Notre Dame Blue-Gold Game: No Surprises

Apr 20, 2013; Notre Dame, IN, USA; Notre Dame Fighting Irish quarterback Malik Zaire (8) slides in the third quarter of the Notre Dame Blue-Gold Game at Notre Dame Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Matt Cashore-USA TODAY Sports

Nose tackle Louis Nix’s scoring rush from shotgun was essentially the lone surprise in the Notre Dame Blue-Gold Game on Saturday.

Returning a host talent from the 2012 BCS runner-up Fighting Irish, there was never going to be too much drama in South Bend. Quarterbacks Everett Golson and Tommy Rees both took significant snaps.

Golson and Rees split duties last season, although the freshman Golson was the undisputed starter. The two bring different skill sets to the Notre Dame offense. Golson has reportedly shown more confidence this offseason, and made a few nice plays both with his arm and feet.

Here are highlights from NBC Sports:

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Perhaps the biggest change for the 2012 Fighting Irish was head coach Brian Kelly handing over offensive play calling duties to Chuck Martin. Even this is an incremental shift, as the Notre Dame offense looked very familiar. Tight end has long been central to the Fighting Irish offensive philosophy, and this year Troy Niklas could follow in the footsteps of Tyler Eifert and Kyle Rudolph before him.

George Atkinson III looks comfortable as the Fighting Irish’s feature back, despite taking a massive hit from linebacker Carlo Calabrese early on. A mic’d Kelly let Atkinson know to keep his pad level low.

Strengths/Weaknesses

This remains a team built on its defense, evident in that side’s 54-43 win. Since spring scrimmages are controlled, and the scoring convoluted — every program keeps count differently — gleaning too much from the final is futile. However, Golson and the offense will feed off stops and turnovers from the opposite side.

To that end, Nix is the anchor. NBC color analyst Mike Mayock stressed Nix keeping his weight down. He played near 340 pounds last season, but is closer to 350 currently. Remaining quick on his feet and drawing blockers away from the edges is critical for the Irish to effectively establish pass rush. Notre Dame should make its bones in that facet come 2013.

The offense’s progression this offseason is paramount if UND is to get another shot at the BCS championship. While much was made of Alabama’s ability to run on the Irish defense last January — and rightfully so — the inability to sustain drives exacerbated the problem. Notre Dame made a habit of struggling to move the ball last season well before meeting the Crimson Tide in Miami. A talented backfield lines up alongside the quarterbacks, but Kelly needs Golson to become the play maker he was recruited to be.

Topics: Football, Notre Dame Fighting Irish

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