Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Happy Halloween

Nothing beats sitting in a three hundred person lecture class and watching people walk in wearing some festive attire. In engineering today, two students dressed in business garb complete with briefcases promptly strolled into the room during the middle of a lecture, and, pointing at a student in a red and white striped shirt, shouted "There's Waldo! Get him!" The student in the Waldo attire immediately dashed up from his seat and out of the classroom in order to escape his adversaries who followed in pursuit. Its stories like this that remind us all why the holiday is meant for tricks as well as treats.


Happy Halloween. Go Irish.

Monday, October 29, 2007

Hunt for the Heisman

In a year that didn't have a clear Heisman front runner to begin with, last week's onslaught of upsets threw some of the more obvious contenders out of the race, virtually throwing the doors wide open for anyone who wants it. Andre Woodson, who started off strong in a very difficult conference, looked average as Mississippi State handed Kentucky its third SEC loss. Super Sophomore Tim Tebow seems to have lost something in his run game while he nurses his shoulder, and it showed in a loss to Georgia. Speaking of injuries, running back Mike Hart has already missed two games with an ankle problem, so he can be counted out, and a broken finger has kept John David Booty off the field in So. Cal.

With all of these prospects out, who's in first?

An ESPN poll has Razorback Darren McFadden in fourth (behind Hart, Tebow, and Woodson), but without a win against a ranked team (Arkansas also has a 5-3 record), McFadden may have to prove himself in upcoming games against South Carolina and LSU in order to get votes.

Following the recent trend (of the Heisman going to the QB or RB of the team with the best record), it looks like BC signal caller Matt Ryan remains in the race after a sloppy game in Blacksburgh. But if Ryan is up for consideration, then why not Todd Boeckman of OSU, who is projected to have stats not unlike last year's winner, Troy Smith? Here's a table comparing some of the stats to the unbeaten quarterbacks this year, with Grahm Harrel of Texas Tech in there just for fun:

As you can see - not one of these players appears to stand out in all of the categories. I'm also ruling out Brennan because his team plays the 119th toughest schedule in Division 1-A (in case you didn't already know, that's last; more should be expected from a "top 25" team). To be honest with you, I didn't even know who Todd Reesing (Kansas) or Rudy Carpenter (Arizona State) were until I looked them up for this study, so if the national media is giving Ryan Heisman attention, then why shouldn't Reesing and Carpenter be getting any? In fact, I might argue that those two are better Heisman candidates for bringing their less talented teams to the top without the fifth year talent Ryan has, but I digress...

The point is that no quarterback should win the Heisman this year with the exception of maybe Tebow, who represents an integral part of the Gator offense in a way unlike any other high profile quarterback in the country. Maybe McFadden, Slaton, or Johnson can close out the year well and get some attention, but if not, this could be a good year to give the Heisman trophy to someone who doesn't line up directly behind center.

My pick, and this has nothing to do with me being a student, is Trevor Laws (write in vote for him here). Just something to think about. Go Irish.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Quote of the Week

The Irish Roundup (newly added to the Nasties ND blog site bar) put up an interesting post today about why Trevor Laws should be considered for the Heisman Trophy. Seriously. Don't worry Domers, the Roundup crew isn't delusional, but the argument they put forward is pretty interesting and worth a read.
I mentioned below that Laws was leading the team in tackles and having a very impressive season, so this week's quote comes from an interview with Trevor on Inside Notre Dame:
"I hurts when someone congratulates me on having a good game because we're not winning. I'd gladly trade the statistics for wins"

And that folks is why Trevor Laws is such a stud. Laws is a great asset not only because he is able to dominate opposing offenses, but because he is an unselfish leader; he will be greatly missed next year.

Speaking of seniors playing in their last year, it looks like Mo Crum has confirmed that this year won't be his last. An article in the Observer reports that Maurice Crum Sr. said that his son would be returning for a fifth year at Notre Dame. Holding on to a middle linebacker as solid as Crum will be a big benefit for the Irish next year as he will be able to become a force on the field and mentor the youngins at the position.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Of Bye Weeks and Youngsters

In case you haven't realized it yet, Notre Dame has a week off before playing the Naval Academy, and that means an extra week to regroup and gameplan among other things. Weis had some interesting statements in his latest press conference found here, but for those of you who read too much during mid terms, the Nasties crew will try to summarize.
Weis has used the bye week in past years as a chance to talk to all of the seniors with a year of eligibility left, and this year is no different. Because student-athletes at ND must apply for a fifth year, Charlie wants to wait until his players do so before saying who's staying, but it sounded like Maurice Crum Jr. might be interested in playing another year, which is good news for Domers.
Another year?Now that the team is no longer bowl eligible, Weis says that he will begin working some of the younger players in more. Expect linemen Taylor Devor, Chris Stewart, and Thomas Bemenderfer to see some more snaps next week.

On some of the younger players: Weis praised Duval Kamara and Robby Parris for their development as receivers, but still issued some props to speedster Golden Tate, adding that he too is developing quickly. However, perhaps the most encouraging youngster has been running back Armando Allen. Charlie commented that for the first time, Allen has shown the speed in the game that he shows in practice.

Fast
Unless something dramatic happens in practice, Sharpley will get the nod against Navy. Weis said that it would be unfair to pull someone for losing against USC because "a lot of people lose to USC."

An increased emphasis on minimizing penalties seemed to pay off against the Trojans: the Irish were only flagged twice.

Trevor Laws is continuing his All-American year. His 66 tackles are not only the most on the team, but the most in the nation by a defensive lineman, but don't forget about another senior on the defense. I've been hard on Zibby at times this year, but he's been playing well the last few games, or at least well enough to be named a quarterfinalist for the Lott Trophy. Nice work guys.
X Factor?Despite a poor performance on the field this year, the Irish have been tearing it up off the field in recruiting. In addition to five star WR Michael Floyd (video highlight), the Irish also landed RB Jonas Gray over the weekend. Experts expected Floyd to commit to Notre Dame, but Gray was somewhat of a shocker because he decommitted from Nebraska to select us. The craziest part is that he left Nebraska because they were having a bad season! Ranked as the top prospect out of Michigan and the 3rd best running back overall by rivals, this guy is a beast and is definitely a good pickup.
My Name is Jonas!That's it from the Nasties crew for today. Go Irish.

Monday, October 22, 2007

Duds and Studs: Back to Training Camp

With Notre Dame getting absolutely thumped out of bowl contention and my Cleveland Indians completing an epic collapse to get denied from a World Series berth, this weekend has basically ripped the sports heart out of my chest and backed over it with a two ton truck, and it is on that note that the Nasties crew breaks down the Duds and Studs for weak (thats not a typo) 8.

Duds:

Receivers: After holding USC to a 3 and out on the first possession, dropped passes continually were able to kill any momentum that the Irish gained in the first quarter. The inability to get open down field or break tackles serve as a reminder for the void left with the exit of Stovall, Shelton, McKnight, and Samardzija over the last two years.

John Sullivan: This one may or may not be warranted
as I'm not quite sure who calls out the blocking at the line of scrimmage, but if it is Sullivan's job, than he gets a solid F for this game. The issue against the Trojans wasn't talent: their talented defense linemen didn't overpower or outrun our big uglies any more than was expected, but the amount of missed assignments was out of this world. Up to this point in the year, the line has looked foolish whenever the opposition either overloads one side or sends a delayed blitz. As a senior, Sullivan should be able to better communicate the blocking scheme along the line.
Not even his escapability could save Sharpley from the Trojans
Pass Defense: While our front seven (up until the fourth quarter when they must have been exhausted) looked pretty decent against the run, ND was unable to challenge Sanchez with any sort of pass rush. The depth of Southern Cal's team was on display as their backup quarterback was able to hit receivers in stride perfectly in the middle of our zone coverage.

Studs:

Rush Defense: On the other side, our run defense was about as stout as can be expected against a team with the arsenal of running backs and experienced line that USC has. Trevor Laws and John Ryan were able to fill holes and hold the Trojans to little gains. As is the case with many of the games this season, the numbers don't really give an accurate presentation of our defense; the offense was unable to produce first downs (Price punted 6 time in the first half) which prevented the defense from getting much rest, and multiple times they were left guarding against a short field because of a Travis Thomas or special teams blunder.

Thank you Michael!Michael Floyd: By the grace of God, this five star receiver somehow committed to ND after witnessing this terrible loss. A true success story, this kid will be able to make an immediate impact next year, and it is a true testament to his character that he is so excited to be a Domer given the debacle that is this season. Breifly touched upon in this Rothstien article, Floyd mentions that one of the reasons he committed so early is that he has made good friends with fellow commit John Goodman (no not that John Goodman). It is situations like this that affirm my faith in the 2012 commits; no one's jumping ship just yet.

Paratroopers: Props to the paratroopers that touched down before the game on Saturday. I've posted some videos (new technology for the Nasties crew) in case you missed them.
video
video
You don't have to read Charlie's Nasties to figure out that our team stunk it up on Saturday, but always looking at the sunny side of the street, things do look good for Navy. I think that our run defense will be able to keep the Navy option attack off of the field and hopefully our offense will be able to string together some decent drives. My arms are getting weak this year from the lack of push ups in the student section.

O well, with the Indians out of the World Series hunt, at least I can finally shave my playoff beard.
Have a good Fall Break. Go Irish.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Weekly Dose of Quotable Quotes

With Evan Sharpley getting his first start on Saturday, the Nasties crew thought that it would only be appropriate to focus the weekly segment on his BC performance (courtesy of BGS) and his press conference (found at und.com).

As always, performances look a little different on TV than they do in person. Perhaps the score for once being close this year, I was simply more excited when Sharpley was in and it looked like we had a chance. After re-watching his performance, I discovered a few plays from the second half that I seemed to have blocked out of my memory:

1. During a string of 6 straight incompletions, Sharpley dropped back in the pocket only to find two BC defensive linemen already on top of him. In an effort to avoid the sack, Evan got rid of the ball, but it is easy to see that if the BC cornerback that the ball was thrown didn't have feet for hands, the pass would have been picked for a touchdown. Lesson: getting rid of the ball is good, but there are times when it is better to take the sack.

2. A few attempts later, Sharpley pulled a Clausen and stared down a receiver (Kamara) on a fly route. The safety moved over and Kamara was covered so tight that he was losing circulation in his extremities, but the ball was still thrown to him. Lesson: I respect Sharpley trying to make plays, but there is such a thing as too risky. I still don't think that this mistake is as bad as Clausen's because in Sharpley's case, the pass was ten yards longer, attempted in the endzone, and he was at least able to avoid underthrowing his target, making for a much more difficult interception.

3. Armando Allen cannot pick up a blitz. This doesn't have a lot to do with Sharpley, but does explain why he faced a little more pressure than he needed to. In a funny turn of events, linebackers were juking Allen out of his shoes. Lesson: sigh... with Aldridge still banged up, expect to see Travis Thomas in more on passing plays...

4. There were a couple passes thrown that flat out missed their targets. He wasn't throwing the ball away or being heavily pressured, but the balls landed ten yards away from the nearest receiver. Lesson: maybe it was a route running miscommunication, but don't throw the ball to nobody.

Do I still think Sharpley should start against USC? Absolutely, and here's why: pocket presence and play making ability. When BC's ends came screaming off the edges, Sharpley had the confidence (and ability to take a hit) to step up in the pocket, avoid the rush, and deliver a clean ball. This is what quarterbacks are supposed to do, but when a linebacker shoots the B gap or one of the D-tackles gives pressure up the middle, Sharpley still possesses the 'escapability' to rollout and make a play. Two prime examples from the game are his completions to Schwapp and Carlson; both instances appeared to be heading towards disaster, but he found a way to take a chance and get it done, and its this intangible that I like about Sharpley.

When asked about his improvisation, Sharpley responded, "when things break down, you just go back to your instinct of football and make a play." He went on to say that the speed of the pass rush is much faster in the college game, and it takes some time to adjust to. Hopefully Clausen will realize later on in his career that he can't out run defensive ends; it seems here that Sharpley's two years of experience are paying the biggest dividends.

On the transfer note, a reporter asked Sharpley how he was able to remain confident and work through the difficulty of not seeing much playing time by the start of his junior year. Sharpley gave thanks to his family and friends for giving him a lot of support and confidence throughout his career as a non-starter. Lesson: if you see a football player around campus, give him a hug, these guys need assurance every once and awhile too.
Go Irish. Beat Trojans.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Sharpley, Sharparama, The Sharpster...

His Weisness announced yesterday that the reigns will be given to Evan Sharpley this Saturday against USC. Agreeing with the Nasties crew, Charlie also felt that Evan gives Notre Dame the best chance of winning.

I would like to momentarily cut Clausen a little bit of slack for his performance against BC after watching this compilation from the geniuses over at Blue Gray Sky, but I still believe that for now, Sharpley is the better choice. I hold off on all of my criticism because, before watching the video, I had no idea how much pressure Jimmy constantly had to deal with in the pocket; ND seemed incapable of blocking more than 4 rushers, and any type of delayed blitz was an automatic game over. I'll admit that Clausen did a decent job of avoiding the rush and at least getting the ball off for an incompletion many times instead of the sack, but I still think Sharpley is the man for a few reasons:

In Evan We Trust
Timing and Accuracy: There were several routes (a curl to Parris and an out to Grimes jump to mind) where Jimmy was given ample time to throw, but either delivered the ball too early, too far behind, or too far above the receiver. In the case of the overthrown ball to Grimes (which ended up getting us a first down thanks to a personal foul), BC only rushed three men, and instead of taking his time and throwing a good ball or looking at the rest of the field, he panicked and threw it 5 feet over Grimes' head. Sharpley's accuracy, especially with his long balls, has impressed me more than Clausen up to this point in the season.

Rookie Mistakes: In an effort to use Golden Tate as a decoy, ND lined up #23 wide right and had him run a fly route (surprise), expecting BC to blanket him like UCLA was able to. Anticipating this, the Irish had Grimes run a fly wide left as the primary read; I'll try not to get too complicated, but Grimes was supposed to be open down field. During Jimmy's 7 step drop, he stared down Grimes, allowing the safety to come over (mistake 1) and then under threw the receiver (mistake 2) which led to an interception. Someone with two more years of experience isn't as likely to make such vital mistakes.

Escapability: ahhh the term dubbed by Stonebreaker from NDLNA, but Jimmy, as seen in the movie clip, also possesses escapability. The difference is that when Sharpley avoids the rush, he not only has the ability to throw the ball away and avoid a sack, but Evan can often find a receiver to connect with after avoiding the pressure.

That's my story, and I'm sticking to it. Hopefully Sharpley will live up to the Nastie's expectations and deliver big on Saturday.

In other news, the OC Domer put up an interesting take on the transfer situation. The football fan in me wants to agree with him, but the college student in me doesn't want to judge the situation without knowing all of the underlying reasons why the players as individuals decided to or not too (thank you Chris Stewart!) transfer.

Lastly, I'll leave you with a clip recommended by the folks at the Observer. If you've ever read this blog to avoid doing work, you might be able to relate to it.
Minesweeper: The Movie


Go Irish. Beat Trojans.

Monday, October 15, 2007

Duds and Studs: BC Review

After two home games (and two road games for me) of watching the team get absolutely blown out, where the games have virtually been decided by the start of the fourth quarter, it was comforting to actually be able to watch a game that was exciting the whole way through. It was fulfilling to still have reason to shout on defense and wildly high five touchdowns (even if they were negated by penalties) late into the game. It was disappointing to come so close to a huge upset (I don't care what the Observer said; you could bet the house that your uncle Pops would be storming the field if we won), but I'd prefer the disappointment of a close loss to the emptiness of a blowout any day. On that note, sit back and relax while the Nasties crew looks at the Duds and Studs from week seven.


Duds:

The Offense: Unfortunately, the offense from the UCLA game decided to make another appearance Saturday. The rushing attack was about as impressive as the South Dining Hall's Blazin' Sea Nuggets; ND averaged under a 2 yard average over 20 carries, and no one was able to break a run for longer than Sharpley's 8 yard scramble. The pass protection has looked better over the last few weeks, but our offensive line has yet to mesh as a run blocking unit. With the talent that Notre Dame lines up at tailback, it is pretty obvious that we should be doing much better on the ground. Under center, our two quarterbacks put together one of the most inefficient games of the year. The 36% completion is by far the worst of the season, and its hard to say which was worse about Clausen between his 2 interceptions and his 3.0 yards per attempt. As promised, the Irish attempted more intermediate passes, but Clausen's poor arm strength and accuracy prevented him from completing anything (besides a 26 yard reception by Parris) over 8 yards.

Kick Returns: I can't imagine that it's very hard for opposing teams to game plan kickoffs against Notre Dame. Despite having two electric returners in Golden Tate and Armando Allen, we were unable to muster anything special Saturday because of the way Notre Dame executes its returns. No matter where the ball is kicked, the returners are coached to run to the middle of the field before turning up field. This strategy may work well for kickoffs between the hash marks, but when teams are consistently kicking off to the corners of the field, it is imperative to install a sideline return. Precious seconds are wasted on every kickoff when the returner takes time to cut back to the middle, allowing the opposing coverage to completely surround him. Gifted with great athleticism, our returners need to be given the opportunity to take it up the sideline and make a man miss.
The Six Big Plays: Ben Ford breaks down these plays in an article here. Its a quick read recapping Weis' primary explanation for the loss against BC. Without one or two of these plays, the game could have ended very differently.


Defending the slant, out, and curl: BC did a very good job of splitting out their running back and matching him up against our linebackers on the perimeter, but ND should have been able to adjust to this. Our secondary, including the linebackers, have been unable to get a hand on the receivers and disrupt the timing of the route. I understand that conservatism is part of the 'bend-don't-break' scheme that we run, but our cornerbacks should still be able to get in front of an out or slant and make a play on the ball. Because we were content to ride the hip of the receivers and make the tackle after the completion, Ryan was able to complete a variety of passes without fearing an attempt at an interception.

Studs:

Tailgating: The atmosphere around campus was perfect before kickoff; with the comfortable chill of October inevitably falling over South Bend, the warm brats from student concession stands tasted better than ever. Add to the mix a bus of BC alums inviting us to spend some time with them and overall it was an enjoyable afternoon.

Tom Zbikowski: I still cringe when I see him in pass coverage, but Zibby at least seemed to show some burst in his punt returns Saturday. For the first time since Purdue last year, he was able to field the punts, read the coverage, and burst up the field for some quick gains. As I've said previously, if Notre Dame wants to win big games this year, the team needs to take advantage of its special teams.

Robby Parris: I don't know if its because of his goofy demeanor or helmet/haircut combo, but this guy reminds me more of a certain aquatic predator every game. Parris has shown the ability to create space and get open with his route running, and he attacks the ball with his vertical leap and good hands. As he continues to get stronger and more confident in his game over the next few years, I wouldn't be surprised if he is able to accumulate an impressive highlight reel along the way.
Sharpley's ability to avoid the rush is just one reason why he should start next week
Evan Sharpley: He wasn't exactly a stud, but if Weis actually meant it when he said that he "owes it to the seniors to try to win every game," Sharpley should start against USC. It may be a long shot, but if ND can pull up the upset, we have a very realistic chance of making a bowl game, and I feel that if Shapley had played the entire game against Purdue and BC that we would have at least come close to winning one of those games. Evan's ability to make quicker decisions and put more zip on the ball should give Charlie enough reason to start him at least until we are out of bowl contention when he can then spend time developing Clausen and the other freshmen.

All in all, Notre Dame stayed competitive (and without a few mistakes could have pushed for a win) against the 4th (2nd after the new polls) ranked team in the country, and it's easy to say that the Irish have made some significant strides since getting blown out by Georgia Tech two months ago. A loss in next week's game means that Notre Dame won't lose in a bowl game this year, but after USC, the schedule does lighten up considerably. Weis will be the first to tell you that losing by 13 is just as bad as losing by 30, but the team is improving, and with some hard work, effort, and luck, who knows what could happen next week?
The look of disappointment?
Go Irish. Break Trojans.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Quote of the Week

This week's quote of the week comes from coach Weis, speaking of Trevor Laws:
"I thought he would have a banner year. The kid's on a mission, and he's playing that way. Some kids practice just to get through practice, Trevor practices like he plays in the game."
A reporter asked what other players Weis has coached practiced like they performed, and the two examples that came to his mind were Lawrence Taylor and Brady Quinn; not exactly bad company.

Pat from Blue Gray Sky exchanged some questions with a writer for a prominent BC blog, Eagle in Atlanta, and ND Nation can thank Pat for countering the stereotype of Irish fans being arrogant and pompous by delivering some very reasonable and analytical answers despite his obvious obsession with the football program. Here's a link to the post on Eagle in Atlanta. All of you stereotypical fans, take time to read it so you can talk football with some class instead of dropping snide low blow comments like this guy (in the video) did. Way to get shown up on national tv by a BC fan and make our fan base look as arrogant as everyone thinks it is.

In conclusion, I leave you with this little gem from the GooTube. Some kids dubbed over the famous Mike Gundy rant and turned it into a Coors Light commercial. It may be totally unrelated to the rest of this post, but its still funny.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Words from Weis

Charlie's press conference from earlier this week featured responses on some position changes and a little insight into the game plan for Boston College, and the Nasties crew is here to offer a report.

We'll start off with some of the personnel news heading into this week, the most radical change being that freshman Kerry Neal has officially shown enough of his ox like strength to capture the starting Will Linebacker job, replacing Anthongy Vernaglia. Up to this point in the season, Neal has been used mainly to rush the quarterback or help out on run defense, aka he hasn't been dropped into coverage that often. Look for Neal to be one of Charlie's go to weapons for disrupting the efficient BC passing attack.

Continuing to employ his strange depth chart strategies, Charlie still has Barry Gallup listed ahead of Golden Tate on the receiver list, but this was the case last week and Tate had multiple plays called to him while Gallup didn't get any touches. Weis said that Tate is lower on the list this week because he got banged up a little bit against UCLA, joking that the real reason is so Gallup, a Boston native, can see some action against his former home team.

Injury wise, David Grimes has been practicing this week and he should be ready to go on Saturday. Sophomore guard Dan Wenger, however, is still recovering from a knee injury against Michigan; Weis hinted in his latest press conference that once Dan was able to do everything full speed, he would have to earn his starting job back, and who can blame Weis for that? Not once while he was in the starting lineup did ND achieve positive rushing yards, and the line has looked much more physical with Matt Carufel filling in for him at the guard spot.

Later in the presser, a reporter asked Weis to comment on Aldridge's season thus far, given his unimpressive statistics. Agreeing with the Nasties, Weis gave James some props, proclaiming him as the most complete half back on the team, especially mentioning his ability to run between the tackles.

When asked what it was like working with such a young group of players, Charlie said that he has spent more time mentally and psychologically this year than ever before:
"With such a young group, you need to spend extra time to make sure that the players aren't just nodding their heads, but that they actually understand the situation."
But while the team may be young, one of their strengths has been the ability to play as a team:
"You need to practice and act like a team in order to win games like Saturday, and this team has done that. The defense has shown spurts of getting better while the offense has only shown flashes. "

Speaking of the offense, Weis and the Observer both commented on how the offense could look a little different against Boston College than it did against UCLA. The idea is that against the Bruins, an inept backup quarterback allowed Notre Dame to sit back and be content with making less mistakes than him.

These are actual Rivals pictures of the QB we faced last week.

Matt Ryan is virtually incomparable with Mcleod Bethel-Thompson, and it would be a large underestimation of his ability to think that Notre Dame could hold BC to 6 points. To counter the Eagles offense, the Irish will plan on opening up the offense a little bit to try and move the ball more. In the UCLA game, the passes thrown were either short and safe dump passes or deep fly routes to the Golden boy. This conservative strategy will be tweaked a little bit this Saturday as more intermediate routes will be used to stretch out the defense and open up the field for some big plays (or at least a few more first downs).

Following Charlie's previous comments about going back to training camp, we should be almost ready for the home opener this weekend. This will be the fourth straight week of "full speed" practices for Notre Dame, and this style of play seems to be one of the main reasons our defense has looked so improved in the past games. Especially against UCLA, we showed good closing speed on the ball and actually hit with some intensity. If the Irish can improve on that performance, this rivalry game could be closer than some people are predicting.

Hope for the best. Go Irish. Beat Eagles.

Monday, October 8, 2007

Smells Like Roses

Not even Irish fanatic Lou Holtz awarded "helmet stickers" to Notre Dame on ESPN's College Game Day Final, his counterpart Mark May adding,
"If you don't protect the ball, you can lose to just about anyone, and that was proven in Southern California on Saturday. USC and UCLA entered with a combined record of 8-1. Their opponents were a combined 1-8. But USC and UCLA lost because they turned over the ball 12 times and had a turnover margin of minus-11. That'll get you beat every time."
Saturday's battle on the gridiron was one of the scrappiest I've ever witnessed at the college level, but when your team's 0-5 and looking very realistically at 0-8, a win is a win. Clearly this game was lost by UCLA and not won by Notre Dame. Or was it? Charlie's Nasties hopes that some insight brought with this edition of Duds and Studs can help you decide.

The stars aligned as Walls actually turned around to look at the football
Duds:

No downright duds this week except maybe McLeod Bethel-Thompson and UCLA coach Karl Dorrell, but it's no secret that the Irish offense was pretty stagnant Saturday. ND averaged under 12 yards per drive, and the long drives that they did have (27, 23, 44 yards) all ended in punts except for one (29 yards) that resulted in their second field goal, but this can be better attributed to starting at the 40 yard line after a 4th down John Ryan sack. I give the offense credit for their ability to run the clock (32 minutes time of possession) and avoid turnovers, but when facing an actual defense (sorry Purdue fans), Notre Dame still struggles to orchestrate respectable drives, and for now, that is something to improve on.

Studs:

Brian Pollian / Brandon Walker: As mentioned before, special teams are critical to winning close football games. Pollian must have been able to draw some motivation from me calling him out in a post last week because the special teams looked pretty solid; there were no broken coverages on kickoffs or punts, and blocking was relatively decent on returns. It was absolutely paramount, however, that the Irish were finally able to convert all of their kicking attempts. Give Walker some credit for giving ND some momentum after getting those first three points; it would have been ugly if Notre Dame got the ball at the UCLA's one yard line and came away with nothing but a blocked field goal.

Jimmy Clausen: Nothing too special, but his ability to manage the team efficiently after we had the lead definitely helped us to win the game. For now, as long as he avoids turnovers, he'll be okay in my book.

James Aldridge: The unsung hero of this week, Aldridge was able to run the ball 22 times (albeit for only 52 yards) in the win over the Bruins. It is comforting to know that Weis has the confidence to give a true sophomore that many carries in a game where ball control is so important. Aldridge's familiarity with running between the tackles will pay big dividends to this football team over the next two years.

Trevor Laws: In case you haven't noticed, this guy is the best player on our defense. Linemen in the 3-4 front usually don't draw a lot of attention because it isn't the most glamorous position, but Laws has been able to consistently dominate his man (and often men as he is double teamed) on the way to pressuring the quarterback and blowing up running plays at the line of scrimmage. His timely pass deflections, stops (including one sack), and constant presence in the backfield helped to rattle an already green quarterback.

Laws pressures the All-Name QB into an interceptionO yeah, there was this senior Maurice Crum Jr. that played pretty well, too.

In conclusion, just because the game was sloppy doesn't mean that the Irish didn't work hard enough to earn the win. Hopefully the players can carry some of this momentum into town for the BC game this week. Speaking of Boston College, who would've thought that they would be ranked higher than USC when we played them? O well, I guess that's sports for you.

This either means that we have a chance to beat USC, or that Stanford's gonna kick our ass
Go Irish. Beat Eagles.

Sunday, October 7, 2007

Finally!

Way to go boys. Only five more wins to become bowl eligible.


Congrats.

Saturday, October 6, 2007

Cruisin for some Bruins

One would think that an eight o'clock kickoff would allow for the Charlie's Nasties crew to finally have a nice relaxing morning filled with little movement and a lot of sleeping. However, this was not so as we took it upon ourselves to enter in the annual Keough Hall chariot race. Emotions were initially high as our group managed to place second (that's place if you're into horse racing), but after the adrenaline wore off, the lack of sleep finally caught up with us, so we were forced to retreat to the dorm room and get some serious power naps in before the big game tonight.

As far as the game goes, Junior Ben Olson looks to boost his exceptionally average numbers (50% completions for 922 yards, 7 TDs and 5ints) against an unproven Irish secondary. UCLA coach Karl Dorrell is on somewhat of a hot seat this season; some of the west coast faithful have been showing little patience for his coaching blunders, and several Bruin blogs have expressed concern about their coach's ineptitude. UCLA's surprising loss to Utah became less of an embarrassment yesterday when the Utes pulled out a win over a highly touted Louisville squad last night, but Dorrell is still out to prove himself this season, and a win against a storied Irish program would help his case.
Notre Dame looks for its first win at the Rose Bowl since the days of Knute
I apologize for the brevity of this post, but as mentioned in above, I truly am in need of some sleep before the game tonight. Go Irish. Beat Bruins.

Thursday, October 4, 2007

Quote Time

ND is heading back to the Rose Bowl since winning a national championship against Nebraska over eighty years ago, and not too many people are predicting a warm welcome for the Irish. The Bruins have looked pretty solid this year, handling Stanford, BYU, Washington, and Oregon State, but they showed a major spark of inconsistency when they lost 44-6 at Utah.

I don't think we'll have to worry about UCLA being under prepared or unmotivated for us, especially after last year:

On being on a losing team:

Tom Zbikowski: "You're going to win some games; you're going to lose some games. That's a part of being a competitor. You've got to live for another day that you're going to be able to fight and keep competing and try and get a win."

Hopefully this is the week that everything begins to mesh. Notre Dame has shown the ability to move the ball and play good defense, but they have yet to do it for four quarters. Look for ND to come out fighting on Saturday in hopes of their first win.

Wednesday, October 3, 2007

Purdue Duds and Studs

Its time for the long awaited Purdue game review. Here it goes:

Duds:

Brian Smith: after earning praise from the Nasties last week, freshman linebacker Brian Smith was disappointing on Saturday, single handily giving the Boilermakers 20 yards in penalties on one drive (and it could have been more if officials called a cheap headshot he took on Curtis Painter). The positive is that all of his mistakes seemed to be mental; jumping offsides and committing stupid personal fouls are never acceptable, but it is understandable for a true freshman to make some mental mistakes every once and awhile.

3rd Down Defense: Notre Dame surrendered only 6 of 15 third down attempts to Purdue, but it was the untimely and improbable conversions that hurt the Irish. At the end of the first quarter, ND let up a 40 yard completion on 3rd and 29; the end result was Purdue punting the ball to the 2 yard line rather than the 40. There was also a drive in the second quarter where we let Purdue complete two third and longs en route to a touchdown to put them up 20-0, and the Irish were also unable to get Purdue off of the field on their last possession where they converted twice again on third down. For a defense as thin as Notre Dame's this year, it is imperative for them to get off of the field as quick as possible to rest up, and in order to do this, we must get better on third down, especially third and long.

Special Teams: with the exception of Eric Maust filling in for Price, the special teams looked awful. I won't even mention the kicking game (5 missed points from missed kicks and blocks), but our coverage was less than spectacular on returns and our blocking didn't give our returners much of a chance on both kick and punt returns. An improvement in special teams could help Notre Dame compete better immediately and Brian Polian better address this immediately if he wants to keep his job as special teams coach.

Studs:

ND Quarterbacks: With the loss of Jones, it makes having a capable backup that much more important as fans witnessed Saturday when Clausen went down. God knows how ugly that game could have been with Darrin Bragg under center for the second half. Both of them looked pretty good (ignoring their poor decisions on the interceptions), completing close to 65% of their passes for 377 yards and three touchdowns. Many other blogs have said it and I'll repeat it: Clausen starts if he's healthy. Sharpley deserves some props for his timely performance, but Jimmy's the man and there is no use in hiding it.

Wide Receivers: It's easy to point out Golden Tate with his highlight real long ball catches (3 for 104 yards and a score), but lets not forget about the others. St. Ignatius product Robby Parris had a solid performance with 7 receptions for 93 yards, most of them the result of excellent route running over the middle. Charlie actually discovered how to call a 3 step slant this week, and it worked well for Duval Kumara; he could have maybe held on to one or two balls that ended up incomplete, but its hard to bash 6 catches for 68 yards and a TD coming from a true freshman. Lastly, West and Grimes both contributed over 30 yards. It was nice to see the ball so spread out. Defenses could have a problem stopping us as these young players start to develop over their careers.
Hey Golden, do you think you could run another fly route?John Carlson: Nice work John. It was nice to see him get a couple of balls thrown his way, and it was even better to see that he could still make things happen with the ball in his hands. Highlights included catches on 4th down and a helluva good touchdown reception.

4th down offense: Weis displayed some of his testicular fortitude against Purdue, and for the most part, it worked out decently well with ND converting 4 of 6. Fans hurry to point out the excitement of Tate's long reception on 4th and 5, but my favorite conversion was a 4th and 1 where Sharpley kept the ball and the line was able to get the necessary push. For a team that has struggled immensely in short yardage situations, it was good for them to have a play like that to boost their confidence.

There you have it. Love em or hate em, those are the Duds and Studs for week 5. Go Irish.

Monday, October 1, 2007

More Roadtrip Shenanigahns

As one of our loyal readers astutely pointed out in a comment of our last post, uncle Pop's predictions weren't exactly spot on for the Purdue game, but hey, a working clock is wrong twice a day (or is it the other way around...?). Regardless, the weekend was not a total wash as the Charlie's Nasties crew was down in the lovely town that is West Lafayette for the Notre Dame Purdue game last Saturday so our readers will at least be able to read about some fun that was had off the field.

The five friends that I was going with decided to take a pass on another two hour car ride in my civic so we all decided to head down on the Notre Dame student bus. This picture shows some visual evidence to support our decision.


However, we ran into difficulties from the start of our journey as one of my roommates found the 6:30 wake up call too much to bear. I can't blame him; any night that ends with relieving oneself on the side of an ice machine normally results in a difficult wake up...

Upon arrival our group headed over to the stadium, where a congested but lively tailgating scene could be found. It was amidst these barbecues and decorated vehicles (see above) that we were introduced to a previously unfamiliar Boilermaker tradition: the Breakfast Club. Apparently, to be a member of said club, one must get up at 6:00 am on gamedays, dress in some sort of ridiculous costume, and head to the bars to do a little pregaming. I'm ashamed at myself for failing to get any good pictures of these fans (to give you an idea, we saw everything from Fred Flinstone to the Hulk to Tom Cruise in Risky Business - actually, that guy might have just wanted to take his clothes off...). Anyways, this shot of a fan wearing a student shirt as a skirt (?) was the best I could do:

Once inside the stadium, I thanked Kevin White and company for keeping our stadium free of large jumbotrons and other advertising. To give you an idea of the absurd advertising at the game, Purdue fans jingle their keys (real original) before kickoffs, and the stadium actually had a sponsor for this that films people jingling their keys! Unbelievable.


At first I was pretty pleased that Purdue offered ND students seats so close to the field, then I realized that they let us sit where we did so they could drown us out with the multimillion dollar jumbotron right behind us. My jigging was seriously thrown off with Zombie Nation (again - really original) blaring in my ears. This poor little tyke in front of us wasn't too happy with the excess noise either.

By now you may sense my frustration with Purdue's overall lack of originality - it seemed the only thing they actually thought of themselves was that ridiculous drum... The last example of unoriginality (I promise) I present is a shirt I saw that looked eerily familiar:


Not to be outdone with the shirts, some ND students, inspired by Golden Tate's flawless execution of the fly route on Saturday were determined to make their own shirt design.

A link to order the shirts can be found here. I apologize for the advertising, but Charlie's Nasties is trying to raise some revenue to get Brugg off of strike and back on staff.


O yeah, there was a football game Saturday too, but we'll hold off on covering that until tomorrow. So for now, just sit back, enjoy the pictures from the game, and tune in tomorrow for a game recap.