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Football: Spring into action

Mike Monaco | Monday, April 22, 2013

Louis Nix III lined up at quarterback and took the shotgun snap. The 347-pound senior nose tackle looked for his receivers but then elected to tuck the ball and rumble into the end zone for the two-point conversion.

Nix provided the offensive highlight in an otherwise stout defensive effort in Saturday’s Blue-Gold Game, which the Blue side – the defense – won 54-43.

“I just wanted to run somebody over and show coach I could do it, and hopefully we establish an ‘Irish Chocolate’ package for the future,” Nix said.

The two-point conversion came in the fourth quarter, after Notre Dame’s only touchdown of the day, a 35-yard pass from early enrollee quarterback Malik Zaire to wide-open sophomore receiver C.J. Prosise. But on the other 82 offensive plays, the Irish totaled just 265 yards of offense. 

Junior quarterback Everett Golson, who went 6-for-13 for 98 yards and an interception, said the offensive performance was just one bad outing in a solid spring of work.

“Definitely a lot of improvement, but like I said before, today was just kind of an off day,” Golson said. “If you go back to our spring practices, we have been doing a great job all around the board. … [Offensive] line is doing great, and just a lot of that stuff. So I’m kind of disappointed that we had an off day, but our spring has been very, very good for us.”

Golson powered a pair of second-quarter drives into the red zone, but the Irish converted those opportunities into just three total points. Golson was intercepted by junior safety Matthias Farley at the 1-yard line on the first drive after leading the Irish down to the 14-yard line. 

On the second of the two drives, Golson connected with junior tight end Troy Niklas and junior receiver DaVaris Daniels on consecutive plays for a combined 50 yards, situating Notre Dame at the 14-yard line again. But two pass attempts to the end zone fell incomplete, as Golson couldn’t find Daniels. 

Graduate student kicker Nick Tausch drilled a 31-yard field goal, one of three on the day for Tausch, to make it 30-28 in favor of the defense heading into halftime.

“As you know, we had a hard time scoring touchdowns in the spring game,” Irish coach Brian Kelly said. “We tried a couple of times, right before the half, to get the opportunity and we couldn’t get the ball close enough. We had to settle for some field goals.”

Kelly said the Irish need to ensure they don’t fall back into making some of the same mistakes offensively they made last season. At times Saturday the Irish did make some of those miscues, but Kelly said such things are correctible. 

Junior running back George Atkinson III rushed 10 times for 49 yards, and eight players made at least two catches. Daniels led all pass-catchers with three grabs for 48 yards. 

On the defensive side, graduate student nose tackle Tyler Stockton piled up six tackles and two sacks, all in the first half. As a whole, the defense racked up 10 sacks and 14 tackles for loss. 

Junior linebackers Ishaq Williams and Jarrett Grace totaled a game-high eight tackles apiece. Grace worked primarily with the first-team defense as the Mike linebacker, the spot occupied by former Irish linebacker and Heisman runner-up Manti Te’o last season. 

“It was a blast,” Grace said. “You know I was chomping at the bit all [of last] season. It’s hard to sit behind someone, but when they have that much success, you’re more than happy for them. 

“But it was fun. It felt like how it used to be in high school when you’re getting recruited. You’re flying around out there. Fun. Fun is the word I’d use to describe it.”

Contact Mike Monaco at jmonaco@nd.edu