Did Notre Dame Expose Itself In Its Win Over BYU?
Exactly one week after Notre Dame’s epic overtime win over Stanford – in which the stadium was an explosion of elated celebration – there was a very different story post-game in South Bend Saturday night. Heck, even the student section showed an entirely different atmosphere from the start of the game, and displayed an ominous foreshadowing of what was to come versus BYU.
At the end of the day, yes, a sloppy win such as the Irish’s yesterday counts just as much as a clear beat-down in the W column of any team’s record. So, in a way, Irish fans have nothing to complain about. To win, a team does not always have to be dazzling or decisive; it just has to get the job done. And the Irish certainly did yesterday, extending their undefeated record to seven games and keeping their BCS championship hopes alive, if not flourishing.
That being said, there is no one alive who could argue that the Irish won in anything resembling a convincing fashion. The game that fans, commentators, and coaches alike resorted to calling a “trap game” leading up to Saturday’s kick-off turned out to be just that: a trap that the Irish were able to scramble out of.
The game, however, did highlight some critical areas for the Irish.
Again, Notre Dame’s defense proved its resiliency in a game where the offense leaned heavily on the prowess of its defensive players. Though the defense let in two touchdowns within two and a half minutes in the second quarter, it proved, yet again, that it is a major source of stability for the Irish through its solid play in the second half. The mistakes and holes that the Irish did show against a Cougar offense that is 89th in the nation in points per game must be repaired this week before facing an Oklahoma offense that ranks 5th in points per game.
The quarterback controversy now seems to have been answered as well. With QB Tommy Rees completing 7 out of 16 attempted passes – including only 3 in the entire second half – for 117 yards, hardly any fans will argue with Brian Kelly’s post-game declaration that Everett Golson will start in Norman next week. With Golson’s track record of playing better away from at home this season, the Notre Dame community will be hoping and praying that he passes his final concussion tests Monday, and that he gets a good week of practices in before what is arguably his biggest start of the year. Golson’s start will add a much needed dual-nature to the Irish offensive strategy, proven necessary after their almost entirely one-dimensional showing vs. BYU.
This one dimension was provided by Notre Dame’s ground game, which showed up alive and well. The Irish rushed for 240 yards on 43 carries against a Cougar defense that walked into the Notre Dame stadium as the 3rd best rushing defense in the nation. Their success is in large part thanks to the tremendous engine-that-could efforts of RB Theo Riddick, who rushed for 143 yards, as well as RB Cierre Wood, who rushed for 114 yards.
Now comes the real test for Notre Dame. This week, it’s not a trap game; its big game. A huge game. A season-defining game. With College GameDay traveling to Oklahoma, the stakes have never been higher for the Irish. The only question that remains is whether Notre Dame can rise above the inconsistencies showcased vs. BYU and show, once and for all, that it is truly relevant.