Sunday, November 14, 2010
What we learned from Notre Dame: Week 11
By Brian Bennett
1. The Irish can be tough: Listen to these quotes: "They've got a big, physical front seven. ... They've got a very stout front seven on defense ... I don't think we ever had control on the line of scrimmage." Sounds like something the Notre Dame coach is used to saying, right? That was Utah coach Kyle Whittingham talking about the Irish. Notre Dame's defense held a team averaging 40 points and with a 44-game streak of scoring a touchdown to just one early field goal. Utah had only 71 rushing yards. Notre Dame outblocked, outhit and outplayed the Utes in every facet. Coming off three trying weeks, the Irish showed the most physical and mental grit we've seen from them in years.
2. The Irish can win with Tommy Rees: Especially if he's not asked to do too much. Brian Kelly said he wasn't going to put the game on the true freshman's shoulders and called a conservative, smart game plan. (Makes you wonder why he put the game on Rees's arm at the end of the Tulsa game, but that's in the past). But if the defense and special teams play as well as they did Saturday, all Rees needs to do is take the opportunities that are there and not make mistakes. That's what he did, throwing three touchdowns and no interceptions.
3. The Irish can go bowling: At 4-5 with losses to Tulsa and Navy and a ranked Utah team coming in, Notre Dame looked unlikely to go bowling before Saturday. Now at 5-5 with a winnable game against Army (assuming the defense can stop the option this time), a postseason trip seems entirely achievable. It might be a minor, utterly forgettable game like the Kraft Fight Hunger Bowl. But the 15 extra practices would be very valuable as Kelly builds this program, and now the team has something left to play for in November.