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Scouting Report – Notre Dame vs. Oklahoma

If you listened to the media, Notre Dame had little to no chance of going into Norman Oklahoma and hanging a loss on the Oklahoma Sooners. Bob Stoops had only lost 4 home games in his career and one of those losses came this year to the Kansas State Wildcats. Stoops had never lost 2 home games in the same season.  Last week ESPN polled fans asking which top BCS team was the most overrated. The Irish got more votes than any other team. Although the Irish were rated #5 in the country, they clearly were the underdog.

As the game approached, the more I thought about it, the more I believed that Notre Dame had a good chance to win the game. The Irish defense is tough to score against and Landry Jones isn’t exactly a big game quarterback (unless the other team is wearing burnt orange). If you can put press on Jones up the middle, he will make mistakes and maybe give you some turnovers.

After giving up a field goal midway through the first quarter, the Irish struck the first blow. Cierre Wood took a handoff straight up the middle and raced 62 yards for a touchdown to give the Irish a 7-3 lead. In the 2nd quarter, Everett Golson showed his maturity by leading the Irish 64 yards on 13 plays, ending with a 34 yard field goal to take a 10-3 lead. It was obvious that the Irish wanted to keep the ball away from the Sooners and slow down the game. Golson did a good job mixing the run and the pass on the drive and used 5:46 off the clock. The Sooners went on a similar drive to end the half, driving the ball inside the Irish 5 yard line. Blake Bell scored to tie the game, but unknown to most people (announcers included) the Sooners were called for holding on the play. The flag came out late and the umpire’s microphone did not work which caused mass confusion. The result was the Sooners having the ball at the 13 yard line with a 2nd and goal. The Irish held and the Sooners were forced to kick a field goal and went into the half trailing 10-6.

The Irish dominated the clock in the 3rd quarter, but had nothing to show for it. The Irish missed their one scoring opportunity in the quarter, missing a field goal, but they succeeded at keep the Sooners fast paced offense on the sideline. The Sooners only got the ball once in the quarter and had to punt. Early in the 4th quarter, the Irish got another field goal to extend their lead to 13-6. The Sooners responded, tying the score 13-13 on a run by Blake Bell.

The Sooner touchdown seemed to tick off the Irish. Notre Dame thoroughly dominated the game from this point on. Redshirt freshman Everett Golson struck on the 2nd play of scrimmage after the kickoff, connecting with receiver Chris Brown on a 50 yard strike. The Irish were setup 1st and 10 at the Sooner 15 yard line. Five plays later, Golson snuck it over from a yard out and Notre Dame had a 20-13 lead with 5:05 left. On the next series, linebacker Dan Fox put a hard hit on an Oklahoma receiver, tipping the ball into the air. Manti Te’o made a diving interception, snaring the ball just off the turf. The pick gave the Irish the ball at the Oklahoma 45 with 4:27 left. The Irish got one first down, drained 1:05 from the clock and then converted a 46 yard field goal to go up 23-13. Oklahoma went 4 and out on their possession to give the Notre Dame the ball at the OU 20 with 2:31 to go. Theo Riddick burst up the middle from 15 yards out to put the Irish up 30-13. Oklahoma had one last drive and got the ball to the 1 yard line, but receiver Kenny Stills imploded and was called for pushing down Irish DB Bennett Jackson in the end zone. Irish linebacker Prince Shembo ended the game by sacking Landry Jones and the Irish got their impressive road win.

You can’t say enough about Irish quarterback Everett Golson. He helped the Irish control the clock and most importantly protected the ball. Golson did not turn the ball over and his athleticism helped the Irish move the chains and keep the clock moving. Notre Dame controlled the time of possession and limited the Sooners opportunities to score.

Here are my thoughts on the draft eligible players that played in the game. I will start with the winning team.

Notre Dame:

Cierre Wood – RB- Sr: Cierre Wood has over 1700 yards rushing from his last two seasons. He has led the team in rushing both years. He is an explosive player that makes his cuts at full speed and is a threat to score on every play. Wood is a shifty runner that is dangerous in space, but willing to get the tough yards between the tackles. He is a patient runner that sets up his blocks well and he is very good on screen passes. Wood only carried the ball 7 times, but had 74 rushing yards, including the 62 yard touchdown run that gave the Irish their first lead of the game.

Theo Riddick-RB-Sr: Theo Riddick is a very versatile player for the Irish. He spent last year as a wide receiver and had 38 receptions for 436 yards and 3 TD. This year, with Cierre Wood being suspended early in the year, he has moved to running back. He says he likes the contact and he leads the team in rushing. Riddick carried the ball 19 times for 74 yards and 1 TD. He also had 1 catch for 12 yards.

T.J. Jones-WR-Jr: T.J. Jones has become Golson’s favorite receiver. Although Jones lacks the size of former Irish receiver Michael Floyd, he at times makes catches that reminds you of Floyd. He is raw and still learning, but is developing nicely. Golson likes to look for Jones running crossing patterns off of bootleg action. Jones can go up over defenders to make the grab and he fights for extra yardage once he makes the catch.

Robby Toma-WR-Sr: Robby Toma is a small, quick, shifty receiver. At 5’9” he is a prototypical slot receiver. He does a good job getting open and moving the chains. Toma had 2 catches for 13 yards and 1 carry for 5 yards.

Tyler Eiffert – TE – Sr: Tyler Eiffert had good chemistry with Tommy Rees when he played quarterback, but he doesn’t have quite the same chemistry with Golson. Eiffert has NFL talent, but at times the Irish seem to ignore him. Eiffert is a big receiver with the flexibility to split out wide. He uses his size advantage to create mismatches with defensive backs. Eiffert runs good routes and gives good effort. One aspect of his game that you don’t hear much about is his blocking, but Eiffert threw a key block, tying up two defenders on Cierre Wood’s 62 yard TD run. Eiffert had 3 catches for 22 yards against the Sooners.

Chris Watt-G-Jr: Chris Watt is a dominating run block that helped the Irish control the ball against OU. Watt does a good job pulling and setting up the outside runs. Watt is also a player with good concentration. He recovered a Robby Toma fumble that would have given the ball back to Oklahoma.

Braxston Cave-C-Sr: Braxston Cave is an experience lineman that is the leader of the Irish offensive line. He threw a great block on the goal line to clear the way for the Everett Golson QB sneak for a touchdown.

Mike Golic Jr-G-Sr: Mike Golic Jr also helped control the interior of the line, keeping the ball away from Oklahoma. He teamed with Tyler Eiffert to throw the clearing block for Cierre Wood’s 62 yard touchdown.

Louis Nix III-NT-Jr: Louis Nix III is a massive nose tackle that weighs 325 pounds. He sheds blockers well and has good lateral movement. Nix III gets good push up the middle and does a good job getting his hands up. He had 2 tackles and 1 batted pass.

Prince Shembo-OLB-Jr: Prince Shembo is a 250 pound linebacker that can run. He pursues the ball relentlessly. Shembo had 3 tackles, 1 tackle for loss, 1 QB hurry and ended the game with a sack of Landry Jones.

Manti Te’o-ILB-Sr: Manti Te’o is the heart and soul of the Notre Dame defense. There is little wonder he is being mentioned for the Heisman. There isn’t much that Te’o can’t do. He is instinctive and quick and runs down the ball from sideline to sideline. Te’o does a good job shooting inside gaps and putting pressure on the QB and he has worked hard to become a better pass defender and leads the team with 5 interceptions. He has been the Irish leading tackler for three straight years. Te’o had 11 tackles, 2 tackles for loss, 1 sack and a diving interception that completely changed the momentum of the game.

Dan Fox-ILB-Sr: Dan Fox is a very athletic linebacker that alternates with Carlo Calabrese at inside linebacker in the Irish 3-4 defense. Fox made the big hit that resulted in Manti Teo’s interception. He is a former safety that improves the Notre Dame pass defense. Fox also had 5 tackles in the game.

Carlo Calabrese – ILB – Jr: Carlo Calabrese is the other half of the rotation at inside linebacker next to Manti Te’o. Calabrese is a physical player that excels at stuffing the run. He had 5 tackles and ½ tackle for loss.

Bennett Jackson-CB-Jr: Bennett Jackson is a physical corner that breaks well on the ball. He had 8 tackles against the Sooners. Jackson played good tight coverage on Kenny Stills near the end of the game that resulted in Still’s meltdown. Stills pushed Jackson to the ground in the end zone, negating his touchdown catch.

Zeke Motta-S-Sr: Zeke Motta is an experienced defender that has not missed a single game in his career at Notre Dame. He does a good job reading the quarterback’s eyes and breaking on the ball. Motta also does a good job playing in the box on run support. He had 2 tackles and 1 pass breakup.

Oklahoma:

Landry Jones – QB – Sr: Landry Jones had a record setting year his sophomore season, teaming with Ryan Broyles to give the Sooners a top notch QB-WR tandem. Since that time, he has regressed, particularly since Broyles left the Oklahoma lineup. Jones tends to get happy feet, especially when he gets pressure from up the gut. He likes to run a fast paced offense and he tends to play better at home than on the road. The Irish shut down the Sooners running game so Jones as forced to throw it 51 times, completing 35 for 356 yards and was intercepted once.

Brennan Clay-RB-Jr: Brennan Clay was part of a 2 back system for this game. He did a good job in pass protection, but he dropped a pass in the red zone. Clay carried the ball 1 time for 4 yards and had 2 catches for -12 yards.

Damien Williams-RB-Jr: Damien Williams was the primary ball carrier, but the Irish did a good job stopping him. Williams carried the ball 13 times and had 29 yards rushing. He is a shifty runner that makes people miss, but the Irish were swarming to the ball which made it hard for him to get going. Williams is a good receiver that can get downfield in the passing game, catching 5 passes for 38 yards.

Justin Brown-WR-Sr: Justin Brown is an explosive player that transferred from Penn State. His specialty is returning punts, averaging 19 yards per punt return this year and has returned one punt for a touchdown. The Irish did a good job kicking the ball away from him and not allowing him to return the ball. Brown was also held to only 4 catches for 48 yards.

Kenny Stills-WR-Jr: Kenny Stills leads the team in receiving, but his immaturity got the best of him in this game. Frustrated by the tight coverage from the Irish secondary, he melted down in the final minute of the game. After a hard hit by Irish corner Bennett Jackson kept him out of the end zone, Stills retaliated by blatantly shoving Jackson to the ground on the following play. It was a bonehead play that everyone watching knew was coming. Stills looked like the stereotypical wide receiver diva after the play. He had 7 catches for 86 yards.

Jalen Saunders-WR-Jr: Jalen Saunders had his coming out party in this game. After having only 5 catches prior to this game, he had 15 catches for 181 yards. He is a small, quick receiver that makes things happen after the catch. He can make the underneath catch then get extra yardage.  Saunders has the speed to be a big play threat and had a 35 yard touchdown catch.

Gabe Ikard-C-Jr: Gabe Ikard is a versatile lineman that can play guard or center. He has had issues with shotgun snaps this year and had two bad snaps in this game. He had his hands full against Louis Nix III who outweighed him by about 50 pounds.

Bronson Irwin-G-Jr: Bronson Irwin had the one moment that offensive linemen hate. He was called for holding on the Blake Bell touchdown run that took the touchdown off the board and caused them to settle for a field goal when it looked like Oklahoma had the momentum.

Tom Wort-ILB-Jr: Tom Wort runs well to the ball. He chases down plays sideline to sideline. Wort also does a good job shooting the gap and putting pressure on the QB. He had 6 tackles and 1 QB hurry.

Demontre Hurst-CB-Jr: Demontre Hurst is an active player that is always around the ball. He is a good open field tackler. He plays good tight coverage on the receiver. Hurst had 7 tackles, 1 tackle for loss, 1 sack and broke up 2 passes.

Aaron Colvin-CB-Jr: Aaron Colvin is a versatile defensive back. He comes up quick in run support and he is a good blitzer. In pass coverage, he can be beat on double moves. Colvin had 10 tackles and ½ tackle for loss

Tony Jefferson-S-Jr: Tony Jefferson led the team with 4 interceptions in 2011. He is an aggressive downhill player. Jefferson is a sure tackle who had 11 tackles against the Irish.

by Dwayne Wilton

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This entry was posted on October 29, 2012 by in Scouting reports.
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