it's a major award
Notre Dame handled last year's Conference USA champs, Rice, with relative ease last Saturday, averaging nine yards per play in a 48-17 win. Everett Golson returned from last season's suspension with a huge performance. What does it mean for this weekend's game? Read on to learn about the ND offense.
Spread, Pro-Style, or Hybrid? Spread-to-pass. This is Brian Kelly's offense, after all. Thanks to Seth, this section now also covers personnel in a handy diagram. Returning starters are highlighted in their team color, the player's bubble is smaller if he hasn't been on the team for three years, and a player's name is in bold if the returning starter at that position is available—in this case, RB Cam McDaniel is in bold because Amir Carlisle, who split starts with McDaniel and a couple other backs in 2013, has moved to the slot (click to embiggen):
As you can see, the Irish have an experienced line, but their skill position players are relatively green, especially when considering Golson wasn't on the team last year.
Basketball on Grass or MANBALL? The Irish ran mostly inside and outside zone, with a little bit of power tossed in to keep the defense off balance. They were at their best running behind the excellent RG/C combo of Christian Lombard and Nick Martin.
Hurry it up or grind it out? Notre Dame plays at a relatively slow pace, especially for a spread; they had an adjusted pace last year of 36.6% compared to the national average, per Bill Connelly. That number is slightly deceiving, as ND usually gets to the line with plenty of time on the play clock, then makes pre-snap adjustments from their formation; they can pick up the pace when it's necessary.
Quarterback Dilithium Level (Scale: 1 [Navarre] to 10 [Denard]): I'll give Everett Golson a solid eight on this scale. He did a stellar job of feeling and avoiding pressure in the pocket, he knew when to bail out and when to just step up, and he scored three touchdowns in the red zone, two on plays that weren't designed to be QB runs. Here's the designed run, a draw they ran a few times successfully:
Golson finished with 58 yards on 11 carries with sacks removed, and a few of those carries were marginal gains when pressure flushed him out of the pocket. Michigan is going to have to be very disciplined when they rush the passer or Golson will make some big plays on his own.
[Hit THE JUMP for the rest of the breakdown.]
This whole sequence—Hoke trying to call a timeout as Gardner barely gets the play off, Gardner scoring, Hoke shrugging—is spectacular; the ever-so-subtle smirk at the end just kills me, though. However, is this even the best GIF of the week? Hit the jump to find out my choice and vote for your favorite.
[JUMP like Funchess on a middle screen]
Stephon Tuitt, All-American defensive end and all-around terrifying human
Notre Dame opened the season with a 28-6 victory over Temple that could've either been much worse or much better, as both sides missed plenty of opportunities to put points on the board. To wit:
- The Irish scored 14 points on a pair of Davaris Daniels TD receptions in the first five minutes of the game, the failed to score a single point on their next three drives, all of which ended in Temple territory.
- Temple, meanwhile, mounted an impressive ten-play drive in the first quarter that ended with a missed 32-yard field goal. Their next drive covered 54 yards in 13 plays, with the final play being—you guessed it—another missed field goal, this one from 43 yards out.
- After finally breaking through and scoring a touchdown to cut ND's lead to 14-6, Temple's extra point was blocked.
- Notre Dame looked to have an easy touchdown when Daniels got behind the defense (again) on a third down play early in the second quarter; Rees put the throw right on the money, but Daniels pulled up lame with poorly-timed groin injury. He sat out the rest of the game, robbing ND of their best receiver; he'll be back this weekend, though, and could've returned to the game if needed.
- On the opening drive of the second half (score: 21-6 ND), Temple had a first down at the Irish six-yard line. That started this sequence: overthrow on wide-open corner route, dropped TD pass over the middle, high snap that ruined the third-down play, desperation chuck falls incomplete when ND brought huge pressure on fourth down.
That last drive effectively ended any chance of Temple making the game competitive, as Notre Dame drove 94 yards in seven plays to give the game its final margin. In the end, the Irish scored "just" 28 points on 543 yards of total offense—Kyle Brindza added another missed field goal in the fourth quarter—while the Owls managed just six points on 362 yards. This one could've been very competitive had Temple not attempted to play man coverage on Davaris Daniels for both of Notre Dame's early touchdowns; at the same time, this could've been even more of a blowout if the Irish could've converted on a few more of their long drives—each of their kickers missed a field goal, and Kelly called for one hell of a Zookian punt in the first half.
Anyway, on to the breakdown. If you're curious to see what's changed from last year, here's the Notre Dame FFFF, 2012 version.
TOMMY REES BACK
Spread, Pro-Style, or Hybrid? Spread. While ND was almost exclusively a shotgun team in years past under Brian Kelly, however, they're now running a whole bunch of pistol; it's the new hotness, apparently.
Basketball on Grass or MANBALL? Basketball on grass. Almost all of Notre Dame's runs feature some form of zone blocking.
[Hit THE JUMP for the rest of the breakdown.]
An old tradition around here was to team up with a blog that covered the team we're about to play, ask each other some burning questions about what they see in themselves, and wait for the respective message boards to blow up about how tinted that guy's glasses must be. This week I meant to bring it back by interviewing ND's puppet quarterback depth chart, however when we got there we learned they had all been poisoned by Blazing Sea Nuggets. So, second choice: we now bring it back with founder of the very large blog/message board for ND fans (the ones who aren't psychopaths, or at least the good kind), Frank Vitovich of UHND. Part 1, where I answer his queries, is here.
Let's peel this right away, (CUCK-CUH-CAW!): Where does Michigan stand in the pantheon of Notre Dame rivalries and how do the fans feel about [CUH-CHEE-CHAW!] pulling out of the series? Was this really necessitated by the [COO-COO-CA-CHAH!] ACC or was that an excuse? [A COODLE DOODLE DOO]
That depends on who you ask. Some Notre Dame fans will down play the rivalry because of all of the gaps in the series and some of the early history and controversy. I am not one of those fans. I am going to miss the series because of the genuine dislike fanbases of the two schools have for each other.
|If we're not rivals then why is your band
clearly worshipping our former punter /
space emperor? [Upchurch]
I am not saying that as a bad thing either. Quite the contrary. Part of what has made Michigan and Notre Dame games so much fun over the years is the fact that each teams fans really don't care much for the other institution. That might actually be putting it mildly.
Yes, it is true that Notre Dame has played schools like Michigan State and Purdue more times, but those games rarely, if ever bring with them the hype, excitement, and intensity of a Notre Dame - Michigan game.
USC still have to be considered Notre Dame's top rival given the deep history of that series just as Ohio State would be considered Michigan's top rivals, but after the Trojans, it's hard for me to thing of a rivalry I've enjoyed watching more over the years. Part of that could be because I grew up in the 80's and haven't lived through the large gaps that a lot of older Notre Dame fans have, but all I know is that the Michigan game is one of the games I circle every year and there isn't a single opponent I have seen Notre Dame play more times in Notre Dame Stadium than Michigan.
I do see the rivalry coming to an end because of Notre Dame's new ACC commitments and not simply wanting to get out of the series. Hopefully something gets worked out and the two are back on each others schedules in the near future.
[Rest after the jump]
"All right, here we go. It's a big one. This has always been a big game. I probably know this game better than most people, having been on both sides of it. This is a rivalry game. This is a big game. We're looking forward to it."
Does it mean more to you since you've been on both sides of it?
"Every game means a lot to me. Any time you go out on the field and represent the University of Michigan is big. I've always looked at this. I think everybody looks at this. There are some big games, and Michigan-Notre Dame in my eyes has always been a big rivalry game."
In what ways will this be a litmus test for this defense?
"Well, you're playing against a very talented opponent. Notre Dame has a lot of talent. They're a very good football team. Now it's the next step. In the second game, did you correct the mistakes? Do you play harder or do you improve? Every time you're a young team, you must improve every game. If you don't, then you're taking a step back. We're looking forward to improving."
News bullets and other important items:
- Cam Gordon's status (back) is "up in the air," probably leaning towards sitting out for Notre Dame.
- Stonum and Jerald Robinson are stunt-doubling for Michael Floyd in practice.
- Woolfolk OK, will likely stay on special teams (confirmed from yesterday).
- Hopkins will contribute, could win starting job, or even play fullback.
- Hoke will continue to wear pants on the sideline, even though he prefers shorts.
From file (Yes, my file)
Opening remarks: “Ahem. Everybody ready?
“Thanks for coming out. We had a pretty good practice yesterday. We had the first day of school. You worry about how that affects guys, especially your freshmen -- getting them to class, making sure they know where they’re going -- but overall putting a plan in. Tuesdays are usually a day that there’s a lot of planning. There’s a lot of tweaks to the game plan, and sometimes they’re not as good as you’d like them to be, but I thought overall -- as a team and in the kicking game and the offense and defense side of it -- I think we had a pretty good day. We needed a better day today, obviously, because that improvement daily is very improtant to us.
“We run it pretty live. We get after it pretty well. I think our guys understand that. I think we looked at some personnel things that we’ll continue to look at throughout the rest of the week, building up to Saturday. We'll go pretty full-go.”
Will Woolfolk remain on special teams? “I would expect Troy will be healthy. He did more yesterday, really, than I thought he would. And the thing I liked about it was Troy wanted to do more, and there’s been situations we’ve all been in as coaches where some guys who’ve played football and are older, they may be a little delicate about when they get back in there, but he jumped right back in, and I was real pleased with the way he approached yesterday.”
So is he going to stay on special teams? “Oh, sure.”
Did you see improvements in kickoff coverage? “We work our coverage teams two days a week, and then our return teams two days a week. I think for the first day, it was good. I think the guys know that we didn’t perform like we should. We’ll look at some other guys in there a little bit, but I think it was pretty decent yesterday.
Did you see what the problem was on film? “We had one situation where two guys ran into each other. There’s a way you want to avoid blocks, and placement of the ball is important when you want to kick into the boundary a little bit more -- you need the ball a little more into the boundary. We were folding the guy early in the game, and we quit doing that because of where they wanted to take the football. So I was more pleased yesterday than I was on Saturday.”
What about Cam Gordon’s status? “He’s still up in the air. I don’t talk much about injuries, but he’s still up in the air. He did a couple things yesterday, but not near as much as we like.”
What do you need to see to feel good about him playing? “I need to see him go out there and run around and play football today. Because if not -- you pretty much have to do some things on Wednesday on a full tilt level, or Saturday you’re not going to be effective anyway.”
Borges always says make plays, not miracles when talking about Denard. What’s your take on that? “That’s always a good point. When you have a guy who has a skill set that’s pretty special, and Denard is, as he’s progressed in the offense and learning it, I think he sees that he doesn’t have to be everything. And that’s an important part. There’s a poise and composure that you want to play with, that you don’t want to force things whether from running or throwing it. I think just staying within the framework of what we need our quarterback to do, because I think he’ll make enough stuff happen during the course of the game that will just happen because of that skill set. But he just needs to play in the framework of what we’re doing offensively.”
With the way your running backs played last Saturday, was that reinforced for Denard? “If our offensive line -- and it starts there -- can get movement on the line of scrimmage, if our lead blockers, whether it be with an H-back or a U-back or a full back, can get on guys, and we do a great job down the field with the receivers, then good things will happen.”
Is Stonum giving you a good look in practice for Michael Floyd? “Well I don’t know. He’s pretty daggone good. I would say that the thing about Darryl is that he is a team guy. He has jumped in with both feet, and really done a great job the week before, and right now him and Jerald Robinson are both wearing number three out there, so it gives our guys a good look.”
What more do you want see from your linebackers? “The linebackers and the defensive front -- we need to see more disruption up there. I don’t think it’s been a secret that I wasn’t real happy with how we played there. There’s a higher expectation, and obviously your second level guys, the linebackers, they’ve got to do a great job with their run fits and the different defenses we have. Jordan does a nice job of deducing [plays]. He’s a smart football player. You gotta give him some credit for some of his reactions as a football player.”
What did you lose by not having a fourth quarter? “Well depending on how the game goes, there may be some guys you would have loved to get in the football game for experience. I know offensively, just talking to Al a little bit, there’s some things that he wanted to look at in a game environment that we didn’t get to.”
Would you have liked to try for a FG? “I like touchdowns. PATs are fine.”
How do you feel about Rees as Notre Dame’s QB? “You look at the last four games of last year and you look at what he did -- he played with a great deal of composure. He has a very good arm. I think his release is good. I think he understands conceptually Brian’s offense. Both of them I think are very talented guys. Obviously Brian’s going to make decisions that are best for his team, but we have to prepare the same way for both of them.”
Could Hopkins win starting job? “Oh he could. We’ll let the week play out. I think he’s done a nice job. He did a nice job in fall camp.” Could he play fullback? “He can play some fullback. Can … has.”
Did Toussaint solidify his spot at all with his performance Saturday? “No, well -- I think right now he’d be the guy to start the game.”
Did you run more single-back than you planned? “I think number one we’re trying to get Denard comfortable. I think that always is part of it. Your quarterback -- doesn’t matter if it’s Tom Brady or Denard Robinson -- you want guys to be comfortable because that position specifically is so important to your football team. We may have gotten a little more into the two-back stuff as the game progressed.”
You’re a shorts guy. How come you wore pants on Saturday? “I think I probably have to. Believe me, I’d wear shorts in a heartbeat.” Did Dave Brandon make you? “No, I think it probably just comes with the territory.”
How do you feel about Brian Kelly’s in-game meltdown? “I don’t know… you don’t think of that. Every guy’s different. That’s what makes -- you’re all different. You all have different questions, and you all have different slants in what you look at, and so I mean, everybody does some stuff differently. I know I look real big on HD. But my whole point is: you’re coaching kids. You’re trying to help them so that they’re going to make the improvements and fundamentals, techniques, recognition, sometimes it maybe a mentality you’re expecting them to play with.”
Have you interacted much with Brian Kelly? “He was in the MAC Central. He beat us three times.” You talk to him at all? “League meetings, those kind of things. I’ve got a lot of respect for Brian. He’s a good coach. He was at Grand Valley and did a great job there … [and then at] Cincinanti and Central [Michigan].”