Report Card, Championship Edition

Nov. 10, 2012; Boston, MA, USA; Notre Dame Fighting Irish quarterback Everett Golson (5) shakes hands after Notre Dame defeated the Boston College Eagles 21-6 at Alumni Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Matt Cashore-USA TODAY Sports

In just a little under a month’s time the Fighting Irish will take the field for the last time as the collective group that Notre Dame fans have come to know over the 2012 season.  By now the whole world knows that Notre Dame and Alabama will square off in the BCS National Title Game in South Florida on January 7th. If you have paid attention to any of the media outlets and Vegas, then you also know that the Irish are almost a 7 point underdog. While this is nothing new to the Irish team and their fans, we wanted to take a deeper look at the Irish and see what we are missing that has caused them to be depicted in the role of “David” and why most of the “experts” have decided that Alabama has all but already sealed their 3 rd national title in four years. We will focus on the players who might have the biggest impact in the game for the Irish.


Everett Golson – Obviously Irish fans have witnessed the metamorphosis of Everett Golson over the year and watched a teenager turn into a young man and leader over the course of 4 months. That’s not to say that he has hit the apex of his ability or knowledge of the game, but he has made massive strides over the course of the season. The young Irish quarterback has grown into a leader with the ability to control his emotions and make better decisions. He ended the season throwing for over 2100 yards, 11 touchdowns, and just 5 interceptions. He completed almost 60% of his passes and also rushed for over 300 yards and 5 touchdowns on the ground. As the year progressed Golson has learned how to read defenses better and run through his progressions in a much quicker pace. He still will make the errant throw occasionally, and tends to have happy feet a little too often.

Golson will cause problems for the Alabama defense in a couple of ways. He can throw deep against an average Tide secondary and he has the ability to create space in the pocket and allow his receivers the luxury of getting open. He can also pull the ball down and get that first down when needed, which can be extremely frustrating for a defense. If the Irish QB maintains his composure and limits his turnovers, he can slowly wear the Bama defensive front seven down over the course of 4 quarters, and allow the Irish running attack to become a true weapon late in the game. His main focus through the air will be Eifert and Riddick, but he also needs to utilize the rest of his weapons on the field.

Notre Dame QB Ian Book Sounding Very Confident Heading Into Clemson Rematch

Could also have an impact – Tommy Rees


Theo Riddick – As much as Irish fans have enjoyed watching their quarterback transform, they have equally enjoyed watching their star running back do the exact same thing.  Theo has turned into a punishing bruiser and a back who will fight for the extra yard while making sure the ball is secure. Not only has he turned into a pure force behind the line of scrimmage for the Irish, he has become a true weapon through the air. He rushed for almost 900 yards on the season and had 35 receptions for 350 yards and a total of 6 touchdowns. He is extremely versatile and Kelly and staff will rely on him greatly throughout the game.  He is going to face a front seven in Alabama that he has not faced this year and it will be interesting to see how effective he can be. How Theo goes will have a big role in how the Irish go, and either way we are excited to see what he can do against what most consider one of the top defensive front seven in the nation.

Cierre Wood – Wood has seen the coaching staff use his talent less in the 2nd half of the season, but that doesn’t mean that he is a forgotten man on the sidelines. He shares time in the backfield with the afore-mentioned Riddick and Atkinson. His best game of the year came against a weaker Wake Forest team when he rushed for 150 yards on just 11 carries. He saw the ball only 8 times in the Irish season finale at USC, but he will be called upon to switch paces against Bama as he tends to be more of speed and finesse back.  He is not nearly the receiver out of the backfield that Riddick is, but Irish fans know that he is one of the reasons they finished undefeated. The season didn’t start well for Wood as he was suspended for the first 2 games of the year, but it will be the last game of the year in which he could make his biggest impact.

Could also have an impact –George Atkinson III


Tyler Eifert – What’s left to be said about one of the best receivers’ in the country and one of the best tight ends to ever put an Irish uniform on. The winner of the 2012 Mackey Award should give Alabama fits if the Irish coaching staff use him properly, and will be faster and quicker than any linebacker Saban will attempt to cover him with. Chances are Eifert will be double teamed most of the evening, but with his size and hands he should still have a major impact in the game. If the Alabama defense does make it a point to smother him all evening, that will still allow one-on-one routes for the other Irish receivers. That folks is what we consider a win-win situation for the Notre Dame offense as long as everyone comes to play that night. We cannot overstate how important the All American tight end is to the Irish hopes of winning another national championship, and we are sure he understands this completely.

Behind Enemy Lines: A Clemson Insider's Perspective on the Notre Dame Experience

TJ Jones – The young man from Roswell, GA and son of former Irish great Andre Jones has emerged this season as a very capable receiver and a go-to player in crunch time.  Jones ended the season with 43 catches and just over 550 yards. While his stats may not seem overly impressive, any Irish fan will tell you that he was on the receiving end of some of the biggest completions all year long. Jones is slowly showing signs of being a number one target, and should be a lot of fun to watch in 2013. The Junior wide-out will have all the opportunity in the world to make his mark on this game for the Irish and as mentioned before, with Eifert most likely being tag-teamed and someone having to cover Riddick out of the back, it should leave TJ in man coverage all night. If TJ plays like he is capable of on the night of January 7 th, Irish fans just might have a reason to smile all night long

Grade B+
Could also have an impact – Chris Brown


Not considered a strength in the beginning of the season, the Notre Dame offensive line has galvanized as the season progressed and now truly act as a unit on the field, rather than individuals playing a game. Harry Hiestand has done a good job of overcoming some injuries with this group and continued to coach them up all year. It all starts with Cave, who has had a nice year and trickles out to Watt, Golic Jr. Martin, and Lombard. There have been some protection problems throughout the year, and some false start issues(yes – we are looking at you Golic) but overall the group has done a good job of adapting from a pocket passer in Tommy Rees, to the dual threat of Everett Golson. When you have a QB who is nimble and can move all over the pocket in a blink of an eye, it can make a linemen’s job that much more difficult and this unit has finally started to understand that. They will have the uneasy task of trying to keep Jesse Williams, CJ Mosley, Damien Square and Nico Johnson out of the Irish backfield all night. What the Irish have going for them is the same thing Texas A&M had going for them in their win over the Crimson Tide – mobility.  If the Irish offensive line can give Golson time to read his routes, and create, it could make for a tough night for the Crimson Tide front seven.

Brian Kelly's Emphasis On Traits Comes Into Focus For Notre Dame

Grade B+

Next week, we’ll take a look at the defense…


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  1. JDH:

    You, sir, are a true theologian and a gentleman!

    With your indulgence (get it?!) and given my harshness towards “Buckeye,” I’ll double my penance. ;)

  2. BTW: For the record, in reality, only Brazil has more international soccer titles at the national team levels than Argentina does. In fact, Argentina’s 6 Under-20 FIFA World Cups is more than any other team at any other level of play. If you add club level titles, then Argentina has more soccer titles than even Brazil does. Just a bit of international sporting trivia.

  3. But, Evan, the US doesn’t suck at ice hockey, does it? The US in ice hockey is much better than Canada is in basketball. The US is to ice hockey what Argentina is to soccer. Canada is to ice hockey what Italy is to soccer. the USSR/Russia is to ice hockey what Brazil is to soccer. (I’m basing these analogies on international titles won by these nations in the respective sports I mention.) It’s not even close,Evan, to compare Canadian basketball to US ice hockey. Canadian basketball is like soccer in some Central American country.

    It’s very dangerous to insult or minimize the national teams of a country, Evan. Sports, national colors, flags, and anthems all get mixed in together in the international sporting arenas. Thus, it’s disingenuous to intimate otherwise, Evan.

    It’s like insulting ND football and saying it has nothing to do against ND. That’s disingenuous. Those who hate ND football also tend to hate ND period. In fact, Evan, do some reading on other sites, and you’ll see that those who hate ND football not only also hate ND but hate the Catholic Church. A lot of anti-Catholic bigotry hides behind the comments of ND haters. It’s hard to disentangle all of that.

    But, enough. Let’s just drop this topic since it can accomplish nothing but breed division. You say you’re an ND fan. That’s enough for me

  4. Evan,

    Read above: USA won, nobody cares.. well everybody outside the USA doesnt care.. its a feel good moment, movie type slow clap.. a rah rah moment.. Sounds pretty insulting to Americans, but let’s move on.

    Having said that, I’m sure I’m not the only one who was offended by some of your comments, like the one I cite above, although I may be the only one to say so.

    Sometimes it’s very hard to distinguish international sports competition from nationalism. In fact, FIFA, the IOC, IIHF (International Ice Hockey Federation), and other international sports governing bodies seem to count on it even as they disclaim anything of the sort. (Kind of reminds me of the hypocrisy of the NFL punishing big hits but then marketing the violence of the game in its DVDs and video games.)

    1. Hey if you told me basketball Canada sucked, I would agree, does that make me anti-canadian? hardly… nickelback and justin bieber suck too.. still not anti anything.. just fact or opinions.

      1. Evan,
        And btw, your analysis of the “Miracle on Ice” event, from an historical standpoint, is just plain wrong. It was about much more than a hockey game. Everyone knows the USA wasn’t the best team in the world. But they were the best on the ice that night and the next gold medal game.

        At that point in the history of our country, and the world (i.e. Cold War, Iran hostage crisis etc. etc.) it became much bigger than the sport and game itself.

        I’m assuming you understand this. So, in essence, Americans don’t really care what anyone else think of the “Miracle on Ice”. Nor do we sit around thining about that event on a regular basis. It was what it was. Now, back to football (hopefully)…

  5. JDH:

    Because Evan several posts ago took it upon himself to denigrate the ’80 hockey team and has heaped additional anti-American statements since then. Scroll up a bit and read his obnoxious comments carefully.

    This is a ND site. “God, Country, Notre Dame”, JDH. Just like I won’t put up with some obnoxious troll putting down God, Church, or ND, I won’t suffer a fool to come on here and insult my adopted country.

    Nothing bizarro about defending “God, Country, Notre Dame”!

    1. That wasn’t directed at you SFR- the bizarro world comment I mean. I was trying to describe these boards in general lately. First we have trolls (like Buckeye) coming in and trying to “settle us down” in our euphoria over a 12-0, NC-bound team. Then we have Evan positing pee-pee swinging statements about hockey.

      I find it all very odd, know what I mean?

      @Evan: That’s cool that you’re an ND fan, and we tend to talk about ND football here, not hockey. Make sense?

      1. I know, JDH. I didn’t take it personally. In reality, I just used you to take another cheap shot at Evan. My bad!

        What should my penance be?

  6. You obviously care enough to continue to insult and belittle one of this country’s epic sports victory!

    Back when the NHL was mostly Canadian, your best couldn’t beat the Soviets in several Challenge Cups. You didn’t even win every Canada Cup! The All-Canadian WHA team in ’74 couldn’t beat the Russians. And Canada with its cry-baby team leader Phil Esposito totally lucked out in ’72. So you’ve needed plenty of luck in hockey, pal!

    BTW: Which 2 national teams made the finals of the last Winter Olympics in ice hockey? Who needed OT to win? I guess the US (which has also done very well in many junior championships)is just some lame, backwoods hockey country to you, Evan. You seem to know as little about ice hockey as you do about ND football (given that I’ve yet to read you actually saying anything about ND football!); instead, you prefer to continue to denigrate the US ’80 hockey team.

    You know what, Evan, you’re an anti-American, Canadian troll. You’re no different than Buckeye or Al L., except your hating BS is on a much larger, national scale. “God, Country, Notre Dame!”

    I love hockey, but guess what, Evan, its largely an irrelevant sport world-wide. Much like Canada!

    But I digress….

    1. Troll, ya I have been hanging here for years waiting for the word “hockey”.. and I got it baby!! as far as anti-american, not really no, just when it comes to hockey.. I just hope Canada doesn’t have any “WMD’s” notice the quotations..? are those read as sarcasm? they should be..

      1. If you came to an ND board to talk about hockey, then I don’t know why you don’t talk about ND hockey, which has been very successful of late.

        Fine, for the sake of Christmas charity, I’ll accept that your anit-Americanism is limited to ice hockey. Friendly rivalry and all that. OK. I apologize for my rudeness.

        Being a huge soccer fan as well, I know all about nationalistic passions run amok when it comes to sports.

        Very well, then, Evan. Merry Christmas to you and yours and Happy New Years.

        Go Irish!

  7. I think Davaris Daniels should have been included in the WR section, or at least included in the could also have an impact list.

  8. Shaz,

    For the record the official “national sport” of Canada is lacrosse. What we call “Native Americans” and Canadians call “First Nations” (and don’t get me started on that, since most Native Americans today are the descendants of those who killed off the original primitive peoples of this continent!)invented lacrosse before the Europeans arrived and thus Canadians view it as their “national” pastime (as if most of them were Indians!)

    Ice hockey (like most modern team sports, with the exception of basketball) was invented and codified by the Brits in the 19th c. and then exported the world over with their armies, navies, educators, ministers, and missionaries, as a part of the empire-building and “civilizing mission”.

  9. That’s right, Evan, the ND got “lucky” argument is BS. To clarify, in case you missed it, that was my point! Just like saying the ’80 US hockey team was lucky or that their gold medal was laughable is BS, too.

    It is indeed laughable to call the Irish lucky. Just like it’s laughable to say the US’s win over the Soviets in Lake Placid was laughable. If the Irish beat Bama, then both this year’s ND football team and the ’80 hockey team would be rightly called great teams. Nothing laughable about that!

    Sorry, Canadians, there’s nothing lucky or laughable about the ’80 US hockey team; sorry SEC ND haters, there’s nothing lucky or laughable about this ND football team. Both were/are great teams, with great spirit, great team chemistry, and great coaching.

    Go Irish! Finish this “miracle” season like the ’80 hockey team did — winning it all!

    1. I’ll agree to call the Irish lucky this year is BS, but the 1980 hockey team, well thats hockey, get hot at the right time, 2012 LA kings ring a bell? USA had no business winning that game, hence the tag “miracle on ice”, but again thats hockey, its one game.

      1. “USA had no business winning that game”?

        It won it! It won it fair and square. No ifs, ands, or buts about it, Evan.

        So, get over it!

        USA 4-USSR 3: Greatest international “amateur” (Russians were pros!) ice hockey victory ever!

        If you want luck, Evan, Henderson scoring in the waning moments of the last game of the ’72 Summit Series in Moscow, that was luck. The Soviets totally outplayed the Canadians for most of that series, so much so that Phil Esposito cried like a little girl after the game in Vancouver. “Stop booing us! Geez, guys, we’re doing our best out here! Whaa, whaa, boo-hoo, hoo!”

        But I’m happy the Canadians lucked out and beat the Commies!

      2. Hot goalie always helps, too, a la Jim Craig in 1980.

        USA! USA! USA!!!

        Go Irish! Finish the “miracle” season!

        (BTW Evan: Is any school more worthy of a miracle than the Blessed Virgin’s?)

      3. Get over what? USA won, nobody cares.. well everybody outside the USA doesnt care.. its a feel good moment, movie type slow clap.. a rah rah moment.

        Canadians dont require those in hockey..

        Canada doesnt luck in hockey, they either win or lose, period. We have an expectation, much like USA basketball.

        We are used to winning though, much like the russians, USA hockey is basically meaningless in the the big picture of hockey, you had your moment in 1980, 32 years ago, and nothing since. congrats..

      4. Wait, why are we talking about hockey? Why is there a Canadian on our ND boards telling us what’s what?

        Between Buckeye and this guy things are really getting stranger by the minute.

        Evan, you are right. Canada is better than the USA at hockey. Outstanding job. Now please go to a Tim Horton’s and put on an extra layer. Leave us alone.

  10. Southy,

    Here’s what I think Evan means by “laughable.” And I’ve heard this from Canadians and Europeans when talking about the ’80 Hockey Team. What they mean is usually this: Had those same 2 teams played 100 times, the Russians would’ve beaten the Americans 99 times. We just happened to get lucky that cold night in Lake Placid.

    If the Irish beat the Tide, get used to that kind of logic, people! You’ll hear it over and over again by media pundits and SEC excuse-makers left and right. We’ll hear about how the Irish got lucky and Bama would beat them 9 times out of 10. So on and so on.

    The truth is this. We’ll have to live with it. ND can beat Bama by 2 TDs and somehow the Irish will not deserve the title. This Irish team could go back in time and beat the ’85 Bears and not get any respect. When ND doesn’t win it’s irrelevant; win it does, it’s overrated. So be it!

    Haters do hate really well. It’s just simple logic and hypocrisy they have a problem with!

    Go Irish! Beat Bama!

    1. The ‘Lucky’ BS has already started, I guess the whole season has been ‘luck’..

      It will only get worse when the Irish roll the ‘tide… see what I did there?

  11. I want this shot to beat the best, to be the best. We can beat this team, as long as we stay focused, no mistakes, no penalties. What I love the most is everyone is talking about Alabama, how good this team is, how many First team All Americans on the team, I could care less, because we have our own All Americans as well. Our team has come so far, has risen to every occasion, only one left to take. Being underdogs is good, perfect. Let the world know, come Jan. 7th just how far we’ve come, to be the best. Passion, pride, and someday soon Glory!!!!

  12. to clarify–
    ANY TEAM -ANY DAY- Can be beat -that is-
    ( forgot that part)
    That was not a slam on any one team–just an incomplete thought.
    I’m multi-tasking–sorry men.

    Go Irish

  13. Pete:

    You are RIGHT.
    Alabama is VERY good –but they CAN be beat.
    Any team -any day.
    That is why NOTRE DAME is in this game.
    We have won–EVERY time!

    I’ve watched Bama and the SEC a lot because of Prime Time ( for the most part ) on Sat. Nights. A little MAC football, Big tweleve or ACC then the SEC and VERY late with the Pac 10. It’s all good. But there is NOTHING like the IRISH!
    And yes–to quote your last sentence ” Alabama is very good, but they CAN be beat! Go Irish!” I believe –I Believe, I believe!!!!!

    1. irisheyes62,

      Do you believe in MIRACLES?

      How about “The Miracle on Grass”

      In the words of the Historic 1980 USA Olympic Hockey team head coach, Herb Brooks, to his team before they took the ice agianst the Soviets…

      “You were born to be a player.
      You were meant to be here.
      This is your moment”

      I believe.
      I’ve always believed.

      We are Notre Dame, A Faith based University.

      That’s what we do!


      1. As a Canadian the miracle on ice is laughable. But it does show that anybody can win one game. Even the USA winning a gold in hockey ;) But ND has a lot better chance to win than the USA did that game.


      2. Isn’t Ice Hockey the National sport of Canada?

        Did you know in those same 1980 games, that Canada lost to the very same Soviet Union team 6-4, and wound up finishing 6th overall?

        NO SOUP FOR YOU!

  14. Kelly has to be creative and aggressive with his playcalling. Believe we will see more uptempo and Golson running more. Need to be more productive in the red zone, with scheme, play calling, personnel,etc. Also, this maybe too much to ask for, but would like to see a punt return or kickoff return go the distance. Alabama is very good, but they can be beat. Go Irish!

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