The day after

NOTRE DAME, Ind. - Thoughts, tidbits and talking points surrounding Notre Dame's decisive 48-17 win yesterday over Rice.

1. A quality start by the duo of Joe Schmidt at MIKE and Jaylon Smith at WILL…

Notre Dame’s most talented defender didn’t have an all-star stat line, but that’s not bad news considering Notre Dame still produced a commendable performance stopping the run.

It appeared that Smith and Schmidt (combined with the vertical direction of the defensive line) generated twice the amount of run push than what we saw in many games last year.

Schmidt was the first guy Kelly singled out in his post-game press conference, calling him “an extension of Coach VanGorder on the field.”

Where Schmidt lacks in physical ability, Smith makes up for it. The effectiveness of moving Smith inside the box this season became evident early yesterday when he chased down a running back from behind to force fourth down.

2. Let ‘em play

What happens when you tell an inexperienced and unproven lineup to play to their athletic abilities rather than think to much?

No turnovers, two penalties and 48 points. Sound tackling technique, one touchdown allowed by the first string defense and two forced turnovers.

On the other end of that “instinctive” spectrum, Notre Dame is faced with areas to address before week two, namely communication mishaps in the secondary. On Rice's lone touchdown of the game, safety Elijah Shumate and nickel back Mathias Farley got abused by the slot man in trips-left on a seam route. Shumate should have recognized the check and told Farley to drop into deep coverage prior to the snap.

With that play likely at the forefront of his mind in answering this question, Brian Kelly took note of how Michigan will pose a more formidable challenge than Rice.

“No, I think we are going to have to bring our brain," Kelly said in his post-game presser. "I mean, we can't just run around. We are going to have to be better mentally. We'll have to bring both.”

The dynamic and DNA of this team is primed to “bring both” all season starting with the right leadership on the field and ending with the quiet confidence and edginess that defined last year’s recruiting class. Addressing tactical errors aside as Kelly pointed out, this group of players will rally around that “just play” approach.

Finding that balance of an act, don’t react mentality while also making sound decisions in crucial situations could be the key to a special season this year.

3. I know I’m not the only one…

Who thought play-action pass to tight end Ben Koyack up the middle for a gain of 28 yards to move Notre Dame into red zone territory was a thing of beauty?

It wasn’t just the deep balls over the top or his scrambling ability on display that elicited the adjective “electric” from Kelly on his quarterback’s performance, but Golson's mid-range game was impressive as well. Other than a couple of passes thrown behind the stride of his targets, Golson (14-of-22, 295 yards, two passing touchdowns, two rushing touchdowns) had the right zip and reads on most of his pass attempts. He'll have to attempt and complete more standard throws like the one to Koyack in order to string together a quality drive against Michigan next week. His offensive line will also have to do a better job of protecting him as well, especially the tackles leveraging pass rush on the edges.

4. Don’t overlook these two on D.

Senior defensive back Matthias Farley was one of Notre Dame’s best defenders yesterday. His final stat line – five tackles, an assist on a sack, and an interception – is the type of productivity Notre Dame needs from its utility man in the secondary.

Nose guard Jarron Jones may not have filled up the stat sheet yesterday, (three tackles, .5 sacks, one quarterback hurry) but Jones’ play will likely produce some positive feedback from the coaching staff on film. He was a force in the middle, especially against Rice’s ground game. The tackle from behind in the 1st half was an effort play by Louis Nix's replacement inside. Still, he'll have to increase his cliff of 50 snaps and generate a better pass rush if Notre Dame's season is going to be anything special.

5. On average, Notre Dame snapped the ball with 13.4 seconds remaining on the play clock.

Is faster always better? We’ll see as the season progresses. Notre Dame ran 64 plays for an average gain of 9.0 yards per play (Rice ran 66 plays for an average of 5.6 yards). On Notre Dame’s first touchdown drive, Notre Dame averaged snapping the ball with 5.7 seconds on the clock. As Golson continues to evolve in the offense, Notre Dame will continue to push the tempo, but the takeaway here is that Golson wasn’t hesitant to slow things down to make sure he was on the same page with both the coaching staff and his offensive unit.

It would have been interesting had we tracked this stat last year to provide comparison, but we’ll continue to monitor this average going forward to assess any trends of note.


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