Irish Turnovers a Team Effort

Notre Dame needs a team effort to rally and finish 3-0 this month. It needs the same to avoid costly turnovers such as those that plagued them in the desert against Arizona State and intermittently throughout 2014.

A quick glance at Notre Dame's stat sheet shows quarterback Everett Golson has thrown 11 interceptions and lost 6 fumbles. His teammates, on the other hand? An aggregate two fumbles lost (Greg Bryant and Ben Koyack).

It's thus reasonable to posit in print that Golson has been responsible for 17 of Notre Dame's 19 team turnovers through nine games.

But in reality, it's the fault of the whole, not its most important part, says head coach Brian Kelly.

"We've evaluated the film, gone through it. The buck stops with the quarterback and I think Everett made that pretty clear,” said Kelly. “He took full responsibility for what needs to happen at that position.

"The fact of the matter is, when you look at it, he’s not to blame. There are 10 other guys that have a lot to do with those turnovers, but he took full responsibility…he didn't shirk away from that. But the fact of the matter is, we have guys that are responsible for doing things on particular plays where there are turnovers that don't get the job done."

"You can look at every one of those turnovers and there's an action that causes that turnover."

Giving the football away wasn't the only death-knell issue for the Irish Saturday in Sun Devils Stadium, a 55-31 defeat at the hands of host Arizona State.

The inability to protect Golson, the team's triggerman pass and run plays alike, was spotty at best. Golson was sacked seven times and pressured far too often as the Irish fell behind by five scores.

Kelly though not only shot down the notion that change should or could be afoot up front, but that the staff doesn't place the lack of protection for Golson at the feet of the offensive line.

"When we evaluate our offensive line, we don't look toward them as being central to the issue of those turnovers," said Kelly, offering that the first miscue was the *fault of his tight end (Ben Koyack), and running back (Tarean Folston), while the second was the fault of "the coaching staff."

(*Golson fumbled the football, holding it in one hand while spinning away from an unblocked defender.)

“Those had nothing to do with the offensive line,” Kelly said. “When we look at it, it’s easy to say, ‘Alright, it’s the offensive line that’s breaking down.’ We don’t see that. Now are there areas we have to get better in? Absolutely. It’s not pointing to one specific group. Tight end, running back, five guys up front.”

Added Kelly of the first turnover:

"We're in max protection on the first turnover and we have more blockers than they have blitzers, and we have two guys get whipped," he said. "Flat out get whipped. (Golson) doesn't expect to have any pressure on that play…I could go through every one of them."

Fault is apparently to be shared. What can't be questioned, however, is that there's plenty of it to go around.

The Other Front Was Worse

Through seven games, the projected weak spot of the 2014 Irish -- a youth-filled defensive line -- proved doubters wrong, instead serving as a strength.

Not so since they left Tallahassee on Oct. 18.

"Florida State, I thought our defensive line was outstanding," said Kelly. "They were in the backfield all day. They were physical, they were aggressive. Then you get into the Navy game, it's kind of a whole different animal. (Navy's option attack rushed for 336 yards, 5.6 yards per carry.)

"This past weekend we had our poorest performance on the defensive line and it showed, Kelly offered. "We'll be looking to get more out of our defensive line and get a better performance this season."

Also missing, and not unexpectedly so in the minds of most impartial observers, was a lack of communication among the back seven, a reality that first presented when defensive captain Joe Schmidt was lost to injury on Nov. 1 against the aforementioned Midshipmen.

"We just need better communication on the defensive side of the ball," said Kelly. "Our safeties have got to continue to grow. We've said that from day one and I think we've had that conversation here probably every week. Each and every week we've got to get those guys to communicate better and effectively communicate on a day-to-day basis in practice and on Saturdays."

Getting a Better Grip

Turns out Everett Golson's backup Malik Zaire will start Saturday after all -- at holder.

Exit walk-on Hunter Smith, enter Zaire.

Kelly Tuesday explained the dynamics of the long-snapper/holder relationship before acknowledging change is necessary.

"What happens in those situations is that battery, those long-snappers and kickers, spend so much time together outside of the practice…For example, this week Malik Zaire will take over that responsibility. He will be our starting holder. (But) He's with me the whole practice, whereas Hunter is taking snaps for two hours. While Malik is taking practice, right?

"So just by virtue of the reps…you feel comfortable that by repetition, that you're getting that kind of comfort level. Those guys are with each other, they're working with each other during the summer. Those guys live together. They're out there every single day perfecting that craft.

Now, we've had three drops. Three's too many. Can't take a fourth, so we're going to make a switch at that position."

Kelly added that Zaire has been the backup holder throughout the practice season.


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