Notre Dame Football
As the final seconds ticked away in Notre Dame Stadium, it was evident that the Irish wanted this game as much as any in the Brian Kelly era. To say the offense was ugly after Tommy Rees left due to injury, would be an extreme understatement; but the defense rallied and fought their way out of every corner the offense or special teams backed them into.
While this win gave me hope for a strong second half (assuming Rees’ neck strain wasn’t serious), there were still some glaring issues that need to be resolved go forward.
The Backup Quarterback:
Andrew Hendrix just can’t get the job done; plain and simple. His four pass attempts were not even close to his targets and he didn’t seem to have control of the offense. It was evident he didn’t have any chemistry with the first team when the Irish were called for a false start after Hendrix entered the game; this also happened during the Oklahoma game. After Hendrix entered for Rees, the Irish offense mustered just twenty-five yards of offense and one first down.
As a side note; I wouldn’t expect to see Malik Zaire unless it’s absolutely necessary. Kelly’s offense is predicated on depth at the quarterback position; something he has been desperately trying to establish. Wasting a year of eligibility for Zaire doesn’t make sense with Golson’s return seemingly inevitable.
Tackling was a major issue for the Irish, especially in the first half. Silas Redd is good, but the bad tackling and over pursuit of the Irish defense made him look like Walter Payton at times. This was a problem earlier in the season and seemed to be cleaned up; I think this can be chalked up to the bye week because it improved in the second half.
The Irish were gashed on two big returns in the second half that put the defense in less than favorable positions. Again, this was not an issue for the Irish before this game, and while it’s easy to blame it on the bye week, it’s not uncommon for the “little things” to get a little loose after a week off. The kick and punt return teams have been an issue for some time now; hopefully they can get into a rhythm and help the offense out with some big returns throughout the remaining five games. As far as kick and punt coverage; I’d be surprised to see this continue to be an issue.
If it weren’t for Stephon Tuitt (forget him coming back after his performance against USC) and the Irish defense taking control of this game; the special teams and lack of quarterback depth would have lost this game for Notre Dame. The second half showed glimpses of the 2012 defense as it dominated the USC offense, regardless of the Trojans starting field position.
There’s a lot to feel good about after this win. Rees looked solid before he was hurt, he is who he is and I think Kelly used him well. The defense was rock solid when the team needed them and should be able to build upon their performance as the season progresses.