Blue and Gold Illustrated

Oct. 8, 2012 Issue

Blue & Gold Illustrated: America's Foremost Authority on Notre Dame Football

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Game Notes By Dan Murphy and Wes Morgan Denard Denied Notre Dame’s defense is building a reputation as a powerful antidote to Heisman hype. A week after killing the buzz around Michigan State running back Le’Veon Bell, the Irish scored a measure of revenge by limiting Michigan quarterback Denard Robinson to a mediocre night in a showcase game. It seems strange congratulating a team for allowing a quarterback to run for 90 yards and throw for another 138. But after what Robinson had done to the Irish in his two previous games, those numbers look more than acceptable in South Bend. Robinson totaled 948 yards of offense in dazzling fashion to beat the Irish twice in his first two tries. He scored clutch touchdowns in the closing minutes of both wins to make his big days sting all the more for Notre Dame’s defenders. “He’s gotten me the past two years, and Michigan’s gotten me three years,” senior linebacker Manti Te’o said. “I’m just glad on my last one, my last hurrah, I was finally able to have something to celebrate about.” This time around, defensive coordinator Bob Diaco made some tweaks to the big-play repelling game plan. The Irish mixed their coverages in the secondary consistently, showing the speedy quarterback as many looks as they could to try to confuse him. He passed for 338 yards a year ago at The Big House. He fell 200 yards short of that mark this year, not to mention the unprecedented four interceptions he threw on four consecutive attempts to the end the first half. Notre Dame defenders caught as many passes (five) as Michigan receivers during the first two quarters. Head coach Brian Kelly said the coaches knew their plan would leave the defense susceptible to getting burned in the running game, but they were confident that a stronger, more athletic front seven could keep Robinson from getting loose too often. For the most part, Kelly and his staff were correct. Robinson’s longest run of the game was 20 yards, and he averaged only 3.5 yards on his 26 carries. The 21 yards he lost on three key sacks didn’t help that average. “He’s got great athletic ability, and there will always be that threat for him to escape and make great plays,” senior safety Zeke Motta said. “I think we got the better end of the deal tonight just because of the way our defense plays.” QB By Committee Four games into his college career, sophomore Everett Golson has yet to play a game from wire to wire. Golson made his earliest exit of the season against Michigan with six minutes remaining in the second quarter after throwing his second interception of the game. Junior Tommy Rees was as effective as he’s ever been in South Bend in relief. When it comes to pressure-packed situations, head coach Brian Kelly showed he trusts the junior more than anyone else on his roster. Golson, according to Kelly, still has a ways to go before he develops grace in the spotlight. “He was not as comfortable as I would have liked after playing the Michigan State game where he was in an incredible environment,” Kelly said. “He needs to just settle down a little bit.” Those rookie jitters aren’t going to keep Golson out of the starting lineup. Kelly stated unequivocally following the game that the sophomore remains the starter and would be under center for the first snap against Miami on Oct. 6. That game, played at Chicago’s Soldier Field, should be another electric atmosphere for the sophomore to navigate. Golson completed only three passes against the Wolverine defense. His first didn’t come until the beginning of the second quarter, and that was a slow-developing screen play that gained only a yard. Rees, meanwhile, threw for 16 and 24 yards on his first two passing attempts and capped that drive with a two-yard touchdown run. Rees has come out of the bullpen twice to lead Notre Dame to two home wins in tight games. He’ll continue to play the role of reliever, while Golson adjusts, which he says is just fine with him. “Whatever is asked of me — I’m willing to go in and help the team win,” Rees said. Lack Of Eifert Notre Dame’s All-American tight end, Tyler Eifert, went 143 minutes between receptions before pulling in a 38-yard catch on the closing drive of Saturday’s win over Michigan. Eifert didn’t have any catches during the 20-3 win against Michigan State a week earlier, and he was largely ignored in the passing game again at home against the Wolverines. He has nine receptions through four games this season. He had 63 in 2011, including 20 in the first four games of the year. Opposing defenses are doing a solid job of taking him away in the passing game, but Eifert is still pulling his weight on the offense. “You guys seem to think he’s going to get 90 balls,” an annoyed Brian Kelly said. “He’s a blocking tight end who has the unique ability at the end of the game to spread out as a wide receiver and catch a pass. The game was such that he was required to be inside blocking, and he did a heck of a job.” Eifert’s one catch against the Wolverines did come at a crucial time. He pulled in a deep fade on third-and-long to extend Notre Dame’s final drive and eliminate any chance of a comeback for Michigan. Closing Time Michigan never had a real chance to make its fourth consecutive fourth-quarter comeback Saturday night. Notre Dame hung on to the ball for nine minutes and 51 seconds of the final 15, and held the Wolverines to only one full drive in the quarter. Notre Dame’s rushing attack, just like it did against Michigan State, carried the team through the fourth quarter by chewing up yards and time. The Irish ran 17 plays before lining up in the victory formation, and senior running back Theo Riddick had the ball in his hands on 14 of them. Riddick said he didn’t know he was in line to be the workhorse as the game drew to a close, but he grinded for 53 of his 84 all-purposeyards during the last quarter. “I don’t think it’s anything we do different. We know what time it is, and our offensive line is very good,” Riddick said of the fourth quarter running success during the past two weeks. “They were moving the bodies, and we were running to green grass.” In years past Notre Dame had a hard time closing close games and putting teams away. Their newfound strength in the running game gives them a weapon to finish off opponents. A combination of fresh legs with three talented running backs splitting reps (Riddick had only five carries going into the fourth quarter) and an improved offensive line has helped the Irish to its 4-0 start. “We’re at that level where we can compete with the very good teams that know we’re running it,” head coach Brian Kelly said. “There’s eight, nine guys on the line of scrimmage. We’re still running into those looks.” Miscellaneous Notes • Notre Dame’s victory over No. 18 Michigan, a week after topping No. 10 Michigan State, marked the first time the program won consecutive games against top-25 teams since 2005. It’s also the first time since 2002 the Irish knocked off two opponents ranked in the top 20 on consecutive Saturdays. • Over the last eight quarters this season, Notre Dame has not allowed a touchdown, and it was the first time Michigan failed to score a TD against the Irish since 1909. • Defensive coordinator Bob Diaco’s group has given up just 36 points over the first four games of the season, which is the fewest since the 1975 campaign when only 20 points were surrendered through the first four contests. • The fourth quarter hasn’t been kind to Irish opponents, which have been outgained by 193 yards (359-166) in the final stanza through the first four games of the 2012 season. • Notre Dame’s national colors were presented by former Notre Dame head coach Ara Parseghian and his wife, Katie, as part of the program’s ongoing celebration of its 125th year. The Hall of Fame coach helped guide the Irish to consensus national titles in 1966 and 1973. Parseghian was joined on the field before by a collection of captains that played during his tenure (1964-74), as well as 1964 Heisman Trophy winner John Huarte. Former captains present included Jim Carroll (1964), Phil Sheridan (1965), Larry DiNardo (1970), Walt Patulski (1971), John Dampeer (1972), Frank Pomarico (1973) and Mike Townsend (1973). • There were approximately 200 former Notre Dame players in attendance. They formed a tunnel through which the team ran to take the field. • Four Notre Dame graduates piloted the F-16 planes that buzzed the stadium prior to the start of the game. The planes were from the 309th Fighter Squadron located at Luke Air Force Base in Arizona. The pilots, all Class of 2001 alumni, were Air Force Major Greg Keller, Major Steve Whisler, Major Brendan Shannon and Captain Tom Hayes. • The victory over Michigan improved Notre Dame’s all-time record in night games to 65-36-2 (.641), including a 21-18-1 (.538) mark against teams ranked in the top 25. • The Irish are now 4-0 when playing Michigan at night in Notre Dame Stadium. They are 5-6-1 against the Wolverines in day games in South Bend. • Notre Dame is now 16-23-1 against Michigan all time. It’s the first time the Irish have swept Michigan and Michigan State in the same season since 2004. It’s the fewest number of points (nine) allowed by both those teams in the same season since 1909, when the Irish gave up just a field goal to Michigan in their first win against the Wolverines. Participation Chart OFFENSE QB: EVERETT GOLSON, Tommy Rees RB: CIERRE WOOD, Theo Riddick WR: CHRIS BROWN, Daniel Smith, John Goodman WR: GEORGE ATKINSON III, Robby Toma WR: TJ Jones, DaVaris Daniels TE: TYLER EIFERT, TROY NIKLAS, Ben Koyack LT: ZACK MARTIN, Ronnie Stanley LG: CHRIS WATT C: BRAXSTON CAVE RG: MIKE GOLIC JR. RT: CHRISTIAN LOMBARD DEFENSE DE: KAPRON LEWIS-MOORE, Sheldon Day NG: LOUIS NIX III, Kona Schwenke DE: STEPHON TUITT, Tony Springmann LB: PRINCE SHEMBO, Ishaq Williams ILB: DAN FOX, Carlo Calabrese ILB: MANTI TE’O LB: DANNY SPOND, Ben Councell CB: BENNETT JACKSON, Elijah Shumate (nickel) S: ZEKE MOTTA S: MATTHIAS FARLEY, Nicky Baratti CB: KEIVARAE RUSSELL, Josh Atkinson Special Teams Kick Returns: Chris Brown, Nicky Baratti, Elijah Shumate, Justin Ferguson, Chris Salvi, Josh Atkinson, Tyler Plantz, Justin Utupo, Jarrett Grace, George Atkinson III, Cam McDaniel Hands: Davonte’ Neal, Ben Koyack, Tyler Eifert, Prince Shembo, Troy Niklas, TJ Jones, Dan Fox, DaVaris Daniels, Theo Riddick, Manti Te’o and Robby Toma Kickoff Coverage: Nicky Baratti, Dan McCarthy, Carlo Calabrese, Jarrett Grace, Elijah Shumate, Kyle Brindza, Ben Councell, Romeo Okwara, Kendall Moore, Cam McDaniel and Chris Salvi Punt Returner: Davonte’ Neal Punter: Ben Turk Placekicker: Kyle Brindza Hold: Ben Turk Long Snapper: Jordan Cowart Short Snapper: Jordan Cowart Gunners: Matthias Farley, Chris Salvi Others: Nick Martin, Matt Hegarty

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