Matt Cashore / IrishIllustrated.com

O’Malley’s Monday Musings

Nine thoughts that must leave my mind prior to Notre Dame’s revenge matchup with USC in South Bend.

1 – Senior defensive tackle Sheldon Day was understandably a topic during Brian Kelly’s weekly Sunday media teleconference yesterday. But as noted in the summer, pre-injury, Sheldon Day ranked as Notre Dame’s No. 1 player last season per my post-game film reviews. The difference this season is he’s collecting a few extra statistics along the way. Yes finishing a play is crucial, but Day was wrecking pockets last fall as well.

2 – The two biggest (negative) surprises of the season for me: the lack of weekly contribution from Andrew Trumbetti as a pass rusher and Joe Schmidt’ missed tackles. Schmidt’s not necessarily missing point-blank stops, but he’s not firing as quickly to the hole, and his play has suffered as a result. He was dominant against Georgia Tech, but nondescript or worse otherwise.

Not sure which from the pair is most likely to get on track over the next six contests.

3 – Great to see fifth-year senior Jarrett Grace involved in the proceedings at scrimmage the Mid’s. As daily writers covering a team, we’re worse at our jobs if we root for individual players (clouds analysis, projections, judgment, etc.), but it’s hard not to root for Grace, a player whose career ascent was ruined by injury but one that remained completely dedicated to the program.

It’s thus fitting that the first reference Grace made post-game was to James Onwualu, the player he replaced in the lineup when Brian VanGorder’s adjustment called for added bulk on the edge. Grace credited Onwualu for being “his eyes” from the sidelines.

Of note: Grace’s biggest impact on the 2015 season to date came nearly two years to the day (Oct. 5, 2013) from the broken leg that wrecked his junior and senior seasons. Incredible…

4 – One Irish staffer compared C.J. Prosise’s running style to DeMarco Murray. I previously felt Prosise resembled Irish great Ricky Watters in his ability to spin out of trouble and gain yardage thereafter. But credit Navy head coach Ken Niumatalolo with the best, not to mention most unexpected RB comparison for Prosise of the 2015 season (or any season!), former California and San Diego (Super)Chargers running back, the late Chuck Muncie.

As a senior in 1975, Muncie finished second in the Heisman Trophy balloting to Ohio State’s two-time winner Archie Griffin. You have to wonder where Prosise might rank had ND taken Clemson to overtime and the Irish prevailed thereafter. (Remember, he had 100 receiving yards, and more from scrimmage would have ensued.)

Prosise contributed 11 first downs Saturday against Navy – on nine of them he gained at least 10 yards on the play including two of his three touchdowns.

5 – When’s the last time a draw play with 24 seconds left, and 75 yards from the goal line resulted in points for the offense thereafter? That was the case when Prosise picked up 12 yards from his own 25-yard line near the conclusion of the first half Saturday afternoon. Quarterback DeShone Kizer patiently waited for Torii Hunter to break free on a deep crossing route near the sidelines, one snap later (+28 yards) and freshman kicker Justin Yoon finished the textbook “24-second drill” nailing a 52-yard field goal at the final gun.

It was Notre Dame’s third successful end-half drive of the season among five such opportunities. Not surprisingly, the two failures resulted in games that thereafter went down to the wire (W over UVA; L to Clemson). Stealing points near the halftime break generally bodes well heading into the second stanza.

6 – Notre Dame’s per play average hasn’t dipped below 6.4 yet this season. Conversely, below is a breakdown of total yards per play by each Irish opponent this season:
-- Navy 6.2
-- Virginia 6.1
-- UMass 5.8
-- Georgia Tech 4.7
-- Clemson 4.6
-- Texas 3.1

If the Irish can run the table, their statistical metrics will be glowing at season’s end.

7– Statistical Oddity Through Five Games: 41 of C.J. Prosise’s touches have resulted in gains of negative, 0, 1, or 2 yards (and none of those short gains moved the chains). That’s 41 of 123 total touches (110 rushes/13 receptions) exactly 33 percent.

Conversely, Prosise has compiled a ludicrous 35 combined rushes/receptions in excess of 10 yards.

8 – USC’s current lot in life will mitigate the impact of an Irish victory on Saturday. It would likewise exacerbate the fall-out – national, local, and otherwise – in case of defeat. It’s hard to imagine a clean practice week for the Trojans but sometimes everything clicks on game day and talent rises to the fore, and the Men of Troy remain dangerous because their lines of scrimmage, their team speed, and their quarterback remain intact.  

9 – I recall being impressed with Washington head coach Steve Sarkisian’s post-game demeanor after a 2009 contest in which Notre Dame beat his Huskies 37-30 thanks to myriad goal line stops. Here’s to a second chance for the 41-year-old head coach on a different set of sidelines after competing treatment…

Onto Week Seven and the disheveled Trojans from USC…


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