Duranko’s Digest: What did we see against Georgia Tech?

Sep 19, 2015; South Bend, IN, USA; Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets running back Patrick Skov (7) is tackled by Notre Dame Fighting Irish linebacker Jaylon Smith (9) and linebacker Greer Martini (48) in the fourth quarter at Notre Dame Stadium. Notre Dame won 30-22. Mandatory Credit: Matt Cashore-USA TODAY Sports
Sep 19, 2015; South Bend, IN, USA; Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets running back Patrick Skov (7) is tackled by Notre Dame Fighting Irish linebacker Jaylon Smith (9) and linebacker Greer Martini (48) in the fourth quarter at Notre Dame Stadium. Notre Dame won 30-22. Mandatory Credit: Matt Cashore-USA TODAY Sports

7 Georgia Tech punts.

24 Georgia Tech passes.

2 3-and-outs inflicted by ND defense to start the game.

The Notre Dame defense manhandled the vaunted Ramblin’ Wreck offense and keyed the Fighting Irish verdict of 30-22 over the unbeaten Yellow Jackets. Notre Dame now has a four game winning streak, and is the only team in the country with four consecutive wins over Power Five teams: LSU , Texas, Virginia and Georgia Tech.

Notre Dame’s defensive heroes were many. Bob Elliott was the architect, Brian Van Gorder the Engineer (engineering the Engineers’ demise), Gilmore Elston and Lyght were the on-site managers. The players were magnificent, maintaining lane discipline, assignment discipline, eye discipline and sure tackling. Jaylon Smith provided the electricity. Future opponents should be terrified by this: It is conceivable that Jaylon Smith is Notre Dame’s most improved defensive player.  Notre Dame used its athleticism and its athletes on defense, with Schmidt, Martini, Smith and Shumate as the four leading tacklers.


Deshone Kizer was big enough for the moment. He was prepared to do more than just “manage the game. ” The Kelly/Denbrock/Sanford troika refused to let Deshone and the offense hide behind the running game, and were prepared to win the game had it turned into a shootout.

Kizer has a live arm, can make all the throws and his height helps him see much. He seems to play with less angst than his two predecessors. His interception was the first Notre Dame turnover of 2015 but it was understandable if not forgiveable.

Kizer was choppy, but he has a HUGE upside.


Despite Ronnie Stanley’ recidivist brain cramps resulting in false starts, Harry’s Hammers dominated for the third week in a row, achieving over 200 yards rushing for the third week in a row, against credible, if not outstanding, defenses.

Prosise illustrated that his intelligence matches his strength and speed when he noted that the offensive line was allowing him to get to the third level untouched.


Brown had assumed a Godot-like aura in that his “arrival” had been awaited for the last three years, Fall and Spring. 8 catches for 65 yards may be assurance that Kizer can find more options than the remarkable touchdown machine, Will Fuller.


Jerry Tillery – While it may have been the matchup, he got the start and might have passed the very able Daniel Cage. An athlete who happens to be big enough to play either defensive tackle spot, his future is bright.

Alize Jones – sure, he had the fumble, but he can play anywhere, get open and he knows, even as a callow frosh, how to go get the ball.  Check back in November to see if he’s still making progress.


Well, sometimes nicknames are accurate. Luatua, a brutish blocker started, and both Weishar and Jones drew first blood as receivers. As Kizer’s repertoire expands, Weishar and Jones will make a lot more catches.


Despite the annual caterwauling about Navy, the seeds of beating Georgia Tech were sown on the practice fields and game turf of playing Navy. And Georgia Tech’s preparation and execution will yield dividends when Navy comes a callin’ on the 10th of October.


Against Clemson and USC, the bookends of the October gauntlet, our pass defense will be tested by quarterbacks superior to Matt Johns and receivers superior to Canaan Severin.

Like an Indiana Jones movie, one hazard conquered only means one our Irish must move on to a different challenge.

We will need more coverage specialists than Cole Luke and Keivarae Russell, who just may have scraped the last of his barnacles off yesterday.

Keith Gilmore has been livin’ on a prayer, playing just 6 defensive linemen. Clemson and USC will hurry up, run a lot of plays and wear out our first stringers. Gilmore needs to start deploying his defensive line depth right away. It is not about whether the first stringers are better, it is about giving them help and rest.


Josh Adams and Dexter Williams need to be able to take snaps in the second half of the season, both to rest Prosise and to save his energy to function as a pass receiver. C.J. has started making big plays as a running back. He has big plays as a pass receiver in him, provided he has the energy.

Robinson was on the brink of stardom last year. With Kizer now comfortable with Fuller and Brown, there is time to increase his sympatico with Robinson, Hunter and perhaps Carlisle and St. Brown. It’s a long season, and guys like MacKenzie Alexander of Clemson and Adoree Jackson of USC are future pros who may, for the first time, be able to make Fuller less than automatic.

What will we see against UMASS?

  1. The Minutemen may last a minute in the game.
  2. Notre Dame’s biggest challenge is to have the first string on both sides play with such dominance that the second and third stringers get many reps.
  3. Brandon Wimbush needs some reps and he needs to throw, regardless of the score. Some will be critical if Wimbush is passing in the late third and fourth quarters. But Kelly must prepare his backup quarterback.
  4. UMASS has been D-1 (we eschew the repugnant “FBS” nomenclature) since 2012. They have not beaten a Power Five Team. Their record since joining D-1 is 5-33. The wins have been over Akron, Miami (OH) (before Chuck Martin got there), Kent State Eastern Michigan and Ball State.
  5. Kizer needs to continue to throw to receivers other than Fuller and Brown.
  6. Gilmore promised to use a lot of Defensive Linemen, but avoided that against Virginia. Clemson and SC both like to hurry up and run a lot of plays. You play a lot of defensive linemen against them or you get crushed in the fourth quarter.
  7. UMASS’ two greatest athletes are Julius Erving and Marcus Camby. They played Naismith’s game, not football.
  8. The end of an era. With the Saturday tilt against UMASS Notre Dame will end September without having played a current member of the Big 10 (which is really comprised of 14 teams) since 1962, under Kuharich, though the Irish did play four Big Ten opponents in October of that year.

Go Irish!

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  1. There was a jack on here who predicted that Georgia Tech would beat Notre Dame. Is that you or another person? Do you own it or disavow it?

    We had a “jack” last year who solemnly predicted that Michigan would rip us apart with Gardner and Funchess. My memory is a little fuzzy but I think we might have shut out jack’s vaunted Michigan Gardner to Funchess combo.

    If you see that jack, let him know that if he needs a bookie, I’ll be his huckleberry!

    On having alumni as coordinators, I demur. Incest brought down the Hapsburgs. Not that we’re an Austrian dynasty, but, you know……

  2. Gentleman it’s a long season and I believe BK is giving us his greatest coaching job to date. They are in their toughest five game stretch of the year, with Clemson, Navy and USC on the schedule. If they make it through those games it could be a magical season. We shall see what happens, but overall BK has built a solid program. There is not a game on the schedule that ND can’t compete and win, which couldn’t have been said 10 years ago under Willingham and Weis. Enjoy every Saturday and the Irish’s chances in winning these games. Enjoy Joe Schmidt a true ND man. Hopefully one day in the future ND will have an offensive coordinator named Tommy Rees and a Defensive Coordinator named Joe Schmidt

  3. I would be remiss to ad that the team, seem to be comprised of quality young men with strong characters. Which is first and foremost. Thanks.

  4. I too have not been Kelly’s biggest fan. Skepticism mostly on game day play calling. I have seen progress on Special teams, overall team execution, speed and depth of the players. Taking into account of ND’s admissions requirements and yearly coaching changes. Brian Kelly has built a competitive and quality program. Can ND stop playing up and down to the level of their competition? IMHO that’s what I’ve felt for years and years. Understanding all schools play ND with more effort, and injuries the last numerous seasons. I think BK will change my opinion. Thanks

  5. I agree with 45yearfaithful on what is arguably BK’s best coaching job in my opinion, using Elliot’s research and team execution on defense. The team as a whole seemed prepared and unsurprised at any thing Tech threw against them on either side of the ball. I am not a fan of BK, but believe he is actually trying to change his coaching approach. He deserves kudos for the Tech game. I sincerely hope this developing plan is successful for he and our fighting Irish. Wow do we have depth, kudos again to BK and staff. Duranko your columns are great! I enjoy your knowledge and insights.

  6. I remember Chris Brown earily in his career using his speed to get behind the defense in Norman Oklahoma for a catch that broke the game open.

    If ND could just manage to get a few deep balls to an open Chris Brown.

    Having two capable deep threat recievers would change so much in what we would see from opposing defenses.

    The running game would benefit as well as the short passing game.

    Imagine having Fuller split wide on one side and Brown split wide on the other…. what nightmare for a deep Safety!

  7. well, southside, UMASS most famous chancellor was Billy Bulger, the famous pol from South Boston. He was and is the brother of Whitey Bulger, the devilish mobster and murderer who was finally caught in Santa Monica. In the movie “Black Mass” Johnny Depp plays Whitey to a t. He is the manifestation of pure evil.

    But southside, I got to know, are you trying to pick a fight between the south side of Chicago and Southie in Boston?

    Prosise can go to another level, even yet. He can make better decisons in the second and third level.

    I am encouraged by Kizer in his first start. Kelly noted that Deshone took accountability for a misread coverage on the interception. With coaching by Kelly, Sanford and Denbrock Kizer has an awesome support system. I expect that he will have a nice arc of progress.

    It may be an interesting season, lads. Buckle your chinstraps!!

  8. This weekend is a perfect opportunity for BK and company to open up their playbooks and unleash a fury unlike anything we’ve seen by the Fightin’ Irish under BK’s tutelage. Don’t play down to UMASS, just cause you may feel bad for beating up on a basketball team. They knew what they were getting into, go out there and play some football! Hoping for a big win!! 40+ point win. Go Irish!

  9. Great lines, Southside: “I’m not saying UMASS is not dangerous. Who knows how many on their roster are from South Boston. Stay cool and don’t bring up Bill Buckner.” LOL. Duranko’s essay was spot on.

    Onward Irish!

  10. david
    September 14, 2015 at 9:29 am
    TB: GT will quite likely be taking ND to the woodshed Saturday. If ND was to scored 40 points, they’d very likely still lose. GT is very, very solid.
    Have a Plan B for the second half on Saturday…..yard chores, other games, heavy drinking….

  11. david
    May 29, 2015 at 12:37 pm
    After Weis, I wished for Paul Johnson. Fans here disagreed. Lustily.

    At his introductory presser, Kelly pronounced the university name two different ways, and it’s been doublespeak ever since.

    I’m looking forward to Sept 19.

  12. Relax this week ND fans—compared to nerve wracking last week leading up to Yellow Jackets game. I’m not saying UMASS is not dangerous. Who knows how many on their roster are from South Boston. Stay cool and don’t bring up Bill Buckner. BK , is going to play Wimbush early. Agree with poster Mike about Prosise. He just might be best Irish running back we’ve all seen in a long , long time.

  13. Brian Kelly is to be commended on his special assignment for Elliott to have a strategy for defending the option. Coaches and players were truly up to the task. Shows me they can have answers defending the pass happy teams of todays modern CFB. I enjoy watching a strong defensive game. Few and far between these days. That game was a pleaure to watch. Sincere thanks to the whole program.

  14. VG best game plan ever and the players executed to perfection. Great win. Am glad to hear UMASS
    can pass because we better get used to it.

  15. If CJ Prosise can avoid the injury bug, he is headed for perhaps the greatest season in history by a ND RB. I’m 48 and the best one I can remember in my lifetime is Reggie Brooks 1992 season. It may take him an extra step or two to hit that top gear, but once he does he can outrun anyone. And it’s amazing for a guy his size to have that explosiveness.

    I’d like DeShone to be a little less careless with the football, but overall I thought he did a very good job against a good defense on Saturday.

  16. Kizer played well, he missed Robinson badly in the end zone on interception because it looked like he tried to hurry it, but Zaire is the one eventually who can make us great for multiple years. We cannot take any opponent too lightly, including Massachusetts, but we are capable of beating everyone if we focus one game at a time.

  17. Great defensive game plan for Georgia Tech. The defense played with great discipline. It’s crucial when facing the triple option to stay with your assignments. The triple option can be confusing but is beatable when the players stick to the plan. ND has had much better results against the triple option since BK came to town, which is good to see. The offense did a great job too. It was nice to see both offense and defense contribute to the win. Special teams still needs a little work. It does not bode well when you have to cross your fingers that your kicker makes the extra point.

    I agree with Duranko though, next week hopefully will give ND a great opportunity to “practice” the 2nd and 3rd stringers. Winbush definitely should get some playing time, including opportunities to actually run the offense. College football is not the NFL. Your 2nd and 3rd stringers are frequently your future players so I think absolutely they should get meaningful playing time against opposing teams when the opportunity presents itself. I would expect any college team to play with the same philosophy so it’s not an issue for me.

  18. Great synopsis from Duranko. I’m really getting used to this his work. I agree that the passing game needs to diversify a bit but I thought Kizer was doing some of that yesterday with his passes to Alize Jones. Can they do more? Yes they can but It’s not quite fair to suggest that he only looks for Fuller and Brown.

    I agree completely that Wimbush and the other running backs need to see some game time. We really do have the depth so why not give them a chance?

    I really didn’t think we would be sitting so pretty after week three so this is great fun. Can they keep it up? I think they can so long as they follow Duranko’s advice. What do you say Bob? Looking for a consulting position?

    Go Irish

  19. Another great Duranko essay. The pessimist in me recalled two other great N.D. victories. Both against Florida State. In both games N.D. effectively put away the Seminoles – only to have them almost (but not quite) make astounding comebacks in the fourth quarter. Some would call those late scores meaningless in so-called mop up time. However, the after the 1993 victory the Irish defense continued with the mop up mentality and were run over by Boston College. And, after the wonderful victory a few years later in Tallahassee, the mop up mentality continued and the Irish lost game after game after having started 8 and 0. So, hopefully no mop up mentality. The Irish need to deal with a better-than-folks-think Massachusetts team and stay focused and resolute against Clemson, Navy and U.S.C. before getting a well needed respite.

  20. Can’t believe we let Georgia Tech get two easy touch-downs in the last minute of the game. What happened? I was so exicited that we were up 30-3 in the last minute and all of a sudden we let them off the hook. I was so disappointed with the final score after such a tremendous win ? Was that our junior varsity squad out there ?

  21. Much better defensive effort. No butt sucking efforts against a quality opponent. Don’t play down to UMass. Their qb can definitely pass the football. Definitely second the notion we need to get backups quality minutes. Back half of the defense needs improvement. The rest of the schedule has heard of the forward pass. Standard is for real. They might be the best team in the PAC 12.

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