During the bye week at Notre Dame much was made about a recruit walking, Jack Swarbrick giving the dreaded “vote of confidence” to Brian Kelly and the players standing by their coach.
The larger question was: How would the Irish respond against a pretty good Miami team?
The response was excellent. We know at this point this team is majorly flawed. However, how they finish will say a great deal about the remainder of Brian Kelly’s tenure in South Bend. If Saturday is any indication, Notre Dame will win some games down stretch. If there was any thought that this team would quit, that was erased with their gritty finish after C.J. Sanders nearly gift-wrapped Miami a victory. They also found a renewed running game as Josh Adams showed flashes of last year with some dominant running in the fourth quarter.
In a season that, thus far, has seen the Irish lose games that seemed won, they won a game that seemed lost after the Sanders fumble. They also showed the type of grit that had been missing thus far, such as Kizer hustling to recover what could have been a back-breaking fumble by Durham Smythe. Not to mention a defense has surfaced, and answers once and for all that your “scheme can beat your culture.”
I don’t want to pile on Brian VanGorder, but this defense is so much better since he departed.
In the first four games the Irish were giving up 34 points per game and also 500 yards per outing (490). I’m in no way saying that Greg Hudson is a long-term solution, but this team in his four games is giving up 22 points per game and 322 yards per game. The improvement has been dramatic. That being said, I have to wonder how much of a role has Brian Kelly played in the defensive turnaround. I will also always wonder now how much better Notre Dame would have been on defense last year had this change been made sooner. Would they have been a playoff team or better? Alas, a problem for another day!
With four winnable games remaining it will be interesting to see if Notre Dame can fight their way back into bowl contention. More importantly, it will be interesting to see if they can continue to make positive strides in what, thus far, has been an extremely frustrating season.