5 Things I Liked: Notre Dame Ascending While Stanford Craters

Notre Dame finished off their second half of the season surge on Saturday night with a dominating 45-14 beatdown of rival Stanford. The Cardinal never tested the Irish, and the only drama was how many style points the Irish could ultimately score. As such, there was obviously a lot to like.

Michael Mayer’s devastating block

Michael Mayer played like a player with a chip on his shoulder on Saturday night after the Mackey Award inexplicably left him off their list of finalists for the award. You’d have thought they’d want the best tight end in college football as a finalist for the award for the best tight end in college football, but alas, they did not. Some poor Stanford defenders ultimately paid the price.

This is a block that you’ll see a lot over the next year – specifically following next season when Mayer likely gets ready for the NFL Draft. In the clip, Brock Huard compared Mayer to George Kittle, which is about as good of a compliment as a tight end could be paid these days.

In addition to tearing out the souls of hapless Stanford defenders, Mayer also set the Notre Dame single-season receptions record for tight ends – and is 30 yards shy of breaking the receiving yards record. But yeah, not a Mackey Award finalist for some reason.

George Takacs getting his touchdown a week later.

Speaking of tight ends, on Senior Day, Notre Dame tried to reward senior TE George Takacs for years of work out of the spotlight with a touchdown, but Takacs was just short. So this weekend, the Irish dialed up another play for him, and this time, it worked.

It was Takacs’s first touchdown since his freshman season back in 2018 when he hauled one in against Wake Forest in Ian Book’s first start of the 2018 campaign. The reaction from Takacs’s teammates was just as good, if not better than the play itself. He earned that moment for years of doing the dirty worth without getting much glory—a great moment in a great season.

Chris Tyree looking like his old self

I’ve wondered out loud in my post-game columns about Chris Tyree since his turf toe injury against Virginia Tech, so it was wonderful to see him look like his old, speedy self on Saturday night. Tyree had just ten carries for 48 yards over the last three weeks after missing the USC game and not registering a carry against North Carolina. He only had five carries against Stanford, but they went for 44 yards – an 8.8 ypc average.

Notre Dame also dialed up a deep shot to him in the passing game that he and Jack Coan just couldn’t connect on. Tyree was wide open for what would have been a touchdown, but the ball sailed a bit too far. Tyree started the play in the backfield before motioning out wide and getting a favorable matchup. Using Tyree in that way would have been much more common this year had he been healthy in the second half of the season once the offensive line was solidified. We should see a lot more of that next year.

Tackling from the Notre Dame defensive backs

Stanford was content with short pass after short pass on Saturday night. That meant the Irish defensive backs needed to be sound in their tackling to prevent those short passes from turning into long gains. They were. Cam Hart had 4.0 tackles, including 2 TFL and Clarence Lewis had 3.0 tackles as the Irish kept everything in front of them. Lewis had a low-key big time play by forcing a 4th quarter fumble that led to Notre Dame’s final touchdown of the evening. It didn’t impact the outcome at all, but Stanford was driving and had they scored there to make it 38-21, the narrative around this game would have been MUCH different than the ultimate final score of 45-14.

Stanford quarterback Tanner McKee completed 20 of 25 passes. Still, those 20 completions netted just 172 yards – and 49 of those came on one play where converted wide receiver turned safety Xavier Watts took a poor angle. By contrast, Jack Coan completed 26 passes for 345 yards.

Considering the issues we have seen at times in the tackling department from the secondary, it was great to see the defensive backs step up.

Seeing Stanford fall while Notre Dame rises

I’ll go a little more macro here, but remember not too long ago when some Notre Dame fans moaned about how Stanford was in a much better place than Notre Dame? That was just five years ago. Since then, Stanford has crashed back down to earth – perhaps lower than they were pre-Harbaugh – while the Irish are an ascending program with five straight 10-win seasons. While the Irish were putting a bow on their 31-point beatdown of Stanford for their 11th win of the season, Stanford was losing their ninth game.

Notre Dame is a program on the cusp of being one of the elites of the elites again while Stanford and their head coach David Shaw are left to ponder how – or if – they can rebuild their program into what it was a few years ago.

It won’t be easy for Stanford either. They used to be a power-run offense, but they can’t run the ball anymore and seemingly have no offensive identity. They used to be a disciplined team, but they had nine penalties for 64 yards on Saturday night. Notre Dame had 27 first downs to Stanford’s 11.

Everything that Stanford was at the height of their run has vanished while the Irish just won 11 games in what was supposed to be a transitional/rebuilding type season. Stanford has won 11 games TOTAL in the last three years. Granted, they only played six total games in 2020 because of the COVID-shortened season, but they still won a TOTAL of just seven games in their last two full seasons.

At the culmination of the abomination that was the 2016 season, Stanford had just finished their fifth 10-win season in six years under Shaw. They haven’t won 10 games in a season since. Notre Dame has now won three straight against Stanford with an average score of 42.7-18.3.

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  1. 5 names that are not being considered for ND head coach:

    1. Urban Meyer
    2. Bob Stoops
    3. Pete Carroll
    4. Lane Kiffin
    5. Charlie Weis Jr.

  2. On the crazy chance this isn’t some sweet dream, some feverish hallucination……

    No matter who replaces Kelly, it would be a fresh start.
    New blood, new energy, a spark.
    Exciting is better than uninteresting.
    Creative is better than predictable.
    Taking risk is better than settling.
    Alive is better than dead.

    1. Hope so Dave. The only thing is many times a new guy comes in with a great record reputation etc and he doesn’t pan out. Example Tom Herman at Texas. I would like to see Fickell. If not Fickell then another really good coach with a lot of head coaching experience. I dont know how old you are Dave I’m 65 and I remember reading somewhere that all the coaches in the history of Notredame with head coaching experience their winning percentage is like 750. Those w/o head coaching experience barely over 500. Lou Ara, Kelly and Dan Devine all talked about needing everyone of their years of experience to be successful at Notredame. The late Tom Pagna who was Aras offensive coordinator at Miami of Ohio, Northwestern and Notredame was the only assistant I wanted Notredame to hire. Ara wanted him to succeed him but Notredame went with Devine because he had many years experience at Arizona State and Missouri and coached the Green Bay Packers. Could Marcus Freeman be a great hire for Notredame. Maybe, but if I’m Notredame I go get Fickell.

      1. Fickell would be a really great hire. Unlike Kelly, he seems to have actual respect for ND.
        With the business card and resources of ND, what a young, driven, fired-up guy like that might do…..
        And if ND doesn’t get him now, I could easily see ND fans following what will be a highly successful career, and resenting him just like they did Urban Meyer.

        So let’s not go through that again. Get it done, Jack.

  3. Weird that a SEC school so committed to winning would hire a “fraud” like BK.
    Pray the next hire is a good one.

    1. LSU suffers from the lingering stink of scandal.
      This Kelly hire is a “cleaner”….a la Jim Grobe at Baylor.

      Except Kelly ain’t no Jim Grobe.
      What kept ND football clean is ND…not Kelly.
      Kelly is a low-character putz who throws his players under the bus. .

  4. Marcus Freeman needs to be the top of the list. He is the top recruiter for ND. Fickell would be great, if he keeps Freeman, which would be ridiculous if he doesn’t.

    1. My predction:
      **IF** Kelly gets — or bluffs that he got — a job offer, Swarbrick will pay him more to stay.
      Freeman pulls an Elko….doubles his salary, goes south to compete for championships.

  5. If Kelly leaves for LSU I say good riddance dont let the door hit you on the way out. Also if Kelly takes the job or not he needs to let everyone including recruits know as early as tomorrow. What a fraud if he is telling recruits he is staying and then he leaves in a couple of days. Also if he leaves if I’m Swarbrick and Notredame I do exactly what Bo did to basketball coach Steve Fisher. I do not let Kelly stay and coach Notredame in either the playoff or a New Years six bowl game. Let Freeman or Elston coach. Also if I’m Swarbrick I go hard after Fickell. I’ve heard Fickell covets Notredame or Ohio State. Well Day isn’t going anywhere anytime soon.

    1. Kelly’s agent will just extort more money out of Swarbrick.
      ND is scared shitless by the HC money getting thrown around down south.
      They’ll pay to kick the can further down the road.

  6. Here’s hoping we get to see DC Freeman on NDs sideline at least for one or two more years, and Foskey, Bauer, the Ademilolas there with him. That could all help maintain a continuing dominant D’ under DC Freeman. If not and as for those moving on or elsewhere and the few on their way to the NFL: Hamilton, Kyren, Patterson, Kevin Austin, Hinish, MTA, wishing you long and healthy careers in or out of the NFL and beyond. Thanks for providing the many winning distractions from what troubles and divides us.

    1. This is the silliest silly season ever….the money flying around is epic.
      And these coaches will need rock star staffs. Now.

      Elko’s salary is now a bargain for A&M.

    1. Early in his golf career, it would have so been much easier for Lee Elder to conceal his identity and pretend he was white. Go by some silly name, say…Gomer Pyle.
      He never did. He fought his way up….and played in the Masters as a REAL black man.
      Real courage.

  7. Congrats to Kyren Williams becoming only the 5th player in program history to record back to back 1,000 yard seasons.
    God bless the Irish.
    Amazing accomplishment and a credit to outstanding coaching.

    1. This is a fraud on the American public. This is an embarrassment to our country. We were getting ready to win this national championship. Frankly, we did win this championship. We did win it.

      So our goal now is to ensure the integrity for the good of this nation. This is a very big moment. This is a major fraud in our nation. We want the law to be used in a proper manner. So we’ll be going to the NCAA. We want all voting to stop. We don’t want them to find any ballots at four o’clock in the morning and add them to the list. Okay? It’s a very sad moment.

    2. Rhonda, if Kyren Williams ever found out your sorry cracker ass claimed to be black….
      Well, if he didn’t just punch you in your punk ass Karen face, I’d bet he wouldn’t autograph your freckled little titties.

  8. “Move Over, Knute!
    Yo’ House Now Big Game Brian’s Crib!”

    Available in S, M, L, XL
    Avoid disapppointment….Order like a champion today!

    1. That could become a collector’s item sooner than later when BK leaves.
      That t-shirt logo is hilarious! But it will remain Rockne’s house during and after BK.
      There is a catch 22 BK now must face: if your recruiting yield is as good as all make it out to be, anything less than a championship isn’t enough. BK did make ND good again (not yet ‘great again’, even Agent Orange Julius fell short of that), but it’s time to win it all soon or ‘hit the beach’ he referred to a few years back.
      BK has two years max before he’ll leave, and with him AD Jack’s Warbucks

      1. Kelly saved ND from the abyss, and allowed it to finally put its fateful decision to fire Holtz behind it.
        He’s been paid very well for what he did.
        He’s been paid too well, and for too long, for a guy who hasn’t done better.
        And he’d take the next job offered if it pays better.

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