What went wrong for Notre Dame in its loss to Alabama?

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The only questions Alabama players and coaches will answer following another BCS championship game victory will be 1) who will be going pro (see what we did there? That’s a Nick Saban joke.) and 2) how do they feel about the term “dynasty?”

The questions Notre Dame must answer are more difficult and unwelcome.

Though ranked No. 2 in the country entering tonight’s game, the Tide was a 10-point favorite over the Irish, so the general storylines were more closely geared toward what Brian Kelly‘s program needed to do to win its first national title in over 20 years.

It started up front along the offensive and defensive lines. The trenches. Alabama’s O-line is anchored by All-American center Barrett Jones and has paved the way for one of the best rushing attacks in the nation while keeping the jersey of its quarterback, A.J. McCarron, clean. McCarron had just three interceptions on the season, a compliment not only to his decision-making, but the time he was given to make those decisions.

Notre Dame’s front seven needed to be able to disrupt Alabama’s run-first game plan without the help of an additional body in the box. Instead, Eddie Lacy and T.J. Yeldon ran for most of the Tide’s 265 yards on the ground. When Notre Dame was able to get penetration up front, missed tackles and bad angles allowed Lacy and Yeldon to use their athleticism to get past the initial rush. For McCarron? He went 20-of-28 for 264 yards and four touchdowns. It wasn’t exactly chaos in Alabama’s backfield.

With little pressure up front, Notre Dame’s linebacker unit and secondary got torched in one-on-one matchups with Alabama’s skill players. Linebacker Manti Te’0 wasn’t the only Irish defender getting embarrassed, but considering his postseason accolades and role on the team, he was getting the most negative attention. Tape from the 2012 season shows that Te’o had only two missed tackles all year. He might have had two in one quarter tonight.

It was undisciplined defense all around and Alabama was so balanced and multiple on offense that it didn’t seem fair.

And Notre Dame’s offense hasn’t shown the quick-strike ability consistently to mount a comeback even if the defense stiffened up. The Irish have been flighty on that side of the ball all season as Everett Golson kept developing at quarterback and there were times when Tommy Rees had to step in to keep things going. But when Notre Dame clicked on offense, namely against Oklahoma and Miami, it has the playmakers in Tyler Eifert, Cierre Wood, Theo Riddick and TJ Jones to put up a lot of points.

Notre Dame had to have an offensive performance similar to the one it had in October against the Sooners. That didn’t happen either. Alabama’s defense under coordinator Kirby Smart did a nice job of disrupting Golson all night. There was no tempo, no rhythm for Kelly’s team.

Plus, the Irish probably needed either a big mistake from Alabama or an exceptional special teams play — something to swing field position or momentum for a quick and easy score. Not only was Notre Dame not able to take advantage of any mistakes, but it didn’t benefit from early judgement calls from the officials either (the Eifert catch out-of-bounds and Christion Jones muffed punt come to mind). With injuries to Louis Nix and Kapron Lewis-Moore along the D-line, the Irish couldn’t even catch a break on the injury front. Meanwhile, Barrett Jones played the entire game with a Lisfranc injury and never left the field.

That kind of night. Nothing went right for the Irish. Yes, Alabama was clearly the better team, but the Tide was also far more prepared and executed its game plan perfectly.

Now, it’ll be a long eight months as Kelly and his coaching staff look for some answers.

Report: TCU QB Shawn Robinson to transfer

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At the 10:43 mark of the third quarter of TCU’s Sept. 15 game with Ohio State, it seemed the Horned Frogs and quarterback Shawn Robinson were on top of the world. Behind their talented sophomore quarterback, the 15th-ranked Frogs had just taken a 21-13 lead over the No. 4 Buckeyes and seemed in position to win the game and announce themselves as a real Big 12 and national title threat.

Turns out, that was the peak of the Shawn Robinson era at TCU.

Robinson threw a pick-six to Ohio State defensive lineman Dre’Mont Jones later in the quarter, turning TCU’s 21-19 lead into a 26-21 deficit, and it was pretty much all downhill from there. The Frogs never re-gained the lead in that game, losing 40-28, and Robinson would turn the ball over three times in a 31-16 loss at Texas the following week.

TCU would recover to beat Iowa State the week after that, overcoming two Robinson turnovers in a 17-14 win. After a bye, Robinson turned the ball over three times in a 17-14 loss to Texas Tech.

After an ineffective start against Oklahoma, Robinson was pulled in favor of Penn transfer Mike Collins, and Gary Patterson announced the following Monday Robinson would miss the rest of the season after undergoing surgery. As far as TCU was concerned, that turned out to be a career-ending surgery, as Jeremy Clark of HornedFrogBlitz reported Sunday that Robinson will seek a transfer.

Clark says Robinson will be on the NCAA’s transfer portal by Monday.

The transfer is a stunning end to Robinson’s TCU career, though not necessarily a surprising one.

He played at three different Dallas-Fort Worth area high schools before settling at DeSoto High School as a senior, where he led the Eagles to a 16-0 state championship, the program’s first. Robinson arrived at TCU as one of the school’s most heralded recruits of the Patterson-era and certainly the most highly-regarded quarterback. A consensus 4-star, he was listed as the Class of 2017 No. 6 dual threat quarterback.

Robinson flashed that dual-threat ability as Kenny Hill‘s backup in 2017, throwing for 184 yards and three touchdowns while carrying 23 times for 159 yards in three games. After beating out Collins to win the starting job ahead of this season, Robinson again showcased lots of natural talent, but his 9-to-8 touchdown-to-interception ratio and his 6.5 yards per attempt on 204 passes showed he still has a ways to go figuring out college defenses.

And now it appears he intends to do that figuring out somewhere other than TCU.

Utah State re-hires Gary Andersen as head coach

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One of the enduring lessons of the 2018-19 coaching cycle is that you can always go home again. After Mack Brown returned to North CarolinaGary Andersen is going back to Utah State.

The Aggies announced their former head coach as their current head coach on Sunday evening. The coach who proceeded Matt Wells will also be the coach who succeeds Matt Wells.

“Stacey and I are thrilled to be back at Utah State University,” Andersen said in a statement. “This is a special place and we are excited to meet these young men and play a part in seeing them succeed off and on the field academically, socially and athletically. We are grateful to reconnect with many great friends and supporters in Logan and want to thank (AD) John Hartwell and President (Noelle) Cockett for the opportunity. Go Aggies!”

A Salt Lake City native and a Utah graduate, Andersen took over at Utah State in 2009. At the time one of the most moribund programs in college football, Andersen took the Aggies to a 7-6 record and a Famous Idaho Potato Bowl appearance in his third season, then a school-best 11-2 mark with a Mountain West championship, a Famous Idaho Potato Bowl win and an AP No. 16 finish in 2012.

That success led him to Wisconsin, where he went 20-7 in two seasons but was not a culture fit, and then to Oregon State, where he left the school with a 7-23 record in two and a half seasons.

He spent 2018 down the road as Kyle Whittingham‘s assistant head coach, and will now make the 80-mile drive north back to Logan.

“We welcome Gary and Stacey and their family back to the Utah State family,” said Hartwell. “His care-factor for his players, coupled with his recruiting philosophy and plan to win, are keys to the continued success of Aggie football. His knowledge of the state of Utah and our program are unparalleled and we feel those attributes will greatly aid in the continued growth and success of Aggie football.”

Andersen takes over a program in much better shape than he first found it. Though Wells has taken the bulk of the staff with him to Texas Tech, he inherits a team coming off a 10-2 season that won a share of the Mountain West’s Mountain Division championship.

Mack Brown hires Army’s Jay Bateman as defensive coordinator

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Mack Brown 2.0 has his defensive coordinator hire, and it’s a good one.

North Carolina on Sunday announced Army defensive coordinator Jay Bateman as the Heels’ new defensive coordinator and safeties coach.

“Jay Bateman is an outstanding football coach and I’m thrilled he is joining our staff,” Brown said in a statement. “He is a great teacher of the game, a brilliant defensive play caller, and an excellent recruiter with many ties to North Carolina and this region, including strong relationships with North Carolina high school coaches. Sally and I are excited to welcome Jay, Heather and their two children to the Carolina football family.”

Bateman spent the past five seasons as the Black Knights’ defensive coordinator, helping engineer one of the most impressive turnarounds of the decade. Army has ranked among the top 10 nationally in total defense in two of the past three seasons.

(It should be noted that Bateman’s units benefit heavily from the triple option offense, which Brown is unlikely to duplicate. Army has defended 615 plays this season, 85 fewest than the next-closest team that has played 12 games this year. In fact, Army is 57 plays ahead of Southern Miss, who finished its year playing only 11 games. On a yards per play basis, Bateman’s defense is tied for 69th.)

Bateman spent 2006-10 as the defensive coordinator at Elon and has been such a recruiting mainstay on Tobacco Road that he was considered an early candidate for the Charlotte head coaching job.

With the hire, Tommy Thigpen will now shift from co-defensive coordinator/safeties coach to linebackers coach.

Matt Campbell signs contract extension at Iowa State

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Now that we know Matt Campbell will not succeed Urban Meyer as Ohio State’s next head coach, Iowa State is getting down to business of keeping the 39-year-old in Ames for as long as possible.

Campbell signed a new 6-year, $22.5 million contract after last season’s 8-5 campaign that saw Iowa State register wins over then-No. 3 Oklahoma and then-No. 4 TCU, but the school wasn’t done investing in him.

On Sunday, Iowa State announced Campbell has signed an extension keeping him in Cyclone colors through 2024. While this extension doesn’t include a raise for Campbell — last year’s deal boosted his salary from $2.1 million to $3.5 million immediately — it does carry an additional $1 million for his assistants.

In addition to the $1 million Iowa State also committed last year, the school has now committed an extra $3.4 million annually to keeping Campbell and his assistants over the past 13 months.

“Coach Campbell and I had a great end-of-the-year meeting Friday and during our visit we mutually agreed to extend his contract to 2024 and further demonstrate Coach Campbell and the University’s commitment to one another,” Iowa State AD Jamie Pollard said in a statement. “I couldn’t be more excited for our current players, fans and recruits to receive this great news.”

Iowa State’s assistant pool was $2.982 million in 2018 according to the USA Today salary database, putting the Cyclones 49th in the country. Adding another million would boost the Cyclones to 27th, based on 2018 figures.

Ranked No. 24 in the final College Football Playoff poll, Iowa State concluded the regular season at 8-4 and in third place in the Big 12. The Cyclones’ six conference wins are the most in the program’s 23-year history of Big 12 membership, and this year’s club was the closest Iowa State team to reaching the Big 12 Championship since the 2005 team that came within a game from winning their first (and only) Big 12 North title.

The Cyclones will finish Campbell’s third season against No. 13 Washington State in the Valero Alamo Bowl on Dec. 28.