For the second week in a row this column is extremely difficult to write because the Fighting Irish didn’t give us a whole lot not to like in their shutout of Michigan. I even contemplated just publishing this column with 5 bullet points each of which read “Not a darn thing,” but after rewatching the game yesterday (thanks NBC Live Extra) I’m going to give it the ole’ college try though.
Early use of timeouts
Before the game was in hand and the tears started to flow from Michigan fans, Notre Dame’s offense used up all of their first half time outs before the first 15 minutes of time had ticked off the clock. Brian Kelly downplayed the rapid use of their timeouts on Sunday by stating he isn’t too concerned with using first half timeouts, but at the time it was pretty concerning.
Was the environment a little too big for the young team? Was Notre Dame just too amped up at the start of the game that it needed to settle down? I’m not sure which it was, but it is something that Kelly needs to address in practice this week and something that can’t happen once the Irish reach that daunting October stretch. Luckily for the Irish this didn’t come back to haunt them as they marched easily towards a 31 point shutout of the Wolverines.
Lack of a running game
Lost in the euphoria of the sound beating the Irish delivered was the fact that the Irish running game was largely shut down. On Saturday night Kelly explained that Michigan decided to commit extra defenders to stop the run and thus the Irish went to the air to combat it but looking at a stat line of 54 yards on 31 carries is one of the very few blemishes in the box score from Saturday.
Overall, Michigan actually out-gained the Irish which sounds shocking considering how lopsided the score was, but they held the advantage in total yards 289 to 280. Notre Dame will need to have some more sustained offense in future games as they won’t be able to count on creating four turnovers every week.
With a weaker opponent on tap this weekend, look for Brian Kelly to get the ground game going early.
The helmet to helmet hit on Trumbetti
You know a game went really well when one of the things I didn’t like was a missed helmet to helmet penalty on an offensive player, but the hit that Andrew Trumbetti took was dangerous. In the first quarter Trumbetti got nailed with a helmet to helmet shot that sent him to the sidelines for a little while. He was able to return to the field, but the hit Trumbetti took on Saturday was much more vicious than the one that Stephon Tuitt was ejected for against Pitt last year.
Again, this one is nitpicking a bit since there really wasn’t a whole lot not to like against Michigan this weekend. The only other reason this one made the list is because Mike Mayock praised the block Trumbetti took stating something along the lines of this is football. Really Mayock?
Speaking of nitpicking, another area for improvement on offense for this week needs to be the hands of the wide receivers. Chris Brown, CJ Prosise, and Will Fuller all dropped some very catchable passes – Prosise on a critical early third down in the first half. For Prosise, it was the second week in a row he dropped a pass that hit him squarely in his hands. With Torii Hunter ahead of schedule in his return, it would be surprising if the sophomore didn’t see some immediate action once he is ready to return in the wake of the hands Prosise has displayed the last two weeks. To be fair, this week’s drop was on a laser beam of a pass from Golson, but with a quarterback who has one of the strongest arms in the country, the Irish wide receivers will need to get used to holding on to those.
Side note here. After rewatching the game, I have to make mention of the work Fuller did at the line of scrimmage for his touchdown at the end of the first half. It was text book route running and a beautiful thing to watch. Sorry for sneaking an extra thing I liked into this column, but you know what? I’m sorry, I’m not sorry.
The pick 6 that got called back
I have still not seen a great replay of the penalty that was called to be fair so this is not a complaint that the penalty was called. It may have been legit, it may not. Not going to argue that at this point. This one made the list because had the pick 6 stood it would have went down as one of the most epic ways to end a rivalry ever. As I sat in my seat during the final seconds someone joked it would be great if the game ended up on a pick six and we all chuckled. Then it happened and Notre Dame Stadium was sent into a state of euphoria I haven’t experienced. All until we saw the flag.
You still can’t be upset at all with the outcome of the game, but having the last image of the Notre Dame – Michigan rivalry be a pick six capping off a 37-0 shut out would have been the kind of script that even Hollywood wouldn’t believe given the way Notre Dame has played in this series the last few years.
Special mention for things I didn’t like goes to the line outside the Backer following the win. I would have loved to toast an Irish victory from inside the Backer but the two block long line wasn’t moving anywhere.