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Notre Dame Football: W.I.N. (What’s Important Now) — Sittin’ At Home Eating Cheeseburgers Week

With no competitor to discuss this week except cheeseburgers, prepare to go off the rails a bit during this week’s call!

I am absolutely exhausted after this weekend, good grief. I can’t believe I have to get on this call now and act all positively peppy about this project, even if it’s starting to turn itself around. UGH.

Alright Pat, suck it up and let’s get this done so we can go back to staring wistfully out the window and occasionally wiggling our mouse to ensure Microsoft Teams still shows us as “Busy.”

*presses “Join Call” button*

Gooooood morning everyone, happy Monday!

Yeah my weekend was really nice, got to see plenty of friends and ate plenty of fried food, and now I’m feeling it this morning for sure. How was yours?

Oh nice, yes the weather was lovely, I’m so glad it’s finally fall. Give me light jacket/hoodie weather for as long as possible!

Okay, well I think we’ve got everyone here who should be — ope, there’s Jim. How’s it going, Jim? Yep, no worries, we were just about to start so you haven’t missed anything.

Can everyone see my screen?

Cool, let’s do this. The agenda is the same as usual, so we can jump through that really quick...

And I don’t think any of you need a refresher on W.I.N. or the process we use for this weekly call, but let me know if not and I’d be happy to cover it or discuss offline.

Alllllrighty then, with that said let’s talk through last week’s results — it was truly a nice weekend to be an Irish fan!

I mean, talk about what a difference a week or two makes, as well as the healing effects of facing an atrocious defense! Tommy Rees’s offense came ALIVE in Week 4, scoring 45 points (and they would have broken 50 if not for an Audric Estime goal line fumble) and not only gashing the Tar Heels for 287 yards, 5.6 yards per carry, and 3 touchdowns on 51 carries, but also finding a solid amount of success through the air, as Drew Pyne managed to throw a bit more downfield this week to the tune of nearly 300 yards (289) and 3 touchdowns while once again avoiding throwing any interceptions and completing a solid percentage of his throws (24-for-34 on the day).

Along with the great rushing numbers being a direct result of their dominance up front, the offensive line also only allowed one sack and just generally looked competent again in both aspects of blocking, so that was really fun to see after a suspect first 3 games. That performance, along with Pyne again playing efficient football, allowed for several skill position guys to THRIVE. Estime ran for 134 yards and 2 scores while picking up nearly 8 yards per carry, while Chris Tyree and Logan Diggs both also managed to go over 100 total offensive yards via a combination of carries and receptions.

Tyree ran for 80 yards, 1 TD, and 5.3 yards per carry while also catching 4 passes for 24 yards, while Diggs picked up 50 on the ground at a 5 yards-per-carry clip while also hauling in 3 passes for 65 yards, including an awesome 29-yard throwback pass he scored on with essentially no defenders in the same zip code as him.

Michael Mayer and Lorenzo Styles Jr. continued to be the standouts amongst the receivers, with Mayer catching 7 balls for 88 yards and a 10-yard second-quarter score and Styles snagging 5 passes for 69 yards and scoring on a 30-yard pass less than 3 minutes after Mayer’s touchdown.

Other offensive positives include the Irish converting on 8 of their 14 3rd down opportunities — a 57% mark that well exceeded the 26% clip the team was converting on 3rd down through the first three contests — and dominating time of possession for the game, with that dominant rushing attack leading to a 38:13 to 21:47 split there. Overall, Tommy Rees and the offensive game plan and play-calling he brought to the table were a huge positive — yeah, the UNC defense stinks, but at least Rees’s group did what they should do against a bad team instead of the massive struggles we saw up until now.

Defensively, we all knew the Tar Heels offense was going to score some points considering their lofty stats entering the weekend, but Al Golden’s group did plenty to slow them down, hold them to 32 points (19 points below their season average) and ensure ND could win with a solid offensive performance.

They held UNC to just 6-for-14 on 3rd down, shut down their rushing attack to the tune of 67 total yards and 2.4 yards per carry, and kept Maye to just over 50% completion after he came in averaging over 70%. Rylie Mills finally showed up a bit more like we expected entering the season, notching a couple sacks, and we saw some nice plays from guys like Cam Hart (2 passes defended), Xavier Watts (1 pass defended), and a more solid game from Marist Liufau, who tallied 6 tackles and half a sack.

NCAA Football: Notre Dame at North Carolina Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports

ALSO, the Irish FINALLY forced a turnover, with Justin Ademilola recovering Drake Maye’s fumble and then giving us an excellent celebration afterward:

That, plus a bit cleaner effort in terms of penalties (just 5 of them for 46 yards this week!) is certainly something to build on in terms of not beating themselves with mental mistakes and instead starting to force opponents into making some mistakes.

With all that said, this team is certainly not a finished product yet, and there are still a number of negatives to note and try to improve upon over the off-week coming up. This team has gotta start getting out to a better start on offense, and that problem reared its head again on Saturday. The first two possessions were 10 plays for a total of 23 yards and ended with a punt and a missed field goal — that kind of start will KILL this team against better opponents like Clemson, USC, or even someone like BYU.

Speaking of that missed 44-yard field goal, I don’t think it’s anything to spend too much time on, but ideally Notre Dame should have a kicker who can regularly hit any field goal from less than 45 yards out. Hopefully that was an anomaly and not something Blake Grupe will make a habit of (and to his credit, he did hit a 40-yarder just a couple minutes before halftime, so I think he’ll be alright.

California v Notre Dame Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images

I’ll also call out both the failed 4th-and-1 conversion in the third quarter, as well as Estime’s goal line fumble. For both, the game was really not in doubt anymore so it wasn’t too much harm done, but this offense needs to be able to get 1 yard at-will against a bad defense, and the backs — especially Estime considering his otherwise excellent profile for goal line carries — need to make it a priority to secure the ball in traffic and not get caught reaching for that extra yard too often and have the ball knocked loose in scoring situations (or ever).

The rest of the negatives, I would argue, come on the defensive side. Yes, they were playing a high-powered offense and it’s not like they got absolutely COOKED for most of the game, but they still allowed 32 points and had some tough-to-swallow big plays they allowed, such as that 4th-and-21 touchdown pass to Antoine Green from 64 yards out. They let Green and J.J. Jones get behind them numerous times, as Green also had an 80-yard TD catch and Jones had a couple catches over 25 yards to move the Heels down the field on a couple of their scoring drives.

NCAA Football: Notre Dame at North Carolina Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports

The other negative to note, of course, is J.D. Bertrand managing to start a streak of consecutive games in which he is ejected for targeting and earns a suspension for the first half of the following game.

Yes, I would agree with most of you that this week’s targeting was much more questionable/borderline, but I also don’t think it was as definitely clean as many ND fans are saying it was, and that Bertrand is a senior captain linebacker and needs to simply put himself in better position to not keep having this called on him. I know sometimes that can be difficult for defensive players depending on the scenario, but the Irish linebacking corps is already not playing super well, so losing one of their leaders and better run-support tacklers isn’t going to help much (although if it eventually leads to more time for some better athletes at the position, I do think that could still be nice too).

Alrighty, with the above said, it was really mostly a weekend of positives for this program, which was really refreshing and satisfying after a few weeks of misery and hair-pulling caused by each Saturday’s performance.

Moving right along, let’s quickly take a glance at our Project W.I.N. Scorecard for this week.

We don’t have time to cover this in-depth, but I’m seeing a number of yellows turned to green this week and only a few reds, so great work team on getting caught up on some of those outstanding and overdue action items — things are starting to look up heading into this off weekend!

Okay let’s keep this meeting moving and go ahead and hand out some recognition to this week’s Team Members of the Week!!!

Big shout-outs and thank yous are in store for the ND offensive line (especially Joe and Jarrett), Audric, Chris, Logan, Drew, Michael, Lorenzo, and Rylie — you guys all really stepped up and emulated what it means to be a champion for continuous improvement and going above and beyond in your work. Fantastic work all-around, and make sure to check your inboxes after this meeting for a Chipotle gift card!!!

Okay really quick, I want to briefly discuss my observations from watching the game with some friends at the Ranalli’s West Loop location in Chicago.

Nothing too groundbreaking here, but I just wanted to say that Ranalli’s is an excellent place to watch an ND game, both in terms of food and drink (shout out to the buckets of Diesels we were gulping down during this one) and in terms of atmosphere, as it was obviously very pro-ND and also very anti-Clemson, which we can all get behind.

Also, shout-out to IU for refusing to actually cover but giving us faith they might come back and do so, and also to the Middle Tennessee State Blue Raiders for convincingly beating the Hurricanes and making it very clear, on the same day where Texas couldn’t top Texas Tech, that neither program is anywhere close to “back.”

Okay, let’s turn our attention to this coming week, when Notre Dame will face off against BYE and spend the weekend at home eating cheeseburgers. Of course, when I say that, I’m referencing Charlie Weis’s quote from back in 2006, when he famously said, “One of the teams [Tennessee] that jumped us had the same game that we had. Another team [Florida] that jumped us wasn’t even playing. They were home eating cheeseburgers and they end up jumping us. That befuddles me.”

First of all, great use of “befuddles,” Chuck.

Secondly, in honor of that legendary quote, we’re going to talk Cheeseburgers a bit this week, considering this coming weekend is an off-weekend and thus ND’s only true opponent is the food they’ll be munching on while watching other teams’ games on Saturday.

I won’t spend too much time on this slide, but here’s just a quick overview on Cheeseburgers. As you can see, they can feature various colors depending on what the recipe calls for, and they’re represented by a bevy of both cool and funny and horrifying and lame mascots.

One fun note: it’s claimed that the cheeseburger was founded/invented in 1928, at least according to the state of California. Lionel Sternberger claims that he was working in his father’s sandwich shop and experimented by putting a slice of cheese on a hamburger, founding the American food staple.

However, Kentucky claims a restaurant in Louisville called Kaelin’s invented it in 1934, and Colorado claims Humpty Dumpty Drive-In did so in 1935 (with a 1944 court order and trademark to prove it). So that’s some fun history and controversy there!

And then I’d like to note notable alumni of Cheeseburgers, including Ray Kroc and Dave Thomas, as well as the legendary proprietor of the Krusty Krab, Mr. Eugene Krabs.

Okay, now let’s dive a little deeper and discuss those mascots — I decided I needed to find as many mascots of burger chains as I could, and rank them.

So, let’s do this.

Quick thoughts:

  • McDonald’s crushes it with most of their mascots. The Hamburglar rules, and Mayor McCheese is something I didn’t know until yesterday existed but I love him with all my heart and would vote for him today if I could. Grimace would make a great pulling guard, definitely Quenton Nelson-esque.
  • Curdis, a relatively new mascot Culver’s came out with, is the most adorable food mascot I’ve ever seen, hands down
  • Burger King stinks except for chicken fries, but The King is an elite mascot
  • The Sonic guys are v funny and I feel like there are little phrases from their commercials that became things I say constantly without realizing they came from those Sonic commercials
  • Whataguy is a great name for Whataburger’s mascot
Dallas Mavericks v Phoenix Suns Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images
  • Jack from Jack In The Box scares me — seems like the kind of guy who is a lovable corporate mascot at the beginning of a horror movie only to end up being a sadistic serial killer who asks you if you wanna play a game before torturing and killing you
  • Happy Star is so lame, but I AM a fan of this picture of the Happy Star sitting in a meeting at work
  • Wendy is somehow lamer than Happy Star
  • Ronald McDonald is the devil incarnate — I hate clowns, and he is especially creepy-looking and needs to be abolished

Okay, now, let’s change this conversation slightly. I want to give my personal rankings of these kinds of restaurants — i.e. restaurant chains whose menu features burgers (although they’re allowed to sell lots of other items too, and I won’t be judging solely on the burgers but rather on how I feel about the restaurant chain as a whole).

So, please see this slide, wherein I’m sure you will find lots of things wrong with my rankings and sound off in the comments about how bad my taste is. Fine by me, I’ve spoken my truth.

Some more quick thoughts for context:

  • It’s a homer pick as an Indy native, but Steak ‘n’ Shake is perfect in my humble opinion. Cheap as hell, greasy and delicious, and although the fries aren’t great, you get a lot of them to just supplement the stars of the show, the burgers (Frisco Melt!!!) and milkshakes (strawberry all day)
  • Five Guys is delicious and I love how they just decide to give you a full bag of the heaviest and greasiest fries you could ever want. Also shout-out the billions of peanuts they have in the restaurant
  • McDonald’s isn’t as good as most of these places, but it’s got the best fries of any of them and has a versatile and cheap menu to go along with it. That plus availability everywhere makes me rank it high
  • Culver’s is so so so good — butter burgers and cheese curds ALL DAY
BIZ-FASTFOOD-DRIVETHRU-TB Raquel Zaldivar/Chicago Tribune/Tribune News Service via Getty Images
  • Shake Shack is overpriced and a bit overhyped, but still v good and I’d like to eat it more
  • I’ve only had Cookout once, so I can’t justify ranking it higher, but it’s got a wildly huge and cheap menu so I ride with them for sure
  • Wendy’s has good burgers, a solid spicy chicken sandwich, great chicken nuggets, Frosties, and has a location just down the street from me
  • In N Out is fine, but it’s a victim of its own hype. It’s not that good.
In-n-Out Burger in Badwin Park for Robert Gauthier/Los Angeles Times via Getty Images
  • I used to go to Rally’s with friends in high school because if you bought a Big Buford burger, your receipt would have a survey at the bottom you could take to get a code for a free Big Buford burger the next time you went. So we just paid for one burger and then got free ones every time after that
  • Burger King stinks but the chicken fries are solid
  • Big Boy just makes me laugh, I guess it’s fine but never really thought much of it
  • White Castle is amazing drunk, but what it does to you afterward makes it super low on my list
  • Hardee’s stinks
  • I’ve never had Whataburger, Jack In The Box, or Sonic. Not sure how that’s possible, especially on Sonic, but that’s the truth.

Alright folks, feel free to tear me apart in the comments. I’m sure I deserve it for a number of reasons! To hopefully soften the blow a bit, here’s a classic burger-related video to win me back some favor:

With no opponent roster to comb through this week in order to find the best names, I’ve instead put together a Year-To-Date (YTD) first team lineup of the best names the Irish have squared off against through the first four games:

Major shout-out especially to the UNC and Cal guys littering this group, as well as to the exceptional Marshall and Ohio State names that were too good to leave out as UNC and Cal otherwise dominated the exercise.

What’s your favorite opponent name so far this season?


What’s the best opponent name ND has seen so far this season?

This poll is closed

  • 1%
    British Brooks
    (1 vote)
  • 1%
    Champion Johnson
    (1 vote)
  • 2%
    Trond Grizzell
    (2 votes)
  • 5%
    Diego Pounds
    (4 votes)
  • 57%
    Storm Duck
    (40 votes)
  • 10%
    Tyqaze Leggs
    (7 votes)
  • 2%
    Steele Chambers
    (2 votes)
  • 1%
    Ieremia Ieremia
    (1 vote)
  • 1%
    Major Byrd
    (1 vote)
  • 4%
    Dink Jackson
    (3 votes)
  • 0%
    Power Echols
    (0 votes)
  • 0%
    Trent Holler
    (0 votes)
  • 2%
    Jalen Slappy
    (2 votes)
  • 0%
    Joop Mitchell
    (0 votes)
  • 0%
    Deems May
    (0 votes)
  • 4%
    Lu-Magia Hearns III
    (3 votes)
  • 2%
    Hero Kanu
    (2 votes)
  • 0%
    Jahvaree Ritzie
    (0 votes)
  • 1%
    Stone Scarcelle
    (1 vote)
  • 0%
    Zen Michalski
    (0 votes)
  • 0%
    Other (let us know in the comments)
    (0 votes)
70 votes total Vote Now

So, diving a bit deeper, here are the key competitive insights we need to know about Cheeseburgers this week.

Fairly self-explanatory, but let me know if you have questions and I can circle back with you and connect as needed.

And finally, here’s What’s Important Now for the Irish during their bye week — I would hope the coaches will be all over pushing the team to accomplish these feats and improve in these areas during their off-weekend.

I’d say a lot of this really goes without saying, but I’m going to say it anyway.

Offensively, Tommy and the fellas need to keep building up that run game, finding ways to improve blocking and get Estime, Tyree, and Diggs plenty of room to run. Getting the group a bit healthier will be nice, as I’m sure guys like Patterson could use a week to rest up.

Also, I’d love for Rees to get Steve Angeli some run and a bit further along in knowing the offense — not because I want him to replace Pyne, but because the odds are that at some point he may have to this season. Get him at least to a point where if he needs to take snaps in a game still in doubt, he can run a limited but moderately successful offense.

Also, I hope Tommy has seen how improved the offense can be when you focus on getting the ball to Mayer/Styles/Estime/Tyree, and continues to invent new and creative ways to do so, while also factoring in guys like Eli Raridon and Holden Staes more with Kevin Bauman’s ACL tear, as well as Tobias Merriweather, because it seems like he should be able to do SOMETHING to contribute before the year is over.

Defensively, Al Golden still has plenty to tweak and work out, and I think one spot especially could be linebacker, where the group still hasn’t been sparkling, although they’ve been a bit better recently. Give the young guys some PT in practice and see if any of that speed and athleticism could translate to better results, even with occasional young-guy mistakes!

Finally, this isn’t on the slide but needs to be — this week needs to be a big one for recruiting, as the Irish have had a couple decommitments lately and not much positive momentum, so any work that can be put in on the trail by the staff to try to retain Peyton Bowen, land Jeremiyah Love and Taeshaun Lyons, find another DE or two, etc. would be massive, especially with the team finally starting to turn it around on the field.

Okay, so with all that said, any questions?

Great, well let me know if you think of anything, otherwise I will send the deck out after this call, per usual, for your reference, and I hope everyone has a nice and relaxing and productive week off before our big conference in Vegas the weekend of the 8th!

Alright, talk to you all later — have a great week!

*clicks “End Call” button*

Is 10:30 am too early to order lunch on Uber Eats — I’m thinking Five Guys.