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Notre Dame Football: W.I.N. (What’s Important Now) — Wisconsin Week

Yes, I know I’m sunburned. Please don’t feel the need to point that out on the call.

Good lord, I’m tired — this is what I get for tailgating in the heat at age 30: multi-day hangovers and...let’s check the video preview before I actually join the meeting...

YEP, it is VERY obvious how sunburnt I got sitting in Notre Dame Stadium for 4 hours. Faaaantastic — thanks Mom and Dad for my beautiful, pasty Irish skin!

*deeeeeep breath*

Okay, let’s just suck it up and join the call — soon enough you’ll be sharing your screen and they won’t even really be looking at your tomato-red face that much. Maybe they won’t even notice, or at least say anything.

*clicks “Join Call” button*

Good morning everybody! How are you all doing?

Well that’s good, yep I did have a nice weekend...and you’re absolutely correct, I was outside — I went to the Notre Dame game on Saturday and it was super hot and sunny, and despite my use of sunscreen, I still managed to get burnt. Gotta love it!

Yeah, they won so that was nice, at least — really hope we get that cool fall weather soon, though!

Okay, so I think we’ve got everybody at this point, and if not, we can catch them up later. Let’s get started...can you all see my screen?

Awesome, let’s jump right into it — the agenda is the same as usual, so I won’t tarry on this slide...

And I think at this point I don’t need to cover the W.I.N. definition or process, but they’re always in here for your reference!

Okay awesome, so let’s cover last week’s results — I would argue there was more positive than negative this week, but plenty in both categories to discuss!

Offensively, Bellyman and Avery Davis were absolute studs — Bellyman got it done both on the ground and through the air, and Davis appeared to be the only receiver who really came to play. That 62-yard TD catch was absolutely beautiful. Oh, and shout-out to the offensive line: they still weren’t great, but there were some better moments from them this time around.

Unfortunately, the o-line still wasn’t fantastic by any stretch of the imagination, allowing 4 more sacks (holding the team steady as being tied for 5th-worst in the country in that stat) and accomplishing just a 3.5 yards-per-carry average for Irish runners. They weren’t the only ones who didn’t perform how we all wanted, though — Kevin Austin had a rough day, seemingly dropping anything thrown well to him and also seemingly being overthrown by Coan every time he burned a DB deep. Meanwhile, Braden Lenzy dropped the one big-time opportunity he got in the end zone, and Michael Mayer might as well have not been out there (although his presence probably drew lots of Purdue LB/DB attention off of his teammates, so I suppose there’s always that).

Defensively, the pass rush continues to get it done (ND now sits tied for 4th in the country in sacks per game), with Justin Ademilola, NaNa Osafo-Mensah, Isaiah Foskey, and Myron Tagovailoa-Amosa all getting in on the action. Meanwhile, JD Bertrand continues to just be the vacuum cleaner he typically is out there, cleaning everything up and collecting 12 tackles (1 for a loss) on the day. He’s currently 5th in the country in tackles.

We also saw Cam Hart break up a couple passes and DJ Brown reel in an interception to seal the victory, so that was nice to see some non-Kyle Hamilton DBs make some moves.

Oh, and speaking of Kyle, he just had a ho-hum game where he tallied 10 tackles, had 2 passes defended, showed impressive reflexes and hands on an interception in the end zone, and made a solo tackle for loss on a 4th down stop that will almost certainly be played various times in April 2022 when he goes in the top 5 of the NFL Draft.

One more positive: the big drum got left outside the stadium, and that’s hilarious.

One more negative: the sun was an absolute dick to everyone in attendance who didn’t get the shade of the press box, and I have the sunburn to prove it.

Alright, now if we continue to our scorecard, you’ll see we’re looking a biiiit better in terms of less red, but still a number of open items and still plenty more red action items than we’d like to see. Let’s really try to close some of these out this week if possible.

Marcus made some progress on fixing the defense, as they held the Boilermakers to just 13 points and really slowed down Brohm’s offense. We’ll see how they build on that over the coming weeks, as locking down Purdue doesn’t necessarily mean everything is good there now — so it’s been upgraded to yellow, not green.

We’ve got red action items owned by Tommy and Jeff and Kevin/Michael, as the use of Buchner was less than ideal on Saturday, ND’s two best receivers accomplished next to nothing through the air, and the offensive line continued to underperform. Avery Davis completed his task of being the sole reliable passing target, though, having a fantastic game where he made all kinds of catches and big plays.

We’ve got a completed action item from Jack S., who helped shut down that big drum from playing a part on gameday. So that was a nice little victory for the project and for lovers of pettiness everywhere, no doubt.

A couple other nice completed action items come from yours truly, as I managed to garner a multitude of compliments from strangers as I walked by them on my way to a friend’s tailgate carrying a warm 12-pack of Budweisers (which my friends and I call “Diesels”). For some reason, everyone was loving that vibe and needed to tell us about it — one person even told her friend on the phone about it, which was odd but amazing.

The second was more lucky than intentional, but I managed to sit between two different couples who were kind enough to give me a bottle of water, free of charge, during one of the hotter ND games I can remember ever attending.

I’d gone down during late halftime hoping to have missed some of the long lines, only to find the worst concession stand lines I’d seen potentially ever. I also waited in a line at a little “pit-tato” stand (what the hell was this, by the way? what are they selling?) only to find out that they had no more bottled water, despite what their sign said.

So, I came back to my seat defeated, mentioned the ridiculous lines off-handedly, and the lady to my right immediately gave me an extra bottle of water they were given by mistake earlier. Then, mid-3rd quarter, the woman on my left asked if I wanted a water from her concession stand run she was about to make, and refused to accept any cash from me.


Footage of me before those wonderful people gave me water:

Lastly, I want to call out the red item for the fan sitting behind me at the game, as he talked and shouted things as if he were someone who actually knew what he was talking about, but he absolutely did not.

Here are some takes/great moments he had:

  • The 2021 ND team is the worst Irish team “since 2008, the year they went 3-9”...never mind that there was that pesky 4-8 team 5 years ago, or that 2008 was a 6-6 season and 2007 was the season he wanted there...he didn’t care!
  • Kevin Austin should’ve been benched, specifically after that really tough catch he almost came down with on a deep jump ball, but didn’t. Yes, friend, let’s bench our best receiver for not coming down with a highlight-reel catch.
  • After Kyle’s INT, he turned to the person next to him and said, “Is that his 5th or 6th of the year?” It was his 3rd.
  • He kept yelling “Go Notre Dame!” instead of saying “Go Irish!” like a normal fan. Yelling “Go Notre Dame!” sounds like someone pretending to be a Notre Dame fan who also knows nothing about the team
  • He was really pissed off about the clock not running once it was determined Bellyman didn’t get that first down with like 2 minutes left. Never mind that the game was over anyway and it wasn’t that big of a deal and no one of note could hear him anyway — he was shouting about it for at least 2 minutes, screaming “START THE CLOCK!!!!” over and over at no one in particular

He was not enjoyable to sit in front of, you guys.

Okay, now that we’ve covered the scorecard in its entirety, it’s time for our favorite part of these meetings — Team Members of the Week!!!!

I won’t spend a ton of time here because I’ve already mentioned all these guys — so I just want to say CONGRATS to Bellyman, Avery, JD, and Kyle — you guys absolutely crushed it and made lots of huge plays that turned the tide of the game, in my humble opinion. Be on the lookout for your digital Chipotle gift cards in your inboxes!!!

Okay, now let’s turn our attention forward. Here’s the competitor overview we’ve put together about the Wisconsin Badgers.

I’ll let you review this in detail in your free time, but just want to point out that Wisconsin is the alma mater of some incredible people, including the inventor of SpaghettiOs, the man who coined the word “tractor,” the actress who plays the mom in Malcolm in the Middle, and someone named Yung Gravy. That’s just an exceptional crew of alumni.

Okay, now let’s dive a little deeper — what should we know about this Wisconsin team, specifically?

I’m not sure if you guys are all aware, but ND QB Jack Coan actually played at Wisconsin prior to coming to the Irish this off-season. He was their starter in 2019 when they went to the Rose Bowl, but was hurt last year, allowing Graham Mertz — a former blue-chip recruit — to step in, play decently (1,238 yards, 61% completion, 9 TD, 5 INT in 7 games in 2020), and ultimately get handed the starting job going forward.

Coan, of course, didn’t want to finish his career on the bench, and so he grad-transferred to the good guys and now will be playing in a revenge game of sorts, although he would never admit in an interview he looks at it that way.

Other things to note are basically the same talking points about Wisconsin for the last 20 years — they run the ball well, and their defense is hard-nosed, tough, and stingy. Former Clemson running back (and former ND recruiting target) Chez Mellusi leads them in rushing with 265 yards and 2 TD on 5.2 yards per carry, while backup Isaac Guerendo (an Indiana kid overlooked by all the Indiana schools) has 148 yards and a touchdown on a very strong 8.7 yards per carry.

NCAA Football: Eastern Michigan at Wisconsin Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports

The Badgers defense, meanwhile, is #2 in the country in total defense, #11 in scoring defense, #23 in pass defense, and #1 in run defense. Those rankings are through just two games and thus their stats are a bit skewed thanks to playing Eastern Michigan two weeks ago, but still — Jim Leonhard’s defense is a very good one and will provide ND’s offense with easily their biggest challenge yet.

Finally, the last thing to note is just that this is a home game for the Badgers, despite Soldier Field being just 94 miles from Notre Dame Stadium, whereas it’s 149 miles from Camp Randall. That will probably have no bearing on the football game, but it’s just a funny quirk here (similar to how odd it would have been last year at Lambeau, with ND as the home team).

Okay, we’re basically at time, so really quick, here’s What’s Important Now for this week:

A lot of this is similar to past weeks, especially the offensive line needing to step up, the defense needing to wrap up and also get QB pressure, the receivers needing to bring their A-games considering the Irish’s running struggles, and Tommy Rees needing to use Buchner more and more aggressively.

One additional note — with Wisconsin being a run-first team with a stingy defense that likes eating up time of possession, it’s critical that the Notre Dame offense comes out firing and builds an early lead, forcing Graham Mertz and the Badgers to play a little outside their comfort zone. I’m hoping Tommy takes some shots to Austin/Lenzy/Davis early, and/or gets Mayer cookin’ ASAP.

Alright, well it looks like we’re at time — does anyone have any questions?

Per usual, sounds like that’s a no.

Great, well one last thing — if you check the appendix of this week’s deck, which I will send you all the link for, there’s a nice little chart that outlines Purdue’s performance with and without their drum present. I think it’s a really useful slide, so feel free to forward it to any of your Boilermaker friends!

Alright guys, have a great week and I’ll be in touch on a lot of those action items!

*Clicks “End Call” button*

Alright, time to go rub some aloe on my forehead and then spend 5 work days wasting as much time as possible until Saturday arrives once again!