'Statement game'

NOTRE DAME, Ind. - Notre Dame wide receiver Amir Carlisle had his best performance to date in an Irish uniform, including seven receptions for 61 yards and two touchdowns. The starting slot man at Notre Dame is carving a sizable niche in an offense with no shortage of weapons.

Asking Amir Carlisle to answer a question about his individual success on the field, and regardless of how the question's worded - Notre Dame's slot receiver finds a way to sing his teammates' praises first and foremost.

On Friday night he scored his first two career touchdowns, including a 12-yard catch and run from a screen pass to beat the blitz in the third quarter, giving the Irish a 28-0 lead.

"When I saw the call coming from the sideline, I was really excited because I like running screens," Carlisle said. "As soon as the ball got snapped, I saw the play develop, and I saw the offensive line get out and a huge hole open up. I just give them the credit for opening it up, and I really just had to run straight and didn't have to do too much."

As much as he downplayed his individual performance against Michigan that included seven receptions for 61 yards and two touchdowns, his head coach did not.

"I thought he made some outstanding catches in traffic," Brian Kelly said. "He held onto the football, toe-tapped one on the sideline, and showed a really good skill set at that position in particular. I thought this was a statement game for him."

The undefined position at Notre Dame in the Brian Kelly era has been slot wide receiver. The quest to find a true inside man who is reliable as a pass-catcher and consistently presents matchup problems down the field has been an enigma.

"That's one area, the slot receiver position has been an area that has been a bit of a concern for me," Kelly said in his post-game press conference. "We finally got a guy that can matchup inside out. And that inside out position puts him on safeties, linebackers, and we can do a lot of really good things there."

Last year, the simplest of swing passes presented its challenges for the former USC transfer, who was transitioning from running back to wide receiver and recovering from a collarbone injury suffered in the spring. Different story so far in 2014.

“I think we've settled him into a particular position where I think he's really going to thrive,” Kelly said in fall camp. “We kind of had him half in and half out of running back, slot receiver. We have settled in on that position, so I would say that now that he has settled into that slot receiver position, you're really going to see him flourish. He's had a really good preseason, and I think he's going to make a lot of big plays for us.”

“Amir has definitely come a long way,” Golson said after the game. “This is his first year playing wide receiver. So he's definitely come a long way. He has to learn a lot of new things. But he's done a great job.”

Michigan’s game plan on defense forced Golson to stay in the pocket, go through his progressions and find his receivers in man coverage.

Carlisle reaped the benefits of the Irish taking shots down field, moving the chains with confidence on plays like a skinny post route in tight coverage in the red zone and a 21-yard reception on 3rd and long to move the ball into Michigan territory.

Asked if he agreed with Kelly that last night was a statement game for him, and Carlisle chose to talk about team execution.

“Michigan and Notre Dame is one of the most storied rivalries in college football,” he said. “It was a great team effort. We're really unified, and we're a family. Now, it's time to get back to the drawing board and get ready for Purdue next week."

Carlisle’s dad, Duane Carlisle, is the director of sports performance for Purdue.

“It's fun,” Carlisle said. “With my dad being on the opposite sideline, it's kind of a fun dynamic. He's out there now, waiting for me. It's always fun competing against my dad and that should be another great game next weekend.”

If Carlisle can build upon what’s suffice to say a breakout performance against Michigan, good things are in store for a man at a position that just took a giant leap forward at defining its identity.

“I feel good about things,” Carlisle concluded in humble fashion. “For me, it's always a work in progress and I never feel like I've arrived. It's always poor, hungry and driven. I'm going to come Monday, Tuesday in practice like it never happened."


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