Eye in the Sky: Offense Part II

Eye in the Sky: Offense Part II

O'Malley's second of two film reviews covering Saturday's 30-13 Irish victory in Norman…

Notre Dame

Click here for Part I and a look at the Riddick/Wood debate, the progress of two future stars, and the status of two current pass targets doing most of the heavy lifting.

The Left-Siders -- Irish Up Front

He still looks overwhelmed two-plus times per game in pass protection, but 5th-year senior guard Mike Golic, Jr., has made major contributions to the Irish running game; one that's improved dramatically since coming up empty vs. Purdue and for three quarters at Michigan State.

The Irish noticeably and understandably favor the left side in their attack, but its not just the Zack Martin/Chris Watt combination that makes it tick. Golic's ability to pull from right to left is utilized more each week and it was in full effect Saturday night in Norman. I had the much-maligned starter for 15 quality blocks contributing to the Irish running game: 10 in some combination of straight-ahead power or double team efforts -- usually with right tackle Christian Lombard -- and five in right-to-left pulling situations in which he led the back through the hole.

Golic's pulling blocks led the way for two of three touchdown rushes (Cierre Wood untouched for 62 yards and Theo Riddick relatively unscathed for 15). On two separate occasions I had Golic beaten by a single pass rusher -- the first time overwhelmed by 6'1" 230-pound redshirt-freshman linebacker Frank Shannon on the game's initial third down, when he again failed to recover after being beaten through his inside shoulder. It's a turnstile effort that repeats weekly. On two other snaps he was late to recognize a well-designed stunt and/or to secure a block that dropped Wood for a loss.

But if Golic, likely the team's fourth best lineman at present, continues to execute 15 quality blocks in the running game (by my unofficial count) the Irish will sail through to USC and possibly out of the Coliseum unscathed.

Watt and Martin: The pair dominated Saturday night, with Martin registering nine outright wins in the running game (one "loss") and Watt a whopping 15 to match Golic. Watt also dove on a fumble by classmate Robby Toma, keeping momentum on the size of the visitors. It was Martin who executed key blocks (in conjunction with Golic pulling through the hole) on Wood's 62-yard score, first containing his assigned defender then moving to the second level to secure a linebacker in space. (My note on Watt for Wood's touchdown: "total destruction at the point.)

A tremendous pulling block from left-to-right by Watt helped spring Everett Golson for a 21-yard gain deep in Irish territory (Eifert won in space as well).

Center Braxston Cave continues to improve as the season progresses. I had the 5th-year senior for eight quality efforts while right tackle Christian Lombard was down for five with four mistakes, the latter occurring mostly in pass protection as he failed to keep his feet moving after securing the initial block. Lombard often works in conjunction with Golic, likely out of necessity, when the Irish hit runs between the pair over the right side.

Martin and Watt were more dominant, consistent players than was Golic Saturday night, but the latter earns a game ball for his efforts in the best game his played to date.

Going to be great?

Considering the environment, circumstances, and opponent, Saturday night was the best outing of Everett Golson's seven game collegiate career. (He was awfully good vs. Miami as well).

Golson hit for passes of 18, 14, 16, 22, and 50 yards. He converted on third down with an additional throw of six yards on 3rd and 5 and runs of 9 and 2, the latter for the final go-ahead score. The redshirt-freshman was dynamite on 2nd and 10 with runs of 8 and 9 yards with completions of 12, 8, and 12.

Most important, he was a major threat -- able to keep the ball on designed runs, escape trouble and scramble for necessary yardage, and keep backside defenders home and away from the ball on read-option runs opposite.

Golson began the contest with an incredible escape on third and long. He has incredibly quick feet and balance. If he were faster in a dead sprint he'd be unstoppable in the future…Golson threw a near-perfect pass on the first go-route to Chris Brown but the freshman speedster failed to run through his route and the ball fell incomplete. Both of course bounced back with a decisive 50-yarder three quarters later…

Golson showed a nice feel for the game and pass patterns on a safe, low throw to Robby Toma for six yards on 3rd and 5 and touch over the top on a field side out to Jones for 18 yards, one tossed over the defender…He might have fired too low to Eifert later in the contest as the All-American failed to dig out the bullet just blades off the turf…Golson throws accurately and with touch rolling right, hitting Jones for a crossing route first down early, then delivering two to Theo Riddick -- one for a key first down to set up his own touchdown plunge later in the drive; the other dropped by the normally reliable senior as the Irish tried to salt away the proceedings late…

A key escape and scramble over the left edge gained 11 with Golson showing strength, balance, a competitive will to move the chains -- and maybe a glimpse three seasons into the future…The redshirt-freshman has one (more?) dud left in him at this early stage of development -- fans had ego hope it won't occur in Los Angeles, Miami/Phoenix, or perhaps Glendale…He could be a four-year starter in South Bend if expected progression continues. He's an ideal college quarterback in Brian Kelly's offense.

Odds and Ends

Kudo's to Cam McDaniel for his efforts in kick return. Subbing for George Atkinson, McDaniel hit the crease hard and most important, saved his offense valuable field position on The Opening kickoff of the second half, using a stutter move at the 12-yard line to deke a trio of Sooners defenders in space, gaining 9 more yards and a comfortable 21-yard cushion for the Irish offense from their own end zone as Oklahoma desperately tried to seize momentum…

If not for Atkinson's to-the-house capabilities, I'd keep McDaniel as the lead return man -- he'd like average more per kick if both had their longest return removed from the equation…

Good to see Irish players playing through the echo of the whistle on offense, too: Cave, Watt, Eifert, and Martin are the usual suspects in that vein…Cave appears to have lingering issues with the snap or helping to conduct the offense; Kelly tore into him during one time out with Theo Riddick stepping in and running backs coach Tony Alford prepared to enter the fray…

Seen congratulating Tommy Rees after his guts-of-a-burglar throw to Eifert for 8 yards on 3rd and 7 late in the third quarter: Luke Massa (WR), Justin Utupo (LB), David Grimes (grad assistant), John Goodman (WR), and Anthony Rabasa (LB) -- there's a team-wide respect for the junior leader…

Daniel Smith has earned a spot on the field with his blocking ability at wide receiver -- at 6'4" 215, can he develop into a slant receiver by the end of next season? Brian Kelly channeled his 2011 self in a verbal evisceration of tight ends coach Lorenzo Booker when the latter didn't have his pupil Troy Niklas ready for a snap, costing the Irish a timeout...

Oklahoma score three times Saturday:

  • A field goal on their second possession to take a 3-0 lead -- Notre Dame answered with a touchdown two snaps later (7-3 Irish)

  • A field goal to end the half -- Notre Dame responded with a 13-play, 60-yard drive to open the second, re-gaining momentum until Kyle Brindza missed another chip shot field goal (more on Brindza below)…

  • A touchdown to tie the game at 13 with nine minutes remaining -- Notre Dame hit a pass for 50 yards two snaps later, then scored a touchdown to complete the drive (20-13) Irish…

All of which begs the question: Is this the best game called by an Irish head coach since A.) Charlie Weis vs. USC in 2005? B.) Lou Holtz at Michigan in 1993? or C.) In my 31 years of viewing and studying the team?

Notre Dame's first two drives of the second half consumed 130 yards and 26 snaps…

At 14 of 19 and 6 of his last 10 (all inside 47 yards), Brindza is trending toward the inconsistent, but the true sophomore has already won one game with a field goal (Purdue), sent another into overtime (Stanford), and salted away two more (MSU: kicks from 29 and 47) and Oklahoma (44 and an unlikely 46 yards out). I'll take it…

Oklahoma safety Tony Jefferson plays with dedication and focus -- he'd fit right in with Bob Diaco's unit defensively…Kirk Herbstreit does a great job, but it was fitting that Cierre Wood's 62-yard TD spring occurred as the former announced that five-yard gains would be crucial for the Irish because of Oklahoma's newfound size up front…Zack Martin is great in this offense; an expected 5th-season in South Bend next fall will be his fourth as a starter and cement him as one of the most effective, consistent, instrumental offensive linemen in program history…The bulk of Notre Dame's play-action passes and occasional trick plays included one man routes designed to hit the Sooners defense deep...

Sophomore blocking tight end Troy Niklas played his best game since the team's 41-3 win over Miami. I had him for seven crucial blocks, including one in pass protection, his current accepted weakness…

Golson failed to recognize DaVaris Daniels in the middle of the field for what would have likely been a touchdown near the end of the first half. The design of the play was beautiful with Daniels and Eifert aligned tight left and Riddick in the backfield: the latter ran a wheel left, Eifert pushed upfield and Daniels curled underneath him -- left completely uncovered at the 10-yard line…

Kelly noted Golson was dinged in film review for five instances in which he "Should have" lost the football…

Regarding Wood's untouched 62-yard scamper that sent the first shot over Oklahoma's bow -- Notre Dame's defense doesn't experience that type of run fit errors -- that's why they're 8-0.

IrishEyes.com Recommended Stories


Up Next


A history of let downs, close calls vs. the Panthers, a dominant defense for the home team, and the…

Tweets