Initial Impressions – Notre Dame 27, Army 3

Notre Dame became bowl eligible with a dominating defensive performance in the inaugural football game in Yankee Stadium Saturday night.  The Irish defense led the way for the second week in a row  as Notre Dame rolled to a 27-3 victory.

Here are some thoughts on the game.

Offense

  • Tommy Rees wasn’t asked to do too much tonight, but what he was asked to do, he did fairly well.  Outside of his first quarter interception, which was a bad throw and decision, Rees played well in his second career start.  He showed nice touch on his down field passes to Tyler Eifert and at times showed some zip we hadn’t seen out of him yet.
  • Brian Kelly deserves a lot of credit for having a true freshman as ready to play as Rees has been the past two weeks.  Kelly has also done a great job devising a game plan that hasn’t required Rees to do to much as well.
  • Tyler Eifert has his best game since taking over the injured Kyle Rudolph.  He caught 4 passes for a career high 78 yards and came up about a yard shy of having 2 touchdowns in the game.    Eifert also drew some praise from Mike Mayock for his blocking during the telecast.
  • Cierre Wood might be the most improved player on the offensive side of the ball this year.  He is making better decisions with the ball in his hands and ran with more power and authority against Army than he had all season.  Wood ended up with 88 yards on just 14 carries.
  • Robby Toma continues to impress and could end up playing himself into a more prominent role in the offense in 2011.  The sophomore from Hawaii hauled in 4 passes for 63 yards.
  • Michael Floyd had a quiet game with just 3 catches, but that had more to do with Notre Dame employing a run first attack.
  • TJ Jones played sparingly leaving the Irish thin at receiver.  Notre Dame will need a healthy Jones next week against USC.
  • Robert Hughes had a nice game before his 4th quarter fumble which I’m sure he’ll hear about during film sessions this week.
  • John Goodman appears to be at the bottom of the wide receiver rotation at this point.  Even with an injured receiving corps, Goodman didn’t see much of the field other than in punt returning capacities (more on that later).

Defense

  • Wow.  Who saw Notre Dame completely shutting down Army’s option attack after the clinic Navy put on last month?  Just a flat out dominant performance for the Irish defense for the second week in a row.
  • Even Army’s first drive when they gained most of their yards, they needed 17 plays to go 78 yards and only put 3 points on the board.
  • After that first drive, Army manage just 3 first downs the rest of the game.
  • Army gained a meager 174 yards of offense.  Heading into Saturday Army’s season low in rushing yards was 233 yards – they gained 59 fewer total yards than that this week.
  • Army’s Trent Steelman completed as many passes, 2, to Notre Dame defenders as he did to his own receivers.  Darrin Walls and Brian Smith both picked off Steelman with Walls scoring Notre Dame’s first defensive touchdown since Robert Blanton’s pick 6 against Purdue in 2008.
  • Harrison Smith got off to a slow start, but ended up having a really good game.  Notre Dame let him room free with 10 men in the box and he helped contain the pitch man well after the first drive.
  • Anthony McDonald made a heck of a play in the 4th quarter when he shed a blocker, made the stop, stripped the runner, and recovered the ball, but the refs ruled the runner down even though it wasn’t even close.  It won’t go down in the stat sheet, but I’m sure McDonald will get credit for it during film sessions this week.
  • Gary Gray had another good game this week.  The game plan this week left Gray and Walls on an island with the receiver they were covering and both responded well.
  • The entire defensive line played monumentally better than they did against Navy.  Sean Cwynar and Kapron Lewis-Moore especially played well.
  • Since the Navy game, the Notre Dame defense has given up just 1 touchdown in 3 games.  Considering where this defense was last year and even last month, that is a remarkable improvement.  Props to Bob Diaco, Kerry Cooks, Mike Elston, and Chuck Martin for fixing their approach this week and having this defense playing it’s best football at the end of the season.
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Special Teams

  • David Ruffer continues to impress connecting on both of his field goal attempts including a 47 yarder.  Ruffer is now 15 for 15 this season and 20 for 20 in his career.
  • John Goodman had a few opportunities for some return yardage on punts, but he was shut down pretty well by Army.  He has been a sure handed return man, but Notre Dame needs to start getting more yards in the return game.
  • Ben Turk didn’t have to do much but he did have a 49 yard punt and 2 punts inside the 20.

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76 comments

  1. Kevin Joyce 9 years ago

    As an Army- 101st Airborne Division Vet, I was proud to see Army wearing the 101st patch on their jerseys. The 101 is taking many casualties in Afghanistan. I hope we can beat USC tonite. It will be a sinature win and may help the Irish get to a better bowl game.Next to ND, I always root for the service academies. These young men and women are the real heroes. Putting themselves on the line so we could be free.

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    1. IrishChan 9 years ago

      I’ll second that!

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  2. nd forever 9 years ago

    I want people to remember this name Cameron Roberson.He was listed as a fb from Superprep last year and signed with ND.He rushed for 1500 yards and 18 tds in California.Brian Kelly pionted him out as one of the freshman that has impressed him.He is 6-1 215 and I looked at highlight reels, he does not look stiff.Not sure why he was recruited to play fb he ran a 4.48 40(according to superprep).So we might have more depth then we think right now it’s just that we havn’t seen this kid play.With Kelly he will lean him up and make hime faster and I believe turn him into a good back.I believe recruiting rankings are overrated.Kelly said it himself his strength is developing young men and believe that is what he is doing, he will get the most out of his players and eventually that top recruits will come to play fora championship.I’m not trying to sound overly optimistic about a couple of wins, but with as many injuries as ND has had they are better now then they were when all the players were healthy, that shows a good coach who builds players.GO IRISH

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    1. DocBinge79 9 years ago

      I am agree 100%. Cam has been forgotten by everyone (except perhaps by Justice Hayes) and will be working his way into the “next guy in” rotation next year.

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  3. JC 9 years ago

    USC 7 ND 28

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    1. irisheye62 9 years ago

      I hope you are right–
      I hope you are right
      I hope you are right—-

      Irish!!!!!!!!!!!!

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    2. ted 9 years ago

      i like your style…how about we keep the defensive td streak alive and win going ahead

      31-9

      nothing like starting the kelly-era with a trojan a** pounding…this is best case scenerio, but hey, stranger things have happened

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  4. SteelFanRob 9 years ago

    Just lost another recruit. RB Justice Hayes has committed to Michigan. That makes landing Savon Huggins even bigger. Huggins is rated higher than Hayes. Anyone have any news about what Huggins and Ishaq Williams thought about their ND experience on Sat. night? (That damned loss to Tulsa seems to have screwed up this recruiting class. Let’s hope beating USC and winning a bowl game can salvage it.)

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    1. Cav 9 years ago

      I read that he was late for his unoffical visit and when the staff didn’t treat him like a king, he soured on ND. Also heard that his step-father wanted him to go to Michigan all along.

      All 4 who have de-committed never seemed to be committed in the first place. Burton wanted Florida all along, Lynch was wavering as well before making the decision.

      I don’t think the Tulsa game had anything to do with it. The kids in Florida were getting hit hard by the Florida schools 24/7. Hard to compete with in-state schools. Any doubt that came from the Tulsa game would have been erased by the Utah and Army game.

      We need a great performance against USC to show that this team is heading in the right direction. A win against USC and a bowl win will do wonders before the Feb signing day. I think we have a great shot at Huggins, especially since ND is running the ball more.

      I still believe that this will be a Top 10 class when it’s all said and done.

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      1. SteelFanRob 9 years ago

        Cav,

        How does ND stop the Florida schools from doing this every recruiting cycle? One easy answer is winning. It’s no coincidence we lost so many recruits after the Tulsa loss. That was a bad one, Cav, both in the final score and on the recruiting score board as well.

        Totally agree with the rest of your post, which pretty much agrees with what I just wrote above and have been saying for a while — winning will save this recruiting class. Get Huggins, Williams, and make a pitch for Lynch and Prestwood (if both ND and the players are ready to listen to each other). Screw FSU!

        Cav,in 2012, a starting D line of Lynch, Nix, and Tuitt would look very good.

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  5. IrishChan 9 years ago

    What in the piss is going on?!

    Matt James falls to his death while on Spring break…

    Declan Sullivan falls to his death while filming practice…

    NOW… “An investigation is underway into the suicide death of a Saint Mary’s College student, who may have been sexually assaulted ten days before by a Notre Dame football player”.

    http://www.wndu.com/sports/headlines/Chicago_Tribune_SMC_student_committed_suicide_after_reporting_ND_football_player_sexually_assaulted_her_109713604.html

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  6. The Piper 9 years ago

    Amazing how things change in 1 year….

    Last year we lost on the last play to a USC team that had Joe McKnight (a 1000yd rusher), Anthony McCoy at TE, Damian Williams at WR, Everson Griffen at DT, All Everything Taylor Mays, as well as an experienced OL. They also had Johnny Morton, Rocky Seto, and Super Bowl champ Ken Norton on the coaching staff and a sideline filled with Hollywood heavyweights.

    Throw in that Head Coach Pete Carroll rolled into ND in ’09 having won 79 of 89 games, 2 nat’l titles, and 6 of 7 newyearsday bowls, and it was hard to see how we’d compete.

    At that point, USC had a bowl game, Pac-10 title, and even potential natl championship to play for.

    Well it now appears that they’ve lost Barkley (we’ll see) to an injury, Galippo has 22 tackles total, the OL is thinner than a piece of toilet paper, their defense is allowing 415yds/game, and they’re being coached by an also-ran in Kiffin.

    At this point they have little to play for besides pride, and we saw with Stanford in ’09, and OregSt this year, that when they’re only playing for pride, they basically pack it in.

    THIS USC TEAM IS BEATABLE. Our boys are playing good, hard, smart football. They’re playing their best defense since early ’02.

    Let’s get to em early and often. Seniors: this is your legacy. This is yours. TAKE IT.

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    1. nd forever 9 years ago

      Piper,
      Totally agree with you, punch them in the mouth and see how they respond.I always say a team takes resembles the head coach, if that’s the case then USC fill fold.The key will be hit them early and often let them know we are the Fighting Irish and that they are a contraceptive.More then any other team I hate U$C, I grew up in southern california and hated them then.GO Irish beat the condoms.

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      1. JDH 9 years ago

        There is even more to hate about USC now, because Kiffin is the coach.

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  7. Chi-town Copper 9 years ago

    If we beat an unranked USC team without Matt Barkley is it still payback or a quality win? Mitch Mustain was pretty decent at Arkansas and they stil have alot of talent

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    1. SteelFanRob 9 years ago

      Chi-town Copper,

      You bet it’s payback and a quality win. It’s USC! You better bet ND’s going to get SC’s best effort on Sat. night. Not only is it SC’s finale and bowl game, but that scumbag Lane Kiffin knows he can’t afford to start his USC-ND rivalry with a loss. Not with his reputation, at least. Expect SC to play hard and fast. Hopefully, ND can hang in there and win at the end somehow.

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      1. irisheye62 9 years ago

        lane Kiffin and pete the cheat carroll are two peas in a pod–one point win is good enough
        just do it Irish

        BTW-I did NOT know that the good folks in the administration in South Bend accomodated USC some years back by switching the home game for the Irish in the series to October and, thus, making it “better” for usc ? really? I say–SWITCH IT AND PRAY FOR COLD AND FREEZING AND SNOW–in Nov. If no switching light candles in the grotto and pray for Freezing rain ( not for the good travelers of course) and give the university of spoiled children frost bite, the poor dears.

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    2. DeltaIrish 9 years ago

      Allow me to ponder the depths of your query……hmmm…interesting. My response: HELL YES! IS’S SC, THE ANTIIRISH, ANY WIN IS A QUALITY WIN!

      (As to the implication that SC being unranked and possibly not having Barkley somehow impacting the “quality” of a victory….not buying it. ND is unranked as well. And without our starting QB, NT, inside backer, RB, slot receiver and TE. Sounds more than fair.)

      GO IRISH

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    3. NDFan 9 years ago

      @Chi-town Copper
      Mustain was only good at Arkansas because his backfield consisted of Darren Mcfadden, Felix Jones and Peyton Hillis. The USC win would be nice, a dominating win would be awsome.

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    4. teo 9 years ago

      If we beat SC, it would be a huge win for the program. I don’t care who their quarterback is. It’s Southern Cal. It’s an archrival. It’s a very accomplished program that has beaten us for the whole decade.

      Regardless, we need that W. Let’s go get it.

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  8. ted 9 years ago

    i think this game will come down to who shows up for usc. part of the usc ‘swagger’ the past decade was arrogance. the same arrogance might cause the team to fold and phone it in. but, what do i know?

    kelly will pull out all the stops for this one. i think he learned his lesson re true freshman qb hucking it 49 times and they will run it… but when he does air it out look for play-action and trickeration, like a goodman wr-screen pass, or mabe even floyd, does anyone know if he has an arm? flee-flicker or anything else he has up his sleeve.

    with all the crap this team has been through this year a win would really shut people up, let alone a blow-out.

    GO IRISH! BEAT USC!

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  9. JDH 9 years ago

    Does anyone know the likelihood of Allen and Riddick playing against USC?

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    1. jack 9 years ago

      Allen is out for the season, Riddick may be cleared to play.

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  10. tommyg 9 years ago

    Can’t agree totally that Cierre Wood is playing really well.
    He can’t seem to shake or break tackles, the way Armando was earlier this year. Wood is the future back, but he needs to be much stronger and tougher to take down.

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    1. Power run the ball 9 years ago

      I agree.

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  11. Power run the ball 9 years ago

    USC will be tough.
    We will have to lean heavy on our defense…

    Reese has played well for a TRUE FRESHMAN but he is only a fresh who does struggle at times with some easy pass… He will need to play his best game versus a faster and better D in USC…

    I watch the first half of the purdue game last night and ND really looked good with Crist, Rudolph, AA, Tailer Jones, riddick, Ian williams and company the offense ran the ball almost every other play and the defense played well to.. The only big issue was the Crist overthrow of Rudolph in the endzone…Do u remember those days….

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  12. IrishGer 9 years ago

    I really can’t stand when people complain about a special play being called when a team is up…

    A reverse is a running play for goodness sake. It wasn’t like a hook and ladder or something…

    A football play is a football play. Are they supposed to run it for the first time with a frosh QB against USC?

    27-3 isn’t enough of a beating to let up. If they get up by three TD’s against USC, I definitely don’t want them to hang back.

    I agree that you have to have some grace when you are up big, but you have to admit that the way the BCS & AP rankings work, you are judged alot by the points you put up against strengths.

    Let us also not forget that Army gave a pretty good beating to airforce and tulane.

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  13. IrishChan 9 years ago

    BRING ON USC! They have not defended the Spread well at all this year….

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  14. IrishChan 9 years ago

    Green Jerseys… I liked em!

    How much fun was it for me to watch the defense play within themselves. The coaching staff made some crucial changes to the game plan after Army’s first possession and absolutely took the pitch man out of the game.

    Last year after Kelly was named CW successor I looked for as much info as I could about Kellys offense. I had read that early in his coaching career that he had used a “smash-mouth” kinda of spread offense. He tended to run the ball more than he passed. As his QB’s began became more talented as his coaching career ascended he began throwing the ball more.

    Early this season I (as well as a few of you) critized Kelly for NOT running the ball at all. Well, the last two games Kelly seems to be falling back on his earlier days of coaching and knows that he may have one of the more talented group of backs in the country.

    I was really happy to see that 3 of our backs were used consistently throughout the game.

    Reese played well and certainly showed that he can put some heat on the ball as well as some touch. I will say, I hope that as he improves that Kelly remembers how much success we have had BECAUSE of the running game.

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