Alabama certainly came back with a strong showing against Texas A&M after critics nitpicked a 14-13 victory over Arkansas enough to set head coach Nick Saban off. Now, as the Crimson Tide get set to travel to Tennessee, the offensive line should get a little stronger. Center Ryan Kelly will return to the starting line-up…
They are already talking about it all over the airwaves in Florida. Dan Mullen needs to replace Will Muschamp in Gainesville.
While the Gator faithful may put on a full court press to secure the offensive mind to come back the school that he helped win two national titles in the last eight seasons, the move may not be the best for the head man in Starkville. It looks like he and his Mississippi State Bulldogs are having too much fun being the best team in college football right now.
So why leave?
I am pretty sure at the end of the season, there will be more than just the Gator Nation who will want Mullen’s services, but I am also betting he stays put.
Here are a few reasons why.
Steve Spurrier had Bobby Bowden. Pat Dye had Vince Dooley. Bo had Woody and right now, Gus Malzahn has Nick Saban. College football is all about the rivalries and personalities that make up great traditions. This year, no greater game to be played is the Egg Bowl. And Mullen and Hugh Freeze are the two hottest coaches in the country.
If Mullen moves on to another school, he will have to gain some more momentum in the recruiting battles that lie ahead. Right now, his team is the best in the nation, which is appealing. Plus his time at Florida affords him a chance to go into the state and recruit players based on his reputation. Also – should he move on to a bigger school, he competes with larger quantities of programs. Basically, The Bulldogs and the Rebels are the only game in two for big time college football.
A BIG FISH IN A LITTLE POND
Someone asked my yesterday why not go to Florida and build the school up. EXACTLY! Why leave a school where you are a huge fish in a small pond where winning has not been as successful as you would like in the past? It took Mullen a few years to get here. Remember 8-4 was the accepted norm in Starkville. Now, with this season, 10 wins will be expected and a goal this team with restocking of players can be achieved with his leadership.
IT’S THE SEC
That is the biggest reason of all. Florida may be in the SEC and other schools may come calling like Miami, possible North Carolina, and Michigan. But playing in the SEC West, which proved to be the better division this year in SEC play, is what coaches dream of doing.
If Mullen were to leave for another program, Mississippi State may take a few steps back (like Vanderbilt with James Franklin). The alumni and the athletic department will do whatever it has to so Mullen remains on campus for a while.
FLORIDA DOES NOT OFFER HIM A BETTER CHANCE FOR SUCCESS
Why does everyone think that Florida can offer Mullen the best chance to be the best? The Florida program right now is in a state of Emergency. The offense needs help. Kurt Roper cannot fix it. That affects recruiting. While there are many people who want to see Mullen in orange and blue, there are some who are cognizant of the fact Mullen worked under Urban Meyer. Association may backfire.
While Mullen knows the spread offense, making it a staple in Gainesville again may not be the best idea.
There are moments when players come along and wow a program and put it on the map. Dak Prescott was an afterthought amongst All-American picks. At the beginning of the season, he was third or fourth in comparison to other passers in the SEC – a conference that lost more pure talent behind center in 2014 than it had lost in the past decade.
Prescott is now the favorite to win the Heisman Trophy over Marcus Mariota, Todd Gurley who is not playing, Melvin Gordon and Amari Cooper. He has proven to be better than Auburn’s Nick Marshall as well. And chances are, he stays to play next season.
And there’s no getting over defeat no matter how close a game is.
But for Irish faithful and a gritty football team, comfort (in small quantities) can be had based on Saturday’s outcome against Florida State.
Especially when many come away with the thought the Irish were the better team despite the final score:
~Florida State never led this game until late
~Notre Dame outgained the Noles 157 yards to 50 on the ground
~Notre Dame had more 1st downs-26 to 18
~Notre Dame led in time of possession
~Notre Dame held the Noles to 323 total yards
There is alot to take away from the game and many will debate whether or not the Irish will make it back to the top of the rankings and punch a spot into the four team playoff. Their schedule is daunting still, even after Saturday night.
Still to come for Notre Dame are road games against Arizona State and USC. Northwestern comes into South Bend as does Louisville- two teams playing solid football.
Should the Irish win out, everything should take care of itself.
Now, the matter at hand and the aftermath of last night’s game:
The Irish Defensive Line
The group many projected as a work in progress has legitimized itself as one of the best in the nation.
Led by Sheldon Day, Jarron Jones and Isaac Rochell and freshman Andrew Trumbetti- the Irish defense all but extinguished a Seminole running game.
Brain VanGorder’s scheme to blitz all night proved acouple of things:
-The front 7 overall will challenge any offense in the country, even the defending champs- to a slugfest
-The play of Jaylon Smith and Joe Schmidt combined is perhaps the best tandem in college
The group held Florida State to minimal 50 yards rushing, but most impressive was the late stance that forced Florida State to punt late to give the Irish one last chance for the win.
With 5:12 left late in the fourth, Florida State was pinned deep in it’s own end zone.
On consecutive plays, the Irish dropped Noles runningback Dalvin Cook for combined losses of 8 yards.
One such hit was a massive crush dealt by Sheldon Day.
Moments later, Noles punter Cason Beatty would punt away to the Irish-giving Notre Dame the ball with 2:53 left to pull out a last second score.
The Late Touchdown and Everett Golson
Fourth and goal.
Time running out.
Title dreams on the line.
A quarterback on the field that missed an entire season returns to lead his team towards another undefeated season.
To this moment, he has played out of his mind, outplayed the Heisman quarterback on the other sideline, and has led his team on a last second drive when he needed to.
Everett Golson is a champion for the way he has played thus far in 2014, and last night a national audience saw the talented quarterback thrive on the national stage- in a hostile environment that proved to have zero effect with it’s tired 1980′s “chop”.
With 2:53 left to play, Golson found himself sacked on a 3rd and 12 play- leaving a USC Bush Push miracle to come.
Moments before the actual Bush play, Irish defensive back Ambrose Wooden gave up a 4th and forever to USC, allowing the Trojans another oppurtunity to continue on.
In similiar fashion, Golson and the Irish were faced with a 4th and 18 on their own 43 yard line.
Golson would scramble and eventually fling a pass to Corey Robinson for the first down. Moments later, Golson would find the alleged culprit on the holding penatly, CJ Prosise , down to the 2 yard line with a 6 yard completion.
The next play was where legend steps out of it’s shell and reveals itself.
It has catapulted Irish quarterbacks into the history books.
Brady Quinn to Jeff Samardjza against UCLA late for the win.
Joe Montana in the Cotton Bowl.
Golson hit Corey Robinson with what would have been Robinson’s 3rd touchdown on the night. Replays show Winston on the sideline in despair, knowing full well his team has just been upended on a last second strike.
Everett Golson did it.
The one-time exiled national championship wanderer that returned to salvage the fate for Notre Dame football in 2014 led his team down the field in epic ways.
Scrambling and running for first downs.
Finding receivers for first downs as the teams fate hung in the balance.
Seconds later, after players celebrated on one sideline and others contemplated their first defeat in 2 years- flags reared their ugly head.
The debate continues as to which Irish player was called for holding,CJ Prosise or Will Fuller, but it was made clear that a classic game was dealt it’s fate by a circumstance not determined by the players of either team.
A penalty stands and the Irish receivers that played a remarkable game will now have to remove the last second infraction from their minds and go forward.
And the legend of one Everett Golson elevates itself again.
Regardless of the penalty and erased touchdown, Golson won the game-period.
He did everything he was asked and was supposed to do.
He executed the plays, completed the passes and sustained the late game drive towards victory.
A loss will never remove doubt with what he accomplished Saturday night.
This is what champions are made of.
And his time will come.
Jimbo Fisher-The Snake Oil Salesman
Many people despise the silky Urban Meyer for his approach when it comes to recruiting. Lane Kiffin didn’t exactly operate under proper guidelines when it comes to tact.
And Nick Saban may have set the bar high for a coach many would otherwise rather see back in the NFL.
Last night, FSU head coach Jimbo Fisher erased any doubt who leads the pack when it comes to college football coaches that resort to any measure when it comes to seediness and ‘win at all costs’ guidelines.
It wasn’t enough to ask the coach about the win and the way the game played out in the final moments and take in the winning coaches remarks.
An instant classic was in hand right up until the moment he expanded on ‘his team’ and their chemical makeup.
Keep in mind, his university is looking into his prized quarterback for NCAA infractions regarding autographs and money received, a rape allegation, a NY Times report sighting multiple players involved in destruction of property with air guns and another player involved in the theft of a motor scooter. All of which have been cloaked by a local police force alleged to have turned a blind eye when athletes were found to be at fault.
Sometimes the guilty or those somewhat involved just can’t resist the spotlight and Fisher was willing to go the extra mile:
On the team overall:
“The heart and discipline in that room. There’s character, there’s heart, there’s a team full of great kids. It’s a high character program that’s ran the right way on class, on dignity, in the classroom, on the field and off the field and this team shows it.”
“To understand what he did and just how special he is,” Fisher said. “And the relationship he and I have, the relationship he has with the team and what he represents and to carry himself with class and dignity.”
Class and dignity?
I’m sure a handful of female students, among others- would wholeheartedly argue that statement.
And the students and residents that suffered property damage would need some clarification on the dignity aspect regarding the actions of some players that destroyed their property.
The cases of Winston and the Florida State players may or not move forward soon and penalties are still undetermined where Winston’s fate is concerned overall.
One thing is very clear: 80,000 plus fans cheered in unison for a player with at best shady doings under his helmet and perhaps a few players that broke some laws.
And their coach legitimized their actions.
Where Do The Irish Go From Here?
The smoke has somewhat cleared.
And even into Sunday, the final play is still being debated and in need of some clarity.
Now, an alleged removal of a helmet by a Florida State player is being added to the already complicated equation of the final touchdown erased for the Irish.
The helmet removal would draw a flag as well, offsetting the penalties and offering the Irish yet another chance to pull out the win.
Got to hand it to coach Brian Kelly.
He has turned the fate of Notre Dame Football a complete 360 from where it was after Charlie Weis buried it.
And even a day after a big game, he is still firing his weapon.
Combined with a stout defense, a good running game that found itself a bit Saturday night and of course the phenomenal play of Golson accompanied by some dynamic receivers, this team is not done winning games and stamping a playoff spot by any stretch.
The only thing left to do is determine which team will continue on in 2014: The Florida State team or the team that played flawed football againt North Carolina.
The Irish are good enough to not only compete with any team in the country-but win.
ESPN homers like Collin Cowherd and Kirk Herbstreet will never turn over. They will never engulf themselves in the entirity of what Notre Dame has become under Brian Kelly.
And not knowing the players involved leads to clouded thinking and single opinions that only change when the calander year flips again.
During last nights broadcast, Herbstreet commented about a pre game encounter with Cam McDaniel.
He remarked about his stature with basically “that’s the Irish back?”
Homework would recall “the little engine that could” was the Texas Class 5A player of the year his senior year. That’s a big thing down in Texas Mr. Herbstreet, especially in the largest class in all of high school football in perhaps the richest ground of blue chip players.
The beat goes on with the pundits and has over the years.
Neyland Stadium in 2004. SEC speed against the Irish? The #9 Tennessee Vols will dismantle Notre Dame.
Result? 17-13 Irish victory.
2012. Not able to compete, unathletic.
Result? Title game.
Collin Cowherd embarked the last few weeks about the high ranking the Irish attained by stating several teams below the Irish could beat them.
“Are you telling me the Irish are better…..?” Yes, Collin- they are.
The stagnant opinion that the Irish roster can’t compete in the era of the “SEC Athlete” is overdone and in long need of an overhaul.
Brian Kelly has stuffed a roster full of athletes.
Not just big, tough players.
Athletic ‘dudes’ that can hit and are fast, alah Jaylon Smith.
A defensive end like Trumbetti is morphing into a top end defensive player.
The play of back end players like Cole Luke and Max Redfield continue to add strength to a unit that lost it’s star to academic infractions.
The backfield is full of 4 and 5 star SEC sought after players.
Will Fuller is perhaps the best receiver in the game. Corey Robinson starts on any other roster.
The 2 best kickers in the nation were on the field last night.
As were the nation’s 2 best quarterbacks.
So the pieces of the puzzle are there, no question about it.
What the Irish must do now is play to their roster’s ability, which will yield a team like Saturday night.
From there, they can win out and finish the season at 11-1.
But all is lost if they shed their armour from last night and pitch into a storage bin for keepsakes.
A momento from “what almost was”.
Lose another game and Saturday becomes an anomaly.
No person is talking about Florida State this week in the context of their play and the caliber of team they are.
The shows are cluttered with the play of the Irish- and how all teams are beatable.
The Noles were beat last night by a better team and former player Danny Kanell said as much in the aftermath suggesting a win in another venue for the Irish.
That doesn’t legitimize Notre Dame football in 2014.
What will is moving on from the finality and progressing.
Clean up some turnover issues.
Improve some offensive line mistakes.
The Irish have a week off before they return on the road against Navy.
Win out and stamp what you fulfilled against the reigning champions.