Lesar: Five takeaways from Notre Dame's win over North Carolina

Al Lesar
South Bend Tribune

Midseason and still unbeaten, the stakes will get higher every time the Notre Dame football team takes the field over the next seven weeks.

Saturday’s 50-43 survival of North Carolina came with some good and some bad.

Here are five takeaways from that game.

Turnover trouble

A renewed focus on ball security, by going through running back drills in practice the last couple weeks, didn’t do much for Irish quarterback Everett Golson. He still put the ball on the carpet a couple times against the Tar Heels. He also tossed a pick-six against a defense that coach Brian Kelly said he’s seen a million times.

That’s a concern. Basic fundamentals and basic concepts are lacking. Hard to turn those things around this late in the season.

Folston emerges

Before the season, Kelly said he had hoped running back Tarean Folston would step up and say via his play, “I don’t want to share the snaps (with Greg Bryant and Cam McDaniel). I want to be THE guy.” Saturday, he made that statement.

While pounding away on 18 carries for 98 yards and two touchdowns – and catching five passes for 71 yards and a score – the sophomore emerged as a special sort of back. After catching a pass deep in Carolina territory, he made a great move at the 5-yard line and found his way into the end zone. He also made a couple “wow” open-field moves.

Line struggles continue

There was more production (519 yards of total offense) just because that’s what the Carolina defense is: Porous. But the Notre Dame offensive line was hardly the dominant force that the talent it has suggests it could be. Golson was sacked just once, but he took a lot of hits shortly after he released the ball.

This is a situation that can’t be an issue if the Irish hope to survive Saturday in Tallahassee.

Missing Austin

Fifth-year safety Austin Collinsworth was finally past a preseason knee injury that kept him out of the first part of the season. The captain got his first start of the season, because Irish coaches knew that the Tar Heels’ high-octane offense would need an experienced voice in the secondary to contain.

This first significant opportunity of the season lasted less than a half when he left the game with a dislocated left shoulder. It won’t be easy going to Florida State without him.

Taming tempo

North Carolina used a fast-paced, no-huddle, up-tempo offense to neutralize what Notre Dame does on defense. Substitutions were difficult. The Irish under Brian VanGorder thrive on different personnel groupings, depending on down and distance. Carolina made it impossible for them to get the right players on the field.

There were a couple times when the Tar Heels were set and running a play and the Irish weren’t even properly aligned. Hmmmm, wonder if the Seminoles will watch that tape?

Brian VanGorder's defense handling North Carolina's up-tempo offense in Saturday's Notre Dame victory. (SBT Photo/ROBERT FRANKLIN)