We got the feeling Michael Floyd was in for a true breakout game on the 1st snap when he streaked by single coverage, snared a wind-aided underthrown ball, pirouetted around his defender and said sayonara. 80 yards. 12 seconds. 7-0 Irish. Floyd enjoyed two more TDs en route to a 9 catch, 157 yard day – a performance we’ve been waiting for all season. Go figure it comes against the weakest competition.
Loved the John Goodman trick play as they sold it perfectly. Cierre Wood showed a number of reasons why the running game (when it’s emphasized…we’ll get to that) won’t be in dire straits after Allen graduates. Tyler Eifert looked solid in filling Rudolph’s large shoes. He will be leaned on heavily this second half of the season.
It took a half for Brian Kelly to decide that the ground game needed to be established. Armando couldn’t sniff any holes (perhaps his health slowed him down) and the rushing attack was largely ignored in the 1st half. Such lack of balance isn’t necessary against MAC schools, but very much needed for most of the other schools on the schedule. Very frustrating, but not nearly as frustrating as…
…the de-evolution of Dayne Crist. Yikes. Skipping passes at the feet of WRs. Holding on to the ball interminably long - the 3 sacks WMU tallied should not have been that many. Staring down his first option. Missing WIDE OPEN receivers on the run. The offense suffered two poor three and outs in the 2nd quarter when the game was still up for grabs. For the game, the Irish were 5 of 13 converting 3rd downs. This must improve. Until Dayne shows a better grasp of the fundamental aspects of his position, we’ll have to continue enduring Good Crist vs. Bad Crist.
The front seven simply shut down the Western Michigan rushing offense. 26 rushes for 37 total yards is domination. Factor in 4 sacks, 2 INTs and 2 fumbles recovered and the defense was very opportunistic. If they hadn't been, the 1st half score would have been uncomfotably close. The unit executed terrifically coming out fo the break, holding WMU to a garbage time FG and allowing 1 drive longer than 5 plays in the 2nd half. The Broncos didn't cross the 50 yard line until the 4th quarter. Overall, the Irish D forced 9 series of 3 or fewer plays and held WMU to 2 of 14 in 3rd down conversions. Getting off the field quick is pivotal the rest of the way.
Much too soft a zone allowed WMU to move the ball a little too easily. They must stiffen things up with 3 high-flying offenses still left on the schedule. I don't recall who was responsible for all of the yellow laundry, so I'm putting my gripe here. 9 penalties for 80 yards is entirely too many. What happened to the disciplined Irish from the beginning of the season?
16 WMU first downs, 13 of which came in the 1st half. Watching a MAC team march up and down the field on 3 drives of 10+ plays was a deflating feeling. I wouldn’t have been surprised to see a long TD with busted coverage or a trick play fool them, but not methodical drives picking the defense apart. Y-U-C-K.
Great coverage by the kick and punt return teams, led by emerging special teams star Bennett Jackson with 2 tackles. Also learned a surprising, but super stat - ND leads the nation in punt coverage, allowing 0.5 yards per return. Credit the gunners, and let's start giving Ben Turk some credit. He's turned the corner on his erratic start. The punt coverage unit ranked 105 last year, so a welcome sign that the little things are being preached and practiced by Kelly and his staff.
The blocked extra point was a brain fart for the unit. Never good to see, but no reason to think there is a problem there.
Halftime adjustments were excellent. The Irish played with renewed vigor in the second frame and let the backups take the field for most of the 4th quarter.
Kelly hadto walk over to the O-Line during the 2nd quarter, barking at them to “Wise Up” and start doing their jobs better. It seemed to do the trick. The fact that they needed a wake up call in the first place against a MAC team is troubling.
It’s become a weekly occasion for the inevitable Kelly haranguing of Crist after a poor series. I can’t blame him for yelling at the guy when he’s making mistake after mistake. But what is going on in practice? Does Crist make all the throws and check guys off then, only to get the ole deer-in-headlights come game time? Something's not getting through.
Offense – Floyd - With Riddick possibly hurt for a stretch, Floyd will need to keep asserting himself and keep being a primary target for #10.
Defense – Ethan Johnson. Just an outstanding game from the big fellow. 5 tackles, 1.5 sacks, 1 fumble recovery, 1 QB hurry and 1 pass broken up. All in a day's work for the junior who's finally enjoying a breakout year.
Special Teams – Ben Turk. A 41.6 average on 5 punts. 2 kicks of 50+ yards. The maligned punter is getting his groove back.
Special Buckeye to the Western Michigan band who were very entertaining in the far end zone. The Rocky Theme blared every time their defense took the field. They featured a solid mix of relevant/hip songs that would make Dr. Kenneth Dye blush, including the band highlight of the year – the “Hide Your Kids, Hide Your Wife” Bed Intruder. Not once, but twice! Hilarious. It sounded great with the full brass treatment.