Duranko’s Digest: What Did We See in Fenway?

Photo: Greg M. Cooper-USA TODAY Sports

Notre Dame’s beat Boston College 19-16 to move to 10-1, before heading to Palo Alto for the titanic season finale against Stanford.

The green-clad Irish offense punched holes in the vaunted and top-ranked Boston college offense for 447_yards, but wasted multiple red zone opportunities, squandering a sure thing as if they were Bill Buckner in ’86.

Turnovers and Drops

Deshone Kizer and Will Fuller decided to have their season’s worst performance on the same evening. Kizer threw three horrific, undisciplined interceptions, two of them on knuckle-headed decisions in the shadow of BC’s goal post. Perhaps some day, unless Brandon Wimbush steals the job next Spring, Kizer will learn the value of throwing the ball away. But not last night.

Fuller had three drops, two of them with yawning expanses of fresh green sod in front of him.

Adams joined the party with a fumble inside the five yard line.

Prosise’s fumble was merely at the BC 32.

With Kizer’s misplay on an extra point, the Irish left between 10 and 29 points on the field, there for the taking.

Notre Dame’s Defense

The defense dominated the inept BC offense but did its part to add a fourth quarter lapse, evocative of the late gifts to Georgia Tech and Pitt.   The Irish D, which had bottled up BC through 3 quarters with just 121 yards, allowed 166 yards of touchdown drives in the fourth quarter, 80 on a simple keeper by Jeff Smith.

Gilmore kept Isaac Rochell inside at tackle, but Isaac is less impactful there than he is coming from the Defensive End position. The Irish need Daniel Cage back. SOON.

Greer Martini and Jarrett Grace filled in solidly for James Onwualu and are now lathered to face Christian McCaffrey and Stanford.

It might have been Van Gorder’s greatest challenge to paint BC as an offensive threat. Quarterback John Fadule came in fresh off a 400 yard passing performance, FOR THE ENTIRE SEASON. Leading running back Tyler Rouse had gashed opposing defenses for 307 yards, a lower total than the 338 Deshone Kizer had accumulated. Leading BC receiver Thad “the Weapon” Smith had caught passes for 216 yards, a lower total than the 240 Amir Carlisle had achieved for the whole year.

So the Irish defense stacked against the run, blitzed on the many passing downs and had a jolly old time bullying the horrific Boston College offense. They just lost interest with 11 minutes left in the game, for the third time this year. Great teams finish. Good teams don’t.

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Notre Dame Special Teams

Now rated 20th in the Country, per the Phil Steele composite. Pryce Tracy, Scott Booker, Justin Yoon and Tyler Newsome stand up and take bows! Now stop bowing and get to work on the Stanford Special Teams game plan.

Mike Denbrock coaches them up

Notre Dame promises player development. If every player on the roster progresses as much as Chris Brown and Amir Carlisle have, Notre Dame’s future will be bright. Sheldon Day and Romeo Okwara continue to demonstrate how seniors perform in the right player development culture.

127 Is an unusual team

To paraphrase Orwell, all Notre Dame teams are different, but some are more different than others.

When Team 127 tries to destroy a team and accumulate metro-sexual “style points,” the bane of the interweb and the fourth estate, the parasitic sports commentariat, they fail. Randy Gardner and Tai Babilonia they are not.

But when the line is drawn in the dirt, and it is about winning and losing, as against Texas, Georgia Tech, even Clemson and USC they do pretty well. The next game is do or die, not about style points. And that is this team’s milieu.

While it may seem anomalous, the Irish played solid football from the neck down on Saturday, far better than against Wake. But they played their worst game from the neck up. Let’s hope they got it out of their system, albeit hope is not a strategy.

What will we see against Stanford?

  • A focused Stanford team, the best squad we will have played since Clemson. The loss to Oregon knocked Leland’s school out of the playoff but merely increased the risk level to Notre Dame. Stanford can not participate in the all too meager four team playoff, but can knock Notre Dame out of it. Out there among the majestic eucalyptus trees and stunning architecture, it’s the kind of thing that they live for, perfect for sipping pinot grigio and mocking Notre Dame.
  • A very iffy playing surface. Notre Dame will be ready this time. Ag schools always have fine playing surfaces, internet trade schools, not so much.
  • A 10 win Notre Dame team, Kelly’s second. There were only two in the interregnum between Holtz and Kelly. Lou had 5 ten win seasons.
  • An offense that is prolific, but uses Christian McCaffrey’s running as the fulcrum. McCaffrey has rushed for over 100 yards per game for 9 games in a row. Stopping McCaffrey’s willful running is the first defensive priority.
  • A dangerous quarterback in Kevin Hogan. He is dangerous for both teams. He had two mind-numbingly critical lost fumbles in the fourth quarter in the loss to the Ducks. He is weak at ball security.
  • A Stanford defensive that has lost the Harbaughites and is much more vulnerable than in the last several years. This game could come down to an offensive shootout and there are places to exploit the Stanford defense. Stanford is used to bullying its Pac-XII opponents in the trenches. Stanford will not have that advantage against Notre Dame, and it is arguable that of the four lines on the field, the Stanford DL is the weakest of the four.
  • An odd scheduling quirk, that, for once, favors the Irish. Stanford faced Oregon and cross-Bay rival Berkeley while the Irish toyed with ACC doormats Wake and BC. The Irish will be less exhausted physically and emotionally.
  • An opponent for which Onwualu’s absence does not hurt much. The bigger Grace and Martini are more suited to counter the McCaffrey runs.
  • Notre Dame’s offense must possess the football. If the Irish defense is on the field for more than 60 plays, the lack of depth in the front seven may prove fatal.
  • A West Coast November tilt that has not always been kind to Notre Dame. In ’64, ’68 and ’80 the Irish went West with an unbeaten record, and came up short.
  • A Notre Dame moment and a Stanford moment. This can be an unforgiving moment, but it is a rare thing for Notre Dame to control its own destiny on the final Saturday of the season. The leaders, and particularly the captains, need to step up. Defeat is simply not an option.
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And those leaders, those captains, just might invoke an anthem from Marshall Mathers, “I’m not Afraid”

“ I’m not afraid
To take a stand
Everybody
Come take my hand, come
We’ll take this road together, through the storm
Whatever weather, cold or warm
Just letting you know that, you’re not alone
Holler if you feel like you’ve been down this same road”

This is a BIG GAME, lads, quit whining and buckle your chinstraps!!

GO IRISH!

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17 comments

  1. david 4 years ago

    ND effectively ended its playoff chances by not showing up ready to play at Clemson (with the job finished off by Kelly’s 2-pt. boners in that game). But at least Clemson was a very good team, so the close loss was spun as positively as any loss by anyone in recent years that I can recall.

    But any playoff dreams were officially removed when ND failed to show up for what it KNEW was a beauty contest game against a horrifically poor BC team.

    Kelly was quick to declare in the filed interview afterwards that the occasional lack of focus as an inherent issue that “18 to 21 year olds” have. He didn’t discuss why the entire team had this ‘affliction’ hit each of them at the same time, which is completely on him and his staff. As he’s been doing this for 25 years now (did you know that?), you’d think he’d have that one solved.

    The entire team was simply not ready to play this game. They stunk up the joint. Ball protection. Red Zone execution. Tackling.

    Anyone wants their job to be mad easier for them, and ND handed the playoff committee all it needed to say ‘Ummm, I think we’ve seen enough. We’ll let you know. Next!’

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  2. Michael the Archangel 4 years ago

    @ southside:
    “Win One for the I-10.”
    I like it.
    Losing ten starters-and now vs. Stanford- on the road- for the fourth game in five weeks, with your second leading tackler and your leading rusher out of the picture.
    What’s wrong with that picture?
    If I was a betting man, I’d have learned by now never to bet on ND as a favorite and give the points; but also, never bet against ND when they’re an underdog. To snatch victory with all ND has going against it this week would even further mark Team 127 as a team for the ages. This team’s resiliency and fortitude reminds any paying attention this year to never count them out.
    Ya gotta believe!

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