Initial Impressions – Notre Dame 27, Tulsa 28

Wow.  I don’t think anyone imagined 11 months ago when Brian Kelly was hired that we’d be discussing back to back losses to Navy and Tulsa, but after an ill-advised decision to throw the football in the final seconds, that is exactly where we’re at.  Here are some initial thoughts on the game.


  • Despite the interceptions, Tommy Rees played about as well as could have been expected.  Freshmen are going to make freshmen mistakes and that’s what his final interception was.  He could have had a huge boost to his confidence if the Irish pulled this one out, but now he’ll have two weeks to think about that last interception.  Still, 300+ yards and 4 touchdowns off the bench was solid.   The 4 touchdowns
  • Back to the final play.  With a solid field goal kicker and a true freshman quarterback, a play like that just shouldn’t happen.  If you are going to call a pass there, fine, explain to the QB during the timeout that he can only make the pass if the receiver is WIDE open.  If not, throw the ball away and play for the field goal.  Just a really, really bad call there.  Kelly is going to receive a lot of much deserved criticism for this call over the next two weeks and during the off-season if this game ultimately costs Notre Dame the chance to go to a bowl.
  • Very tough break for Dayne Crist.  Almost a year to the day from his ACL injury he suffers another major knee injury to his other knee.  He had a lot of ups and downs in his first season as the starter, but missing the final 3 games is going to hurt his development quite a bit.
  • Offensive line got little push in the running game.  There just wasn’t anywhere for Cierre Wood to go with the football most of the time.  Pass protection was solid though.
  • Very rough game for John Goodman.  Multiple drops early on and a muffed punt.  Roby Toma came in and played well in relief of Goodman and looks like he could be a promising wide receiver in this offense.  Toma ended up with 4 catches for 67 yards.
  • TJ Jones had a quiet game and is looking more like a freshman after his fast start.
  • Up and down game for Tyler Eifert.  He had a very critical drop on 3rd and 5 in the fourth quarter, but came up with a few nice grabs and blocked well.
  • The offense continues to be its own worst enemy.  They move well at times and then end drives with drops, missed receivers, penalties, etc.
  • Notre Dame converted just 3 out of 14 third downs throughout the game.  It’s tough to win any game with that low of a success rate on third down.
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  • After a very rough start to the game, the defense settled in an kept Tulsa off the scoreboard until their last field goal.  Of the 28 points allowed today, 15 of them were given up by the offense and special teams.
  • Despite the overall solid performance by the defense, Notre Dame’s lack os speed on defense was again evident.  That isn’t something that will be fixed overnight either.  It’s going to take a couple recruiting cycles before the speed on defense is at a high level.
  • Notre Dame recorded 6 sacks with Darius Fleming and Ethan Johnson recording 2 of them.  Kerry Neal and Brian Smith each chipped in one as well.  Nice to see some production out of the outside linebackers.
  • Chuck Martin needs to have the defensive backs practice catching drills all week.  Notre Dame has it’s hands on a couple interceptions that fell to the ground today.
  • Ian Williams was missed in the middle of the defensive line.  Sean Cywar filled in admirably, but without Williams in the middle the Irish got very little push up the middle against the Tulsa running game.
  • Kona Schwenke recorded a fumble recovery in his first action, but didn’t record a tackle.  It doesn’t say a whole lot for the other reserve defensive end son the roster, however, that Schwenke was in the game as an undersized true freshman.
  • Robert Blanton got juked out of his cleats on the first Tulsa touchdown, but after that he responded with a nice game.  He blew up a screen pass and played well the rest of the game.

Special Teams

  • This might have been the worst game for the special teams all year – a blocked PAT returned for 2 points, a punt return touchdown allowed, and a muffed punt.  Yikes.  Add in Turk’s booming punt through the end zone when a pooch punt was needed and it equals a very poor showing.
  • Kick return blocking was weak again this week.  Bennett Jackson had a nice return, but overall there weren’t many lanes for Jackson.
  • Notre Dame came in to the game as the best punt coverage unit in the country and then gave up the 59 yard return to Damarius Johnson.

This loss is going to sting for a while and the bye week couldn’t come at a better time.  Notre Dame needs to take these next two weeks to get healthy and regroup.  Getting to a bowl game is going to take a win against either Utah or USC now and after the last two weeks, neither look too likely at this point.  The coaches are going to need to spend some extra time working the phones to keep this recruiting class together as well because it’s going to be open season on commits by opposing coaches after this.

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  1. phil 5 years ago

    Outplayed. Out-coached. Outclassed.

    Keep making excuses.

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  2. SteelFanRob 9 years ago


    Thanks for the helpful link to past recruiting. Over all, I think we agree that coaching up talent is more important than simple recruiting stats. Some of us (I plead guilty) perhaps get too caught up in that from time to time.


    Glad you brought up B. Smith’s play this past weekend. If you’re going to bash someone when they play poorly, then it’s only fair to praise them when they play well. My question to you, power, do we have a ILB controversy in S. Bend now that Calabrese is apparently healthy. Who do you start? At least this gives BK some options along the front 7. My guess is both Smith and Calabrese will play a lot given the Army option attack.

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    1. nd forever 9 years ago

      Kelly said today that Calabrese will play a lot. He did not say who would be the starter.I think it makes for a good rotation.Callabrese may not be as fast but he can read pretty well and he can finish.I thought Smith really did play well and he has a lot of talent, lets hope Kelly got a lot of his bad habits out.

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      1. Power run the ball 9 years ago

        I love the lunch pail mentality of Calabrese.. But when u watch the navy game he got caught in the wash to often and was one of the many reason that the Fullback rushed 4- 206 yrds virtually untouched. Brian Smith is a Senior and Calabrese is a Soph. Smith at the outside position lost his assignment way to often but playing the inside lb position he seemed to make play after play… For me it is no question i start the senior Brian Smith at the inside LB position and if he misses multiple assignment throughout the game I will have the soph to replace him…. C

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  3. Power run the ball 9 years ago

    I am suprise that there hasn’t been comments on how well Brian Smith played at the Inside LB position… I know we can’t get out of our heads the many blown assignment which led to big plays, but I thought he looked good on the inside; especially against a run heavy team… . He did run inside a block on the shovel pass but was able to run down the Running Back… Calobrese would have never got there and against a faster runner Smith was beat but against Utah he really showed up. Maybe the Jolt the defense needed along with Shembo to help Teo out….

    He might be playing with a little bit of a chip on his shoulder since his playing time has decreased this season like CAV mentioned above..

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    1. TexasIrish 9 years ago

      Calabrese would have never got there? They are roughly the same speed. But my guess is Calabrese would bave run over the blocker on the way there. I do agree that smith played a good game this week though. He plays well in space on the outside at times, but makes a lot of mistakes keeping the play contained.

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  4. irisheye62 9 years ago

    OK I’ve heard about beat Army or USC or both. Good.
    Say —we end up 6-6 –not assuming ANYTHING!
    If we do, I ‘ve heard—-play the MAC Champ in Michigan in the dome there.
    Hey,it’s more practice and extension and all.
    Recruting power?
    I don’t know.
    But -as some have said, it is playing for next season.
    So—not assuming anything but a win on prime time in NYC would be great.
    And btw, maybe–hopefully the USC factor is turning the tide not to maroon and gold but to blue, green and gold. Maybe?
    Anyone? MAC CHAMP??
    Better than nothing. (* yes-we have to win FIRST) RSVP

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  5. SteelfanRob 9 years ago

    Pretswood and Lynch just committed to FSU. I still think we can get these guys back (assuming BK wants them back) by finishing the season strong and winning a bowl game. Plus I think FSU might struggle at the end.

    Here’s another interesting possibility. Several projections have a 7-5 ND team playing FSU in the Citrus Bowl. Makes you wonder what could happen here if ND pulls an upset there.

    But, like I say, one thing at a time. Beat Army. Then worry about USC. Then worry about a bowl game and recruiting.

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    1. joey d 9 years ago

      Tell Lynch and his mother to come back to South Bend and clean up the mess they made by throwing grampa’s ashes all over the campus. I couldn’t believe the kid actually says they did that, then turns tail and runs to FSU. See ya later nut-case!!

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  6. Irish Thunder 9 years ago

    What are you guys hearing in regard to recruit Cam McDaniel, TX? Sounds like a great prospect at RB, WR or DB.

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  7. Power run the ball 9 years ago

    I agree with all four points and strongly agree with the Weis favorite comments…
    I do hope the Junior Jonas does gets more of an opportunity…

    Weis blamed Jonas for the Michigan loss when he and Claussen fumbled the exchange. Not totally Jonas fault and then never got an opportunity after that… Kelly was giving Jonas a chance but then unfortunately Jonas got hurt and now he seems committed to developing Cierre which I am happy about, but I just wish he would platoon Jonas in so he can develop both…

    Jonas with the least opportunity has had the biggest results and that is a player who hasn’t gotten a chance to fully learn the speed and sharpen his skills at the college elite level….

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    1. ted 9 years ago

      jonas has always had a chasse, but i thought he was around 200, not 230. he looked huge! why not a dual threat kelly?

      btw, jonas’ scamper that came up short of the goal line had me thinking. other than wood in the western mich game, when was the last time a rb had a 25+ yard run for a td? this needs to change.

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