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  • A Snowy Senior Day Win

    by Mike Coffey

    In the last of our guest-lecturer game reviews, Rocketshark follows up on his pre-game assessment of the Cougars’ clash with the Fighting Irish. John Vannie will return to his usual pontifications next week when Notre Dame travels to Stanford.

    At one of the coldest home football games in recent memory, the Fighting Irish of Notre Dame bounced back from a disappointing loss to Pitt to grind out a satisfying victory against Brigham Young University. The Irish improved to 8-3 while the Cougars are now 7-4.

    It was also Senior Day, the annual celebration of football players who have (probably) played their last game in the House that Rock Built. Before the game, seniors were announced one-by-one and walked out onto the field with their parents to well-earned applause from the capacity crowd.

    As plumes of snowflakes swirled through the air, the sight of Notre Dame in their gold and blue uniforms facing an opponent wearing white with blue trim may have had some reminiscing about the famous Snow Bowl of 1992 against Penn State. Another vintage memory was rekindled with kicker Kyle Brindza’s 51-yard boot through the goalposts of the South end zone (recalling Harry Oliver’s game-winning field goal against Michigan in 1980). Last second heroics weren’t needed on this day to defeat the Cougars, but there were a few times when the game got interesting.

    Notre Dame actually did not start the game on offense for a change, having won the coin toss BYU elected to receive. On the first series the Irish defense held BYU to 27 yards gained before punting. From their own 16 yard line, ND displayed an impressive five-play touchdown drive that began with four straight rushing attempts for 23 yards and ended with a Tommy Rees-to-DaVaris Daniels 61 yard strike for the first points of the game. Kicker Kyle Brindza remained perfect on extra point attempts.

    But BYU answered with a methodical 12-play drive from their 29 yard line (courtesy of 27 yards gained on the kick return) to knot the score at 7.

    The Irish used their next possession to take a 14-7 lead. Rees found TJ Jones for a nice 30 yard gain to the BYU 5 yard line. Two plays later Tarean Folston scored (it would be the last touchdown scored by either team for the remainder of the game). The Cougars were called for pass interference, offsides, and facemask penalties to contribute 19 yards to Notre Dame’s drive, although the Irish gave back 5 yards on a false start.

    From here Notre Dame had a good handle on the game. The Cougars tried to match pace with the Irish on the scoreboard, but a 4th down conversion attempt was stopped by sophomore defensive lineman Jarron Jones, who recorded 7 tackles for the game (4 solo). The Irish offense took over on downs but were held to 3-and-out. The Irish defense returned the favor and the trading of 44 yard punts resulted in little movement in field position.

    Kyle Brindza tacked on a 26 yard field goal to pad Notre Dame’s lead, 17-7. Later in the game he nailed another 26-yarder (to make the score 20-7, Notre Dame’s largest lead of the evening), and, of course, the 4th quarter 51 yard field goal.

    Before the end of the third quarter BYU’s kicker made it a one-possession game by hitting two field goals to make the score 20-13. But in the fourth quarter the final score was cemented with Brindza’s 51-yarder (I love that I’ve worked this in three times now) and a BYU field goal attempt that was blocked by Jarron Jones and recovered by Austin Collinsworth.

    Statistically, Notre Dame’s and Brigham Young’s numbers were fairly evenly matched. ND had 24 first downs to BYU’s 23. Neither team fumbled, but both recorded an interception. Both teams were around 50% on 3rd down conversions (ND: 8-of-16; BYU 11-of-20) and 0% on fourth down conversions (each were 0-of-2). Notre Dame had an edge in time of possession (33:51 to 26:09), passing yards (235 to 168), and less yards penalized (ND was called for 4 penalties for 25 yards, BYU had 6 penalties for 47 yards).

    Tommy Rees enjoyed excellent protection from his line while the shifty Taysom Hill was caught by Dan Fox and later Stephon Tuitt. Fox led the team in tackles with 9 (2 solo). Eiler Hardy, Sheldon Day, Tuitt, Carlo Calabrese, and KeiVarae Russell all recorded at least 7 tackles in the game.

    Here’s a look at the pre-game questions.

    Will the Irish defensive backs tackle BYU players? Certainly many tackles were made but there were some missed opportunities as well.

    Can the Irish defense stifle the Cougars’ rushing attack? The Cougars gained 262 yards on the ground, including 101 yards for quarterback Taysom Hill and Paul Lasike, each. But Jamaal Williams was held below his average with 43 yards rushing.

    Will this be the last time football is played on grass in Notre Dame Stadium? We’ll see.

    What impact will bad calls have on the game? There were missed calls, such as the usual holding, and no one was erroneously ejected.

    Will Cam McDaniel do something impossibly awesome? With 117 yards on the day, Cam was the game’s top rusher. Although this was not “impossibly” awesome it was still awesome.

    Finally, a note of thanks to the Class of 2014 football players for the memorable four years they have provided, and roles they played in bringing Notre Dame football back to a level not seen since Lou Holtz was head coach: Kevin Carr, Austin Collinsworth, Will Cronin, Nick Fitzpatrick, Bruce Heggie, Andrew Hendrix, Bennett Jackson (captain), TJ Jones (captain), Christian Lombard, Arturo Martinez, Luke Massa, Kendall Moore, Louis Nix III, Tyler Plantz, Tommy Rees, Jude Rhodes, Joe Romano, Kona Schwenke, Prince Shembo, Daniel Smith, Danny Spond, Justin Utupo, Alex Welch, Lo Wood, and Alex Wulfeck. Thanks also to the fifth year seniors who came back to lend the program the benefit of their experience: Carlo Calabrese, Dan Fox, Tyler Stockton, Nick Tausch, Chris Watt, and Zach Martin (captain).

    Matt James, the Notre Dame recruit who died before he could play for Notre Dame, was honored by St. Xavier friend and teammate Luke Massa, who wore No. 78. Danny Spond, who was forced to end his football career due to severe migraines, was honored by freshman Jaylon Smith, who wore Spond’s No. 13 jersey.


    31 Responses to “A Snowy Senior Day Win”

    1. There was a lot of angst about the loss of Louis Nix, and who would take his place next year. Jarron Jones certainly made a statement about that problem. It was a really fine game by a rarely used player. Kudos to Jarron on a great game.

    2. Well…… was a win……especially on Senior Day…….as for next weekend…..I m not expecting any miracles…..a loss is an expectation….a win would raise an eye brow and a “wow”.

      HAPPY TURKEY DAY IRISH FANS from my family to yours!!!

    3. Yesterday prior to the game I posted a comment here that was full of frustration and very critical of Rees and Kelly. After watching the game (I love seeing football played ON GRASS and in the elements), I came away thinking that the coaching staff must have read my post. The Irish did everything on offense yesterday that I had been very critical of in my post. We ran the ball very well and were committed to it the entire game. Cam ran for 117 and Folston showed, again, why he is going to be the starting RB next season. Even GA3 had some pretty good runs when he was in. I wish Carlisle had gotten into the mix, but I will take 235 total yards on the ground.

      It should be as evident as ever how much this running game helped Rees. Aside from his one mistake late in the game, he played very effectively and picked apart the BYU secondary. TJ Jones showed why I think he should be a late first rounder or early second rounder with some very impressive catches down the field. And Daniels has so much promise with his size and speed.

      In the end, yesterday was more evidence of why this team should have at least only one loss. Had we played OU and Pitt the same way we played BYU yesterday I am convinced that we would have come away with both of those games, even with spotting OU the 14 points in the beginning. This year has been very revealing in how much last year was due to something unexplainable. I don’t know if Brian Kelly will take the BYU experience going into Stanford and stick with it. I don’t know if he understands that the ground game is how ND can win. It can win against Stanford. They are going to run the ball on us, there is no doubt. Our defense is banged up and even aside from that they haven’t been able to stop the run consistently all season anyway. This means we need to be able to hold the ball as long as possible and get points on every possession. I doubt Kelly sees that. We shall see.

      God bless Notre Dame and Go Irish!!!

      • How could you possibly say you wish Carlisle got in the mix? You arm-chair quarterbacks are ridiculous. We ran for 235 yards but the 4th RB didn’t get enough touches? He has done nothing with every single opportunity he has gotten. That’s why he isn’t playing. Get a grip.

        I have an idea. FIRE BRIAN KELLY. LETS HIRE YOU!!!!

        • I can say that since we ran for over 200 yrds and I think that leaving Carlisle in the dog house for one fumble against Purdue while going back to the Tommy Rees well over and over is not actually fair to a kid that has some clear talent. In each of his opportunities he has gotten like three or four chances to bust the long run and when he doesn’t, Kelly switches horses. The running game takes patience, and that seems to be something that Kelly lacks or at the least didn’t have until later in the season.

    4. Tom O'Connor says:

      The playing surface was just plain awful. This HAS to be the last game on grass at ND Stadium. Many high schools have better playing surfaces and better scoreboards (a growing number have jumbotrons) than we do. We need to play on the same quality of surface on which we practice, namely, modern hybrid field turf. Nothing impedes progress like “tradition” as has been famously said many times. Those paying $80 to see a game should not be the only people in the nation not seeing replays of plays “under further review”, and not enjoying replays of great plays from the better angles TV provides. And I am a geezer, Class of 63. GO IRISH

      • Mike Coffey says:

        Or they could put a quality grass surface down instead of what they have.

        If you want to enjoy “angles”, stay home and watch the game on your big screen. Some of us are capable of enjoying a football game and not a video arcade.

        • mpsND‘72 says:

          Seriously? You don’t think our money-poor Alma Mater grows quality grass on the field? Shame on you! Personally, I’d like them to plant a couple oaks on either side of the goal posts, and arborvitaes along the sideline at each 10-yard marker. We need to be the leader in natural field landscaping!

          Jumbotron? Nah. Raise the ticket prices, and give everybody a FREE Notre Dame iPad programmed for game replays.

          PS: a surprising victory yesterday, eh?

        • Amen, brother!! I’ll be happy to buy your season-tickets, Mr. O.

          Good luck to all of the Seniors, thanks for the memories, and God bless Notre Dame.

          GO IRISH, beat $tanford!!

        • I’m not a big fan of the jumbotron idea, but do you think it could help make the place louder by firing fans up? The Michigan state game I attended was as quiet as the chapel until the fourth quarter. The tradition and national television hype doesn’t provide home field advantage, IMO. I’ve always felt the hype can actually get the opposition fired up. What provides home field advantage is when the opposing offense can’t hear their calls, and that rarely happens at ND. In a round about rant, I would be open to jumbotron idea only if they feel it could raise decibels.

        • Avon Domer says:

          Mike: I’m a traditionalist like you, but it’s time to face facts. There have been many attempts at placing sod in the stadium, including after this year’s Oklahoma game, and the field remains a total disaster and a terrible surface to play on. That being said, the main reason I’m for the installation of field turf is that I’ve hardly ever heard any football player (high school, college, NFL) complain about playing on it. I don’t want to see games at Notre Dame Stadium decided on which team gets the breaks by not slipping or tripping on a sub-standard surface at the most inopportune times. In addition, I’m all for moderately-sized Jumbotrons in the stadium that show replays, provide a catalyst for getting the crowd into the game, NO ADVERTISING EVER and little else.

    5. Great victory. Celebrate now while you can. ND/Stanford game gets ACC officials next week.

    6. irishhawk50 says:

      A good team effort by an up and down team. It was good to see they were mentally prepared for this game, but Farley still can’t tackle and Collingsworth should have taken a knee. An impressive show by Jarron Jones. Again Rees and the offense cool down as the game goes on, getting big chuncks easily in the first half. Defense kept Hill and BYU mostly in check. Hard to figure out how good BYU really was and how much the weather played a role. B+for the Irish. Hope for an A+effort against Stanford. Go Irish!

    7. GraceHallChapel86 says:

      Glad for the win, but chalk another one up for a mystifying year. When we follow previous ND opponents, it gets more confusing still: MSU and ASU–both among ND’s vanquished foes–now significantly outrank not only ND but also everyone ND has lost to. Put another way, MSU’s loss to ND is the only thing that has kept them out of the national title conversation. But did we lose to Sparty? No, we lost to what’s-his-name-again Michigan.

      It’s downright Faustian…

    8. kudos to all the seniors for all they have done. no kudos to kelly for all he hasnt done. why the special teams still are horrific is a try mystery. one reason we cant put most teams away is because we are the worst in the country on special teams–almost a third of the game. we give other teams great field position and almost never get field position changes in our favor.
      I am thrilled for the ND community that we beat BYU but truth is BYU was an unranked team. Listening to Mayock and other one would think they were the SEC champions but no–they are an average at best team. Inability to score TDs in the red zone is a trademark of the kelly era

    9. Mark Napierkowski '88 says:

      Solid win by a talented team coached by an overrated staff to push for a perhaps “better-than-average” 2013 final ledger. I’m with Coffey on the playing surface and jumbo-tron issue(s).

    10. Bennett Jackson is this year’s Gary Gray. Someone told him he was good and he stopped trying.

    11. It wasn’t the prettiest of wins, but a win nonetheless. Congratulations and thanks to the senior class for their hard work and all they’ve done the last four years. I hope they can spring an upset against Stanford.

    12. ND Chicago says:

      Glad Kelly stayed committed to the run for the entire game because when he does ND usually wins. Not sure what he was thinking at the end of the first half by not attempting FG, Brindza clearly has the leg to make it. Fortunately, his arrogance of foregoing the possible points didn’t matter. Happy for the seniors to go out with a final home win after laying a big egg against Pitt. I’m with Mike, find a way to get, and maintain, a quality grass playing surface. Other Universities and pro teams are able to do it so it can be done. If you need a jumbotron to complete or enhance your ND gameday experience, you’re going to the game for the wrong reasons.

    13. rockne1977 says:

      I continue to laugh at those who think Kelly should be fired. A few comments:

      1. First, ND loses Goulson, who almost everyone expected to have a breakout season, then ND loses Danny Spound. Rees has done a commendable job overall but let’s be blunt. He is no threat to run, including running an occasional option play, or to roll out, and opposing teams knew this, sometimes stacking the box. Kelly basically lost a key dimension in the planned offensive scheme without Goulson. When was the last time Rees ran for positive yardage, either by design (QB draw) or by improvising?

      2. For the entire season, Tuitt, Day and Nix have played together on about 25 snaps, that is it!!
      Yesterday, rarely used Jarron Jones played nose tackle even though he is a DE and did a great job.

      3. For several games, ND played without one, two and in one case I believe three starting OL. Yesterday, Martin went out and Hegarty stepped in. The OL gave up no sacks and Rees was hardly hit.

      4. ND lost 3 games thus far because of its inability to protect the ball. Yet gND ave MSU its only loss, ASU one of its two losses and beat a decent USC team with a backup QB late in the game. And by the way, Navy’s QB Reynolds rushed for 7 TDs yesterday.

      5. In 4 sesaons thus far, Kelly has won 36 games and could be 37 and possibly 38. Who was the last ND coach to do this with the 85-player scholarship limit? NO ONE.

    14. Have to give props where they belong. Bounced back very well and played a much better game. I do agree with Kellys statement ‘you can’t start winning, until you stop losing’. All the loses were self inflicted.

    15. martinjordan says:

      The number one quarterback prospect coming out of high school in 2012 committed to Notre Dame. Brian Kelly developed him into a third string quarterback by the end of the 2013 spring practice behind a division II quarterback.

      • Right and Goulson’s suspension had nothing to do with the situation now did it?

        • martinjordan says:

          Golson was suspended after Kiel decided to transfer. I’m assuming that he was ahead of Hendrix on the depth chart at the end of his second spring and one season of mop-up duty.

    16. PanDomer'73 says:

      No doubt we have the players to be 10-1 right now. Even with Tommy. The thing that strikes me most about this group [I hesitate to say team] is the inordinate amount of chest thumping and self congratulation following plays that good players are expected to make. This was not tolerated by Holtz or Parsegian and guaranteed would result in benching. A&M would be much better if their QB’s nickname was Johnny Footballteam. Go Irish!

    17. I, too, hope the Irish keep a natural grass field but I can’t understand all the angst over a jumbotron and the insinuation you are not a true fan simply because you would like to see a couple replays. I love the game day experience so why is wanting to see some key plays replayed such a crime? Why the hate that I should stay home? I’m not asking for a constant stream but if we all quickly rise to see a developing play and I can’t see around the 6’3″ behemoth in front of me, why am I treated like dirt because it would be nice to see said play again? I don’t get it. Or is it an aesthetic thing with you all? Now, if they are going to constantly blare hard music out of thing I understand but that can be easily controlled.

    18. ElkhartIrish says:

      Very memorable group of seniors and fifth years and they will all be missed. Hopefully they have propelled the program to new heights in the future.

    19. Is this an accurate summary of the 5th year (+ Tuitt) situation? Lombard, Utopo, and possibly Collinsworth being the seniors expected to come back and contribute a lot next year?

      Austin Collinsworth – ? as to coming back
      Andrew Hendrix – probably done?
      Christian Lombard – Definitely coming back?
      Kendall Moore – ? as to returning, doesn’t seem to be coach’s preference
      Louis Nix III – Would definitely take back if he wanted to come.
      Justin Utupo – Definitely coming back
      Lo Wood – Has 1 year remaining. Probably coming back?
      Stephon Tuitt – Junior, but possibly leaving
      Bennett Jackson – used all elligibility
      TJ Jones – used all elligibility
      Kona Schwenke – Used all elligibility
      Prince Shembo – Used all elligibility
      Daniel Smith – Used all elligibility

    20. I cant wait for the game saturday but my biggest fear is that Kelly will lay an egg with the game plan. we are 14 point underdogs but I think we are better than that.