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  • IBG: More of the Same

    by Mike Coffey

    Irish Blogger GatheringThe official word is IBG claims no responsibility for Notre Dame’s poor performance this weekend due to our shakeup of format. That’s good, because God knows there’s plenty of that to go around. Like last week, instead of asking five … er, three questions of one of my fellow bloggers, we each submitted a question to the pool, and each of us will be providing an answer to everyone else’s questions. The answers you read below are my responses to their questions, and you can read their responses to my question (along with the others) on their blogs, which will be linked at the start of their responses to me.

    Here’s the question I posed to the group:

    There are only so many things you can do during the season to correct the larger issues on a team, as most time must be spent on the opponent du jour. Name one issue you hope is at the top of the coaching staff’s list for this off-season and why.

    Now for my answers to their queries:

    Keith Arnold of Inside the Irish: How much can you learn from one game? If you listen to some, the Irish’s loss to Pitt seems to have erased just about every bit of good that’s happened over the past four seasons. No doubt, the Pitt loss was one of the most disappointing of the Kelly era. But how do you personally measure the game and disappointment final score, and does it change the opinion you held of Brian Kelly at 7:59pm EST last Saturday?

    It’s not a question of “one game”. A lot of the issues that cost Notre Dame the game Saturday are the same issues that, while they showed up less often last season, have been problems for the team since Brian Kelly arrived, including the abandonment of balance in the offense down the stretch, mental errors by players at critical times, head-scratching play calls (e.g. fade from the 6″ line) and coaching decisions (e.g. declining a penalty against Pitt after they made a positive-yard play on first down), the disappearance of players who had contributed strongly in previous games, and a game plan set on responding to what the opponent is doing instead of doing what ND has shown they do well.

    It doesn’t change the opinion I had because my disappointment at Brian Kelly’s lack of ability to adapt already was present when the game started, and this result only reinforced it. I had such high hopes going into the season, since Kelly seemed much more adaptable last season. But as the results pile up this year, last year is looking more and more like an outlier borne of once-in-a-decade players on the defense. We’ll see what happens the rest of the way.


    Ryan Ritter of Her Loyal Sons: Stephon Tuitt’s ejection for “targeting” (and I use that term very loosely) definitely added more frustration to an already horrid game. I’m all for promoting player safety, but I definitely don’t think this new rule is the way to go. Do you agree? If so, how would you change the rule? If you’d like to keep it, what are your reasons for leaving it alone?

    Unfortunately, I think the rule is necessary. Too many players are going for the Sports Center highlight hit instead of using good fundamentals, and that behavior has to be curtailed in the interest of protecting the players being hit on those plays.

    I do think, however, the rule is being applied too liberally, and officials should be allowed (if not required) to review replay on those hits to determine who initiated the helmet-to-helmet contact before applying any penalty. In the case Saturday, it was clear the quarterback’s actions caused the contact to take place, and for Tuitt to be called for the infraction is ridiculous. I’m all for protecting defenseless players, but let’s make sure the player was defenseless before ejecting someone.


    Frank Vitovich of UHND: After running the ball effectively in the first half, Notre Dame all but abandoned the run in the second half against Pitt even they didn’t trail at all until there was less than 9 minutes remaining in the contest. Is Notre Dame’s lack of a commitment to the running game this year as opposed to last the reason the Irish themselves right back where they were in 2011?

    I believe it’s one of the reasons. Brian Kelly is a pass-first coach and always will be, and reasonable minds can disagree on whether or not that’s a good thing. What’s not a good thing, though, is Kelly’s tendency to abandon the game plan and default to the pass the minute he’s in a pressure situation. This season, with a limited quarterback, that tendency becomes even more of a detriment, as it pigeonholes Notre Dame into situations where the odds are stacked against them succeeding.

    It is for this reason that I (and others on NDN) have called for BK to cede his play-calling (and yes, he’s calling the plays, no matter what he says in press conferences) to his offensive coordinator and, while being involved in the game-planning, stay completely out of game-day signaling other than an advisory role. Unless and until he can prove he can stick to a balanced game plan, his participation only hurts the ballclub.


    Aaron Horvath of Strong & True: With two games left before bowl season is at hand there is work at hand to finish off the season strong. What must the Irish do well on offense and defense over the last two games to give themselves a chance to get to 9-3?

    On offense, they have to stay balanced. Tarean Folston and Cam McDaniel have a lot to offer against both teams remaining on the slate, and they shouldn’t be forced to sit on the sidelines and watch. A strong running game will keep a depleted defense off the field, and Tommy Rees, while gutsy, probably can’t carry this team to two wins on his shoulders.

    On defense, everyone needs to keep their heads on straight and try to get (and stay) healthy. Stanford especially will attack ND both on the ground and through the air, so we’re going to need something a lot closer to mistake-free football than we’ve seen.


    35 Responses to “IBG: More of the Same”

    1. […] NDNation would like to see some adjustments. […]

    2. Just a great article,especially Keith Arnolds’ response. It is too late in the season to teach blocking and tackling. Manti should have received the Defensive Coach or the Year Award. If Tuitt wraps his arms around the guy the way you should tackle he is still in the game. It is no secret to opposing coaches that the secondary is so soft they are not on the screen when a pass is completed. Why can’t this be taught to guys who are not stupid. When players feel the coach panic they also panic.

      • I agree that Tuitt should have kept his eyes up and wrapped up but how do you know they would not have called the penalty? These calls are so subjective I don’t think anyone knows that answer. A terribly unwarranted ejection.

    3. Great article and thoughts from all.. Here’s my two cents:

      1 Kelly has a hard time motivating on a weekly basis.. We seem to get up for only a couple of games a year.. Flat first quarters are really hurting us.

      2 Some of the worst special teams I’ve seen from ND in forty years.. Where’s Bob Davie when you
      need DAVIE was terrific in that part of the game. Maybe Kelly should give him a

      3 Terrible red zone play calling.. Terrible play calling overall.. Everyone knows what ND is going to

      4 Why are teams like Western Kentucky and Duke able to stop the Navy option but we can’t figure
      it out.. Diaco was bailed out last year by Manti Teo.. Period..

      5 Why can’t they figure out how to coach GAIII..He’s so explosive.. COACH HIM UP!!


    4. Full disclosure, at the time he was hired, I thought Kelly was the best candidate (who was willing to come to ND) and I thought it was a good selection since he had won everywhere he had been. It would be easy to say that ND has improved from where it was before he took over, but we all know how low the bar was set by the CW era. In fairness to Kelly, he seems to have recruited fairly well and they will have gone to bowl games in each of his 4 years (no matter how irrelevant 3 of those bowls may be). However, Kelly wasn’t hired to take ND to the Pinstripe Bowl. He was hired to get ND to become a consistent BCS contender with an occasional shot at the NC. I think we all realize that last year’s regular season was an aberration, kind of like the limited success Willingham produced for one season. After 4 years, they are still maddeningly inconsistent and struggle to beat marginal and inferior teams. The program is regressing; with the exception of last year’s game in Norman, ND has failed to win a big game in 4 years under Kelly and they still lose to teams they shouldn’t. Other than last year’s defense, Kelly has had below average offense, defense and special teams during all 4 years at ND. I haven’t seen anything up to this point to think Kelly is the guy to get this program where we all hope to see it. I don’t think ND would fire Kelly even if they have another 8-4, 7-5 season next year, but at some point, if things don’t improve, he will be gone. Also, keep in mind, this is a guy who has absolutely no loyalty to ND as proven by his interview right after getting blown out in the NCG so don’t be surprised if he bolts before ND gets rid of him (assuming someone would hire him). If Stanford can build a program like theirs from the ground up with nowhere near the athletic facilities, resources, tradition, etc. of ND with similar academic standards then it comes down to one thing; the Head Coach. Weis Willingham, and Davie have all been spectacular failures as coaches even after leaving ND so it’s not a situation where the “distractions” of coaching at ND prevented them from succeeding as coaches. The big picture question becomes why does ND keep missing what other programs seem to get right in terms of selecting a successful head coach?

      • Guys, just cool off the jets! Was it BK’s fault that Golson cheated and was suspended this year? BK had planned since last January to turn the offense around Golson’s talents. The he had to turn to Tommy… I love Tommy’s guts and smarts, but sometimes he things his physical talents are more than they really are, and forgets to use his knowledge and brains – and instead of throwing the ball away he tried to thread the needle in the back of the end zone. But Tommy has always given all he has to ND and I – for one – will not chastise him. I believe we went into the Pitt game a bit overconfident, and Pitt was sky high. The injuries did not help, but those are part of the game. The officiating was horrendous, but it happens. I think BK has the program in the right track. We now have depth, and will continue to build that, within the rules and not greyshirting, like some other programs. BTW, speaking of greyshirting – how long did it take Saban to turn around Bama after the bad Shula years? Give BK time to make his mark. If we are in the same situation two or three yeras from now, then yes, we need to look elsewhere.

        • Three years after Saban took over Bama they won a national title. And his first year the Tide was in its final year of sanctions.

      • How are the Stanford 2012, MSU 2011 & 2102 not big games?

        Answer to this statement “The big picture question becomes why does ND keep missing what other programs seem to get right in terms of selecting a successful head coach?” At these other schools Everett Golson is on the field except maybe for the Temple game and ND is probably 9-1.

        There are some big issues with Kelly but lets not add false accusations to the mix.

        • Speaking of false allegations, how is a win against a MSU team that finished 7-6 in ’12 considered a big win? And even though ND was an underdog the Stanford game was at home (as was MSU in ’11) where good teams are expected to handle their business. Do you really think that Everett Golson was going to solve all the problems experienced by ND this year (special teams, poor tackling, bizarre play calling, poor clock management, etc.) discussed ad nauseum on this blog and elsewhere?

    5. . . . we used to joke about being “discombobulated”. Sadly, that’s what we’ve become!

      • Len Kozlosky says:

        I am not an alumni but been watching,been out there numerous times, and following ND since my first game at 5 years old with John Huarte at QB against Mich St. in “62” All the years growing up ND had a magic, tradition etc. I felt it. I remember so many times ND would be the underdog and a team would come to South bend and get upset by ND. There was something special that would make teams not want to play there. Yes, there would be the occasional slip up against a Purdue, Mich St and of course USC. But, for the most part ND brought it every game. You expected a win. I am so frustrated like all the rest of you, because it happens much to frequently. You have Tulsa’s, UConn’s, Syracuse’s and more teams like them that come to ND and get wins. Then on the road the same thing. Mark May is just so happy every week. Do any of you feel confident about “any game” anymore that ND will dominate no matter who it is ? Even when they start strong for some reason they let the other team hang around. There is no killer instinct like other teams have to beat you down and keep you there. The players are stronger , faster, and more knowledgeable now then back in the day. But, yet ND is not the same. It is the coaching 100%. No other excuses. I long for the days of the “Rocket” along with Holtz etc. I can’t ever imagine seeing it again. I can only hope!

    6. What can you..last year was so many close wins against very average teams..but we did win and there was encouragment .but this year looks like we have another 6-6 coach. Maybe that is what we are to be .. We need to play to our not be so concerned trying to out wit the opponent..we are stronger and out physical many of these teams play right at them and quit playing sand lot flag football pitch and catch. Our game plan was-play calling .all so bad. Special teams Oh so bad. I know a lot of the players from the 1960s..and many think we will really never be what we were for so many decades..I went to my first game in 1953. it’s so heartbreaking.GO Notre Dame Forevewr!!!

    7. full disclosure:
      I thought Kelly was a mistake from day one.
      I changed my mind last year but as was pointed out, many of the problems were there last year but with a few breaks and great player leadership the team overcame a lot. The fact that special teams have not improved in four years tells a lot about the coach and his ability. The lack of consistency and an offensive identity over fours years confirms many thoughts about the coach. Very poor player development ( it is certainly true that the majority of the major contributors last year wee Weis guys), bad game coaching and poor preparation make me think we should change soon

    8. Time to look at things at ND…..

      1.) School’s commitment to the football program.
      2.) Finding the right person for ND…..SABAN…SABAN….SABAN…SABAN OR BUST!!!!!
      3.)Are the recruits we getting really as good as they are perceived coming out of HS?
      4.)Sometimes we do not need to be #1 in the Graduation Rates.
      5.) What’s wrong with giving kids like Zorich and Rice an opportunity to play at ND.
      6.)Is ND ok being average program? If so…when did I miss this that decision.
      7.)Time to schedule an SEC big boy along with Clemson, Miami, and Florida State.

      • They aren’t going to get Saban, but I agree with all your other statements. Recruiting is the NO. 1 factor in any successful collegiate athletic program and ND football is hamstrung by something it can’t control (location of the school) and something it can (outdated entrance requirements). We’ve had some very good (I wouldn’t call them great) classes come in since Kelly’s been here, but several of the key ones have either transferred (Aaron Lynch) or never made it to campus (Ronald Darby, Deondre Greenberry and Eddie Vanderdoes, just to name a few). Did you see the number of NFL-ready defensive linemen playing in the Bama-LSU game? That is what ND is missing. Depth on the defensive and offensive lines. Those used to be the positions the Irish were dominant. Until the ND administration loosens the entrance requirements, I don’t see the Irish as a consistent NC contender.

    9. GENTLEMEN, I think you guys are forgetting that NotaDame (yup – I’m from Boston) did not start the season with who BK was planning on starting the season with. From the get-go, NotaDame has been challenged. Rees is not a dual-threat QB. Dual-threat QB’s are mandatory to manage BK’s offense. We really must not be surprised/disappointed. BK blew the last game. But BK did not blow the whole season. That’s on Golson.

      • Mike Coffey says:

        Except Golson wasn’t hurt on the first play from scrimmage. He was suspended four months before the season began. Four months during which the coaching staff could have put together a game philosophy that didn’t repeatedly put the game on Rees’ shoulders. So yes, BK did blow the whole season.

        • You are right, BK should have spent the whole summer designing the offense the offense around Hendrix…. are you crazy!?!?!?!?!? He played the cards he had, and Tommy was the best he has. As we know, Tommy has limitations, and they caught up with him. Golson’s lack of judgement ruined the season, not Brian Kelly. Of course, in any other school (Alabama, SEC, Stanfrod, Texas, et al) Golson would have missed the first game and played the rest of the season, and ND would be in the BCS conversation, probably at 9-1. I applaud Notre Dame for the integrity they showed handling the Golson situation, as the punishment will make Golson a better person. Hopefully, he can come back next year and also be a better football player. Stop the blame game!

          • Mike Coffey says:

            Except that’s not what I said or even suggested. I suggested he come up with an offensive game plan that doesn’t involve throwing the football as the primary weapon since the person doing it has limitations. Maybe that means more focus on the bevy of high-quality running backs ND has, running behind a seemingly talented offensive line. Maybe that means using play-action for passes to loosen up the defense instead of having Rees stand in an empty backfield where everyone and his mother knows he’s going to pass the ball. Maybe that means Brian Kelly shelving his ego and doing what helps the team win rather than showing off his passing credentials for potential NFL employers. Any way you slice it, ND would be better off.

    10. kevin shutler says:

      What advantage do we gain by taking the ball when we win the toss??
      Drives me crazy right off the bat.

    11. This team will look a whole bunch better once Rees leaves. I cannot wait to get the last of the Weis recruits out of there. Andrew Hendrix must be the worst QB on earth if he cannot unseat Tommy Ress, who is one of the worst starting QBs I have ever seen at ND (and most other programs), the guy is anti-clutch. By anti-clutch, I mean he makes huge mistakes at the worse times.

      Chill out on Kelly; the team went to the National Championship and went undefeated on the way last year.

      Good grief.

    12. Let’s look at the facts. Last year seems to be an aberration not a vision of the future. As was pointed out we survived a few games against teams we clearly should have dominated Kelley stated that we were close to Alabama after the NCG. That isn’t even fathomable. I dislike Nick Saban and would never want him on our sideline but the man can coach. Alabama is well coached and you never see them make the mistakes that ND makes and they play sound assignment football. For Sheldon Day to not play until the whistle was a huge factor in the Pitt game. We would not beat Michigan St. now, we struggled with Temple, Navy and Purdue. We give every opposing QB their “Heisman Moment”. Look at the statistics of opposing QB’s and compare them to the other games on the schedule. To sit and say Kelley has us close is rose colored vision. I question Diacco as a DC and Chuck Martin as an OC. there big complaint about Weis was he didn’t coach up his players. I don’t see it here either. Our linebackers are atrocious outside of Jaylon Smith and the DBs have regressed. The OLine is marginal at best. Stanford will close the lid and possibly nail it if we don’t beat BYU,who has a dual threat QB so look for big game from him. Even with time to prepare we don’t look prepared as we continue with poor clock management and wasted time-outs. After 4 years Rees still hasn’t learned to throw the ball away and live for another day. Except when he did and got a grounding penalty. Live with poor officiating because it permeates on every level. We have to live with ACC officials now.

      • Nick Saben has a few major advantages the ND coach doesn’t have. He can pluck players from JUCO’s and he doesn’t have to worry about grades, etc, and that whole grey shirt issue.
        I’d love to see Saben, Miles, or Urban come to ND – they wouldn’t last – they can’t “cheat.”
        Now I hate Harbough, hated him at Michigan, hated him when he played for the Bears (I’m a Bears fan!), hated him at Stanford and San Fran – I’d love it if he came to ND.

        • Len Kozlosky says:

          That’s exactly why you will never see those guys coach at ND. They would have no part of not being able to recruit the top athletes they get now with no questions asked. It’s also right about the suspension of Golson. If he were at Alabama, LSU, Ohio St etc he would have gotten maybe a two game suspension. Don’t forget when they suspend somebody it’s when there playing Eastern Mich. or Tenn. Tech etc. You know what I mean. The only defense I’ll give Kelly is the fact of the grade requiements. That’s all he gets. Other than that he is full of mistakes and poor judgement. Plus using talent the proper way. One thing I’ve read that people say that I really agree with is that when ND gets something going with a certain player etc run or pass, you can be sure they will stop doing it during the game for some unknown reason to all of us. It’s been going on for years. Until things change in the enrollment standards this is the way it’s going to be forever. ND can keep their standards high for most of the kids. Just lower it for the players. Hell, if there that good they won’t need good grades. They’ll have an NFL career. Look how many players leave after their sophmore year now. They don’t care about their education. College is just a showcase for them. So let it happen at ND

    13. Someone said he can’t wait until Weis’s recruits are gone. ZAck Martin and Chris Watt were both Weis recruits, Louis Nix-Weis, Carlo Calabrese-Weis, Dan Fox-Weis Manti Teo last year-Weis, Zeke Motta-Weis. So if Weis recruits weren’t playing we wouldn’t have a left side of the OLine, two of the linebackers or the nose tackle. Not defending CW but he did recruit some pretty good players.

    14. […] ND Nation – Mike wants Brian Kelly to stick to a balance game plan […]

    15. Joe Schaefer ND '59 says:

      Changing the admission standards solves nothing. I think the way ND does it is pretty sound: find good players at good high schools, evaluate test scores, talk to coaches and counselors, compare potential recruits with the admissions and GPA data bases at Notre Dame, and then decide whether to follow through with an offer. Since the classroom demands at ND are more time consuming than most schools, then you want guys “who get it” the first time on the practice field. That pays off at game time because you only get it once there as well. Another aspect of this is, they “get it” when interacting with their coach. I suspect the frustration exhibited in the ND blogs is present within the team. A good question is, How do these young men really feel about their coaches !

    16. Hollywood Hop says:

      Not to beat a dead horse, but admissions have to remain the same. It’s part of NDs integrity, it’s why so many hate us. It’s the Coach, the Coach!!! I told my cousin to check out the sidelines when the camera pans. There seems a lack of intensity. Something just isn’t there. As for the Stanford analogy, it has some credence. Don’t think the players entrance exams are in the 1300-1400 range like the rest of the student body. It’s an overrated issue. PS Nick Satan coming to Notre Dame would be tantamount to Anton LaVey teaching a course on religion there.PSS I feel your pain brothers. It’s hard to suck wind when ND is part of our yesteryear DNA.

    17. The thing that amazes me is that ND doesn’t get any money from being No1 in graduation rates. They consistently pass up 15 million dollar paydays with the BCS bowls. It is a different game today than it was 40 years or more ago. Kids today look at different things than they did back then. They want 20 different uniform combinations or Jumbotrons or Field Turf or they want to win consistently like Alabama does. We will have a tough time getting those kids and if they do come and want to leave after their 3rd year so be it. We sound like losers when we keep saying our graduation rates are so high. I have not attended one ND graduation but have been to quite a few football games. I have said it before if it were not for football no one would know who ND was or is. Last year was an anomaly it wont happen again for a while. Meanwhile those schools who continue with a football tradition will keep rubbing our noses in the dirt. ND has a ton to offer a young man coming for an education. If that is really what we care about then we should be happy with 8 or 9 win seasons and minor bowl games and quit discussing all of the things we aren’t doing to win. 3 star players “coached up” as many said about Kelly’s ability will never beat 5 star players coached up at Alabama or any other football school.

    18. tuit and nix top 10 pix and we finish sub .500

    19. Lack of top tier play makers is an issue. Only nix and tuitt will play at the next level for any extended time.