Duranko’s Digest: What Did We See Against USC?

Malik Zaire - Notre Dame QB vs. USC
Notre Dame Fighting Irish quarterback Malik Zaire (8) against the Southern California Trojans at Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum. USC defeated Notre Dame 49-14. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Ugliness, embarrassment, second disaster of the year.  USC, resisting the temptation to run up the score, buried the Irish 49-14, sending the Irish to its first four game losing streak since 2009, and its biggest loss since 2008.

Steve Sarkisian was able to bequeath the very accurate Cody Kessler, able to function calmly without a pass rush to annoy him, with matchups pitting USC’s speedy receivers against less swift Notre Dame defenders.  The most dramatic mismatch was in USC’s second touchdown drive, when Sarkisian dialed up the wheel route he learned by watching Norm Chow use it with Reggie Bush back in the days of Carroll at Heritage Hall.  World class sprinter and full-time cornerback Adoree Jackson lined up in the backfield a couple steps wide of Kessler (just as Chow would do with Bush).  Greer Martini stared at Jackson, his assignment.  Ball snapped.  Jackson wheels out and heads for end zone, Martini trailing, Kessler easily delivers to the open Jackson and it’s 14-0. It was a turkey shoot.

After making USC work for 10 plays to get 33 yards in their first drive before punting, the Notre Dame defense allowed the following in the next five drives:

  • 30 plays
  • 308 yards (10.1 per play)
  • 35 points

Meanwhile, Everett  Golson was completing his death spiral. Everett completed 7 of 18 passes for 75 yards with one interception for an 8.4 QBR.

Malik Zaire

Inserted after Golson was mercifully, not mercilessly, ushered to the bench,  Zaire showed that he has some ability, particularly as a runner.  But he did nothing that will scare Deshone Kizer or Brandon Wimbush into transferring.  While neither Golson nor Zaire was particularly rescued by Notre Dame’s wide receivers,  Zaire reminded us why Golson is rated the more accurate passer.

Greg Bryant

His first extended action of the year was a lone bright spot. He brings a burst to his runs that may lead to long gainers in the future.  He may become a partner, rather than a mere backup, for Tarean Folston in 2015.

Everett Golson at the Crossroads

“When you come to a fork in the road, take it.”  Yogi Berra.  As the clock waned in Tallahassee on October 18th then Heisman Candidate Golson threw a perfect spiral to Corey Robinson in the ‘Nole that looked like a game winner to bring the Irish to 7-0. Zebras brayed otherwise.

Since then, Golson has come undone. As we have never seen before. Golson, though the sensitive pianist, worked hard during his time away from Notre Dame, and has worked hard since. He wants to succeed.  And Kelly and LaFleur want him to succeed.   Willing hearts and minds SHOULD be able to fix this.  But the time is now.  This road back must begin being traveled  before the bowl game.

Notre Dame HC Brian Kelly Gives Timeline for Season Starting on Time


Now that the 35 year flirtation with Michigan is over, our rival is as ever, in Cardinal and Gold.  USC is playing with a depleted roster, and a long list of injuries.  But Sarkisian has shown us what he promised Haden in the interview process regarding his offensive strategy.  A huge, massive offensive line.  Damien Mama at 6’5, 370,  Viane Tailamavao at 6’3”, 330 are frosh, Zach Banner at 6’9, 350, a soph.  Wait until they hit the weight room.  USC, in the future will pound on your DL in the running game until they:

(a)  Wear out your DL, tiring out your pass rush
(b) Force you to put a safety in the box
(c) Increase the power of play action

After that they will send their sprinters (Smith, Farmer, Jackson) out to search and destroy your slowest defenders, and have an accurate quarterback, Cody Kessler today, Ricky Town tomorrow, complete passes to them.

In future years, perhaps as early as 2016, this will be the most daunting in season matchup for the Irish.


It is inescapable that Brian Van Gorder’s defense has allowed 43.4 points per game in the last five. But in 2015, he will lose only Justin Utopu and Austin Collinsworth who started against SC, will have his players in their second year of understanding the system and will benefit from

(a) A significant group of redshirts
(b) A solid class of defensive recruits
(c) Possible return of Williams and Russell

It will be a different defense in 2015.

The current tasks that are most important, in this order, are to begin restoring the confidence of Everett Golson and to practice well, play well and win the Bowl Game.

Go Irish!


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  1. Storespook 5 years ago

    Your thoughts on USC’s near future potential is probably right on and makes thoughts on BK even more irritating. I agree, I see Sarkesian having a west coast powerhouse in the next 3 years. It won’t take him 5 years or 6 years to potentially “get there,” unlike what we are seeing for BK & the Irish football program. I hate ShitCal but they are going to be rivaling where that chump Carroll had them in their 2000’s heyday and probably being legal too. One needed a magnifying glass to see any bright spots in this rival game for ND. I am not clamoring for BK’s removal because there is no one out there that is high powered that has expressed any interest in ND. BK has a track record of climbing up the competition ladder and being successful. I don’t believe magically that has disappeared. I do think he has some serious self analyzing of his coaching and looking at making some changes in his staff and his own play calling during the off-season. Great coaches make adjustments to put their team in the best position to win. I think there are some factors occurring where BK may not fully be doing what needs to be done for that to happen. I know injuries had a significant factor but the losses to Northwestern and Louisville were inexcusable and frankly, the FSU game was winnable. If that happened, the talk on this blog would be much different at 10-2 or 9-3 than the 7-5 garbage that has occurred.

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  2. duranko 5 years ago

    “Dewey defeat Truman” That was 11/3/48, in the days of Leahy, when one of the self-styled pillars of the Chicago School of Journalism labeled itself for its credibility. Read Chicago journalism at your peril.

    Chicago journalism. Do they still offer discounts for the gullible?

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  3. bj 5 years ago

    libera me domine



    NEW OC, NEW DC, NEW STC, A RUNNING GAME, THEY CANT PROVIDE PASS PROTECTION, NO MORE PUBLIC HUMILIATION OF EG, IF HE THROWS An interception, malik comes in, its just responsibility and consequences

    what clique is gunner talking about? none of that

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  4. 45yearfaithful 5 years ago

    Seasonal. Can remember as far back as 66′ season. Enjoyed watching Sunday mornings taped replay of games with Lindsey Nelson announcing. Coupled with Sunday newspaper articles. Radio broadcast some years also. So I guess over 45 years. No don’t change yearly. It’s been hell of a ride though and always look forward to fall. The only truly low spots is when you read of the passing of the players each year that brought such excitement and inspiration. Oh and one of my few “buck it list” is ND & USC in South Bend. Already lost out NCAA moving the Hall of Fame.

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  5. 45yearfaithful 5 years ago

    Duranko, we have all read and noted that MZ accuracy was not that of EG. Coupled with his practice production which has been noted too. Yet we all have read that he is one of those people that are a “game day” player. Understanding EG is still #1. I would like to see that be a short leash if no production. Possibly MZ would raise the performance of all the players. I for one do not want to see Kelly leave. He has built a program with high potential. Both Bk and EG have tremendous upsides. Certain areas need to be abandoned, tweaked or emphasized more. Just hope the staff is objective and adaptable. Thanks.

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    1. Ron Burgundy 5 years ago

      Serious question, do you change your name every year to reflect the number of years you have been faithful? Is it a calendar or fiscal year?

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  6. Mike T 5 years ago

    The best fit for the Gators in my opinion would have been Charlie Strong but pretty hard to compete with the Texas job.

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    1. Ron Burgundy 5 years ago

      Have you met Toulmin on here? He claims to be the fastest white boy in all of Louisiana so I’d like to refer to him as speedy but you since you requested to be called speedy not sure what to do.

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      1. Mike T 5 years ago

        You know I’m pretty new here on the blog. Grew up in IN been a ND football fan for a long time.
        I’m going to give you a little advice RB and you can take or leave it.
        Back when I was stationed at MacDill I dabbled in some political blogs. There was a local TV reporter there, you remind me a lot of him. He made lots of comments mostly sarcastic not ever really much substance but always sniping at others. He decided to engage with those tactics with me. Now he didn’t really know who he was being sarcastic with for almost six months. He fancied himself a military expert because that was an area he reported on.
        Anyway he kept up his sniping tactics trying to engage me with his BS.
        Then the stars aligned and he as a reporter was invited to a social function at the base.
        We even arranged for him to sit at our table.
        Halfway through dinner I introduced myself with a firm handshake and told him who I was online. He went white like a ghost and well the rest of the evening he was quiet as a mouse. My GF, who was not a shy woman asked him why he was so quiet and polite considering how he acted in the forums on the blogs. He came up with some convoluted answer about journalistic etiquette and then my XO told him the real reason was because it was easy to be that way on a keyboard but a whole different ballgame when sitting next to someone who could easily snap your neck.
        I can say after that the reporter either quit commenting on blogs or changed his style. But he was embarrassed in front of his other press colleagues and soon left the area for a smaller market instead of a larger one.
        I only tell you this because one day you may actually run into someone on here who you have been the same way with and I have a pretty good idea you wouldn’t be nearly as sarcastic in person unless it was a little old lady or child.
        Just trying to save you from future embarrassment.

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      2. Ron Burgundy 5 years ago

        You wouldn’t happen to have a cliff notes version of this would you?
        By any chance do you know Sad Warrior? Special ops, always behind enemy lines, looking for hot chow, etc. you two would probably get along well.
        Now go and flex those internet muscles for someone who cares.

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      3. Irishchan 5 years ago

        Come on Ron. I’ve come to find a lot of humor in your sarcastic comments. And, you tend to supply evidence to support your thoughts when challenged.

        But that was a prick comment man.

        Stay classy Ron Burgandy….and pour smooth scotchy scotch.

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      4. Ron Burgundy 5 years ago

        Which comment Jeremy?

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      5. Shazamrock 5 years ago

        I actually did run into Ron Burgundy at a fun raiser once.

        He is even funnier in person!

        It was a stone groove my man!

        And I wouldn’t put too much stock in the whole “neck snapping” thing Cause Ron Burgundy is a karate man!

        And a karate man bruises on the inside!

        They don’t show their weakness.

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      6. Irishchan 5 years ago

        By the beard of Zeus! How does burgundy know my name? Bahahaha

        I’m in a glass case of emotion about this. Lmao

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      7. Mike T 5 years ago

        By the way, Speedy is fine with me. Kind of anti climatic considering some of the other nicknames I’ve had.

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  7. Mike T 5 years ago

    McElwain is a good fit for the Gators, he has SEC experience, was OC on two Bama teams that won the NC. He’ll have a lot better talent at UF than he had at CSU. He’s more familiar with recruiting in the Southeast. Florida suffered greatly from the same problem as ND. QBs that turned the ball over too much.

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    1. Ron Burgundy 5 years ago

      Looks like speedy likes the hire.

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  8. duranko 5 years ago

    About Riley, he was modestly successful in recruiting California,though not so much as Dennis Erickson (T.J Houshmandzadeh and Ocho Cinco). When Nebraska had their best teams they usually had kids from California and Texas. Lawrence Phillips, I.M. Hipp.

    The McElwain hire is more confounding. I have had some truck with a bunch of pretty intense Florida alums. And they would be loath to admit that they were trying to benefit from the “Nick Saban School of coaching.”

    The hires of Spurrier from Duke and Meyer from Utah were much bolder, more audacious hires than this McElwain.

    Rising coaching stars? The bj lists, libera me domine, would include Justin Fuente(Memphis) and Jeff Brohm (Western Kentucky)

    With Florida in the news, Charley “I leave a trail like a slug” Weis can now proudly point to three programs, ND, Florida and Kansa he helped take to historical ineptness.

    Before you try to exclude Kansas just examine the Glenn Mason and Mangino eras.

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    1. Ron Burgundy 5 years ago

      No one will ever forget the sub .500 era of Glen Mason.

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  9. Mike T 5 years ago

    I hope they go to the Belk Bowl to play Georgia. Since Georgia is a future opponent on our schedule I think it would be helpful to see them in game situations prior to a regular season game.

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    1. Ron Burgundy 5 years ago

      Yes, very beneficial to get an early look at an opponent for 2017 and 2019.

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      1. Mike T 5 years ago

        Or possibly in the play-offs if you want to be optimistic. Since the SEC is the best Football conference and ND says they always want to play the best..Well there you go that’s incentive enough.

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  10. Ron Burgundy 5 years ago

    To everyone who wants to fire BK, look no further than the hair raising hires at UF and Nebraska. Equally prestigious jobs. These are the candidates out there. Would you rather have McElwain, Riley or BK? Once you eliminate Saban, Meyer or Stoops (which ain’t happening) this is what you got. Careful what you wish for.

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  11. duranko 5 years ago

    Rich, it is a different era. The money has NOTHING to do with it.

    The most important aspect is to use the multiple weeks of practice to continue to develop the players, and begin building the foundation for 2015. A key aspect of the bowl practices has been extra showcase time for the frosh who redshirte, and give them a chance to show their wares. With all the injuries, plenty of those guys will get significant practice reps even though they will continue to wear their red shirts.

    It’s not about ego, prestige or money.

    It’s about continuing the player development. And this year, the most important task is to begin to rehabilitate the confidence of Everett Golson.

    Notre Dame would be stupid and reckless to decline a bowl.
    You don’t have to watch, I will.

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    1. Damian 5 years ago

      I agree, ND would be foolish to decline a bowl. Most of this team is back next year. Take the bowl for the extra practices, if nothing else.

      And hey, if they win it sets them up well for next year.

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