The day after
1. Jaylon Smith is coming into his own We've seen it game after game, teams attacking the field side against Notre Dame in order to test the whereabouts of freshman linebacker Jaylon Smith. If you've ever watched him get set for a play, you'll notice it's a complete process that's more intense than how any other player lines up on the field. He slowly lowers his hips and hovers over the ground with a bounce and bend in his knees before the ball is snapped. His entire stance just screams athletic. And last night, things clicked for Smith and his natural instincts and athleticism combined for his best performance of the year. Arizona State's game plan was to attack horizontally, so Smith's lateral quickness was put on display multiple times. You really noticed his elite speed when Smith read the toss perfectly and forced Arizona State's running back to slip in the backfield. Smith finished with eight tackles, and six of them were unassisted, his best numbers on the year. 2. On 3rd and long late in the 4th quarter when Brian Kelly chose to pass NBC's booth seemed dumbfounded, as did Twitter. But, I liked the decision to throw it down the field. Didn't like that choice of route, but a first down there all but seals the deal, and by attempting the pass in that situation you have a pretty good chance of catching Arizona State off guard. But, I guess that easier to say after Arizona State threw it to Matthias Farley when the Sun Devils' offense got the ball back with a minute thirty and one timeout left. 3. The run game is no doubt on the upswing, but… The run game was solid last night (145 yards on 37 attempts), and the Irish are certainly are moving in the right direction with their play on the ground. There were two specific instances, though, when pass seemed like the better option. On the opening drive, the Irish faced 3rd and five on Arizona State's 22-yard line. Rees handed off to Atkinson for a gain of one, which was the fourth straight run play. It's tough to settle for a field goal attempt, which actually ended up fruitless, after you put together a good looking eight minute drive. The second time I thought pass was needed instead of a run was the handoff to Cam McDaniel for the 5th straight time (all out of the pistol) when the score was tied at 27, and Notre Dame was knocking inside the 10-yard line. McDaniel gained respectable yardage on each of the first four rush attempts, and then was tackled for a loss of four on second and goal from the four-yard line. The Irish were forced to settle with three points. 4. TJ Jones upped his draft stock Jones had eight catches for 135 yards and one touchdown. He made some incredible plays and came up huge. So, maybe we shouldn't have shaken our heads during the pre-season when Kelly called Jones a sure-fire first round pick… 5. Get C.J. Prosise more involved On the season, Prosise has four catches for 34 yards which may not seem like much, but when you account that he has only been thrown to just five times (one in each contest save Oklahoma) and he's averaged close to nine yards per catch, you realize that's a pretty good ratio. He's capable of producing yards after the catch and hauling it in despite heavy traffic.
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