The offense jumped out to an early lead but the defense came crawling back to win the 86th annual Blue Gold Game. Here are 5 quick takeaways from Saturday's action from LaBar Practice Field:
1) There's a noticeable step down to the second-team offensive line
To be expected, of course. We could talk about a lack of a pass rush, however, the defense was able to get consistent pressure against the backups and were often harassing the quarterbacks and running backs when they had the ball.
For a program that has such a deep roster of highly recruited offensive linemen it'll be interested to see who develops this year and takes the next step to a starting role in the future. Anyway, let's hope the starting O-line, which received high praise from head coach Brian Kelly after the game, stays healthy all season long.
2) The running backs showed some flashes
It was surprising to see scholarship runners still carrying the ball well into the second half. Nevertheless, we saw some really good things from everyone today.
Folston continues to be so elusive--with such great feet in tight spaces--and has improved his vision and patience. If he was a little bit faster he'd be a no-brainer NFL running back. Not that he can't play in the NFL someday but the lack of top-end speed is looking like his only negative. As a complete running back, he's developing into the total package.
I still think Bryant struggles with consistently making cuts with good vision (universally always described as dancing too much but I don't think that accurately describes the issue) but he's gaining confidence and showed good burst on Saturday. When he finds a hole he can be special.
C.J. Prosise was corralled in the backfield once or twice and doesn't look super comfortable working in traffic (maybe this is just my bias knowing his skill-set though) yet he moves much quicker than it appears. When he squirts through traffic he can get to full speed very quickly and lower his shoulder too--as he did down the sideline on a helpless defensive back. It's obvious why the coaching staff loves Prosise, as Kelly said he could start at either running back or wide receiver and that it's hard to say he's not part of the best 11 players on offense.
3) The young receivers made some plays
Nothing overwhelming but we saw a touchdown reception from Justin Brent (although he did get a bad holding call that brought back a nice Zaire run), Corey Holmes hauled in 3 passes, and Torii Hunter made a very nice catch over the middle and took a hard shot while holding on to the ball. The catch by Hunter was called back due to a hands to face penalty.
Towards the end of the game we even saw tight end Nic Weishar catch a touchdown pass from walk-on quarterback Montgomery VanGorder.
4) The quarterback competition isn't going away
I'll use 'competition' for now because it's the end of spring and we might as well keep things pleasant. But just you wait. The other 'c' word is waiting, lurking. At some point it will rear its ugly head.
On Saturday both quarterbacks did some nice things. Golson was handing off and running the ball often to begin the scrimmage before opening things up later. Zaire was clearly there to work on passing and came out trying to find some consistency with his arm.
Color commentator Doug Fluite mentioned it several times during the broadcast that there's been a greater emphasis on Golson getting a little deeper on his zone read mesh point. That looked to help Golson make better reads. Besides that, Golson was a little inaccurate on a couple screens but kept things pretty conservative with his decision making finishing 7 of 15 for 83 yards.
Zaire had a good game, capped off by a beautiful 68-yard touchdown pass to Will Fuller. The deep ball isn't supposed to be Zaire's strength but that was heartening to see such a perfectly thrown ball. Overall, Zaire missed on some throws but you have to be happy with a pair of touchdown passes. He finished 8 of 14 for 137 yards.
5) The NDCallThePlay was a dud
Notre Dame got both quarterbacks involved on a reverse that gave the ball back to Golson who cut back in the opposite direction and fired a ball deep down field to Malik Zaire.
It looked like Zaire would come down with it but he waited for the ball to come to him and it was intercepted by safety Max Redfield. But hey, a safety come across the field and made a play! Progress!
#NDCallThePlay pic.twitter.com/iM7jOm235D— Notre Dame Football (@NDFootball) April 18, 2015
Welcome to the post-spring off-season!