THIS HAS BEEN EDITED Season of high hopes quickly fades
As the 2011 Notre Dame football season which had such high hopes for success quickly fades, you can add Brian Kelly to the list that includes Bob Davie, Tyrone Willingham and Charlie Weiss. Yet another coach that was going to bring the Irish program back, but ....
Yes, it's only the second game of his second season but Kelly's record is 8-7, and the way his team is playing the 9-3 season that appeared very much in reach, dropped to a possible 7-5 last week, and now falls to maybe 6-6. Despite all the turnovers, 10 in two games, Kelly is yet another coach that doesn't know defense. Defense wins games, but Kelly, like Weiss before him, must feel that his high-powered offense will always score enought points to win, the heck with the defense. Last week against Michigan the "defense" let the Wolverines marched down the field in less than 30 seconds to score the winning touchdown. For the second year in a row for Kelly, and third in as many years, Michigan pulled out a win over ND in the final seconds.
Many felt Kelly knew he needed defensive help and went out and recruited some top talent. But the defense failed in the first game with South Florida in giving up big yardage on third and longs and last week the secondary gave up big pass plays.
The season gets longer and longer and it won't get any better today when Michigan State takes the field at ND stadium. I said last week ND could be 0-3 by the Pitt game.
Today the Irish host the Michigan State Spartans with a 3:40 p.m. start on NBC-TV. The Spartans entered the game 2-0 and ranked 15th in the nation in the AP poll. MSU has wins over Youngstown State, 28-6, and Florida Atlantic, 44-0. The Spartans are led by QB Kirk Cousins, who is 34 of 42 passing so far this season for 405 yards and three TD passes. But the Spartans real game in running the football. Leading the way are backs Edwin Baker, LeVan Bell and Nick Hill. All get plenty of carries during a game. Top receivers are B.J. Cunningham and Keshawn Martin. Defensively the Spartans are tough up front led by Max Bulough and Denicos Allen.
ND leads th series, 45-28-1, with MSU winning in overtime last year, 34-31. Nine of the last 11 games in the series have been decided by seven or less points.
IRISH NOTES:Notre Dame senior wide receiver Michael Floyd has been named the FBS Independent Offensive Player of the Week for the second time in as many weeks. Floyd caught 13 passes for 159 yards last week. In the game Floyd broke Jeff Samardzija's career receiving yardage record. Floyd now has 2,852 yards. Floyd also produced his 15th career 100-yard receiving game, which ties a school record set by Golden Tate (2007-09).....Notre Dame's Sept. 24 game at Pitt will air on ABC-TV with a noon start....As I said in the beginning, defense wins games. Last week the Irish defense went south giving up 28 points in the fourth quarter. Irish cornerback Gary Gray was eaten alive by the Michigan passing game. Gray was the guy who let receiver Jeremy Gallon get free deep to put the Spartans in the red zone in the final seconds. he then allowed the winning TD toss by QB Denard Robinson on the next lay. The sad part is Gray is a seasoned player...A record crowd of 114,804 was on hand at Michigan stadium....For three quarters the Irish were the best team but fell apart in the fourth. Fourth quarter collapses are becoming familar for Kelly teams....Cierre Wood had his second 100 plus game this season last week getting 134 yards on 25 carries and a score. But he also hurt the Irish with another fumble. He fumbled at the Michigan 30 in the third quarter stalling another Irish drive. Also, he was unable to convert on a pair of key third-down runs in the fourth quarter....The last time the Irish started at 0-2 was the 2007 season, just the eighth time ever in ND history. If they lose today, the 0-3 start would be only the fourth time in history with such a start....Tommy Rees was 27 for 39 passing and 315 yards and three TD tosses. But he also turned the ball over three of the five times the Irish gave it up, two interceptions and a fumble. The fumble was costly as ND was inside the 10 of Michigan. The Wolverines recovered the ball at the nine....Manti Te'o led the Irish defense with nine tackles....Kelly announced fifth year senior TE Mike Ragone suffered his third anterior cruciate ligament injury in the past six and a half years in the Michigan game and is lost for the season. He could apply for a sixth year. Freshman Ben Koyack is now the number two TE. Junior Jake Golic is back from a broken arm and is available to play....Freshmen defensive ends Stephen Tuitt and Aaron Lynch are expected to see action today after sitting out the entire Michigan game. Both played in the opener against South Florida....Te'o and S Harrison Smith were "quasi-antisocial" during a phone-in press conference, according to the media in South Bend. Kelly responded to their demeanor by saying, "Nobody's happy, and I'm OK with that." Adding, "Nobody should be in a great mood"....Senior nose guard Sean Cwynar may see action today after missing last week's game with a broken hand....I wrote last week that the Michigan game was a must win for Kelly to quiet his critics. It didn't happen. Mistakes and poor defense led to yet another loss and a season of promise has faded quickly. I do believe that Notre Dame was a better team than both South Florida and Michigan but when a better team loses then the blame falls on the coaching staff. In my preseason picks, I had the Irish winning today. I can't stay with that prediction after the past two weeks.