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Notre Dame Q&A: Zombie Apocalypse Edition!

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We ask Pat Rick of OneFootDown.com about Notre Dame, nightmares, and the zombie apocalypse.

Ezra Shaw/Getty Images

We chatted with Pat Rick (@Psully226) from OneFootDown.com about the upcoming game against Notre Dame:

Rule of Tree: Notre Dame is currently a three-point favorite over Stanford. Why?

Pat: Notre Dame is probably slightly favored for a few reasons:

  1. This is a home game for Notre Dame
  2. Notre Dame's one consistently good unit is its passing offense, and Stanford's secondary has suffered some major losses that will likely lead to at least a few big plays through the air
  3. Christian McCaffrey might not play
  4. Although it's been against good competition, Stanford has been blown out twice in a row the past couple weeks. The Cardinal's performance has not been encouraging of late
  5. People like to bet on/against Notre Dame, so the line is probably correcting for whatever action they've seen in Vegas so far
  6. People are again expecting way too much out of a Brian Kelly-coached team
RoT: If Christian McCaffrey just woke up from a nightmare about a Notre Dame player, which player was the nightmare likely to be about? Why?

Pat: Junior LB Nyles Morgan, for sure.

He's one of the only players on the Notre Dame defense that could probably start for almost any school in the country, as he's got a fantastic combination of size and speed that he uses to run down ball carriers and break up passes in coverage.

His career was slow to take off while he languished behind Joe Schmidt on the depth chart, but he is the unabashed leader of the defense now (51 tackles, 2 sacks) and is one of the only guys on the Irish defense I personally trust to make sure McCaffrey, if he plays, doesn't absolutely tear ND to shreds (a similar trust to how I felt about Jaylon Smith in the 2015 Stanford game).

RoT: In the past four years, Brian Kelly has taken Notre Dame to a National Championship Game and a New Year’s Six bowl. Yet I can’t read any news about Brian Kelly without it mentioning that he’s in the hot seat. Is this media manufactured? Or is his job legitimately in jeopardy?

Pat: It's definitely not manufactured. Yes, on the surface, a championship appearance and a Fiesta Bowl appearance in a four-year span indicate that things are going well for the program.

But then you need to look at how ND performed in those bowls, and you realize they were outscored 86-42 against Alabama and Ohio State and looked completely over-matched in both games. Also take into account that Kelly took his undefeated 2012 season success and turned it into subsequent 9-4 and 8-5 seasons (which we can all agree are not up to par with being an excellent coach) with berths in the very exciting Pinstripe and Music City Bowls.

Last year looked like a resurgence in the program as the team fought for a playoff spot, but with tons of future/now-current NFL talent, the best team Kelly managed to beat was either Navy or Temple and he finished with another bad bowl loss that showed how far away his program still is from competing with the best of the best.

This season, with still a lot of talent to work with including the potential #1 overall 2017 NFL Draft pick in DeShone Kizer, he's managed to navigate an incredibly weak first half schedule to the tune of 2 wins and 4 losses. You can't blame the media or ND fans for starting to feel like there's no light at the end of the tunnel and that Kelly has done just about as well as he can possibly do 7 years into his tenure, considering the inconsistent levels of success in the regular season and the complete lack of success in the biggest of games.

He's had two seasons with 3 losses or fewer. After this year, he will have had 4 seasons with at least 5 losses and 5 with at least 4 losses (barring an incredible 6-0 back-half run for ND).

If Notre Dame ever wants to be a championship contender again, it's hard to support that kind of performance while teams like Stanford or MSU are churning out 10+ win seasons, year after year, with equal or lesser talent.

So, without a doubt he should be on the hot seat. Will he be fired? It's hard to say, but the way this season is going, I personally think he should be let go and at the very least he should be on the hottest seat of them all next season if he isn't terminated.

Final note: if I needed one soundbite or headlining reason to convince people Brian Kelly should definitely be on the hot seat, it'd be "Over his 7-year career coaching at Notre Dame, Brian Kelly has lost games to Tulsa, Duke, South Florida, Northwestern, Navy, and to NC State when he tried to throw the ball all over the field in a hurricane."

RoT: The zombie apocalypse is upon us. Name five Notre Dame players you’d want in your traveling band when it all goes down. (Yes, I stole this question from the Q&A that you asked me.)

Pat: I love that you used this question too, because I was dying to answer it myself. Here's my zombie squad:

1. DeShone Kizer - He's just a natural leader. Unflappable under pressure, eloquent, a strong yet not-overbearing presence, very intelligent, seems like a really nice kid, and has the stature and athleticism to look the part. I'd follow him to the end of the earth. He leads the group.

2. Quenton Nelson - He's an imposing monster at 6'5" and 325 lbs., and yet he's very nimble and athletic for his size, so he wouldn't be a liability if we had to run for some reason. We wouldn't have to run, though, because he's got the nastiest demeanor of anyone on the Irish and he'd be able to clear us a path through even the most daunting of zombie-based obstacles. He's the enforcer.

3. CJ Sanders - He's small and agile, so he's perfect for getting into tight, dangerous spaces or slipping out of risky situations. Furthermore, he is a former actor, so he would be very capable of impersonating a zombie to blend in or pulling off some sort of ruse to defeat a rival survivor group. He's the supply run specialist.

4. Nyles Morgan - He's an absolute beast, and if we need someone to tackle anyone/anything for any reason, he's the only guy I trust to do so. I think he'd be the best at destroying zombies in battle, so he'd be crucial in clearing out herds of them as we move. He and Nelson, with their combined strength, can also be used to tag-team any wreckage we need to move out of the way on the road. He's the warrior/assassin.

5. Montgomery VanGorder - Monty, or "Gummy" as he is known to his teammates, does all the little things to help the team. He's the holder for field goals, helps call in plays from the sideline with the other backup QBs, and is constantly mentioned by teammates as the guy most likely to end up as a coach someday. We need that kind of attention to detail and strategic thinking in our group if we are going to survive. Plus, since I didn't include Equanimeous St. Brown in this crew, we really need a solid name. Montgomery VanGorder is a solid name.

Just missed the cut: Equanimeous St. Brown (great name, long arms), Chase Claypool (very big and fast, also Canadian so he's gotta have some useful survival skills from up north), Justin Yoon (would have the best post-zombie-kill celebration in the country - see below GIF), and Jerry Tillery (most entertaining guy to have in your band of survivors, no doubt).

Justin Yoon Celebration

RoT: Let’s say the Stanford-Notre Dame match-up no longer plays for the Legends Trophy, but you could replace the trophy with anything else in the world. What would you replace the Legends Trophy with to most motivate Notre Dame to beat Stanford?

Pat: The winner of the game gets Urban Meyer as their head coach.

RoT: Give us a crazy, off-the-wall prediction that is nonetheless plausible and just might come true in the Stanford-Notre Dame game. Explain why your crazy prediction could happen.

Pat: Crazy, off-the-wall prediction: Notre Dame runs for 300 yards as a team and beats Stanford at their own game.

ND is averaging a pitiful 149.5 yards per game on the ground this season, which is good for 92nd in the country. So, without a doubt, ND out-physical-ing Stanford to the tune of double their average output (and more than double Stanford's average allowed output) would be very crazy and off-the-wall, especially with Brian Kelly's penchant for throwing the ball so frequently.

But, if you want me to explain why it could happen, I'd first point to Notre Dame's offensive line, which is big and EXTREMELY DUE to live up to all of the preseason hype and accolades they were collecting. Many pundits were calling them one of the best offensive lines in the country before the season, and LT Mike McGlinchey and LG Quenton Nelson were named preseason All-Americans by multiple sources.

Since then, they've struggled to run on even the worst of the front sevens they've played. But Harry Hiestand, ND's offensive line coach, has proven he can develop linemen - Zack Martin and Ronnie Stanley are glorious proof of that. It's about time he broke through with this current crew of highly-regarded talents and imposed ND's will on an opponent.

I'd also point to the Fighting Irish running backs, who have also not been as explosive or productive as expected but still have plenty of talent and speed.

Starter Josh Adams (391 yds, 1 TD) is a tall, wiry sophomore back who possesses good strength and an incredible second gear when he gets into the open, as Stanford discovered last year. Backup Dexter Williams (176 yds, 3 TD, 6.5 ypc) has flashed great talent this year as well, showing breakaway speed and surprising tenacity while blowing through tacklers. Senior Tarean Folston hasn't been the same since tearing his ACL against Texas in 2015, but he's strong, smart, and has impeccable vision that allows him to still effectively pick up yards when needed. Toss in DeShone Kizer's running ability (202 yds, 6 TD) and there is clearly plenty of talent in the backfield.

Of course, both of these units have not performed to their potential, and haven't even really shown many signs that they will. But don't discount the fact that this team has been maligned across the board for their poor play, and guys like center Sam Mustipher (had a bad day snapping the ball in Hurricane Matthew weather) have a ton to prove and may just come out with a chip on their shoulder and surprise some folks.

Although I think this could happen, I don't think it will come to fruition. Kizer is about to throw the ball a lot, and that passing performance will determine the game. Such is the Brian Kelly way.

Normal, boring prediction: Notre Dame puts up some points on that Stanford secondary, but ultimately can't get enough stops on defense, nor can they establish a consistent running game on offense. McCaffrey plays in limited but effective spots and Stanford wins 42-31



RoT: Many thanks, Pat, for indulging all of our questions! I learned a lot about Notre Dame, not to mention the zombie apocalypse.

You can give Pat Rick a little love on Twitter @Psully226, and you can catch up with all the latest Notre Dame news on OneFootDown.com.