Matt Cashore / IrishIllustrated.com

Tim Prister’s Tale of the Tape

The refusal by the replay official to take a look at the helmet-to-helmet contact on DeShone Kizer is a conscious decision to avoid protecting the player.


TARGETING/LUKE INTERFERENCE

Two calls, both wrong, both significant in Notre Dame’s loss to Virginia Tech.

The first was the helmet-to-helmet contact between Virginia Tech’s Terrell Edmunds and Notre Dame quarterback DeShone Kizer in the third quarter. The second was the interference call on Cole Luke that led to the Hokies’ game-tying touchdown.

The fact that there was helmet-to-helmet contact doesn’t even need to be included in the argument, although it’s certainly significant. Kizer clearly was sliding and Edmunds made the hit. Kizer was a defenseless player by any definition of the rule.

Now add back in the helmet-to-helmet contact and it’s a no-brainer.

But making calls in real time is difficult. The officials missed it on the field. That happens. What’s inexcusable is the failure of the replay booth to further examine the play.

According to the flip card published for the Notre Dame-Virginia Tech game, Joe Rider was the replay official.

It is a crime that the replay booth didn’t take another look at it. What else can it be other than a deliberate avoidance of enforcing a rule, a very important rule.

Brian Kelly already is under scrutiny for not getting an obviously shaken Kizer off the field. Kelly said the decision to take Kizer off the field was not under his jurisdiction. Protocol is for the medical staff to make those decisions.

Here’s the thing: if the replay official simply takes a look at the play, there’s more than enough time for Kizer to be evaluated by the medical personnel. If the officials on the field are not going to protect the player, at least the replay official should have the good sense to use that time for the well being of the injured player.

Instead, crickets. That’s a shameful decision.

Earlier in the game, they called a personal foul on Jerry Tillery for hitting Jerod Evans late. It was late and it sent Evans sprawling. But it wasn’t anywhere near the dangerous contact put upon Kizer.

There can be no justification for not at least reviewing it.

“It’s beyond me why it doesn’t get reviewed,” said Kelly Sunday. “That’s what their job is: to review it. That’s the second time this year that we’ve had a player that’s been targeted and the replay officials have not seen it that way.”

Field judge Tom Potts made the interference call on Cole Luke in the fourth quarter with the Irish leading, 31-24. It was a 2nd-and-7 from the Irish 22 when Evans threw to Isaiah Ford.

Luke had inside position all the way. He reached behind him and arm-barred Ford for a second, but after that hand fighting, it was still a solid one-on-one matchup between cornerback and receiver with the cornerback playing the absolutely perfect technique. Any hand fighting that went on before that did not determine the outcome of the play. The ball wasn’t there yet and Ford had time to adjust.

Luke did exactly what he was supposed to do. He used his back side to help pin Ford up against the sideline, and as the ball reached the two players, Ford reached over the top of Luke, forcefully pushing his head down.

At worst, it should be incomplete. At best, and most accurately, it’s offensive interference.

The rules are stacked against defensive backs in the passing game, and when a player gains perfect position on an offensive player, he should be rewarded for the technique that is taught on the football field.

It was a real significant call. Instead of offensive interference, and 2nd-and-17 from the 32, it’s 1st-and-goal from the seven.

KIZER’S HOME HURRAH

DeShone Kizer’s wistful view of Notre Dame Stadium following the game was just another clue that the junior quarterback will be taking his skills to the NFL level after Saturday’s trip to USC.

He said he did the same thing with his family last year, but now, the NFL is beckoning as he’s completed his mandatory three years on the collegiate level to be eligible for the draft.

“Let’s be real, the opportunity will be there,” said Kizer after the game, before stressing that he has not made a decision, which he’ll reach collectively with his family after the USC game.

It’s difficult to compute that Kizer is 12-10 as a starting quarterback for the Irish with little chance to add to the win column this weekend.

What was likely his last Notre Dame home game will go down as a clunker as he completed just 2-of-14 passes to end the game after connecting on 6-of-7 for 103 yards in the first quarter as the Irish shot to a 17-0 lead. By halftime, he was 13-of-18 for 199 yards with touchdown passes to Chris Finke and Miles Boykin.

Kizer arrived fired up. He lowered his shoulder on Terrell Edmunds a couple times in the first quarter. Combined with his early accuracy, he was sharp out of the gate.

The first major mistake (that counted) was the dropped shotgun snap on 3rd-and-goal from the one, which Kelly said Sunday was a designed run for Kizer.

The snap was a tad low, but Kizer took his eyes off the football and it resulted in a seven-yard loss. The Irish kicked a field goal, but that was four additional points the Irish should have had with a 1st-and-goal from the two after Kizer hit Kevin Stepherson for 11 yards.

Earlier in that drive, Kizer caught a break when a Chuck Clark interception was negated as defensive end Trevon Hill lined up in the neutral zone.

The second-half struggle can be connected to two possibilities – the blow Kizer took to the head at the midway point of the third quarter and Notre Dame’s failure to react to the adjustments made by Virginia Tech defensive coordinator Bud Foster at halftime.

Kizer didn’t “look” scattered or incoherent or concussed to the point that he didn’t know what he was doing out there. That’s certainly no medical certification – observation from the TV view – but Kizer “seemed” in control.

In the second half, the young Irish receivers most certainly were not in control. They weren’t running free like they were in the first quarter when Kizer and the Irish got off to such a great start. Coverage was tighter, windows were smaller, over-the-top help was more prevalent, and the pressure placed on Kizer from the pass rush certainly intensified.

In other words, the same things that happened in come-from-ahead losses earlier this year happened again.

It all unraveled in the third quarter after Josh Adams sprinted 67 yards for a touchdown to give Notre Dame a 31-21 lead. Notre Dame’s final four drives were:

• Three plays, minus-four yards, punt;
• Three plays, six yards, punt;
• Three plays, minus-five yards, punt;
• Nine plays, 57 yards, time expires.

The offensive line began to crumble. Another Mike McGlinchey false start. Tarean Folston was dumped for a loss. A Josh Adams drop on a pass that wouldn’t have worked anyway because C.J. Sanders missed the block. A string of three-and-outs.

Virginia Tech defensive tackle Woody Baron pinballed off Sam Mustipher, Mark Harrell and Durham Smythe into a tackle behind the line of scrimmage. A deep-out to Equanimeous St. Brown in front of the Notre Dame sideline was dropped.

To pin the second-half failure on Kizer completely is misguided. The entire offense broke down, beginning with the offensive line.

OFFENSIVE LINE WOES

Through 11 games, it clearly can be said that this is nothing more than an average offensive line whose breakdowns accelerate as the game progresses.

If in the 11th game of the season you’re getting two false starts from your left tackle, two false starts from your right guard, and false starts on your center as well as your right tackle (when it was called on the right guard), this is another area on the team that has not taken well to the instruction is has received on the practice field.

That’s heresy as it pertains to Harry Hiestand. But the consistency and productivity of his unit in 2016 was poor, and that’s with two linemen who are projected to play in the NFL at a high level, and a third – right tackle Alex Bars – who has similar long-term potential.

This group is not even close to being good enough to play against this manageable schedule, let alone significant competition, which the Irish rarely faced in 2016. Notre Dame’s offensive line against USC’s No. 31 rush defense could get real ugly.

The line was overrun by Bud Foster’s defensive scheme in the second half.  Wide shovel passes were blanketed. Kizer was flushed numerous times with little time to throw. Folston and Adams were buried behind the line of scrimmage.

In the second-to-last drive of the game, Bars couldn’t handle 344-pound tackle Tim Settle as Bars tried to reach block Settle. The ultimate burn was Ken Ekanem’s edge rush on 3rd-and-13 in which Bars didn’t have the quickness to contain the outside quickness.

Yet another reason why the Irish need to find a right tackle for 2017 with Bars moving inside to guard. His lack of footwork in space is revealed at tackle.

DEFENSE’S MIXED BAG

The beginning of the end began as the third quarter commenced when 5-foot-8, 165-pound C.J. Carroll caught a slant against Drue Tranquill on the third play of the second half.

Tranquill just didn’t have enough athleticism to make the play on the slant. Devin Studstill wasn’t there to fill the lane as he shaded outside receiver Bucky Hodges with Julian Love in coverage. Donte Vaughn came up empty downfield as well before Studstill and Vaughn recovered to make the stop inside the five.

In the first half, Isaiah Ford, Cam Phillips, Bucky Hodges and Carroll combined for five catches for 46 yards and a touchdown. In the second half, they had 13 receptions for 191 yards and a touchdown.

Virginia Tech’s offensive decision-makers adjusted to the Notre Dame defense, unlike Notre Dame’s offensive decision-makers all season.

The Irish defense held Virginia Tech to a pair of field goals in the red zone, but that’s been Virginia Tech’s habit this season. That’s why Joey Slye is tied for third nationally in field-goal attempts with 24.

On the first fourth-quarter red-zone entry, Te’von Coney came up big on 2nd-and-2 from the four with Jarron Jones drilled Jerod Evans on 3rd-and-1.

On the second red-zone hold, Evans ran for six yards on 3rd-and-5. Isaac Rochell made the stop on 1st-and-goal from the seven. Following an incomplete pass on 2nd-and-goal from the five, Evans gained three after slithering out of Jones’ tackle and fell forward to the one. Virginia Tech’s only play at that point was to bring in the reliable Slye, who drilled the game-winning 20-yarder.

The defense played well enough down the stretch – despite allowing 13 points – to give the offense a chance to win the game by playing solid in the red zone. But with a 0-for-7 mark on final drives in which the Irish could win or tie, the offense stayed true to form.

ADAMS BACK ON THE RISE

The dropped passes in the second half were unsettling. But for the last couple weeks, we’ve now seen the best of sophomore running back Josh Adams this season.

Rarely is a running back at his healthiest at the end of the year, and only Adams knows that for sure. But for just the third time this season, Adams reached the 100-yard mark with 13 carries netting 100 yards.

Of course, 67 of those yards came on one carry, so his other 12 accounted for just 33 yards. But Adams was lowering his pads and using his full 220 pounds early in the contest, converting a 4th-and-2 with physicality and ripping off a 16-yard run to set up a 24-7 lead with McGlinchey and Nic Weishar leading the way.

On the 67-yard run, it was Colin McGovern and Bars who completely collapsed the Virginia Tech defensive front as they caved in the right side. Adams hugged the block and Virginia Tech did not have anyone to fill the hole.

Adams still doesn’t look to have the speed he did when he blew past Wake Forest for a 98-yard touchdown run as a freshman last year. But he had enough to keep 201-pound Terrell Edmunds at bay before protecting the football to avoid a fumble as he crossed the goal line.

Adams needs 82 yards against USC to match last year’s 835 yards in 13 games.

TRANQUILL MOVING FORWARD

With two years of eligibility remaining, Drue Tranquill will be a real asset for the Irish defense in 2017-18 if the new defensive coordinator can maximize his strengths.

There’s a spot for him on the field and it’s closer to the line of scrimmage. He’ll need to bulk up a bit from his current 225 pounds and the Irish will have to find answers at safety in order to make the move.

But he makes open-field tackles, he plays with physicality, and his heart is as big as Notre Dame Stadium. He can be a more consistent disruptive force if the Irish can maximize his strengths.

AROUND THE GRIDIRON

Notre Dame has now scored on its opening drive seven times in 11 games…What an incredible evolution into a quality football player by James Onwualu. He’s had a truly impressive senior season and should be the team’s defensive player of the year…Like last year when he ended the season with 12 straight field goals, Justin Yoon has quietly hit nine in a row, starting the streak with an incredible 40-yarder in Hurricane Matthew…Did anyone count how many times the ball was blown off the tee prior to the kickoff? Hated to see Greer Martini – one of Notre Dame’s best kick-coverage guys -- holding on the first one. They changed after that…Hidden yardage surrendered on Virginia Tech kickoff returns. The Hokies’ average starting-drive was the 39 with returns of 34, 36, and 28 yards, plus 344-pound Tim Settle’s nine-yard squib return to the 44…Wondered why we didn’t see Travon McMillian after Virginia Tech’s third series. The fumbled exchange with Jerod Evans was Virginia Tech’s 26th fumble with 15 lost…

The old Tarean Folston skip-step for 21 yards. Great to see once again…Chase Claypool’s 20-yard reception with cornerback Adonis Alexander peeling off to close in is a promising sign…No words are necessary. The reaction after Chris Finke’s beautiful 31-yard touchdown reception tells you all you need to know about how his teammates feel about him…Pretty darn good bounce-back performance by Jarron Jones after two weeks of relative inactivity, finishing with 10 tackles…Julian Love hogties ball carriers and receivers. Many times, when he finishes the tackle, he has his entire body draped around the guy. He truly is a full-service tackler…Why did Jerod Evans score so easily on a 23-yard zone-read run? Isaac Rochell lost the edge and Greer Martini had to respect the fake to the running back…Interesting comments by Jon Bon Jovi, father of senior walk-on cornerback Jesse Bongiovi. “You heard the mythology (of Notre Dame) and it’s bigger than that when you’re here.”…Corey Holmes’ clutch 18-yard catch on 3rd-and-2 set up the Miles Boykin touchdown. He’s only caught seven passes, but virtually every one of them has been significant…

What a beautifully-designed touchdown pass to Boykin. He’s up top with Weishar underneath him. They do a quick twist with Weishar taking free safety Chuck Clark to the corner and Boykin hanging out for a two-count before slipping out unnoticed…What an underrated, nonchalant grab of an inside fastball by Montgomery VanGorder on Justin Yoon’s third extra point attempt. The move of VanGorder to holder this season was a good one by the coaching staff…Cam Phillips, from Maryland, was not ready to play in cold weather, as evidenced by his multiple drops…Virginia Tech’s C.J. Carroll and Notre Dame’s Chris Finke. Now that’s maximizing talent!…What a ridiculous spot on the backwards pass by Virginia Tech in the third quarter. The ball went out of bounds at the 43½ of Notre Dame and they spotted it at the 39. The replay official must have been taking another coffee break…

Jarron Jones’ tipped pass in the third quarter was Notre Dame’s only pass broken up…Claypool’s two tackles against Virginia Tech on special teams gives him 11 for the year, including seven solos…Love that close-up look of the top of Jerod Evans’ skinned-up right hand. That’s more common among football players than uncommon…It is totally pertinent for Dan Hicks to tell Ken Ekanem’s story when he makes a huge sack late in the game. He’s the play-by-play man. His job is to report the news. Criticism of Hicks’ comment is unfounded…I would take 5-foot-11, 230-pound running back Sam Rogers on my team… How do you not give the ball to your running back four straight plays from the two? Instead, Kizer fumbles a shotgun snap at the seven. It’s no wonder the Irish are rarely consistent in the red zone.


IrishIllustrated.com Top Stories

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TARGETING/LUKE INTERFERENCE

\n

Two calls, both wrong, both significant in Notre Dame’s loss to Virginia Tech.

\n

The first was the helmet-to-helmet contact between Virginia Tech’s Terrell Edmunds and Notre Dame quarterback DeShone Kizer in the third quarter. The second was the interference call on Cole Luke that led to the Hokies’ game-tying touchdown.

\n

The fact that there was helmet-to-helmet contact doesn’t even need to be included in the argument, although it’s certainly significant. Kizer clearly was sliding and Edmunds made the hit. Kizer was a defenseless player by any definition of the rule.

\n

Now add back in the helmet-to-helmet contact and it’s a no-brainer.

\n

But making calls in real time is difficult. The officials missed it on the field. That happens. What’s inexcusable is the failure of the replay booth to further examine the play.

\n

According to the flip card published for the Notre Dame-Virginia Tech game, Joe Rider was the replay official.

\n

It is a crime that the replay booth didn’t take another look at it. What else can it be other than a deliberate avoidance of enforcing a rule, a very important rule.

\n

Brian Kelly already is under scrutiny for not getting an obviously shaken Kizer off the field. Kelly said the decision to take Kizer off the field was not under his jurisdiction. Protocol is for the medical staff to make those decisions.

\n

Here’s the thing: if the replay official simply takes a look at the play, there’s more than enough time for Kizer to be evaluated by the medical personnel. If the officials on the field are not going to protect the player, at least the replay official should have the good sense to use that time for the well being of the injured player.

\n

Instead, crickets. That’s a shameful decision.

\n

Earlier in the game, they called a personal foul on Jerry Tillery for hitting Jerod Evans late. It was late and it sent Evans sprawling. But it wasn’t anywhere near the dangerous contact put upon Kizer.

\n

There can be no justification for not at least reviewing it.

\n

“It’s beyond me why it doesn’t get reviewed,” said Kelly Sunday. “That’s what their job is: to review it. That’s the second time this year that we’ve had a player that’s been targeted and the replay officials have not seen it that way.”

\n

Field judge Tom Potts made the interference call on Cole Luke in the fourth quarter with the Irish leading, 31-24. It was a 2nd-and-7 from the Irish 22 when Evans threw to Isaiah Ford.

\n

Luke had inside position all the way. He reached behind him and arm-barred Ford for a second, but after that hand fighting, it was still a solid one-on-one matchup between cornerback and receiver with the cornerback playing the absolutely perfect technique. Any hand fighting that went on before that did not determine the outcome of the play. The ball wasn’t there yet and Ford had time to adjust.

\n

Luke did exactly what he was supposed to do. He used his back side to help pin Ford up against the sideline, and as the ball reached the two players, Ford reached over the top of Luke, forcefully pushing his head down.

\n

At worst, it should be incomplete. At best, and most accurately, it’s offensive interference.

\n

The rules are stacked against defensive backs in the passing game, and when a player gains perfect position on an offensive player, he should be rewarded for the technique that is taught on the football field.

\n

It was a real significant call. Instead of offensive interference, and 2nd-and-17 from the 32, it’s 1st-and-goal from the seven.

\n

KIZER’S HOME HURRAH

\n

DeShone Kizer’s wistful view of Notre Dame Stadium following the game was just another clue that the junior quarterback will be taking his skills to the NFL level after Saturday’s trip to USC.

\n

He said he did the same thing with his family last year, but now, the NFL is beckoning as he’s completed his mandatory three years on the collegiate level to be eligible for the draft.

\n

“Let’s be real, the opportunity will be there,” said Kizer after the game, before stressing that he has not made a decision, which he’ll reach collectively with his family after the USC game.

\n

It’s difficult to compute that Kizer is 12-10 as a starting quarterback for the Irish with little chance to add to the win column this weekend.

\n

What was likely his last Notre Dame home game will go down as a clunker as he completed just 2-of-14 passes to end the game after connecting on 6-of-7 for 103 yards in the first quarter as the Irish shot to a 17-0 lead. By halftime, he was 13-of-18 for 199 yards with touchdown passes to Chris Finke and Miles Boykin.

\n

Kizer arrived fired up. He lowered his shoulder on Terrell Edmunds a couple times in the first quarter. Combined with his early accuracy, he was sharp out of the gate.

\n

The first major mistake (that counted) was the dropped shotgun snap on 3rd-and-goal from the one, which Kelly said Sunday was a designed run for Kizer.

\n

The snap was a tad low, but Kizer took his eyes off the football and it resulted in a seven-yard loss. The Irish kicked a field goal, but that was four additional points the Irish should have had with a 1st-and-goal from the two after Kizer hit Kevin Stepherson for 11 yards.

\n

Earlier in that drive, Kizer caught a break when a Chuck Clark interception was negated as defensive end Trevon Hill lined up in the neutral zone.

\n

The second-half struggle can be connected to two possibilities – the blow Kizer took to the head at the midway point of the third quarter and Notre Dame’s failure to react to the adjustments made by Virginia Tech defensive coordinator Bud Foster at halftime.

\n

Kizer didn’t “look” scattered or incoherent or concussed to the point that he didn’t know what he was doing out there. That’s certainly no medical certification – observation from the TV view – but Kizer “seemed” in control.

\n

In the second half, the young Irish receivers most certainly were not in control. They weren’t running free like they were in the first quarter when Kizer and the Irish got off to such a great start. Coverage was tighter, windows were smaller, over-the-top help was more prevalent, and the pressure placed on Kizer from the pass rush certainly intensified.

\n

In other words, the same things that happened in come-from-ahead losses earlier this year happened again.

\n

It all unraveled in the third quarter after Josh Adams sprinted 67 yards for a touchdown to give Notre Dame a 31-21 lead. Notre Dame’s final four drives were:

\n

• Three plays, minus-four yards, punt;
• Three plays, six yards, punt;
• Three plays, minus-five yards, punt;
• Nine plays, 57 yards, time expires.

\n

The offensive line began to crumble. Another Mike McGlinchey false start. Tarean Folston was dumped for a loss. A Josh Adams drop on a pass that wouldn’t have worked anyway because C.J. Sanders missed the block. A string of three-and-outs.

\n

Virginia Tech defensive tackle Woody Baron pinballed off Sam Mustipher, Mark Harrell and Durham Smythe into a tackle behind the line of scrimmage. A deep-out to Equanimeous St. Brown in front of the Notre Dame sideline was dropped.

\n

To pin the second-half failure on Kizer completely is misguided. The entire offense broke down, beginning with the offensive line.

\n

OFFENSIVE LINE WOES

\n

Through 11 games, it clearly can be said that this is nothing more than an average offensive line whose breakdowns accelerate as the game progresses.

\n

If in the 11th game of the season you’re getting two false starts from your left tackle, two false starts from your right guard, and false starts on your center as well as your right tackle (when it was called on the right guard), this is another area on the team that has not taken well to the instruction is has received on the practice field.

\n

That’s heresy as it pertains to Harry Hiestand. But the consistency and productivity of his unit in 2016 was poor, and that’s with two linemen who are projected to play in the NFL at a high level, and a third – right tackle Alex Bars – who has similar long-term potential.

\n

This group is not even close to being good enough to play against this manageable schedule, let alone significant competition, which the Irish rarely faced in 2016. Notre Dame’s offensive line against USC’s No. 31 rush defense could get real ugly.

\n

The line was overrun by Bud Foster’s defensive scheme in the second half.  Wide shovel passes were blanketed. Kizer was flushed numerous times with little time to throw. Folston and Adams were buried behind the line of scrimmage.

\n

In the second-to-last drive of the game, Bars couldn’t handle 344-pound tackle Tim Settle as Bars tried to reach block Settle. The ultimate burn was Ken Ekanem’s edge rush on 3rd-and-13 in which Bars didn’t have the quickness to contain the outside quickness.

\n

Yet another reason why the Irish need to find a right tackle for 2017 with Bars moving inside to guard. His lack of footwork in space is revealed at tackle.

\n

DEFENSE’S MIXED BAG

\n

The beginning of the end began as the third quarter commenced when 5-foot-8, 165-pound C.J. Carroll caught a slant against Drue Tranquill on the third play of the second half.

\n

Tranquill just didn’t have enough athleticism to make the play on the slant. Devin Studstill wasn’t there to fill the lane as he shaded outside receiver Bucky Hodges with Julian Love in coverage. Donte Vaughn came up empty downfield as well before Studstill and Vaughn recovered to make the stop inside the five.

\n

In the first half, Isaiah Ford, Cam Phillips, Bucky Hodges and Carroll combined for five catches for 46 yards and a touchdown. In the second half, they had 13 receptions for 191 yards and a touchdown.

\n

Virginia Tech’s offensive decision-makers adjusted to the Notre Dame defense, unlike Notre Dame’s offensive decision-makers all season.

\n

The Irish defense held Virginia Tech to a pair of field goals in the red zone, but that’s been Virginia Tech’s habit this season. That’s why Joey Slye is tied for third nationally in field-goal attempts with 24.

\n

On the first fourth-quarter red-zone entry, Te’von Coney came up big on 2nd-and-2 from the four with Jarron Jones drilled Jerod Evans on 3rd-and-1.

\n

On the second red-zone hold, Evans ran for six yards on 3rd-and-5. Isaac Rochell made the stop on 1st-and-goal from the seven. Following an incomplete pass on 2nd-and-goal from the five, Evans gained three after slithering out of Jones’ tackle and fell forward to the one. Virginia Tech’s only play at that point was to bring in the reliable Slye, who drilled the game-winning 20-yarder.

\n

The defense played well enough down the stretch – despite allowing 13 points – to give the offense a chance to win the game by playing solid in the red zone. But with a 0-for-7 mark on final drives in which the Irish could win or tie, the offense stayed true to form.

\n

ADAMS BACK ON THE RISE

\n

The dropped passes in the second half were unsettling. But for the last couple weeks, we’ve now seen the best of sophomore running back Josh Adams this season.

\n

Rarely is a running back at his healthiest at the end of the year, and only Adams knows that for sure. But for just the third time this season, Adams reached the 100-yard mark with 13 carries netting 100 yards.

\n

Of course, 67 of those yards came on one carry, so his other 12 accounted for just 33 yards. But Adams was lowering his pads and using his full 220 pounds early in the contest, converting a 4th-and-2 with physicality and ripping off a 16-yard run to set up a 24-7 lead with McGlinchey and Nic Weishar leading the way.

\n

On the 67-yard run, it was Colin McGovern and Bars who completely collapsed the Virginia Tech defensive front as they caved in the right side. Adams hugged the block and Virginia Tech did not have anyone to fill the hole.

\n

Adams still doesn’t look to have the speed he did when he blew past Wake Forest for a 98-yard touchdown run as a freshman last year. But he had enough to keep 201-pound Terrell Edmunds at bay before protecting the football to avoid a fumble as he crossed the goal line.

\n

Adams needs 82 yards against USC to match last year’s 835 yards in 13 games.

\n

TRANQUILL MOVING FORWARD

\n

With two years of eligibility remaining, Drue Tranquill will be a real asset for the Irish defense in 2017-18 if the new defensive coordinator can maximize his strengths.

\n

There’s a spot for him on the field and it’s closer to the line of scrimmage. He’ll need to bulk up a bit from his current 225 pounds and the Irish will have to find answers at safety in order to make the move.

\n

But he makes open-field tackles, he plays with physicality, and his heart is as big as Notre Dame Stadium. He can be a more consistent disruptive force if the Irish can maximize his strengths.

\n

AROUND THE GRIDIRON

\n

Notre Dame has now scored on its opening drive seven times in 11 games…What an incredible evolution into a quality football player by James Onwualu. He’s had a truly impressive senior season and should be the team’s defensive player of the year…Like last year when he ended the season with 12 straight field goals, Justin Yoon has quietly hit nine in a row, starting the streak with an incredible 40-yarder in Hurricane Matthew…Did anyone count how many times the ball was blown off the tee prior to the kickoff? Hated to see Greer Martini – one of Notre Dame’s best kick-coverage guys -- holding on the first one. They changed after that…Hidden yardage surrendered on Virginia Tech kickoff returns. The Hokies’ average starting-drive was the 39 with returns of 34, 36, and 28 yards, plus 344-pound Tim Settle’s nine-yard squib return to the 44…Wondered why we didn’t see Travon McMillian after Virginia Tech’s third series. The fumbled exchange with Jerod Evans was Virginia Tech’s 26th fumble with 15 lost…

\n

The old Tarean Folston skip-step for 21 yards. Great to see once again…Chase Claypool’s 20-yard reception with cornerback Adonis Alexander peeling off to close in is a promising sign…No words are necessary. The reaction after Chris Finke’s beautiful 31-yard touchdown reception tells you all you need to know about how his teammates feel about him…Pretty darn good bounce-back performance by Jarron Jones after two weeks of relative inactivity, finishing with 10 tackles…Julian Love hogties ball carriers and receivers. Many times, when he finishes the tackle, he has his entire body draped around the guy. He truly is a full-service tackler…Why did Jerod Evans score so easily on a 23-yard zone-read run? Isaac Rochell lost the edge and Greer Martini had to respect the fake to the running back…Interesting comments by Jon Bon Jovi, father of senior walk-on cornerback Jesse Bongiovi. “You heard the mythology (of Notre Dame) and it’s bigger than that when you’re here.”…Corey Holmes’ clutch 18-yard catch on 3rd-and-2 set up the Miles Boykin touchdown. He’s only caught seven passes, but virtually every one of them has been significant…

\n

What a beautifully-designed touchdown pass to Boykin. He’s up top with Weishar underneath him. They do a quick twist with Weishar taking free safety Chuck Clark to the corner and Boykin hanging out for a two-count before slipping out unnoticed…What an underrated, nonchalant grab of an inside fastball by Montgomery VanGorder on Justin Yoon’s third extra point attempt. The move of VanGorder to holder this season was a good one by the coaching staff…Cam Phillips, from Maryland, was not ready to play in cold weather, as evidenced by his multiple drops…Virginia Tech’s C.J. Carroll and Notre Dame’s Chris Finke. Now that’s maximizing talent!…What a ridiculous spot on the backwards pass by Virginia Tech in the third quarter. The ball went out of bounds at the 43½ of Notre Dame and they spotted it at the 39. The replay official must have been taking another coffee break…

\n

Jarron Jones’ tipped pass in the third quarter was Notre Dame’s only pass broken up…Claypool’s two tackles against Virginia Tech on special teams gives him 11 for the year, including seven solos…Love that close-up look of the top of Jerod Evans’ skinned-up right hand. That’s more common among football players than uncommon…It is totally pertinent for Dan Hicks to tell Ken Ekanem’s story when he makes a huge sack late in the game. He’s the play-by-play man. His job is to report the news. Criticism of Hicks’ comment is unfounded…I would take 5-foot-11, 230-pound running back Sam Rogers on my team… How do you not give the ball to your running back four straight plays from the two? Instead, Kizer fumbles a shotgun snap at the seven. It’s no wonder the Irish are rarely consistent in the red zone.

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TARGETING/LUKE INTERFERENCE

Two calls, both wrong, both significant in Notre Dame’s loss to Virginia Tech.

The first was the helmet-to-helmet contact between Virginia Tech’s Terrell Edmunds and Notre Dame quarterback DeShone Kizer in the third quarter. The second was the interference call on Cole Luke that led to the Hokies’ game-tying touchdown.

The fact that there was helmet-to-helmet contact doesn’t even need to be included in the argument, although it’s certainly significant. Kizer clearly was sliding and Edmunds made the hit. Kizer was a defenseless player by any definition of the rule.

Now add back in the helmet-to-helmet contact and it’s a no-brainer.

But making calls in real time is difficult. The officials missed it on the field. That happens. What’s inexcusable is the failure of the replay booth to further examine the play.

According to the flip card published for the Notre Dame-Virginia Tech game, Joe Rider was the replay official.

It is a crime that the replay booth didn’t take another look at it. What else can it be other than a deliberate avoidance of enforcing a rule, a very important rule.

Brian Kelly already is under scrutiny for not getting an obviously shaken Kizer off the field. Kelly said the decision to take Kizer off the field was not under his jurisdiction. Protocol is for the medical staff to make those decisions.

Here’s the thing: if the replay official simply takes a look at the play, there’s more than enough time for Kizer to be evaluated by the medical personnel. If the officials on the field are not going to protect the player, at least the replay official should have the good sense to use that time for the well being of the injured player.

Instead, crickets. That’s a shameful decision.

Earlier in the game, they called a personal foul on Jerry Tillery for hitting Jerod Evans late. It was late and it sent Evans sprawling. But it wasn’t anywhere near the dangerous contact put upon Kizer.

There can be no justification for not at least reviewing it.

“It’s beyond me why it doesn’t get reviewed,” said Kelly Sunday. “That’s what their job is: to review it. That’s the second time this year that we’ve had a player that’s been targeted and the replay officials have not seen it that way.”

Field judge Tom Potts made the interference call on Cole Luke in the fourth quarter with the Irish leading, 31-24. It was a 2nd-and-7 from the Irish 22 when Evans threw to Isaiah Ford.

Luke had inside position all the way. He reached behind him and arm-barred Ford for a second, but after that hand fighting, it was still a solid one-on-one matchup between cornerback and receiver with the cornerback playing the absolutely perfect technique. Any hand fighting that went on before that did not determine the outcome of the play. The ball wasn’t there yet and Ford had time to adjust.

Luke did exactly what he was supposed to do. He used his back side to help pin Ford up against the sideline, and as the ball reached the two players, Ford reached over the top of Luke, forcefully pushing his head down.

At worst, it should be incomplete. At best, and most accurately, it’s offensive interference.

The rules are stacked against defensive backs in the passing game, and when a player gains perfect position on an offensive player, he should be rewarded for the technique that is taught on the football field.

It was a real significant call. Instead of offensive interference, and 2nd-and-17 from the 32, it’s 1st-and-goal from the seven.

KIZER’S HOME HURRAH

DeShone Kizer’s wistful view of Notre Dame Stadium following the game was just another clue that the junior quarterback will be taking his skills to the NFL level after Saturday’s trip to USC.

He said he did the same thing with his family last year, but now, the NFL is beckoning as he’s completed his mandatory three years on the collegiate level to be eligible for the draft.

“Let’s be real, the opportunity will be there,” said Kizer after the game, before stressing that he has not made a decision, which he’ll reach collectively with his family after the USC game.

It’s difficult to compute that Kizer is 12-10 as a starting quarterback for the Irish with little chance to add to the win column this weekend.

What was likely his last Notre Dame home game will go down as a clunker as he completed just 2-of-14 passes to end the game after connecting on 6-of-7 for 103 yards in the first quarter as the Irish shot to a 17-0 lead. By halftime, he was 13-of-18 for 199 yards with touchdown passes to Chris Finke and Miles Boykin.

Kizer arrived fired up. He lowered his shoulder on Terrell Edmunds a couple times in the first quarter. Combined with his early accuracy, he was sharp out of the gate.

The first major mistake (that counted) was the dropped shotgun snap on 3rd-and-goal from the one, which Kelly said Sunday was a designed run for Kizer.

The snap was a tad low, but Kizer took his eyes off the football and it resulted in a seven-yard loss. The Irish kicked a field goal, but that was four additional points the Irish should have had with a 1st-and-goal from the two after Kizer hit Kevin Stepherson for 11 yards.

Earlier in that drive, Kizer caught a break when a Chuck Clark interception was negated as defensive end Trevon Hill lined up in the neutral zone.

The second-half struggle can be connected to two possibilities – the blow Kizer took to the head at the midway point of the third quarter and Notre Dame’s failure to react to the adjustments made by Virginia Tech defensive coordinator Bud Foster at halftime.

Kizer didn’t “look” scattered or incoherent or concussed to the point that he didn’t know what he was doing out there. That’s certainly no medical certification – observation from the TV view – but Kizer “seemed” in control.

In the second half, the young Irish receivers most certainly were not in control. They weren’t running free like they were in the first quarter when Kizer and the Irish got off to such a great start. Coverage was tighter, windows were smaller, over-the-top help was more prevalent, and the pressure placed on Kizer from the pass rush certainly intensified.

In other words, the same things that happened in come-from-ahead losses earlier this year happened again.

It all unraveled in the third quarter after Josh Adams sprinted 67 yards for a touchdown to give Notre Dame a 31-21 lead. Notre Dame’s final four drives were:

• Three plays, minus-four yards, punt;
• Three plays, six yards, punt;
• Three plays, minus-five yards, punt;
• Nine plays, 57 yards, time expires.

The offensive line began to crumble. Another Mike McGlinchey false start. Tarean Folston was dumped for a loss. A Josh Adams drop on a pass that wouldn’t have worked anyway because C.J. Sanders missed the block. A string of three-and-outs.

Virginia Tech defensive tackle Woody Baron pinballed off Sam Mustipher, Mark Harrell and Durham Smythe into a tackle behind the line of scrimmage. A deep-out to Equanimeous St. Brown in front of the Notre Dame sideline was dropped.

To pin the second-half failure on Kizer completely is misguided. The entire offense broke down, beginning with the offensive line.

OFFENSIVE LINE WOES

Through 11 games, it clearly can be said that this is nothing more than an average offensive line whose breakdowns accelerate as the game progresses.

If in the 11th game of the season you’re getting two false starts from your left tackle, two false starts from your right guard, and false starts on your center as well as your right tackle (when it was called on the right guard), this is another area on the team that has not taken well to the instruction is has received on the practice field.

That’s heresy as it pertains to Harry Hiestand. But the consistency and productivity of his unit in 2016 was poor, and that’s with two linemen who are projected to play in the NFL at a high level, and a third – right tackle Alex Bars – who has similar long-term potential.

This group is not even close to being good enough to play against this manageable schedule, let alone significant competition, which the Irish rarely faced in 2016. Notre Dame’s offensive line against USC’s No. 31 rush defense could get real ugly.

The line was overrun by Bud Foster’s defensive scheme in the second half. Wide shovel passes were blanketed. Kizer was flushed numerous times with little time to throw. Folston and Adams were buried behind the line of scrimmage.

In the second-to-last drive of the game, Bars couldn’t handle 344-pound tackle Tim Settle as Bars tried to reach block Settle. The ultimate burn was Ken Ekanem’s edge rush on 3rd-and-13 in which Bars didn’t have the quickness to contain the outside quickness.

Yet another reason why the Irish need to find a right tackle for 2017 with Bars moving inside to guard. His lack of footwork in space is revealed at tackle.

DEFENSE’S MIXED BAG

The beginning of the end began as the third quarter commenced when 5-foot-8, 165-pound C.J. Carroll caught a slant against Drue Tranquill on the third play of the second half.

Tranquill just didn’t have enough athleticism to make the play on the slant. Devin Studstill wasn’t there to fill the lane as he shaded outside receiver Bucky Hodges with Julian Love in coverage. Donte Vaughn came up empty downfield as well before Studstill and Vaughn recovered to make the stop inside the five.

In the first half, Isaiah Ford, Cam Phillips, Bucky Hodges and Carroll combined for five catches for 46 yards and a touchdown. In the second half, they had 13 receptions for 191 yards and a touchdown.

Virginia Tech’s offensive decision-makers adjusted to the Notre Dame defense, unlike Notre Dame’s offensive decision-makers all season.

The Irish defense held Virginia Tech to a pair of field goals in the red zone, but that’s been Virginia Tech’s habit this season. That’s why Joey Slye is tied for third nationally in field-goal attempts with 24.

On the first fourth-quarter red-zone entry, Te’von Coney came up big on 2nd-and-2 from the four with Jarron Jones drilled Jerod Evans on 3rd-and-1.

On the second red-zone hold, Evans ran for six yards on 3rd-and-5. Isaac Rochell made the stop on 1st-and-goal from the seven. Following an incomplete pass on 2nd-and-goal from the five, Evans gained three after slithering out of Jones’ tackle and fell forward to the one. Virginia Tech’s only play at that point was to bring in the reliable Slye, who drilled the game-winning 20-yarder.

The defense played well enough down the stretch – despite allowing 13 points – to give the offense a chance to win the game by playing solid in the red zone. But with a 0-for-7 mark on final drives in which the Irish could win or tie, the offense stayed true to form.

ADAMS BACK ON THE RISE

The dropped passes in the second half were unsettling. But for the last couple weeks, we’ve now seen the best of sophomore running back Josh Adams this season.

Rarely is a running back at his healthiest at the end of the year, and only Adams knows that for sure. But for just the third time this season, Adams reached the 100-yard mark with 13 carries netting 100 yards.

Of course, 67 of those yards came on one carry, so his other 12 accounted for just 33 yards. But Adams was lowering his pads and using his full 220 pounds early in the contest, converting a 4th-and-2 with physicality and ripping off a 16-yard run to set up a 24-7 lead with McGlinchey and Nic Weishar leading the way.

On the 67-yard run, it was Colin McGovern and Bars who completely collapsed the Virginia Tech defensive front as they caved in the right side. Adams hugged the block and Virginia Tech did not have anyone to fill the hole.

Adams still doesn’t look to have the speed he did when he blew past Wake Forest for a 98-yard touchdown run as a freshman last year. But he had enough to keep 201-pound Terrell Edmunds at bay before protecting the football to avoid a fumble as he crossed the goal line.

Adams needs 82 yards against USC to match last year’s 835 yards in 13 games.

TRANQUILL MOVING FORWARD

With two years of eligibility remaining, Drue Tranquill will be a real asset for the Irish defense in 2017-18 if the new defensive coordinator can maximize his strengths.

There’s a spot for him on the field and it’s closer to the line of scrimmage. He’ll need to bulk up a bit from his current 225 pounds and the Irish will have to find answers at safety in order to make the move.

But he makes open-field tackles, he plays with physicality, and his heart is as big as Notre Dame Stadium. He can be a more consistent disruptive force if the Irish can maximize his strengths.

AROUND THE GRIDIRON

Notre Dame has now scored on its opening drive seven times in 11 games…What an incredible evolution into a quality football player by James Onwualu. He’s had a truly impressive senior season and should be the team’s defensive player of the year…Like last year when he ended the season with 12 straight field goals, Justin Yoon has quietly hit nine in a row, starting the streak with an incredible 40-yarder in Hurricane Matthew…Did anyone count how many times the ball was blown off the tee prior to the kickoff? Hated to see Greer Martini – one of Notre Dame’s best kick-coverage guys -- holding on the first one. They changed after that…Hidden yardage surrendered on Virginia Tech kickoff returns. The Hokies’ average starting-drive was the 39 with returns of 34, 36, and 28 yards, plus 344-pound Tim Settle’s nine-yard squib return to the 44…Wondered why we didn’t see Travon McMillian after Virginia Tech’s third series. The fumbled exchange with Jerod Evans was Virginia Tech’s 26th fumble with 15 lost…

The old Tarean Folston skip-step for 21 yards. Great to see once again…Chase Claypool’s 20-yard reception with cornerback Adonis Alexander peeling off to close in is a promising sign…No words are necessary. The reaction after Chris Finke’s beautiful 31-yard touchdown reception tells you all you need to know about how his teammates feel about him…Pretty darn good bounce-back performance by Jarron Jones after two weeks of relative inactivity, finishing with 10 tackles…Julian Love hogties ball carriers and receivers. Many times, when he finishes the tackle, he has his entire body draped around the guy. He truly is a full-service tackler…Why did Jerod Evans score so easily on a 23-yard zone-read run? Isaac Rochell lost the edge and Greer Martini had to respect the fake to the running back…Interesting comments by Jon Bon Jovi, father of senior walk-on cornerback Jesse Bongiovi. “You heard the mythology (of Notre Dame) and it’s bigger than that when you’re here.”…Corey Holmes’ clutch 18-yard catch on 3rd-and-2 set up the Miles Boykin touchdown. He’s only caught seven passes, but virtually every one of them has been significant…

What a beautifully-designed touchdown pass to Boykin. He’s up top with Weishar underneath him. They do a quick twist with Weishar taking free safety Chuck Clark to the corner and Boykin hanging out for a two-count before slipping out unnoticed…What an underrated, nonchalant grab of an inside fastball by Montgomery VanGorder on Justin Yoon’s third extra point attempt. The move of VanGorder to holder this season was a good one by the coaching staff…Cam Phillips, from Maryland, was not ready to play in cold weather, as evidenced by his multiple drops…Virginia Tech’s C.J. Carroll and Notre Dame’s Chris Finke. Now that’s maximizing talent!…What a ridiculous spot on the backwards pass by Virginia Tech in the third quarter. The ball went out of bounds at the 43½ of Notre Dame and they spotted it at the 39. The replay official must have been taking another coffee break…

Jarron Jones’ tipped pass in the third quarter was Notre Dame’s only pass broken up…Claypool’s two tackles against Virginia Tech on special teams gives him 11 for the year, including seven solos…Love that close-up look of the top of Jerod Evans’ skinned-up right hand. That’s more common among football players than uncommon…It is totally pertinent for Dan Hicks to tell Ken Ekanem’s story when he makes a huge sack late in the game. He’s the play-by-play man. His job is to report the news. Criticism of Hicks’ comment is unfounded…I would take 5-foot-11, 230-pound running back Sam Rogers on my team… How do you not give the ball to your running back four straight plays from the two? Instead, Kizer fumbles a shotgun snap at the seven. It’s no wonder the Irish are rarely consistent in the red zone.

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