Aftermath: Notre Dame vs. Arizona State

Day after thoughts and analysis following Notre Dame's 55-31 loss to Arizona State

1. Yes, Everett Golson's turnovers were the driving force behind yesterday's loss, but Notre Dame's run game was dismal.

The Irish rushed 38 times for 41 yards, an average of 1.1 yards per attempt. Tarean Folston carried 11 times for 30 yards for a 2.7 average and Cam McDaniel carried nine times for 24 yards for a 2.7 average. The longest rush of the game was 13 yards.

Despite McDaniel's limited rushing numbers, he did punch in two scores, and had what I thought was arguably Notre Dame's best play of the game - an extremely hard-fought 12-yard run to the Arizona State three-yard line on 1st and 10 that set up a one-yard rushing touchdown two plays later. That score brought Notre Dame within 10 (34-24) with more than nine minutes remaining on the clock.

McDaniel also had a 24-yard reception earlier in that touchdown drive.

He's not flashy, and he's not Notre Dame's best back. Folston should still be the starting running back going forward, but Cam's a fighter, and Notre Dame needed that yesterday from its team captain and most experienced running back.

2. Mentioned in the podcast previewing the game was the assertion that Notre Dame wins against the Sun Devils if its secondary could contain shots taken over the top.

You give up 55 points, and under normal circumstances the defense would get the blame, but obviously yesterday, Everett Golson's turnovers were the avalanche that stemmed the surrender of the greatest number of points for Notre Dame since giving up 58 against Miami in 1985.

Golson single-handledy gave up 28 points, with half of those coming courtesy of pick-sixes and the other half coming from Golson turning the ball over deep in Notre Dame's own territory. Kelly said in his post-game press conference:

"Our defense would’ve hung in there and did enough for us to get a win on the road, and it didn’t happen, and that’s what I’m most upset about."

In the absence of starting cornerback Cody Riggs, Devin Butler gave up a 43-yard touchdown play that made it 31-3 with 11 minutes still remaining in the second quarter. Discounting that play, Notre Dame's secondary against the play-action pass was rather sound in coverage, though missed tackles will no doubt show themselves on film.

Arizona State quarterback Taylor Kelly threw the ball just 28 times all game and only eight times in the second half. The Sun Devils' offense was just 5-of-15 on third down conversions. Matthias Farley had a pair of outstanding plays (sack and interception) that played largely into the shift of momentum Notre Dame experienced in the second half. Justin Utopo and Jaylon Smith combined for a key run stop that put the ball back in the hands of Notre Dame's offense. Nyles Morgan wasn't perfect, but he posted four tackles in his first career start and didn't get overwhelmingly exploited.

Notre Dame's defense continues to exceed expectations. It's one thing to accomplish that feat when you're healthy. It's quite a different one when two of your key starters are out. In a week where Irish fans will voice their disappointment and frustration, Brian VanGorder will remained unscathed by the reasonable ones.

3. Predicting Notre Dame's finish: 10-2

Notre Dame beats Northwestern easily, and it earns respectable victories over quality teams in Louisville and USC. It ends the season on a high note and will be enticing in the bowl selection process.

It's too early to predict where Notre Dame lands in post-season play, but a trip to the Orange Bowl is not completely off the table. Yeah, neither is the Belk Bowl or Russell Athletic Bowl, but if the Irish go 3-0 in the next three weeks, a potential trip to Miami, Florida doesn't look so awful.


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