Notre Dame Football Stock Report: Week 3

It was “a win is a win” week for the Fighting Irish football team.

It was the type of game that provides the best and worst in message board fodder. On the one hand, the Fighting Irish football team ran amok on the Boston College defense, amassing 500+ yards rushing and seven rushing touchdowns. This reality would have been considered unthinkable a month ago with “air Kelly” entering his 8th season. They ran for 500 yards! Two players ran for over 200 yards. This is the dream of old school fans everywhere, who long for the days of Holtz who crushed teams on the ground. But….

The fact also remains that it was 14-13 with Boston College in field goal range at the start of the third quarter following a Brandon Wimbush gaffe. This game was close longer than it was a blowout. And to be honest, they looked bad throwing the ball in a way that pre-dates the Charlie Weis era. Nothing was to be taken for granted through the air.

So blowout win, with a dominating rushing attack, but also close through 2 1/2 quarters, and an inability to throw. A choose your flavor performance. A little something for each in the glass half full, glass half empty crowd.

All told, a victory in the win column and it’s on to Sparty in East Lansing next Saturday. Onto the stock report.

Rising

Shaun Crawford

I’ve mentioned Crawford being a key to the Notre Dame defense in a number of articles dating back to the summer of 2015. I loved his skill set and his game. He’s the type of guy who always finds a way to be around the ball, make plays on the ball, and be involved in big plays. This has proven out over the first three weeks of the season, and especially against Boston College. He intercepted two passes, racked up two more passes defended, and recovered a fumble. This was something of a “breakout” week for him in terms of big plays and creating turnovers, but he has been steady all season.

He will continue to be a part of the cornerback rotation, and that rotation should continue (as opposed to him supplanting Julian Love), because while he is playing well, he’s still had trouble staying healthy. Notre Dame would be wise to keep an eye on him in terms of snap count. Because not only does he bring a lot to corner, but he also is a key member of the nickel defense, which has also been doing very well.

(Sampson points out in a later tweet the two touchdowns were the one handed grab by Terry Godwin of Georgia and the “touchdown” Crawford gave up against Boston College when the receiver caught the ball without catching it.)

Alize Mack

Credit where it is due. I’ve been critical of Mack the last couple of weeks and while he didn’t flash big plays last week, he was reliable when called upon. Notre Dame was also more creative in trying to find him space and give him opportunities. He made a tough catch at the one yard line on 2nd and goal which didn’t yield a touchdown, but allowed Notre Dame to run the ball on 3rd and goal, where Tony Jones Jr. converted from one yard out. It seems like a small thing, but if Mack doesn’t haul that pass in, Notre Dame might have been less inclined to run from the six, and we all saw Wimbush throw the ball last week. Good signs from Mack as Notre Dame continues to struggle at receiver.

Te’Von Coney

Simply put, he’s been Notre Dame’s best linebacker through the first three games, which is saying something because Morgan, Martini, and Tranquill have been pretty good as well. He leads the team in tackles with 25, has brought in a sack, registered two quarterback hurries, and has been the most consistent week to week. He doesn’t have the tackles for loss numbers the others do, but 4th down stops for no-gain (against BC for example) also don’t show up on stat sheets other than a notch in the tackle column. He’s been a significant bright spot early this year.

Falling

The Passing Game

I follow offseason reporting very closely, probably more than most, because I’m tasked with writing about the team. Being based in Southern California, I rely on local Notre Dame beat writers for information on the way players look in practice and what type of team this might be.

I heard a lot of things about Brandon Wimbush. Never heard the word “accuracy” in the concern column. It just didn’t come up. And this isn’t me finding fault with the reports. I don’t think the beat reporters were wrong or misleading the public. But, what was true then, is not true now. The passing game is a mess and it has gotten worse.

Wimbush went from a 123.52 passer rating against Temple, to 94.10 against Georgia, to 71.10 against Boston College. And it’s hard to find a fix that doesn’t come down to Wimbush needs to settle down and throw the ball better. He’s 4 of his last 16 in targeting Equanimeous St. Brown. Some of those balls St. Brown can bring in, others have been outright misses by Wimbush.

I’ll have a piece later in the week breaking down the passing game and it’s struggles, but simply there isn’t a lot to like right now.

Kickoff coverage

Notre Dame just hasn’t been very good covering kickoffs this year and it’s going to really bite them at some point if this doesn’t get figured out. They currently sit at 104th nationally at average per return and that doesn’t include the 90 yard return against Georgia that was called back to open the game (and the guy who was held wasn’t in position to make a tackle). If you were to add that return to the ledger, we are looking at 28.2 yards per return, which is quite bad. Even as it is now, they are a yard above the calamity that was last season on special teams.

In addition, Notre Dame’s average kickoff distance is 67th in the nation with teams fielding kicks on average at the 3 yard line, and they are 89th in touchback percentage. So a team who is not good at covering kicks is also not good at kicking the ball out of the end zone or forcing touchbacks. Settle it, boys, settle it.

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14 Comments

  1. Yes, this is one of those games where you rout the other team but have an unsatisfied feeling about it. I think Greg nailed it on the head that BC was a FG away from taking the lead. Instead they tried to go for it on 4th down and miss, then ND takes over the game at that point. That was the turning point in the game. If they had gone for the FG instead and taken the lead, then what? I don’t think you can necessarily say we’d score 49 points. Plus momentum is everything in FB.

    But credit where credit is due. At that point they failed to convert the 4th down play, ND took over and took advantage of the opportunity. That’s football too. They decided to put the passing game aside for the moment and run it down BC’s throat. For ND fans it wasn’t totally satisfying but the rest of the world saw it as a blowout.

    1. Damian, you are right. The boneheaded decision to skip three points and the lead in a one point game was their breaking point. Addadio must have heard me screaming at my TV “GO FOR IT, GO FOR IT” from North Central Indiana!

      Bruce G. Curme ’77 ’82

      PS: I haven’t heard from you on my invitation in a previous post (last week?) to a game next year (probably Michigan or Stanford). Did you see it…it was near the bottom of a long bunch of posts.

      BGC

      1. Sorry, must have missed that. I had to do some looking around but I just found it (as new articles are written I lose track of older articles).

        Thanks, I appreciate that. For me the problem is two fold, one is just the distance. I live pretty far away and would have to spend a weekend. That leads to the other issue which is time. Between work and my daughter’s various activities she’s involved with I haven’t been able to set aside time to get to South Bend. One of the bus companies in my area usually has a trip to ND about two or three times a year for games and it has yet to work out where I can go. But going to a ND game at home is on my bucket list.

  2. Alize Mack rising?? Wow…

    Maybe it is because I had extremely high expectations from this guy thinking he was our next Eifert but catching little dump offs on drag routes at 5 yards and then getting tackled by one guy who weighs 40+ lbs less than you is not bringing the expected value to the team. He has caught what, like one catch downfield on a deep crossing route the entire year and he was WIDE open. Others have been drops or like I said, his key route, the 4 yard drag. Mack needs to man up and start catching everything thrown his way, especially with defenders challenging him and then needs to shake off tacklers better. At this point in the season, I trust Smythe over Mack by far as a pass catcher.

  3. Greg:

    I love your writing but with all due respect, Greer Martini has been “pretty good”?!? Come on man have you watched any of their games??? He has been awful, has missed countless tackles and the ones he has missed he has been dragged down the field several yards. I agree Coney has by far been the standout along with Tranquill. Morgan has played ok but I’m slightly dissapointed but thats because I expected him to have a breakout season. Based upon his play this season Martini should be a special teams player and only used defensivly when one of the other three linebackers need a blow.

    1. The stats don’t appear to support your position. Coney and Morgan each have 25 tackles, and Martini has 22. He’s also forced a fumble. I think Coney has been stronger, but Martini’s doing ok.

      1. Stats can be misleading and of course your middle linebackers should be at the top of your team leaders in tackles. Watch the game more closely and watch how many times Martini shoots the wrong gap or gets caught up and blocked out of the play or just gets ran through because he tries to arm tackle the ball carrier.

    2. Ryan,

      You are absolutely correct. Martini’s tackles have all seem to been when the RB runs right into him and the majority of the time he is getting credit for it even though someone else is tackling the ball carrier with him. He is at least playing better though, I will say that.

  4. in regards to kickoffs :

    whats the story with the freshman kicker? (forgot his name. the one that got fatigued before the season even started0

    Does he have a big leg? has it had sufficient rest?

    1. I think I’ve seen him get it inside the 5 one time. Yoon needs to kickoff too. I don’t understand the point in switching guys kicking off unless one just has a ridiculously strong leg but is more inaccurate which is why they aren’t kicking field goals. It is crazy though that you see some of these colleges with guys kicking it through the goalposts on kickoffs but ND cant find one that can reach the endzone line consistently.

  5. Greg , I hope Brandon Wimbush is the dual threat (pass/run) so highly recruited out of New Jersey. That run he made two years ago of 50 plus yards in mop up game — we fans loved and couldn’t wait for this kid to play when his time came. He red-shirted last season. Kizer went Pro , Zaire took his 5th year and left. So , here we are with the much heralded QB — weve all been waiting for. Like you say — one cannot tell or know how good a passer he is from just practices. I hope he is not a bust on the college level when it comes to throwing the football. He’s in his third game as starter –and although he is not doing well — I got a feeling this kid’s talent is just beginning. I think his long run in 3rd quarter down the sidelines against BC — really opened up the game as to what followed from there. I think that run put the spark in his eyes and said to himself — I can be really good playing college football. From then on He and Adams put on a display of running –the likes of Notre Dame had never seen before. Now , true this wasn’t a pass play — but the confidence he got from that run and what he/Adams did afterwards sure put in him good feeling — I can play college football. I believe his passing talent will come as season transpires — maybe as soon as MSU game. It took a running play to light his spark—and hopefully translates in him a better passing game. He’s got the talent to be a tremendous dual threat. If that happens — look out folks.

  6. Greg, yes, there is a super puzzle with our passing game. Compounded with Javon McKinley being redshirted. I thought He would be our secret weapon unleashed for all the world to see vs. the Trojans. Luckily this game is at home and not there. Something always happens at the end if not lopsided;Bush push, Phantom TD.
    MS U supposedly has a new freshman superstar in the making corner. He needs to be exploited. Throw at Him, til He breaks. Tag team style.

    1. How about we just run him over play after play. I have to say I am loving that this team is doubling down as a physical run first offense. I hope we can figure out a competent passing attack to keep teams honest but If we face an all world corner I am just fine to watch us run at him all day and never give him a chance to display his game changing coverage skills

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