Notre Dame Football: Is Tommy Rees the Irish MVP Through 7 Games?

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Notre Dame Football: Is Tommy Rees the Irish MVP Through 7 Games?
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The Fighting Irish of Notre Dame escaped their own stadium for the second week in a row with a narrow victory that could only be called ugly.

The defense did its job once again, limiting a good Brigham Young offense to 243 yards and holding them to 14 points. As it has done all year, Bob Diaco's unit again won the turnover battle, keeping the Irish in the game to earn the win.

The offense, on the other hand, once again struggled to gain traction and is having difficulty finding an identity.

Points are increasingly hard to come by for Notre Dame, which had 1st-and-goal five times and scored only two touchdowns.

Despite rushing for 270 yards and gaining 389 in total, the Irish managed only 17 points and trailed 14-10 entering the fourth quarter.

Kyle Brindza was again erratic, missing a pair of short field goals that nearly came back to cost Notre Dame the game.

Luckily for the Irish and their home crowd, the efforts of Cierre Wood and Theo Riddick were enough to prevail.

BYU deserves some credit, as their defense played well early and applied pressure on the quarterback whenever Notre Dame decided to throw the ball.

They adjusted well to the quick throws that today's starter Tommy Rees was making, limiting the junior to one completion after the first quarter.

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The problem for Notre Dame is that the defensive adjustments and issues on offense are nothing new.

Brian Kelly's usually up-tempo offense seems to be stuck in mud. Plays take forever to reach the field, and when they do, there usually needs to be a sight adjustment by the quarterback.

Despite an almost constant seven- or eight-man front, Notre Dame does not throw to the middle. All throws are to the outside of the field, almost always to the sidelines.

The only over-the-middle throws seem to come in the red zone, and they usually involve a jump ball to Tyler Eifert.

Because Kelly seems to be calling the offense not to lose—rather than to win—no single player is truly standing out as the player that the opposition must stop.

No running back is on pace to come near 1,000 yards.

Following a career day, Theo Riddick leads the team with 451 yards on 95 carries with three scores. The senior averages 4.7 yards per attempt, which is lowest among the three carry leaders.

Cierre Wood, who is without a doubt the team's most talented running back, appears to be stuck in Kelly's doghouse, as he has 30 fewer touches than Riddick but has gained only 58 fewer yards and one less touchdown. Wood averages six yards per carry.

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The most explosive seems to be George Atkinson III, who has a couple of breakaway scores and is tied for the team lead with three TDs. Atkinson has gained 301 yards on 37 attempts for 8.1 yards per average.

 

No receiver has stepped up to pull the double-team off of Tyler Eifert, with T.J. Jones the most consistent, pulling in 21 receptions for 275 yards and a pair of scores.

The true difficulty with Notre Dame's offense may in fact be the same as it was a year ago—poor quarterback play.

Redshirt freshman Everett Golson has been inconsistent in six games, connecting on 58.5 percent of his throws with four touchdowns and three interceptions.

He has also ran the ball often, scoring twice but fumbling three times.

Golson has shown a mixed bag of promise and youth, at times playing extremely well and in others looking completely lost.

In tough games against Michigan and Stanford, Golson was, for most of the time, overwhelmed by the opposition, and Notre Dame was forced to survive rather than dominate. 

Three times this year, it took a "closer," as Brain Kelly calls him, to come in and finish the job.

Matt Cashore-US PRESSWIRE

For this reason, it is possible that Tommy Rees is the team's MVP through the team's 7-0 start.

In no way spectacular, and in no way likely to unseat Golson as the starter, Rees has, if nothing else, been a steady hand.

Numbers say that he is very similar to Golson, completing 58 percent of his throws, gaining 8.17 yards per attempt (a yard better than Golson each dropback), with two touchdowns, one interception and a rushing score.

 

What the numbers don't say about what Rees has done is that most of his action was in make-or-break situations.

In Notre Dame's second game, Rees entered with 1:20 remaining after Purdue's game-tying touchdown.

Everett Golson had fumbled on Notre Dame's last offensive play, setting up the Boilermakers to even the score at 17.

On the first play, Rees threw quickly for Eifert and drew a flag, moving the ball to the Notre Dame 45.

Rees then connected on three of his next seven attempts (one was a clock play), moving the ball to the Purdue 10-yard line, where Kyle Brinza hit the game-winner with seven seconds remaining.

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Two weeks later against Michigan, Rees again had to come on for an ineffective Golson. 

Rees completed 8-of-11 attempts for 115 yards in two and a half quarters of relief work. Rees also scored the game's only touchdown and completed a crucial fourth-quarter third down to seal Notre Dame's 13-6 victory.

Rees' most impressive relief appearance came after starter Everett Golson was unable to finish the Stanford game due to a late fourth-quarter concussion.

Rees entered a rain-soaked affair, trailing by three with less than three minutes remaining, and he led the Irish to the equalizing field goal with 20 seconds remaining.

 

Notre Dame began the overtime session with a false start penalty and a sack, setting up 2nd-and-16 at the Stanford 32-yard line.

Rees then connected with DeVaris Daniels for nine, Theo Riddick for 16 while beating a blitz and then found T.J. Jones on a slant for the winning touchdown.

Rees inexplicably has been more impressive in relief than when starting. In two starts, he has turned in rather pedestrian efforts.

Rees has played sparingly in four games and was very average in a complete fifth. That a quarterback with that resume could be in any way considered an MVP of a 7-0 team speaks volumes about just how troubled the offense really is.

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Today, No. 5 Notre Dame out-rushed unranked BYU 270-66 and won by three.

The offense accumulated 389 total yards, but they missed two field goals and only scored 17 points.

Thankfully, the defense is all that you would expect out of one ranked in the Top Five.

But some day soon, probably next week in Norman against the No. 9 Sooners of Oklahoma, the Irish offense will have to stand on its own and win a football game.

The Irish are 7-0 and deserving of their Top Five ranking.

They have already achieved bowl eligibility and look to be headed for their best record since 2006. The seven-game win streak is the longest since the Irish started 8-0 in 2002.

Unless Notre Dame can find a lot more offense next week in Norman, this year's streak will not reach eight.

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