Notebook: Notre Dame offensive line finishes strong, makes strides

Eric Hansen
South Bend Tribune

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SOUTH BEND — Nick Martin found himself caught up in the moment, thinking like a fan.

“My man took off, so I knew Ev’s out of the pocket,” the Notre Dame senior guard said in describing his vantage point of quarterback Everett Golson’s, game-winning, 23-yard, fourth-down pass to tight end Ben Koyack, Saturday at Notre Dame Stadium.

“So I turned and tried to do as much as I can. I see the ball, him release it, look down and see Koyack just waiting there for it. It was kind of like slow motion. He was just sitting there waiting for the ball.”

“I’m like, ‘OK, get it there, get the catch, let’s go home.’ ”

It may have been the only time during No. 9 Notre Dame’s 17-14 TKO of 14th-ranked Stanford in which Martin found himself as a bystander.

He and the rest of the Irish offensive line made significant steps forward in their second game since a massive reshuffle that encompassed every starter on the line save left tackle Ronnie Stanley, and against one of the stoutest front sevens – if not the best – the Irish will face this season.

The Irish did yield a pair of sacks against the nation’s top sacking team cumulatively since 2009 and the nation’s leader each of the past two seasons, but they got stronger as the game went on. And ND managed a 4.0 rushing average, outgaining Stanford in the ground game 129-47.

“We had some success, and that’s when they started bringing some more pressure and different things later in the game,” Martin said. “I thought we did a good job of coming together, continuing to pick that up and continuing to gain yards.

“Now that we’ve seen our potential, we just have to get better.”

No average Joe

Stanford’s physical offensive line was supposed to be the litmus test for Notre Dame’s undersized middle linebacker Joe Schmidt, a 6-foot, 235-pound former walk-on who's now one of six scholarship players from the state of California.

Schmidt recorded seven tackles and never seemed to wear down against the Cardinals size.

“He held up great,” said fellow inside linebacker Jaylon Smith, who led the Irish with a career-high 14 tackles. “With Joe, it’s not about his physical traits and things like that.

“He’s going to beat you with his mind. Him understanding (plays), he gets an extra step as far as speed and velocity on the play. He’s the Joe Montana of our defense.”

Personnel matters

• Jaylon Smith was used on kickoff coverage for the first time this season.

• Freshman defensive end Andrew Trumbetti recorded his first career sack midway through the third quarter.

• Captain Austin Collinsworth made his season debut after missing the first four games with a knee injury. He made a tackle on his first play of the season.

By the numbers

• Kevin Hogan’s first-quarter TD run snapped a nine-game streak of Notre Dame scoring first in its games.

• Notre Dame is 11-6 under Kelly in games decided by four or fewer points. The 11 wins are the second most in the nation since 2010.

• Golson’s 15-1 overall record as a starter includes a 5-1 mark against Top 25 teams.

• The Irish are 10-1 under coach Brian Kelly when ranked in the top 10.

• Kelly improved to 8-7 against the Top 25 while at ND and 16-11 in his career.

• Kelly-coached teams are 78-1 in their last 79 games when holding their opponents to fewer than 20 points.

• The Irish defense has yet to be scored upon in the third quarter this season.

ehansen@ndinsider.com | 574-235-6112

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Notre Dame QB Everett Golson looks to pass during the Notre Dame-Stanford football game on Saturday, Oct. 4, 2014, at Notre Dame Stadium in South Bend. SBT Photo/ROBERT FRANKLIN