Chat with Matt Fortuna
Welcome to SportsNation! On Thursday, Notre Dame blogger Matt Fortuna stops by to chat about the Fightin' Irish's football season.
Fortuna joined ESPN.com in 2011 after working for MLB.com and the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, where he covered college sports. He grew up in New York and is a Penn State graduate.
Send your questions now and join Fortuna Thursday at 2 p.m. ET!
Matt Fortuna (1:56 PM)
Howdy! The Irish are 6-0, have the attention of everyone in the nation and host BYU this weekend. What's going on?
Smart decision of Kelly to play for the field goal attempt and tie late in the game? Or should they have taken a shot into the end zone to win it in regulation?
Matt Fortuna (1:58 PM)
They won the game, so it was the right decision. I don't mind a run up the middle on 3rd-and-2 with timeouts left, either, though it's always tricky putting your special teams guys in a big spot like that under those conditions, especially after one bad snap already. I thought Turk did a great job of handling the snap on the game-tying kick.
Matt- Do you feel that we need to get Eifert the ball more? or is he being double teamed to the point that its better to take what the defense gives us?
Matt Fortuna (2:01 PM)
Steve, there's no question the offense is better when it gets the ball in Eifert's hands, but you can't force the issue with a young quarterback. Golson's touchdown pass to Eifert late was a throw he just doesn't make four or five games earlier, but others need to step up more. TJ Jones has done that lately.
Golson or Rees? Is it getting late enough into the season that you go with who won the last game and if the guy isn't performing, you pull him?
Matt Fortuna (2:06 PM)
Bob, there's no clear answer to this situation. You just know that if Tommy Rees starts and looks like the Tommy from much of last year then the uproar will be huge. While not ideal, I think it is a pretty good situation. At risk of taking advantage of a guy who is comfortable in an unusual role, you start the guy of the future and let him develop while having a stable presence on-call at any given moment. It's worked so far. Can you imagine another team losing its starting quarterback on the last drive of a game it was losing? Panic-mode, likely, unless you're ND and you have Tommy Rees.
Matt- What are your thoughts on the overtime win mentally? Can a close win actually be a help vs a blowout like Miami? in terms of the teams morale?
Matt Fortuna (2:08 PM)
Absolutely, Steve. Did you really learn all that much from the Miami game? No, but against Stanford you have a true measuring stick in a program that has accomplished much of what you're trying to accomplish, and in a certain style. To beat that team in that fashion is a big validation of what this staff has done.
Nick LaHam (Orlando, FL)
Let's say Notre Dame wins out but has extremely close wins against 2 or even 3 non-ranked teams on their schedule (say 3 point margins), will they still have a shot at a National Championship if Florida and Alabama go undefeated with solid wins?
Matt Fortuna (2:12 PM)
I think you mean Oregon in place of one of those teams, as Alabama and Florida would eventually square off in the SEC title game if both ran the table. In any event, it's tough to say right now. Alabama is a lock if it wins out. Oregon? It hasn't played anyone so far, but the Ducks do have USC, Stanford and Oregon State, and likely USC again in the Pac-12 title game. If both went 13-0 it's hard to jump either of them, as they would also have conference championship games.
Mike S. (Chicago, IL)
Hi Matt. Happy Thursday. Would love your thoughts on 2 things: 1) The QB situation - whether ND will miss a beat with Golson back in there and whether the back-and-forth situation is something the team is comfortable with; 2) my big worry that the D is not as good as advertised. Why? Because of all the dropped passes and the secondary getting a little lucky. A few against Miami, Stanford. Big plays & likely TD's. Wonder how much opposing teams understand see this and whether I'm the only one. Thanks.
Matt Fortuna (2:17 PM)
Mike, while it's easy to think that certain players would naturally favor one QB over another, I don't think there's anything close to controversy on this team in terms of thinking that one guy should be playing more than the other. They keep winning, too, and that quiets everything. As for your second question: Yes, the secondary is far from flawless, but it has done a great job so far and has had plenty of help from the pressure the front-7 has been getting on opposing QBs. Oklahoma and USC will surely be difficult tests, but I don't think you can take away from what this group has accomplished. Drops, breaks, etc., happen. And I'm sure ND will take those and be 6-0 right now instead of last year's team, which may have shown more talent and potential but couldn't get out of its own way in two early defeats.
Kenny Bx [via mobile]
Any kids gonna lose their Redshirt? Mcdaniel gonna get more touches?
Matt Fortuna (2:20 PM)
Kenny, after six games, no, barring anything ridiculously unforeseen. And you'll probably have to wait until garbage time of games this year or for the start of next year to see more McDaniel. Very talented player, but just no room for him right now with Wood, Riddick and Atkinson ahead of him.
with November here soon and Brian Kelly 's history in November being his best month (record wise) do you see a magical year starting to unfold?
Matt Fortuna (2:22 PM)
Steve, 6-0 isn't enough for you after a 10-year absence? Ha. All of it depends on Oklahoma next week, because outside of USC, the November stretch is very soft. Can you imagine the hype around an 11-0 ND team entering SC for its finale?
Any news on slaughter and low's med.-redshirt situation? Are either of them even eligible? Do you think either will receive one?
Matt Fortuna (2:24 PM)
Not sure about Slaughter, though that would be a tough one to pull off if ND even tried. Lo Wood has a redshirt available, so no worries there. He'll be a redshirt junior next year.
Aaron (Bloomington, IL)
Here's something Irish fans might like. Notre Dame beat Stanford last week on a "controversial" no touchdown call by the officials in overtime. Remember the last time Notre Dame came out on the winning end of such a controversial call in a big game? 1988 v.s Miami. The fumble that wasn't. That win over Miami came in the 6th game of the season, to push Lou's 3rd year Irish to 6-0. Notre Dame stopping Stanford's forward progress for the OT victory came in the 6th game of the season, to push Brian Kelly's 3rd year Irish to 6-0. When was the last time Notre Dame beat Michigan, Michigan State, Miami and Stanford in the same season? 1988, on their way to a National Title. The final score in the 1988 Michigan State contest? 20-3, same as the 2012 contest. The 1988 rivalry schedule also lines up geographically with the 2012. In 88' the Irish had Michigan State on the road, Michigan at home, Purdue at home, Stanford at home and USC out in LA, same as this year. Coincidence? Absolutely, but its fun to think about.
Matt Fortuna (2:28 PM)
And what if ND wins out, doesn't make the title game, but faces Big 12 champ WVU in the Fiesta Bowl? I have a headache ...
The weak spot of this team has been the line play thru 6 games. How do you see this squad performing the second half of the year?
Brian (Cincinnati, OH)
Hey Matt, I noticed your flip flop on your prediction against BYU. But don't be too hard on yourself, you have gotten 4 of your 5 predictions mostly right (and you missed the 5th in the good way).
Matt Fortuna (2:32 PM)
Haha, just calling it like I see it, Brian. I expected much more out of MSU and BYU this year, that's for sure.
Ted Mosby (NYC)
Hate to do it, but I'm gonna. Looking ahead to Oklahoma. We know they have the best offense we're going to see until the end of november when we travel to LA. Now we probably know realistically, the defense isn't always going to bail our offense out. And it seems Oklahoma could be that game. If things aren't going smoothly with the secondary against OU and ND's Offense is sluggish as usual, does BK even hesitate to bring in #11 to get things moving, regardless of which quarter it is?
Matt Fortuna (2:35 PM)
Ted, probably not, but what will matter much more is how the offense and Golson look out there rather than any statistical evidence. It's certainly a different environment for him, and a must-win game if you're chasing a national title. But yeah, I don't think you take too many chances with the same guy if things look bad early.
John (south bend)
Matthew...I heard you say you wish Swarbrick would put in artificial turf after that muddy game on Saturday. But come on bro, that's part of what makes these kind of games epic. Think about it, the field being muddy and wet and all the players uni's a mess. Thats football baby! It definitely added to the ambiance of that game. Now the win obviously holds significance over how the field looked, but tell me it would've been the same with that artificial stuff, with the little rubber balls flying everywhere. Harrumph!
Matt Fortuna (2:38 PM)
John, I was speaking for the sake of my footwear (two-year-old Cole Haan's ... need new ones anyway), but yeah, the elements added to the scene for sure. Not sure if you base a decision on playing surface on one picture-perfect football moment, though, cool as that was to see.
Rob Connolly (San Diego, CA)
Does an 11-1 Notre Dame Team get in the National Championship game over an 11-1 Oregon, Florida, South Carolina or Kansas State team?
Matt Fortuna (2:40 PM)
Rob, if Oregon or any of those SEC teams go on to win their conference title games, they get edge. Not sure the same can be said about Kansas State. (You're forgetting LSU, too.)
Jon (Nashville, Tn)
Matt,I need to see more Toma!! It seems everytime he touches the ball or we need a big play, there's #9 coming through. Do you see him making some big plays against BYU?
Matt Fortuna (2:42 PM)
Jon, Toma is as reliable receiver as you'll find. Not the fastest or biggest, but he catches everything near him and is a very steady, solid piece for any offense, especially one with a new quarterback.
Do they go to 7-0?
Matt Fortuna (2:42 PM)
Patrick (New York, NY)
Any sense if Cierre Wood is still in Kelly/Alford's doghouse? He is a good enough RB to get 15-20 carries per game. I understand that there's only one ball to go around for Wood, Riddick, Atkinson, but Wood is clearly the cream of that excellent crop.
Matt Fortuna (2:44 PM)
Patrick, I'm not sure if he's in the doghouse. He is the best true running back on the team right now, but I don't think he's the receiving threat that Theo Riddick is. Riddick also leads the team in catches, remember, and had the big one on 3rd down in OT.
Martin A. Provo (Lakeville, Indiana)
I just read your 'Sharing is caring' article about the three running backs mindset on sharing the ball.Does having three different individuals with the ability to break out offer bigger challenges for defenses then a franchise, or solo, type of running back?
Matt Fortuna (2:45 PM)
Martin, it's definitely something different to prepare for. All of these guys will be much fresher than a 25/30-carry back, too, so the defense has to be on its toes at all times, especially when a change-of-pace guy like George Atkinson enters and is capable of taking it to the house on any given touch.
Does BYU have the least amount of offensive fire power, excluding maybe navy, that notre dame will have seen thus far? What do you expect out of ND defense after such an emotional ending/win?
Matt Fortuna (2:47 PM)
Zach, yup. BYU's offense is, simply, not very good. The defense should have fun with that offensive line, which has been hamstrung in the middle. I'd be surprised if the Cougars scored an offensive TD Saturday.
Jay V. (Brick, NJ)
It's obvious Tommy Rees is the better overall quarterback for ND. Why is Kelly so set on Golson when Rees has proven himself to be the key to ND victories whenever he is called upon?
Matt Fortuna (2:50 PM)
Jay, Golson adds so many more threats. Can you imagine how many times Rees would've gotten sacked against Stanford? The Cardinal knocked him out of the game last season. Not taking anything away from Rees, who has done tremendous in his role, but his physical talent is limited, and long-term Golson could potentially do more things for the program. It's a delicate balancing act the staff is trying to handle right now, but so far it's worked out OK.
Who would be the worst hit for ND's offense to go out with an injury?
Matt Fortuna (2:51 PM)
Zack Martin or Tyler Eifert.
Hi Matt, there was a lot of talk early in the year about the young receivers getting some decent playing time. From what I have seen, it has really become Daniels, TJ, and Toma, with Daniel Smith every once in a while. Do you expect to see more of Brown or Ferguson in the 2nd half as the offense evolves?
Matt Fortuna (2:52 PM)
CJ, I think you can see Brown in certain situations as a deep threat. I don't think you'll see much of Ferguson outside of special teams, though.
Rose (Los Alamitos, CA)
Matt, always enjoy your coverage of ND. Now that we are halfway through the season, care to reevaluate your original predictions for the rest of the games? Also, I'd like you to pick an offensive and defensive player who will make a big impact over the next 6 games.
Matt Fortuna (2:54 PM)
Thanks Rose. I already flip-flopped on my BYU pick, though I guess out of principle I'll stick with Oklahoma and USC. As for impact players? Assuming you don't want someone obvious, I'll go with DaVaris Daniels and Dan Fox.
Mike (Las Vegas)
Hey Matt, do you forese Kelly bringing out the green jersey's at any point this year?
Matt Fortuna (2:54 PM)
Mike, highly unlikely. When would he have the chance to anyway? Pitt and Wake Forest are the only home games after this weekend's -- hardly big games considering ND's schedule.
Matt Fortuna (2:55 PM)
Have time for a few more ...
Jared (South Carolina)
Which receiver do you see having a big game this week and taking that into the remainder of the season? Could Carlisle be converted to receiver?
Matt Fortuna (2:56 PM)
Jared, Carlisle is redshirting. Not sure what his flexibility would be long-term, though I think he can be an impact return man eventually. And I expect another strong outing from TJ Jones this weekend.
I'll keep this simple: How is not being made of how poor the line has played this year??? Aside from Miami and Navy -- both putrid defenses -- the offensive line has been average at best!
Matt Fortuna (2:58 PM)
Gavin, it's been better than average, but I think a lot of the breakdowns stem from communication issues with a new QB who isn't as skilled in setting protections. That's one of the most overlooked aspects whenever a team is breaking in a new QB. Look at the Purdue game: Golson was sacked FIVE times. Tommy Rees was not sacked once against the Boilermakers last year.
Matt Fortuna (2:58 PM)
That's all from me today gang. Great talking to everyone. Enjoy the weekend.