The independent voice of Notre Dame Athletics

  • You’re Killing Me, Smalls

    by Mike Coffey

    SeanFL reads-and-reacts to Notre Dame’s bipolar-ish victory over the Midshipmen of the University of Navy.

    There may come a day Notre Dame doesn’t have to sweat out a Navy game ever again. That day cannot come soon enough. Notre Dame’s defense, which was largely absent most of the day, came up with one final stop in the closing minute to defeat Navy 38-34. This game was marred by two turnovers, a number of big penalties, poor defensive play and more than a few injuries.

    Both offenses moved the ball without much resistance. Notre Dame used a dominating running game and efficient passing game to break 500 yards in total offense. However, two costly turnovers, one deep in Navy territory, kept the Irish from adding more points to the scoreboard.

    For Navy’s offense, it was déjà vu all over again. The Midshipmen ran for 331 yards. Five players rushed for over 48 yards. Keenan Reynolds hurt the Irish with play action passes and was very efficient running the offense. Notre Dame defensive coordinator Bob Diaco did not have a good game plan and the defense regressed mightily against the option attack. The Notre Dame defensive line depth was tested as players were limping off the field on what seemed like every drive in the 2nd half. Navy’s offense did not turn the ball over and did not commit one penalty. Actually, that is a lie. The Navy offense had about 15 false start penalties, multiple holding penalties and about 3 helmet-to-helmet hits. Unfortunately, this “officiating” crew conveniently seemed to miss them all. That is a whole other argument for another day.

    Tommy Rees gave the Irish another solid, but inconsistent performance. While one can forgive his first interception due to TJ Jones slipping on the field, his second interception was a poor play on his part. He did look good on play action bootleg passes, and came up with a big 3rd down conversion late to Troy Niklas. TJ Jones, Niklas and Ben Koyack continue to be the players Rees relies on and each made huge plays for the Irish. A large kudos goes to the Notre Dame running backs and offensive line for a tremendous effort. The Irish lined up and ran right at Navy to the tune of 264 yards. While George Atkinson hit the homerun with a 41-yard scamper, and Cam McDaniel was solid, the star was Tarean Folston. Folston ran for 140 yards, 1 touchdown and was the workhorse down the stretch. He will only continue to get better as he becomes more comfortable in the offense. The offensive line played as if Joe Moore had been brought back to life. They opened gaping holes, dominated down the stretch and kept Tommy Rees off his back all game. It was a joy to watch.

    Let’s answer the pregame questions:

    Will Notre Dame have more rushing or passing attempts? Rushing, much to our surprise. 36 rushing attempts to 20 pass attempts. The final Notre Dame drive was circa 1992.

    Can Kennan Reynolds channel his inner Ricky Dobbs? Yes. Reynolds ran this offense to perfection and still has two more years left at Navy.

    Can the Notre Dame defensive line stop the fullback dive? No. Navy continually gained 5 yards or more on most fullback handoffs.

    Who will commit the costly turnovers? Notre Dame had two turnovers, one of which came at the Navy 11 yard line.

    Can Tommy Rees stay healthy? Yes. The offensive linemen kept Tommy’s jersey clean all game.

    How long before the first F bomb is dropped in the Romper Room after kickoff? About 3 minutes after kickoff. I dropped the first one after George Atkinson’s touchdown run.

    This Notre Dame team does not win pretty. They win ugly. Sometimes it is really ugly. The blame for this starts with the head coach and trickles all the way down the roster. However, they keep winning more than they lose. Maybe they are no better than the 25th best team in the country. Maybe they don’t deserve a BSC Bowl. Maybe Brian Kelly is just really lucky. Or maybe these kids deserve a ton of credit for being 7-2 after dealing with a lot of adversity since January 7th. Maybe this is the year we close the BCS era with a surprise win. And perhaps, while not Lou Holtz or Nick Saban, and even though he may frustrate the hell out of the fan base at times, Brian Kelly is a good coach who continues to get this team to believe they can win.

    By the way, I love you Dad. You instilled the passion and love I have for the University of Notre Dame and the football team. I will forever be thankful to you for that gift. Go Irish!


    19 Responses to “You’re Killing Me, Smalls”

    1. This is a game we would have lost between 2007 and 2011 (Syracuse, Uconn, Tulsa,etc, etc) , but like other close games this year we played just well enough to win. The “unneccessary roughness” penalty on Fairly was just horrible. When is a shoulder hit to knock the other teams quarterback out of bounds when he is close to a first down unneccessary roughness. It was a clean football hit and was not intented to hurt the Navy quarterback. Nichlas’ “holding” was also a ticky tacky call.

      We are getting close, especially on defense to the point where there will be no “next man in” as we will be at the end of the bench. Sure hope Nix and Williams are back next week as we are going to need them. Thank God for a bye week prior to BYU. Maybe we can get some of the defense healthy. Kudos to the offensive line which now includes two players who didn’t start the season there. They played very well. Tommy Rees is Tommy Rees but we would not be 7-2 without him. Go Irish!

    2. Right on target.
      This performance is on the coaches and if they insist on linemen adding more weight in the off season we will watch slow motion football next year.
      They (coaches) will be embarassed in a BCS game (again).

    3. mpsND‘72 says:

      No, they don’t deserve a BCS Bowl. But they do deserve a BS Bowl.

    4. mjhollerich says:

      Great writeup. Now that you’ve cracked the starting lineup, we can retire that vannie guy.
      And since Hanratty complimented your Latin last week (ad nauseam not ad nauseum), let me compliment your Greek, since you recognized that kudos is a singular not a plural.

      Not a Kelly lover, but that 10-0 in recent close games can’t be an accident. We used to lose those. I pass over the question of why so many of those games were close in the first place.

      • Thank you. I have an amazing wife who loves the Irish and supports my fandom. My mother was born and raised in Greece. I can’t take credit for that. I have good genes.

    5. The defense looked awful. The announcers couldn’t figure out why Diaco wouldn’t stack the box with 8 and 9 defenders, at least some of the time. I agree that a win is a win, but the pollsters don’t see it that way and ND struggling mightily against the midshipmen won’t do anything to help their cause in the rankings. Meanwhile, MSU defeated Michigan 29-6. And most of the top 10 teams like, Alabama, OSU, Oregon and FSU continue to eviscerate their opponents.

      Again, winning ugly is better than losing, but hopefully at some point soon in Kelly’s tenure he can finally figure out how to field a complete and dominant team.

    6. irishhawk50 says:

      ND was outcoached and outplayed by an inferior Navy team. A win is a win, but as others have pointed out there is no way Navy should have been able to run up and down the field at will. The offense was fine, but that was against a Navy defense. No way 38 points should have been needed against Navy.

      ND is a top 25 team, but I don’t think a BCS team. We will see…….

    7. I am mystified why Duke and Western Kentucky can defense the option but Diaco can’t.he is clueless, and I am beginning to think overrated.

      • Agree. Diaco’s body of work at ND is not very impressive. I thought he was key last year but its looking like that was Teo. Coming from where the defense was in 2009 we were gald to have him but I think most of the improvement can be attributed to having a legit head coach.

    8. Navy played a near-perfect game …no turnovers and no penalties (that were called). Not often that ND wins a game when they are minus-2 in turnovers. Great atmosphere at the game … two Blue Angel flyovers and mutual respect between the two teams and fans. Can someone tell me who started the Wave and why ND fans joined in? Bush league!

    9. irishhawk50 says:

      Folston had a good game, but let’s remember it was against a Navy defense that couldn’t stop McDaniels or Atkinson either. I agree with Kelly lets wait and see, but no doubt he is something special.

      By the way, did anyone see that Michigan State held Michigan to something like minus 47 yards rushing. Sorry, but I am still not sold on Diaco.

      I will be interested in what the outcome of that review of that call turns out to be on the clean hit by Farley (?) in bounds on Reynolds (?). I think that may top the Air Force forward pass fumble call.

    10. GraceHallChapel86 says:

      Horrific officiating. Just horrible. Yes, the Irish looked like they had never even heard of the option before, much less played against it, but that officiating crew needs to consider a career in Walmart security or something. Pathetic.

    11. Missed the game….thanks be to God; by all reports it was disgusting, but a win is a win.

      Jack McGee

    12. martinjordan says:

      1. This is the kind of win that feels like a loss.

      2. The officiating in the first half was terrible but better in the second half when they kept the flags in their pockets.

      3. Rees overthrew a wide open Troy Niklaus in the end zone for a TD which would have put ND up 14-7. Instead they had to settle for a FG and a 10-7 lead.

      4. On the drive after ND stopped Navy Rees threw a horrible pass on a perfectly set up screen play to Amir Carlisle which would have gone for a huge gain. On the very next play Rees threw the interception that changed the momentum. ND should have been up 21-7 but Navy went down the field and took a 14-10 lead.

      5. With a good two minute drill ND could have taken a lead into half time or at least been tied but Rees threw another interception.

      6. The defense was disappointing but had three stops – not including the one at the end of the first half. It looked to me as if the defensive lineman were lining up about a half yard off the line of scrimmage rather than right on it.

      7. ND’s kick off coverage has been bad all year but it really stunk against Navy and almost cost them the game.

      8. Tarean Folsten looked GREAT in the second half.

      9. Rees had a good second half and made a big throw on a third and long in the last drive.

      10. This team does not belong in a BCS bowl. The only way they get to one is if they win out. That would include a win at Stanford. We’ll see.

    13. marleyman says:

      I am surprised that no one has made an obvious observation. Navy ran the triple option to virtual perfection. When you run the option like they did on Saturday, few opponents would survive. Game balls: Navy offense, and Folston! We might be looking at the future at running back.

    14. Don in LA says:


    15. My notes:

      1 Navy is better coached than we are.. Period.. Did you see the head coach encouraging his
      players on the sideline after they went up three late in the game. Kelly should take a look at that.

      2 Our special teams are anything but special.. I can’t believe how “slow” we look… After fours
      years, it’s truly unacceptable.

      3 Diaco is overrated.. Teo, Motta, and Kappy Moore bailed him out last year.

      4 It’s time to turn the ball over to our talented freshmen back.. He’s the real deal..

      5 Kelly talks a big game.. but at end of the day, we’re not BCS worthy.. Has anyone seen
      Fresno State’s offense?

    16. Some good comments. A few additional comments:

      Nix and Ishaq Williams did not play. One of the subs at one point is a true freshman

      By late in the fourth quarter, Tuitt was playing nose tackle, with four starters in the game out.

      Watt and Lombard did not play.

      No excuses but take away 6 of Bama’s starters and have them play with McCarron’s backup (recall, Rees is Goulson’s backup) and what is the result?

    17. No more Waves!!! Leave it for the Houston Astros fans.