Notre Dame

Notre Dame hoping to end disastrous 2016 on a high note at USC

Notre Dame hoping to end disastrous 2016 on a high note at USC

Since the beginning of August, Notre Dame football has experienced a rash of self-inflicted calamities. A recap of those:

— Sophomore tight end Alize Jones is ruled ineligible just before spring practice, with academics the culprit.
— Coach Brian Kelly announces both DeShone Kizer and Malik Zaire will play against Texas, a decision neither quarterback was happy about.
— Senior cornerback Devin Butler is arrested after a scuffle with a police officer outside the Linebacker Lounge in South Bend and suspended indefinitely.
— Senior safety Max Redfield, sophomore linebacker Te’von Coney, sophomore running back Dexter Williams, redshirt freshman cornerback  Ashton White and freshman receiver Kevin Stepherson are arrested in Fulton County, Ind. Redfield was kicked off the team and was charged with possession of marijuana and possession of a handgun without a license; Coney, Stepherson, White and Williams were disciplined internally and did not miss any games. 
— Notre Dame loses its season opener, 50-47, in double at Texas, with the Kizer-Zaire plan being scrapped after just over two quarters and Brian VanGorder’s defense suffering frequent breakdowns.
— In a 39-10 win over Nevada, redshirt freshman cornerback Shaun Crawford suffers a torn Achilles’ tendon that ends the promising player’s season. 
— VanGorder’s defense again breaks down, and along with an offensive lull and special teams mistake, Notre Dame loses, 36-28, to a Michigan State team that won’t end up making a bowl game this year. 
— A week later, Notre Dame suffers its most embarrassing loss of the Kelly era, falling 38-35 to Duke. After the game, Kelly defends VanGorder and says all his players are on notice, which draws criticism from national observers. 
— A day after losing to Duke, VanGorder is fired and replaced by analyst Greg Hudson. 
— In the wrath of Hurricane Matthew, Kelly & Co. have the Irish offense attempt 26 passes in a sloppy 10-3 loss to N.C. State. 
— In a 17-10 loss to Stanford, Kizer is benched for a stretch in the second half. 
— Notre Dame beats Miami, 30-27, but blows a 20-point lead in the process and suffers two more catastrophic special teams mistakes. 
— The Irish only get six possessions in a 28-27 loss to Navy. Kelly’s decision to kick a field goal down four midway through the fourth quarter results in Notre Dame not getting the ball back against the Mids’ triple option offense. Wide receiver Torii Hunter Jr. suffers a leg injury in this game that kept him out against Army and Virginia Tech and could sideline him Saturday against USC, too. 
— Notre Dame blows a 17-point first half lead and loses, 34-31, to Virginia Tech to officially become ineligible to reach a bowl game. 
— On Tuesday, the NCAA releases its report on Notre Dame’s academic violations that occurred in 2012 and 2013, and rules that the football program should vacate all records from those seasons. While Notre Dame will appeal, and the violations were uncovered back in August of 2014, the NCAA report opened a fresh round of criticisms about the state of the Irish football program. 

To top it off, Notre Dame now is in Los Angeles to face a No. 12 USC side that’s played like one of the best teams in the country since switching quarterbacks, from Max Browne to Sam Darnold, in late September. 

“I don’t think we need any extra motivation other than the fact that it’s USC,” offensive lineman and captain Mike McGlinchey said. “They’re our arch rival. It’s the game that we circle on our calendar, and nobody needs to get up for USC whether we’re 30 point favorites or 30 point underdogs. We’re going to approach the game the same way, we understand the intensity behind this one — it’s the 88th consecutive game played between the two universities, it’s a historic rivalry. We’re lucky to be a part of it and were gonna have a hell of a battle on Saturday for sure.”

Notre Dame’s senior leadership is reason to believe Notre Dame will put forth a quality effort on Saturday, even with nothing tangible to play for except upsetting a rival. Two years ago, that effort — and a number of key players who suffered injuries — wasn’t there, as USC blew out the Irish, 49-14. 

That five-touchdown defeat still sticks with some of Notre Dame’s seniors like McGlinchey, defensive end Isaac Rochell and linebacker James Onwualu. 

“I’d be dumb to sit here and say it’s not tough for guys to get excited to play their last game knowing they’re not going to a bowl game,” Rochell said. “But we have a special team, we have special leaders — James, Mike, Torii (Hunter) Cole (Luke) — so I think we have a special identity that’s helping us. It’s definitely tough, but it’s not something that’s affected our team.” 

But it’ll take much more than just effort for Notre Dame to put up a fight against USC, let alone win. This team will need to play largely mistake-free football to avoid a 4-8 season — the problem, though, is that the only two games in which Notre Dame played that well came against Nevada and Army.

Notre Dame, of course, won’t have the size and talent advantages it had in those two games against USC. Darnold has completed 68 percent of his passes for 2,428 yards with 24 touchdowns and eight interceptions, with his connecting to wide receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster (59 catches, 758 yards, eight touchdowns) powering plenty of that offensive success. Running back Ronald Jones is 107 yards away from reaching 1,000 on the season. Defensive lineman Porter Gustin has 10 1/2 tackles for a loss and four sacks. And cornerback/returner Adoree' Jackson has four interceptions, nine pass break-ups and a touchdown on both a punt and kick return. 

The Trojans are 18 1/2-point favorites as of Friday afternoon for a reason, after all. 

Saturday will be Notre Dame’s final game of the season, which is a shame for guys like Rochell and Onwualu, who gave so much to this program over the last four years and deserve a better ending to their Irish careers. But all those self-inflicted wounds are why their college careers will end in Los Angeles, which is an unfortunately fitting end to what’s been a disaster of a 2016 season at Notre Dame. 

“What we’re playing for is Notre Dame, what we’re playing for is pride,” Rochell said. “We’re playing for each other. It’s special because that’s all we have to play for, which makes it more unique. I’m excited for the game.”

Notre Dame will allow students back on campus for 2020 fall semester

Notre Dame will allow students back on campus for 2020 fall semester

Notre Dame University announced on Monday that it will welcome students back on campus on August 10. That’s two weeks earlier than the fall semester was initially scheduled to begin. In addition, Notre Dame will forgo a fall break in October, and will instead end the semester before Thanksgiving.

In the announcement Notre Dame said they consulted with experts for months to develop their plan to welcome students back onto campus.

The plan to return includes comprehensive COVID-19 testing for students, faculty and staff. It also includes contact tracing, quarantine and isolation protocols, social distancing and mask requirements, and enhanced cleaning of all campus spaces.

“By far the most complex challenge before us is the return of our students to campus for the resumption of classes in the fall semester,” Notre Dame’s president Rev. John I. Jenkins wrote in a letter to students. “Bringing our students back is in effect assembling a small city of people from many parts of the nation and the world, who may bring with them pathogens to which they have been exposed. We recognize the challenge, but we believe it is one we can meet.”

Father Jenkins also wrote that the university is currently developing a plan to reopen research labs, studios and libraries in coming weeks.

In case of an outbreak, or if the university is unable to provide adequate testing, Notre Dame faculty have been asked to prepare both in-person and remote curricula for their classes. The remote curricula would also help any student keep up with classwork if they need to be quarantined.

The university is also developing criteria to determine whether or not to offer study abroad programs in the fall. That decision will be announced in June.

Notre Dame sent home all students in mid-March to complete their spring semesters remotely. They also canceled all summer classes, except for a small number of students who needed to complete summer work to prepare for the fall semester.

Is Brian Kelly out at Notre Dame if new QB Brandon Wimbush’s rocket arm doesn’t deliver for Irish in 2017?

Is Brian Kelly out at Notre Dame if new QB Brandon Wimbush’s rocket arm doesn’t deliver for Irish in 2017?

A 4-8 season in 2016 has put Notre Dame head coach Brian Kelly firmly on the hot seat as he heads into his eighth season with the Fighting Irish.

In response to a tumultuous season, Kelly made major changes to his staff this past offseason by hiring new coordinators on both sides of the ball.

Mike Elko, who previously led Wake Forest to an FBS Top-40 total defense ranking, was hired by Kelly to be Notre Dame's defensive coordinator, and Chip Long — former offensive coordinator at Memphis — will now be in charge of the Fighting Irish offense.

However, the biggest change and arguably the No. 1 factor in Kelly's long-term future in South Bend, will be the person under center in 2017.

Barring an unforeseen circumstance, junior quarterback Brandon Wimbush — a former Rivals four-star recruit — will lead Notre Dame out of the tunnel in Week 1 vs. Temple.

Wimbush has only thrown five passes during his time at Notre Dame, but showed what kind of talent he has with a 58-yard rushing touchdown as a freshman in 2015.

Wimbush was one of the focal points of a recent Rivals story regarding quarterbacks who will be facing pressure in 2017

Earlier this week, Rivals Recruiting Director Mike Farrell gave his scouting report on the Notre Dame quarterback.

I’m a big fan of Wimbush but that hasn’t always been the case. It’s not that I didn’t like him when I first scouted him before his high school career took off, but what I saw way back when was a kid who had a rocket arm and zero touch. But throughout his high school career he improved every time I saw him, showed much more than just a strong arm and flashed impressive poise for his age.

I’ve seen very limited action when it comes to Wimbush in college as he hasn’t played often and his spring game performance had ups and downs, but I believe in this kid’s ability. He can extend the play, has that great arm and just needs to get comfortable in the Notre Dame offense and make sure he doesn’t try to use that cannon to fit the ball into tight spots. I can see him having some growing pains this season, but as he gets more comfortable and learns to take what the defense gives him while keeping defenses off balance with his athletic ability, I think he’ll finish strong.

Will Wimbush's rocket arm be enough to save Kelly from the hot seat?

That's still to be determined.