Notre Dame LB Joe Schmidt used bye week to review performance

Eric Hansen
South Bend Tribune

PHILADELPHIA — The beach scenes of Joe Schmidt captured by the Showtime cameras were real.

But they hardly are representative of how the Notre Dame middle linebacker and captain spent his bye week.

He was already looking ahead to the Halloween matchup with 21st-ranked Temple and in the rear-view mirror at what he considered his flaws in the first seven games of ninth-ranked Notre Dame’s season, counter to Irish coach Brian Kelly’s marching orders of putting football on the back burner for a few days.

“I just don’t get when people don’t want to put the extra time in,” Schmidt said in the days leading up to Saturday’s improbable showdown at Lincoln Financial Field. “That’s something I just don’t understand, like it just doesn’t make sense to me.”

The reigning team MVP was determined to help boost the nation’s No. 50 defense — and 83rd against the run coming into Saturday night — through improvement in his own game.

The Irish were facing the nation’s 108th-ranked offense, which managed a season-best 94-yard scoring drive and a trick play to set up a 41-yard field goal in the first half. Notre Dame hung on for a 24-20 victory.

Schmidt had two tackles in the game and a pass breakup, which will likely only make the whispers about how sophomore backup Nyles Morgan is practicing a little louder.

“I’m extremely hard on myself,” Schmidt said. “I always think I can play better. Even if I was sitting here with 16 sacks and 150 tackles, I’d tell you I need to play better.

“But I need to play better, and I’m working on all facets of my game right now. I took the bye week to be extremely self-critical and evaluate myself.”

He actually made cut-ups of game tape of himself and organized it into categories. Those moments didn’t show up on Showtimes’s weekly documentary, “A Season With Notre Dame Football.”

“That’s how I think. Then I can kind of study it,” Schmidt said. “What could I have done differently on this play, to create a more positive result? That’s kind of how I did it.”

Schmidt said none of his intermittent struggles have anything to do with the lower leg injury that ended his season in game eight of 2014, a 49-39 survival of Navy.

“I think I’m moving as well as I was last year,” he said. “I think mentally I’m better than I was last year. At times, maybe the day after a game, it’s hurt a little bit. But I can’t say this year it’s hurt at any point. I have to give credit to the training staff.”

But before the pain subsided there were doubts.

“A lot of times,” he said. “It’s kind of a scary circumstance really. They go in and they repair all your ligaments, they repair your leg. It’s a trippy thing. A lot of sleepless nights. You’ve got to overcome all the self-doubt and go out there and play football.”

Kelly is convinced Schmidt’s best football of the season is ahead of him in November.

“You guys (media) actually got me to look at some of his production numbers, and they were down a little bit against USC and Clemson, but those are two very fast offenses,” Kelly said.

“Let’s face it. Joe’s a box player. If you take him and look at what his production was against the two option teams, they were off the charts. I expect his production over the next five weeks to be really, really high.”

Personnel matters

Thirteen freshmen made the travel roster: running backs Josh Adams and Dexter Williams, quarterback Brandon Wimbush, tight end Alizé Jones, wide receivers Equanimeous St. Brown and C.J. Sanders, center/guard Tristen Hoge, defensive lineman Jerry Tillery, linebacker Te’von Coney, cornerback Nick Coleman, safeties Nicco Fertitta and Mykelti Williams and kicker Justin Yoon.

ND-Temple Connections

Iconic offensive line coach Joe Moore had coaching stints at both Temple and ND. In fact, he was at Temple just before joining Lou Holtz’s Irish staff in 1988, months before Notre Dame’s run to its most recent football national title.

In 1986, Moore’s first of two seasons at Temple, his offensive line was instrumental in helping Owls running back Paul Palmer put together a standout season (1,866 rushing yards, 15 TDs) that helped him to a runner-up finish in the Heisman Trophy race to Miami QB Vinny Testaverde and just ahead of Michigan quarterback Jim Harbaugh.

• Temple offensive line coach Chris Wiesehan spent the first two seasons of the Bob Davie Era of ND football (1997-98) as the school’s tight ends coach.

By the numbers

DeShone Kizer’s 79-yard TD run in the second quarter constituted more rushing yards on that single play than Temple has given up on the ground in an entire game in four of its seven previous games this season.

• Notre Dame is now 12-7-2 against teams with a record of 7-0 or better in the past 50 seasons.

• Lincoln Financial Field is the 12th current NFL stadium which has hosted a Notre Dame football team. The most recent before Saturday was Dec. 30, 2014, when Nissan Stadium in Nashville (then known as LP Field), was the site of ND’s 31-28 Music City Bowl victory over LSU.

• Notre Dame is 25-8-2 when playing in one of the 31 current NFL stadiums (Soldier Field 10-0-2, Heinz Field 3-2, EverBank Field 1-2, Mercedes-Benz Superdome 1-2, M&T Bank Stadium 2-0, FedEx Field 3-0, AT&T Stadium 1-0, MetLife Stadium 1-1, Sun Life Stadium 0-1, Lucas Oil Stadium 1-0, Nissan Stadium 1-0 and 1-0 Lincoln Financial Field).

ehansen@ndinsider.com

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Notre Dame's Joe Schmidt (38) reaches out to tackle Temple's John Christopher(7), Saturday, Oct. 31, 2015, at Lincoln Financial Field in Philadelphia. SBT Photo/BECKY MALEWITZ