Aftermath: Notre Dame vs. Syracuse

Analysis and talking points following Notre Dame's 31-15 win over Syracuse, including Kelly's conversations with his quarterback on the sideline

1. Kirk Herbstreit’s breakdown of the offensive line’s performance was too harsh.

Herbie repeatedly pointed out that Notre Dame’s offensive line wasn’t physical enough and wasn’t getting enough push. He went so far as to say the shifts along the line exiting bye week didn’t (and, I’m paraphrasing here) appear to be an improvement.

No, the offensive line wasn’t perfect last night, there’s still a ways to go before they’ll live up to Harry Hiestand’s standards and that of a typical Notre Dame offensive line.

But, last night the three backs combined for 28 carries, 129 yards, and an average of 4.6 yards per carry.

Mind you, this was against a defense that was allowing approximately just 100 yards per game on the ground.

The statistic that will likely be buried under the five turnovers last night (including three from the run game) is Notre Dame’s performance on 3rd down. Entering last night, the Irish struggled mightily on down and distance situations when opposing defenses knew to expect the run. But, against Syracuse Notre Dame was 9-of-14 in 3rd down conversions, including runs of 14, 8, 7, 5 and 2 yards on 3rd down when Notre Dame needed no more than five yards to convert.

It’s a work in progress - nothing more and nothing less - and anytime you shuffle personnel along the offensive line, there’s going to be some kinks to work through. Last night was a step in the right direction for the offensive line, and there’s not much more you can ask for at this point in the season.

2. It’s something else watching Brian Kelly talk to Everett Golson on the sideline after the quarterback comes off the field.

Kelly approaches his quarterback with delicacy each time Golson produces a mistake on the field, and the offense takes a seat on the sideline. Delicacy is a word not often used in the same sentence as Brian Kelly. Heather Cox described the interaction as that of a father and son. That’s fine and well, but it’s fair to say Golson still has some maturing to do. It’s not normal for a head coach to coddle his quarterback like we saw last night each time a mistake is made. And, it is coddling. Granted, it appears to be effective for the head coach and quarterback duo, and Golson still had a solid game notwithstanding the two fumbles and two interceptions. He’s being asked to lead the offense much more this year than in 2012, a fact that has been talked about to length’s end so far this season, and with such increased responsibility he’s performed rather stellar most of the time. But, as Golson grows and develops, he’ll have to shake off the bad throws and poor reads himself and communicate more so on his own terms with the coaches – without Kelly having to take a knee, work his hardest to establish eye contact, and coax a conversation.

3. As George Whitfield pointed out in the broadcast last night of in his description of the adversity Golson faced in the 1st quarter, a game of highs and lows where a fair share of good and bad plays can be highlighted could be just what the doc ordered before the Irish take on Stanford at home next weekend.

Notre Dame will have plenty to dissect on film this week. The passing game was brought down to earth last night, despite Golson’s 25 consecutive completions. The secondary looked vulnerable when Syracuse took shots down field. But, when you produce five turnovers, and only give up 15 points, and still put up 31 points and 160 rushing yards against a solid run defense, it’s most certainly not all bad teaching points.

Stanford’s physicality will test Notre Dame in most facets of the game. But, Notre Dame will have plenty of weaponry to test the Cardinal right back. A week out, there’s reason to be confident the Irish will show its best in its biggest game of the season to date. Top Stories