Yesterday I posted a list of things I liked from Notre Dame’s season opening win over in Dublin so for the sake of some balance, today I bring you a list of things I didn’t like from week one that Notre Dame will need to work on this week on in order to improve to 2-0 on Saturday.
1. The secondary letting receivers behind it
We knew the secondary was going to be a major concern this season, but if Saturday is any indication, it could be worse than we thought. Navy doesn’t have great wide receivers and they were already playing without their top one this weekend yet they were still able to get behind the green Irish secondary on multiple occasions.
Part of the problem could have (hopefully?) been the fact that the defensive staff had to spent more time than normal preparing two young, inexperienced corners for the unique option offense only to see Navy chuck the ball around more than I can ever remember after Trey Miller got banged up, but even still, Notre Dame corner backs should never get beat as bad as they were at times on Saturday unless there is a major blown coverage.
With Landry Jones and Matt Barkley as upcoming opposing quarterbacks, Diaco and secondary coach Kerry Cooks are going to have to get their secondary improved in a hurry.
2. Sloppy place kicking execution
I’ll admit that I was shocked to see as many problems with the extra point as we saw on Saturday. These kind of things can somewhat be attributed to normal first game issues, but there is no reason to ever miss two extra points in the same game. Notre Dame is going to have to correct this problem ASAP because once tougher defenses start popping up on the schedule, the Irish will need to be able to rely on the place kicking unit to put points on the board – especially if Notre Dame isn’t able to develop a red-zone target outside of Tyler Eifert.
3. A lack of a downfield passing game
Whether it was by design as to not show too much this week or to ease Everett Golson into the starting role or because Kelly and Martin just don’t trust the downfield passing game yet, we didn’t see Notre Dame target receivers downfield too much. Notre Dame stuck with short passes to the backs, wide receiver screens, and passes to the tight ends for the most part on Saturday.
Sophomore Davaris Daniels was targeted a few times and flashed some good potential and why he is not listed as a starter is a mystery since he was on the field a lot. Outside of Daniels, however, Notre Dame receivers didn’t see the ball downfield much at all. Perhaps Kelly and Martin were holding back because they knew they could pound the ball on Navy and let Golson build up some confidence or perhaps the Irish receivers just haven’t established themselves enough for the staff to trust them when they don’t have to.
Whatever the case here, Notre Dame is going to need to throw the ball downfield much more in the coming weeks with some much better defenses on the schedule.
4. Dropped passes & Needless Penalties
There weren’t a lot of them, but there were enough dropped passes on Saturday to lead me to believe that some players will be running some laps on Sunday. Ben Koyack specifically dropped two passes that need to be caught. One of them was a bit a duck, but when the ball hits you in both hands and there aren’t any defenders in your immediate vicinity, you have to come down with the ball.
On the needless penalty front, Kapron Lewis-Moore lost a sack because of a completely unnecessary face mask penalty on Prince Shembo. KLM had Miller on the way down to the ground already when Shembo latched hold of his face mask negating the sack and continuing a Navy drive that had completely stalled out.
5. A red-zone turnover
Red zone turnovers plagued Notre Dame in 2011 – see USF, USC, and Michigan games just to name a few – and while overall Notre Dame did a good job protecting the football finishing +3 in turnover ration, Evertt Golson had one really bad interception in the red zone. Golson had Tyler Eifert open for a nice gain, potentially a touchdown when he locked on and then waited too long to make the throw. It was the kind of throw we will have to expect with playing a red-shirt freshman quarterback, but it’s also the kind of throw Golson has to learn from and not make too many of in order to completely lock down his position as the starting quarterback.
Aside from that throw Golson didn’t have too many he would like to have back other than not seeing a completely wide open Daniel Smith in the corner of the end zone in the 3rd quarter. Notre Dame would end up scoring on the drive, but Golson had an easy 6 if he saw Smith. Such is going to be the life of living with a rookie quarterback though.