Exit Sandman: Virginia Tech Instant Reaction

For the record, I’m sorry for the easy pun headline, but come on, on a night ND’s own Twitter account turned off the “No Trolling” sign, how do you not go with it?

The Irish won 45-23.

Also for the record, this game for some time reeked of another classic ND collapse when everything was suddenly lining up for them. It happened last year at Miami, and it happened in 2012 against Pitt (that one they escaped) – this one was never Miami, but it looked dicey for a bit. After the Irish were backed up on second-and-12 at their own 3, up just a point, with the defense suddenly down two starting linemen (one injured, one targeting) and the running game going backwards, it looked like disaster in the making for sure.

Then Dexter activated Wildebeest Mode.

From then on, the game was shockingly…not dramatic. Ian Book largely settled down, the running game picked it up some, the defense kept up its very high level of play, and the Irish were 6-0. Easy peasy. Let’s talk about the big stuff.

The offensive line without Bars was alright

If an A+ would’ve been playing exactly like they did without stud guard Alex Bars, who is out for the season, and an F would’ve been 2007 vs Michigan, I’ll give the Irish offensive line somewhere in the B to B+ range. The first half was really a struggle bus for the O-line in the running game as Tech was able to stifle just about everything, but the pass blocking was pretty good throughout the game, and the front five seemed to get stronger as the game went along. All in all, it was a really encouraging night for the line against probably the best defense they’ll face for several weeks, if not the whole rest of the regular season. If you take away both Dexter’s ridiculous run and Newsome’s botched punt, ND averaged a shade under three yards per carry, but things seemed to improve some later in the game, and those numbers are probably affected a little bit by the garbage-time possession Brandon Wimbush ran. (Hey, Brandon Wimbush! He’s a guy!)

Dexter is probably ND’s second-most important offensive player now

Yeah, so this is a thing. Williams’ run, the longest play from scrimmage on the road in ND history, probably saved the game from being, at least, dramatic down the stretch. Even discounting his 97-yard run, he went for 81 yards on his other 16 carries on a night no one else could begin to find running room. (Tony Jones was clearly not 100 percent and if there were any other experienced backs available he probably wouldn’t have played.)

Other backs or not, though, Williams is very clearly an indispensable part of this offense. His running takes some pressure off Ian Book. If he can remain durable in the face of far and away his heaviest workloads of his career (and believe me, I am knocking furiously on wood here), you could make a very good case he’s even better than Josh Adams last year.

Your QB update

Ian Book needs to work on his deep ball. Like, a lot. He missed several long throws very badly tonight. That being said, he seemed like his normal unflappable self, and I don’t think he was affected even slightly by his first start in a tough road environment. (His lone brutal miss, the interception, was clearly a missed read and didn’t have anything to do with the crowd, in my opinion.) And he was really, really good in the second half.

And as our Twitter account pointed out, we can get used to Miles Boykin making weird plays and gallivanting to the end zone on throws from Book.

Defensive lines! Depth! It’s awesome!

If you had Stephon Tuitt vs Pitt flashbacks after Julian Okwara was tossed from the game for targeting (with the difference that this time, it was actually targeting), you probably weren’t alone. How was ND going to get pressure on the quarterback without Okwara or Daelin Hayes, who didn’t make the trip due to an injury last week?

The answer is that ND has its best array of talent up front since 2012 and we should get used to that. Khalid Kareem was an absolute animal – and his forced fumble that Julian Love took to the house was a massive, MASSIVE play in the game that seemed less massive (but wasn’t) after Tech got off the mat and scored on the next drive. Jerry Tillery was quieter than he’s been in a while, but still made his presence felt here and there. And their buddies, while they didn’t make many other direct plays, pushed back the Tech line more often than not and kept Ryan Willis – who deserves credit for toughness, if not for talent – from getting comfortable.

Not for nothing, but the secondary, while it wasn’t perfect, does seem to be improving. I barely need to talk about Julian Love and Troy Pride, a legitimately very good duo of cornerbacks (Love is a stone-cold stud), and Jalen Elliott made some nice plays. Keep it up, big man.

It’s starting to get real

ND’s schedule looks a bit less like a total walkover than it did last week – Northwestern won at Michigan State Saturday, and Florida State should’ve beaten Miami and at least appears to be getting frisky – but it still contains six teams that, frankly, shouldn’t beat Notre Dame if the Irish do their job. That doesn’t mean that will happen – current FPI odds say they have about a 1-in-4 chance of going undefeated, and that seems reasonable given this is college football – but it does mean it’s out there, and we don’t have to be afraid of it. Certainly not now. This Va Tech team isn’t great, but they’re decent, and ND beat them by 22 on the road. It’s a really good win, Kelly’s best road win since OU six years ago. Embrace it.

 

 

By |2018-10-07T00:32:28+00:00October 7th, 2018|Football|51 Comments

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Notre_Dame_Joeeyerish9299Coyote1985ScarponiEric Murtaugh Recent comment authors
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Clay Cossé fka Mouth
Clay Cossé fka Mouth

Not hitting a long ball after the first one to Finke felt unsatisfying. The receivers were getting open downfield. Book was just launching it past them. Which actually makes me feel better about his arm strength, which makes me think hell start hitting those deep throws. Hes too accurate otherwise not to.

8FP
8FP

I’m thinking his coaching going into this game was something like “whatever you do, for the love of all that is good, do not turn the ball over.” Of course, he did, on what was supposed to be an easy pass, but he seemed to be erring really far on the side of NOT underthrowing balls into the hands of DBs. I’m completely okay with that strategy going into a hostile environment, with a better team, but a young QB, and it’s sort of a “just don’t shoot ourselves in the balls” kind of a gameplan.

Clay Cossé fka Mouth
Clay Cossé fka Mouth

Hes been so good on everything else. If I’m Kelly I focus on deep balls and hitting Cole Kmet on seam routes this week.

KG
KG

>” I focus on deep balls”

heh heh heh

Clay Cossé fka Mouth
Clay Cossé fka Mouth

Keep the focus on what’s important I always say. And right now its deep balls and skinny posts.

Clay Cossé fka Mouth
Clay Cossé fka Mouth

Not shooting your own balls off = modern translation of Lou’s “before you can start winning you have to stop losing,” right?

hooks orpik
hooks orpik

In my mind’s eye I picture Saban watching Khalid Kareem tonight and thinking “well I missed on that one”. His loss is our very fortunate gain.

Also, IMO, Okwara was kinda pushed into the QB if you see the replay again. Still hit him high, can’t complain- they made the right call but it’s a shame for him, not intentional and he was AWESOME before that.

The front-4 in general is the difference from this year to year’s past. Those boys look like hungry dogs and no line has stopped them yet. And I don’t see anyone on the schedule who will.

If Julian Love can train to run a good 40 time he’s going in the first round this year. So physical, such great instincts and technique on top of it. He’s the total package of a corner.

And Dex. Oh my goodness Dex. #2 was THE difference in this game and the reason they won IMO. After reading the ND Insider piece on his mom’s terminal illness it’s impossible but to root even more for him. Loved what Kirk said “he’s running with desperation” and he really is. Good kid who came out of the fire unburned and is finally getting the chance to do his thing, God bless him.

To end with a Saban thought, plenty of “rat poison” tonight. Book was good but if he was accurate on long throws it would have been over way earlier. Plenty of open guys he missed. No biggie, he did what he had to do and will learn and grow from this as a still young player. Sky is the limit at this point.

MikeyB
MikeyB

Yeah we need Clearwall to weigh in here. My immediate reaction upon replay was thinking Okwara was definitely influenced by the hand pushing on his back. But was it enough to wipe out a Targeting call? I don’t know, but I was still annoyed by it.

Joe Schueller

I’m no Clearwall, but it seemed like he lowered his head and got the crown onto Willis’ helmet. That had the look of a pretty textbook call.

KG
KG

Agreed, and the review got it right by taking it off of #91 and onto Okwara. Thankfully it wasn’t a killer for us.

eyerish9299
eyerish9299

Yeah he definitely lowered his helmet and struck with the crown whether he was pushed or not.

goldendomer0209
goldendomer0209

It seemed like the offense got into a rhythm in the first quarter and then looked for some big plays in the 2nd quarter that didn’t work. Big plays are great but when they weren’t working we got behind in down and distance and started to stall out.

At halftime we had passed 23 times and only run 7 times (there were a couple of QB scrambles that counted as runs other than this). Those 7 runs by RBs gained 24 yards. So, that is certainly not a great average at 3.4 ypc but still good enough to be running the ball a bit more in order to keep balance and help us stay on schedule. It seemed that we simply were choosing to not run the ball, because looking at the numbers VT had not really shut our running game down so much as we just didn’t commit to it until the 2nd half.

hooks orpik
hooks orpik

You’re right but I don’t disapprove of the gameplan. Book started 8 for 8 and the weakness of the VT defense is their pass coverage. No reason not to keep testing it. The execution wasn’t quite there in the 2nd quarter……But for all the negatives usually mentioned about coaching they sure did come out like a house of fire in the 3rd quarter and not just the 97-yard run, so whether it was great halftime adjustments or just the refresh something definitely clicked big time after half.

Plus, as Pete Sampson tweeted tonight – Miles Boykin is looking a lot like Mo Stovall (no relation though). That’s the guy Book is always looking for and for good reason he’s catching everything that comes his way.

goldendomer0209
goldendomer0209

True, starting 8 for 8 was nice, but it just seemed in the 2nd quarter that the offense could have used some more balance. I’m not the kind that screams at the TV to “RUN THE BALL” but after a couple of series of getting stuck in constant 3rd and longs and I thought that we needed to try and stay on schedule a bit more.

KG
KG

It could have, but if you watched tape on VT, their secondary is BAAAAAAAAAAAD, and that’s how ODU ate them up. ODU’s QB (a backup) threw for 495 yards. It was absolutely the right game plan to try to hit things deep and knock them out in the 2nd quarter, we just didn’t hit the passes. Agreed with Brendan’s comment, a stacked box plus a secondary that on film is horribawful? Throwing it makes sense, you just have to execute, which we didn’t.

Brendan R

Tech was stacking the box in the first half. Doesn’t make sense to commit to running into -1 situations. Had Book hit some early deep shots we would’ve run away much sooner.

MikeyB
MikeyB

Yep, and for some reason they went to 6 in the box on the 97 yard run. That was very confusing to me.

tlndma
tlndma

I don’t know how many they had in the “box” but their safeties weren’t very deep. As Kelly said their defense had “no layers” on that play.

Brendan R

And that one guy had one of the all time overruns, although credit to Dex for having the vision to cut back. Unbelievable transformation in him this year.

goldendomer0209
goldendomer0209

I realize they were stacking the box, but we handed the ball off to a running back exactly 1 time in the entire 2nd quarter. How about a jet sweep or a jet sweep fake to even the blocking. I’m not really mad about it but just hated to see our offense get so unbalanced

dpet
dpet

Great road win! Kudos to Eric on the reverse jinx picking us to lose! Seriously though I shared all his concerns going in and at halftime I didn’t feel great. Great adjustments at half by the coaches and great work by the kids executing!

Eric Murtaugh

Welcome!

Orlok
Orlok

I feel like MSU last year was the best road win since 2012 OU. MSU finished ranked, which I’m not sure VT will do.

Great win nonetheless. At times it felt like Miami until the actual targeting, when it felt like Pitt 2013. Then, 97 yards later, it felt a little different.

Orlok
Orlok

I also, I am getting massive schadenfreude from the Stanford loss. Washington will murder them.

Unfortunately, they will run the table after that, most likely. Hopefully we can get one more embarrassing loss in there.

KG
KG

+1 for the hate. I’m so conflicted, as they’re one of our few possible “quality wins” but seeing David Shaw’s face rubbed in it is nice no matter what.

goldendomer0209
goldendomer0209

Completely agree. I hated watching that Stanford/Utah game last night. Part of me wanted Stanford to make the comeback to help our resume and SOS and the other part just wants Stanford to get blasted this year and to have this finally be the year that they come back down to earth.

So hard to know which half is the correct one.

Hitman
Hitman

Looking at the big picture, I believe the biggest difference this year is our quality depth. Good recruiting years are paying off. Hopefully we get by Pitt and have everyone healthy after the bye week.

Concrete Charlie
Concrete Charlie

Fantastic job by the ND twitter guys on the exit Sandman. Small request: can we please edit the awkward hug by the guys in the stands out of the Dexter highlight? I don’t want to be seeing that every time I watch that run.

PS – Eichenberg was correct.

MikeyB
MikeyB

I have no idea where to find this information; how much game time have we spent trailing this year? I can’t even remember being behind at all, although I didn’t see the first half of Wake.

tlndma
tlndma

2:12 down a FG to Wake in 1st qtr.

Clay Cossé fka Mouth
Clay Cossé fka Mouth

Who was it who did the spring game film study of Jeremia owusu koromoah? He looked pretty impressive and is mos def a physical freak. I wonder why we havent seen any of him. Is the staff redshirting him?

IrishTexan
IrishTexan

He’s hurt, as I recall

Brendan R

Yeah, I think he broke his foot. I wouldn’t expect to see him this year.

Clay Cossé fka Mouth
Clay Cossé fka Mouth

Why didn’t you tell me this earlier before I made an ass of myself Brendan.

IrishTexan
IrishTexan

Went to Lane✔️
Kicked the sh*t out of them ✔️
Got the win✔️
Left✔️

Clay Cossé fka Mouth
Clay Cossé fka Mouth

Eichenberg Road Game Success Best Practices 1.0. This will be referred to hereafter as the ERGSBP. Unless someone can think of a less sucky acronym.

Coyote1985
Coyote1985

Perfect amount of suckiness.

Notre_Dame_Joe
Notre_Dame_Joe

Reading that, all I saw was the “SBP” as in South Bend Police. Then I realized “ERG” is used to describe some workout equipment (bikes and rowers). My mind immediately went to the training program that the police must have used in order to hunt down the great Tommy Rees back in 2012. The ERGSBP must be a pretty rigorous regimen to be effective against a specimen like TR.

So, I’m not saying you can’t use “ERGSBP,” but I am saying we need to be very clear about context. Otherwise, I might get confused. In both cases, it describes highly effective behavior.

Clay Cossé fka Mouth
Clay Cossé fka Mouth

Ooooh, the SBP aspect could be somewhat confusing. Hopefully context will take care of that. I mean anyone with half a brain will know we’re talking about the Eichenberg Road Game Success Best Practices 1.0 based on context. I mean we can’t change our nomenclature solely to accommodate idiots and rank amateurs, Joe.

KG
KG

Last night showed we’re where we belong. With so many other top 10 teams losing, there are flaws we can pick apart about ND but there is also no one beyond the top 4 that you can say definitely deserves to be above us. (Whoa, holy things that 3 weeks ago I didn’t think I’d be writing now, Batman.) Assuming we keep doing this–a big assumption because college football is hard and upsets happen all the time–a 12-0 ND is in, even if things go chalk above us. I don’t see a 12-1 SEC Championship Game-losing UGA making it in over us. So take care of business, let everyone else be the victims of chaos, and we’ll be okay. Getting blasted by the Alabama Death Star in the first round of the playoffs would be an amazing success for this season. The most important game left is the next one.

gambit1077
gambit1077

>>> Last night showed we’re where we belong.

Hurrah, we’re now number 2 behind Alabama!

gambit1077
gambit1077

I’m going to disagree with the prevailing sigh of acceptance on the targeting call. If you slow it down and zoom in on the helmets you can see that Okwara’s head bows slightly and there is contact between the helmets. That doesn’t negate that the vast majority of the force of contact was a shove with Okwara’s arms. Targeting requires “forcible contact to the head or neck area” and what we saw was incidental and non significant contact to the head with huge contact to the chest through the arms.

Refs routinely impact games with questionable calls but targeting’s absurd ejection portion of the rule is basically beyond the pale the way the rule is inconsistently enforced. Ejections have always been and should always be for intent to injure, but if we’re going to call a 15 yard penalty for brushing against a guys helmet while making an otherwise fine play the ejection has got to be divorced from the 15 yards because this is absurd every single time it happens against the Irish and others.

Russell Knox
Russell Knox

I kept seeing everyone calling for Dexter all last year and most of this year. I never saw anything that made him stand out to me. All I could remember was the play where he missed the block and got Book killed, and the play of him bursting into the backfield and pulling up lame. I thought he was shift and only wanted to do the glory work. Thankfully I was wrong. He is an impressive young man.

I have similar impressions of Mack. Not that he’s soft, or unwilling to do the dirty work, but I don’t see the freakish athletics everyone’s talking about. I don’t see great seperstion and he’s ready to bring down. Hopefully, I’m wrong about him too.

I thought it was a great game and a great win. I’m excited for the rest of this year.

Scarponi
Scarponi

This game went about how we should have expected. Got off to a great start, then the altitude got to our guys. The thin air made the ball carry on Book, and our winded receivers couldn’t run the throws down. By the second half everyone had acclimated to the elevation and VT’s only advantage was overcome.

Clay Cossé fka Mouth
Clay Cossé fka Mouth

I hear they low key spent 6 weeks sleeping in Blacksburg every night in an Everest-like acclimatization schedule, though obviously more intensive given the rigors of this altitude versus the paltry Everest.

Clay Cossé fka Mouth
Clay Cossé fka Mouth

I think the commute to south bend every morning actually negated the whole thing though. Hence the first half.

Eric Murtaugh

Thank god they got acclimated.

Clay Cossé fka Mouth
Clay Cossé fka Mouth

Take heart, Murtaugh. It took what–8 or 10 years for you to have your “Rush 4, Drop 8 Defense” moment? I have those moments daily. You’re not doing too shabby.