All’s well that ends well.
It wasn’t pretty, but in the end it was effective, as Notre Dame achieved its second 10 win season in the last three, with a frustrating and thrilling victory over #17 LSU in the Citrus Bowl on New Years Day.
It’s easy to feel conflicted about this win; it wasn’t a New Years 6 bowl game, the level of play from either offense wasn’t particularly high, and the Irish platooned quarterbacks again while looking pretty poor for the majority of three quarters.
Then again, it was a New Years Day game, against a nine win SEC blue blood, with multiple starters on offense either suspended or out because of injury. And 10 wins is 10 wins.
As we look back on the season as a whole, one facet of the team remained largely consistent (the defense) and another facet completely lost its way (the offense). The strong fourth quarter notwithstanding, they were not good on the offensive side of the ball, against an admittedly good defense, also weakened by injury. It’s the latter of the two facets that leaves that lingering sour taste in our mouths.
Rising Into 2018
Improvement over 2016 shouldn’t have been difficult for any competent defensive coach, but Elko was fabulous over the course of the season both in scheme and development. His defense is aggressive without being reckless. He sends a decent amount of pressure, from many positions, but he was also able to protect his safeties most of the time throughout the year (and we saw over the course of the season they were a liability). The team struggled on jump balls from the corner position throughout, but players were in position and plays were made over them.
Most of all, what became of Te’Von Coney, Drue Tranquill, Jerry Tillery, Julian Love, Julian Okwara, and Khalid Kareem, among others, was simply phenomenal. This is the definition of good coaching. Scheming players into winning positions, then developing them to take advantage of those positions.
Regardless of whether you think he is the long term answer, he has to be taken seriously as the starting quarterback going into spring ball and 2018. He wasn’t great for much of his time against LSU, and he hasn’t lit the world on fire in his other appearances either. But, he did the thing in the fourth quarter, something Wimbush was unable to do against Georgia and Stanford. He also showed himself good enough on called runs and on the read option to be a real threat. Taking away sacks, he rushed for over 60 yards in a little over a half of football against a very good defense. They don’t get much faster or more athletic than LSU.
The guy made two of the biggest catches of the season in the fourth quarter to help win the bowl game, the last catch was probably the play of the year. I’m not sure how much it carries over into 2018, but he’s on the rise for sure.
An Unnamed Defensive Player We Are All Thinking Of
He is still deciding whether to return to Notre Dame next season and I don’t want to jinx it. But, his numbers rivaled those of the junior season of a certain middle linebacker named Manti. The hottest player on the Notre Dame team right now*, when everyone else cooled off, he turned it up. *With the exception of Quenton Nelson, who I don’t think lost on a play all season and humbled everyone he played against. That guy is unbelievable.
Falling Into 2018
He entered the season as the unquestioned starter and left the season as anything but that. Given that information, a 10-3 record is actually kind of remarkable. He wasn’t all terrible; the guy did account for 30 touchdowns and with him at quarterback they scored touchdowns on 75% of their red zone trips and finished 8th in the nation in that category. You don’t just throw that away.
However, he struggled with his mechanics and decision making from the start, and that never really improved throughout the year, even with the teams success. If anything, it got worse. He imploded against Miami and never quite found himself after that. I disagreed with the staffs decision to continually talk about his mechanics leading up to the bowl game, especially when he was making poor decisions as well as poor throws. They clearly have some work to do with this young mans confidence.
I haven’t given up on him, but things are certainly far from sure. It’s the biggest cloud hanging over 2017 and into 2018. Once again, quarterback is unsettled.
Holding Steady (By The Skin Of His Teeth)
He was a one handed Miles Boykin catch and run away from losing three of the last four and heading into 2018 without knowing who his quarterback was. It would have been a long 9 months of fan anger, apathy, and disgust. For some that still exists, but Book and Boykin saved him from an all out assault on his job from the masses.
The toughest thing to take is the drop in play over the course of the season from the offense. They were a force through the first two months, blowing teams out and regularly scoring in the 40’s. They achieved their best win against rival USC since 1995–22 years ago.
Then, it all went away. Miami embarrassed them, they looked disinterested against Navy, and they fell apart at Stanford.
We can look at the overall body of work and be impressed; wins over four ranked teams (including the Pac-12 champion), across four conferences, that combined for a 39-14 record. That’s no small thing that any team would be proud of.
But, that team was largely unseen over the last month. What we ended up with was a middling offensive team with average to poor quarterback play and a solid defense. In other words, barely a bowl team.
Winning matters though, and 10-3 sounds a lot better than 9-4. There is some good will heading into 2018. Next season is no picnic though. 2018 brings another tough schedule, a quarterback position in limbo, and the loss of some key offensive personnel, and maybe more than he would hope. He’s been selling the idea of a re-build, in year eight, so I assume a step back would be seen as unacceptable. And he will have to do something he has yet to do at Notre Dame: two double digit win seasons in a row.
Till next season.
Elko is gone. There goes 2018. 8-5 will be a good year. At least us old people can still talk about the glory years and National Championships brought back to South Bend. And you young folks can dream about it or watch videos of old news reels. The facilities are top notch. Like Jurassic Park before its disaster, they’ve “spared no expense”. And the dreamers and chumps will pay just for that hope. Hope is like a drug.
To quote another movie: Notre Dame Football….. “A long long time ago in a galaxy far far away……”
Think about this…if it weren’t for Lou Holtz being so personally devoted to ND back in 1984 that he would have crawled on glass for the job, what would the state of ND football be right now?
Except for that fleeting period, ND football has been the very worst managed franchise in all of sports.
“And the dreamers and chumps will pay just for that hope. Hope is like a drug.”
You captured it in under 20 words. Standing O.
I don’t feel good about having Turnover Tommy as the QB coach. I don’t care if Dexter Williams doesn’t block. Bring in a full back to block for him. There is a problem with preparation. Too many wasted downs on offense and too many missed tackles on defense. A distinct lack of production in punt returns. All are fixable.
Wildcat for sure…that’s what “youngins” call the single wing. It’s just been renamed, typically after the team’s mascot…”wildcat”, “wildhog”, etc. I suggest “Wildchaun” for us (after leprechaun, of course). As a couple of us posters noted, BW is way too talented not to be used somewhere on the field. But I want an entire series for him…like the “three headed monster” was…not just one or two plays.
BGC ’77 ’82
Everything in the article is true, and winning means everything.
That said, we are seriously deficient in our ability to tackle.
I realize practice contact is limited and risky, but the “ball strip” and
Head-down method is embarrassing and useless. Notre Dame shouldd
punish ball carriers, wrap them up and take them to the ground.
Hopeful by not drinking the kool aid.
The defense will improve. Hopefully to become something like 2012, 1993, 1988-90.
Wimbush — he needs a shrink because it’s in his head like it was with Golsen and eventually Zaire, and possibly Turnover Tommy ( now QB coach). But he also needs specific work on his passing mechanics and with his quickness in reads. He reads the play slowly. Look when he’s doing the run read option. The hand off is a split too late. He fast but needs to be quicker.
Book — amazing in most facets except for some reason not good enough to start yet. Is his arm only strong enough for the Old West Coast offense? One thing is for sure he’s mentally tougher than Wimbush. That’s not an insult to Wimbush but you have to factor that into who is your field General.
Boykin— loved “The Catch”. But why not until now? One could guess a better passer would have caused Boykin to have a coming out party in September rather than Jan. He’ll be rooting for Book to be the starter.
Kelly — why is he still not puttIng all the pieces together and holding them in place consistently? Why are so many of his players one or five game wonders only to drop off ? Take Adams Awesome back. But without a complement and without coaches subbing help in he wore down. Dexter Williams looked scary good and then they stopped using him. Why might we still have so many concerns about offense and use of personnel? It’s now Year 9.
Schedule — this will kill Notre Dame in 2018. 2 losses and more probably 3 will cause a repeat of this year. That’s great for those who never saw the greatness prior to 1994 but it’s not Notre Dame. So…..
Boykin barely got PT just like Dexter Williams. Kelly doesn’t seem to use the most talented guys the right way. Boykin is a huge receiver with great hands and seems to run decent routes. He was the player talked most about from the receivers in the spring and had a great spring game as well. Williams prob averaged more yards than Adams per run but had less than half of his carries. Anyone with a brain can see that Williams hits the hole just a little bit faster than Adams and might have a little better vision too. Not to take anything away from Adams because he is just a beast with yards after contact but Williams HAD to be used more…wtf!
And then lastly…really, Chris Finke and CJ Sanders are our return guys??? 20 yard returns by Sanders and 5 yard returns or fair catches by Finke…wow, electric!! How about Dexter Williams as our returner? Or Will Fuller when he was around!? Michael Floyd was a punt returner for his last game in an ND uniform I think and broke two long returns when all we did was fair catch punts all year. Explain that one. Polian must be just as retarded as Kelly.
The words on Kelly are the most important.
By winning this one game — thanks to one, very fortunate catch — Kelly’s extremely poor job performance gets a pass for another year.
For me, it just means my personal boycott of ND Football will continue indefinitely.
For you poor saps, it means more shock, disappointment, dismay and wasted Saturdays.
thanks Dave for letting us know u will continue your boycott! the team did great without YOU! their having a cheese festival on opening day bring your WHINE!!!! OOO WOOO WOO DAVEYS CRYIN!!! Pick a new team loser!!!
The perfect spokesman.
Kudos to Ian Book, two great defensive stands inside the red zone, Te’von Coney, and that circus catch by Miles Boykin.
Although it wasn’t as consequential regarding season outcomes, I flashed back to Robin Weber hauling in Tom Clements pass to beat Bama 44 years ago. Boykin’s catch will also be deservedly enshrined in ND lore.
The OL, the ever-steady Julian Love and Tranquil, and Smythe were also key contributors to the win. Very happy this class (and several key Juniors, I fear) went out with a win in a major bowl, not often accomplished at ND.
As was mentioned, Elko’s aggressive D’, right up to the last play, was a difference maker. Ten wins with such a schedule is worthy of commendation for coaches and players.
But before we give another ridiculous contract extension to Coach Kelly, let’s review a few self-evident observations that ‘the thrill of victory’ shouldn’t dismiss.
He used the wrong offense all year ( the spread) for the QB he decided on, while his backup QB threw the winning pass to the backup WR in the bowl game,
with the underused RB Dexter Williams (who arrived as a more highly regarded recruit than Adams, and after three years still hasn’t been given an opportunity to show what he can do)
setting up a key score with his only two carries, while the defense was led by a guy involved in about a dozen and a half tackles in the bowl game,
the same guy who started the year as a backup.
Backups making the most of little opportunity provided by their coaching staff isn’t justification for praising Kelly.
Special thanks to Coach Ogeron for having more faith in his inadequate kickers than a RB who we’ll see on Sundays soon.
But just win is all I ‘ve been saying, and ND did just that. Congrats to ND for a great comeback win.
Williams was hurt most of the year.
Wasn’t hurt this game . . .two carries- both impressive . . .
Williams was not hurt most of the year. I think 2 weeks out of the 12 he was ruled out with an ankle problem. He simply wasn’t used even though he might be the best running RB on the roster.
“But just win is all….”
Et voila. The smoking gun of ND fandom.
Due to a lack of any confidence in the team’s preparation, the game plan, and the team’s ability to execute it, every game is a heart stressing crapshoot.
But if ND wins, all is right with the world.
Wake up, you poor, poor fools.
If you read more than one sentence you’d have seen that I and many others on this site have many reservations about Kelly and his decisions regarding strategy and use of personnel. All is not right but individual players making key plays leading to a win is satisfying to fans. I don’t hope for ND to lose. For that I don’t need to ‘wake up’
If they’d have lost, do you think it’d matter to ND Admin. and they’d replace Kelly?
If you think that, David, then wake up.
I’ve seen this movie, pal. Too many times.
ND wins: Unhinged euphoria.
ND loses: Life not worth living.
And either way, a lack of recognition by fans of the core issue: The lack of any predictability of performance, stemming from a relatively poorly run program.
Kelly just announced a deliberate dilution of ND’s future schedules…which should help “arrange” for improvement.
ND is not on any track to football excellence. ND is just on track to keep the cash cow producing, the cash register ringing.
Coach Ogeron did the only thing he could have done to win the game in regulation instead of sending it into overtime. Our “D” was going to stuff their 4rth down play, and he knew it! I know, you hate to try a field goal that’s closer than a PAT, but he must have reasoned that if LSU took the lead that late in the game, rather than go into overtime, his chances of winning would be really good. Especially, and specifically, I think he may have wanted to AVOID overtime with two missed field goal attempts already in the books for LSU…short ones!
Would you want to go into overtime against our defense with suck ass field goal kickers like they had? Think about it.
BGC ’77 ’82
Dexter Williams has himself to blame. If he would block, he would be given more opportunities.
It got to the point where a good defensive coordinator would be able to identify that any time he is in the game it will be a running play since he’s terrible at pass blocking.
And they still couldn’t stop him when he ran even though they knew he was running. Dexter might be the best back on the roster from a running perspective and Kelly barely used him…basically 4th quarter only when the games were out of reach.
For some reason, I think there is more to Kelly not using him. It’s like he is in the doghouse or something. How do you NOT use such a dynamic runner more? Kelly is retarded.
Book will start 2018. Wimbush will transfer. Davis will be the back up. Jurkovec will redshirt and be your 2019 starter.
My problem with the QB position isn’t development, but recruitment. They aren’t getting top QB recruits.
According to 247:
Jurkovec — 9th QB in class
Davis — 23rd QB in class
Book — 28th QB in class
Wimbush — 5th QB in class
Kizer — 14th QB in class
Zaire — 25th QB in class
Kiel — 1st QB in class
Golsen — 14th QB in class
Hendrix — 16th QB in class
Avg = 15th. Avg without Kiel = 17th
It’s not like top QB’s are flocking to ND.
Those rankings dont mean squat.
Yeah you’re right. Who would want five star QB’s anyway.
“It’s not like top QB’s are flocking to ND.”
And isn’t that the most surreal, ironic, damning and depressing statement one could conceive?
Relevant because of its drawing power (read: money), but irrelevant by all other measures.
One more thing. If you aren’t getting the best raw talent, the way you get out of that death spiral is coach the talent you have UP.
Kelly has not done that. He’s driven kids off, he’s ruined kids’ confidence, he’s thrown kids under the bus.
He’s a fraud.
Wimbush can’t handle the pressure of being ND’s QB, the stage is too big. He never showed leadership, it was evident. Book comes in and immediately there is a leader in the huddle. I don’t know why the hesitation behind not supporting Book as the new ND starter. He is the starter for Michigan as far as I can see. Everyone wants to claim Jurkovec as the saviour and he hasn’t even showed up on campus. Book may be another Montana. Montana never had a great arm but he was the best.
I knew Book was going to throw that int. Then, with game on line I had a open mind. It’s all about team chemistry. Suddenly everyone was on the same page to have good things happen. It’s like Joe Montana, not the physical specimen of a Brady Quinn, but gets the job done and gets that Win. I can sleep now without being worried that our offensive leadership can Win in the end. Same thing with defense, Elko will find the men that will rise to the occasion. Perfect situation for Jurkovec as He can be brought along without the Irish being desperate. Next year the Fighting Irish in Playoff in Rose Bowl .
BW had a 76% completion percentage his senior year in high school. What has happened since getting to campus? Name one quarterback that improved under Kelly. It seems like they all end up suffering from a lack of confidence but why? When Jurko gets to campus will he go from being one of the best passers in the country to having problems with his mechanics and confidence as well? Golsen, Zaire, Kizer, now BW. Only one common denominator.
There is a big difference between throwing passes in high school and throwing passes in college. The windows are tighter and most defenses have corners that stop the little wide receiver screens which are prevalent in High School football.
You have to be able to throw down field and watch High School football, it’s all bubble screens and slants. Those passes are easy in High School because of the corners and defensive backs you play against. Throws in college are contested and require a lot more accuracy. Most of the QB’s you quoted all did it with their legs in High School.
That’s a glaring issue I think for BK. I agree with Jack that playing high school football is a totally different animal, and if Wimbush was an outlier, that would be one thing. But QB after QB seems to have gotten worse under BK’s tutelage. The only exception may be Rees, ironically the one QB that did not fit well into BK’s system. Rees was not an elite QB, but he was a tough QB that didn’t get rattled. I too worry about Jurkovec. Will he start off great, then trail off and have issues with basics. I think it’s something they really need to explore.
Still can’t get over that Boykin catch though. As a NY Giants fan, I had visions of Odell Beckham making similar fantastical catches. Incredible.
Disappointing to be sure. Not sure what happened against Miami. Did they jinx themselves with that stupid video they did before that game? We made Miami look like an elite team, and they were not elite. They were very beatable. They showed up with a chip on their shoulder, while ND seemed to think they had the playoffs in hand. I blame coaching for that. Then they just lost interest. They barely beat Navy and were lucky we just had stronger players, and Stanford was another beatable team that they just seemed ho hum toward and lost.
Against LSU the defense seemed ready to play. They had a few breakdowns here and there but overall they played well. And again, kudos to Elko for staying aggressive until LSU played their final down. How frustrating is it when a defense goes into prevent mode and allows the other team to march down the field. It’s so hard to get aggressive again in that situation. Elko decided he was going to stick with the plan and it frustrated LSU into trying to force plays.
But the offense didn’t seem to decide to take things seriously until the 4th quarter. Then they suddenly woke up the echoes and started making plays again. Having a highlight reel catch by Boykin to end the season on is great press for ND heading into the offseason.
Special teams, well that needs a lot of work. Yoon came through with FG’s though.
I wonder, just a thought, Wimbush is just such an amazing runner with the ball. It’d be a waste of his skill to be benched. I wonder if there are ways to incorporate him in the game as a running back, taking direct snaps perhaps, making some trick plays. It would take a huge amount of convincing and any coach that convinced him to voluntarily give up being the go to QB would deserve a raise, but I’d hate to see him relegated to the bench. The kids got talent, it just needs to be used the right way. He’s just not a passer. But that doesn’t mean he can’t contribute, maybe even a lot, in other roles.
Indeed. Great post, Damian.
Special thanks to Coach Elko who didn’t lapse into a prevent from winning defense with the game on the line, like we’ve seen too often.
The pressure put on LSUs QB throughout the game might have been the key to victory as much as anything else. Give Elko the money he wants. Keep that guy; whatever it costs.
Yeah, I agree. Of all the coaches right now, Elko is the one guy on staff I would make sure to keep. The defense wasn’t perfect, but there’s no denying the defense was far better this year, something I did not expect in his first year. I like that he’s a teaching coach too, when he makes adjustments to players positions he gets them to buy in by teaching them why. In football in particular, it’s important for the players to believe in what they are doing.
I’m on the fence about Long and Polian at this point. I’m never really inclined to call a coach a failure after one year anyway so I’ll withhold any personal judgments on them until I see what they bring next year.
Wimbush — Slot back, Wildcat