Sunday Morning Drive Thru

IrishEyes examines tackling, toughness, Tausch and Tate in its weekly initial look back at Saturday's key moments.

Second Fiddle

When NFL scouts breakdown the talented tandem of Irish receivers, it is sophomore wideout Michael Floyd who generally garners most of the attention.

Likewise, when local media asked Irish head coach Charlie Weis after the Nevada game if Floyd had a chance to finish his Notre Dame career as the program's greatest wide receiver, the Irish coach offered this observation:

"Golden would disagree with you…"

It's that level of confidence in his own abilities that has helped transform Tate, a star high school running back, into one of the nation's most dangerous receivers, and in the (short) conversation as the nation's player best after the catch.

Tate gouged the Huskies defense with 9 receptions for 244 yards on Saturday…146 of those yards were earned after Tate caught a Jimmy Clausen pass. (My unofficial count shows Tate gaining 9, 52, 59, 12, 8, and 6 yards after six of his receptions while being tackled or forced out of bounds three others.)

The junior added 31 yards rushing (on the longest carry of his career) on and end-around on ND's opening play (one block from LT Paul Duncan – who hesitated vs. Huskies freshman CB Desmond Trufant in space – would have sprung Tate for a 65-yard opening play touchdown run.)

Tate also tied Irish legendary tight end Ken McAfee (1974-77) with his 15th career touchdown reception (on a 67-yard catch and run in the 2nd Quarter) and moved into a three-way tie with Derrick Mayes (1992-95) and Jeff Samardzija (2003-06) with nine career 100-yard games.

Tate was the nation's shining star Saturday but he once agan took a backseat to another Irish wideout…former end Jim Seymour still holds the Notre Dame single-game receiving yardage mark with his 276-yard effort vs. Purdue in 1966.

Something for which the ultra-competitive Tate can aspire on future Saturdays…

5-for-5

Irish freshman kicker Nick Tausch tied two program records Saturday and broke a third:

  • He equaled the school-record held by Nicholas Setta (Maryland '02; Washington State ‘04) and Craig Hentrich (Miami '90) with five made field goals in one game.
  • Tausch tied the single-game school-record for points by a kicker with 17 (Setta '03; Hentrich ‘90).
  • Five games into his college career, Tausch became the only kicker in school history to connect on five field goals in one contest without a miss.

Tausch has drilled 10 consecutive field goals since opening his Irish career with a 28-yard miss at Michigan in Week Two.

2-For-1

Notre Dame's offense won't replace Michael Floyd this season – the sophomore is one of the best players in the nation and the Irish roster doesn't have a player close to his skill level to step-in over the next seven games.

But freshman Shaquelle Evans and senior Robby Parris competed Saturday and their efforts were crucial to the offense's 530-yard output.

Parris snagged a 26-yard crossing route from Clausen in the first quarter (11 yards after the catch) and added a clutch sliding grab for 20 more on the team's go-ahead touchdown drive in the final minutes. (Parris also dropped an early 4th Quarter touchdown when the ball deflected off his face mask on 1st and goal.)

Evans caught four comebacks/hitches for 34 total yards. His first reception occurred late in the 2nd Quarter and the freshman from Inglewood showed his purported quickness, eluding a defender and gaining four extra yards (and earning a clock-pausing first down) after the catch.

His final catch, a diving first down grab for eight yards in the rain provided Notre Dame its initial first down on the go-ahead 4th Quarter drive. Three of Evan's four receptions resulted in Irish first downs.

The Irish will need one more target from Duval Kamara (who curiously did not play yesterday), Deion Walker, and/or John Goodman to emerge in the season's second half.

Front Seven Player of the Game…

Two veteran, undersized defensive ends made their collective presence felt for the Irish in Saturday's victory over the Huskies.

Junior Kerry Neal posted a career-best seven tackles (five solo); two for lost yardage including a key overtime sack of quarterback Jake Locker that put the Huskies in a 3rd and 19 situation from the ND 34-yard line. Neal, ended another scoring threat when he controlled his gap on a crucial stop of Locker for no gain on 4th and goal from the 1-yard line at the end of the 3rd Quarter.

…And His Unlikely Bookend?

John Ryan's numbers were modest: 2 solos and a (deft) fumble recovery after an Ethan Johnson sack. But the senior made the unsung, heads-up play of the game during Notre Dame's incredible 10-play denial of the Huskies inside their own 8-yard line.

On 3rd and goal from the ND 2-yard line, Locker faked a hand-off to tailback Carlos Polk to the defense's right side and six Irish defenders (understandably) flowed to Polk and the short side of the field. Ryan, lined up in a two-point stance as an outside ‘backer in the team's goal line defense, stayed home on the defense's left side (and the wide side of the field), engaged Huskies (blocking) fullback Paul Homer and denied a rolling Locker space in the open field.

The QB's then-necessary cutback toward defensive traffic was stopped by a hustling Toryan Smith for no gain.

Credit junior linebacker Brian Smith on the play for wisely knocking Locker's underneath pass target, backup tight end Dorson Boyce, to the ground as he crossed the line of scrimmage.

Does This Count as Re-Gifting?

Saturday's victory over the Huskies marked the fourth consecutive contest in which the Irish and their opponent were stretched to the final minute (and beyond). Two weeks prior in the Stadium's north end zone, Michigan State quarterback Kirk Cousins missed a wide-open (unguarded, actually) Larry Caper in the back corner for the would-be winning touchdown in Notre Dame's 33-30 victory over the Spartans.

Yesterday in overtime, Washington sophomore wideout Jermaine Kearse saw a pinpoint pass from a scrambling Locker go between both of his hands on the Irish sideline.

The catch would have given the Huskies a first down. Instead, Locker and the offense faced and 4th and 19 from the ND 34-yard line and the game was secured on the ensuing pass break-up and knock-out hit by 5th-Year senior Kyle McCarthy (with a little clean-up effort from junior FS Harrison Smith).

An Inconvenient Truth

You've likely either heard, read, or have been coached on each of the following concepts as football fans, players, and followers:

  • Head Up, Eyes Focused, Drive Hips, Wrap Arms
  • Square-Up, Breakdown, Bring Your Feet
  • Low Man Wins
  • See What You Hit
  • Head Across the Body

It is, however, equally unlikely you've seen much of the above watching approximately 20 hours of Irish football this fall.

To quote the immortal Vince Lombardi:

"What the hell is going on out here?"

"Nobody's tacklin' out there; everybody's grabbin'…grab, grab, grab!"

There's no doubt the Irish coaching staff teaches these techniques. And to a man, each defensive assistant and player mentioned "tackling" as a point of emphasis in the week of practice leading up to yesterday's game.

Since they're paid to fix these problems, and the athletes are expected to progress at a reasonable level, I'll offer an additional, less technical suggestion:

Pretend your backs are to the goal line…now go tackle that guy with the ball. (Or sit down).

True Grit

IrishEyes will breakdown one of the greatest goal line stands in program history in its weekly "Eye in the Sky" column Monday.

Until then, the 13 defenders that saved the Irish season deserve recognition:

Defensive Linemen: Paddy Mullen, Ian Williams, Ethan Johnson, Kapron Lewis-Moore

Outside Linebackers: Scott Smith and John Ryan

Inside Linebackers: Toryan Smith and Brian Smith

Safeties: Kyle McCarthy, Sergio Brown and Harrison Smith

Cornerbacks: Raeshon McNeil and Gary Gray

Many of these same players were shredded for 36 rushing yards and two key pass completions totaling 38 yards on the drive's first 12 plays. The Huskies ensuing 8 plays (including a procedure penalty on UW and an incredible "roughing the snapper" penalty on the Irish) resulted in an advancement of one total yard as the Huskies settled for a field goal.

The maligned Irish defensive line was phenomenal on five of those eight plays.

Jimmy Clausen, 4th Quarter vs. UM, MSU, PU, UW

28-44, 381 yards, 4 TD, 0 INT


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