Aftermath: Notre Dame vs. North Carolina

NOTRE DAME, Ind. - Day-after talking points and analysis following Notre Dame's 50-43 win over North Carolina

1. Notre Dame’s defense was put on its heels – no pun intended – for the first time all season, and tempo was the reason why.

So much is being said about the performance of North Carolina quarterback Marquise Williams (24-of-41 for 303 yards passing,139 yards rushing) and rightfully so, but the Tar Heels’ pace of execution arguably contributed to more issues for Notre Dame’s defense than did one single player.

Consider that Notre Dame edged North Carolina in time of possession by nearly five minutes (32:37 to 27:32), but the Heels managed three more plays than the Irish (87 to 84).

Tempo – UNC had it, and Notre Dame was treading on unfamiliar territory. It was the first time all season Brian VanGorder’s squad saw an offense line up and snap the ball that quickly. Carolina’s break-neck speed contributed to confusion in the secondary and havoc in the flats. It led to openings in the middle for Williams to find daylight when the pass option was taken away. The way Carolina spread the field horizontally with sweeps, screens and trickery to avoid the mismatches that Notre Dame’s defensive line presented up front was also a key part in the Heels’ ability to create offense.

2. Brian Kelly’s quick dismissal of Tarean Folson’s day wasn’t surprising.

But, was it warranted?

Asked about the back’s 100-yard, two touchdown performance, and Kelly responded:

“We've always liked him. He played really well today. We love the kid. We love all our guys. Today he did what he was asked to do, we ask all of our backs to do. They've got to block and catch the ball out of the backfield and run hard.”

“The one question that was posed that was the difference today in what we have been asking our backs to do is run through the darn tacklers. They are physical backs. And, Folston did that today. He ran through the tacklers. He therefore got the bulk of the carries, not that the other guys didn't do that, but when he got the ball he was running through the tacklers and that's why he got the carries late there.

Where the opportunity to acknowledge achievement was knocking, rendered in its place was a rather mundane description of praise. Kelly doesn’t want to get too high or too low on one particular running back, but my question is, why not deliver some genuine enthusiastic acclaim (publicly) of Folston’s ability to create offense and score points yesterday, push him in conversations individually to truly distinguish himself from Greg Bryant and Cam McDaniel in practice this week, give him the bulk of first-team carries, and see how he handles expectations as the No. 1 man heading into Saturday’s marquee match-up? Give him a clear-cut opportunity to build upon success. Otherwise, risk interest waned and the benefits of competition stifled if fruitful efforts go unrewarded and unrecognized.

3. Mental errors plagued Notre Dame yesterday more so than they have all season.

Uncharacteristically, Notre Dame was hit with 10 penalties for 76 yards. Mostly coming from false movement along the offensive line, there’s no question that Notre Dame can ill afford to have unforced yards taken away against Florida State.

Golson’s penchant – and that’s what it’s become – of turning the ball over is more serious of an issue than Kelly let on it for it to be post-game. The head coach emphasized Golson’s “ability to bounce back,” that he’s “still learning,” and that the “whole game we saw a progression and process,” but ball security mostly lies within the individual's commitment to focus and detail.

Before the consequences truly rear their ugly head in the form of a “one” in the loss column, Golson must make protecting the football his top priority each time he takes the field.

There’s much to clean up for this Irish team before heading to Tallahassee. And, that’s not merely coach-speak.

4. Notre Dame snapped the ball with an average of 12.03 seconds remaining on the play clock.

That makes for averages of 13.4, 12.2, 14.3, 12.5 and 12.0 in Notre Dame’s first five home games this season.

Make of it what you will, and perhaps this is a statistic leading no where, but tempo is a fun thing to watch when its working. Yesterday presented a complete display of such. Just not from Notre Dame.


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