Blue and Gold Illustrated

Sept. 25, 2017

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

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12 SEPT. 25, 2017 BLUE & GOLD ILLUSTRATED UNDER THE DOME After the first two games, Notre Dame's injuries were relatively limited. • Graduate transfer wide receiver Freddy Canteen suffered a sublexed shoulder against Georgia and was "doubtful" about playing against Boston College. • Junior defensive tackle Elijah Taylor, who would have vied for a major role where senior Jonathan Bon- ner is starting, is still recovering from a Lisfranc injury incurred in the spring. "The process is taking a lot longer in terms of getting him where he needs to be," head coach Brian Kelly said. "In last talking to our training staff, they could not give us a clear 'he's ready to go in there and change direction at a level necessary to play championship football.'" • Freshman Jonathan Doerer, projected to be the start- ing kickoff man before leg weariness in August got the better of him, practiced with the team the week of the Boston College game and "had a really good week," per Kelly. TV RATINGS IMPROVED VS. GEORGIA Similar to last year's 4-8 result as a football team, there was no place to go but up for Notre Dame in the televi- sion ratings. Partnered with NBC since 1991 for Fighting Irish home games (and Shamrock Series outings), the team tied its lowest rating ever on NBC (1.0) in this year 's season opener against Temple Sept. 2. A week later in the showdown versus Georgia, NBC earned a 2.4 rating and 4.1 million viewers. For the weekend, it trailed only the competing Oklahoma-Ohio State game on ABC (4.6 rating, 8.1 million viewers) as the most-watched college football telecast on any net- work. Of the 15 prime-time Notre Dame telecasts on NBC since 2009, the game against Georgia ranked fourth in numbers, behind the Michigan games in 2012 and 2014, and Michigan State in 2016. LATE HIT ANOTHER LEARNING LESSON There was a sense of déjà vu in Notre Dame's 20-19 loss at home to Georgia Sept. 9, when a turning point occurred with the Irish leading 16-10. Georgia faced third-and-16 deep in its own territory and was unable to convert the first down, but Notre Dame sophomore drop end Julian Okwara was cited for a personal foul when he put a hit on Bulldogs fresh- man quarterback Jake Fromm as he was running out of bounds after releasing the football. The infraction kept the drive alive, resulting in a Georgia touchdown. Personal foul penalties on the Notre Dame defense played a huge role in a 2008 four-overtime loss at home to Pitt and a double-overtime defeat to Connecticut in 2009 — with both occurring to keep alive scoring drives when the Irish were up by two touchdowns. Irish head coach Brian Kelly didn't necessarily agree with the call, but also understood it. "We just felt like it's too close to put an official in that position," Kelly said a few days later. "Julian was not in a targeting position where he was trying to hold up. It's just a learning experience for Julian. "He felt terrible. We told him, 'Look, one play does not make this game.' It was a close play, but obviously we don't want to put an official in a position to make that kind of close call. "We're not looking back on it as something that cost us the game. There were other plays in the game." THE LONG AND SHORT OF PLAY CALLING In any defeat, play calling on offense naturally will be questioned, and that was the case when first-year Notre Dame offensive coordinator Chip Long's plans did not succeed during the 20-19 loss to Georgia, most notably the 55 rushing yards. A few days later, head coach Brian Kelly discussed what he believes Long learned from the attention that comes with that position. "It's a fair question," Kelly stated. "I could be the harshest critic. I've play called in all kinds of environ- ments. Maybe I shouldn't even comment on it publicly, but we had plenty of opportunities to score enough points to win the game through play calling. "We would have liked a couple plays back here and there. We could have called a couple of better plays here and there, maybe executed better here and there. "But we look at it as an 'all' thing. In other words, we needed to coach a little bit better and make a couple more plays. "But I think we walk away as a group — players and coaches alike — that maybe one more good play call, maybe one more good play, and I think we win the game." Graduate transfer wide receiver Freddy Canteen suffered a sublexed shoul- der against Georgia Sept. 9 that could keep him sidelined for a while. PHOTO BY ANGELA DRISKELL News & Notes

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