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Northwestern Mailbag: (Begrudgingly) Moving on

Lloyd Carrington, Everett Golson

Lloyd Carrington, Everett Golson


Nothing like a difficult loss to rankle the soul of an Irish fan. And while I smartly steered clear of the comments, it doesn’t look like too many of you did.

For a football fan, you can dwell on struggles and turnovers and other mistakes for weeks and weeks. For a football team? It’s on to the next one.

So before we get to that next one, the 3-6 Northwestern Wildcats, let’s get to the mailbag.


bearcatirish: A real football question. Given evevertt’s recent turnovers do you think northwestern might try to blitz more than usual and surprise the Irish offense. Or are they too committed to the bend don’t break philosophy?

I think they’d be silly not to bring some pressure against Golson. It’s proven to be the best way to get this offense out of rhythm. And I don’t think it’s just the quarterback’s issues, but rather the pass protection in general.

(Thanks for a football question!)

@01Dhish: Golson stares down his WR, allowing Dbs to jump routes. Is this an offensive line issue, or is it play calling from BK?

I’m not sure it’s any of those things. And I can’t necessarily get behind the general gist of your question. On quick passes, there’s an element of locking into your wide receiver. And the missed cut blocks by offensive linemen were the issue.

For the most part, the quick game has been a great part of this offense. But against ASU, whether it was just a nice job by the Sun Devils’ personnel or a coaching point by Todd Graham and company, the Irish paid for the batted passes.

As for DBs jumping routes, that’s happened once or twice (the pick-six against Syracuse and to a lesser extent, the one against North Carolina.) But otherwise, I think Golson’s done a great job of distributing the football, especially compared to recent years when they’ve force-fed the football to one or two targets.

glowplugv: NW should be a game that the Irish can control and win (I hope). I am not saying that Zaire is solution to the TO’s but shouldn’t this be the time that Zaire gets a chance to play when the game is still on the line? Getting Zaire real “practice” has not been done. So shouldn’t Coach Kelly consider letting Zaire play (at least a few series) particularly if Golson puts the ball on the ground? Message and practice: a twofer!


bkl11: For all the good Everett has done for this season, 17 turnovers in 5 games is beyond alarming and has ultimately cost the Irish not only a berth in the Final Four, but a New Year’s Day bowl as well. Knowing Brian Kelly’s preference of reliability over talent, has / will Kelly lose his trust in Golson’s ability to protect the football (as I already have) and move him in a Tommy Rees 2012 supporting role as he brings Malik Zaire along? As the Irish are relegated once again to what toilet bowl is left over from conference play, it would not hurt my feelings a bit if this happened starting Saturday.


beatfsu: Why did the Irish redshirt Zaire last year instead of playing him over Rees and red shirting him this year?

There were a few more I could’ve included, too. Talking about Malik Zaire has been a popular thing this week -- no doubt the product of Notre Dame’s five turnovers. But I’m not worried about a redshirt freshman feeling involved, especially when he’s not going to be the team’s starting quarterback next season either.

Right now, Notre Dame fans are basing their love for Zaire on what? A few good throws in the Blue-Gold game? Why didn’t Zaire play last year? Because he wasn’t even close to ready!

Would it be ideal to get Zaire some snaps today? Absolutely. Even better, some snaps that matter? That could be ideal. (Remember, I’m the guy who said he’d see time in the first half against Rice!) But at this point, getting your offense right and efficient over these next three weeks is key. And there’s no question that Golson is the team’s best quarterback. Otherwise Zaire would be playing.

Let’s remember, Kelly and the coaching staff see him taking a large portion of the first-team reps every day in practice. They know what he can do. And if he was ready to challenge Golson and be a quarterback that was ready to help this team win, he’d be getting a look.

@ericruethling: after ASU a well respected writer of NDFB said now was a critical junction in the program. Isn’t that overstating it a bit?

I think it is. (And I have no idea who wrote that.) This team is ahead of schedule. The loss might put this team at a critical juncture in the season -- and getting to 10 (or 11 with a bowl) wins will be huge for next season, but the program is safe.

But this team is at an inflection point, and they need to right the ship this weekend.


Brian Kelly is a fantastic coach, excellent fit for ND. But he’s not perfect, the Irish have consistently struggled in the following 3 areas for all of Kelly’s tenure:
1. Special Teams
2. Turning the ball over
3. Not matching the energy of the opponent

Do you think he will improve in these areas, or are we just stuck with these traits as a trade off for all the good things that BK brings to the table?

Onward, I challenge the very premise of your question. ND’s special teams struggles on special teams have been because of a variety of reasons. First, a mediocre amount of depth on the roster. (Last year, especially.) This season, it’s been drops by a holder that’s literally specialized in it every practice of the year. Before, the Irish didn’t have a return man that could make a play happen.

As for the turnovers -- look at other teams when they play first or second-year quarterbacks. Notre Dame’s turnovers aren’t too unlike every other program in college football. Not to say they aren’t frustrating. But 2013 wasn’t a bad year for turnovers. 2012 was an amazing season for turnovers. Even at 19 right now, the Irish are tied with... Florida State. In 2010 and 2011, the Irish were juggling between two young, inexperienced quarterbacks. That’s not a Kelly thing, that’s an every coach thing.

As for the energy comment, how are we measuring that? By more than the eyeball test? I think this third one is dubious at best.

danirish: Keith, do you or anyone think that Golson’s ball security problems is a symptom of Whitfield (the qb guru) changing his grip on the ball? Didn’t Golson hold the ball without laces until the Guru change it? Is that the issue with the fumbles?

Golson has routinely thrown the football with or without the laces since he showed up in South Bend. Over the summer, Whitfield got Everett to start using the laces, though that’s been a habit that’s not quite stuck this year.

And no, I don’t think it’s the issue -- or even a fraction of the issue. Unless the laces have velcro these days.

domerboyirish: I’ve seen some nice photos of yesterday’s snow removal off the field in the stadium. I wonder what you think about not doing a heated field now? It sure would be nice to Saturday with a high of 32 degrees. A slick field late in the afternoon may affect the outcome of the game.
Domerboy -- I don’t think the ground is going to freeze just a day or two after the first snow. Especially when the temperatures never really dropped below the high-20s. (Granted, it’s been a long time since I’ve been home in the cold for winter.)

I know a lot of people complained about the FieldTurf -- and then not heating it -- but it’ll be just fine out there, I promise. A lot better than natural grass.

migshields: seeing that the Irish seem to be prone to a “Navy hangover” every year. Plus hearing BK talk about how difficult it is to change the defense for one week to prepare for the triple option. Do you see Swarbrick scheduling this game for earlier in the season? Apparently the 2015 and 2016 schedules are already set, but maybe for 2017?

While the “Navy Hangover” has been discussed quite a bit, I tend to think that this game is a tough one any week you schedule it... if the Midshipmen can hang in there and keep it close. In 2012, playing the opening game worked great, but mostly because it was a 50-10 blowout.

I’m sure putting the off weeks close or around the Navy game are something that’s been discussed. But so is giving the team some extra time to prep/heal for opponents like Florida State, and some of the other tough games coming up.

Ultimately, it’s Navy. They’re tough, but you need to win the game. And when the depth chart returns to full strength, it’ll be a game that becomes less of an impact, especially if the Irish can play turnover free.

sullivan1009: Just trying to get a handle on the CFP rankings and the logic that goes into them… Would ND be ranked higher if they had beaten FSU and ASU, but lost to UNC and Navy? Are these rankings so hard to grasp because they go against decades of poll voter thinking, or do they just defy logic?

The rankings -- until the final rank -- are all a waste of time in my opinion. Ultimately, that’s when I’ll really take this seriously.

But the absolute made-for-TV circus that this has become is really disappointing, though I’m kind of upset with myself for not seeing it coming.

johngaltisspeaking: Keith its so obvious that Brian K does not posses the skills of the great coaches, Lou Holtz, Ara Parseghian, Jimbo fisher, Nick Saban. All of these great coaches have the ability to out coach their oppo ---

Sorry, there must’ve been a bad connection. Your question got cutoff.