Notre Dame Football: Looking Back (Briefly) at the Win Over Bowling Green and forward to USC (Saturday, October 12 on NBC at 7:30 PM EST)
There’s not a whole lot to say about the Notre Dame 52-0 victory over an “undermanned” (Coach Kelly’s word) Bowling Green team, but it certainly was an opportunity to get Ian Book to throw the ball down the field. His 16-20 passing for 261 yards and five touchdowns was notable in that he threw four of those TD passes between 20 and 35 yards.
The stats are the stats, but suffice it to say that Tony Jones, Jr. ran for 102 yards on only seven carries and JavonMcKinley had five catches for 104 yards and a TD. Chase Claypool had two TDs and Cole Kmet, Tommy Tremble and Avery Davis all caught TD passes.
So, with a shutdown defense, what did it all mean? It means that Notre Dame did all it could do, in a lopsided game, to prepare for USC.
USC is Loaded at Wide Receiver and They Get Their QB Back
Well, not JT Daniels, who’s out for the season. But KedonSlovis, their freshman QB who has filled in admirably for Daniels, will start, according to USC Coach Clay Helton.
USC is loaded with three top receivers: Michael Pittman, Tyler Vaughns and Amon-Ra St. Brown. Pittman is “explosive” and a “big play receiver” who “catches everything thrown his way,” according to Coach Kelly. Vaughns “obviously has great length” and is “a match-up issue,” according to Coach Kelly. At 6’4” and 6’3,” respectively, Pittman and Vaughns (as well as slot receiver St. Brown) are probably the keys to the game for USC.
As USC Coach Helton said at his press conference, “We’ve got to be able to hurt them with the deep ball.” So Notre Dame is on notice on what USC is going to try to do this Saturday. Coach Helton also said, commenting on the health of his team, that USC’s bye week, “couldn’t have come at a better time.”
What About Notre Dame at Cornerback?
Well, therein (potentially) lies the problem. With no Shaun Crawford (elbow injury), Notre Dame is undermanned at corner. They obviously have Troy Pride, Jr., but at the other corner will be sophomore Tariq Bracy, who made his first career start at Bowling Green last Saturday. After that, it’s 6’3” Donte Vaughn (Coach Kelly is obviously looking for some height at the position due to the length of Pittman and Vaughns) as the next corner in the game.
But after Vaughn, there are issues and question marks. Maybe freshman Cam Hart or freshman KJ Wallace or freshman Isaiah Rutherford. But Coach Kelly would prefer not to use inexperienced corners against a team like USC.
He may not have a choice.
Sophomore Houston Griffith might have been an option at corner, but Coach Kelly, at his press conference, insisted that Griffith would remain at safety.
So What’s the Notre Dame Defense To Do?
Well, the key to the game for Notre Dame will be how much pressure they get on the USC quarterbacks (backup QB Matt Fink, who was key in USC’s victory over then #10 Utah, will also probably play).
Maybe they can get a good enough rush with their two excellent ends (no Daelin Hayes off the bench) or maybe they have to bring the blitz. But it says here if USC takes a lot of shots down the field (with “the deep ball,” as Coach Helton said they will), that could be a problem.
Offensively, Notre Dame gets back Jafar Armstrong, their best two-way (rushing and receiving) back. While Coach Kelly said Armstrong would be limited “to about 20 plays,” it could be an in-game decision as to whether it’s more than that.
Ian Book threw the ball very well down the field against Bowling Green.
Now, we’ll see if he can do it against much better competition.
It says here that Notre Dame, at home, gets the job done and continues their attempt to get back to the College Playoff.
By Steve Kallas
MISSED OPPORTUNITY AT GEORGIA
In our Notre Dame at Georgia preview, we discussed the slow starts that Notre Dame had gotten off to in their first two games. While Coach Kelly essentially blew off a pointed question about the slow starts in his Monday pre-game Georgia press conference, it says here that Notre Dame’s first two possessions at Georgia hurt them badly, even though they led 7-0 and then 10-7 at the half.
To beat Georgia in Athens, if you have the chance, you have to open up a big lead, if possible.
Which brings us to Notre Dame’s first two possessions. The first was marred by two penalties by star offensive lineman Liam Eichenberg. Notre Dame was moving the ball down the field. Cole Kmet looked like an NFL tight end playing in a college game, despite the fact that it was his first game of the season. But an unnecessary roughness (15-yard penalty) call on Eichenberg and a false start (5-yard penalty) call on him cost the Irish 20 yards and field position. While you never know what would have happened, it would seem that the Irish, minus those two penalties, would have had at least a chance for an early field goal.
On their second possession, despite another false start penalty (Notre Dame would have 12 penalties in the game), Notre Dame was able to move the ball to the Georgia 32-yard line where it was fourth and two. Rather than attempt a 50-yard field goal, Notre Dame went for it. An early snap by the center sailed by Ian Book, who did well to recover it and almost complete a pass. But they turned the ball over on downs.
Those two possessions hurt Notre Dame’s chances to open up a bigger lead than three points at the half. In the second half, Georgia ran the ball well after being stymied by a great effort by the Notre Dame defense, particularly in the first half and, frankly, throughout the game. To hold Georgia to 162 yards rushing (with top running backs D’Andre Swift (18 carries for 98 yards and a TD) and Brian Herrien (8 carries for 43 yards)) is an excellent job, especially given the fact that the Notre Dame offense had three consecutive three and outs (so the Notre Dame defense got tired). But between Jake Fromm’s coolness (20-26, 187 yards, 1 TD, 0 INT and 0 sacks) and star kicker Rodrigo Blankenship’s three second-half field goals, Georgia was able to win the game, 23-17
Cole Kmet was incredible in his first start -- 9 catches for 108 yards and a TD. Chase Claypool chipped in with 6 catches for 66 yards and a TD.
As Coach Kelly said in the postgame press conference, Georgia just made a few more plays than Notre Dame. To Coach Kelly’s credit, he took the blame for the many false start “cadence” penalties (as he called them), saying that Notre Dame usually goes on a hand clap and, in Georgia with the raucous crowd, decided to try a silent count that simply didn’t work.
While there are no moral victories, Notre Dame had a great game plan and almost pulled off a stunning upset. While this bodes well for the rest of the season, Notre Dame has to run the table from here on in.
Virtually all of the “experts” said, before the game, that, if Notre Dame lost, they had no chance to make the College Playoff. A ridiculous statement, especially given the way that Notre Dame played in defeat. Thankfully, Gary Danielson of CBS (the best analyst in the business), who by his own admission didn’t think that Notre Dame would play as well as they did, stated at the end of the game that Notre Dame still can run the table and make the Final Four.
Amen to that.
#18 Virginia comes to South Bend this Saturday. As Coach Kelly said, this will be the game that defines his team. Why? Well, it says here that when you get knocked down (a tough loss on the road to Georgia) what only matters is how you get back up and keep fighting.
Virginai (4-0) is no slouch. They have an experienced coach in Bronco Mendenhall. According to Coach Kelly, Virginia has “elite” players on defense, referencing outside LB Charles Snowden, who was named the Walter Camp National Defensive Player of the Week last week with a 15 tackle, two-sack performance against Old Dominion. Coach Kelly also mentioned inside LB Jordan Mack, another star defensive player and CB Bryce Hall who, according to Coach Kelly, will be a high NFL draft pick.
Coach Kelly also mentioned Bryce Perkins as an “explosive and dangerous” QB with a “really good wide receiver” in Joe Reed. Although Virginia is 4-0, it should be noted that they trailed a so-so Old Dominion team 17-0 before settling down and scoring 28 unanswered points.
It says here that Notre Dame has to run the table to make the College Playoff. This is the beginning of that long journey. Notre Dame, at home, should handle Virginia, especially with the return of RB Jahmir Smith (while still waiting for Jafar Armstrong) and the first start for WR Michael Young. If Notre Dame plays to the level of how they played against Georgia, they will be fine.
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“Speaking of Sports”
Notre Dame at Georgia Preview (CBS, 8 PM Eastern)
The non-conference game of the year, #7 Notre Dame heads to Athens to take on #3 Georgia. Both rolled over their opponents last week (Notre Dame 66 - New Mexico 14 and Georgia 55 - Arkansas State 0). Can Notre Dame get the job done on the road? It says here that they can.
But What About Those Slow Starts?
Perhaps the bigest problem facing Notre Dame is their slow starts in their first two games. Losing 14-7 to Louisville (before pulling away from them) and then not scoring an offensive touchdown in the first 18 minutes against New Mexico (before rolling over them) qualifies as slow starts to this writer.
But Coach Kelly would have none of that at his Monday press conference, essentially saying (in response to a pointed, slow-start question) that it was no big deal and he didn’t see it that way. But for Notre Dame to win, they will have to absorb that initial punch that often comes when you play a top team on the road. If they don’t, it could be a long day in Athens.
The Return of Cole Kmet
Probably the biggest plus for Notre Dame is getting back their star tight end, Cole Kmet. With the emergence of Tommy Tremble and the steady play of Brock Wright, Notre Dame (as Coach Kelly said at his press conference) can now put two or even three tight ends on the field. That could very well cause some match-up problems for Georgia’s defense, which is real good against the run and we’ll see how good against the pass (given Ian Book and Notre Dame’s many receiver weapons).
While it would have been good if Kmet had received some reps in the New Mexico blowout, it seems clear that the coaching and medical staffs wanted to give him that extra week to get really healthy. Kmet could be a key player in this big game.
Georgia, As Usual, Is Loaded
Kirby Smart has made Georgia a national power and they are loaded this year. Jake Fromm, in Coach Kelly’s words, is one of the “premiere college quarterbacks,” and he’s the reason, according to Coach Kelly, that Georgia is a premier team. Fromm has put up very good numbers in his first three games this year, going 42-56 (75%) for 601 yards and five touchdowns with no picks, while letting the running game (see below) shine against lesser opponents.
Georgia also has incredible running backs, led by first-round-pick-to-be Andre Swift (in three games, 31 carries for 290 yards and three touchdowns, as well as three receptions for 73 yards and a touchdown).
But they have other excellent backs in Brian Herrien (21 rushes for 121 yards and three touchdowns), James Cook (eight rushes for 103 yards and two touchdowns, with six catches for 57 yards), and Zamir White (19 rushes for 141 yards and two touchdowns).
Coach Kelly commented on Georgia’s outstanding offensive line, anchored by left tackle Andrew Thomas, saying that “he’s probably a first round draft pick.”
Perhaps Georgia’s greatest weapon, in a close game, is kicker Rodrigo Blankenship, who has made all five of his field goals this year, including a 50-yarder. How good is he? Well, in his prior two seasons with Georgia, Blankenship is 39-46 for an astounding 85% success rate with a long of 55 yards. This guy will be kicking on Sundays next year.
What About Notre Dame Recruiting In Georgia?
An interesting sidelight to this game has been the success of Notre Dame in recruiting top players from Georgia. In fact, Georgia Coach Kirby Smart talked about it more than Coach Kelly in their respective press conferences. This year, for example, Notre Dame was able to recruit from the Atlanta area both Tommy Tremble (whose father was an all SEC player at Georgia back in the 1990s) and Kyle Hamilton, who had a pick-six last week against New Mexico. Coach Smart said that “we recruited both of them hard,” but they both wound up at Notre Dame.
So, How Does Notre Dame Win?
Well, it says here that Notre Dame has to stack the box to try to stop or at least control the Georgia running game. Georgia has a lot of young talent at the receiver position, but they have four excellent running backs who will try to wear out the Notre Dame defense. It says here that how Notre Dame does against the Georgia run is the key to the game.
On the other side of the ball, Notre Dame is hurt by the continued absence of Jafar Armstrong, their best dual-threat running back, and Michael Young, who is, according to Coach Kelly, “about a week behind” Cole Kmet. Notre Dame will have to rely on Tony Jones, Jr. and Jahmir Smith to run the ball against a stingy Georgia defense. Also keep an eye on Avery Davis who, after being switched from defense to offense to get some playing time, had an explosive 59-yard touchdown run against New Mexico on his first offensive touch.
Notre Dame can win this game by avoiding a slow start, controlling the Georgia running game and having Ian Book making some plays to his tight ends, as well as Chase Claypool and Chris Finke. Also, hopefully, explosive Lawrence Keys III and Javon McKinley can make some plays on the outside.
We’ll see what happens … .
The (SMART) Account:
Scholarship Management and Account Reporting for Tenpins
The “mission” of SMART is:
“In order to help youth bowlers achieve their educational goals and reach their full potential, we will provide effective and convenient access, safekeeping and prudent management of all scholarship funds until distributed to youth bowlers in compliance with all required regulations.”
The SMART account is basically an account set up for a youth bowler free of charge where various scholarship monies can be deposited into the account until a child goes to college. There are many specific rules and regulations (set forth in detail at Bowl.com). Basically, the short version is that you can bowl in some leagues and tournaments and accumulate monies towards college tuition.
At the time you want to use that SMART money, a check will be written directly to your child’s college (not to your child) in whatever amount has been accumulated over time. It should be noted that if your child never attends college, your child will not be able to access that money. The point of the program is to encourage everyone to attend higher education and help a little bit with the tuition.
For complete information, speak to your league representative if they provide SMART accounts (some do, some don’t) and go to Bowl.com for further details.
This is truly a wonderful opportunity for both you and your children.
By Steve Kallas
Well, the long wait for college football is finally over. Notre Dame, pre-season rank #9, begins their season on the road at Louisville on Monday, September 2 (8:00 PM, ESPN).
Everybody who has looked at the schedule understands that Notre Dame’s three biggest games are all on the road: at Georgia (9/21); at Michigan (10/26);and at Stanford (11/30). But before we take a big-picture view of the season, let’s take a look at Louisville.
Game One: Notre Dame at Louisville
If you follow college football, you know what Louisville’s new head coach, Scott Satterfield, has accomplished while at Appalachian State. In 2007, he was an assistant coach who called all of the offensive plays when Appalachian State stunned then #5 Michigan at The Big House in what many consider to be one of (if not the) biggest upsets in the history of college football. What people don’t remember is that Michigan took the lead, 32-31, late in the fourth quarter. Then Satterfield called the plays that created a seven-play, 69-yard drive that culminated with the game-winning short field goal with 26 seconds left in the game.
Just last year, and 11 years to the day of that monumental upset of Michigan, now head coach Satterfield took Appalachian State into Happy Valley to play #10 Penn State. His team scored 28 fourth-quarter points to force an overtime. While they lost to the Nittany Lions in overtime, you understand what this man can do and why he was selected to replace Bobby Petrino after a miserable 2-10 2018 season.
How Much Talent Does Louisville Have on Their Roster?
Well, we’ll turn to Coach Brian Kelly to see what he thinks about Louisville’s roster. At his press conference earlier this week, Coach Kelly pointed to Mekhi Becton, Louisville’s 6’7”, 368-pound left tackle as a guy “who will be playing in the NFL next year.” He also respects the Louisville QB, Jawon Pass (yes, that’s his name), who won the job essentially by default after a knee injury to Malik Cunningham, his competition.
Pass is a 6’4”, 239 pound QB who is actually viewed to be a pocket passer. But, according to Coach Satterfield (at his press conference), Pass has shown an ability to run the ball as well.
Coach Kelly also talked about the talent that Louisville has at the wide receiver position.
Will QB Ian Book Improve This Year?
It says here that he will take another step up this season. As you know, Book didn’t start until game four last year. So he received all the starters reps this season after winning every game last season up until the Clemson loss. While Book has been criticized for not being able to throw the long ball, particularly against eventual National Champion Clemson, the reality is that he was under siege in that game.
For Game One, Focus on the Notre Dame Receivers
Even though Miles Boykin is in the NFL, Notre Dame, on paper, figured to have an outstanding group of wide receivers this season. But Cole Kmet and Michael Young are both injured and the mystery of Kevin Austin continues (Coach Kelly shut down questioning about Austin, only saying that he would be at Notre Dame all year; there are now conflicting reports as to how much time he will miss).
But they still have Chase Claypool and the reliable Chris Finke. Jafar Armstrong is now a running back who was converted from wide receiver, but he may play some slot receiver for Notre Dame while they are somewhat undermanned at the receiver position.
What About This Game?
Coach Satterfield is going to do an excellent job at Louisville. But even he bemoaned his lack of depth as a football team at his press conference, pointing out that he didn’t even have much time to recruit for this season.
It says here that Notre Dame’s defense will cause problems for Pass, who, according to the Louisville coach, is going to have to take shots down the field. While Coach Satterfield showed tremendous respect for the Notre Dame defense (mentioning defensive ends Julian Oakwara (#42) and Khalid Kareem (#53) by number), he may not be aware of how good DE Daelin Hayes is (Hayes, a senior, was specifically mentioned by Coach Kelly as “a guy we haven’t even talked about” who had “his best camp ever” at Notre Dame).
Notre Dame shouldn’t have a problem with Louisville. Coach Satterfield will make this a good program again, but it’s going to take some time.
So, What About the Season?
Notre Dame has to use these first two games as a prep for the biggest regular season game this year against Georgia in Athens. But it says here that Notre Dame has two chances to return to the college playoff. If they beat Georgia (yes, right now that looks like a longshot -- but let’s wait a couple of weeks to see how the first two games shake out), they are lined up to have a big shot to run the table which would put them back in the top four in the country (they should really increase the playoff to eight teams, but that’s for another time).
But even if Notre Dame loses to Georgia, wins at Michigan (a team that seems to be overrated, especially with Jim Harbaugh as coach -- many thought he would immediately bring them back to top tier national prominence, which simply hasn’t happened) and wins at Stanford (a team that is in a bit of a decline) *****could still propel them into the playoff conversation at 11-1 (assuming, of course, they run the table against all but Georgia).
We’ll see what happens … .
NFL’S New Pass Interference Review Rule Doesn’t Go Far Enough
By Steve Kallas
If you are a football fan, you’ve probably seen the play twenty, fifty, even 100 times: the NFC Championship Game. January 20, 2019. Rams at Saints, tied at 20, 1:49 left in regulation. Saints quarterback Drew Brees drops back to pass. Tommylee Lewis appears open to Brees’s right and Brees throws him the ball. Rams defensive back Nickell Robey-Coleman arrives very early and knocks Lewis over before he has a chance to catch the ball.
A clear pass interference call.
So, What Happened?
Or, more appropriately, what didn’t happen? Well, despite two officials looking directly at the play with an unobstructed view, no pass interference call was made. To say it was an egregious non-call is an understatement.
What Would Have Happened If the Call Had Been Properly Made?
Well, it would have been first and goal on the Rams 6 or 7 yard line with 1:45 to go in regulation. The Rams had one time-out left so they could have stopped the clock after the first down play which, presumably, would have been a run or even a QB kneel down. So, with about 1:40 left in the game, the Saints could run two plays and the Rams could not stop the clock. That’s 80 seconds (40 second clock between plays) plus two plays before the fourth down, chip shot field goal attempt to win the game.
Absent an incredible screw-up, the Saints would have kicked the game-winning (go to the Super Bowl) field goal with no time left or, more likely, a very few seconds (about 5-10) left in the game.
What Did Happen?
With no penalty call, the Saints had to kick a field goal on the next down. But that left time for the Rams to go back the other way, tie up the game with a field goal and then win the game in overtime.
While many have correctly pointed out that the Saints had opportunities to win the game despite the egregious call, they miss the point. The point is, and this rarely (if ever) happens, had the right call been made (with a chance to go to the Super Bowl), the game was, for all intents and purposes, over.
Where Did We Go From There?
Well, incensed (and rightly so) head coach of the Saints, Sean Payton, led the charge to have a rule change. And he was greatly supported by the other NFL coaches (especially Bill Belichick, Jason Garrett and Andy Reid). Earlier this offseason, the NFL announced the new pass interference review rule:
1) Pass Interference will be reviewable. Coaches can challenge any call or non-call. (After a back-and-forth, it was eventually decided that the coaches could do this at all times except in the final two minutes of each half and overtime).
2) A booth review would exist for any potential calls or non-calls of pass interference in the final two minutes of each half and overtime.
3) The rule change is for the 2019 season only.
As you probably know, coaches now get two challenges a game. If they use both and are successful on both, they are awarded a third challenge.
Why Isn’t This Enough?
Well, there are a number of reasons but, first, we’ll look at Sean Payton’s quote right after the March 26, 2019 meeting that established the new rule.
Sean Payton said, “The feeling I think is there is still some more to do relative to putting someone upstairs or having the replay official that’s currently up there in a role that’s more expanded. I think we’ll get to that but I don’t think there was an appetite this year for that.”
So it would seem, from this quote, that Sean Payton clearly wants the replay official to have the power to review an egregious play (like the one that most likely cost him a trip to the Super Bowl) at ANY TIME during an NFL game.
And he’s 100% right. Imagine, if you will, the exact same play happening in the upcoming season’s playoffs but with 2:10 left in the game. It could be the deciding play in the game; you know, the difference between going to, say, a Super Bowl or not.
But the coach, for whatever reason, has already run out of challenges. The non-call would be just as egregious and important as the non-call in the Rams-Saints game. The result would be the same (can’t be reversed). But the blame would mainly go on the head coach: why did he run out of challenges, etc.
Sean Payton clearly sees this problem. The rule should be (and it seems, based on Payton’s quote, that someday it will be) that the replay official can review any pass interference call or non-call at ANY TIME during a game.
That would immediately fix any run-out-of-challenges problem that would just make the NFL (and, probably, that particular coach) look terrible with an identical bad result (or, at least, unfair result) for the team, the fans and the game itself.
But Wait, There’s More!
There’s an additional problem here that Sean Payton probably knows about but it was just too soon to talk about it. Suppose there was an identical fact pattern to this past Rams-Saints fiasco except, instead of an egregious pass interference no-call, a defensive end or a linebacker beats the left tackle so cleanly it’s obvious he’s going to sack the quarterback who doesn’t see him. But the left tackle recovers and all he can do is grab the defensive player by the ankles and take him down before he gets to the quarterback.
Somehow, inexplicably (just like Rams-Saints), no call is made. The officials just missed the call. The quarterback, in this case, completes a pass to ice the game. Everybody goes ballistic and somebody (Sean Payton, maybe) comes up with the idea that a non-holding (or holding) call should be reviewable. You get the point.
What Should Happen?
Well, Sean Payton won’t leave this alone. Maybe next year there will be more of an “appetite” (Payton’s word) to expand the rule.
What should the rule be to avoid what could very well happen this season?
The NFL should institute a broader rule to the one that will go into effect this season. It should be that the replay official can step in at ANY TIME during an NFL game to correct an egregious call or non-call on any play. Whether it be an egregious hold, trip, offsides or neutral zone infraction or anything, it should be reviewable and correctable on the spot.
One final example: Patriots-Chiefs, late in the last AFC Championship game, Dee Ford lines up obviously in the neutral zone (maybe even with the Patriots line he was so far past his proper line-up position). He’s called for a neutral zone infraction and, if he’s not, the Chiefs probably win the game. As you know, the Patriots keep the ball and eventually win in overtime.
Suppose THAT infraction wasn’t called. Different game result allowing a different team to go to the Super Bowl.
Again, you get the point.
Sean Payton, the victim of obviously one of the worst calls ever (if not the worst call!) in an NFL playoff game, is way ahead of the field in thinking of how to correct the problem. His quote above shows that he obviously (and correctly) knows that a replay official should be able to call for a review of a call or non-call for pass interference at ANY TIME in the game.
This writer believes that Payton also knows that this kind of review should be expanded to any play that is egregious (like the Rams-Saints play or other examples given in this article).
But he also knows that you have to take baby steps once a new rule like this is being implemented by the league.
We’ll see what happens.
© COPYRIGHT 2019 BY STEVE KALLAS ALL RIGHTS RESERVED