Primer: Saturday's Rapid Reaction
Jameson at 4:30am! No sleep! Notre Dame Domination! Thank God Monday's a Holiday! Things we've seen in dreams and nightmares about the 2012 Fighting Irish finally played out in front of our awaiting Irish eyes on Saturday morning. Now let's spend all week talking about it! Welcome to the debut edition of The Man Cave Quarterback on Subway Domer. The title originated back at my old site and has since morphed into my Twitter handle and a new podcast. It was an exciting and the early morning in the Herring Bone Man Cave featuring Irish Coffees, early morning Rudy, and a blogger who never even went to sleep Friday night. I've begun to piece my life back together, but presented for your pleasure is my review of Notre Dame's 50-10 thumping of NAVY in Dublin. It's great to be back Irish fans!
Some QB talk now … more later. Everett Golson showcased many of the talents that fans and analysts alike projected for him since he stepped on campus (ahem), but thankfully didn't need to be the post-game storyline. For all the highlight and record breaking talk surrounding Golson, he "game managed" Brian Kelly's plan perfectly while merely hinting at what could await with #5 running the offense. Maybe this offense doesn't need a savior at quarterback, but starting a young man who expands the playbook and stretches the defense will unquestionably continue to put his talented teammates in better position to succeed as long as he's taking the snaps. We couldn't have realistically scripted a much better start than Golson leading the Irish to 40 points and donning a red cap on the sideline because the ND was up 30 points early in the 4th quarter.
As fans of this team we must continue to give Brian Kelly and this staff credit for their plan and execution off the field on defense. Kelly profiled the exact kind of recruits he'd target at all defensive positions and the reasons they must fit a mold during his interviews with AD Jack Swarbrick. Notre Dame would get bigger and faster while Brian Kelly ran the show. We're seeing it ladies and gentlemen. Many key defensive starters may be Weis recruits, like Te'o, Lewis-Moore, Slaughter, Motta, Fox, etc., but those Kelly held onto in 2010 and brought in since are playing big roles and no longer previewing the future. The future is now and it looks large and nasty. Like really large and really nasty.
So many "grains of salt" are tossed upon a dominating performance over NAVY, but I don't want to discount this game too much. "It's NAVY. We're supposed to crush NAVY" is the common statement by the same ND fan that touts "this Irish program still isn't anywhere near the college elite." Part of moving into college football's elite is blowing by the inferior opponents and this program found themselves in tight battles all too often with the Midshipmen over the past decade. When the Irish are back to overwhelming NAVY, the gap is being closed. "This isn't the same NAVY team as under QB Ricky Dobbs & former coach Paul Johnson" is another popular refrain as if it's not kosher to just say "Notre Dame is back to doing what it should to NAVY." If you're looking for a list of stats and problems from this game that point to another dismal football season you've come to wrong place. It feels good to dominate a middle-tier team and it's ok to have missed that. Notre Dame dictated the game to NAVY and forced Ken Niumatalolo to go away from their identity. When is the last time any coach facing ND thought "I really shouldn't go right to my offensive strength during this game because they match up so well to it"? Improvement.
As this feature moves forward I'll go to the well that is national statistics and team rankings more often. Problem with those numbers, especially early, is trying to compare what Michigan & Michigan State did while playing top opponents to Purdue & Pittsburgh who had different outcomes against what should have been overmatched FCS schools. (Pitt – haha)
9 – The number of players in an Irish uniform who caught a pass Saturday. If you had Daniel Smith, Justin Ferguson & Cam McDaniel grabbing a pass in 2012 before John Goodman and/or Chris Brown you're in some crazy Notre Dame Message Board pool with a lot of free time.
3 – By my count the number of plays WR DaVaris Daniels was wide open in the end zone and the ball didn't come his way. This isn't a knock on Golson as much as a revelation of what Everett does to a defense. Safeties and linebackers must respect the run threat and dedicate attention to our TEs. Daniels, who looked the part of our new WR1, should find himself past the secondary more than a few times this season.
1 – White Irish player, a non-quarterback, with rushing touchdown. Name the last one. Inclination is to assume a WR on a reverse under Weis. Jeff Samardzjia was mine. A quick game log showed he did have one in 2006 but the last one to take a handoff at the RB positon and score? Mike McNair … Marc Edwards? You've got homework SubwayDomer faithful.
2 – Forced fumbles by Ishaq Williams. Take my post about him being moved to TE, light it on fire and we'll all pretend it never happened. That post is like Las Vegas.
293 – Combined rushing yards for Notre Dame. Riddick (107), GAIII (99), McDaniel (59), Hendrix (20), Toma (9), Neal (7), Golson (-8). I've set my own lofty expectations at 250 yards/game for a team that hasn't topped 200 in over a decade. I think the RBs should grab 200 by themselves and the QB/WRs can combo for 30-50/game. We're on track for now.
Plenty of great numbers to toss around from this game to accompany the statistical surprises. The Irish topped Navy in nearly every charted statistical category and looked good doing it.
Our DBs – Pump the brakes on our necessary frustrations at the position. Blog Davie told us what we'd see and we saw it. Protecting young corners against the option is going to be much different than protecting young corners against Purdue and anyone else. We left them on islands and encouraged Motta and Slaughter to read run-first. As the scheme changes and we find our pass rushers it will lead to plenty of more protection of the cornerback crew and reliance on Manti Te'o and the seniors to get the defense in the best position to succeed. I still think Russell was the choice at CB because of the NAVY match-up and expect him to slide down the depth chart a tad as soon as this weekend. Jalen Brown looked smooth on Saturday and has every time I've watched him. He's still very much a candidate to be a multi year starter.
Speaking with former Irish quarterback Matt Mulvey Sunday provided some insight (available in the podcast) into why his ascension from scout team to 1st team has been so rapid. Mulvey praised Golson for "throwing with purpose" and off the air mentioned how impressed he was with the little things such as hiding the ball better on hand offs. Apparently Golson's high school RB was really short and it stunted his growth in that rarely noticed area for fans. Mulvey, along with John Walters and myself and likely you at home, were all impressed with everything Everett did against Navy if not surprised at his effectiveness leading the offense. I'll say it again – the QB1 position is on lockdown for 2012 barring injury so we can all stop debating Brian Kelly's Tommy Rees crush for another few weeks.
Final Notes from my second viewing of the game: Tyler Eifert attacked his run blocking responsibilities unlike any time I can remember. Multiple ground plays had #80 leading the charge and manhandling DEs, LBs, and Safeties. If Te'o came back to become a better "play maker" and pass defender, Eifert may have returned to showcase his all-around TE skills as well. Ishaq Williams was actually tackling instead of hitting – makes all the difference. Elijiah Shumate looked smaller than expected, but flew at the football on special teams. Via Keith Arnold: Toma, Goodman, TJ Jones & Daniel Smith playing WR in mop-up duty telling if not surprising. Youth/speed movement is underway. Romeo Okwara is going to be good and that redshirt is long gone because he'll be counted on this year. Chase Hounshell not playing much until the very end confused me. He showed well as a frosh, but Sheldon Day was on the field at DE in the first quarter and often throughout. Was Anthony Rabasa at the game?
Moving Forward – Not much to gather from Purdue's demolition of FCS Eastern Kentucky. The stat that jumps out is the Boilermakers turning the ball over 5 times at home, but still tallying 48 points. We'd like to believe Purdue struggling with ball security against the Irish will turn the tides into a blowout rather quickly. Purdue got some "Big 10 sleeper" love last week on ESPN, but a QB controversy is already brewing for Saturday and it has nothing to do with the solid gold helmets. More on this and more in the Game Preview.
Finish – Much was accomplished, much is left to be done. Our leaders look better and the young bucks look ready. Hopefully one more tune-up before we shift into 4th gear firing on all cylinders. It's a great Labor Day to be Irish.
Follow me on Twitter @ManCaveQB and listen to my Irish podcasts at our feed or on iTunes. My solo podcast, The Man Cave Quarterback, features former ND quarterback Matt Mulvey breaking down the QB play in his "Red Army Review" and I'll be joined by former Irish players and current CFB writers and bloggers. Maybe even Subway Domer himself will stop by. This week's podcast featured former Sports Illustrated writer John Walters (@jdubs88) & College Spun columnist Tyler Moorehead (@TMoorehead627)