Notre Dame Football Stock Report: ’17 Week 11

That was a close one.

Notre Dame didn’t just hang on to a tight victory against Navy to bring their season record to 9-2. They also held on to the goodwill that’s been built throughout the 2017 season. Two weeks ago the Notre Dame machine was building a Heisman campaign for star running back Josh Adams while in the drivers seat for a playoff berth. Saturday they found themselves a quarter and a half away from fielding questions about the status of the coaching staff. Football can be a funny, fickle sport.

However, the Fighting Irish pulled it together, overcame a seven point second half deficit and improved their record to 9-2, in solid position for a New Years Six bowl appearance.

We’ll know what to make of this next weekend. Beating Navy is really nothing more than punching another ticket toward a double digit season and a lucrative bowl. It’s a lot more meaningful to lose it than it is to win. If Notre Dame beats Stanford next weekend, this game and its result will be forgotten, except as a footnote in history. If they lose, we’ll look back at the last two weeks to explain where it all began to fall apart. In other words this might have meant something, or it might have meant nothing.

Every season has a game like this and why wouldn’t it have been this one? It was so obvious. Senior week, following a crushing loss that knocked the team out of playoff contention, in the rain and cold, against an unconventional opponent who no one wants to play (except Julian Love and Greer Martini, they love to play this game).

All in all, it was frustrating and unsatisfying, but the ticket was punched and it’s on to Stanford.

Rising

Troy Pride

Easily the sophomore corners’ best game in a Notre Dame uniform; he recorded six tackles, one tackle for loss, a pass broken up, and made a late interception to kill a Navy drive in Notre Dame territory. He’s been coming on for a few weeks now and has added further depth to the Irish secondary as Nick Watkins has struggled with tendinitis in his knee.

More than anything, this is a great development for the 2018 season, as the list of quality corners with playing experience grows to four, all of whom will be back next season. (I’m assuming Watkins is back, although he could declare for the draft.) His ascent also provides flexibility to a secondary where Julian Love could move to safety if the coaches feel comfortable enough at corner to do so. (Kelly called Love their best safety during his Sunday teleconference today.)

Likely the fastest player on the team, Pride was a pure corner out of high school who took some time to develop physically. Now that he’s closed the physical gap, he could be the answer at corner should the coaches choose to shift players around.

Falling

Chip Long

I usually don’t harp on play calls too much, mostly because I think it’s too revisionist. For example, Notre Dame opened against Michigan State with a lot of passes. They mostly worked, Notre Dame opened the game with a touchdown, and everyone was happy. The opposite was true against Miami. Notre Dame didn’t score and turned the ball over a bunch. Everyone was mad. It’s pretty easy to say “do the opposite thing from what you did because that failed.”

That being said, I felt like Chip Long was trolling all of us when he opened the game with three straight pass plays, none of which traveled beyond the first down marker, and the last of which wasn’t attempted because Wimbush left the pocket. Aside from the fact that it was raining and his quarterback was suffering from a crisis of confidence, running at Navy, with this team, should be a given. You know who loved Notre Dame coming out and throwing intermediate routes in the rain on the opening drive? Navy did, that’s who.

The thing is, it’s Navy. You don’t need to stay up to all hours of the night coming up with a game plan. Just run your stuff, especially when you’ve got your two captains on the offensive line playing their last game, and probably Adams as well, in Notre Dame stadium, itching to hit someone. Play the hits, Chip. They’re hits for a reason. It’s what everyone is tuning in for.

The Overall Level Of Play

There is a lot of angst around the program right now, blowout losses do that, but that didn’t happen in a vacuum. Sandwiched around Miami was a lackluster defensive finish against Wake Forest and the nail biter against Navy. It’s been about four game weeks since we could say we saw a good performance from the Notre Dame football team. It’s the type of thing that makes people nervous. We’ve seen it before, and not just that but it’s a stark deviation from the previous 7-8 weeks of the season.

In any given week, I could have picked a dozen guys to put in the “rising” portion. They were playing great ball. Now, it’s much more difficult. Who is playing at a high level at this point other than Quenton Nelson, who is a robot. It’s getting hard to pick.

A lot of people saw this coming. Heading into USC, it was pointed out a number of times the final stretch of games was daunting; it makes sense this team ran out of gas a little bit. Guys are getting banged up (how long has Nyles Morgan been playing in pain? Josh Adams? Jerry Tillery?) and this Saturday will be Notre Dame’s fourth ranked opponent in six weeks, and sixth of the season. It’s hard not to think about where the Irish would be if they were faced with a schedule more along the lines of say, Wisconsin or Alabama.

The team that came off the bye wouldn’t be sweating Stanford right now. But, I’m not so sure that’s the team that will take the field next week. Not to make an excuse of course, everyone is at the end of a long season. But, this team has given a lot this year. More than most predicted. Hopefully they’ve got one more performance in them before regrouping for bowl season.

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22 comments

  1. david 2 years ago

    Positive Pete is a (very good) meme of Rob Lowe’s character form Parks & Recreation.

    But FYI Pete: Lowe actually cheers for his son’s alma mater, Stanford.
    So you might instead want to channel Kimmy Schmidt this week.

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  2. David Knight 2 years ago

    PLay the hits…ala seared scallops from the movie “Chef.”

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  3. Damian 2 years ago

    I generally agree. I came away from this game unsatisfied, except that they got the win. I know it was raining, it was damp, cold. But that doesn’t really wash for me, esp. since both teams kind of have to play in it, and since it was a ND home game, they have more advantages in bad weather.

    Absolutely agree about Long. I wonder if Mollicone has a point, is BK starting to interfere with play calling. Some of the calls on Saturday reminded me of boneheaded calls he made last year.

    Some will say Wimbush needs to continue working on his passing game, and I agree. But you always start the game with what you are best at. They should have started with more rushing, get into a rhythm, then you can start opening things up.

    I think what bothers me the most is I believe the coaches were getting in the way of a dominant win. In the 2nd half when they started rushing more, having more success with that, Wimbush started passing better. This could have been a more dominant win if they simply started that way, instead of ending that way. Instead Navy took the lead for a time and we had to fight our way back. It should never have been that way.

    I also wasn’t wholly impressed with the defense. They did enough to win, but that 3rd and 16 they converted, and the way they converted really had me having flashbacks to last year. The missed tackling, how their player was just bouncing off our defense and nobody was wrapping him up. There were other similar plays like that but that one really stuck out. I was yelling at the TV “Come on, just wrap him up!”. Yes, the option is a challenge and yes, the defense mostly stuck to their assignments. But they got to refocus on tackling or Stanford will have a field day with that.

    Stanford is not elite or dominant. But if ND plays the same way against Stanford we will be talking about a 3rd loss. Stanford is probably better then Navy I would say. They will take advantage of their opportunities if you give them some.

    Add the prime time away game that will be drawing attention, and BK coached teams do not have a great record when the world is watching has me cautiously pessimistic about the game with Stanford. I hope they get back to dominant football and put Stanford away, but I have concerns that we could lose this game if things aren’t cleaned up in all facets, coaching especially.

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    1. ChrisJ 2 years ago

      It’s weird but the defense held Navy to only 17, their lowest score of the year. They also held them to under 300 rushing when they prob get that the majority of their games as well too. So you look at those stats and it looks ok I guess. But I think Navy only punted like once or twice the entire game and converting 3rd and 4th down way too often. The problem was the defense didn’t often enough get Navy into 2nd/3rd and longs. To be effective against them, you have to consistently get them into those long downs and ND just didn’t do it enough.

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      1. Damian 2 years ago

        The main problem I had with the defense is when they did get them into long yardage situations they let them convert, and the poor tackling technique was bothering me. It was something they had fixed earlier in the year and it seems to be creeping back in. Their getting to their guy, but they’re not wrapping them up.

        But yes, they held them down in points and they did stay disciplined as far as assignments go. They can’t let Stanford convert those long yardage situations. Navy may not be able to take advantage of that, but Stanford will be able to.

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  4. M.Mollicone 2 years ago

    Is it Chip? Or is Kelly sticking his nose into the play-calling?

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    1. Josh 2 years ago

      I actually wished BK called plays. He hasn’ t since 2014.

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      1. Damian 2 years ago

        Um, he called plays right through the 2016 season last I heard. That’s why it was such a huge deal when he gave up play calling to Chip Long

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  5. ChrisJ 2 years ago

    Wow, that’s a brutal schedule. After this weekend, add a 6th to that. I know people don’t believe it but I swear this helps our playoff chances if it comes down to putting a 2 loss team in.

    And Greg, I couldn’t agree more about Chip Long falling. Where has the innovative play calling been since USC, especially to put your team in the best positions to be successful based on the defense you are seeing. It isn’t rocket science. These last few weeks have been some of the most awful game planning for the offense I’ve seen. Jet sweeps with Steph, nicely timed QB designed runs, deep passes, etc. were called perfectly against USC to keep them off balance and we dominated. I’m still waiting for screen passes to our RBs and please, please, please call some freaking fades to our 6’5″ and over receivers when they have one on one on the outside which is almost the entire game considering teams play to stop our run. Does Kelly not remember the days of Eifert, Floyd, Shark, Stovall, etc. and hell you could throw Corey Robinson in there for a more recent guy…. when you just let the kids be athletes, using their size against small DBs and catch the pass over the top of the DB because they can easily high point the ball over them. These are freakin weapons on the outside but we don’t use them. I’ll take my chances with a 6’4″ , 230 lb Claypool catching a high pass over a 5’10”, 180 lb DB. He has already proved he can do it I think the 2 times he actually got these kinds of passes thrown to him this year. At least Long FINALLY called some shallow crossing routes for Steph where both his full speed is utilized AND these are easier throws for Wimbush. 2 TDs came out of that.

    And the last thing is that I know Wimbush is still making some bad throws and all but man his receivers have really let him down this year…BAD! This season has the most drops I think I’ve ever seen. Not good timing for a kid starting in his first year. Steph should have had 3 TD receptions Saturday night. Mack is the worst pass catching TE in ND history. That last third down pass hit Mack in perfect stride right in the palms of his hands, not his outer fingertips. That was another crucial 3rd down to pretty much wrap up the game and Mack drops it again. So disappointing. Wimbush would be viewed as a better passer if even half of these catches would have been made this season as some have certainly been TD drops too or huge yard plays. His stats would look a lot better. I’m a big Wimbush fan and I think he’s the next great qb at ND considering what he does with his legs too which no QB has ever done at ND. The more he settles in to passing and receivers actually help him out with less drops, I think we may have a Heisman QB in Wimbush.

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    1. Ron Burgundy 2 years ago

      BK was at CMU when the Shark and Stovall were running around ND.

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      1. ChrisJ 2 years ago

        I’m sure Kelly knows of some of the great successful ND receivers that came through there, Ron 🙂

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  6. Paddy Irish 2 years ago

    Thanksgiving Irish football food for thought:
    Last year going into the last game we had an obscure chance for a bowl game (5-7 rule). This year we have an obscure chance for the playoff going into the last game (yes, we need football chaos for it to happen).
    Happy Thanksgiving Irish fans!
    Go Irish! Beat Cardinal!

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    1. Positive Pete 2 years ago

      Love the post! If Miami wins out, Clemson is out of the CFP. If Alabama wins out Georgia and Auburn are out. If Wisconsin wins out, Ohio State is out. They are all very likely scenarios ;). That puts ND at five. All we need is an upset of Oklahoma and ND is back in with a resume of two losses against two top ten teams. It is not impossible my ND brothers!!!! Fun fact: I just found out that the Stanford Tree is not the mascot of the team. The tree is part of the band. Who knew? Not this cowboy!!! GO IRISH!!!

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      1. Paddy Irish 2 years ago

        Also big and possible disruptive games this weekend include S. Carolina vs Clemson/Michigan vs OSU/ Minnesota vs Wisconsin/Washington vs WSU(could give Stanford the Pac12 North Division)/Ok vs WVU.
        I’m not giving up til the fat woman has sung, cue Lloyd Christmas, “So you are telling me there’s a chance!”
        Go Irish, Pete!

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      2. Paddy Irish 2 years ago

        I forgot GT vs Ga/ Bama vs Auburn

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      3. Bruce Gregory Curme 2 years ago

        But the team that upsets OSU may have a claim too. If Alabama ( assuming they win against Auburn…a big assumption) beats Georgia on the last possession, Georgia also might have a claim… ditto with Miama barely beating Clemson…and so could an undefeated non-power five conference winner (have a strong claim over any two loss team). A lot of two loss teams would be clamoring. There actually could be four undefeated teams in the playoffs! That would solve all the Committee’s problems. What makes you think the Committee would give it to us?

        BGC ’77 ’82

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      4. Paddy Irish 2 years ago

        Bruce, I really dont think they would give it to us. It is a massive long shot with like ten things would have to fall our way…it is possible, but not very likely. I am hoping though, but I’ll be happy enough as long as beat Stanford.

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  7. Bruce Gregory Curme 2 years ago

    Good article Greg. Someone on a previous post line asked if academics could have something to do with the blowout by Miami…of course it might…how many weeks in a row (and our last six games was a murderer’s row!) can you skimp on the books here and there before it catches up and you have to hit the books hard and often?

    And every opponent remembers the Notre Dame game…but as Greg noted, it isn’t that way for us. I believe Miami had the luxury of putting a little practice time aside for ND each and every week during the season…but we did not have that luxury because of our schedule…since EVERY ND game is a huge game (in the minds of our opponents…and about 5 or 6 times a year for us too.

    So yes, Mr. Poster, academics can play a role in a loss, and so can scheduling.

    BGC
    La Crosse, IN

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  8. Positive Pete 2 years ago

    ND Nation, look out!!! The Irish are 9 and 2!!!! Who saw that coming???? Great article! However, I would have added a few more players on the rise after the gutsy (and GUSTY performance with the winds a howling) performance. Martini, Crawford, Adams, Morgan and, you guessed it, Mustipher, the Positive Pete’s Player of the Week all should get a lot of credit for a big win against those pesky sailors 🙂 Getting past Navy is no easy task. The option quite frankly gives me the willies!!! Onward and upward I say. Let’s go out and chop down some trees!!!! Positive Pete Prediction ND 48 Stanford 7. Go Irish!!!!!!!

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    1. Bruce Gregory Curme 2 years ago

      Pete – Frank and Greg both saw it coming.

      BGC ’77 ’82

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      1. Bruce Gregory Curme 2 years ago

        PS: So did Southside.

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  9. Greg Kelly 2 years ago

    Shaw has mastery over us. Just that one time at goal line did we prevail.

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