But they are so tasty. And let’s face it, as Autumn descends down along the bayou, my thoughts are turning to warm pastry crust and piping hot, pumpkin-spiced coffee.
2014 has, thus far, been a season of surprises. Thought you’d see a lot more of DaVaris Daniels than Phillip Daniels? Surprise! Thought you’d be swooning over the O-line and sweating over the D-line? Surprise! You get the idea.
Something that might not be a surprise is the result of putting Everett Golson under center and Brian VanGorder in charge of Notre Dame’s defense: a vastly improved turnover margin through the first three games. Heading into the Syracuse game on Saturday, the Fighting Irish are tied for first in the nation, with Florida and, obviously, Temple, in turnover margin, and are ranked third overall. While Temple and Florida are recovering a lot more fumbles than the Irish, 8 and 7, respectively, to 3 for Notre Dame, the Irish have themselves only turned the ball over once, a fumble against Purdue. Temple has given the ball away six times and Florida, four. Each of the national leaders has played three games.
Below are the five seasons under Coach Brian Kelly, broken out by the first three games:[table “” not found /]
So far, so good, right? The Irish are eight to the good. On Saturday, they face Syracuse, a team even on the season, with two fumbles recovered, one lost, one interception lost, and no interceptions made. Overall, Syracuse is tied for sixty-ninth place in turnover margin, seventy-fourth overall. What leaps out in 2014 versus the previous years is the seven INTs credited to the defense. What also leaps out? Michigan is tied for LAST with MINUS TEN turnovers.[table “” not found /]
2013 was a lost season, in many ways, thanks to EG’s poor academic decision-making. Thrust into a starting role, 2012’s killer closer, Tommy Rees, took Irish fans on a roller-coaster of emotion as he and the offense coughed the ball away seventeen times, negating the defense’s seventeen takeaways.[table “” not found /]
2012 saw Notre Dame in the NCG, largely on the strength of its defense. They finished the season with a plus eight turnover margin, but their defense was nowhere near as successful in forcing turnovers as 2014’s more aggressive defense has been.[table “” not found /]
Five turnovers against USF, five against Michigan, and three against Michigan State. FML.[table “” not found /]
Coach Kelly’s first season got off to a rough-ish start, going minus four in the turnover margin through the first three games.
CONCLUSION: 2014 is Notre Dame’s best turnover performance under Coach Kelly through the first three games. As long as Golson keeps making good decisions with the football and the ball-carriers keep it tucked away, you can expect the Irish to remain at the top of the table as long as the defense keeps winning the risk-reward bet.