Chicago Sun-Times
with Mark Lazerus

September 2012 Archives

Elijah Shumate's win streak now at 50 games

| 1 Comment | No TrackBacks
As a very productive freshman running back at Paterson Catholic High School (910 yards, 12 touchdowns) in New Jersey, Elijah Shumate went 11-0.

As a sophomore at Don Bosco Prep, Shumate went 12-0 on a team that won a state title and was crowned the national champion by USA Today and National Prep Poll.

As a junior at Bosco, Shumate went 12-0 with another state title.

As a senior at Bosco, Shumate had 14 touchdowns as the team went 11-0, with another state championship and a second mythical national championship.

So Notre Dame's 4-0 start is nothing new for Shumate, a freshman nickel cornerback for the Irish. Winning's all he knows.

"Last time I lost was eighth grade," he said. "Pop Warner game, semifinals. We lost by a point. Missed a field goal. That hurt a lot."

At least, he thinks it does. Truth is, Shumate really doesn't remember what it feels like to lose.

"No, I really don't," he said.

And he'd like to keep it that way, thank you very much.

"Definitely," he said. "I do not want that feeling."

Shumate is one of many freshman contributors on the team, particularly in the secondary, where KeiVarae Russell starts at corner, and Nicky Baratti is seeing significant time at safety.

"It's definitely been a big experience, a big dream and a big accomplishment for me," Shumate said. "I've worked so hard to come here and play, in the offseason before I got here, because I wanted to play. It's definitely been a big transition from high school to college. It's a big stage. You're playing at one of the most prestigious schools, if not THE most prestigious school, in the country. It's definitely a big transition from high school. This is a big accomplishment."

ND OC Chuck Martin on ND's quarterback situation

| No Comments | No TrackBacks
Notre Dame offensive coordinator Chuck Martin met with the media today for the first time since mid-August. I'll have more of his thoughts on the quarterback situation in particular (his guess on how it will play out: "I have no idea") and the offensive struggles as a whole in tomorrow's paper, but here are some bonus cuts:

On Everett Golson's struggles against Michigan: "He's had some hot and cold moments in every game. The Michigan game was different. He doesn't really have an explanation. We haven't dwelled on it. I asked him. You were off, you knew you were off, Coach knew you were off. Whatever's gotten to him, was it Saturday night against Michigan, was it a couple mid-terms during the week? I'm not a psychologist. For me, it's just part of life. You learn from it and you move forward. He knows that he wasn't locked in like he should have been locked in, and you can't have that happen again."

On whether Golson's running ability will be integrated into the offense: "I think the kid definitely can be an asset in the run game, long term. We know he's got some good athleticism and the ability to run the ball. There's a lot on his plate already. (If) we add the run element, is he capable of running? Yeah, but it's just another piece, it's running, getting hit, getting more tired, gasping for air. Now I gotta go back the next down and try to throw the ball. It's a slow progression moving forward, which he's doing a nice job of. ... Certainly there's a run element that we haven't really used during his career, and we're going to use it.  (But) you don't want to crush the kid. First game in Ireland; second game is his first home game; third game he's at Michigan State, a pretty hostile place; fourth game is prime time against Michigan. He hasn't really eased into his college career. So we're trying to keep him moving forward knowing there's going to be some highs and lows, but keeping him pointed in the right direction."

On Tommy Rees' experience: "It helps. His experience certainly helps in the management of our offense, there's no question. He's got a lot of experience under his belt. And a lot of calmness. It's like anyone else. That certainly is a factor anytime he comes in. Even the last two minutes against Purdue -- did we not feel comfortable with Everett going out there and throwing the ball? No. It more had to do with the management of the drive. We felt good about both of them throwing the ball. That certainly is something a more experienced guy brings to the table. You've got experience, you've played you've got confidence, you've seen it before 100 times. You don't flinch. Where Everett's at the point where he understands, he's seeing it, but he still flinches sometimes. He doesn't flinch all the time, he's made some great run checks this year. You know the knowledge is there. It' just about experience. Unfortunately or fortunately, whichever way you look at it, he's getting experience under fire right now."

On the chemistry among Golson, Rees, Andrew Hendrix and Gunner Kiel: "The chemistry's been awesome with all five of our quarterbacks. There was a lot of competition in fall camp, everybody was helping each other. Right now it's been awesome, everybody's still helping each other. They're awesome kids. I think they all see that the other guys are talented, too. They all see they all have things to work on and they're working on it together to try to get better. That's how we've been coaching them since Day 1."

Notre Dame cancels games with Michigan from 2015-17

| No Comments | No TrackBacks
Michigan became the first casualty of Notre Dame's new scheduling agreement with the Atlantic Coast Conference.

Michigan athletic director Dave Brandon said on Tuesday that the Irish have cancelled the scheduled games between the two traditional powerhouses from 2015-17, effectively ending the series after the 2014 edition. The schools already had planned to take a break in the series for 2018 and 2019, so the earliest the teams could play again is 2020.

"The decision to cancel games in 2015-17 was Notre Dame's and not ours," Brandon said. "We value our annual rivalry with Notre Dame but will have to see what the future holds for any continuation of the series. This cancellation presents new scheduling opportunities for our program and provides a chance to create some new rivalries."

Beginning in 2014, the Irish will be playing five games a year against ACC opponents. Notre Dame athletic director Jack Swarbrick has already said that Navy, USC and Stanford will stay on the schedule. That put traditional rivalries such as Purdue, Michigan State and Michigan in jeopardy.

"Our contract with Michigan has an automatic rollover provision -- with a year being added each time a game is played," said Notre Dame senior associate athletics director John Heisler. "We needed to avoid the automatic addition of additional games until we can get a better understanding of our available inventory in those years -- an understanding that will develop as we implement our five-game scheduling commitment to the Atlantic Coast Conference."

The Michigan rivalry, while one of the more high-profile ones on the schedule, is actually quite young compared with MSU and Purdue. Notre Dame has played Michigan State 76 times and Purdue 84 times. The Irish have played Michigan 40 times. 


Brandon told SiriusXM radio on Tuesday afternoon that he received the letter regarding Notre Dame's decision an hour before kickoff on Saturday.


Irish secondary holds its own in win over Michigan

| No Comments | No TrackBacks
A first-year starter at each corner. A first-year starter at safety. All three of them converted offensive players. And going up against the dynamic Denard Robinson.

The first real test of the Notre Dame secondary looked like a nearly impossible one to pass.

Five interceptions on five passes and a 13-6 win later, and it looked like the Irish had taken the Wolverines to school. Robinson, after racking up 948 total yards in the past two seasons in last-minute wins over the Irish, was held to just 138 passing yards (and four of the five picks) on 13-of-24 passing, with a modest 90 rushing yards on 26 carries.

"You know people are questioning you," said cornerback Bennett Jackson, who had one of Notre Dame's five first-half picks. "So that's going to motivate you to work harder. That's what we do, we come out every day and work hard, everybody believes in everybody, and it's the next man in. It's your turn to go in, you've got to step up. You've just got to know that everybody's here to support you."

Freshman corner KeiVarae Russell and freshman safety Nicky Baratti also had picks for the Irish, along with a pair by linebacker Manti Te'o. And Matthias Farley, starting in the place of senior Jamoris Slaughter -- who ruptured his Achilles last week against Michigan State -- had a strong game, as well. And while the stellar play of the Irish front seven certainly takes the pressure off the secondary, that door swings both ways, too.

"I think if I was looking for surprises, I would tell you to look at the game that Matthias Farley just played," Irish coach Brian Kelly said. "First-time starter who was a wide receiver last year. I think our coaches have done a great job of getting that back end of our defense to the point where there's a lot of confidence so those guys can just tee off and go get the quarterback."

Safety Zeke Motta, the old man of the secondary now, raved about his young teammates' performances.

"Everybody played great," he said. "The young defensive backs showed they have the capability to rise up in games like this. Bennett obviously had a heck of a game. Everybody played great."

Slaughter's injury puts spotlight on Farley, Motta

| No Comments | No TrackBacks
Jamoris Slaughter underwent successful surgery on his ruptured left Achilles tendon on Wednesday. The release from Notre Dame said he's expected to make a full recovery in six months.

Slaughter's absence puts redshirt freshman Matthias Farley -- a guy who's only been playing football for four years, and a guy who was recruited as a wide receiver -- in a key starting role for the Irish at safety. Fellow safety Zeke Motta thinks Farley's up to the task.

"His preparation has been great, it's all feel and Matthias isn't going to have a hard time, I don't think, at all," Motta said. The best thing I could tell him would be just to focus on each play and mentally prepare for anything that can happen. And move on to the next play if there is a bad play."

For Motta, Slaughter's absence means an increase in responsibility, especially with former walk-on Chris Salvi and freshmen Nicky Baratti and C.J. Prosise entering the rotation.

"Having Jamoris out, not on the field next to me, is tough," Motta said. "But he was a very vocal leader and he got the defense hyped. Stepping into that role, it's going to be tough, but I'll try to fill it the best that I can."

ND coach Brian Kelly said Motta is up to the challenge, and that he's been taking on more of a leadership role since long before Slaughter was hurt.

"It's probably one of the most remarkable, I think, developments of a player from year one or year two to year three in that sense," ND coach Brian Kelly said. "He had a hard time getting himself lined up last year. He has been terrific back there. He's been physical. He's played the ball well. And his leadership skills have continued to grow."

Kelly 'cool' with idea of playing UConn at Fenway

| No Comments | No TrackBacks
The Boston Globe reported that the Boston Red Sox were interested in hosting a game between Notre Dame and Connecticut in 2014. And Brian Kelly -- the kid born and raised in the Boston suburbs -- loves the idea.

"It'd be cool," he said. "I'd like to do it."

But Brian Kelly -- the head football coach at Notre Dame -- had some reservations. It was just a couple years ago that Northwestern and Illinois had to play a one-way football game -- both teams going toward the same end zone -- because Wrigley Field's brick wall stood just a couple of feet from the back of one end zone. 

"I love Fenway Park, I just don't know if it's big enough," Kelly said. "We don't want to get into that Northwestern-Illinois thing where the end zone's not big enough. As long as they do the due diligence, and I know (athletic director Jack Swarbrick) is looking for great venues, and I don't think they've played a game there in a long time. If it's on the schedule, we're going to play it. Being a Boston guy, baseball hasn't been very good there, so maybe we'll bring some football."

But Swarbrick quickly killed the buzz with a statement released Tuesday afternoon.

"We have work to do on our future football schedules, given the announcement last week relative to our upcoming Atlantic Coast Conference relationship," Swarbrick said. "However, media reports today that we will play Connecticut in Fenway Park in 2014 are inaccurate."

Kelly cited the same potential roadblock earlier in the day. Notre Dame's new deal with the ACC will require the Irish to play five ACC teams every year beginning in 2014. Some storied rivalry games already could be cycled out of Notre Dame's schedule as a result, so adding a Big East time such as Connecticut might make things even more difficult. 

That said, UConn coach Paul Pasqualoni liked the idea, too, telling reporters Tuesday that athletic director Warde Manuel was "working very hard" to make it happen. 

"I know this, my kids would be excited," Pasqualoni said.


The celebration of Notre Dame's big win was tempered by the loss of starting strong safety Jamoris Slaughter for the season after he tore his Achilles on the first snap of the second half. Slaughter, a fifth-year senior, is the second starting defensive back ND has lost with an Achilles injury, joining cornerback Lo Wood on the sideline.

Redshirt freshman Matthias Farley, who has played well in the early going, will replace Slaughter. That gives the Irish three first-year starters in the secondary, and all of them are converted offensive players -- cornerbacks Bennett Jackson and true freshman KeiVarae Russell, and Farley.

"Those are things that coaches have to deal with all over the country," said ND coach Brian Kelly, who was particularly pleased with Russell's development over the first three games. "We're seeing the development of some really young players that can be really good players for us. We don't have to hide those guys."

Slaughter also missed much of the Purdue game with a shoulder injury, and the Irish defense fared well without him in both games. But it's still a big blow to a defense that was coming into its own.

"You lose a Jamoris Slaughter, you're losing an 'A' player," Kelly said. "Matthias is certainly not at the level yet of a Jamoris Slaughter. But we have a lot of confidence and trust in him, and he'll be getting a lot of work back there. We'll have to continue to develop him, but we have a lot of confidence in him."
Cierre Wood didn't start Saturday's game against Michigan State.

But he helped finish it.

Wood, returning from a two-game suspension, had a modest 56 yards on 10 carries in the Irish's 20-3 win over the No. 10 Spartans -- but 45 of them came on the clock-killing, game-icing, 84-yard drive in the fourth quarter that started at the Notre Dame 4 and ended with a 29-yard Kyle Brindza field goal and a 17-3 lead.

Wood had lost his starting role to Theo Riddick after his suspension for unspecified rules violations. But he knew he'd still play a big role in the Irish offense.

"I believe in my team, I believe in my coaches," Wood said. "I knew they were going to be me in the right positions, as they did. They trusted me down the stretch, and as our motto says, 'You can count on me.'"

Wood said that he and Riddick talked to the offensive line before the long fourth-quarter drive, asking them to "just give us a couple seconds" so they could put together a long drive and drive a stake through MSU's heart.

"That's what good teams do, and that's what we did," Wood said.

Wood said it was "just another win" for the players. But for him, it was great to simply "be out there with my bros" after a tough two weeks.

"It was hard for me, not playing, seeing my teammates out there," he said. "At the same time, I was happy for my teammates, cheering them, doing what a great teammate's supposed to do. And I was just waiting for my time to come back. When I came back, I promised myself and I promised my teammates I would make a statement. And that's exactly what I did."

Halftime notes from Notre Dame-Michigan State

| No Comments | No TrackBacks
Everett Golson and Co. looked like the Not Ready For Primetime Players at the outset of Notre Dame's first night game of the season.
On the first play of the game, the Irish were whistled for a false start. Before Golson -- in the first true road game -- could even get the next snap off, he had to burn a timeout, as he was frantically shuffling his teammates all over the field in a mass of confusion.
But the redshirt freshman quarterback quickly regained his composure, and his control of the offense. He promptly hit T.J. Jones for a 21-yard gain that seemed to settle down the Irish. After the teams traded punts, Golson hit Toma for a 14-yard gain, then threw a beautiful deep ball to senior John Goodman, who beat out two Michigan State defenders in the end zone for a 36-yard touchdown pass.
Golson was far from perfect -- he was nearly picked off three times on the Irish's final drive of the first half, and overthrew both freshman Chris Brown and Jones on what could have been big gains in the first quarter. But he certainly looked sharper, and fared better, than his fellow first-year starter, Michigan State's Andrew Maxwell, who was rattled early and often by the Irish front seven.


Deep impact: On those two big catches in the first two series, Jones and Goodman became the seventh and eighth players to catch a pass of at least 20 yards from Golson this season, in just the ninth quarter of the season.

Personnel matters: Irish outside linebacker Danny Spond returned to the starting lineup after missing the first two games -- and most of training camp -- with the lingering effects of a migraine. With Spond back, Dan Fox moved back inside.
Also, Kona Schwenke started at nose guard ahead of Nix, though Nix was back in for the second series.

Notre Dame notes and quotes

| 1 Comment | No TrackBacks
Emptying the notebook leading into tomorrow night's showdown in East Lansing.

--- Linebacker Danny Spond, who has been dealing with the lingering effects of a migraine since the first week of training camp, was cleared and returned to practice this week. Brian Kelly said Spond will play this week, and that he's 1A and 1B with Ben Councell at the drop linebacker (outside linebacker) position. 

Kelly said Spond was dealing with the kind of soreness players usually experience during two-a-days, but that he was "full go."

"He was in the training room (Wednesday) and felt great, and he's cleared and he's pretty excited to play," Kelly said. "He will play Saturday."

--- Sophomore wideout DaVaris Daniels, ND's second-leading receiver through two games, made a quick recovery from a high-ankle sprain that had him in a walking boot on Sunday.

"I was surprised," Kelly said. "We weren't sure what we were going to get from him. First-time injuries, you have to see how that plays out. But he did a good job. ... He's going to be all right."

--- Kyle Brindza, who kicked the game-winning field goal against Purdue, will again handle all placekicking duties for the Irish on Saturday. Nick Tausch, who was the starter against Navy, is still dealing with a groin strain, so the expected competition this week never materialized.

"Tausch is still not at 100 percent," Kelly said "There really wasn't any competition this week. Kyle had a great week of practice."


Manti Te'o playing through a devastating week, personally

| No Comments | No TrackBacks
Notre Dame's All-America linebacker Manti Te'o will be playing with a heavy heart on Saturday at Michigan State, after a devastating two days in which he endured the deaths of two people close to him, his grandmother and a close friend.

"He lost some people very close to him," Irish coach Brian Kelly said. "It's obviously taken a toll on him. Our players have been there for him, there's been great support."

Te'o stayed with the team this week, and he will play on Saturday.

"He'll be with us, he practiced, he'll be playing Saturday against Michigan State," Kelly said. "Unfortunately, he's gone through a very rough 24-48 hours. His support, his family at home has been great, all the players and coaches have been there for him, He wants to be with his teammates, he wants to be with people who care about him. He's a strong man, he's going through a tough time, but he'll rise to the occasion."

Kelly said there has been some "preliminary discussion" about giving Te'o time to fly home to Hawaii to be with his family.

"We got a bye week coming up (after next week's home game against Michigan)," Kelly said. "We'll see how things go. We know he's going to be with us for Saturday."

ND's Tommy Rees embraces his role, whatever it is

| No Comments | No TrackBacks
Tommy Rees heard the boos when he trotted out on the field with a little more than two minutes to go in a 17-17 game on Saturday against Purdue.

He just didn't have time to care. The game was on the line.

"I heard them," Notre Dame's backup quarterback, A.K.A. "The Closer", said on Wednesday. "But it went in one ear and went out the other."

Rees led the Irish to a game-winning field goal in his surprise relief appearance. Coach Brian Kelly pulled starter Everett Golson -- who had played a strong game, but was coming off a fumble at his own 15-yard line that set up the game-tying touchdown for Purdue -- because he believed Rees had a better command of the two-minute offense. The crowd was displeased, to say the least.

"That's just something that comes with the territory, I guess," Rees said. "There's been some highs and there's been some lows here, but the highs definitely outweigh the lows. The crowd's emotions definitely flipped at the end of the game."

Indeed, the 81,000 fans at Notre Dame Stadium cheered Rees off the field, vindicating Kelly's decision, and vindicating Rees, who spent the offseason digging out of a hole he created by getting arrested after an off-campus party in May.

The respect and affection Kelly and Rees' teammates have for the quarterback was evident in their postgame comments.

"It's just the kind of guys we have on the team," Rees said. "I felt that support from my teammates and coaches for a long time now."

Rees admitted he was surprised by Kelly's decision. Because he was suspended for the opener against Navy, Rees spent training camp just watching Everett Golson and Andrew Hendrix take nearly all the snaps. Rees was relegated to a coaching role, essentially helping Golson take his job.

But he did what he could to stay fresh, working on his timing with receivers after practice and trying to simulate live action the best he could.

He drew on his experience -- 16 career starts -- when he came in cold off the bench against Purdue.

"That's what you need to do when you're the No. 2 quarterback, you need to stay ready (because) at any time you're number can be called," Rees said. "(It wasn't) too bad. I've had a lot of experience in the past, a lot of game experience. ... When I got back into it, it wasn't too much of a jump."

Rees doesn't know what his role is anymore. He knows he can be called upon at any time in crunch time, and he knows that if Golson is injured, he's the likely replacement. But he also knows Golson might seize control of the job and never relinquish it.

His role is simply to be ready, and to help wherever he can.

"Just help the team any way I can," Rees said. "Everett's the starter, and whatever I can do  -- if I need to go in and play, if I need to be an extra set of eyes for him, whatever the coaches ask, that's what I'm here for."

Cierre Wood's return gives Irish "versatility"

| No Comments | No TrackBacks
The way Brian Kelly sees it, Cierre Wood doesn't change anything in the Notre Dame running game. He simply enhances it.

"No, I don't think Cierre makes the difference in the running game," Kelly said. "He definitely gives us more weapons in the offense that we can utilize. We're going to have to do a great job as a staff of utilizing him. It gives us great depth, but I wouldn't say, 'Well, Cierre is back, you're going to run the ball well this week.' It just gives us more versatility and more weapons on offense."

The Irish rushed for 293 yards in a 50-10 win over Navy, with Theo Riddick rushing for 107 yards and George Atkinson III gaining 99. But against Purdue's stout front four, the Irish relied more on the pass, mustering just 52 yards on 36 carries. Riddick had 53 on 15 carries, and Atkinson had just one carry for zero yards. Saturday's opponent, No. 10 Michigan State, has allowed only 109 rushing yards in its two games combined, holding Boise State and Central Michigan to an average of 2.4 yards per carry.

Kelly thinks Wood's return can only help. Though he has lost his starting spot to Riddick, Wood averaged 5.1 yards per carry in each of the last two seasons, rushing for 1,102 yards last season.

"Great versatility," Kelly said when asked what Wood brings to the offense. "We have to get George some more touches, as well. Because we think we have got really three backs that have equal starting ability. They all can be stars and starters. We have to make sure that we integrate them all into the offense."

Davonte Neal 'not scared' in punt return position

| No Comments | No TrackBacks
Davonte Neal's punt return output in Notre Dame's 20-17 victory over Purdue on Saturday looked awfully familiar to Irish fans -- four returns, 1 yard. Notre Dame had 10 returns for 3 total yards in the entire regular season last year. Neal -- a true freshman wideout with electric running ability won the job in training camp, bolstering Irish hopes that a problem area would be resolved in spectacular fashion.

But while he returned his first punt for 11 yards against Navy, it came only after he misplayed it first. And Neal has been a little shaky since, too. Early in the second quarter against Purdue, Neal fielded a punt at the 3-yard line rather than letting it go into the end zone. He made three guys miss with some shifty moves, and got the ball to the 12, but it was a clear mistake to play the ball. In the second half, he had one return of minus-2 yards, one of zero, and another of minus-5.

Irish coach Brian Kelly -- who pointed that on four of Purdue's seven punts, the Irish were in a safe, defense mode, not a true return mode -- would like to see Neal be a little smarter out there, but at the same time, he likes the kid's boldness.

"Quite frankly, there was a ball he shouldn't have fielded, obviously," Kelly said. "But he's a gutsy kid. He caught two in windy conditions inside the 10. One time, he probably got a little out of his element when he caught it at the 3. But he's not scared now. Yeah, we've got some work to do there. But we've finally got somebody who -- and I'm not saying that the other guys were scared -- but he loves being in that moment, and I love putting guys out there that want to be there, that relish that opportunity. Yeah, we've got to polish him up a little bit, but I think we've got a guy there who's going to be a good player for us."

Notre Dame coach Brian Kelly would like for his starting quarterback to go the distance.

But as he showed in Saturday's 20-17 win over Purdue he's not afraid to go to the bullpen.

"We'd like our starters to finish the game," Kelly said Sunday, a day after he pulled redshirt freshman Everett Golson in favor of veteran Tommy Rees for the game-winning drive with two minutes left. "We'd like them to go all nine innings. But occasionally, you need help. You might need long relief, you might need short relief. I'm not taking anything off the table."

Kelly again made it clear that Golson is his starting quarterback, and will be under center when the No. 20 Irish visit No. 10 Michigan State on Saturday night.  And while Kelly said Golson was upset about the two-minute drill decision, the coach isn't worried about his young quarterback's psyche. 

"We're not going to be sending mixed messages," Kelly said. "There's got to be a trust factor there. ... If you only talk to him once a week, you'd probably have those concerns. But we have dinner together every day. There's constant communication."

Golson was sharp for most of the Purdue game, going 21-of-31 for 289 yards and a touchdown. But he lost a fumble at his own 15-yard line on a sack late in the fourth quarter, setting up Purdue's game-tying touchdown with 2:19 to go. Kelly said Golson hurt his thumb on the sack, but that he and offensive coordinator Chuck Martin already had decided to go with Rees for the two-minute drill.

"The knowledge of running our two-minute drill trumped any kind of injury that he may have had," Kelly said. 

But that doesn't necessarily mean that every time a game comes down to one final drive, that Golson will give way to Rees.

"I don't see it as a role," Kelly said. "(But) if we feel like Tommy can help us win a game, or if he can come in in a situation we believe is the right fit, we'll do so."

------------------------
Cierre Wood has lost his job as Notre Dame's No. 1 running back. Wood, the presumptive starter this season, was suspended for the first two games for an unspecified rules violation. 

He'll be back for the Michigan State game, and he'll be in the rotation, but Theo Riddick -- who ran for 107 yards against Navy and 53 against Purdue -- is the new No. 1, according to Kelly.

"(We'll) reintegrate him," Kelly said of Wood. "He's a really good player. We like good players. We want to get him on the field and get him involved."


--------------------------
Sophomore Kyle Brindza, playing for the injured Nick Tausch (groin), missed a 40-yarder on his first career field-goal attempt on Saturday, but he bounced back by hitting the game-winning 27-yarder. Kelly is hopeful that Tausch can return by Tuesday's practice, but he's no longer the clear-cut field-goal kicker (Brindza had been handling only kickoffs).

"It'll be a competitive situation during the week," Kelly said. 

---------------------------
The Irish had a long list of injuries in the Purdue game, but Kelly didn't expect anyone to miss the Michigan State game. Tyler Eifert (concussion) and safety Jamoris Slaughter (shoulder) already have been cleared, and Kelly expects Kapron Lewis-Moore (calf), Golson (thumb), DaVaris Daniels (ankle), Manti Te'o (sternum) and Sheldon Day (dehydration) to be fine. 

Golson not pleased with Kelly's decision

| No Comments | No TrackBacks
We won't know what Everett Golson or Tommy Rees thinks about what went down in the final two minutes of Notre Dame's wild 20-17 win over Purdue on Saturday until at least Wednesday, because Brian Kelly decided not to let either of his two quarterbacks address the media (very strange, considering the Irish WON). But Kelly said Golson wasn't terribly pleased to be pulled in favor of the veteran Rees for the game-winning drive.

And that's fine with Kelly.

"Here is what I want," Kelly said. "I want a guy who's upset he wasn't in the game in the end, and he was upset that he wasn't in the game at the end, but he's not selfish. He understands that we support whoever goes in the game. Just like Tommy and Andrew (Hendrix) supported Everett, it's his turn now to support his teammates. That's the way we roll. If you don't support each other, then you won't be a part of what we do. That's what we expect from him and that's what we got."

Kelly said he's not concerned about Golson's confidence after being pulled in such a crucial situation.

And when asked if Golson pled his case, Kelly said: "He wouldn't have had a chance to plead his case. We made the decision."

Quick halftime thoughts from Purdue-Notre Dame

| No Comments | No TrackBacks
It's 7-7 at the half...

The good:
The Irish have opened things up for Everett Golson, and the redshirt freshman has responded in a big way. He's in complete command of the offense, sidestepping pressure when necessary -- he made a nifty shifty move on a blitz before hitting Niklas on a 30-yard strike on the run during the second-quarter touchdown drive -- and is throwing a nice deep ball (though he should have had DaVaris Daniels on a touchdown instead of a 41-yard gain setting up the TD; the ball was underthrown). He's looking exactly like the quarterback Brian Kelly wanted/needed/craved for this offense. 

Notre Dame's defense did a relatively sound job against the run. There were simply no holes for Akeem Shavers until the final drive of the half, when the Boilermakers line finally managed to open up some holes. 


The bad
After rushing for nearly 300 yards against Navy, the Irish can't do much on the ground against Purdue's stout defensive line. Of course, they're not trying terribly hard, with only six actual handoffs in the half. Twenty-one rushing yards total. 

Kapron Lewis-Moore was hurt on Purdue's first drive and didn't return. An athletic trainer was working on his leg, and KLM spent most of the half standing on the sidelines, flexing it. 

Both Caleb TerBush and Robert Marve looked relatively sharp against the Irish defense, with nearly identical stats (TerBush was 6-of-11 for 52 yards, Marve was 6-of-10 for 53 yards). But what really hurt the Irish was their third-down defense. Purdue converted on 6-of-11 third downs, including the touchdown and a third-and-9, a third-and-8, and a third-and-7.

Kelly said he wasn't concerned about the kicking game. He should have been. Kyle Brindza (not Nick Tausch) missed a 40-yarder on his first field goal attempt, and Davonte Neal made two ill-advised catches on punt returns, including one at the 2-yard line. He made three guys miss to get to the 12, but he should have let it go for a touchback. A dangerous, unnecessary risk. 

Notre Dame notes and quotes

| No Comments | No TrackBacks
Emptying the notebook heading into tomorrow's Notre Dame home-opener against Purdue:

--- In the ramp-up to the opener in Dublin, Irish coach Brian Kelly was concerned that his team would be feeling the effects of the travel through the first three or four weeks of the season. But Kelly held a practice on Tuesday that was a little more grueling than usual, in 90-degree heat, and came away pleased with how his players had adapted. 

The players said they had no lingering fatigue, either. 

"Maybe a little bit in the afternoon the first couple of days, but that's it," said tailback Theo Riddick. 

"Feel great," said lineman Zack Martin. 

--- For the inexperienced Irish cornerbacks, preparing for any team is a challenge. On paper, it looks like Purdue is an even bigger task, because the Boilermakers will use three quarterbacks -- starter Caleb TerBush, last week's starter Robert Marve, and former starter Rob Henry. 

But Irish corner Bennett Jackson said it really doesn't matter who's under center.

"The quarterbacks, you study their tendencies and whatnot, but really, whatever quarterback is in the game, if I have my eyes on my guy, the quarterback really doesn't make a difference," Jackson said. "When the ball's in the air, I read and react on the receiver, I'm not looking at the quarterback. So it really doesn't matter which quarterback is in the game."

--- Redshirt freshman Everett Golson was pleased with his 12-of-18, 144-yard performance against Navy. But he said there was still plenty to work on, particularly with his footwork. Kelly's a stickler for quarterback mechanics, and it's something he's worked on with Golson this week.

"Obviously, footwork," Golson said, when asked what he had to improve upon. "That was one of the key things I'm trying to improve this week. I can remember many times when I was falling off my throws, or off balance. Coach Kelly has been on my mechanics very hard."

Golson also said he had no trouble getting the plays in from the sidelines -- something he had struggled with in the spring and early in camp. Kelly has made sure that the veterans on the offense -- particularly linemen Zack Martin and Braxton Cave -- have Golson's back and are looking for the signals, too. In fact, Kelly said Cave even "got carried away" by offering too much input. 

Golson will take it, though.

"It helps to have those other 10 guys out there with you," Golson said. "We're always echoing the plays. If maybe someone misses one of the hand signals, you have the other guys right there to fill it in."

--- The Irish kicking game was hardly exemplary during the Navy game. Nick Tausch missed an extra point, the snap was botched on another, Ben Turk averaged just 33 yards on two punts, and Kyle Brindza's had a weak first kickoff. But Kelly didn't sound too worried about his special teams.
 
"There's always concerns when you start like that, but I think they were more about nerves than anything else," Kelly said. "They settled in after we had (the two missed extra points) and a poor kickoff and a not-great punt. I think it was just setting in the first time. They had a good week."

Theo Riddick makes smooth transition back to tailback

| No Comments | No TrackBacks

Yes, Theo Riddick was sore on Sunday.

"But I recovered well," the Notre Dame running back said. 

It's been a long time since Riddick was hit as often as he was against Navy on Saturday -- in high school. And the guys he was getting hit by back then weren't quite as big and strong as the Midshipmen were on Saturday. But Riddick was happy to take the punishment, because after two years as a receiver, the bumps and bruises meant he was back home in the backfield.

"I played running back my whole life, so mentally I was already prepared," Riddick said of his 109-yard effort on Saturday. "I put a couple pounds on in the offseason, so I was pretty prepared (physically), too."

Riddick was no slouch at receiver, making 78 catches over the past two years. But the senior said the return to tailback "brought me back to my old days." While the transition to receiver was a little tough two years ago, moving back was no problem.

"You can't replace 10 years of playing running back," Riddick said, agreeing that it was like riding a bike.

Riddick will start again this week, but things will get awfully interesting next week, when Cierre Wood returns from suspension -- and maybe Amir Carlisle returns from an ankle injury. But Riddick continued to say all the right things, making it clear that there will be plenty of carries to go around.

"Lot of guys back there with a lot of talent, so I'm excited," he said. "It's the way I was raised. I was never the type of person to have an ego, by any means. You've got to do what's best for the unit, for this team. The only (time) I react in terms of selfishness is when I get the ball. I like to (inflict) my pain on other defenders."

If he keeps doing that, it'll be tough for Brian Kelly to take the ball out of his hands. 



Everett Golson is Notre Dame's starting quarterback. There's no controversy there.

But should something happen to Golson against Purdue on Saturday, who'd step in under center? That's still up for debate.

Tommy Rees -- with 16 starts under his belt -- is back on the depth chart after serving his one-game suspension following his arrest in May. Rees hardly saw any reps during training camp, as Golson, Andrew Hendrix and freshman Gunner Kiel battled for the starting job. But Rees is listed as the co-backup with Hendrix. And Brian Kelly today said Rees likely will get more snaps this week than Hendrix, out of necessity.

"I think both of them have to get some work," Kelly said. "But Tommy probably needs the most work at this time. Both those guys will share reps, but it'll be, for me, probably more about making sure we get Tommy up to a level where he can be sharp if he's in a position where he had to go into the game. I don't know if he's had enough work yet. He'll get work at (No.) 2 as well as Andrew, and we'll see how that progresses during the week."

Kelly said he does not yet know which quarterback he'd turn to if Golson got hurt. But even though Rees didn't see much action during camp, Kelly said he has a sense of where Rees is at in terms of his ability to play if needed.

"I do, I do, I have a sense," he said. "We are pleased with it, or we wouldn't move him into a position where he could get some reps as a backup. We saw some of the things that we wanted in terms of ball security and good decision-making, and we'll continue to work on that. But Tommy is very valuable player to our program. He's got a lot of experience, and we are happy to have him."

Golson and Hendrix both credited Rees for acting as a coach and making them better players during camp -- essentially, helping them take his job.

"He's a young man who really handled himself well in a very tough set of circumstances," Kelly said. "I think we all know that. He was a great teammate, that's all I would tell you. He handled himself the right way."

Notre Dame injury update

| No Comments | No TrackBacks
Here's a quick injury update for Notre Dame heading into this Saturday's home-opener against Purdue.

Junior tackle Tate Nichols (knee) is not yet involved in practice, and will not be available against Purdue but he returned to the wieght room last week and was scheduled to work out individually today. 

Running back Amir Carlisle, a USC transfer, was cleared to practice today.  

Linebacker Danny Spond (migraine) has yet to be cleared for physical contact. Brian Kelly said he hopes Spond will be cleared next week. 

Running back Cam McDaniel suffered an undisclosed injury in the fourth quarter against Navy, but Kelly said he should be back for Purdue. 

Allen Pinkett gets three-game suspension

| No Comments | No TrackBacks
Allen Pinkett will keep his job as Notre Dame's radio analyst, but only after serving a three-game suspension for his comments that Notre Dame needs more "criminals" if it wants to be successful. 

Pinkett, a two-time All-American at Notre Dame in his eighth year on the Notre Dame broadcast team, ignited a firestorm with his comments on a Chicago radio station last week. He traveled to Dublin with the team, but was replaced in the booth by Jeff Jeffers for the Navy game. Pinkett will miss the Purdue and Michigan State games (without pay), as well, returning for Michigan on Sept. 15. The Notre Dame IMG Radio Network, which made the decision, has not yet announced who will be alongside play-by-play man Don Criqui for the next two games. 

"Allen has done a great job for the Notre Dame IMG Radio network over the past four years, has a supportive fan base, and most importantly, has expressed deep heartfelt remorse for his choice of words, which were not in the spirit of college athletics," the network said in a release. "After careful deliberation and thorough discussion, we believe the right decision is to allow a truly repentant Allen Pinkett an opportunity to return to the booth beginning with the fourth game of the college football season." 

On the McNeil and Speigel Show on 670-AM last week, in the wake of the suspensions of Cierre Wood and Justin Utupo (Notre Dame's third and fourth suspensions of the offseason), Pinkett said: "I've always felt like, to have a successful team, you've got to have a few bad citizens on the team.  mean, that's how Ohio State used to win all the time. They would have two or three guys that were criminals. That just adds to the chemistry of the team. I think Notre Dame is growing because maybe they have some guys that are doing something worthy of a suspension, which creates edge on the football team. You can't have a football team full of choir boys. You get your butt kicked if you have a team full of choir boys. You've got to have a little bit of edge, but the coach has to be the dictator and ultimate ruler."

I absolutely meant that," Pinkett added. "Chemistry is so important on a football team. You have to have a couple of bad guys that sort of teeter on that edge to add to the flavor of the guys that are going to always do right. You look at the teams that have one in the past. They always have a couple of criminals."

Pinkett sounded a very different tune in the IMG release today.

"I love this school as much as I love my kids and would never want to compromise the ethics and morals of my alma mater, Notre Dame," he said. "I would again like to offer my most sincere and heartfelt apology to all those affected by my inappropriate comments, particularly the University, the school's hard-working and courageous student athletes, all Fighting Irish fans and team supporters, our friends at The Ohio State University, and my colleagues at IMG Notre Dame Radio Network. This offering of forgiveness is an extremely humbling life lesson. I will work very hard to make the most of this second chance in representing the high standards and proud tradition of Notre Dame football."

Member of ND support staff hospitalized after flight

| No Comments | No TrackBacks
Notre Dame's team plane landed in South Bend around 10:50 p.m. central time and was met by emergency medical personnel. After an uncomfortable bit of assuming and speculating on social media, Notre Dame released this statement:

"Ernest Jones, director of player development and engagement for the University of Notre Dame football administrative staff, will remain overnight at Memorial Hospital of South Bend (Ind.) while undergoing further evaluation and treatment for dehydration.

Jones became ill with about two hours remaining on the Notre Dame football squad's Delta charter flight that returned from Dublin tonight following the 50-10 Irish win over Navy earlier in the day. The flight landed at Michiana Regional Airport about 11:50 p.m. Saturday and Jones was transported to Memorial at that time. Jones is listed in stable condition."

This is Jones' first year on the Notre Dame support staff after two years as associate head coach at Buffalo. He serves as a liason between the players and the coaching staff, as well as student welfare and development, and academic services.

Halftime thoughts from Notre Dame-Navy

| 1 Comment | No TrackBacks
Some quick halftime thoughts from Dublin, as Notre Dame takes a 27-3 lead:

-- Notre Dame's ground game, even without Cierre Wood, looked fantastic. But it's hard to say if that's because the Irish are playing well, or because Navy's defense is playing very, very poorly (as always, it's surely a little of both). Theo Riddick has 85 yards on 14 carries, and George Atkinson III busted free for a 56-yard TD run. The veteran Irish line is just manhandling Navy.

-- Maybe Brian Kelly should consider Stephon Tuitt as part of that backfield rotation. A 6-foot-6, 303-pound man should not be able to run as fast as he did on that 77-yard fumble return. Nobody even came close to catching him. Incredible. And just a sophomore. It was ND's longest fumble return since 1985. (The school record is 107, set in 1904.)

-- Kelly didn't ask Everett Golson to do much, instead relying on the ground game and short passes in the flat. Golson made a tremendous throw to DaVaris Daniels down the sideline, but made a lazy, casual throw into coverage that was picked off at the 4-yard line. That came with nine minutes left in the half, and amazingly, Golson hasn't seen the field since, thanks to Tuitt's fumble return. It'll be interesting to see how he bounces back from it (certainly helps that it didn't cost Notre Dame anything, and it also certainly helps to have a 24-point lead). It's worth noting that Kelly didn't berate Golson on the sideline afterward. There won't be a halftime hook this time around.

-- Golson stop fade to Tyler Eifert in the end zone .Get used to it. What corner is going to be able to outleap Eifert for a jump ball?

-- Matthias Farley acquitted himself well at safety. Bennett Jackson and KeiVarae Russell both got beat once or twice, but most of Navy's passes have been short ones. 

-- Remarkably, Manti Te'o's fumble recovery was the first of his illustrious career.

-- Navy QB Trey Miller is a hell of a player. He's 10-of-12 for 113 yards passing, with 43 rushing yards.  Great athlete with a strong arm. Definitely gives Navy an added dimension, but the talent around him is too green to do much. Probably a safe bet that this will wind up being the easiest game on the Irish schedule, and by a long shot.

About this Archive

This page is an archive of entries from September 2012 listed from newest to oldest.

August 2012 is the previous archive.

October 2012 is the next archive.

Find recent content on the main index or look in the archives to find all content.