Coaching: It was great to see the team respond to some of the smack talk coming from the Cardinal players. The result was an amped up unit that created 3 turnovers in the opening minutes and jumped out to a quick lead. Unfortunately, the coaching staff was unable to maintain this great energy late into the game. The Irish team that came out of the locker room for the third quarter seemed a little flat and deflated, and when Stanford was getting back into the game in the fourth quarter, backups were being subbed in at multiple positions. I understand the value of experience, but this team is so young that all of the starters still need experience. Lastly, everyone is aware of ND's kicking struggles, so what better way to get Walker's confidence up a little bit than giving him a 27 yard chip shot at the end of the game? Not only was it an easy attempt, but it would have eliminated any chance Stanford had of winning the game, putting them down 10 with no time left. Instead, a failed 4th down run by Aldridge was a slap in the face to an already demoralized Walker, and gave Stanford a chance to tie the game on a big play.Special Teams: Walker had another tough day, but that is to be somewhat expected now. The reason the whole unit makes this list is that the coverage (other than Anello, who took some great pursuit angles to make tackles all the way across the field) was uncharacteristically weak. Particularly, the 38 yard punt return in the second half gave momentum to Stanford when we should have been putting them away.
LBs: Recording 5 sacks and 3 interceptions, the front seven had a very good day on the sexy end of the stat sheet, but missed tackles and poor pursuit angles allowed Stanford's two runningbacks to average 6.3 yards per rush, including a 13 carry, 100 yard day for Gerhart. It was fortunate that the Irish were able to get ahead quickly, otherwise the Cardinal ground game could have been used more often.
Pat Kuntz: When you rock a beater and jorts for your pep rally speech, you better back it up with a good on the field performance, and Kuntz was up for the challenge. With an interception, a fumble recovery, and a sack, this animal was a bright spot for the Irish defensive front.
Clausen: Completing 75% of his passes en route to a career 347 yards passing, JC continued to show why playing with a good haircut is better. Since the MSU game when Samson cut his locks, Jimmy is 49/75 for 622 yards and 6 TDs. Additionally, Clausen is finally starting to take over the team as a leader; it was pretty fun to see #7 pacing the ND sidelines and raising his arms (Father Doyle style) to amp up the players and the crowd.
Floyd: It makes it easier to throw for 347 yards when you're lofting the ball to a freak of nature. 5 catches for 115 yards has Darius Walker jersey wearers happy that double D's freed up the #3 spot.Rudolph: Ragone missing the entire season had a lot of people worried about the depth at the TE position, but fortunately, Kyle Rudolph has stepped up in a big way the last two games. He is on the same page as Clausen, connecting five times for 70 yards and a score, but perhaps more importantly, his blocking has improved a lot since his struggles early in the season.
Allen: Armando's 9 rushes for 33 yards are average, but his involvement in the passing game (7 catches for 66 yards) elevates him into the Studs category this week. Scoring a TDs by the land and the air, it's exciting to see Armando using his improving field vision to attack holes as well as make moves in space.Notes: I think that this game was the closest our team has come to actually having a 'nasty' attitude in a couple of years.; the hard hitting and intensity really made Stanford eat their words, and it was fun to watch. It's been great to watch the development of the passing game; lining up Tate, Floyd, and Grimes with Rudolph and Allen running intermediate routes gives Jimmy 5 very good receivers to throw to. Sergio Brown hasn't been great in coverage this year, but he has some excellent play making ability. Add another forced fumble to his resume.
Go Irish! Beat Tarheels!