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@NDSportsBlogger Postgame Thoughts – Michigan

Sep 8, 2013, 12:20 AM EDT

Photo by Matt Cashore Photo by Matt Cashore

Coming into tonight’s game with the Wolverines, the Irish had won 13-consecutive regular season games and Michigan head coach Brady Hoke had not lost in Michigan Stadium as head coach of the Wolverines (15-0). Something had to give and unfortunately for those who read this blog, tonight’s game did not end like we would have liked.

To begin, let’s just get this out in the open; this is not last year’s Notre Dame football team, but it doesn’t mean they can’t be great.

Before I get to my three thoughts on the game I want to talk about Tommy Rees. Everyone that is knocking this kid is off base. If you look at his numbers he has been pretty solid for Notre Dame in his time here and has done everything that the coaches have asked of him. Tonight he was 29 of 51 for 314 yards, two touchdowns and two interceptions. Yes, one of his turnovers was ill advised (aren’t all turnovers though), but this kid put the offense on his back when the squad was down and the team was forced into throwing the ball. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist (or a Notre Dame grad) to tell you that it is tougher to throw the ball on offense when the defense knows you are more likely to throw. Through two games Rees is averaging 330 yards passing per game and has five touchdowns to just two interceptions. Before you talk about Rees not being able to play quarterback at Notre Dame, take a step back and look at the whole picture and the things he does really good for this team.

In the 41-30 loss to Michigan, there were still some major bright spots; here are my top three:

1. Receiving Corps Rolling
No matter what receiver quarterback Tommy Rees targets, you can be sure that the wideout will make a play on the ball and have a great chance to come down with the ball. A total of eight Irish players snagged a ball in today’s game, including four different receivers. Going forward, I see tri-captain T.J. continuing his dominance and become one of the best wideouts in the country, but don’t count out the play of DaVaris Daniels. Daniels seems to always have a knack to go up and grab the ball at it’s highest point, similar to what former Notre Dame receiver Golden Tate was so good at when he wore the “blue and gold.”

2. Playing Between The Hashes
During my halftime adjustments blog I mentioned the need for the Irish to play between the hashes in the second half, either by throwing down the middle to wideouts, use the tight ends more often or by running the ball. In the second half you saw tight end Troy Niklas catch five balls, including one for a touchdown and some runs that gashed the Michigan defense. I would have expected more running from the Irish, but again, Coach Kelly and offensive coordinator Chuck Martin know their personnel far better than I do, so I’ll defer to their gameplan. In the second half I liked what the Irish did in an effort to make up the 14-points the Irish trailed by at halftime.

3. Defense Showing Flashes
Yes, the Irish gave up 41 points. Yes, the Wolverines amassed 460 total yards. Those two things don’t tell you the whole story about this Notre Dame defense. What I see when taking a step back is a defense that has some young players at key spots in a 3-4 defense. At times, the defense can apply pressure without sending any ‘backers and at times they send four extra rushers and get gashed with a little out pattern. The key is the progression from game to game of players like Jaylon Smith, Matthias Farley and Elijah Shumate. At times today you saw why Smith was a top-flight recruit and other times he was a little too aggressive and allowed Devin Gardner to break contain. Overall Smith showed some great things today. Farley is probably my favorite player on this Irish defense as he is a combination of great athleticism, high football knowledge and raw talent. This kid is still learning the position as he has only been playing organized football since high school. Nonetheless, consistency is the name of the game for the Irish on defense and next week’s opponent, Purdue, could be the needed medicine to get ready for the rest of the season.

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