Ready to Spring Forward

When does one touchdown scored equate to 97 total points? Welcome to the 84th annual Blue Gold Game.

SOUTH BEND -- If your glass is half-empty, Saturday's 84th annual Blue Gold game included unseasonably cold spring temperatures, inconsistent offensive execution, and the continuation of three seasons of struggle by Notre Dame's offense in the red zone.

Half-full? It was a beautiful winter afternoon in South Bend, one in which one of the nation's best defenses again prevailed, beating the Irish offense 54-43 in a game that involved one touchdown.

Yes, the Blue Gold Game again employed a creative, difficult-to-follow, and at times, nonsensical scoring system. But 54-43 looks a lot more entertaining than what was in reality an 8 to 2 finish -- with four points scored by Notre Dame nose guards.

The offensive highlight came late when January enrollee Malik Zaire hit an uncovered C.J. Prosise for a 35-yard score. The game's highlight occurred immediately thereafter when jovial All-American Louis Nix took a shotgun snap, feigned a pass, and sprinted (okay, lumbered) up the middle for a two-point conversion.

The two-pointer technically made the score 46-43 in favor of the defense, not that it mattered, then or now.

"My intentions were just to truck somebody. I didn't care about the (points) too much, I just wanted to run somebody over, show coach I could do it without fumbling the ball."

Nix received the opportunity to play quarterback thanks to a bet won vs. head coach Brian Kelly, who offered post-game the wager concerned Nix's academics.

"Just had to keep a few things in order and I did," said Nix of the school-based bet. "I was supposed to throw the ball but we haven't actually conditioned me to read defenses yet so I just ran it. I got me a quick two, so I'm happy."

Kelly was pleased with the chief goal of any spring game: there were no injuries to report.

"The biggest fear of any coach when you go through a spring game is to try to protect players, we got out of that clean."

The bill of health was clean, the offense's execution was not, though as Kelly noted, there was no game plan, no red zone installation, and no desire to show the nation anything his squad will rely upon next fall.

"The only thing I'd like to make sure we do better is to make certain we don't' fall back into some of the mistakes we made last year," Kelly said. "I thought we fell back into some of (those) offensively.

"I don't know if we went 13 games (last season) and had (as many) third-and-longs like we did today. We had some third-and-20s and-30s. That can't happen. I'm not happy about that, but by-in-large, most of them are correctable."

Creative Scoring Lights Up Scoreboard

Other than Prosise's score and Nix's ensuing plunge, the offense came about its 35 additional "points" through the following means:

  • Consecutive first downs: Worth two points apiece; the offense turned the trick six times for 12 points

  • Passes of 20 yards or greater or runs of 15 or more: Also worth two points; seven more occurrences (6 passing) for another 14 (though that excludes, for some reason, the 35-yard touchdown).

  • Three successful field goals: Standard three points each for a total of nine.

The defense? 24 points (four apiece) on six defensive stands before the offense could reach the 50-yard line; two points for once forcing a three-and-out; four total points because four times it limited the offense to a field goal attempt; two points for stopping the offense before it reached the 50 (once); four more for doing the same with a safety included (registered by nose guard Kona Schwenke), and a full seven point play for an interception by linebacker Joe Schmidt before the offense reached midfield.

Now you know why Nix's score stole the show.

"He's just a great personality and the guys got a kick out of it," said Kelly. "I thought it was a great way to finish up the spring."

It meant more than the final score, not only to the 31,652 in attendance and the media contingent on hand, but to a much smaller Nix named Kenneth, Louis's little brother who boasted two years ago to his elementary school class that his brother "played quarterback for Notre Dame."

"I don't know where he got that from," said Nix last October recalling the story.

"I look like one, huh? Right about now, I would love to play quarterback. I think I would be real good at it. Put me in the Wildcat. I want to be a Wildcat QB."

Mission accomplished. Spring completed. Summer conditioning awaits.

"We'll meet with the team Monday night," began Kelly of his team's next steps. "We turn them over to (strength and conditioning) coach (Paul) Longo, and he'll go and take the team over the next two weeks to a segment that we use -- now that we have our base down -- we go to speed school, so our kids will focus on some speed development for two weeks.

"That will take us through exams and an active rest period, and then we work hard at that coat of armor, that strength that prevents injury.

"And the middle of June, we'll begin 7-on-7s and 1-on-1s, and those guys are going to have to take a jump. That's when you develop your leaders. That's when those guys take over. Last year the guys did a great job over the summer, and they will be challenged to do the same."

The departed 2012 leaders guided Kelly's crew to an undefeated regular season, that after a sloppy 2012 spring game that included five turnovers and little indication that the scrimmage included one of the nation's top two teams.

"I think it's a very confident group of guys," said Kelly when asked about his team's identity. "They have a lot of confidence in themselves. They believe that they are going to be successful."

Step one toward that end concluded today. Now the real work begins.


IrishIllustrated.com Top Stories