Notre Dame Football: Winners and Losers of 2013 Blue and Gold Spring Game
Notre Dame took the field this Saturday for the first time since its loss to Alabama in the BCS national championship.
On a chilly spring day in South Bend, the 84th annual Blue-Gold spring game saw the Blue team win 54-43, besting a Gold team that was led by Everett Golson.
Expectations were high as veteran senior players and early enrollees from the 2013 freshman class took the field at Notre Dame stadium for this first (and last) time until the fall.
Let's take a look at the winners and losers of the 2013 spring game.
Winner: Louis Nix
If you watched the game, you know why.
Big Lou had a typically great game at his regular spot on nose guard, but the real surprise came late in the game.
In the fourth quarter, "Irish Chocolate" surprised everyone when he took over quarterback duties on a two-point conversion and ran the ball into the end zone, "Belldozer" style.
Nix's run was largely unopposed by defenders because, really, who was going to try to bring the 340-pound nose guard down?
Kelly himself called the play when he shouted, "Irish Chocolate!" repeatedly from the sideline.
"Quarterback is a difficult position," he told NBCSN's Alex Flanagan during postgame coverage.
Don't expect to see Lou in the offensive backfield this fall, but this was definitely the play of the game.
Winner: The Front Seven
This may not be a huge surprise, but the Irish front seven looked as good as ever during the Blue-Gold game.
This came as a relief to many, as there were subtle concerns about the integrity of the line after defensive stars Manti Te'o and Kapron Lewis-Moore moved on to the NFL.
Speaking of Te'o, he was on the sidelines cheering on the Irish and told Alex Flanagan of NBCSN in a sideline interview that he thought the defense would be "great" this season and that he expected Prince Shembo and Louis Nix to provide leadership.
Defensive play of the game goes to linebacker Carlo Calabrese, when he absolutely annihilated running back George Atkinson III.
Winner and Loser: TJ Jones
In a game that was not exactly action-packed, Jones displayed flashes of greatness while fielding passes from Golson and Rees.
While nothing he did was blow-your-hair-back amazing, he proved that he can catch the football in traffic and make a decent run once the ball is in his hands. This is important because with star tight end Tyler Eifert out of the picture, Jones will be the go-to receiver.
Unfortunately, his performance on special teams was not as inspiring; he actually managed to drop a fair-catch punt.
Which brings us to our first loser...
Loser: Special Teams
Well, they didn't get any worse, but that doesn't exactly say much.
Notre Dame ranked a dismal 93rd in kickoff returns and 116th in punt returns last season, according to the NCAA.
As I mentioned in the previous slide, TJ Jones dropped a fair-catch punt return, a play that was indicative of the general malaise demonstrated by special teams during the spring game.
This unit will require a significant amount of improvement before the regular season starts.
Loser: William Mahone
Now, I don't think anyone was expecting miracles from William Mahone, but there has been a fair amount of talk about his potential lately, and unfortunately, he didn't live up to it.
Early in the game, he dropped a pass that likely would have kept the drive alive for the Gold Team, setting the tone for his unremarkable performance.
None of this is unforgivable, but it does mean that his dark-horse candidacy for a starting spot on the depth chart this fall is likely over. Mahone will undoubtedly find himself low on the depth chart this fall unless he is able to improve substantially in the offseason.
Loser: Everett Golson
As much as it pains me to write this, Golson did not perform his best.
It was not that he played horribly—he just didn't live up to the hype that had surrounded him leading up to the spring game.
Early in the first quarter, he threw a pair of bad passes to George Atkinson III (yes, the running back) that set the tone for the rest of the game.
He also threw an interception just before halftime to safety Matthias Farley inside the red zone, which is disturbing considering his struggles inside the red zone last season.
As I mentioned earlier this week, Golson's pass-completion percentage was under 60 percent last season, a stat he needs to improve this season if he want's to elevate the Irish offense to championship calibre.
Golson himself was displeased with his performance, telling Alex Flanagan in his postgame interview on NBCSN: “I wasn't playing my best today. The details weren't there.”
All in all, Golson has not regressed, and there has been some progress in his confidence and leadership skills, but he is not where he needs to be yet.