Saturday’s annual Blue-Gold Game didn’t provide many offensive highlights, but this is where context is extremely important. Notre Dame practiced outdoors just three times over the last month. The temperature hovered around the high 30s to low 40s for the two-hour scrimmage with wind gusts around 15 miles per hour.
Fifth-year senior defensive lineman Tyler Stockton (92) recorded six tackles and two sacks in the Blue-Gold Game.
The sun (you know, that glowing and warming orb that decided to hide for most of April?) probably did make life a little more difficult for potential punt returners Austin Collinsworth and TJ Jones — both of whom lost site of the ball once. Spreading reps among five different quarterbacks does not a well-oiled performance make.
Having said all that, the effort and execution left a lot to be desired four months removed from a BCS National Championship run fueled by a dominant defense. The strides many Fighting Irish fans hoped to see from second-year starting quarterback Everett Golson will have to wait until the Aug. 31 opener against Temple.
“It wasn’t great. There were a lot of mistakes,” said Jones, a senior wide receiver who had three catches for 38 yards. “There’s definitely a lot of film to watch to see where we need to go for next year and what errors we need to correct to be as good as last year.
“Up to this point I think we executed a lot better than we did today. I don’t know what the difference was, whether it was the atmosphere or us having an off day as an offense, but we definitely didn’t execute the way we have all spring.”
Working On A Finished Prosise Product
Sophomore wide receiver C.J. Prosise, who was moved from safety just three days before spring practices began, continues to impress in the slot position. He had two receptions for 40 yards and the game’s only touchdown. There’s a long way to go in terms of route running and an overall grasp of the playbook, but his teammates and the coaching staff give the 6-0, 220-pounder a lot of credit for making the transition on the fly.
“Very athletic kid … seemed to come very natural,” Kelly said. “But he's very raw. He's got a lot of work to do. But we feel very confident that if we stick with him and continue to work with him that we can see a finished product as we move through the season.”
Stockton Makes Most Of Extra Year
Some folks scratched their heads when it was announced defensive lineman Tyler Stockton was granted a fifth year of eligibility. The 6-0, 284-pounder appeared in just six games as a sophomore in 2010 with only one career tackle to his credit. Other than starring in the weekly “Trick Shot Monday” video series — a locker room contest testing players’ abilities at bouncing a ping pong ball off various inanimate objects into a paper cup — Stockton’s claim to fame was being named Defensive Scout Team Player of the Year in 2012.
He registered six tackles and two sacks in the spring game, however, and his leadership has been acknowledged throughout the spring.
“We have to establish our brotherhood again and we had to pick up,” senior nose guard Louis Nix III said. “Guys like Tyler Stockton, you don't hear his name much but he's the guy, he's the heartbeat of our D-line.
“You hear a lot about me making plays. But he's the one that keeps us together, we hang out a lot, he's the guy that we look up to a lot, because he has a lot of stress off the field; he's trying to get his MBA and stuff like that. He shows us how much he works off the field and he did all he could to get us here and he got it and he's worked all spring and he's actually been doing a great job.
“Today he had like two sacks and I think that was a good push. I think we'll be better if we just keep doing what we do and just keep playing Notre Dame football. If we don't, won't be as good as last year.”
Who Are We?
With his team now entering the summer offseason and out of his line of sight, head coach Brian Kelly said, at least for now, the squad’s identity is increased confidence.
“They believe that they are going to be successful,” he said. “… Now, we are going to have some tough times and we'll see how we bounce back from those. That's really the measure, right? Everybody is good when they are 0-0. But I like their confidence and with that, it's important to know that they have not slacked off from the little things and so they have combined both those things, which gives me a comfort level that they understand what it takes to be successful.”
“We had a new kind of offense last year,” fifth-year senior left tackle Zack Martin said.”The more reps we get at it and the better we get the more confidence we have. It helps having [quarterback Everett Golson] back there just growing every day and having the confidence he has. It helps out a lot.”
Junior defensive lineman Chase Hounshell (labrum, will miss the entire season), fifth-year senior linebacker Dan Fox (shoulder), sophomore safety Nicky Baratti (shoulder), senior cornerback Bennett Jackson (shoulder), junior running back Amir Carlisle (collarbone), walk-on senior running back Tyler Plantz (undisclosed) and freshman wide receiver Corey Robinson (hyperextended elbow) were held out of the Blue-Gold Game. Carlisle is four weeks removed from surgery and campaigned to return to contact this week to no avail.
Fifth-year left guard Chris Watt was a late scratch after he slept on his neck wrong the night before per head coach Brian Kelly. Sophomore Ronnie Stanley (6-6, 318 pounds), who did not see action in 2012, filled in for the veteran.
“Watt got a little nicked up there and there’s no reason to mess with anything for the spring game,” Martin said. “Ronnie got thrown into the fire there a little bit, but I thought he did a good job. With never playing an inside position and being so big and long and stepping down in the inside I thought he did a great job. We didn’t really have any communication errors, which was good. I thought he stepped in and did a nice job. That’s good for him anytime you can show the coaches you’re versatile like that it’s only going to help you.”
Solid Fan Support
A Blue-Gold Game crowd of 31,652 spectators was on hand on a sunny but brisk afternoon. It’s the fifth-largest attendance in the history of the event. The most number of fans to file into Notre Dame Stadium for the annual scrimmage was 51,852 in 2007. The Irish went on to post a 3-9 record the following fall. There were 41,279 fans present in 2006, 35,675 in 1981 and 32,071 in 1986. This year’s crowd beat out the one last year (31,582) to crack the top five.