Matt Cashore / IrishIllustrated.com

O’Malley’s Monday Musings

Explaining the inexplicable, re-worked formulas, burned bridges and a disturbing pattern highlight this week’s edition.

1 – Truer Words Have Never Been Spoken: Seems like the appropriate time to pull out life’s eternal, singular reality as offered by the great Western philosopher Doug Coughlin (Cocktail, 1988):

“All things end badly. Otherwise they wouldn’t end.”

2 – The End of an Era: How daily Notre Dame media and Irish fans felt every time the head coach defended his defensive coordinator over the past 22 football Saturdays:

https://youtu.be/AR6eXWNJzoY

3 – May the Bridges I Burn Light My Way: I can’t wrap my head around the reality that the scourge of Notre Dame’s coaching staff during the Aaron Lynch recruitment of 2010-11 will now lead the Irish defense. (Holdovers from that era include only Lynch’s former position coach Mike Elston on defense, and Mike Denbrock on offense.)

I suppose all is fair in love, war, and the recruitment of petulant five-star prospects that indeed would have been better off at a different school, as offered by Hudson as part of his misguided speech to land the Sunshine State’s best pass rusher.

Since, Hudson proved to be a thorn in Notre Dame’s side as recently as late December 2013 (Florida State 18 ND 14) and less than four football games later when he coordinated the defense of eventual 1-11 Purdue, but helped keep the Boilermakers close in 31-24 Irish victory in West Lafayette.

Total yards gained by Brian Kelly’s offense vs. Hudson-coached (FSU) and coordinated (Purdue) squads: 280 (FSU), 400 and 398 (PU). Impressive considering the talent disparity in the latter pair, and it appears Kelly took heed.

4 – Not a Panacea, But Not “Too Late” Either: Irish Illustrated subscriber TerryBenedict posed the following question in the wake of an earlier Irish loss: “Are we at the point where we have to start rooting against our own defense?” (To elicit eventual change).

If I recall, we dismissed this during the podcast because nothing seemed as “lost” as it does now for the buried 1-3 Irish. (Don’t think they’re buried? Consider Notre Dame has to go 3-1 to reach .500 facing Syracuse, NC State, Stanford, and Miami heading into November.)

But a better response to TerryBenedict’s same line of thinking could have been applied to my recollections of similar commentary during the following football seasons (only it was in reference to the head coach, not a coordinator): 1999, 2001, 2003, 2004, 2007, 2008, and 2009.

  • Total winning seasons from that collection? 1
  • Combined record: 34-40 (not including 3-9 in 2007, because 2007 is its own entity)
  • Subsequent seasons in which the staff was retained vs. fired: 4 vs. 3
  • Staffs that recovered to win at an appropriate level representing Notre Dame: 0

Change is unlikely to serve as a panacea, but it was necessary this week, so while pundits and Irish Illustrated continue to warn that a miracle is not to be expected, that’s separate from the point.

Change occurred, and whether it should have been after Texas, Michigan State, or Duke is irrelevant, because it’s doubtless better than the most likely alternative – after USC. Now Brian Kelly can move forward and attempt to repair 2016 while building for 2017. Because four losses next season might be more damaging to his legacy than six would be this fall.

5 – #Science: I didn’t see that firing coming and as such, I need to craft a new formula for Thursday’s score prediction. The following, however, has been clouding my brain to that end:

Baked over mashed…Ribeye over filet…Cover 2 over whatever it is I’ve been watching for 30 games…Bourbon over Rye (but I’m open to suggestion)…Manti 2012 over Jaylon 2015…1988 over 1993 had they matched up…2004 over 2007 over 2013 (let’s see who deciphers that one)…USC over Michigan…The autumn apple vs. the summer peach…Thanksgiving over Christmas (pre children)…Fountain over can over bottle (clearly)…Darnell over BVG (despite advanced weaponry for the former)…4-wide over 2-tight…2-back over 4-wide…all alternatives over read-option…The Wire over Breaking Bad…Tate over Floyd…formula remodel vs. new construction.

Curious for the readers’ thoughts on each…

6 – Glass Half-Full: Searching for a silver lining? Consider the offense’s efforts in goal-to-go situations this season: The Irish have scored touchdowns in 9 out of 10 drives in which they’ve faced a goal-to-go situation, plus were 3-for-3 this weekend just outside that range (2nd Down inside the 10-yard line, but with a first down available if needed.)

There’s no Will Fuller and no Tyler Eifert, but Notre Dame is hardly bereft of skill position talent, and that was evident in Saturday’s loss, one that included 10 gains of between 10 and 19 yards; six more of 20-29 yards; and three others of 30, 31, and 44 yards, respectively.

Nine different Irish players including the starting quarterback produced the totals above. And it doesn’t include Chase Claypool, who surely must be included in game plans going forward.

7 – Dexter, Dexter, Dexter: YES! Got something right in August!

7B – More Dexter Williams: Open auditions at running back among Josh Adams, Dexter Williams, and Tarean Folston seems the obvious course this week. If each responds well to the challenge, starting, secondary, and reserve roles are all plausible, and in the first half, to boot.

Thereafter, the hot hand should be relied upon to reclaim the Notre Dame running game. Chances are it won’t be Folston who has doubtless not yet regained his form following September 2015 knee surgery. But he’s not taking his obvious demotion lying down – the senior might have executed the two best blocks of his college career over the last two contests.

The offense is “fine” but it can be great – 40 points per game and not “Kizer-reliant” great – if the running backs collectively play to their talent level.

In the short term, that requires at least 40 rushes against a Syracuse team susceptible to the run (235 yards, 4 TD vs. USF – you can disregard the 414 yards and 7 scores Louisville rolled up. Notre Dame doesn’t reside in the Cardinals stratosphere at present.)

8 – Truth or Talk? In addition to Dexter Williams, the following will play more (or continue to play more) if “all 22 spots” truly were up for grabs this week: Jay Hayes (Come on!), Jonathan Bonner (ascending player) Daelin Hayes (clearly), Donte Vaughn (why not?), Jalen Elliott (why not, Part 2?), Pete Mokwuah (why not, Part 3?) and Chase Claypool.

Regarding Claypool as opposed to the handful of defenders offered above: the freshman target has to have his role tweaked or ascend over players that are producing, so his insertion on a consistent basis is a bit more challenging.

9 – You Are What You Are: Brian Kelly is not a 1-3 football coach. He’s better than that. But can Irish fans reasonably expect him to be a 10-win coach going forward? A quick review of his 82-game tenure to date shows a clear pattern:

  • 2010: Bad start (4-5) followed by a great finish, one that filled the fan base with hope (4-0).
  • 2011: A bad start (0-2) followed by new hope (rose to 8-3) followed by a bad finish (0-2 to concluded the campaign).
  • 2012: A regular season for the ages (12-0!) followed by, well, the worst night ever.
  • 2013: A poor start (3-2) en route to a modicum of hope (7-2) and of course, the requisite decidedly average finish (9-4).
  • 2014: A great start (6-0 and robbed of a seventh!) followed by the worst month in program history (1-5 to conclude the 2014 season).
  • 2014 Take II: A one-day interlude (Music City Bowl victory) to again buoy the fan base.
  • 2015: An outstanding season of contention and renewed faith (10-1 and a missed field goal away from win No. 11) followed by the reality of five losses in the last six games.

Kelly will extricate his Irish from this 1-3 start. They’ll rally, I think, and finish on some semblance of a high note in 2016. And 2017? It looks good from my purview.

But Kelly needs to prove to be “better than good” in back-to-back campaigns as the 2018 season comes to a close.

10 – All You Need to Know: My in-game notes from the Duke contest:

Jack Freeman / IrishIllustrated.com

Until next week, Irish fans…


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