Tyler Eifert caught a game-tying touchdown pass in the fourth quarter against Stanford, his second score of the season
After catching four passes for 22 yards and a touchdown in the season opener against Navy, and four receptions for 98 yards versus Purdue (before experiencing a mild concussion), the 6-6, 251-pounder went missing in action over the next three weeks. Eifert caught just three passes in wins over Michigan State, Michigan and Miami — though all three were critical plays.
His team-high four snags for 57 yards and a touchdown — a 24-yard reception in the fourth quarter that tied the Cardinal 10-10 — was the kind of performance most expected when the Fort Wayne, Ind., product decided not to enter the NFL Draft a year early.
“I think it’s just throwing the ball more my way,” he said Wednesday. Some of the things Stanford was doing was allowing me to get open. … I enjoy catching the ball and making plays. And we’re winning, so it’s nice.”
Eifert’s dip in production can be directly attributed to Golson’s learning curve.
"He would have not made that [TD] throw [to Eifert] in Week 1 or Week 2,” Irish head coach Brian Kelly said. “He would have thrown a line drive level one ball and it would either have been deflected by the corner who was sinking or Tyler would not have gotten his hands on it."
The Notre Dame campus was much quieter this week in preparation for a visit from Brigham Young with students gone on fall break. It gave players such as Eifert a chance to focus on what went wrong against Stanford, as well as what’s required versus BYU in order to remain undefeated. Though Eifert’s blocking performance against a physical Stanford front seven was fairly solid, his position as a whole didn’t earn top grades.
Sophomore Troy Niklas had a particularly rough day trying to keep Cardinal defenders from pushing into the Irish backfield.
“Those outside linebackers and guys up front are really good,” Eifert said. “[Niklas] was put in a really tough position to block some of those guys. I was too. Pass blocking — we don’t do that every play like offensive linemen. That was tough. He’s got a good attitude. You just have to make sure you come back and have a good game against BYU.
“… [BYU is] good up front; they’re athletic and no one has really moved the ball on them [other than Oregon State] for the most part. They will be a tough challenge.”
Eifert admits becoming a well-rounded tight end has been a process at a place known for pushing talented players at that position into the NFL.
“I’ve always taken pride in [blocking],” he said. “I always haven’t been the best at it. I’ve tried to improve the best I could and I really made an emphasis to get better. I think I’ve gotten better since I’ve been here — every year — and continue to get better. I wasn’t really a good tight end coming here.”
Even though six weeks went by between touchdown receptions, Eifert remains confident in his decision to return to Notre Dame.
“It’s just nice that we’re winning, said Eifert, who has 15 catches for 246 yards this year compared to 32 receptions for 363 yards and three touchdowns through the first six games of 2011.
Unlike last fall, when the Irish were 4-2 through the first half of the slate, Notre Dame continues to find ways to keep big dreams alive.
“I’d rather come back and be winning than losing,” Eifert added. “But either way, I would have been happy to be back.”