Initial Impressions – Notre Dame 24, Wake Forest 17

Notre Dame’s first trip to Winston-Salem ended with a win in an up and down performance that showed once again that the 2011 Fighting Irish are still very much a work in progress. Here are some initial thoughts from the game.

Offense

  • Tommy Rees didn’t have a very strong performance.  He was not very accurate and ended up throwing another two interceptions to give him 10 on the season.  After going back to back games without a turnover against Purdue and Air Force, Rees has thrown four picks the past three weeks.  Both interceptions last night game at a time when Notre Dame was in a position to put some distance between them and Wake too.
  • The Irish offense just isn’t quite there yet.  Notre Dame had a chance to put this game away in the second half, but the offense couldn’t sustain much drives and put more points on the board.
  • Hats off to Mike Golic Jr who saw his first extended playing time after Braxston Cave went down with an injury.  With his dad on the sidelines, the younger Golic flattened a Wake lineman on his first play to open up a huge hole for Jonas Gray.  Golic more than held his own in Cave’s absence.
  • Jonas Gray and Cierre Wood turned in good games and could have done even more damage if they received some more carries.  Would have liked to see Notre Dame run the football right at Wake more than they did.
  • For the most part, Wake did a really good job taking Michael Floyd out of the game other than his 16 yard touchdown catch.  Kelly needs to find a way to get the ball in his hands more early in games.
  • Would have liked to see Theo Riddick involved more in the game plan.  Notre Dame had been using him more in recent weeks, but it seemed like he was an afterthought this week.
  • Would have also liked to see more, make that some, of Andrew Hendrix.  After a very strong performance against Air Force, he has been MIA the last three weeks.
  • Despite Kelly’s insistence at the end of last night’s presser that the passing game is fine, it really wasn’t last night.  Notre Dame still hasn’t had a receiver establish themselves as the clear #2 wide receiver and when secondaries take Floyd out of the game, the passing game stalls.
  • Not enough can be said about the play of the offensive line over the course of the season  The line was dominant again last night and didn’t allow a sack once a gain.  On the season Notre Dame has surrendered just 5 sacks.  After years of inconsistent offensive line play, just think about that for a minute.
  • Still trying to figure out how the replay officials overturned the Gray touchdown run in the third quarter.  I’ve yet to see an angle that shows he was down before the ball crossed the plane of the end zone.
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Defense

  • After a really rough start, the defense settled in and held Wake in check for the last three quarters of the game.
  • Aaron Lynch and Stephon Tuiit showed why they came to Notre Dame with so much hype last night.  Both played a ton due to the injuries along the line and both made huge plays down the stretch.  These two have the looks of players that are on load from the NFL.
  • What made Lynch’s performance even more impressive was the fact that he was banged up a couple of times, but fought through it and kept making plays.
  • I love watching Robert Blanton play in the run game.  He might be the best tackling cornerback for Notre Dame in a long, long time.  He was all over the field last night and showed why he may be the most missed player on defense next year.
  • I am already worried about the secondary for next year.  Losing Blanton is going to be a huge loss for Notre Dame and no one in the secondary did much to impress again this weekend.  Both safety and corner are going to be areas of concern.  Notre Dame has to keep all of its current secondary commitments and hopefully gain at least one more impact defensive back – one or two could easily challenge for a starting role next season.
  • Linebacker play was rough again this week.  Te’o is playing through injuries and it is clearly impacting his effectiveness.  Fleming had a strong performance, but other than him, none of the linebackers did too much and were liabilities in the passing game.
  • Loved seeing the Irish defense cause a turnover of its own right after the Irish offense turned it over in their own territory.  Darius Fleming forced the fumble to cap off a really strong game.
  • Did I mention how much fun it is to watch Robert Blanton play and how much Notre Dame will miss him in 2012?

Special Teams

  • Austin Collinsworth might be getting the championship belt given to the special teams player of the year this season because he is turning a season just as impressive as Bennett Jackson’s 2010 campaign.  Collinsworth got a lot of attention in the return game with Wake Forest trying to avoid George Atkinson and he responded with a couple great returns.  Collinsworth was also a beast on kick coverage.
  • Speaking of Atkinson, he didn’t get much a chance to make an impact with Wake avoiding him, but even on the one return he did make, you just had the impression he was about to break it.  He is going to be A LOT of fun to watch over the next few years.  Can’t wait to see Kelly get him more involved in the offense.
  • Not sure if Kyle Brindza’s kickoffs are coming up short by design, but after showing a big leg early in the season, his kicks have been landing around the 10 yard the last few weeks.
  • Another game with no punt return yards for Notre Dame.  It’s almost unfathomable that a team could go nine weeks and only total three yards on punt returns for the entire season.
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66 comments

  1. Joeyknuklehead 8 years ago

    Good review but the play that reflect NDs season for the fanbase was the flea flicker INT.
    With momentum back on NDs side and marching down the field for a back breaking score.
    …looks like another solid run call – good
    Flea flicker pass – gulp
    Floyd open by two steps – Yes!
    Rees under throws – no!
    DB makes the most of the opportunity tight roping up the sidelines.
    Lineman blasts DB knocking him into first row.
    BS flag
    Kelly goes nuts screaming.
    …and that’s the cliff notes on the season

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  2. SteelFanRob 8 years ago

    On a different note: Are there any top PSU recruits/commits also considering ND? O know Noah Spence was seriously considering PSU but is no longer interested. Any of our resident recruiting experts here have anything to share on how ND may benefit in this year’s recruiting cycle from PSU’s scandal? Also, what if Al Golden goes to PSU? Any Miami recruits or current commitments that could possibly switch to ND? This sad situation in (not-so-)”Happy Valley” could cause ND to rethink its current recruiting class. Thoughts?

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  3. JC 8 years ago

    I agree with SteelfanRob on a possible 8-5 record next year due to a tough schedule. However, I am also highly concerned about a possible 8-5 record this year. Three years in a row at 8-5 may be a very difficult pill to swallow for the deep pocket ND supporters; underlying progress or no progress. Results talk and the rest walk with the money guys! Especially with 2 time Championship Urban out there in the wings. No pressure BK! One would only have to look at CW’s fate. A new ND standard of impatience! Urgency anyone? Remember Jack Swarbrick’s powerful suggestion for CW starting his 3rd year? “We need to be in the BCS Bowl conversation!” Hopefully, we end up with a miracle 10-3 season and all is well for the moment.

    Chris, when you roll the dice and bench senior QB leadership permanently and bad mouth the upperclassmen in the media. I don’t really believe Teo when he said: “things are back to normal.” He’s definately a class act and putting the best face on it. I’ll believe it’s normal when we see no mass exit to the door next year? I’ve already vented my anger on this issue so I won’t go there.

    Go Irish!

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  4. blueandgold 8 years ago

    Last but not least, I would move Riddick back to running back and use at least 4-5 different running backs like Holtz use to. BTW, what ever happened to Deion Walker?

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  5. blueandgold 8 years ago

    Last but not least, why don’t we blitz more? Even when we blitz, we run into blocks.

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  6. blueandgold 8 years ago

    Also, if I was an opposing offensive coordinator all I would do against ND is throw the ball. We cannot stop any passing attack!

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  7. blueandgold 8 years ago

    Why do we play so slow, play conservative on offense and defense, let other teams take the fight to us? Also, why do players like Gray and Rees continue to play while making mistake after mistake?

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  8. spiceyirish 8 years ago
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    1. storespook 8 years ago

      I hope not. Our uni’s should not be messed with besides maybe a green jersey for a special occasion. May I say, just look at our upcoming opponents terrible looking garb they are wearing to further make that point.

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  9. East Texas Irish 8 years ago

    Do any of you all know why Kona Shwenke hasn’t been playing that much this yr? This game against WF would have been a good game since the D line was all freshman for him to get some playing time. Is he hurt? Is he in the dog house? I remember reading that they want to move him to the LB position. I think if my memeory serves me right I did read an article of that. Maybe it was someone else but I think it was of Shweke.

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  10. Livonia Steve 8 years ago

    These comments generally are my feelings for the whole season.

    1) The defensive coordinator has to go. He does not seem to have any clue as to making adjustments either during the game or at half time. Over the middle was open all night for WF.

    2) Coach Kelly better learn to have his team motivated to play everyone for 60 minutes. Every team is high to beat ND no one should ever be taken lightly.

    3) The offensive play calling is bizarre and inconsistent. The pass is set up by running the ball effectively. Was that the old ND box offensive backfield against WF?

    4) Special team blocking is non existent, no wonder we fair catch the ball.

    5) What has happened to the “blitz”? The best defense for the pass is constant pressure on the QB.

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    1. blueandgold 8 years ago

      I feel the same way! What do you think of my comments below?

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  11. joey d 8 years ago

    off topic, but…..jerry sandusky you are a piece of shit!

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    1. Wake up the echoes 8 years ago

      “Vengeance is mine says the Lord”… Unless you are a child molester. Hopefully, he won’t make it very long if he goes to prison. Sad day for a prestigious program…

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      1. storespook 8 years ago

        Molesters are at the bottom of the prison totem pole. Gotta love prison ethics & morality. If he is guilty, may he rot in hell. I have worked professionally with kids who had been abused/molested, I have seen the mess it leaves a child psyche.

        Adding to other comments about BK. I’m not calling for his head in year 2. Let’s be honest, he has made some questionable coaching calls both on & off the field. As fans, we certainly have a right to express our opinions about that. His QB rationale regarding TR is fair game. The divisive comments about “his” players and CW’s players should have never left the locker room (no matter even if it was 100% true), his choice of coaching assistants and how they are utilized, etc. Criticism doesn’t imply for one to be fired. BK has certainly made some decisions that are very questionable. If he continues to make the same repeated mistakes into year 3 (or 4) then Administration may need to reevaluate their decision in keeping BK.

        As to next year, that killer schedule will make it hard for BK to follow some of the better past coaches who won NC’s in their 3rd year. There is no way TR is going to lead ND to an undefeated-NC season in 2012. If he does, I will be the first to eat my crow, run naked down the street and proclaim the fair haired boy’s greatness (I’m not real concerned at this point that will even be a close call, haha). I am looking for continued measurable progress for this team. I feel a different QB will be necessary for that to occur. I do think better student-athletes are being brought in by BK. Playing all these under classmen now will pay off when they become upper classmen and then you can get a cycle of success started with player leadership, which is desperately needed.

        Gooooooo Irishhhhhhhhhhh

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  12. Chris 8 years ago

    The only thing I know at this point in the season is that the Irish are definitely not anywhere near ready for primetime. I think it takes another 1-2 years to get the Kelly mentality to reflect properly in his players. There seems to be some truth to some of the players not buying in still. I still cant get over how totally unmotovated they were against USC. If I didnt know better – I thought they may be laying down for that game. Something is still amiss with this team. I would start Hendrix and rotate Golson in for the remainder of the year to get them acclimated to the system and get playing time now.

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  13. scav 8 years ago

    I think I’ve figured out the whole QB thing. Kelly is going to keep playing Rees so Gunner Keil will commit. Gunner is thinking I can play a lot better than this Rees. You notice that Hendrix hasn’t played since Keil de-committed.

    All kidding aside, there has to be something in practice we do not see to keep Rees at QB. I will trust Kelly and see what happens.

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    1. Ping7Fe 8 years ago

      I agree. There must be something that we don’t know.

      Kelly must question the other quarterback’s ability to pull out a win. Hendrix must not be totally ready. I think Kelly knows he can squeek by with Reese. How would ND fans react if Kelly started Crist and they lose the game? We would be all over him.

      The problem is, if you are going to start Hendrix/Golson next year, they need some playing time this year. We can’t expect a first year quarterback to go through that kind of a schedule. Do you sacrifice losses this year for experience?

      I have faith Kelly is making the right decisions. I would like to assume he knows what he’s doing.

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      1. joey d 8 years ago

        Maybe I’m missing something here…but what games has Tommy Rees affected that much this year that ND would have lost without him as the QB. He’s a frickin turnover machine. If the offensive line was the same as the one that Clausen had to deal with, every QB on the roster would have played already this year. Please stop giving Rees so much credit. He’s a below average QB that can’t throw. Without Gray, Wood, and the line this offense would be miserable to watch!

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  14. Chi-town Copper 8 years ago

    Did BK recruit both Hendrix and Tommy Reese in the same class? If so, and if Hendrix has more talent, i dont understand why he didnt just put him in from the begining. We have seen a number of cases such as the Matt LoVecchio/Carlisle Holiday experiment where i believe LoVecchio had been the starter with more experience but in the name of the “future” Holiday started to see more playing time and eventually took over for LoVecchio causing his later transfer to Indiana. I could be wrong but thats how i remember it. Holiday got put in the mix early, so why not Hendrix? I know it was totally different coaching regimes but still. No matter how bad this is i think its not as bad as past teams where our O-Line was giving up record sacks/we had no impact players on D during the Weis era, or surviving the QB carousel during the Davie/Willingham (pre-Quinn) when there was no hope of a offensive passing score in sight. At least it appears we have some talent in the wings and on the field right now

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    1. Wake up the echoes 8 years ago

      Hendrix is a Freshman who enrolled early, Tommy is a sophomore.

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      1. Irishfan 8 years ago

        Not true. Hendrix is a sophomore. Rees is a sophomore who enrolled early so he had an extra spring to get ready. I would think Hendrix should be close to being ready now, though. He was the scout team QB last season and moved to the #2 QB after Crist got hurt.

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  15. SteelFanRob 8 years ago

    Who exactly has said that BK is a bad coach? Has he made some boneheaded decisions? Sure. But that doesn’t mean he’s incompetent. I don’t know of anyone here calling for BK’s head.

    Yes, BK’s the coach at ND. That means he’s getting paid the big bucks that comes along with having a rabid fan base that has strong opinions and thoughts of their own. No one forced BK to take the ND job nor did he take it not knowing what he was getting himself into. So stop feeling sorry for BK!

    What about if BK continues to play favorites and keeps TR as the starter next year and TR continues to turn the ball over. What if ND goes 7-6 or 8-5 again next season with no palpable sense of improvement? What then? Will you still keep quiet?

    I agree that BK needs for to 5 years. He’s only in year 2. He has time. But time is a luxury that eventually runs out!

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    1. Shazamrock 8 years ago

      SRF,

      You make some great points.

      I especially like your “what if” about next season.

      7-6 or 8-5.

      Knowing who we are losing(graduation / NFL) after this year, and the young guys coming back, 7-6 , 8-5 could well be very accurate.

      When I look at next years schedule:
      (open the season at Navy,then Purdue, Mich.St. Michigan, miami, Stanford, BYU, Oklahoma, PITT, BC, WF, & USC)

      8-4 agianst that schedule just might be considered a GOOD season.

      BK better light a fire under their asses because it isn’t going to get any easier.

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      1. SteelFanRob 8 years ago

        Shaz,

        Noticed that I qualified the final record by also saying lack of perceived progress. ND could go 8-5 but be in it every week and that would certainly be progress given the schedule we play next season. I think next season is more about over-all progress and less about the final record (assuming it’s at least as a winning record, of course).

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      2. JDH 8 years ago

        I agree with SFR and Shaz. BK needs a full cycle, but we need to see HE is learning from his mistakes as well. The best leaders always do.

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    2. irisheye62 8 years ago

      Steel Fan Rob–As usual you are right again. BK will have us up -I hope. With all due respect to people who know more about the game than I, just WHY doesn’t BK call more running? And–if our defense is billed as “awesome” why did USC run through us and Wake ( which is no gimme) have their way for a while? This team appears to be so close to being “plugged in” However, we need an extension cord. Bad analogy but you get the idea. Go Irish–

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