Mike's Blog on Notre Dame Football

Maybe, just maybe, Brian Kelly is on to something.  Following the 2nd game of the season, and the first loss of ND, i wrote about the importance of stopping the run, protecting the ball and making good calls with the 4th and short.

While Notre Dame still has to convert on a 4th and any yardage, the ball protection and run defense has certainly improved in the last 2 games, which, coincidentally, also produced to win for the Irish.  

At 3-3, there is a silver lining in facing the three weakest opponents on the schedule at this point in the season.  Against Ball State last week, the Western Michigan Broncos rushed for over 200 yards and passed for more than 250.  Ball State, clearly, is not Notre Dame.  If there was ever a time to tweak your defense and offense, it is after having been able to assess where both stand mid-season.  The first team ever from the MAC to face Notre Dame has its workload well prepared.  Using Sagarin's ratings, the Irish are favored by 11 + 3 for the home advantage, making it a 14 point game.  Las Vegas favors the Irish by 24.  Coach Kelly has done a tremendous job in getting the message to his players that regardless of what they have done, the Broncos should be taken seriously.  In separate press conferences, both Brian Kelly and Dayne Crist quoted the exact same phrase when talking about the danger of being complacent in front of the Broncos: " We're not good enough to assume we will win those games yet"!.

 The other silver lining is in the fact that with the best tight end in the country out of the picture, the Irish might want to test what Ragone is really like in pressure situations.  From what we saw last week, either he needs better gloves or he needs another assignment.  The "go to" guy of Dayne Crist will need to leverage the 3 upcoming games to get set for the last 2 matchups of the season.  

With the next 3 games, here is what the Irish need to do:

Protect the ball, keep the opposite run offense under 100 yards and learn to play with a new tight end in place of Kyle Rudolph.  Success in all 3 areas and the Irish face Utah with a 6-3 record, and have a chance to finish 9-3.  Miss in one area, they get out of this stretch at 5-4 and finish the season at 6-6 after losing to Utah and USC while beating Army.  

My call for this Saturday is at ND 40 - WMU 21.  Thoughts welcomed, as always.




October 15, 2010  11:01 AM ET

Astute assessment, Mike. The Irish worried me a bit in the second half last week. They seemed to struggle a bit on both sides of the ball. They'll have to continue to improve if they want a shot a 9-3...

October 15, 2010  01:04 PM ET

Irish Whiskey - thanks for the feedback - was actually watching the game and commenting through with FLADomer and we both had the same view as you did - saying - here we go again, can`t protect a lead, don't have the killer instinct. I have to side with BK on this one: hopefully, that is something that comes with winning. They did struggle but it's as if they had seen this scenario unfold so many times, where they build a lead, lose it and lose the game on the last drive, for a while, they were playing to it. I guess we can add "learn to finish the game" on the things to do in the next 3 games.

October 16, 2010  08:01 PM ET


The Bone here...

I hate to admit it, but your probably Correct...

ND is now showing that they can beat the teams they are supposed to beat - which is a far cry from where they were the last 3 seasons.

They are starting to play with a little confidence... And the Confidence that any team has in itself goes along way.

October 16, 2010  08:54 PM ET

Today Kelly talked about the need for ND's players to pay attention to the small details. That seemed to be missing the previous 2 or 3 seasons. The defense played poorly the first half today but seemed on fire the second. Kelly seems to have far less patience with "shoot ourselves in the foot" football than Weis.

October 17, 2010  01:22 AM ET

TheBone - don't hate it :). The positive from tonight's game is probably that the intensity and adjustments made at the half were implemented in the 2nd half - something we haven't seen in a while with ND. 2 more games to be aggressive on the run defense before UTAH. If the Irish play like they did tonight against Utah and USC, it will be an ugly ending to those games.

October 17, 2010  01:25 AM ET

Slick Ric - I like that BK gets mad and doesn't accept low energy from his team. I wished that he had benched for a few series the culprits in the 3rd quarter to show that he means business but his speech at the half was probably enough to instill the fear of god in his players - because the team that showed up in the 2nd half was different than the one that played in the 2nd quarter. You are right - refreshing to see a coach with low tolerance and even more to see the team respond to his approach! Go Irish!


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