Sunday, August 31, 2014

Everett Golson Steals the Show in His Return Against Rice

After missing a full season due to poor academic judgement, Everett Golson looked like he never left. All he did was throw for 295 yards with two touchdowns while also rushing for 41 yards with three touchdowns. The stats don't even tell the whole story. He made throws that you would have to see to believe. He also should have had another touchdown pass as it was an easy catch that was dropped.

There is nobody who is a bigger Tommy Rees fan than me, but the playbook was much thinner with him in there. The offense is a lot less limited now and Brian Kelly can finally implement his style of offense. The only thing that makes me nervous about Golson is that the reckless style he plays with puts him at higher risk of injury. Michael Vick always had a hard time staying healthy.

Golson's favorite target was William Fuller who caught 4 passes for 85 yards. Golson distributed the ball around quite well as Ben Koyack, C.J. Prosise, Amir Carlisle, Corey Robinson, and Chris Brown all caught passes.

Notre Dame also had a group of solid runners. Greg Byrant gained 71 yards with a touchdown. Tarean Folston also had 71 yards and Cam McDaniel added 40. Even back up quarterback Malik Zaire gained 58 yards in some mop up duty.

The defense under new coach Brian VanGorder was solid for the most part. They but have a few breakdowns in spots but the Irish only gave up one touchdown that actually mattered. I expected to see a lot more blitzing, but maybe VanGorder is saving it for Michigan.

I was really pleased with the special teams especially the punt returns which has been a problem in recent years. Bryant and Cody Riggs both looked good returning punts. Only a missed field goal by Kyle Brindza was a blunder.

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Irish Set to Kick Off Tough Schedule with Rice

After an off season that saw Everett Golson return only to have four other players get investigated for the same thing, it is finally here. Notre Dame is set to start off another season. 2014 is a significant year for the Fighting Irish as it is the inaugural year in their agreement to play ACC teams. In this first year of that agreement, it will not be easy. Their first game against the ACC will be Syracuse at Met Life Stadium. The next ACC opponent is North Carolina who is nationally ranked. The following week is against Florida State in Tallahassee. Their last one is against ACC newcomer Louisville who should still be tough despite losing Teddy Bridgewater and Charlie Strong. This agreement is a  significant moment in modern Notre Dame history and the idea behind this blog.

On top of the ACC games, the Irish have some other tough games. Let's start in the Big Ten. They are not playing Sparty this year, but they end the rivalry with Michigan in week two. There is no doubt that both teams will want to go out a winner. The Irish are unbeaten in the Shamrock Series but this is the first time they face a regular rival in that game. Although the Boilermakers are inferior on paper, they always play the Irish tough and there is just something about a game that features Notre Dame and Purdue at Lucas Oil Stadium that spells tough battle. Then they have a late season meeting with Northwestern who is tough to predict on a year to year basis.

Then looking at the PAC 12 has three really tough games. Stanford is always a physical battle. There is not much more that needs to be said there. Then the Irish have two late season road trips to Arizona State and arch-rival USC. The Sun Devils will want revenge after that epic battle in Dallas last season. Then whenever the Irish and Trojans play, you can throw away the records and know you are in for a battle.

Of course there is the traditional battle with Navy whose wishbone offense seems to always give Notre Dame fits.

It all starts this weekend against Rice who is no walk over either. I know they play in Conference USA but they are the defending champs. They got crushed in the Liberty Bowl by Mississippi State. It is fair to say that the level of competition in Conference USA is not comparable to what Notre Dame plays. However, for a team like Rice, playing in Notre Dame Stadium is a once in a lifetime experience and they will want to make it count.

Bottom line is that Notre Dame's schedule is flat out brutal. If they win 10 games they deserve to be in the playoffs. I don't care what the experts say.