Matt Cashore /

O’Malley’s Monday Musings

The five stages of grief, mid-season travel awards, game management regularities, and Tommy Rees(?) highlight this week’s edition.

1 – Denial (January and the off-season): We finished 10-3. We were just two, maybe even one snap away from the playoffs. There’s no need for change. It’s Year 3 of his system. That’s the important thing – not that Jaylon and Day and KeiVarae are gone. It’s the system. Trust the system.

Besides, the offense will be lights out!

2 – Anger (Texas): Fifty? 50! Really? To Texas!?

The offense is going to be great though. Kizer is unreal. Did you see that comeback!? And we were robbed, that was targeting against Hunter. The defense can get better as long as we don’t run that stupid 3-3-5 against another power running team. How did that idea get past Kelly, anyway?

3 – Bargaining (Michigan State, Duke, Syracuse): Yeah but the Spartans are a program with an identity. They were in the playoffs last year. They’re contenders. ND nearly came back and would have won if VanGorder’s D could’ve made one stop. One stop! He needs to be fired…

-- How can this happen? Duke! It’s DUKE! Can we get Cutcliffe back? Someone has to be fired…Wait, what? They really did it? Well it’s too late to save the season but maybe they can run the table? We have Kizer, but what’s wrong with the running game? Still, if Hudson can just shore up this defense…

-- Syracuse: “I told you once we got rid of him!”

4 – Depression (N.C. State, Stanford): Why are they playing a hurricane? Why is he PASSING in a hurricane?! Someone needs to be fired; this is atrocious…

-- How did they find a way to lose this game? Stanford is a shell of its former self. This program is lost. It’s over. Two and five! Two and freaking five?!? What’s his excuse this week? Why’d he bench Kizer? What’s wrong with Kizer? This offensive line is so overrated. We need a new strength coach. We need a new offensive coordinator. Two of them. It’s Kelly’s fault anyway. How can you defend him? What do you mean he’s not going anywhere?

4b – Acceptance: 1993 was a long time ago, friends.

5 – Mid-Season Awards: Let’s get to the important stuff:

  • Best Press Box Meal: Darrell K. Royal Stadium (Fajitas, Nacho bar, Chorizo soup)
  • Best Flight: Row 1, Aisle, Southwest to Newark (Despite C-15 boarding position)
  • What are the odds? Flight scenario: Seven ND daily beat writers on the same flight to Raleigh
  • Total Fountain Cherry Cokes Available: None to date, EverBank Field on tap
  • Total Flight Delays: None!
  • Best Hotel Stay: The Simmerano residence, Succasunna, N.J.
  • Best Friday Bar: In an upset, St. James’s Gate Publick House, Maplewood, N.J.
  • Best Hotel Bar: Hilton Garden Inn, Durham (Free drinks!)
  • Worst Reason for Best Hotel Bar: Power outage…9pm through check-out, Durham
  • Best Meal: Angus Barn, Irish Illustrated traveling staff (past and present) in Raleigh
  • Worst Packer Award: (Tie) Tim O’Malley/Tim Prister/J.J. Stankevitz no raincoat, no poncho in Raleigh
  • Roomy Press Box Rankings: Notre Dame Stadium, MetLife, DK-Royal, Carter-Finley…
  • Best Road Game Press Box Hospitality: Raleigh
  • Worst Road Game Parking Hospitality: Raleigh
  • Worst Plane Seat Companions: Newark to Midway (passive-aggressive arguing couple)
  • Worst Airport Etiquette: Newark (bare feet, atop suitcase…and let’s just say not feet you want to see.)
  • Ironic Game Day Weather Rankings: South Bend, South Bend, South Bend, East Rutherford, Austin (dude, that is some serious heat)…Raleigh

6 – A Time to Appreciate Rees: Tommy Rees started 31 games for Notre Dame, and as a result, fans’ opinions regarding his career are mixed. But I’d like to offer one that should prevail if you have an ounce of common sense about sports:

He probably should have started just a handful, not 31.

The fact that he instead started 31 is a testament to his mental toughness, will, and preparation. It’s also a commentary – either on the field, off the field, or both – on the makeup of Dayne Crist, Nate Montana, Andrew Hendrix, Everett Golson, Gunner Kiel, and Brian Kelly’s recruitment, evaluation and handling of the position.

-- Malik Zaire’s work as a backup quarterback this season represents the latest iteration in a disturbing trend of backup quarterback play under Kelly. That is, other than Rees, Notre Dame’s backups have *generally performed terribly when inserted into in a football game.

The oddity is, prior to 2016, *Zaire was outstanding in relief, providing an immediate big play vs. Michigan (2014), an immediate spark in a lost cause (USC 2014), and earning MVP honors in a starting, but alternating role against LSU.

-- Yet in competitive action this season (excludes the Nevada game), Zaire has been on the field for an aggregate 27 snaps (three as “wide receiver” against Duke) from which Notre Dame’s offense has produced 35 yards – 1.29 yards per play.

Kelly offered Sunday during his weekly post-game conference call that Zaire receives 40 percent of the practice snaps. If true, those are wasted snaps, because it’s clear that Zaire – a far, far better player than he’s shown this season – is not able to perform at an acceptable level under the position’s current conditions.

7 – A Look Ahead: Subscribers challenge: rank the likelihood of an Irish win vs. the remaining quintet of foes.

If I had to wager an amount of money that mattered to me going into each Saturday:

1.) Army 2.) Miami, barely ahead of… 3.) Navy 4.) Virginia Tech 5.) USC

But you heard it here first: Notre Dame will beat Miami on October 29…and despite a 2-5 record I think they’ll be a slight favorite entering the contest as well. The range of emotions of the post-bye Miami contest compared to that one week later in Jacksonville against Navy will be incalculable.

8 – A Look Back: Let’s play a round of should’ve, could’ve, or would’ve dating back to the outset of 2015 and the eight Irish losses incurred since:

  • Clemson: Could’ve
  • Stanford: Should’ve
  • Ohio State: Good one!
  • Texas: Should’ve
  • Michigan State: Could’ve, kind of
  • Duke: Could’ve (Irish were outplayed, outcoached, outworked and did not deserve it more than the Blue Devils)
  • N.C. State: Should’ve
  • Stanford: Should’ve

9 – A Useless, Egregious 3rd Down Spike: I was nonplussed when Kelly (or Mike Denbrock) and Kizer chose to spike the football following a second down sack with 12 seconds remaining in Saturday’s loss to Stanford.  

Yes, it was a terrible decision. A disturbingly unenlightened notion that ignored the game situation (3rd down, Cardinal 14-yard line, clock ticking from 15 seconds down to 12) and score (17-10), not to mention the clear reality that any offense in the free world can call a pass play, attempt to throw in the end zone, and still have at least one, if not two, three, or four seconds remaining for an ensuing fourth down attempt thereafter.

The easiest way to handle such a 3rd down situation (it’s a “situation” not a “conundrum” but Notre Dame made it into the latter) is, as Tim Prister noted post-game, to have an “emergency” signal for a fade route (or back-shoulder fade, or post/post corner into the end zone, whatever) when such a scramble clock situation inevitably presents.

Instead? A 3rd down spike to stop the clock. One of your two chances to tie, gone. 12 seconds remaining to execute one fourth-down snap when you only needed one.

So why was I nonplussed at this strategic coaching atrocity?

I’ve come to expect it.

-- Enjoy the bye weekend, Irish fans. It’s guaranteed to be better than recent alternatives… Top Stories