The Irish came into Saturday night’s Michigan St. game with the perfect opportunity to show how much progress had been made since the Texas loss but it wasn’t to be. Notre Dame failed to change the narrative on defense and suffered, what looks to be, a playoff eliminating loss to the Spartans, 36-28.
Not only did the Spartans score on five straight possessions, all of them ended with touchdowns. Once again the Irish defense was gashed in the running game. Michigan St. ran for 260 yards. This has put defensive coordinator, Brian VanGorder, in the crosshairs of every critic.
When VanGorder was hired it was received with excitement that came off the charts. He had been a defensive coordinator in the NFL (Atlanta Falcons) and there was a promise of a more NFL type defense. What has happened is players frequently look confuse and are frequently giving up big plays because they aren’t in the right position.
Brian Kelly is still backing his defense coordinator in public. When Kelly was asked about VanGorder, he said he still had confidence in his defensive coordinator and the scheme. Public backings aren’t unusual but there has to be a shelf life for it when the players being recruited for this scheme but can’t execute it.
Poor tackling has been a plague all season and that has allowed teams to possess the clock. Michigan St. kept Notre Dame’s high powered offense off the field by possessing the ball for nearly 38 minutes. This was also aided by Irish turnovers but the defense can’t seem to make an important stop when needed. This is exhibited by the Spartans being 9-18 (50%) on third down conversions.
The Irish have a struggling Duke team at home this weekend and two more signature games, Stanford and USC. It’s a must for the defense to start to grasp the scheme and make plays or the Irish season will end with a mid-level bowl game.
Marcus “Mook” Washington is the host of Making The Cut. Follow Mook on Twitter: @mtcwithmook and IG: MTCWithMook.