Good to finally get one in the W column. It wasn’t pretty, and I’m not sure we really learned a whole lot about the Irish, but I find myself pleasantly amused that ND fans are more up in arms over Brian Kelly’s sideline demeanor than Dayne Crist’s accuracy.
The first drive was a thing of beauty – a great KO return followed by 4 plays covering 50 yards and an easy TD for Crist on the read option. Two more quick scores in the next three possessions and the Irish were up 21-0 in the 1st quarter. Crist wasn’t great through the air, but he hit some big throws when it mattered.
The running game wasn’t explosive, but Allen averaged 4.7 a carry, and ripped off the longest run of his career on the 1st drive. He continues to run hard and is finishing off his runs with authority.
Nothing too exciting from the WRs, but Theo Riddick continues to mature and made a nice play on his TD catch on a ball that was thrown somewhat behind him. John Goodman is giving TJ Jones a run for his money for the 3rd WR spot. Competition isn’t a bad thing.
The OL was adequate – nothing special on the ground, but they kept Crist relatively clean and upright.
Still far too many three-and-outs. BC doesn’t have a great defense, and the Irish seemed to be their own worst enemy at times. The receivers continue to have the drops, and were often not on the same page with Crist. I keep waiting for the offense to break out, but I’m not sure we’re going to see it for a while. After seemingly taking a few steps forward against MSU, Crist has now had two subpar weeks in a row. I’m not gonna bag on the kid too much – he’s still only started 5 games in his career, and he’s learning a completely new offense.
The Irish continue to be extremely loose with the ball – 3 more turnovers, including 2 bad fumbles in their own territory, with a bad INT by Crist in the 2nd half. ND must do a better job valuing the ball or teams like Pitt, Utah and SC will make them pay, and pay dearly.
For BC to stand a chance in this game, Montel Harris had to run wild. The Irish knew this, and stuffed the Eagles on the ground, holding Harris to 28 yards on 15 carries. Calabrese and Te’o were beasts in the middle, and Ian Williams continued to eat up a great deal of space on the line.
Seemed like the Irish played a pretty soft coverage in the secondary, forcing the green BC QBs to make pinpoint short throws to move the chains. Blanton made a great individual play on his INT, and is really coming on strong. Apart from the long TD pass, the “explosive” plays that have plagued the Irish thus far were almost non-existent.
This is a bit nit-picky considering the score, but ND is continuing to struggle to generate any type of pass rush at all. Fleming, Neal and Smith were quiet again. Diaco was forced to insert Filer and Prince Shembo to make some plays off the edge.
If the Irish can’t find a way to make things more uncomfortable for opposing QBs, teams like Tulsa and USC won’t have any trouble scoring. ND can’t count on the rest of their opposition throwing brand-new starters to the wolves.
I’ve watched this over a few times and I can’t figure out whether the 58 yd TD late in the 1st quarter was a busted coverage or possibly the Irish not giving Rettig enough respect. Gray bit hard on Swigert’s 1st move, and I’m thinking he might be surprised that he didn’t have some safety help over top. But Harrison Smith bit on one of the shorter routes and may have left Gray out to dry a bit. I imagine this will be discussed by Chuck Martin at some length in film study this week.
David Ruffer extends his streak of perfection, and the Irish coverage teams continue to impress. Ben Turk got off to a slow start, but after a stern talking-to, he uncorked some great kicks, including one from the end zone which helped change field position. Hopefully he builds on this and finishes the season strong.
Also, it looks like the Irish may have found themselves a kick returner. Bennett Jackson looked great in that position and I wouldn’t be surprised to see him break a real big one in the next few weeks.
After consistently reaching the end zone with his kickoffs in the first few weeks of the season, David Ruffer struggled to reach the 10 yard line on Saturday. It did seem like there was some wind swirling around Alumni Stadium which may have contributed to the short kicks. Hopefully a one-week anomaly.
Nothing to see here.
Not sure if Kelly/Molnar scripted that first drive, but it was a great way to start off the game. Also, nice job by Diaco and the defensive staff to sell out against the run and take Montel Harris out of the game.
Quite a bit has been made of Kelly’s “antics” on the sideline, with some Irish fans taking issue with Kelly getting in his players’ faces on a regular basis. I, for one, completely agree with BK that the Irish have been soft lately, and a good kick in the rear end is required to help them focus mentally. Some players may not take well to this form of coaching, and my guess is those players won’t be seeing the field, and won’t be recruited by Kelly and his staff. ND Football has been decaying from this inside-out, and Kelly’s exactly right that changing the “culture” of the program might be the most difficult part of his rebuilding job.
Really hate to see Dayne Crist throwing the ball 40+ times with the Irish sitting on a large lead. Studies of Kelly’s offensive tendencies in his previous stops show that Kelly is not as pass-happy (or at least dependent on the pass) as his detractors believe. Kelly has consistently praised the talent of his RBs, so the concern has to be with the OL and with the QB. A running QB is not necessary for the Kelly offense to work effectively (see: Tony Pike) but its obvious that Kelly would prefer to have the option to run with his signal-caller.
This is piggybacking off the previous one a bit, but the 3-and-outs from the offense are quite frustrating, even with a comfortable lead. I’m sure Kelly is doing what he can to help Crist make easy reads and easier throws, but its obvious that the two are not anywhere near the same page yet.
Offense: THEO RIDDICK
Another good day for the converted RB – 9 catches for 69 yards and a TD. Honorable mention to Armando Allen, whose contributions are continually overshadowed and underappreciated.
Defense: CARLO CALABRESE
I love watching this kid play. I feel giddy that he’s got 3 years of eligibility left after this year. Honorable mention to Manti and Blanton.
Special Teams: BENNETT JACKSON
Looked downright explosive on his returns. Can’t wait to see what he’s got in store for the rest of the year. Honorable mention to Turk for (hopefully) turning the corner. He could be a great weapon for the Irish down the stretch.
The Irish face a very interesting test this week with Pitt coming to town. ND was unable to stop Dion Lewis and the Panthers got big plays from Jon Baldwin and great pressure from their DEs. Fortunately for the Irish, no Greg Romeus and possibly no Dion Lewis. If ND can grab another win at home, they could set themselves up for a very nice little run through a watered-down October schedule.