Man Cave Quarterback: Reviewing Notre Dame’s 59-33 Win over Air Force
Posted by Steve Herring on October 10, 2011
(Pictured: Herring Bone loves Roby Toma and enjoyed this moment as much as any on Saturday. Hard work has paid off for a guy many wrote off before even stepping foot on campus.)
Immediately following each game I jot down a quick response before delving into more stats.
Here is Saturday’s Rapid Reaction to the game.
BYE WEEK NOTICE: If you are yet unaware – I am a native Southern Californian. I have loved the Irish since childhood and luckily spent my years in Orange County, CA while ND mostly dominated the Trojans. I haven’t lived there since 2002, so I have avoided living in the heart of USC country during their recent run of dominance (thank god). I am planning to supply a few new aspects to the blog for “SC Week” due to the “close to my heart” nature of the rivalry so stay tuned.
Man Cave Quarterback: Air Force
1st Half Offense = Whoa, Whoa, WHOA!: Most Irish fans have been privy to multiple articles and Tweets that started “most points since, most yards since, most passing TDs since” etc. so I’ll try to dig a little deeper when I go through the stats. Any way you looked at it there were 6 possessions and 6 touchdowns. The efficiency was off the charts and resembled what we “expect” versus a service academy but rarely see on the field or scoreboard. I worried they would get OUT of their base scheme to exploit match-ups and instead they expanded the spread to something that resembles more of what this offense can look like.
1st Half Defense = Yes, No, Yes, NO!: I detailed the feeling in my Rapid Reaction, but I felt almost guilty to watch a half where another team marched up and down the field only to settle for field goals or succumb to turnovers. Air Force’s offense took it to the highly touted Irish defense and more shockingly it was through the run AND the pass. The Falcons totaled over 300 Yards, and 200 on the ground, but had little to show for it. Safe to say Irish fans know the feeling. Not sure if it mattered with how much ND scored early on, but Manti Te’o and company need to give the offense first shot at the training table this week and maybe need to get used to it.
Michael Floyd Touchdown: Can you imagine that call coming in the 2nd half of a close game versus Michigan, USC, Stanford or in a BCS bowl? There wasn’t a clear explanation as to how that constituted a touchdown. Because his foot hit the pylon before the sideline? Because he was controlling the ball past the goal line? I’ve watched a lot of football and his foot came down ON the sideline - I’ve been taught since I was in diapers that such a fact would indicate an incompletion. We’ll take it, but if they had overturned the call not a single Notre Dame fan could have provided a legitimate argument.
Jamoris Slaughter: Unlike the other two safeties (Harrison Smith and Zeke Motta), Slaughter’s brief playing career had included few noticeable breakdowns, but also few “big plays”. He made up for the latter rather quickly with three fantastic (dare we say “game-changing”) snaps during the first half (don’t forget the pass break-up on perfect downfield coverage). I look forward to the highlight reel of his beautiful interception that cuts every angle of that play into slow-motion art.
Guess who was right around the football for the fumble Slaughter caused - on this defense the first response should always be Robert Blanton.
Bob Diaco and the Option: The “spread” has been prevalent for a little over a decade and we’ve all seen many other offenses come and go and come and go again (Run & Shoot, Wildcat, etc.). That said, does there exist a single offensive scheme that has more videotape on it than the option? Notre Dame’s archives surely house millions of hours that show the option being run to perfection and games where it was contained and ultimately shut down. Those tapes probably showcase match-ups that were on more of an equal playing field than exists in 2011 between Notre Dame and any service academy. Maybe Diaco can’t get them on his iPad (RIP to another great Steve).
So this begs the question- why can’t Notre Dame seem to shut down the most basic offensive principles run by an inferior opponent?
I post reviews on Monday (in the effort to digest the game, review Saturday Night Live, and catch some NFL) so I assume my readers have perused popular ND articles with loads of information but I’ll rehash anyways - Diaco’s plan placed starting OLB Prince Shembo on the bench in a modified nickel package with three safeties on the field. This was designed with Free Safety Jamoris Slaughter near the line of scrimmage and seemingly responsible for the quarterback AND the pitch back on numerous occasions. This look is rather appealing to experienced option QBs and Jefferson made Notre Dame pay on multiple occasions. The results were mostly poor as the Falcons routinely did whatever they wanted offensively, but it put Slaughter in position for the most dramatic moments of his career -a bit of a give and take if there ever was one.
Air Force never really threatened to win this game, but the overall performance by the defense left much to be desired. Praise be to Manti Te’o who made some phenomenal reads on gadget plays and was all-around solid on the afternoon. All’s well that ends well? I guess…
Freshman Chase Hounshell: I thought Lynch and Tuitt were impressive on camera until this beast trotted out and took his spot at defensive tackle in the 3rd quarter. On the current roster he’s listed as shorter and a lot lighter than Tuitt but he certainly fills out the uniform unlike any freshman I can remember. He’s interestingly listed at OLB while looking like the newest villain of the WWE.
(Irish fans are already envisioning Kirk Herbstreit during a Game Day 2012 Pre-Season Preview saying “I can’t believe I’m saying this about a non-SEC defensive line, but the unit in South Bend might be the biggest and nastiest in America. My track record of bashing the Irish should tell you that when I say this I mean it.”)
@HB_Sports Note: One of the cooler things on Twitter in the modern age is commenting on something prior to anyone else following the game. When #50 stepped on the field I tweeted his entry before any other prominent ND media did so stick that imaginary feather in my cap. #FootballNerd
0 & 2 - The number of ”terrible” and “bad” throws by Tommy Rees by my count. “Terrible” throw being one that could have easily been intercepted and “bad” meaning he drilled a ball into double coverage while a man ran free. After eleven career games where these were typically 4 & 8, Rees turned an official corner in his development versus Air Force. He was very smart with the football and executed a very good game plan perfectly. I have no problem when he’s missing receivers long and high on the sideline.
8.46 - Jonas Gray’s Yards Per Carry in 2011. This number is most likely all over the internet and deserves to be. If I’m reading this page of the 2011 Notre Dame Media Guide correctly, then he’s on pace to break George Gipp’s all-time record of 8.11 YPC in a season. That would require 100 attempts so we can dream of his continued success over the next 53 carries. (Somewhere an old-timer is flipping on Knute Rockne: All American and grumbling.)
9 & 7 - 9 is the number of touches on Saturday for WR Theo Riddick (8 receptions, 1 rush). 7 is his total touches the previous three weeks combined (0 vs. Purdue, 1 vs. Michigan State). I labeled Riddick, Darius Fleming, and Louis Nix III as my “All Hype Team” during the pre-season and he was the only one who hadn’t started living up to the press. Kelly finally designed a game plan that included force-feeding Riddick and he responded swimmingly. I’m sure Kelly told him all week “if you don’t get going with this plan, we’re going to have a problem.” Worth getting excited about – the way he finished a few of the runs and his grand touchdown with some of that running back power we’ve all heard about from practice.
If this offensive line continues to perform at this elite level (zero sacks in each of the last two games) then anything remains possible for this Irish offense. It’s noteworthy that the week I post a column attempting to prove Brady Quinn should be given another shot in the NFL based off the belief that an NFL quarterback needs time to develop that Tommy Rees hits the “10 Games Started” plateau and has transformed into a strikingly capable spread quarterback.
Herring Bone Official Redaction: I am going to issue a redaction on earlier statements: I was of the opinion that playing Hendrix or Golson in any package with the game still in doubt was a poor decision and would leave Kelly open to much criticism. Hendrix’s strong play is not the primary reason for the redaction, but rather the realization that USC, who’s struggling to stop everyone, now has to officially diversify all their preparations. Hendrix’s immediate success certainly contributed to the excitement level in post-game. Here’s an official apology from yours truly:Brian Kelly, I apologize. You were right, I was wrong. Every second spent by the Trojans preparing for Hendrix’s option is a second not spent on defending Rees to Floyd and Eifert up the middle. You may be getting the hang of the whole “confusing your opponents” thing I hear is valuable in coaching circles. Also, the fact that you showed it and it worked is much more reassuring to ND Nation and your coaching staff I’m sure. Great job and I reserve the right to blast you into the next millennium if you don’t beat my hometown Trojans like red-headed step-children. Sincerely, Steve Herring (aka Herring Bone) Editor-in-Chief
Well it’s a full 12 days until the ball is teed up against USC. I’ve got a few interesting things in the cooker for this game on the site, so we’ll see how they pan out. I despise the Trojans and all their bandwagon phonies. You’d be amazed at the people I grew up with that jumped on the Pete Carroll Bandwagon of Lies in the past 10 years and suddenly started popping up on Facebook pages in maroon and gold with their stupid V’s in the air as if they’d been cheering on during the terrible decade of the 1990′s that they pretend never happened.
The worst for me was last season when the program predictably fell off and all these fake fans started bitching and moaning like winning is owed to them as USC fans.
I’ll stop there and will be posting a little blurb I wrote on my own Facebook page following last year’s win in Los Angeles.
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