O’Malley’s Monday Musings

A dozen thoughts that must leave my mind prior to a trip to Death Valley.

1 – Andy Heck, Frank Stams, Theo Riddick… – you see where I’m going with this? The best senior-season switches in recent program history, and C.J Prosise, he of the 600 rushing yards, six touchdowns, and absurd 8.1 yards per carry, is already on the short and distinguished list.

2 – On a related note, other than LSU and perhaps Georgia, is Notre Dame the only Power 5 team on which Will Fuller wouldn’t be the MVP after four games? At least if we remove quarterbacks from the equation? Fuller hit pay dirt Saturday for the fourth straight contest (five dating back to the Music City Bowl) and sixth time this season.

That’s 21 touchdowns for Fuller over the last games, a better rate than any receiver in Irish history. Only Golden Tate (20 TD receptions, 2 TD runs, and 1 PR score) produced more touchdowns over the same span from the wide receiver position. (For those wondering, Jeff Samardzija tallied 20 – 19 receiving, and one rush on a fake field goal – over a 21-game span.)

3 – Will the safety position prove to be Notre Dame’s Achilles Heel? The short answer is “Yes,” because Max Redfield has thus far proven to be, well, a normal human being. That is: he’s bothered by a broken thumb to the point it greatly impacts his play. Not sure we can get a straight answer, but I plan to ask Joe Schmidt about playing through a similar injury this season (as Zeke Motta and Matthias Farley have in the past.)

Notre Dame needs Redfield’s speed and athleticism along its back end more this week and on Oct. 17 than it does at any other point this season.

4 – Kudos to Irish head coach Brian Kelly for his third 4-0 start in just six seasons at the helm. The total matches the number Lou Holtz posted in 11 seasons (1988-89, ’93) and far exceeds the aggregate produced by the .500-lovin’ coaches that were given the keys to the castle betwixt: Bob Davie, Tyrone Willingham, and Charlie Weis, who were able to keep Notre Dame in the title hunt through September just once – Willingham’s defense-and special teams-driven squad of 2002.

Nothing worse than being out of championship contention before the leaves begin to fall…

5 – Notre Dame’s best position group is clearly its massive, cohesive offensive front. Imagine that: collectively, the daily Irish media actually got something right.

6 – A punt return touchdown…a fake punt denied…five punts at better than 52 yards per pop…kickoff coverage (on 10 kickoffs, no less), in which the opponent never crossed the touchback-mandated 25-yard line.

Now that’s how you play special teams! Memo to place-kicker Justin Yoon, he of the missed field goal or PAT in every game played to date – it’s time to end that streak, because every point will count Saturday night in Death Valley.

7 – On a related note, my top 10 Irish through four (no order): Prosise, Fuller, Jaylon Smith, Sheldon Day, Isaac Rochell, and the five-man offensive front. No. 11 is punter Tyler Newsome – what a weapon.

8 – If asked to name one reserve ready to deliver consistent, winning football over the slate that awaits, I’d choose newly-minted dime linebacker Greer Martini. As long as he’s used properly (near scrimmage as was S/LB Drue Tranquill in the role), the instinctive Martini will fare well as a player attacking scrimmage or spying on most quarterbacks on 3rd-and-Long. (Plus Martini should again star vs. the triple-option and Navy in two weeks.)

But make no mistake, there will be a drop-off from Tranquill to Martini, and it might first present Saturday when Clemson uber-athlete DeShaun Watson encounters the latter in space when bailing from the pocket.

9 – Backup quarterback Brandon Wimbush has and will continue to receive the lion’s share of press (hello Showtime!) but the most important development among the freshmen and/or reserve ranks Saturday was his classmate Josh Adams. Wimbush will only play over the next three weeks if something goes wrong: Conversely, contributions from Adams will be needed to win at least two of the next three.

10 – Got a little dusty in the stadium press box when Sgt. Tim McCarthy of the Indiana State Police offered his final quip – which also happened to be his first a mere 55 years ago: “Remember, the automobile replaced the horse, but the driver should stay on the wagon."

11 – Things you don’t want to hear a rookie quarterback say heading into his third career start, which also happens to be the national game of the week…under the lights…on the road:

“You've got to be out there having complete confidence in every throw that you have, and those couple balls that were low, I didn't really rip it like I wanted to, just simply because I didn't have the mindset and the confidence of getting the ball out there. When I'm out there thinking a little too much or I've got something else on my mind, the last thing I do is just let it rip…” – DeShone Kizer post-game Saturday

12 – Things you want to see the same quarterback do:
-- 3rd-and-1: Kizer run for 3 yards (TD ensues on drive)
-- 3rd-and-15: Kizer runs for 13 (punt results)
-- 3rd-and-3: Kizer to Chris Brown for 27 yards (TD ensues)
-- 3rd-and-10: Kizer to Amir Carlisle for 16 yards (TD ensues on same drive)
-- 3rd-and-6: Kizer to Nic Weishar for 8 yards (TD ensues)
-- 3rd-and-3: Kizer to Aliz’e Jones for 37 yards (TD ensues on same drive)

Six consecutive third-down situations and Kizer produced on each (I’ll take a 13-yard scramble on 3rd-and-15, won’t you?). If Kizer maintains this “It” factor on third down, Notre Dame will survive and advance Saturday night.

On to Death Valley and Howard’s Rock…

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