Missing two field goals in two tries is never a good performance. It was Carl Gioia's first game as Notre Dame's starting field goal kicker, but the Irish were lucky these misses didn't cost them the game. They simply must improve in this area or it could cost them a game in the future. I think everyone expects the next two games against Penn State and Michigan to be very close and they could come down to field goal at the end. Hopefully it was just a bad night for Gioia. It happens.
I must admit, I was very surprised at the play of the Notre Dame offense in this game. The Irish had too many mental mistakes in the game for such a veteran team. Penalties, missed blocks, dropped balls, errant throws and confusion all seemed to slow the Irish offense.
I have to give Georgia Tech defensive guru John Tenuta a lot of credit. He made what many see as one of the top offenses in the country look very average on Saturday night. Weis and Co. fixed some protection problems in the second half, but the Irish still only managed seven points in the second half despite some better production. I assume we'll see a much more productive Irish offense next Saturday.
I will say I was happy to see much more running room for Darius Walker in the second half. The Irish O-line stepped up against a good defense and got some very good push up front allowing Walker to make some nice runs.
I also have to tip my hat to John Sullivan on the critical fourth-and-one call to put the game away. If you taped the game check out his block on that play. He destroyed the middle and that was all heart.
Most Special Teams:
The Irish struggled at times with special teams last season, especially kickoff return, and Saturday's game showed a much improved special teams play. There were some impressive running room for Notre Dame returners, and we finally got to see what Weis sees in David Grimes as a returner. Grimes and his cohort, George West, both looked like they were shot out of a cannon on their opportunities on kick off returns.
My game ball goes to Geoff Price. Price was Notre Dame's "get out of jail free" card all night and had a magnificent performance punting the ball. Price looks to be a real weapon for the Irish this year if he can consistently kick like he did on Saturday.
Notre Dame's punt return game looks very promising, and I felt punt coverage and kick coverage was very strong all night. A tip of the hat to special teams coach Brian Polian for an outstanding performance for the most part.
The Irish defense played outstanding in the second half allowing just 71 total yards and holding Georgia Tech phenom Calvin Johnson to just two catches for 16 yards. The Irish secondary played exceptionally most of the game and, while I couldn't see the entire field, it looked to me like they didn't have a blown coverage all night—something we saw a lot of last year.
The Irish played with a lot of heart on Saturday and never seemed panicked or to play out of control even when things weren't going Notre Dame's way. I was surprised and pleased by the play of the defense for most of the game.
This game will probably do more for Notre Dame than people will know. This was a gut-check game and the Irish came out on top. Georgia Tech was very well prepared, very well coached, and the ball seemed to be bouncing their way most of the game. But the Irish stepped up and made the plays they needed to escape with a victory. That's the most important part in my mind. This team won a game that many other teams would've lost in similar circumstances.
This outcome is probably exactly what the Irish needed when you look at the bigger picture. Weis will know how to use this game to motivate his team to get better this coming week in practice. They will need to improve as Penn State has more playmakers than just Calvin Johnson. The Irish took Johnson out of the game with double coverage, but the Nittany Lions have three receivers that can hurt you and you can't double cover them all.
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