Oct 21, 2012, 7:55 PM EDT
We are back … back for another appearance on College GameDay – boy, our rise to relevance has escalated quickly! In a match-up that everyone had labeled a trap game, the Irish were able to survive and move on to Oklahoma. I know I have said this before, but these are the types of games that the Irish would not have won in years past. But that is because this is a new brand of Irish football. This team is able to manage expectations, not buy into the hype the media creates and stay humble while sticking to its plan.
Let’s face it, the vast majority of Irish fans were already looking forward to the top-10 match-up with Oklahoma and with great reason. That is the game – more than any other this season – that will determine whether the Irish are ready to step back into the national spotlight as a true BCS National Championship contender. Unfortunately I won’t be able to attend the game on Saturday in Norman, but the atmosphere will be electric as the game is a top-10 matchup on Halloween weekend. This week isn’t a trap game. Instead it is a game in which the Irish are placed on the highest of pedestals. Here is the stage we have wanted for years – now we can earn the nation’s respect.
That being said, here are three things I learned about the Notre Dame football team this week:
1) TheoRiddickly speaking, the Irish can run the ball: If you closely watch the Irish offense, there is a clear trend developing late in games. Notre Dame has begun to push teams around in the second half with its running game. The hours of offseason conditioning have begun to pay off as the Irish offense line has manhandled the opposition. Ever since the Miami game, the Irish have had tremendous success running the ball in the second half and that trend continued against Stanford and in the second half of the game against BYU. Theo Riddick highlighted the Irish attack with his career day that included 143 yards rushing on 15 carries, highlighted by a 55-yard run. Cierre Wood added 114 yards on the ground, giving the Irish their second game with two 100-yard rushers. Before this season, the last time the Irish had two 100-yard rushers in a game was 2002. This trend of a strong Irish running game in the second half will be tested this weekend in Norman.
2) Hendrix can be a very effective running quarterback: Even though it was only for a handful of plays, Andrew Hendrix was very effective in the limited time he saw running the Irish offense. I am not suggesting the Irish should have Hendrix start, but I think Hendrix showed the ability to help get the Irish offense moving, especially when it was a little stagnant. Hendrix showed great decision-making on his 14-yard carry and sparked life into the Irish offense in the 2nd quarter. The Irish should consider using that spark to burn the Sooners.
3) Danny Spond deserves more praise: As Brian Kelly mentioned in his press conference after the game, Danny Spond has played phenomenal football since returning from his battle with migraines. However, Spond’s play is all the more impressive when you look back at the injuries he has encountered. In high school, Spond suffered a serious concession that threatened his football career. Spond persevered though his recovery and fought his way into the starting line-up at Notre Dame. He was poised for a breakout junior season when he began getting migraines during fall camp. While it was determined to not be another concussion, there was no clear diagnosis for Spond as he went through a litany of tests. Spond found himself back in the middle of a serious medical scare as he temporarily lost control of the left side of his body. But according to Spond, his love of the game helped him persevere once again. Spond is now playing great defense on nearly every snap for the Irish – quite a feat for someone who couldn’t move the left side of his body in August.
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