(Not So) Immediate Overreactions: Brian Mason Trending Way Up for Notre Dame After UNLV Win

Notre Dame finally got off to a fast start on Saturday in their 44-21 win over UNLV, but it wasn’t due to the offense, but instead their defense and special teams. Despite the 23-point win, the Irish continued to squander opportunities on offense and be plagued by several issues that have limited this team all season long.

Brian Mason is Notre Dame’s best assistant coach

I don’t think any Notre Dame assistant is even a close second to Mason right now in terms of the impact they are having on the field for Notre Dame. After years of mediocre special teams under Brian Polian, Notre Dame fans are seeing how special teams can actually be a weapon for a team in the first year under Brian Mason. Notre Dame blocked two more punts on Saturday, giving them four on the season. That’s just insane.

The two blocked punts completely turned the game even though the Irish offense failed to take advantage of them fully. Notre Dame needed to start fast, and they did because of their special teams and defense.

All phases of special teams are clicking right now, with the only blip on Saturday being a missed 42-yard field goal from Blake Grupe that bounced off the upright. Jon Sot was his usual ridiculous self. The punt return unit was solid. And kick coverage was pretty good once again.

If this is what Mason can do in just one off-season, it will be fun to see how he can build on this moving forward.

If Notre Dame’s two other coordinators have had the same impact on their units this year, the Irish are, at worst, 6-1 instead of 4-3.

Isaiah Foskey has entered the chat

Isaiah Foskey had a slow start to the season relative to his expectations, but he was a force on Saturday. Foskey notched 3 sacks and the 2 blocked punts, all by the end of the first quarter. He was a one-man wrecking crew out there for the first time this season. For the Irish to have any chance at pulling off upsets at Syracuse or USC or at home against Clemson, Notre Dame needs the Foskey we saw on Saturday to make a few more appearances. He’s up to six on the season.

Notre Dame needs much, much more out of the quarterback position, and Tommy Rees isn’t helping Drew Pyne

Drew Pyne didn’t have a very good day throwing the football. Without a late pop pass, which is a glorified run, he completed less than 50% of his passes. He threw one pick but should have had another on the first drive of the game that was way off target. He missed several wide-open touchdowns – one a piece to Braden Lenzy, Lorenzo Styles, and Chris Tyree. Those misses are throws that the QB1 at Notre Dame simply can’t miss.

Pyne still locks onto Mayer and forces the ball to him far too much. It’s easy to understand why since Mayer is such a beast, but part of Notre Dame’s red zone issues and troubles on third down stem from Pyne looking for 87 and only 87 in those situations. foskeu

All that said, Tommy Rees isn’t necessarily helping Pyne out. Pyne is a much better passer off of play action than he is on straight dropbacks, but for the third season in a row, Rees has some sort of severe aversion to calling play action.

Calling 23 straight dropbacks to 5 play actions for a quarterback like Drew Pyne is borderline playcalling malpractice.

Rees also keeps calling third-down plays that keep Pyne in the pocket with throws to the edges, where are prime candidates to be knocked down at the line for a quarterback under 6’. Rees keeps dialing them up, though.

Notre Dame needs a lot more out of the quarterback position, but they need a lot more out of their offensive coordinator as well.

Rees also needs to do a much better job getting Chris Tyree the ball

Rees did dial up a nice play call for Chris Tyree that should have been an easy touchdown, but Drew Pyne airmailed the pass, and it was nowhere near a wide-open Tyree in the endzone. Outside of that, however, Rees isn’t getting Tyree the ball in space and letting him make plays in the open field nearly as much as he could.

Tyree didn’t have a single catch for the second week in a row. For as much two-back offense as the Irish play and for how often Tyree lines up as a receiver, I just don’t get it. Throwing a bubble out to Tyree seems like a no-brainer, given some of the limitations on the offense.

Redzone offense AND defense are not up to standard

Notre Dame has not stopped a single opponent drive that has reached the redzone from ending in points in 2022 after another game in which the opponent had its way once they got inside the 20. UNLV was 3 for 3 with 3 touchdowns in the redzone yesterday. That just can’t happen against a team like UNLV which was playing with a backup quarterback.

The Irish had one drive stopped with what should have been a sack on 4th down, but couldn’t wrap up and then missed multiple other tackle attempts before allowing a conversion. Tackling has been an issue for this team all season long, and it was once again against UNLV.

Giving up touchdowns in the redzone has been the norm for the Irish in 2022, though. After Saturday, the defense has surrendered a touchdown an alarming 82% of the time an opponent reaches the redzone.

On the other side of the ball, Notre Dame made eight trips into the redzone but only scored on 6 of them with 5 touchdowns and a field goal. Notre Dame has to do a better job of capitalizing once in the redzone. The Irish are now scoring on just 81% of their drives that reach the redzone and scoring touchdowns on just 65% of those drives.

Notre Dame was 88% in the redzone last year but in line with this year’s poor touchdown percentage at 66%. The one constant there is playcalling.

Defensively, Notre Dame held opponents to a 79% success rate in the redzone but allowed touchdowns on just 38% of the RZ drives.

Audric Estime’s fumbles continue to plague him

If Audric Estime can get his bout of fumbilitis under control, he can be a dominant running back for Notre Dame. The problem is, he now has three lost fumbles in the last four games after another fumble against UNLV. After this one, he didn’t get a single carry for the rest of the game.

Estime was off to a good start, too with a 12-yard touchdown run to start the game. With two other quality backs, though, you’ll find yourself on the sidelines if you fumble this much. A lot of young backs have ball security problems early in their careers, so there is still a lot of time for Estime to get it all sorted, but until he does, it wouldn’t be surprising to see the staff limit his carries.

Logan Diggs answers the bell in a big way

With the staff seemingly hesitant to give Estime any more carries yesterday, Logan Diggs was the immediate beneficiary. Diggs carried the ball a career-high 28 times for 130 yards but didn’t score a touchdown in a game in which the Irish put up 44. That seems almost cruel, considering how well Diggs played and how much of a workhorse he was for Notre Dame.

Diggs looks like Notre Dame’s best all-around running back right now – at least until Estime improves his ball security. Look for Diggs to continue to get the most carry of the three for the next few weeks at least.

Merriweather’s snap count continues to rise

He didn’t record any highlight reel catches – or even a single catch – this week, but Tobias Merriweather’s snap count reached a season-high 23 on Saturday. Despite the zero in the reception column, it’s significant to see his snap count continue to rise since it singles the staff has more and more faith in him. It should continue to rise for the rest of the season.

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  1. Thanks for your permission to go off on a tangent, David. I needed that.
    Jimbo doesn’t even bother to show up for Bowls that are beneath his personal standards. He, and he alone, has run Texas A&M’s program into the ground. And once again, this guru is struggling to get 7 wins!
    The best exposure possible for what you really are, David, is your defense of the indefensible…Jimbo and his 100 million dollar buy out after a sustained pathetic mediocre job – that is a mind boggling FIVE times what Chunky Charly beat out of Notre Dame. If it’s not criminal for (at least) State or Federally run institutional administrators to actually sign a contract like that IT SURE OUTTA BE!

    BGC 77 82

    1. If I was an A&M fan, I might be offended…but I’m not.
      Someone got your panties in a bunch…..did you lay the points last Saturday?
      I’m not defending anyone or anything. I’m just sober, sentient and sensible.

      I like to be entertained when I watch sports. The SEC reliably provides that.
      I wish ND did…but it doesn’t.
      When ND earns a game against an SEC team again….and wins….you let me know.
      Meanwhile, keep ranting and railing against unjust laws. Sounds fulfilling.

    1. I’m not so sure BK will win a NC at LSU, but I will say this;
      BK has a helluva lot more potential than Jimbo to do it…and I’ve been wondering out loud about that hiring since it happened. I still like Texas A&M’s last coach. I don’t see where the 100 million dollar improvement is with Jimbo.
      Sometimes people who scream and rant for a program to be turned around, get their new coach, but say goodbye for awhile to
      8-3 seasons (Earl Bruce), or 9-2 seasons (Dan Devine), or Loyd Carr at Michigan. I could add many others to the list, but let’s just hope BK’s program isn’t turned around like those were.

      BGC 77 82

      1. If you want to go off on a complete tangent, then fine…..

        Texas A&M is at least TRYING to win, paying up for a highly sought after, proven championship coach. Backed up with an aggressive NIL strategy for recruiting.
        …..and who beat Saban once, and SHOULD have beat him twice.

        Winning a NC is extremely hard. And lots of great coaches have never won one.
        A bet on Brian Kelly? Complete idiocy.

  2. Those are ridiculous comments re: Kelly.
    #1) Kelly is NOT the winningest ND CFB coach, he is the losingest. His “legacy” of winning is built on a horribly watered-down schedule against schools that ND traditionally never played, and we continue to suffer under that cowardly constructed schedule thanks to the worst AD in ND history.
    #2) Kelly cannot help himself, and will never win a NC at LSU or anywhere else. Any recruiting success at LSU under him will be the result of its location in a talent hotbed, NOT because of BK’s efforts, which ND fans know are minimal at best.
    #3) ND’s current onfield problems are a direct result of abysmal recruiting under Kelly at QB, WR, DB, LB, in addition to Swarbrick’s personal “gotcha” to Kelly as he went out the door at Oh-dark-hundred hours in the person of keeping Rees, who is the single-most underqualified OC in modern major CFB history – literally the unintended but highly effective “screw-you” from Kelly back at Swarbrick.
    #4) As has been reported recently, Pyne was felt to be a nice Ivy League college QB coming out of high school, NOT a major D-I starting QB prospect, and we have seen the inherent problems over and over and over these last 5 games. Proper QB coaching, game planning, and play calling can ameliorate some of those issues, but Rees is not capable of that on a consistent basis, which he has proven over and over and over again.
    #5) Pyne is an ND guy, and so I can support him, certainly over Rees, and so I respectfully suggest that he have a sit down with Rees and Freeman, the 3 of them alone, and firmly express his love for ND, his teammates, and playing QB at ND, and then deliver the following ultimatums, in the interests of all 3 of them: A) Pyne calls ALL the offensive plays the rest of the season; Rees may voice opinions ONLY; the game plan will focus on the run game, play action passing, decrease Mayer utilization, and marked increase in WR use, with Tyree now primarily in the slot;
    B) At the end of the season, if “A” is accepted tonite, Rees leaves ND, for whatever position, wherever he can catch on, college or pro;
    C) If at the end of the season, assuming “A” is accepted tonite, if Rees refuses to leave, I (Pyne) enter the transfer portal;
    D) If “A” is not acceptable tonite, I (Pyne) enter the transfer portal tonite at 10PM. Please call or text me with your decision. I appreciate your time and your efforts on behalf of myself, my teammates, and my school, but I can no longer allow this train wreck to continue as it has without doing everything I can to stop it. I look forward to hearing from you tonite. Thank you.

    1. You are filled with anger,
      Mike, and a desire to inflict your will on other people you probably do not even know; thus the systematic dictatorial usage of Rees to “lay down your law.” We all get angry when we wait all week to see the Irish and we end up seeing whatever it is we are seeing instead.

      BGC 77 82

  3. Brian Kelly will have a natty at LSU within 3 years.

    The administration at Notre Dame won’t do what it takes to take that final step. Weiss had to fight tooth and nail for a training table for goodness sake. The University itself can field a football team that can win national championships—but the people running the University won’t give a coach what he needs to win; won’t pay assistants the way they need to.

    Notre Dame won’t win another championship until the campus is under new leadership

    We had the guy, and we wouldn’t let him win

    1. Notwithstanding that Jaydon Daniels will be gone after (at most) 18 more games, taking with him 90+% of LSU’s offense…..

      Within three years, the Championship wiil require at least 3, probably 4 playoff wins. The chances that LSU —or anyone else—- makes the playoffs does increase, all things being equal.

      But the odds of having at least one of those games coming down to excellent coaching preparation, and/or a few critical in-game decisions is pretty high.
      “Big Game Kelly” is your guy for that? Over the field ??

      Or… you’re just lashing out with what you know is complete nonsense, just being provocative because you’re so frustrated with being a ND fan right now?

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