This week’s post game 6-packs is coming in late due to some traveling yesterday and to save my Mac’s keyboard from getting broken had it been written in the heat of the moment. Disappointing doesn’t begin to describe this one. For yet another time, the Irish fell way behind only to mount a furious comeback that came up just short. The Irish showed great fight, but in the 7th year of the Brian Kelly era being 1-2 in September and continually following the same script in big times is just not acceptable.
1. Deshone Kizer continues to impress. I’ll start on a positive and one of the few positives was Deshone Kizer once Brian Kelly let the junior air it out. Early on the Irish were hell bent on trying to run the football and took entirely too long to adjust once Michigan State shit it down. When they did, Kizer showed he is an elite quarterback.
Kizer ended the game accounting for all four Notre Dame touchdowns – 2 passing and 2 rushing. That is now a total of 13 touchdowns in three games – four rushing and nine passing. If Notre Dame is going to do anything with the remainder of its season now that they are eliminated from the playoffs, it’s going to have to be on the arm of Deshone Kizer. He set a career high with 344 passing yards but could have had over 400 if Kelly let him rip it earlier.
2. The Notre Dame defense continues to disappoint. Michigan State’s Tyler O’Connor is a first year starter but the Notre Dame defense didn’t make him look like one. The Spartans racked up over 500 yards on the Irish defense making it now two of three opponents who have eclipsed 500 yards.
There’s major scheme problems, there’s fundamentals problems, and there are personnel problems. The defensive coaching staff has to know it’s unit’s skills and shortcomings and build a scheme around masking them. Instead, the Notre Dame defense continues to try and run VanGorder’s schemes even though it’s abundantly clear they don’t have the personnel to do so. Notre Dame’s secondary just isn’t good enough for so much man coverage and the defensive line isn’t getting a pass rush on it’s own. A good coaching staff would recognize this and simplify things moving forward. We’ll see if any of that happens.
3. Brian Kelly was out-coached by Mark Dantonio. With an elite quarterback at his disposal, Kelly built a game plan around running the ball right into the strength of the Michigan State defense. Notre Dame’s offensive line should be good enough to allow better rushing success (more later) but it almost seemed like Notre Dame wanted to prove it could run on Michigan State and refused to adjust until it was too late.
Mark Dantonio meanwhile built a gameplan that attacked Notre Dame’s weaknesses and adjust when the Irish defense played well early. On Michigan State’s first three drives the Irish forced two punts and an interception. From their the Spartans started scoring at will. The fourth drive should have ended with an interception too but Cole Luke made a really bad play on the ball. It should have been one of the easiest interceptions of his career. Instead it was a touchdown.
Perhaps the worst coaching moment of game, however, came in the 4th quarter with just under four minutes remaining. With Notre Dame facing a 4th and 7 in Michigan State territory, Brian Kelly first wasted a timeout and then decided to punt and put the game in the hands of his defense. Bad idea first of all and rookie mistake with time management. If you take the time out there – you have to go for it. And why did Kelly think he could trust his defense to make the stop? You had Deshone Kizer with a hot hand and a gassed Michigan State defense.
4. Notre Dame wide receivers are growing up fast. Another of the few positives was the play of the Notre Dame wide receivers. Equanimeous St. Brown came up just shy of 100 yards again. Torii Hunter made a strong return from the concussion against Texas. CJ Sanders showed again that he needs the ball in his hands more – but he still needs to get better at protecting the football. Freshman Chase Claypool got on the field and showed he needs to be on the field even more moving forward.
Notre Dame’s defense is going to continue to give up points this year so the Irish offense is going to have to carry the load and it could be time to start airing out the football each weekend. With the skill in the wide receiving corps and the play of Kizer, they will have to carry this team.
5. Notre Dame’s offensive line is still a work in progress. Notre Dame lost three starters on the offensive line this year but were still projected to have one of the best offensive lines in college football. Instead, three weeks into the season this line is still finding its way. They have been stout in pass protection, but Michigan State beat them up in the trenches throughout the game. The good news is all but Mike McGlinchey will likely be back in 2017 – and even McGlinchey can return for a 5th year – and the line has their moments. Right now though, this line is not at elite status as we’ve come to expect under Harry Hiestand.
6. This team is not fundamentally sound. There is no nice way to say it and Brian Kelly admitted it post game. This team is just sloppy and lacks fundamentals. How that happens in year seven of a head coach is beyond me but that’s what it looks like Notre Dame has this year. There are a lot of new starters and freshman playing, but again, the staff knew the personnel that they had in August and needs to put their players in better position to make plays and mask their weaknesses.
Here’s a rundown of just a few of the mistakes the Irish made that they can’t make an expect to beat a team like Michigan State.
- Against Michigan State CJ Sanders opening kick off touchdown called back for a penalty.
- Tarean Folston touchdown called back for a penalty (Notre Dame eventually scored on this drive).
- Fumble on the punt when Miles Boykin was blocked into the football.
- Cole Luke letting Donnie Corely pull an easy interception from his hands resulting in a touchdown.
- The swinging gate two point conversion by Michigan State.
- Fumble by CJ Sanders after a big gain when Michigan State had just scored off the fumbled punt.
All of those plays happened in the first 25 minutes of the football game.
- Lost in another defensive mess was the strong play from Jerry Tillery with two tackles for loss.
- Nyles Morgan continues to be a tackling machine, but isn’t making any negative plays.
- How did the Big 10 refs one of the most egregious pass interferences on the first drive of the game?
- Tyler Newseom had some big kicks, but was also shaky early.
- Jarron Jones had another quiet game and still doesn’t have a tackle for loss three games into the season.
- That was probably the worst game of Cole Luke’s career. Hopefully he can shake that off an come back strong next week.
- Nice to see the tight end finally incorporated in the passing game a little bit with Durham Smythe getting in the end-zone.
- Tried “Mango Keel” from Ballast Point this weekend. Yuck. Their Grapefruit and Pineapple Sculpin IPA’s are delicious, but the Mango Keel was really, really bad. It tasted almost chemical.
- Still no sacks for the Notre Dame defense. Three weeks. No sacks.
- Daelin Hayes had a decent game all things considered. Hopefuly he can keep getting better each week.
- Good news: I do not plan on attending any more football games this year right now so my bad luck should stop following the Irish.