Primer: Rapid Reaction
The MCQB podcast kicked off with a simple but fair request regarding the reaction to Saturday's win: Take a deep breath Irish fans. I know this review is late in terms of Irish blogging, but I love the refrain from quite a few cool heads in our blogging community. My boss, The Subway Domer, felt the need to hammer it home that the Irish won on Saturday. Bayou Irish at Her Loyal Sons preached some of the same. Keith Arnold at NBC made the finest point of them all – with this 2012 schedule there are no "style points" to be had. Take the victory and get ready for the next opponent. With senior starters Jamoris Slaughter, Kapron Lewis-Moore and Tyler Eifert watching from the sideline, sophomore kicker Kyle Brindza put the Irish ahead for good … while filling in for another injured senior starter – kicker Nick Tausch. Was the QB decision confusing? Yup! Was it right?? Yup! As a blogger of this particular team it's hard to project where this leads Notre Dame in the long run, but when the clock hit 0:00, Notre Dame had pulled a victory out from an opponent who was vastly underrated and properly prepared. Let's just take it.
What exactly was Brian Kelly thinking when he told Tommy Rees "Warm up. You're running the two minute drill" late in the 4th quarter? I can't answer that. Fans are kidding themselves if they refuse to recognize a head coach with his finger on the pulse of the offense who decided to make the tougher call. Kelly's decision took some major, gigantic cajones that dared the media and fan-base to call him out. We're left to wonder what might have happened if Rees to John Goodman doesn't happen. Does Rees keep the reigns in OT? On second thought – it's probably better we don't know that answer. Goodman appeared from early season exhile and grabbed the biggest ball thrown yet by ND. The Irish live to fight another day as an undefeated, Top 20 team.
How good is the 2012 Purdue team? With news breaking that QB Robert Marve has a torn ACL, we may never know. Their defensive line will give the Big 10 fits and keep them in the majority of their contests down the stretch, but we won't know for a while longer if this is the conference sleeper ESPN touted for much of the past few weeks. Irish fans must give this year's Boilermakers their due: they came to play for four quarters and despite making more mistakes than ND (see: dropped passes) the team was in the game until the final whistle. Hat tip to Danny Hope & Co. and wishing them the ability to finish upsets the rest of the season.
My #1 "Thing to Watch" in this game from the preview was Mike Golic Jr. v Kawan Short. Not that I proved prophetic by an measurement, but this match-up was lopsided whether Golic was facing Short or Bruce Gaston. Golic is taking plenty of heat in Irish nation, but the group's performance was poor across the board. All-America candidate and three year starter Zack Martin was flagged for multiple penalties and it affected his usually strong play. Braxton Cave didn't have everyone on the same page with line calls. Between getting pushed around by Short & Gaston, Cave didn't get drive on many run plays and the line found themselves missing assignments too often. "Rough day at the office" can't even begin to describe the OL film room on Sunday. This unit has to get better and fast.
5 - Notre Dame allowed five sacks in 2011 first eleven games with the immobile Tommy Rees at the helm. On Saturday Purdue racked up 5 by getting quick pressure right in Everett Golson's face, often leaving him no time to even toss the ball away. Golson didn't help his own cause on a few pass plays, but this continues the final point in the open.
1 - A single offensive touch for George Atkinson III and his 9.9 Yards per Carry average. The plan for Purdue was not heavy on the rush, but to see the super talent get the same amount of carries as receivers Roby Toma and TJ Jones befuddles.
4 – Sacks in 2012 by emerging superstar Stephon Tuitt. The four takedowns have him tied for 3rd in the nation. He's also the #1 sophomore.
8th – Would you believe after Weeks 1-2 Notre Dame is tied for 8th in America in Turnover Margin! With a +4 we're light years ahead of 2011 and in this number you'll find the difference between 2-0 & 1-1.
8.84 – Everett Golson's gaudy Yards per Attempt though his first two games. Accompanying that notable number is a 67.3% completion percentage and 151.0 QB Rating. The kid has shown damn well and Kelly knows that this is the future.
Golson is the Starter - The use of the above numbers was deliberate. Purdue flustered Golson as the game wore on and his former teammate and road roommate, Matt Mulvey, described what transpired best during the podcast's Red Army Review:
It showed that Golson hadn't played a full four quarters in 2 years. You could tell that mentally he'd never been through an entire game. He was tired physically, but mentally he was tired … there was a throw at the end of the 3rd quarter that he should make 100 out of 100 times. You have to keep that intensity for four quarters and it's something that comes with experience." – Matt Mulvey Notre Dame QB 2009-12
Caught in the hoopla of "WHAT DOES THIS ALL MEAN?!?!?" was this pretty simple oversight pointed out by Matt. Golson is maturing before our very eyes, but Kelly saw the opportunity to skip over a growing pain and took it. Mulvey also made sure to note that while Kelly's decision there was tough, asking a player with Tommy Rees's history to step into that situation isn't fair to do as a regular thing. We need to assume it was a growing moment for Golson and a chance for Tommy to take the field unaffected by 3.75 quarters of defensive line harassment to alter his thinking and judgment. The farther I get away from the move, the more I realize how smart it may have been in the long and short term <sips Kool-Air>.
Thank you to those in the stands this past Saturday. I've heard from multiple sources the energy, especially for a game not featuring Wolverines, Spartans & Trojans, was dramatically improved over recent seasons. Let's make that a trend. To those that booed the entrance of Tommy Rees – no thank you. I don't care if you were booing Brian Kelly and the decision. That reaction to a young man whose always busted his ass and outplayed his own potential is embarrassing. We're better than that.
Final Notes from my 2nd & 3rd viewings of the game: Mike Mayock is right about Eifert and Niklas to an extent – when they're matched up on the outside in one-on-one coverage just give them a shot. Eifert thus far has improved his draft stock more than possible 1st round counterpart Manti Te'o … I'm perplexed seeing Dan Fox and Carlo Calabrese on the field for so many distinct passing situations. Both are too slow and bad in space. Fox looks like he's lost a step or two since 2011 and the shoulder sling seems to hinder his running motion … After dominating NAVY and getting my Down the Line Game Ball, Ishaq Williams was hardly noticeable against Purdue … we wanted Golson for his touch on deep balls, but he's now missed or overthrown quite a few touchdowns already. The one on 3rd down before Brindza's missed 40 yard field goal really stood out. If that ball is anywhere near Troy Niklas it's an easy 1st down or TD … TJ Jones is playing with more confidence … what exactly IS is our punt return scheme? Something like this:
- Leave the defensive starters on the field over hungry, rested, young specialists.
- Don't block anyone.
- Don't attempt to block the kick.
Moving Forward - Matt Mulvey claimed in the podcast interview that if Brian Kelly's playbook has 400 pages, we've seen maybe 20 of them in games. Let's hope this applies to the punt return unit. They should have also told Davonte Neal he's on his own back there because he's not getting the "we don't block" memo. If Kelly believed he could get out of South Bend 2-0 without showing much of the offense then he's succeeded in keeping things in the bag to spring on a Michigan State defense that has to believe they can out-Purdue the Boilermakers. If you listen in on the podcast you'll find SpartanNation.com's Hondo Carpenter explaining how there is "no chance the Irish move the ball against us." He also claimed RB Le'Veon Bell has 4% body fat at 250 lbs and both of their CBs are All-Americans accompanying Sparty's best defense in 50 years. Loving the confidence, but I expect ND to find the end zone more than once. We'll discuss in the Game Preview.
Finish - Great "team" win on Saturday. Adversity, late opponent rally, answering of the bell by multiple players of whom much wasn't expected. No weddings or anything this week. It's all Irish football on Saturday before turning over to Seth MacFarlane hosting Saturday Night Live. Here's hoping he's piling onto a great day over relieving me from a bad one.
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) & SpartanNation.com's Hondo Carpenter (@HondoCarpenter)