Duranko’s Digest: What Did we See in Palo Alto?

Photo: Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports
Photo: Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

A late Stanford rally, initiated with 30 seconds to go, was capped off by Conrad Ukropina’s 45 yard field goal, earning Stanford a 38-36 win over the crestfallen Irish, seeing the Cardinal snatch victory from the nearly clenched jaws of a defeat by the Irish. Yes, if it seemed like November 20, 1993, and if you had flashbacks of David Gordon kicking the game winner for Boston College, you were not alone. Group therapy works best for losses like this.

AN ODD FIRST QUARTER

Stanford took the opening kickoff and matriculated the ball down the field for a 7-0 lead. It lasted 12 seconds as C.J. Sanders scored Notre Dame’s third special teams touchdown of the year, and his second, on an electrifying return aided by a great block by Josh Adams. Note that Adams’ first play of the game was a block.

Stanford then took the ensuing kickoff and marched in for another TD. The score was Stanford 14-Notre Dame 7 before the Irish had run a play from scrimmage.

NOTRE DAME’S OFFENSE

The Irish offense had its most efficient, dominant game of the season, but for the red zone inefficiency, since UMASS.

The Irish averaged nearly 9 yards PER PLAY, and that is calculated without Sanders’ kick return.

DEFENSE-CHOICES-RISK AND REWARD

Stanford’s offense had been potent all year, and in the soft Pac-XII the Cardinal had easily established McCaffrey’s dominance from the line of scrimmage as a fulcrum for the rest of the offense. Notre Dame could have chosen death by a thousand cuts and allowed McCaffrey to gash them to death, but chose rather to limit McCaffrey and make Hogan beat them. On the efficient frontier of college football defense, you get no increased reward without a commensurate increase in risk. And the Irish chose, not recklessly or unwisely, to make Hogan beat them in the air with Cajuste and Hooper. The Irish selected the reward of slowing down McCaffrey, but the risk was exacted by Hogan, Hooper, and Cajuste.

Devin Butler was often matched up with Cajuste, and he was always overmatched. Cajuste was the difference. It was not merely the catches and yards, but it was when he made them and the down on which he made them.

The Irish front seven did limit McCaffrey to fewer than 100 yards rushing, though that was of little consolation. When Kelly arrived both of our lines were getting beat up, absolutely abused, by Harbaugh’s Stanford lines? That was then and this is now. That deficit has been closed and reversed and will not come back under Kelly.

JOSH ADAMS – and Folston and Prosise.

Once again, Adams will not have a good Notre Dame career he will have a GREAT Notre Dame career. He just got here in June, and will have a full Winter and Spring working with Denson. Folston is crafty inside, he is the best at turning a 3 yard run into a 7 yard run and moving the chains. Prosise has elite speed, but is more comfortable outside than between tackles. And C.J. has probably spent more time working on his pass receiving than any other running back in college football.   Adams has everything, great vision, size (and he’ll never be this small or weak again after bulking up with Longo), speed (though Prosise would win a footrace) and early acuity for blocking. Spring will be interesting.

YEAR’S BIGGEST SURPRISE

Deshone Kizer’s ability to run the ball. The Springtime cliché was that Zaire was the runner, Kizer the passer. Well, don’t you know, Zaire could pass and Kizer was a shockingly good runner, more crafty than explosive. Just don’t sleep on Brandon Wimbush. Kelly, Sanford and Denbrock must honor their code, which is to have an open competiton at quarterback. Kizer will get points for being a successful starter, but the battle will rage. The toughest question for Spring is whether the contest at running back or quarterback will be the most thrilling, unless both are pointed out by the battle for playing time at wide receiver, with Brown and Carlisle departing, or the four way battle at tight end or the battle between Mustipher and Hoge to replace Nick Martin.

FRESHMEN OF THE YEAR

  • JOSH ADAMS – by acclamation
  • JERRY TILLERY – hit a wall in early November, but might have had his best game on the Farm, discounting the critical face mask penalty.
  • JUSTIN YOON – there is not greater indicator of greatness than to be taken for granted. He may not be automatic, but we all think he’s automatic.

TRAIL OF TEARS – 2015

  • Prentice McKinney not admitted, winds up at Oklahoma
  • Tony Alford leaves for Ohio State
  • Kerry Cooks leaves for Oklahoma
  • Matt Hegarty leaves for Oregon
  • Everett Golson leaves for Florida State (note: three of these guys left for Final Four participants in 2014, the others for a Final Four participant in 2015)
  • Bo Wallace released from LOI, signs with Arizona State
  • Kolin Hill, Jhonny Williams, the two who, along with Wallace were the designated passrushers for Notre Dame, leave
  • Greg Bryant suspended, then departs
  • Jarron Jones, the runstopping yin to Sheldon Day’s yang, out for the year
  • Shaun Crawford, the poor man’s Honey Badger and starting nickel, out for the year
  • Ishaq Williams not cleared to play.
  • Tarean Folston out for the year
  • Malik Zaire, out for the year
  • Durham Smythe, out for the year
  • Drue Tranquill out for the year
  • Avery Sebastian out for the year
  • James Onwualu out for the year
  • KeiVarae Russell out for the year

The measure of a man is not the riches he inherits but the adversities he overcomes. For Team 127 it is not a saga of riches inherited but a heroic, albeit gritty tale of adversities overcome.

ACHILLES’ HEEL

When Our Lady du lac dipped this team in the St. Joseph River, she held it by the heel and that heel is the secondary. This is a weakness, potentially, of the team going forward. Luke and Redfield return, and Russell should, though he may not. Butler is Butler. Tranquill, Sebastian and Crawford come off tough injuries. Nick Watkins has progressed more slowly than expected. Coleman, Mykelti Williams and Ashton White are the first freshmen under Lyght. Don’t be shocked if the Irish pull a Cody Riggs or Avery Sebastian and bring in a fifth year transfer secondary player. And of the wealth in the frosh recruiting class in the secondary, some may be called on to play. It remains a concern.

REDSHIRTS

Romeo Okwara, Corey Robinson, Steve Elmer, Elijah Shumate, James Onwualu, Andrew Trumbetti, Grant Blankenship and Drue Tranquill all played as frosh, from necessity rather than unbridled readiness. That is changing, and next year, the only frosh who will play, other than in the secondary, are the ones fully ready, the potential three-and-outs.

SEASON IN REVIEW

Texas – Total dominance on each side of the ball. Notre Dame 38-Bevo 3

Virginia – the classic sandwich game. Mike London’s Cavaliers always produce one epic effort in Charlottesvile and they spent it on the Irish. Zaire went out. But Notre Dame had the will and Will Fuller had Kizer’s and Notre Dames’ back. 34-27, 2-0.

Georgia Tech – The rollercoaster turned upward. Bob Elliott was the Baron Von Clausewitz of Paul Johnson’s destruction, perhaps permanently. The Irish stopped the unstoppable, 30-22, 3-0.

UMASS – a romp, a laugher. Brandon Wimbush flashed his explosiveness and his dazzling potential. Irish showed their depth and future promise. 62-28, 4-0.

Clemson – well-rested Clemson, having not played in 16 days, used a monsoon and some sharp early playcalling to put the Irish into a deep hole. But the gritty, and rain-soaked, Irish clawed back and came within a two point conversion of sending the game to overtime. Clemson 24-Notre Dame 22. Clemson is the top ranked team in the country. That night was the closest they came to defeat.

Navy – The Georgia Tech template worked and the Irish won comfortably for the first time since Croake Park in Dublin. Fare thee well, Ensign Keenan Reynolds. Now go sit next to David Robinson and wear Notre Dame gear. Notre Dame 41-Navy 24, Irish 5-1.

USC – jolted awake by Sarkisian’s besotted firing, they came out firing on all cylinders. But this Trojan horse is truly hollow. They live on the deeds of the three superstars, Adoree, Juju and S’ua (it’s an LA thing, first names only, just like “Kaitlin”). A roster in pooor physical shape with little player development. Equanimeous St. Brown had a sweet punt block. Irish by 10, 41-31, Irish 6-1.

Temple, on Halloween in Philly, Temple hosted the Irish in the biggest game in Temple athletic history. Matt Rhule will soon follow Justin Fuente up coaching mountain, but the Irish prevailed 24-20, moving to 7-1

Pitt – Panthers brought out the legends: Ditka, Dorsett, Fralic, Marino, Covert, but the Irish offense was in high gear, controlling the game. Two late TDS by Pitt, one on the Wimbush giveaway made the final score a lying 42-30. Irish 8-1

Wake – senior day snoozefest, Irish let Wake hang around.  ND 28-Wake7, Irish unbeaten at home 9-1

BC – red zone turnover night by the Irish in Fenway. Issue was never in doubt, Irish offense mashing the vaunted BC defense. Notre Dame 19-BC 16, 10-1

Stanford – the year’s most efficient offensive display, but for the red zone woes. Irish slowed down McCaffrey, but the steep price exacted was Devin Cajuste. Conrad Ukropina joins Joe Perkowski, Joe Azzaro, Scott Hempel and David Gordon in ND’s plaekicking house of horrors, for one reason or another.

Stanford 38-Notre Dame 36.

Notre Dame finished 10-2. The two losses were by two points each, one to the ACC Atlantic Division champions and one to the PAC XII North champions.

THEN AND NOW.

The two losses hurt, especially yesterday’s. But a year ago we played USC in the Coliseum on Thanksgiving Weekend. That was not a pretty sight. Much has happened in the last year. The future is bright. You are free to embrace it or reject it. But those who stay will be champions. If you want your team to play like champions today and tomorrow, then start acting like one.

THANK YOU TEAM 127!

GO IRISH!

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55 Comments

  1. Great article as usual, Duranko. I am interested in your thoughts about BVG and the adjustments you think may need to be made there. Some writers are calling for a simplified defensive scheme, since this veteran laden group still had trouble with missed assignments. Others say it is typical for a new scheme to take 3 years to really settle into a program, and BVG’s got another year before we can really measure.

  2. I will say it again, just for you Zippy, SCREW YOU NAYSAYER COMPLAINING FANS. You must sleep well since you are a Cardinal fan. I sure liked Whitey Herzog until your beloved Cardinals organization screwed him.

    Go 10-2 IRISH, WIN YOUR ALLEGEDLY DISMISSIVE INSIGNIFICANT BOWL GAME, no wait, WIN YOUR BOWL GAME!!!!!

  3. Hey NemesisTheDestroyer,
    That was well put! I, for one, am thankful for 10-2 and a great bowl game! After that bowl game, all we have to look forward to is national signing day, spring ball, and then the long period of darkness *smile* until the next season starts! Another thing I am so thankful for is Showtime’s Notre Dame football coverage this year. That has been outstanding and must see TV!

    GO IRISH!

  4. There’s actually only 3 bowl games which compromise the college football playoff, but you’re a Cardinals fan so you got that going for you.

  5. Nemisis, you must be a cubs fan. I am a cardinals fan, we win championships. Hows your team doing with that. And yes there are 6 bowl games that matter. The CFP GAMES. Everything is a meaninless exhibition game that has no bearing on next year what so ever.

  6. I’ll just say it. Screw you naysayer fans who are discounting/dismissive/complaining about the “legitimacy” of the bowl game. NC’s are great but guess what, the team didn’t make it to that summit this year. Time to get over it and move on (besides, YOU ARE NOT ON THE TEAM). As fans, we get to watch our beloved Irish play AGAIN in a game that most likely will draw a good opponent. That is a continued opportunity my fellow Irish fans. How about being thankful for that as a FAN! 10-2 is better than 9-3 and ND will have the chance to kick somebody’s ass. Stay focused on a positive basis and for those complaining because we aren’t going to win a NC this year, so are a lot of other teams. I am happy we are afforded as fans, to watch the Irish in a major bowl.

    Be Proud for our Fighting Irish
    Kick butt and take no prisoners
    Fight on Notre Dame

  7. Disappointment is fine. Berating the players/program because of FANS disappointment is not. Especially when the program has grown by leaps and bounds. Ridiculing that “Their” earned bowl game is an exhibition or meaningless is grossly unfair. Also their season was a failure? 1) your not preparing/ participating in it. 2) Those are highly regarded contest. And will continue to be for the immediate future. 3) If the team/program has that same attitude towards any competition, then ND program will be back to what it just grew out of. Appreciate its growth. Thanks.

  8. I think the fact that you pretty much blamed the entire game on one defensive player…..Butler is appalling and disgusting! You should be ashamed of yourself especially since so many other players made mistakes as well! Thank God these young men don’t have to read your articles and be demeaned for giving all they have on the field. Thank you sir for affirming my belief that people like you suck!

  9. Those 15 extra practices will pay dividends for years to come. Likely, ND will be a runaway freight train with enormous momentum carrying over to next September. Texas, Nevada, MSU alone are dead where they stand right now. All ND’s RZ issues just flew out the window as well. And I can’t wait for all the recruits to start pouring in once ND wins the Fiesta Bowl. But if ND loses, then I’ll just change my thought process and convince myself the recruiting will still be fine. Once next year rolls around, I’ll hope ND makes the playoffs, but if they lose 2 or 3 games, I’ll just tell myself that any NY 6 bowl is a success. No matter what though, I won’t be disappointed.

  10. Rewarding the players with a significant major bowl is an obvious deserved perk for them.

    The extra practices should help correct the shortcomings (red-zone TDs, preventing big plays, etc.)

    Winning a major bowl game might help recruiting.

    Winning that game will do much for the satisfaction of departing players.

    Whether the opponent be Fla. St., OSU. MSU, Iowa, or whomever, the Irish get one more chance to make its case that they are capable of not just competing with a top team, but beating one.

    Win on New Year’s Day
    However and versus who
    11& 2.

  11. Obviously getting back the wounded was the most important, but I believe beating LSU in the manner in which we did was a very significant moment for this team and ND. If we were to somehow end up playing Ohio State and beat them, I think it would be a big deal as well for next season.

  12. Duranko,
    Perhaps in retrospect the players find all the positives about this season but if your goal was to win a national championship and you didn’t then you failed to achieve your goal.

    As a fan, I thought this was a great season for ND. Like I’ve said before, some of us tend to forget the age of these players and that they are student athletes not professionals.

  13. Subway Alum,

    It takes more than 2 to have a party.

    What you an bj have is called a “date”

    But I do wish you both a swell time!

  14. Does the bowl game have meaning to the players?
    Will the bowl game have meaning to the enhanced preparation and practice focus for the second and third stringers who begin to prepare to replace the departing players?
    Does the bowl game have meaning to the coaching staff, as they address the problems with the red zone offense and the defensive line depth?

    For all those, like who sniff and pout about meaninglessness to THEM, well, fine, when you fashion your invitation list to the sniff and pout party include me out.

    But if the players are all in, if the coaches are all in, if the January entrants will enthusaistically show up for some of the practices, both in South Bend and at the bowl site, that is good enough for me.

    There are 130 teams in D-1. Only two will win playoff games on Dec. 31s Only 1 will win the championship game. Does that mean the other 128 have failed? Does that mean that Notre Dame, 10-2 with 2 2 point losses to Big Five Division champions failed? My vote is no. To those who think think both the 128 and Notre Dame failed, well, it’s America and the internet, so have it your way.

    but that’s just too dark, too full of misery angst, frustration, lathing, self-loathing and selfishness for me.

    Football was fun for me, and Notre Dame football even more fun for me when I began following it
    lo these many decades ago. It remains so. Team 127 were my guys! Yep victory is thrilling, and defeat is agonizing, but I’ve had too many classes with the players, too many beers, eaten rib tips with too many All-americans (some of whom are now coordinators in the NFL) to distance myself from them.

    I was with them then, and I am with them now. And I’ll be with them during the bowl game.

    You all have your choices. I certainly do and I’ve made mine.

    I had fun this season. For those who didn’t? Well, not my circus, not my monkeys.

    As ever, go Irish!

  15. Bruce, if ND ever wins a NC (I agree it won’t be under BK-BVG) I’ll throw the party and you’ll be invited.
    But Shaz-I-am-under-a-Rock will not be. He’s just tooooo altruistic.

  16. I have long thought the ND red zone touchdown efficiency would benefit from switching from the spread to the T-formation, with the QB taking the snap under center and with 1 or 2 backs behind him whenever they’re within 10 yards of the goal line. The closer you get to the end zone the more the field shrinks and the less the spread formation gives any advantage. In order for the defense to prevent a TD, it almost has to “sell-out,” fill the gaps and overreact to the first movement of the offense. From the T-formation, the D has to overreact to the QB’s first movement and has to assume that he is going to hand the ball off to the back at the line of scrimmage, as opposed to handing it off 6 yards behind the line of scrimmage in the spread. That initial overreaction by the D opens up a world of possibilities for the offense, as Stanford demonstrated so well. A number of the pass plays, like the fade and slant, would also work better in the red zone from the T-formation. The upcoming bowl game would be a good opportunity to experiment with using the T-formation in the red zone. What the heck, it couldn’t result in any worse TD production than what we’ve been watching all season. We have an outstanding, physical O line and great, powerful backs. Why not use them to the max? What do the Durankophiles think?

  17. I’m sure I’m not saying anything new but I’ve seen enough of BVG. It’s been 2 yrs now and his high risk/high reward defense has given up too many risks and not gotten enough rewards. Players out of position too many times. They can’t get to the QB often enough when blitzing. They can’t seem to force any turnovers. They give up too many 3rd down conversions. How many 50, 60, 70, 80 yd plays have they given up? Every game seems to have them and many games have more than one. Plus, they kept staying with Schmidt too long. I’m tired of all the plays he “almost” makes that result in big plays for the opposition. He’s a nice story but overmatched as an ILB for ND.

    Time to get rid of BVG. There are too many reasons to get rid of him and not enough reasons to keep him.

  18. Wow, I’m just amazed at the laissez-faire attitude about a NY Day 6 bowl game. There is a world of difference between a NY Day 6 bowl and the Idaho Potato Bowl. It certainly does make a difference to a recruit. No one, fans, players or coaches are settling though. I want a CFB playoff game. But ND needs to get up and ready, and beat whoever they draw in the bowl game, because it does matter to future recruits, recruits we need to win that NC. In a way ChrisJ is absolutely right. It IS and exhibition game, a game where ND can display itself to undecided recruits. A good win will likely push some of those recruits into our column.

    So I sincerely hope the players have a different attitude because yes, it does matter to the future. And don’t forget, ND has not won a BCS type bowl since before there was a BCS. That would still be a huge hurdle for ND to overcome.

  19. Thank you Chris, someone who sees reason in my argument. I’m not saying they shouldn’t accept the bowl bid, as the practice is useful and the American way is to make as much money as possible. But it is an exhibition game folks who don’t understand this concept, and has no bearing on next years team.

  20. mzipprich,

    You’re absolutely right about the bowl game. It is meaningless. ‘Completing the mission’ did NOT happen and these players feel the exact same way. For our fans on these forums to settle for anything less than national championships is not the right attitude to have. These players feel the exact same way we do. They have already said this game will be played for ‘pride’ but it doesn’t mean anything because it is not for a championship. This game does not mean anything for momentum next year. Each game is different week to week. It is all on how you prepare and execute in that specific week’s game.

    It just sucks that we didn’t make it and once again have to watch another meaningless game at the end of a season. It was cool to see us beat LSU last year and I’m really hoping we get a shot at Ohio State just because I hate those bastards living here in Ohio and would love for our team to beat them.

  21. Although Russell struggled at times, he was our number two for tackles. So not only coverage but that one score where the receiver should have been tackled at the 15 for a five yard loss and shook off Russell’s replacement to scamper into the end zone was huge.
    The face mask play was unfortunate the pocket collapsed and should have been a sack, a mistake for a young guy.
    If we won, I don’t think we were jumping back into the playoffs, Oklahoma was too dominant against the Cowboys and the Big 10, who have a playoff game that the committee likes, was not going to be left out in the cold.
    I think the team is better next year, whether that yields a CFP slot, who knows?

  22. Bruce Johnson,

    I can tell you this…. if ND ever does win a national championship don’t expect an invited to the
    victory party!

    cuz nobody likes a poop-er!

  23. They won’t ever win a national championship with Brian Kelly. He is too bull headed. It took him years to address special teams. It took him years to run the ball and he still won’t do it in the red zone. He refuses to address and focus on the defense which has been a disaster for two years, bvg defenses gave up unlimited points, 20, 30, 40 points a game last year and this. When you have a problem you fix it immediately. You don’t wait.! The failure to address the defense issue might have cost us a national championship. These guys deserve better.

  24. Sorry breathren…. I don’t completely remember that.

    But I do remember that you predicted ND to go 10-2….. well done.

  25. Remember that post so long ago, when I said that Stanford would isolate Jaylon Smith with McCaffrey…and Cajuste would kill ND, because either Farley or Redfield would have to have an amazing day to stop him?
    I’m not sure what the hiring process is for defensive analysts, but I’m starting a kickstarter campaign.

    Either way, the decision to stick Farley in man (utter failure), and Schmidt in zone under (utter utter failure), against the player that has gashed you all night is pretty suspect. I get the notion that you want your most experienced captains in a role of responsibility. But, there’s a huge difference between a character captain, and an athletic player. The guy didn’t even run some crazy Y stick pattern. It was a Post! Schmidt was suffering the classic spotlight syndrome of attempting to do everything (all season), and failing at all of it. And, Farley was stuck in his cleats when the out route didn’t appear.

    Butler played pretty good corner other than a key missed tackle and some terrible officiating. But, mzipprich, and his NC or nothing idiocy is

  26. A nice article with a good summarization. Steam forward and a head, NOTRE DAME, the future is yours to invent and as the rock band BOSTON sang, Don’t Look Back. Accept an invite to a bowl ( where you have further opportunity to practice & work on schemes to gain further proficiency-to me, that does have relevance) to play a good opponent and kick their ass.

  27. How do fans have any Idea if a bowl victory wouldn’t actually have an effect on next years team? Certainly we have read statements from athletes/sports where teams post season losses certainly do. Thanks.

  28. What does ND spend per scholarship player? I’ve read over 300k per year. So a millions for a bowl game is relevant. As far as a bowl game being significant. That’s for the players and program to decide and ultimately judge. After all, they’re the ones who have earned it. Prepare for it. Participate in it. It’s their “Team”. It will be their opinion that counts. Not the fans. I have seen ND turn down post season before. Some bowls schools lose $ after all is accounted for. Conference $ shared saves them. Thanks.

  29. Longo should NOT be bulking Josh up or — until he spends some time with Turley at Stanford — anyone else. Stanford, typically for them, had only one season ending injury. Can it be that flexibility and mobility trump brute strength and muscle mass on this “new frontier” of CFB to which Duranko refers?

  30. We have a coach that over thinks the little things. Clemson 2 pt conversion at 21-9 but then had to take a timeout to get the play off. Take the 45 yard penalty and kick it, that TO was way too valuable when down 2 scores. Left us down 21-9 at that point. Would have giving ND the chance to kick the extra point to go to OT. Yes I was there in the rain!! Now Stanford, once again went for 2 way too early and could have done it on the last TD to go up 3. Since I was at the game I watched the replay of the game last night and why did Kelly take a time out at 30seconds? Go to the line take a few seconds off the clock or force Stanford to take a TO at that time. Even if we don’t get it in on 1st down we would still of had 2 TO’s with 20 -25 seconds left. Just the little things and the over thinking of BK cost this team 2 wins. Don’t get me started on the Red Zone playing calling with 2 corners out at Stanford.

    I must take depression well, last 4 games in person was FSU and ASU last year and then this year Clemson and Stanford. I’m staying home till Texas.

    GO IRISH!!

  31. Just look at the defensive stats. We gave up too many big plays and too many long drives.. The defense against Stanford’s final drive was inept. BVG is not getting the job done, period.. Kelly needs to hire better coaches, and not just guys he is comfortable with. This is madness.

  32. The point is they would have won even with the red zone problems if VanGorder hadnt put in that
    damn prevent defense when they only needed a field goal.

  33. Brad,

    That would be hard to schedule and maintain our independence and other scheduling obligations. We need 5 ACC games, plus the Stanford, USC and Navy games yearly. That only leaves 4 other games. Most teams that ND wants to play are teams that will insist on home-home series adding another wrinkle.

    Don’t forget teams like Alabama schedule FCS games so they can schedule more home games. ND won’t be scheduling any FCS teams, thankfully.

    So I don’t really see anyway of getting to 7 true home games as long as ND is independent and avoids scheduling FCS.

  34. You know what considering all the injuries and fall outs of coaches going to other teams; this is a damn good team. The outcome of this year is a far cry from the end result of last year’s. I for one am very proud of this team. They took what they had and ran with it! Yeah, okay so they had a few mishaps here and there (see BC game, our secondary) but, they never gave up. Win, lose or draw – they showed their mettle as a team, as a family. I know BK and company will have much to talk about in the off-season, especially the issues in the Irish secondary. BVG will get a readjustment but, he’ll adjust well – if he expects the payout one could expect from UND. The biggest thing that I have seen is the inconsistency and discipline, if we can shore those issues up and play error free football; who knows what this team is capable of. The dawn of a championship caliber team is there, I see it, you see it… the chips are in place. Now we must readjust, mold and strive for better. 10-2 is a good year but, champions always look for something more, always hungry, always improving. There’s a reason why I started my career as a ND fan at 8 years old. There’s always been something special about ND, I emulate in my life the meaning of, “Play like a champion today.”

  35. They have an 8 billion dollar endowment, I don’t think they are hurting for money. You enjoying that 1988 VHS championship tape, cause I sure would have liked a 2015 new Blueray NC to watch. And no this statement is incorrect also. “but it could potentially be a good starting point to next year” This is the end of this year, next years starting point begins with Spring practice. This game has no bearing on next years team/season/momentum. Thanks for coming, have a nice day.

  36. I would prefer that 7th home game over the Shamrock Series.

    Also, I think the Shamrock Series game should be the first game of the year. Host it anywhere you want. Otherwise, I’m over the Shamrock Series, just give us the 7th home game. Do we really think this is attracting recruits? Maybe the uniforms help a minimum amount.

    Maybe part of the injury bug is the stress/tax on the player’s throughout the season (Traveling, altered sleep schedules, etc.) I don’t like the 6-5-1 scheduling model. Alabama has a neutral site game and still has 7 home games. They do more of a 7-4-1 scheduling model. That’s what I want to see. Why put ourselves at a disadvantage.

  37. Jack, I too think it would be premature to jettison BVG. I think Scott’s article nailed it on the head. Our front 7 are pretty good at stopping the run and the triple option. Teams generally have difficulty churning yards on the ground against are defense. That was a huge problem under the Weis teams. Teams ran at will.

    But we need improvement in the secondary. You have to be able to stop the passing game as well. Diaco’s schemes were definitely better in that regard. They never left anything get behind them. So that’s definitely an area BVG needs to work on if he wants some job security.

    Scott,

    It’s the truth. How bout some love for Kizer and Adams. They both did a great job when called upon. Adams is just a beast and I’m excited we have him for at least 2 more years.

    It was concerning reading some comments that made it seem like the end of the world. It almost seems like some fans are already rooting for BK to fail because they think a Saban like coach is just waiting to come to ND. It’s sad because I went through that with Weis’ last year. I was actually rooting for ND to lose because I knew Weis was not the right coach. It made me sick and I never want to have to do that again. Is BK elite, not at this point. But I can see improvements since he took over. He won’t be an elite coach IMO unless he can pull off the elusive NC. I think that’s possible, but, sure, I agree some adjustments are needed.

    I don’t have problems with criticism of BK. Some are valid. Steel Fan Rob, for instance, I don’t always agree with him, but he makes good points and I can see where he’s coming from. But he still hopes ND succeeds under BK. But for some others it’s like they can’t wait for ND to lose the next game just so they can beat their chests and say “See BK is not a good coach”. I don’t get angry as some have suggested, just disappointed that there are fans that feel that way.

  38. Notre Damian,

    Perhaps there is some value in rewarding the players for all their hard work, resiliency, persistence, sacrifice, and dedication?

    We know that isn’t going to satisfy the ungrateful “me first” generation of fans, but for the rest of us, we get it.

  39. Damian,

    I was speaking of Diaco’s defenses 2013 and prior. If you remember Kelly wanted to run a more NFL style defense that is why he hired BVG. I’m not advocating firing the BVG, I just want to know why the team has trouble adjusting in games and no one has seemed to pick up the defensive calls other than Joe Schmidt. Diaco’s defense was simple and everyone knew their assignment. It allowed ND to play fast, other than the 2012 NC game. I need to see a defense that adapts to in game challenges and one that can pressure the QB. I agree it isn’t Butlers fault entirely, but it’s like the Eagles game at Detriot. They left a rookie corner one on one with Megatron and he got beat like a drum. If your player can’t handle the one on one coverage you need to adjust to help him. That is what i’m saying about BVG, I need to see better calls and changes to adjust to what the offense is doing through out the game.

  40. Mzziprich,

    I’m sorry you don’t see any value in a NY Day 6 bowl win. By no means would it compare to a NC, but it could potentially be a good starting point to next year. Plus ND won’t turn it’s nose up to the millions in payout it will get (vs. the much fewer thousands from a lower tier bowl). And don’t think for one minute it has no effect on recruiting. I do find value in all that.

    Basically, they do still have something worthwhile to play for.

  41. Duranko: Not much to disagree with in your post.
    Thanks also for the season ending review reminding us of how impressive this injury depleted team (highlighted by Shaz’s post) performed all season.
    Indeed! Thank you team 127.
    Well noted that stopping McCaffrey was necessary, and he was limited. Redfield and Shumate were cheating to the LOS all night long; Other than Jaylon Smith, who was – again- spectacular, little help from LBs, either with stopping the run, or pressuring the QB, or shutting down passing lanes when they were in pass D’, like the last completion. I will not point blame at Butler for the loss- if the LBs didn’t blitz, covering the pass lanes on that last fateful pass is on them as well, as it is on the DL, with no pressure on Hogan that last play. My point- it was a complete D’ breakdown, not just on Butler. But leaving about 25 points on the field inside the 25 yard lines all night long when Stanford scored TDs EVERY time they had that chance turned out to be the difference. Lacking QB pressure and making the plays scoring red zone TDs and red zone D’ stops were the keys to defeat. Another similarity between BC ’93 loss and last Saturday night- the best team in both of those games lost, regardless of the obvious- our glut of key injuries this year.
    What I did see is a wasted effort from a dynamic offense, despite the tentative red zone shortcomings. What I also saw was an inspired determined Hogan playing, according to his coach, his “best game”. It took his best effort to win, and he provided that. Credit where credit is due. Never underestimate motivation. Hogan played like he had something to prove in his last home game vs. the school that decided this legacy wasn’t good enough to recruit.
    What I also saw was a prevent-you-from winning D’, with the scheme in the last thirty seconds more designed to stop a TD than a FG, when all that was needed was a FG. Was it poor execution or too tentative a scheme?
    Tough for any team to bounce back from such a devastating loss.
    If 127 goes to a major bowl vs. a top 10 opponent, and wins, more proof of their resiliency and more frustration of what could have been. ND has returned among the elite. Winning that crucial game still too often escapes them. LSU last year served as a springboard. One more chance this season.
    Go Irish!

  42. No Damian, any other bowl game that is not the CFP playoffs game are meaningless. I don’t see the winner of the Fiesta bowl being crowned NC, do you. Therefore a meaningless exhibition game.

  43. You say Diacos defense……. Diaco has not been with ND for over a year! It is VANGORDER now. Unless you are referring to UConn I guess.

  44. Let’s all stop for a second. No, I don’t think I’m talking to anyone on this site; but I AM INDEED talking to the playoff-selection committee. Notre Dame is 10-2. THIS IS PRECISELY WHY WE DID NOT JOIN A CONFERENCE! Our 2 losses, tragic though they are, are to 2 conference champs. (Clemson, ACC – Stanford, PAC12) This does not happen if we were to have cow-towed and joined A conference. I’m sorry, but Knute’s proclamation of “playing anyone, anywhere” is still alive and thriving with our modern Irish. Strength of schedule? Explaining-awa 2 losses is nothing I take joy in, but…

  45. Shaz,

    That is an interesting question and I think ND should look closely at that. That’s 2 years in a row we lost a number of key players to injuries. Maybe it’s a fluke, or maybe there’s another reason. But ND should look at that to see if there’s something that they can correct to limit injuries.

    Jack,

    I do agree ND’s defense has been an issue. There are areas of improvement, against the triple option for instance. But there are areas where they regress. Now, I’m not ready to pull the plug on BVG. It’s only his 2nd year and he did change the defensive schemes, so that’s bound to cause some growing pains. It might be something as simple as recruiting the players for his system, which does take time. But players need to stick to their assignments first and foremost and avoid stupid, unnecessary penalties. It’s a better defense than we had under Weis (though admittedly that’s not difficulty), but there is certainly room for improvement.

    It’s ashame Bob Diaco left, though who can fault him for wanting a promotion. His defenses were just the old fashioned, smash mouth, bend but don’t break defense. They weren’t terribly exciting to watch but were effective. I’ll never forget that goal line stand against USC where they had like 8 chances to punch it in and couldn’t.

  46. I understand that you take away their best weapon, but my question is why couldn’t they adjust to give Butler help. If he couldn’t cover the wide out and ND was getting torched, why could the defensive staff make an adjustment to provide some help to Butler. I just feel the defensive staff has problems adjusting in game or adjusts to late. 36 points should be enough to win a ball game. I have heard they will be looking at the defense under a microscope. You can call Diaco’s defense bland, easy to prepare for, but one thing you can’t say is it gave up easy points. Diaco forced every offense ( minus the NC game) to earn their points. I see to many mental breakdowns that lead to points on this team. An example would the 80 yard run given up against BC. I hope they can clean up the mental and assignment errors prior to the bowl game and next year.

  47. This is the second year in a row that the list of Irish players “out for the season” due to injury is pushing double digits.

    For a interesting comparison, here’s a current list of the number of players out for the season due to injury for the top four playoff contenders:
    Clemson -3, Alabama –1, Oklahoma –3, Iowa -1.

    I don’t know if these programs employ some sort of special off season conditioning program / health guide for their players to follow.
    Could it be some advancement in equipment, training, or technology they use that we’re missing?
    Could these injuries be related to the recent change in the ND playing surface? Practice surface?
    Perhaps it’s how players are treated and recover after games. After practices?
    Could a change in scheduling be the answer? How many times do our teams travel to the four corners of the country to play a
    “Prime Time” Saturday night game, only to get back to campus at 2, 3, or 4am on a Sunday morning?
    When you’re talking survival of the fittest, a schedule Like that certainly doesn’t seem to be doing your team any favors.

    Or is it just bad luck?

    I don’t know.
    But it needs to be looked in to. Addressed. Figured out. Improved.
    Until then, I’m left to contemplate what the season might have been if we were one of those teams who only lost only one, two, or maybe three
    of our players.

  48. Mzipprich,

    They will get in a NY Day 6 bowl. Those aren’t meaningless games by any means. First they have large payouts–in the millions. And If ND can have a good showing it has a huge effect on recruiting. It also can set them up nicely for next year ranking wise. So a win there would have meaning.

    Now winning, that’s another question. That’s an open question right now–depending on who they draw and who is able to play probably.

  49. Duranko, you are an optimist. I am a realist. This is a good team, and good means somewhere between the 9-20th ranked team. Champions they are not, and welcome to a meaningless exhibition game. I hope they win it, but the defense and redzone ineptitude scares me.

  50. I feel a little better after reading your article. I know a lot of us complained about the defense, myself included. But we forget the Irish made a decision to bottle up McCaffrey first. That was important because McCaffrey is an explosive player. However, I am hugely disappointed they didn’t make the critical stops, and took a stupid penalty to boot, on Stanford’s last drive.

    But let’s not forget, Stanford is a top 10 team. They are no pushover and ND fought hard. Some people act like we were blown out. The media seems to agree with you, Duranko, that this is a good team, since they placed ND in the top 10. Everything I read on ND in the media talks about how good ND did this year considering all the injuries. Let’s give this team a little credit.

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