The Notre Dame football season couldn’t have started off any better than this.
In a game played in Ireland where Navy was the home team (wait… what?), the Fighting Irish lived up to their name sake and played with all the ire of the Emerald Island. Notre dame took a page out of Navy’s play book and ran the ball down the Midshipmen’s throat mercilessly, attempt 46 rushes for a total of 293 yards and 5 touchdowns. Navy’s triple option had no real shot against the Irish’s veteran defense, especially start linebacker Manti Te’o who was seemingly all over the ball carrier, and even registered his first career interception.
Even the back-ups saw some action, entering the game in 4th quarter with the lead set at 43-10. They played well, and tailback Robby Toma ran in a 9 yard touchdown for what would be the game’s final score.
Overall, the game was well-played by Notre Dame against a rather inferior team. The Irish should have rolled in this one, but it was nice to see them win this kind of game they way they are supposed to win them.
Here are my reactions from the game:
At the start of the second half, Head Coach Brian Kelly was asked about Golson’s play. Kelly’s answer wasn’t exactly glowing, but not scathing either. “He played OK.” And I’d have to agree with that. Coming into this game, you had to know that the Irish would focus mainly on the run (I said as much in my game preview – http://wp.me/prUUN-Lph), which meant Golson wasn’t going to be passing it a whole lot. And he didn’t. He definitely showed some flashes, including a 35 yard pass to DaVaris Davis, but he also made some mistakes. On one play, he held on to the ball way to long, then chucked a wounded duck out towards senior tight end Tyler Eifert that was subsequently intercepted by the Navy defense.
Golson for sure didn’t embarrass himself – he still went 12-18 for 144 yards and a touchdown to Eifert. I just don’t think he showed enough to keep Rees on the bench next week. But I’ve been wrong before.
The true freshman cornerback had a rough day. He appears slow and lost all day in coverage, and was partially responsible for Navy;s lone touchdown of the day, a 25 yard pass from quarterback Trey Miller to receiver Shawn Lynch. While the defense did force the Te’o pick, Miller overall completed 14 passes on 19 attempts for 192 yards and a touchdown. If this had been against Michigan, Oklahoma, and/or USC, this game would have turned out quite different. Russell had better show quick improvement, because he will be benched if he continues to play like he did (assuming he hasn’t already put himself there after this game). I know he’s a young guy, but he’s got to improve or the pass defense will look real ugly.
Really, Notre Dame? A missed extra point AND a fumbled snap on another? WTF??
Seriously, with the teams that Notre Dame will be playing later in the season, they will need absolutely every single point they can score, especially if the corners won’t be able to keep anyone out of the end zone. Coach Kelly had better hope that this was just a fluke, maybe caused by some lingering jet lag or something. But these kinds of mistakes absolutely cannot happen if the Irish hope to be bowl eligible.
Speaking of mistakes… We all know last year Notre Dame was almost at the bottom of the barrel in NCAA FBS in relation to turnover margin. Fumbles in the red zone, bad interceptions, etc., it all happened last year, and it started from the opening kick-off against USF to the final whistle against Florida State in the Champs Sports Bowl. So far so good for 2012. The one interception Golson chalked up can be easily attributed as a young player mistake. But one has to remember that this was Navy, not USC, so we can’t call this a for sure improvement until the competition gets a bit better.
I don’t envy the long flight back that the Irish had after the game, but with a 50-10 win and a likely top-25 ranking (#25 overall would be my estimate) waiting for them, it had to be a fun one. Now Coach Kelly will have to try an re-focus his guys for an improved Purdue team next Saturday. Maybe easier said than done.
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