Here's a look at some of Charlie's Nasties suggestions for the Irish. Let's see how they did in each one.
Stop the run: I stand by my statement from last week that the d-line is playing above and beyond their expectations; Laws and Brown are especially helping out the Irish so far this season. However, there still seems to be two main problems in stopping the run up to this point. The 3-4 defense relies heavily on support from the linebackers to fly sideline to sideline and make plays to stop the running game, and up to this point, our linebackers have been either too slow, too hesitant, or have not been able to shed blocks to stop the running backs. Look to see more of freshman Kerry Neal as he at least has been able to overpower blockers with his superhuman strength. Secondly, our offense has left the defense out to dry for two straight games. After holding the Lions to 14 points in the first half, Penn State's 8:00 advantage in time of possession caused some fatigue which turned into big plays against us.
Protect the QB: Needless to say the Irish failed to succeed in this respect. I'll admit there were sacks and incompletions where Clausen failed to see an open man or took too long in his progressions, but the porous blocking has been the major reason for ND's offensive woes. Paul Duncan looked more like a high school player at left tackle. The most integral position for protecting a new quarterback, Duncan was responsible for multiple false starts and was absolutely torched off the edge on several occasions. The scary thing is that I know Weis wouldn't be playing him if he had any confidence in his backup. Keep an eye on this position next week: if Duncan is able to step up, we could be in for some legitimate scoring, if not, then you could be in for more of this:
Give Allen and Aldridge more touches: Again Weis confused me here. I was thrilled to see Armando in the backfield as much as he was, but for some reason it didn't yield the results I expected. The general feeling around campus is that he didn't play that well, but he did manage 38 receiving yards on 6 catches. Translation: almost every time Allen got the ball in the flat (with space to run!), ND was able to pick up just over 6 yards. Armando may be slick and quick, but after this game, it is apparent that he is not suited for power running up the middle out of a multiple tight end set as he managed only 11 yards on 8 attempts. I still stand by my statement that he needs to get the ball and I hope that Weis is more creative with his formations and playcalling when he gives #5 touches. For some reason, James Aldridge that Endsdridge was only seen in two plays Saturday. I can't speculate as to why this was, but hopefully he will see more time against Michigan.
Continue the good work on special teams: Wow did ND drop the ball on this one. Horrible pursuit angels and head-down arm tackling led to some unacceptable returns by PSU. Most notably, a 68 yard kick return and the 78 yard punt return took a lot of wind out of our sails. On the bright side, Price appeared to step up his game, punting 9 times for a 44.8 average including a 57 yarder. For a team that is this young, it is devastating to give up big plays on special teams; I expect the team to practice some pursuit drills this week to correct their problems.
Throw in that Notre Dame was flagged 14 times for 97 yards in our first road game and its no wonder why we lost by 21 points. Fortunately, all of these mistakes are still correctable. By that, I mean that we aren't necessarily "out-manned." With the exception of maybe Duncan, I didn't think that Penn State's talent was much better than ours; they simply played with more intensity, had an obvious experience advantage, and were playing in a stadium that makes life difficult for opposing teams. That being said, I sure hope our coaches fix the problems we have soon, I'm heading up to Ann Arbor next weekend and fully expecting a win. (If they lost to Appalachian State, we should be able to beat them, right?)
On that note, I'll leave you with some pictures of a few Penn State fans from the game. Needless to say some are more clever than others.