Zuba: Notre Dame stumbles but keeps record perfect (Oct. 13)
Samantha Zuba | Sunday, October 12, 2014
Every time you thought the Irish had shown up against North Carolina, they disappeared again for a while.
Notre Dame periodically took breaks, during which I can only assume they were hanging out with Ferris Bueller in Chicago.
Notre Dame’s season had the wind knocked out of it in the early minutes against North Carolina. The Tar Heels defensive line plowed through and around the Irish offensive line to pressure Golson.
One fumble and one interception later, North Carolina had the 14-0 upper hand.
But it looked like Notre Dame would turn it around.
After senior quarterback Everett Golson threw a pick straight at Tar Heels junior linebacker Jeff Schoettmer, who, it turns out, is not Ben Koyack, Golson settled down.
He connected with sophomore running back Tarean Folston for an electric 37-yard catch-and-run. Folston wouldn’t quit, and he brought Notre Dame’s offense and the crowd back into it.
Two tackles by sophomore defensive lineman Isaac Rochell shut down North Carolina’s ensuing drive, and suddenly the Irish defense was back in it too.
Notre Dame proceeded to score 21 unanswered points.
But (this game was filled with “buts”) the Irish then proceeded to fling consistency out of the Stadium into the Joyce Center parking lot (If you find it between a crushed Solo cup and empty beer can, send it back to Brian Kelly, express mail).
Sometimes, the Irish looked brilliant, such as when junior defensive lineman Jarron Jones blocked a Tar Heels point-after attempt or when graduate student cornerback Cody Riggs broke up a long pass in the end zone or when sophomore safety Max Redfield launched himself on top of Tar Heels junior quarterback Marquise Williams in a last-ditch effort to stop what was turning into a touchdown run.
In addition, the Irish running game came alive with running backs sophomore Greg Bryant, sophomore Tarean Folston and senior Cam McDaniel each scoring touchdowns in the first half. Golson and sophomore receiver Will Fuller had a great connection going for most of the game, and Fuller finished with 133 yards and 2 touchdowns.
But then there were moments like Golson’s fumble with 3:20 left in the third quarter. And the fact that Notre Dame gave up 43 points.
Remember before this game started, when Notre Dame was tied for third in FBS by allowing only 12 points per game?
The defense looked unpolished, but it wasn’t entirely that unit’s fault.
Golson scored a lot of points for the Irish, but he also repeatedly forced his defense back onto the field and helped the Tar Heels score with turnovers.
Somehow, however, the Irish managed to do just enough to keep their season alive (we’re talking the minimum number of pages required by the professor after adjusting the margins).
With an agonizing seven minutes-plus drive (search the parking lot for signs of Notre Dame’s efficiency too), the Irish trudged back into the game in the fourth quarter. Golson found Folston for a 9-yard touchdown and then Koyack for the two-point conversion to put Notre Dame up 43-36.
By this point, the Irish mood swings were getting hard to track, and it was a challenge to remember if Notre Dame was winning because it didn’t feel like the Irish should be. It didn’t feel like anybody should be.
But Notre Dame was, and then it escaped with the win.
Maybe the Irish needed a poke to wake up from the lingering dream that was the 17-14 win over Stanford.
With the much-anticipated matchup against Florida State looming and the mounting pressure of an increasingly perfect record, the Irish needed something to make them hungry.
Looking vulnerable but finding a way to recover can do just that.
Whatever else Saturday’s game was, it was a win. Now, Notre Dame has to decide how to respond to it in Tallahassee.
The views expressed in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.