Editor's Note: Much like my boss The Subway Domer earlier in the week, I also had a long, fantastic post regarding today's game and then our site crashed, didn't auto save and I lost it all. This won't be nearly as good or detailed and for that I'm sorry.
With great performances have come higher expectations. In spite of a back-up quarterback facing one of the nation's top ranked defenses, many of us in Notre Dame Nation expected a thumping of the now .500 BYU Cougars. Last week's low scoring affair on the same field was properly labeled a "slugfest", but ND-BYU rightfully earns a "sloppy" attribution. The Irish seemed to get every call and bounce heading into Week 7, but give credit to the team for overcoming a tipped pass off DaVaris Daniel's facemask that led to an interception and a TD catch by BYU that should have been overturned without much debate. The Irish faced adversity, watched their very cool TD streak fall to the wayside and did what they've done all season - found a way to walk off the field with a Win. The only streak that matters is continued zeroes in the Loss Column over zeroes on the scoreboard. When the season is said and done, the 2012 Notre Dame schedule will speak for itself.
Tommy Rees - The interception, missed field goals, and the end of the TD streak weren't his fault. How easy he is for opponents to game-plan is. Even with 2 dropped passes on the afternoon, 7/16 and taking sacks wasn't exactly a "statement game" for a guy with a growing bandwagon of late. Brian Kelly emphatically declared Everett Golson the starter for Oklahoma in the post-game interview with Alex Flanagan. I had written more on this but I'll keep it simple - right call.
Running Backs - If you follow me on Twitter then you caught me updating the rushing numbers of Cierre Wood/Theo Riddick in the 3rd quarter on because Rees was dropping back to pass on 1st down in spite of the combo averaging 8+ yards/carry. That was BEFORE Theo ripped off the 55 yarder that changed the game. When you have 2 backs averaging over 9 yards/carry in the 4th quarter on 20+ carries you should NOT be losing to anyone. Bra-Vo to George Atkinson III whose cut on the winning touchdown is something we haven't seen from him. He is beautiful in the open field on the quick cut, but he's struggled when trying to stop and go. The BYU defender he caught with that beautiful move didn't expect it either. Complete irony that the 6'2, 215 lb sophomore has likely been scolded for 2 years to never stop cut near the end zone in favor of bulldozing people. If he learns to handle both then we've seen a glimpse of our future. The backs plus Andrew Hendrix's cameo totaled 282 yards on the ground at 7.2 yards/carry. Let's see some more of that, huh?
Defense - Manti Te'o wasn't as active as we've seen of late but the big, athletic interception provides that highlight reel footage that drives the modern voting process. With the artist formerly known as Heisman Front-Runner Geno Smith getting embarrassed for the second consecutive week, it's fair to say the Hawaiian senior is possibly #2 on the list with 2 showcase games to lock it down. If Manti's chase for the hardware is sincere, then you're gonna have to start rooting on USC pretty hard. Like, upset Oregon in 2 weeks hard. If Manti plays well against OU, win or lose, he'll get a chance to go one-on-one with Heisman front-runner Matt Barkley in the season's final week and maybe take it or give it away. Kudos also to the Irish secondary who has more excuse than any unit to be looking ahead to next week. The group came out flat and/or discombobulated early. Another second half without allowing a TD works for everyone though.
The Streaks - Screw em because the stats backing up the defense are still silly. Opponents have scored TDs in 2 of the past 22 quarters. Zero rushing TDs allowed still. Zero 2nd half TDs since Purdue. Zero in the loss column.
Special Teams - This kind of performance by the entire unit could turn a 1-3 point win against Oklahoma or USC into a 14-21 point loss. Better is necessary from every unit except maybe kickoff coverage.
Final Notes - Ishaq Williams to TE is still very much on the 2013 table. Let's chalk some of the penalties up to the "Trap Game" features of the game until the Irish commit multiple terrible personal fouls down the road. Danny Spond has played beyond all expectations and is a great story among many on the roster ... unfortunately there will be too many athletes on the field in Oklahoma to have him out there much. Expect to see much more of Elijiah Shumate, Jalen Brown & Josh Atkinson then we have the previous 2 weeks.
Crazy stat - with the 7th win tonight it's the first time Notre Dame will have 3 consecutive winning seasons since Lou Holtz!
Another big win on a schedule that doesn't demand style points. Enjoy it.