleticism and courage than Golson.

      He and Winbush/Kizer are the future.

  31. BK is going to put the players in next year that can win. Really, his job will probably depend on it. 7-5 again next year and BK is on the unemployment line more than likely.

    Right now, that is not EG. His inability to take care of the ball is a fundamental issue. On top of that he appears to have lost the ability to run the offense and his reaction against USC appeared to be one of apathy, like he just stopped caring. Even Rees, with his turnover issues, always gave it everything he possibly could.

    But turning the ball over is a gift to the other team.

    ND will go to a bowl game. They’d be completely foolish not to. Just the practice time alone makes it worth it, esp. considering most of the team is back next year. Take advantage of the practice and take advantage of the time to practice your players against an opposing team. The players will have almost 8 months to rest (minus spring and summer practices) so play the bowl game. And if they pull out a win, it gets them in a positive mindset going into spring practice.

    1. 2 for 10. How’s tying your own shoes? Letting your snot dribble into the knot only works if it’s really cold.

      And, I’m presuming you’re an adult here. If you’re ten, I apologize profusely.

  32. It won’t be pretty playing a SEC team unless it’s Vandy or Tenn, If the projections I saw of Auburn, Missouri or LSU are correct….they’ll get punked no matter who the QB is

    1. Interesting thoughts Mike. By the way, have you snapped anybody’s neck lately? Inquiring minds want to know.

      1. Y’know Burgundy, I can’t presume to know what ego charge you get from your Multiple Miggs cum flinging, but the criticisms can’t be taken as anything more than the online equivalent of a 9 year old ejaculating in his socks if you don’t have anything intelligent to add about the game or team. From what little you have to add about football, you could just as well be a refugee of some cheerleader site that is finding asylum on uhnd because you couldn’t take the wit and incision of the blog.

      2. Good advice. Should I strive for riveting and insightful comments like this one?

        beatha breath replied on November 13th, 2014 at 11:21 pm
        I banged her…but my flute smelled funny for months.

      3. I mean either way, I’ll strive to get better. I do like your style and your moves. When this is all over we should get a place together.

      4. Yes… Because those comments are original and funny, instead of canned and unprovoked.

        You trash on people that provide thoughtful commentary with cheap sideswipes. I rip people that are just stupid, that we’re all better off without.

  33. Mike T, you are completely wrong. If we had gone 11-1, we would be in the top 4 right now and our schedule didn’t turn out as tough as it should’ve been.

  34. Also don’t be forced to join a conference. Stay independent if possible. Still need to keep some traditions.

    1. If ND refuses to join a conference they will never make it into the playoffs unless they are undefeated and play one tough schedule of rated teams.
      Even the Naval Academy saw the writing on the wall and joined a conference.

      The odds are stacked against independents, just the way it is.

      1. I don’t know that I agree. Notre Dame runs a knife’s edge historically. Everyone, even those who hate ND, knows that the program is a proud one that willingly plays a difficult schedule and demands high academic achievement. It seems to me that if ND is undefeated or has one loss, they’re insistently in the conversation of the best. If they lose more than two, they’re a tired relic running on little more than nostalgia and ethnic fanbase.

        Joining a conference will normalize ND, which I’m not sure is entirely a good thing. The elite notion of ND is as much a recruiting boon as an anchor. If they join the ACC, the academic and behavioral demands will gut recruiting and push the program toward Duke.

  35. “Cut block-ades”. Very good. Can’t get on board. Want to keep “Navy and USC “. Going to have to play Gerorgia Tech too now. They will have to learn and adapt. Let them play the bowl game. They will all be focused and determined. Play everyone as much as you can. Give them good opportunities and let it all play out to the end. I know next year schedule supposed to be lighter, but you never know with college ball. This years was supposed to be very highly rated and didn’t pan out that way. Opponents next year may have good seasons. Hoping so!

  36. Really reaching on everything here – Right now Golson’s head is messed up – there is not much to really show that Zaire is “the answer” – To dump EG now may mess things up more – start him and see where it goes and if it looks bad put in Zaire – The season is gone – If we get a tough bowl opponent if could end even worse. the real issue is the O LINE – fix that and a lot of the problem goes away – the line has been a mess for years – I do not know who is the line coach but it is easy to see the job not being done there –

    If you yank EG now he will be basically done – Zaire has no given us much to really judge him on and his overall performance not really all that great

    Let’s just hope for a bowl game we can manage – FIX THE O LINE

      1. Changes- whether to personnel or scheme- are implemented to fix what isn’t working. Extra practices provide that opportunity. The argument ND used running the same schemes against Alabama in the NC game was they got to be 12-0 with it. Understandable. But this November’s collapse suggests changes are necessary, even if it was precipitated by the numerous key injuries. It appears even the productive O’s focus has been impacted by NDs depleted D,’ while the struggling O’ line remains inconsistent at best. Now before Burgundy snarks what a coach I’m not, or how I don’t have access to practices, nor can we even expect to win by “scoring 31 and still not being done” (since the other team will probably score 40 or more), and- no longer does my ND watching heart “soar like a hawk”, I do recall an excellent definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result. With the extra practices, ND will have to plug in players who aren’t yet ready, or decide against forfeiting their red-shirt year for one game to replace those injured, or they can do something unexpected to give the remaining personnel an edge. Will BK/BVG come up with an advantage for this game- like Ara’s “mirror D” in the ’71 Cotton Bowl vs. Texas, or St. Lou dropping eight vs. the injured QB Shane Matthews and Florida in their early 90’s bowl game, while wearing them down with Bettis to pull away in the 4th quarter? And maybe with what’s left standing this month, none of that would matter. According to an article in the South Bend Tribune: “The opponent. The Belk, Music City and TaxSlayer all would pair ND with an SEC opponent, and perhaps a really good SEC opponent.” I don’t envy BK’s challenge this month. I’m not expecting our next game to be much different than what we’ve seen the last five. I hope I’m wrong.

      2. I think the key is choosing a bowl where the opponent doesn’t play 21st century football. Provided the opposing offense doesn’t run up tempo, requiring a defense with high levels of experience and speed, ND could do well. Offensively, we don’t want to face a D with DBs that allow for complex blitzing opportunities. Depending upon the intended QB, we want a static defense that can’t clog the middle while still blitzing the edges and maintaining decent DB coverage. This would demand a QB that has a high football IQ, and quick, consistent decision making skills. Kelly is blunt, as usual…the team is simply lacking in personnel.

        In a larger sense, this reflects the challenge Kelly and Swarbrick face. Their transitioning ND from a proud middle 20th century team, to a 21st century powerhouse. For ND, this is a big shift. Bigger than many other teams face, who don’t have the same history or gradual change in coaches and theory.

  37. I love Golson, I want him to succeed. I am so proud of this young man for where he has been and his determination to come back and play. I do believe Zaire has all the requirements that goes with being a leader, and he will be a leader.

  38. Golson hurt his confidence and shoulder. He definitely has been off target and short since the Northwestern game. When healthy he definitely has enough of a canon to make brandon poop himself too. Let’s give Zaire a chance in the bowl game and open up the competition next year.

  39. I spoke my peace about Brian Kelly a few weeks ago on this website and had planned to be quiet for a while as the football season wound down, but the Colossal Collapse in the Coliseum has brought me back. That and the fact that this week the Sagarin Ratings had North Dakota State University (a 1AA) team ranked ahead of Notre Dame. They are #35 and we are #36 on the list. The Notre Dame Football team is in full crisis mode and we need to know why.

    A good college football head coach needs to do two things exceedingly well to thrive in today’s game. He must recruit well and he must coach up his talent. I have tried to find numbers that will help answer those questions.

    Today, let’s look at recruiting numbers. Granted, ranking high school football players is highly subjective and there are many different organizations that do the rankings. Results may vary between recruiting services, but I found online at recruiting rankings for all college football teams going back to 2002 so I used that data. Other organization’s rankings will differ but I hope that results will be similar overall. Anyway, below are the average recruiting rankings for various head coaches at various high profile schools going back to 2002. For each coach I have excluded the ranking for the first year coaching at a school as often the coach comes in near the end of a recruiting cycle and his only hope is to hold on to as many of the committed recruits from his predecessor as he can. First year recruiting rankings often differ significantly from the rankings obtained in following years. Here are the average recruiting rankings for coaches at specific schools:

    Coach College Years Average Ranking
    Nick Saban Alabama 2008-2014 3.0
    Urban Meyer Ohio State 2013-2014 3.0
    Pete Carroll USC 2002-2009 5.0
    Gene Chizik Auburn 2010-2012 5.0
    Les Miles LSU 2006-2014 6.0
    Nick Saban LSU 2002-2004 6.3
    Urban Meyer Florida 2006-2010 6.4
    Jimbo Fisher FSU 2011-2014 7.8 MackBrown Texas 2002-2013 8.0
    Gus Malzahn Auburn 2014 8.0
    Brian Kelly ND 2011-2014 8.8

    Every coach on this list has won at least one BCS National Championship since 2002 except Kelly and Malzahn but they both have played in the BCS National Championship game. Urban Meyer won two at Florida but none so far at Ohio State. All BCS Champions since 2003 are included in the above list. Jim Tressel won the 2002 BCS National Championship at Ohio State and his recruiting average ranking was 11.1 (2002-2010). So, recruiting is tremendously important for success on the field and Brian Kelly seems to be holding his own in this regard, not at the top but very near the top. I was pleasantly surprised as I felt that we just didn’t have the talent to compete with the big boys the past few years.

    So, why the current team chaos if we have the talent? Can Brian Kelly coach well enough to get us to the Promised Land or are the disadvantages of being Notre Dame (academics, school administration support or hindrance, facilities, etc.) too tough to overcome?

    That’s all I have on the recruiting side of things. I will try to work up some data on how Notre Dame ranks offensively and defensively versus previous BCS champions over the next few days and maybe this information plus some other statistics will provide a clue into Kelly’s coaching abilities.

    Go Irish.

  40. I do agree that Zaire should start the Bowl game. However, I can see both sides of it. With a month of practice in between games, if Golson comes out and plays good, he could gain confidence once again going into next season. I know he’s not a bad qb, but he seems to have lost confidence. He’s missing wide open receivers that he wasn’t missing in the beginning of the season.

    The reason I’d like to see Zaire is simple…I’m curious and we have nothing to lose in this bowl game, but much to gain. What if he plays really well and we do find our leader for the next couple years? I thought Golson had a strong arm then this kid came in and rocketed one down field like 70 yards. I almost pooped myself.

    Also, I agree on the tattoos. If we remove the players tattoos, we won’t lose again.

    Your pal,

  41. Your comment “On the rare occasions the signal caller doesn’t abandon the pocket” is exactly backwards, in my opinion. Everett was a much better quarterback in the early part of the season when he did roll out—he wasn’t pressured and still was accurate. I think some coach told him to “stay in the pocket”and that has been his demise.

  42. The biggest difference with Zaire in there is that the read option actually works… it makes the offense way more potent. When EG ran the read he would hand it off 95% of the time. The read option sets up Kelly’s offense

  43. Zaire needs to start the bowl game. Kelly needs to see what he can do in real game action. Also, Notre Dame needs a new special teams coach and restructuring the 0- line and quarterback play is a priority.

  44. None of us know if Zaire is a good QB at the college level yet, but I will say one thing…you have to LOVE this kid’s emotion while he is in the game. That is one of the first things that solidifies you as a leader out there, especially at the QB position. Did you see how he was running downfield and almost caught Brown on his first pass with him fist pumping for Brown to get into the endzone?? How awesome is that!? Even when it’s negative, he still shows emotion…e.g. Brindza’s miss on the final Northwestern field goal. You could see him put his hands on his helmet immediately as he knew he had messed up. But at least he is showing some kind of emotion out there. Good leaders at the QB position are like this. I think of Tom Brady in the NFL and I hate to say it but Jameis Winston. Winston yells at his line when they mess up but he leads by example and has their respect. Guess what, I bet the play better on the next play.

    I’m really hoping Zaire starts the bowl game so we can at least get somewhat of an idea of the potential there.

  45. When I saw ND play Bama in the 2012 Championship, I said after the first series that Alabama was way more physical and aggressive than ND and that we’d lose the game. I saw the same thing in the USC game. Confidence is a tough thing to rebuild once it is broken. ND lost their confidence in the FSU game and it was compounded by injuries. The question now turns to 2015. If they continue to slide….Kelly needs to say goodbye.

  46. Please,
    No bowl game! The team needs Rest And Recuperation!
    And, NO MORE GAMES against legalized Navy!

    1. The U.S. Navy has been legal since 1775. Back in those days, they were instrumental in holding the British Navy at bay with the use of “cut block-ades”. See what I did there?

      1. actually, my brothers name is Mike…LOL…sans the cool car. It may be hard to believe, but I get that alot. I alos seem to have picked up the Knightrider nickname which really wasn’t my favorite. Take care. 🙂

  47. I think you are reaching. We managed to score two meaningless td’s in garbage time. What is there to get optimistic about? it is far better to ratchet down your expectations, so you are not ultimately disappointed.

    ND is destined for another 7-4 record in 2015

    1. I’m guessing you meant 8-4 or 7-5?

      I’m also guessing that you haven’t actually looked at the 2015 schedule.

    2. I’m not talking about his scores, I’m talking about the way he carries himself. Most people shy away from taking charge, this kid does not.

      1. I agree. My only concern for Everett is that he does not feel confident in his offensive line which I could not blame him for. Also, combine that with him not spotting open receivers, but does one begat the other? I think it does. What made him so successful his first season? Tuck it and go!

      2. I don’t think MIke is jumping the gun at all in regards to finding their leader with Zaire. #8 entered last spring with great enthusiasm and ability. His confidence in hiself is another great asset. To even think about whether one is capable of being a leader 3 very important characteristics must follow: Ability, confidence and enthusiasm. #8 has and then some.

    1. If Kelly was willing to give this offense a face lift and start being a run first team like say a Auburn I would be all in for Zaire. But that will never happen here with Brian Kelly. He is a pass first head coach. I know fans are upset with Golson and have lost faith in him. I think Kelly has lost faith in him a little as well but he carried this team at the start of the season and he gives us the best shot at winning anything major next season. I don’t think we will beat LSU but they struggle with spread teams and I think we see Golson have a good game.

      I don’t know what is wrong with Golson but the really sad thing is neither do the coaches. 22 turnovers in 9 games can’t happen but this team has bigger issues.

      First is the offensive line. Kelly needs to bring in a new O LINE coach. Minus Stanley no one played well this season. Nick Martin being a captain and a senior played horrible all year. I know he had some kind of hand injury but he still couldn’t move anyone at the point of contact. Anyone who follows Notre Dame knows there is a certain coach out there who Kelly has history with who is suppose to be a very good O Line coach. I say bring him on board. I will be shocked if he isn’t the new O line coach in 2015.

      Next is special teams. I really like coach Booker but how much longer can Kelly allow special tems to be a huge hole. From the return game up to Brindza’s kicking. It was just bad all season. Kelly needs to find the best ST coach out there even if you have to go and cherry pick a guy from the NFL.

      Kelly made some tough decisions at the end of the 2011 season as far as letting some good coaches go and it paid off with a undefeated 12-0 regular season. I think the same thing needs to happen again. Change must happen again.

      1. Everett was sacked 27 times this year.
        (And hit and pressured a good many more)

        Zaire, as good as he may be, has yet to be blind-sided by a 300lb defensive end going full speed.

        Unless the O-Line suddenly becomes the Great Wall of China, Malik is going to need a lot more than just some swerve to prove his leadership.

      2. Good point. But not to sound overly-philosophical or anything, LEADERSHIP is not something you prove. It’s something people are attracted to. Call me crazy, (and you wouldn’t be the first; I DO have brain damage) but I’d rather be lead by a guy – QB – who avoids getting squashed rather than the QB who is scraped-off the turf after getting pommelled. Hey – could just be me…

      3. I guess you never heard the term “Lead by Example”
        (It’s been around a long time)

        And while nobody wants to see their QB get squashed, most do want to see if he is willing to scrape HIMSELF off the field and keep fighting when he is.

        I’ve seen Golson do it many times.(Probably too many)


  48. There is an elephant in the room that nobody seems to notice or talk about.
    To go from 6-0 to 7-5 in the blink of an eye does not bode well for NDs future, no matter the spin. Brian Kelly has made some poor choices and some very iffy calls, and Everett Golson seems to have hit the self destruct button.
    The defense is a joke, but not as big a joke as the offensive line. What is really going on here. I hate to say this but if that elephant is ignored they will end up playing in the toilet bowl next season, and I along with every Irish fan will have to suffer the pain and disappointment. ND will still make more money than god no matter the outcome?

  49. Shutting out Michigan was not exactly an achievement. Hoke got fired because his team
    Sucked. Plus, who the hell did ND beat? Their schedule was incredibly weak. They lost to any good team
    They played.

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