Notre Dame Football: Landry Jones

Top 10 moments from 2012: No. 2

June, 13, 2013
No. 2 marks the arrival of Notre Dame as a legit national title contender.

As always, my mailbag is open to hear your suggestions on rankings such as these.

Oct. 27, 2012: Brown catch leads to big fourth in upset at OU (Stories here and here)

A three-point home win over a so-so BYU team a week earlier hardly had anyone convinced that 7-0 Notre Dame was ready for a trip to Norman, Okla.

College GameDay was on-hand for this one, too. So were an Owen Field-record 86,031 fans, who did a nice job of striping the stadium for a candy cane-like look of alternating red and white sections. And for three quarters, the contest looked like it had the chance to become a classic.

Then Everett Golson hit rookie Chris Brown on a 50-yard fourth-quarter completion — the first catch of Brown's career — setting off 17 straight points for an Irish team that went on to win 30-13.

Manti Te'o had a devastating sack of Landry Jones and recorded a diving interception late. Blake Bell did score the first rushing touchdown of the season against the Irish, but in the end it hardly mattered.

Golson turned the corner as a quarterback in this game, completing 13 of 25 passes for 177 yards and rushing for a score. The Irish dominated the lines of scrimmage. No. 5 Notre Dame upset No. 8 Oklahoma, giving the Sooners their second home loss of the season. The Irish won their fourth game of the season against a Top 25 team. They held an offense that had averaged 44.7 points per game to 31 points under par.

The Irish were back, officially. And they received contributions from all over in getting there -- none bigger than the one delivered by a true freshman who entered with zero career catches.


No. 10: Rees replaces Golson on final drive, leads Irish to win over Purdue

No. 9: Irish open season in Dublin with rout of Navy

No. 8: ND gets revenge on Robinson, UM in night win to cap perfect opening month

No. 7: ND survives missed FG, missed penalty and 3 OT scare from Pitt to stay perfect

No. 6: Notre Dame tours award circuit after perfect regular season

No. 5: Notre Dame joins ACC, will play five ACC games per year in football

No. 4: Irish rout Wake on Senior Day, ascend to No. 1

No. 3: Goal-line stand stuffs Stanford in OT

Sooners battered by tough, sound Irish

October, 28, 2012
NORMAN, Okla. -- After Notre Dame sacked Landry Jones on the game's final play, the Oklahoma offensive line looked like a bowling ball had rolled through it. Left tackle Lane Johnson crumbled when he tried to stand up. Right tackle Tyrus Thompson keeled over to his knees. And moments before, tailback Damien Williams had limped his way to the locker room.

In Norman once again, football tough and sound prevailed over finesse and style as the Fighting Irish slugged their way to a resounding 30-13 victory to knock the Sooners permanently from the national title picture.

"We played hard, we played with energy, we played with toughness," said Oklahoma center Gabe Ikard. "But when it comes down to it, they controlled the line of scrimmage.

"Things are not going to go your way when that happens."

Click here to read the full story at SoonerNation.

ND defense preps for toughest task yet

October, 26, 2012
Landry JonesAP Photo/Aaron M. SprecherNotre Dame has yet to face anybody like Landry Jones this season.
SOUTH BEND, Ind. -- The closest thing Notre Dame has seen to someone like Landry Jones this season is debatable. The closest thing Jones has seen to Notre Dame?

Allow the fifth-year Oklahoma quarterback to explain the early-season loss to Kansas State.

"It still kind of hurts," Jones said. "You don't ever want a game to slip away from you and you don't ever want to lose that early in the season. Yes, Kansas State is a good team, for sure -- no doubt about that. But it still hurts.

"You still think about it, and you can go, 'What if?' all you want, but that game is behind us now. Yes, it still does hurt, but you have to move on from it, and we are playing ball now."

Notre Dame is hoping to pressure Jones into looking more like the man who turned it over twice in a Sept. 22 home loss to the Wildcats than the one who has responded by throwing for a total of 880 yards in three straight wins.

Jones was hurried twice and sacked twice in his team's lone defeat, and he had a fumble returned for a score. He has not been officially hurried since, absorbing just two sacks and throwing for seven touchdowns with just one pick.

"He's gotten into a good rhythm," Irish coach Brian Kelly said. "He hasn't been disrupted very much. And I think, like most good quarterbacks, if you can get into a good rhythm and you're not disrupted, you're going to be pretty effective. You can see that's been the case."

The Irish secondary has lost two first-teamers for the season and is starting just one player who's been on defense his whole career, but the unit has put together the nation's No. 14 passing defense through its 7-0 start. However, six of Notre Dame's opponents rank outside the top 60 in passing, with Miami the lone outlier at No. 23. (Oklahoma is 26th).

The Hurricanes dropped a pair of would-be touchdown passes on their opening drive versus the Irish and never really threatened after, scoring just three points.

"It's exciting for us, and we know that they're a team that likes to throw the ball, especially try and get the ball over the defensive backs' heads," senior safety Zeke Motta said of Oklahoma. "But I think it's going to be a good challenge for us, and we've seen something similar to that in Miami, so at least we have a little taste and we know kind of what to expect. So it's all in our preparation this week and we're really excited about it."

Jones is not a threat to run, but he is quick to get rid of the ball.

"Pocket presence, his ability to put the ball where he needs to, his accuracy," Motta said, rattling off what he noticed from film. "He's probably the best quarterback we're going to face to date."

Which puts the onus on the nation's No. 2 scoring defense to slow down a machine that averaged 52 points over its past three games.

"I am a lot different now," Jones said of his past three games. "I have been playing a lot better. Obviously, after games like Texas Tech, Texas and last week against Kansas, you are going to have a lot higher confidence, and I think everyone on this team is going to have higher confidence because of the way we have been playing."

Did you know? Notre Dame vs. Oklahoma

October, 26, 2012
As always, thanks to our friends at ESPN Stats & Info and both sports information departments for these tidbits.
  • Notre Dame has not allowed any opponent to score more than 17 points in 2012. Oklahoma has been held to 17 points or fewer just once in its last 35 games dating back to 2009. The Sooners rank fifth in scoring offense this season (44.7 points per game).
  • Florida and Notre Dame are the only teams to beat three ranked opponents so far. The Gators are the only team this season with two wins over top-10 opponents.
  • Notre Dame has allowed the fewest offensive touchdowns of any FBS team this season (five). The Irish have allowed just two in their past five games, both last week against BYU. The only other team to allow fewer than eight offensive touchdowns this season is Alabama (six).
  • Manti Te'o and Bennett Jackson have four interceptions each this season. Only one duo of defenders has more combined picks: Fresno State’s Phillip Thomas (seven, leading the nation) and Derron Smith (four).
  • In goal-to-go situations, Notre Dame opponents have rushed it 13 times and have not reach the end zone. The Oklahoma offense has rushed it 28 times in goal-to-go situations and has scored 15 times (53.6 percent). Of the 44 teams with at least 25 runs in goal-to-go situations, Oklahoma is third, trailing Oklahoma State (56 percent) and Louisiana Tech (56.3).
  • Notre Dame has allowed opponents to score on 16.9 percent of their drives this season, the third-lowest percentage in the nation. Just 7.2 percent of opponents’ possessions have ended in touchdowns, the lowest percentage in the country. Notre Dame is the only team in the nation that has not allowed a touchdown drive longer than 75 yards.
  • Notre Dame has allowed a touchdown on 21.1 percent of its opponents’ red zone drives this season, the lowest percentage in the last nine seasons. Its opponents have more turnovers (5) than touchdowns (4) in 19 red-zone drives.
  • Landry Jones improved his completion percentage on throws of 20 yards or more in his sophomore and junior seasons but has regressed this season, completing 9 of 32 attempts with two touchdowns. He completed more than half of his 20-yard throws for the first time this season last week against Kansas, but entered that game with 11 straight incompletions on the same passes.
  • Jones has attempted 13 percent of his passes from outside the pocket in his career and has thrown 27.3 percent of his career interceptions from outside the pocket.
SoonerNation's Jake Trotter and Notre Dame football writer Matt Fortuna answer questions about No. 8 Oklahoma's matchup with No. 5 Notre Dame this weekend:

1. Who is under more pressure to win?

Jake Trotter: There's a ton of pressure on Notre Dame to win. Outside of the Brady Quinn years, the Irish haven’t really been a factor in the national title picture in almost 25 years. This is their chance. But there might be even more pressure on the Sooners. The game is at home, and Oklahoma has a reasonably legitimate shot at getting to the national title if it can get past this game. The fan base is getting antsy. Another 10-2 or 9-3 season will only augment that.

Matt Fortuna: Weird as it may sound, I think Notre Dame is playing with house money at this point. The Irish have seven wins already -- which no one saw happening -- and have games left against Pitt, Boston College and Wake Forest. Ergo, they are likely a 10-win, BCS-bowl bound team at the worst right now. Steal one in Norman, and now we're looking at an 11-0 Notre Dame team going into its regular-season finale at USC.

2. Can OU run the ball on Notre Dame?

Trotter: The Sooners have been running the ball well since inserting junior college transfer Damien Williams into the starting lineup. If they’re able to run the ball on Notre Dame, too, the game is basically over. More likely it’ll be tough sledding against a front seven loaded with future pros. But if Williams and fullback Trey Millard can keep the Irish honest as threats to run, that should take enough pressure off quarterback Landry Jones and the passing game.

Fortuna: If the Sooners can, the Irish can kiss their upset hopes goodbye. But Notre Dame has been outstanding against the run and has not allowed a rushing touchdown all season (nine straight games dating back to last season). Oklahoma needs to establish a ground threat early to open things up for Landry Jones and the passing game, which is where the Sooners have the biggest advantage.

(Read full post)

Irish Lunch Links

October, 25, 2012
Move over, Reggie.
The moment of truth is finally here. Do the 7-0 Irish keep it going in Norman, Okla.?

When Notre Dame has the ball: Establish the run early. The Irish have moved the ball successfully against a pair of very good run defenses in Stanford and BYU the past two weeks, and they will have their hands full again Saturday. They need to mix and match their three backs, get home run threat George Atkinson III on the field more and have Everett Golson at least show that he's a threat to run when things break down. Brian Kelly is not a time-of-possession guy, but that formula can prove beneficial if things open up early for the Irish. Protecting the ball is priority No. 1.

When Oklahoma has the ball: Get after Landry Jones early and often. The quarterback has been phenomenal the past three weeks, but he has yet to win over the entire Sooners fan base in large part because of his penchant for untimely mistakes, which already cost Oklahoma earlier this year against Kansas State. Notre Dame needs to limit chunk plays and control the line of scrimmage, giving its young defensive backs a chance against the most talented group of skill players it has faced to this point.

Intangible: Notre Dame can't look ahead, but I can. With a 7-0 start and games left against Pitt, BC and Wake, this is, at minimum, a BCS-bowl season for the Irish. They are huge underdogs despite being the No. 5 team in the country. If ever there were an underrated good Irish team, this may be it. The pressure is all on Oklahoma to avoid a second home loss and stay in the national title mix. Notre Dame has a path to 11-0 going into the finale at USC if it can escape Owen Field victorious, and there's something to be said for the looseness of the team going into another big game. Big 12 defenses don't come close to Notre Dame's, either.

Prediction: Oklahoma 20, Notre Dame 13. The more I study this, the more I think the Irish have a very good chance to win, but I just don't have it in me yet to pull the trigger and pick the upset over a Sooners team that's been on a roll lately.

Irish Lunch Links

October, 24, 2012
Funniest movie ever. Go.

Irish Lunch Links

October, 23, 2012
Wouldn't be where I am without Malcolm Moran. Best of luck, bud.
Week 8: Oct. 27 at Oklahoma (at Gaylord Family-Oklahoma Memorial Stadium in Norman, Okla.)
Time/TV: TBA
Series: Notre Dame leads all-time, 8-1
2011 record: 10-3 (6-3 Big 12; tied third place)
Head coach: Bob Stoops (139-34, 13 years)
Returning starters: Offense: 7; defense: 7; kicker/punter: 2

Top returners

QB Landry Jones, RB Dominique Whaley, FB Trey Millard, WR Kenny Stills, OG Gabe Ikard, LB Tom Wort, CB Demontre Hurst, CB/S Aaron Colvin, FS Tony Jefferson

Key losses

WR Ryan Broyles, LT Donald Stephenson, TE James Hanna, DE Ronnell Lewis, DE Frank Alexander, LB Travis Lewis, CB Jamell Fleming

2011 statistical leaders (*returners)

Rushing: Whaley* (627 yards)

Passing: Jones* (4,463 yards)

Receiving: Broyles (1,157 yards)

Tackles: Lewis and Colvin* (84)

Sacks: Frank Alexander (8.5)

Interceptions: Jefferson* (4)

Three questions for ... SoonerNation's Jake Trotter:

As we all know, it's been a long time since these two powers met. What's the excitement level like in Norman for this game?

Jake Trotter: It's huge. The game is a hot ticket, among homes probably right there with OU-Nebraska in 2001 and OU-Texas Tech in 2008. Notre Dame is a big name in of itself. When you add the fact that OU is 1-8 all-time against the Irish, that Notre Dame ended OU's 47-game winning streak in 1957, that Notre Dame hasn't been to Norman since the '60s, this is a game OU fans have been waiting for. Especially those who remember the '50s and '60s.

The Sooners are the popular preseason pick to win the Big 12. What are some potential weaknesses that Notre Dame may be able to exploit against them?

JT: OU doesn't have a dominating defensive line. The group is experienced, but it's hard to see anyone up front earning All-Big 12 honors. If the front four can't get pressure, defensive coordinator Mike Stoops will be forced to blitz from his back seven, and that could open big plays in the passing game. The secondary should be more sound this season, but the Sooners gave up a ton of big passing plays last season. When the Sooners have lost in the Bob Stoops era, it's often been because they got gashed deep with the pass.

Oklahoma's schedule is really backloaded this season, with the exception of the annual tilt with Texas. Do the Sooners enter this contest undefeated?

JT: You're right, the key stretch will be in November, with road games at West Virginia and TCU, and a home tilt with Oklahoma State, the defending Big 12 champion. But beginning Sept. 22, the Sooners play Kansas State at home, go to Texas Tech, then take on Texas. Kansas State has a ton of people back from its Cotton Bowl team from last season. Tech beat OU in Norman last year, and OU has been a disaster recently in Lubbock, losing the last three there. Texas, meanwhile, probably has the best defense in the Big 12, and will be a dangerous team if it gets anything out of the quarterback position. I expect OU to be undefeated going into the Notre Dame game, but I wouldn't be stunned if they slipped up during that three-game stretch.

Irish Lunch Links

May, 14, 2012
Happy belated Mother's Day to all the moms out there ...
With Notre Dame's spring practice season kicking off in six days, we're taking a look at three players whose offseasons could go a long way toward the Irish's success in 2012. Wednesday we looked at John Goodman. Today, we look at a cornerback who has been more active offseason than most.

Spotlight: Bennett Jackson

2011 summary: Jackson played in all 13 games last season, recording 18 total tackles. He returned three kickoffs for a total of 32 yards, with the longest going for 17 yards. This came after a freshman season that saw him earn the team's special teams player of the year honors. Jackson was one of three football players to participate with the Irish's track and field team this spring, joining George and Josh Atkinson.

The skinny: The secondary has some holes to fill, and Jackson figures to have as good a chance as any to fill one of the starting cornerback voids left by graduates Gary Gray and Robert Blanton. The junior-to-be has been all over the place at Notre Dame, which recruited him as a wide receiver and has put him on the field in all 26 games of his young career. (Jackson has also switched numbers during that time, from No. 86 to No. 2). The 6-foot, 185-pounder from New Jersey claims to have run the fastest 40-yard dash on the football team last year, at 4.40, and he has certainly been active this offseason, running the hurdles. That speed, coupled with the techniques he has picked up with a year at corner under his belt, put Jackson in position to assume a starting role for a pass defense that will face Heisman candidate quarterbacks this season in Matt Barkley and Landry Jones.
The Heisman Pundit's early forecast for the 2012 award Tuesday featured a number of Notre Dame opponents. Ours is no different.

Two of the top four Heisman candidates in Ryan McCrystal's prediction formula are scheduled to face the Irish, as are three of the top six.

The frontrunner, of course, is USC quarterback Matt Barkley:
While the results of the last few seasons have bucked this trend, historically, Heisman voters are drawn to players from traditional powers who enter the year as household names. If Barkley, coming off a sixth-place finish in the Heisman voting, simply matches his statistics from 2011 and leads USC to a BCS bowl game, he'll be a serious contender.

Barkley's biggest challenge could be USC's schedule. It's tough to win the award without playing on the national stage, and Barkley may not get many opportunities. The toughest opponent on the Trojans' schedule is Oregon, which, after losing Darron Thomas and LaMichael James to the NFL, may not be able to provide Barkley with the challenge he needs.

Barkley's Heisman scenario: Lead USC to BCS National Championship Game, 40+ TD; 150 Predictor points

Michigan quarterback Denard Robinson, another Irish opponent, comes in at No. 4. Oklahoma signal caller Landry Jones is No. 6.

Trojans wide receiver Robert Woods receives consideration after failing to crack the 10-man list.

The Heisman Pundit, as you'll recall, had Barkley and Robinson atop its list, with Jones also at No. 6. The site also listed Wolverines running back Fitzgerald Touissant, who was No. 12 on its 15-man list.
We don't mean to keep harping on Notre Dame's tough 2012 schedule this offseason (though it did catch a break today), but another list lays out just what the Irish might be up against in the coming season.

The Heisman Pundit breaks down next season's Heisman Trophy race, with the top two front-runners facing the Irish in 2012. Three of the top six on the watch list play against Notre Dame next season. Four players on the 15-man list in total will face the Irish in 2012.

The leader in the clubhouse should come as no surprise: USC quarterback Matt Barkley:
Barkley returns for his senior year as the front runner for the 2012 Heisman. He’s got perhaps the best receiving corps in the history of college football catching his passes, so you know his numbers will be stellar. However, he must beat the expectations game or voters could eventually turn on him like they did Andrew Luck.

Michigan signal caller Denard Robinson is right behind Barkley at No. 2:
Four of the last six Heisman winners have been dual-threat quarterbacks and it is this style that has the most potential to wow the voters. The story with Robinson will be how he turned around a storied program. If the Wolverines challenge for national honors, he’ll be a strong Heisman candidate.

Oklahoma's Landry Jones comes in at No. 6. Wolverines running back Fitzgerald Touissant is No. 12.

Suffice it to say that Notre Dame's defense will have its work cut out for it next season.

Early 2012 opponent power rankings

January, 10, 2012
With 2011 in the rearview mirror, here is an early look at Notre Dame's 2012 opponents, with the game date and site in parantheses.

1. USC (Nov. 24, away): Matt Barkley's return makes the Trojans a trendy preseason national title pick and Barkley a likely preseason Heisman frontrunner. They host the Irish in the regular-season finale, and how sweet it would be for Notre Dame should they knock their rivals off with the highest stakes on the line.

2. Oklahoma (Oct. 27, away): Like the Trojans, the Sooners return their prized quarterback (Landry Jones) and will, at the very least, enter 2012 as the Big 12 favorite.

3. Michigan State (Sept. 15, away): Kirk Cousins and Keshawn Martin are gone, but the Spartans return four offensive linemen and plenty of production on the defensive side of the ball as they go for a third-straight 11-win season.

4. Michigan (Sept. 22, home): Denard Robinson and several key skill players likely return, but the Wolverines lose a lot on each line and will rely on several young players to fill the void.

5. Stanford (Oct. 13, home): Perhaps the biggest mystery entering 2012. We just don't know how much this team will drop off following the likely loss of Andrew Luck. Time will tell.

6. BYU (Oct. 20, home): Another wild card. Much will depend on the growth of dual-threat QB Riley Nelson and the Cougars' offense.

7. Purdue (Sept. 8, home): The Boilermakers finished 2011 with back-to-back wins for the first time this season and have a bit of momentum under Danny Hope. Some see them as a darkhorse Leaders Division contender in 2012.

8. Miami (Oct. 6, Chicago): The Hurricanes will likely be led by a defense that returns eight starters for Al Golden's second year.

9. Wake Forest (Nov. 17, home): Quarterback Tanner Price is back, but the Demon Deacons must eliminate the mistakes that cost them five of their final six games and two assistants their jobs.

10. Boston College (Nov. 10, away): The Eagles got better as the season went on and hope new offensive coordinator Doug Martin can bring the unit up to speed with the defense, which loses Luke Kuechly.

11. Navy (Sept. 1, Dublin): Can Trey Miller build off 2011, when he was forced in midseason for the injured Kriss Proctor?

12. Pitt (Nov. 3, home): New coach Paul Chryst will have his work cut out for him on a team with quarterback, protection and, at least in the past calendar year, coaching issues.


Top Position Battles Heading In To Spring
While a good portion of the country is buried in snow, spring football is underway. Adam Rittenberg looks at some of the top position battles heading in to spring practice.