Sunday, November 27, 2011
What we learned about Notre Dame: Week 13
By Matt Fortuna
1. Another loss, another quarterback controversy: We went through this with Dayne Crist and Tommy Rees following the Irish's Week 1 loss to South Florida. Now it looks like it's between Rees and Andrew Hendrix, the latter starting the third quarter and playing the entire second half, leading the Irish on both of their scoring drives. The two sophomores will have extra practices to duke it out for the right to start Notre Dame's bowl game, likely the Champs Sports Bowl on Dec. 29 in Orlando, Fla. "Anything's possible," Brian Kelly said after Saturday's loss.
2. Irish not yet ready for prime time: This isn't necessarily a knock against a team that hasn't won 10 games in five years and is in its second year under a new coach and new system, but it was clear early on the Irish were overmatched against the future No. 1 draft pick and a team that has lost just two games the past two seasons. Trailing 21-0 at halftime, the Irish were outgained in total yardage by a 287-75 margin. Notre Dame finished the regular season 1-3 against ranked teams.
3. However: The Irish did have a nice third quarter, which should surprise no one at this point. Hendrix hit Michael Floyd for a six-yard touchdown pass and the Irish defense limited Stanford to just 38 total yards in the third quarter. Notre Dame has now outscored its opponents in the third quarter this season 84-13, with seven of those points coming on a defensive touchdown by USC.
4. The offensive line received a rude awakening: A unit that went five straight games without a sack in October and November surrendered five sacks for 44 yards. Rees absorbed a hit from Chase Thomas on his first play from scrimmage, sidelining him for the rest of the drive. Notre Dame had five false start penalties, including two to start its first offensive possession. Credit Stanford's defense, too, as it grounded the Irish's hamstrung ground attack and received huge performances from Thomas (three tackles for loss, two sacks, two quarterback hurries) and Ben Gardner (one sack, two hurries).