Thursday, December 25, 2008

Mmmmm Some Christmas Flying Pigs.....



Wow, alrite I've got some crow to eat, what a game, it is truly a Christmas Miracle, everyone have an awesome Christmas, I'm up in Lake Placid going to do the luge and bobsled, lets get ready for new years!!!!

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

A Christmas Miracle

A recent interview I had in a dream......

Charlie: Hey, did you want to go to the bowl game this year?
Me: Yea coach, that would be swell

Charlie: Ok well we're going to Hawaii and everyone will love it there, girls on the beaches, warm sand, fruity drinks, I cant wait for all of you to come?
Me: When is it again coach?

Charlie: Christmas eve so bring your whole family, and from all the swag they give us, that can be your christmas shopping?
Me: ..... ummm coach, I'm not on the team, I am just a student and just finished up a very tough month of classwork.

Charlie: Wait, hard classwork..... your not on the team are you?
Me: No coach
Charlie: Well, your out of luck, and btw so is the band..... 

OK, we accepted a bowl (w/e I don't care either way) but to pick the Hawaii bowl on Christmas Eve, to reward a coaching staff and team with a free trip to Hawaii to play in Aloha Stadium. You know who else plays in Aloha Stadium, Pro-Bowlers from the NFL who had to earn their way there and not back into a bowl game at 6-6. 

We choose to play a decent enough team on the far away from home, and not only is it away from warm South Bend, it is in Hawaii's hometown. And who do you think is going to be going to that game which is essentially another home game for Hawaii. I mean, don't students and followers of a Catholic college like Notre Dame usually celebrate Christmas and Christmas Eve? My only idea could be that Charlie didn't want anyone to watch the game in person or on tv. Without watching the whole USC game on tv and only seeing highlights, the carnage is much less gruesome. 

ESPN posed a question today, "whether you thought that Notre Dame would finally win a bowl game and break their streak" and 72 percent of responses were no. Each and every state said no. I am hoping for our team to pull it out, but based on what we know about this team..... I don't see tonite going well, and karma isn't on our side. If they can't stay away from Cheers and focused in South Bend during the season, what do you think is going to happen when there are no classes, and only sunshine, fruity drinks, and women not in sweatpants.   Merry Christmas

Back, for now...

Have you ever been a member or a group or club and missed a series of meetings or events, and after the third miss, decided not to go to the fourth or fifth meetings because you wanted to avoid the awkwardness of having to explain why you've been missing?

I guess that's sort of what happened hear at Charlie's Nasties since the Boston College game. After an increase in school work was coupled with on-field performance I found difficult to write about, this blog has been put on the back burner. Kudos to everyone still writing the IBG posts - I've still been reading all things Irish, but the time to write kept finding away to escape from me.

Nevertheless, I felt that I should at least share a few thoughts about the bowl game against the Hawaii Warriors tonight. Naturally, BGS has a very in depth breakdown of the team we will be facing tonight. Here are a few observations about their roster:
  • Hawaii only has one starter (soph RB Kealoha Pilares) that isn't at least a junior. It absolutely amazes me that Notre Dame is still fielding so much youth (5 freshman have started this year) that it is still markedly younger than a Hawaii team that just graduated perhaps its best class in school history.
  • The matchup that might determine the game could very well be Hawaii's D-Line vs. the Notre Dame sled pushers. DE David Veikune has 9 sacks in the last six games and is projected by some to get drafted this spring. Couple that with two 300 lb tackles on the interior, and the Irish offensive line could be challenged by the Warriors, who are 11th in the nation in sacks this year.
  • I feel that our defense will match up favorably against Hawaii's run and shoot offense. Sports Illustrated wrote a great article a few months ago about the keys to stopping a spread offense, and it seems that the secret is to field a very rare and specific type of defensive players that are fast, agile, and capable tacklers. This has shown up in Weis' recruiting as he has been getting bigger, more physical CBs and quicker (and sometimes smaller) front seven players. Look for Harrison Smith to be all over the field in this game.

That's about as in depth as I can go into a game preview, but hopefully readers can find something worthwhile in there. Perhaps more interesting than any game preview, however, is the reaction to Notre Dame playing in this bowl game in the first place. Here are some bullet points on that:

  • On the decision to bowl at .500: I am aware that Notre Dame is used to holding itself to a higher tradition, and the thought of being rewarded for such a disappointing season doesn't sit well with some people. However, this young team needs this game not for the extra practices (I honestly don't think an extra 2-3 weeks at the end of the season does much), they need this game to change the momentum around before the offseason. Getting the bowl monkey off our back would help everything from recruiting to player moral; we need this win. Good call.
  • On the decision to bowl in Hawaii: From my understanding, there were a few lower-tiered bowls chomping at the bit to host Notre Dame and its large viewing audience, and the coaches asked the players informally if they preferred any of these bowls. Naturally, the players picked Hawaii. Here is where I have a problem because it does seem to turn the trip into a reward. This also seems to be a lose-lose from a football standpoint: if we win, we beat Hawaii. If we lose, we lost to Hawaii. Neither option is very appealing; it's no wonder the ever generous University offered students $45 tickets to this game. Bad call.
  • More on the decision to bowl in Hawaii: Besides the coach/player/football decision to go to Hawaii, this bowl choice has not seemed to make fans very happy. For the first time in history, the band will not follow the team to the bowl game, and in the current economy, it seems unlikely that many fans will either. One domer from Pittsburgh commented that instead of paying the $2,500 for a plane ticket, he would rather watch the game on a new High Def TV. As for the students, some of the better off upperclassmen are fortunate enough be able to vacation to Hawaii and watch the team, but I know too many Seniors that are financially unable to cheer on their team in person for their last game as students. Bad Call.
  • On playing on Christmas Eve: I don't like this date for two reasons. First, its proximity to finals means that the team either didn't get as much practice as they could have, or sacrificed study time to cram in football, neither of which is good. Second, the extraordinary time wasted on travel and time adjustment handicaps Notre Dame and leaves Hawaii unaffected. Bad call from a football standpoint. From a religious / fan standpoint, if Notre Dame doesn't have a problem playing bowls on Jan. 1, then I don't see a religious problem, and fortunately, in today's age of TiVo, Christmas Eve conflicts should at least be minimized. No call.

That's it for this short bowl preview. Thanks to all of the fans that have read and commented on this blog over the past two seasons. Merry Christmas, and of course, Go Irish!

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

IBG Back to the Past Edition

This week's questions from Brawling Hiberian, a hysterical blog that readers should check out.

1. In the parlance of DJs, a "deep cut" is a song that wasn't released as a single and, generally, is not well-known. What Notre Dame victory is your favorite "deep cut" from the Irish catalog? In other words, what is your favorite victory that is not widely celebrated (i.e., not the "Snow Bowl" or the 1988 Miami game, etc.). Explain in much detail.
Think back to the start of the 2004 campaign, where Marcus Wilson and TT combined to produce a whopping 11 rushing yards on 21 attempts to open the season in a loss to BYU. My “deep cut” is the following game against 7th ranked Michigan. Two Brady Quinn interceptions and a stagnant first half offense had ND down 9-0 entering the 3rd quarter, and then freshman Darius Walker was given the chance to win the RB job. Walker excelled in the game, rushing for 115 yards and 2 TDs. Sadly, inconsistency would plague the remainder of the season, making this upset a little less enjoyable in hindsight, but then again, I don’t think I ever even saw ND win a bowl game, so this is my deep cut.
2. As much fun as it is rooting for our heroes, it can be just as enjoyable to trash those we consider to be villains. A few years ago, the great Irish blog, Blue Gray Sky, wrote a post discussing the biggest villains in Notre Dame history. That post focused on external villains. Today's question is, of those associated with the program, who is the biggest villain? This individual must have been a player, coach or administrator at ND who, through reckless acts of cowardice, stupidity or malice, damaged the football program. (Note: Ty Willingham is off the board)
How about Heisman trophy winner Paul Hornung, who after a disappointing 2003 campaign, proclaimed that, “We can't stay as strict as we are as far as the academic structure is concerned because we've got to get the black athlete. We must get the black athlete if we're going to compete." Notre Dame is not a very diverse campus to begin with, so this comment was particularly disappointing as it gave the media fuel to perpetuate the perception that the University has racism issues. A quasi-tangential effect of this comment is that perhaps if this comment hadn’t been made, Irish fans wouldn’t have had to put up with as much post-Willingham backlash. The most disheartening aspect of this comment is that such a prominent figure in Notre Dame history may be forever linked to the racism that the University has tried so hard to fight.
3. Falling in love is a wonderful thing. As Lt. Frank Drebin once observed, "you begin to notice things you never knew were there before; birds sing, dew glistening on a newly formed leaf, stop signs." Describe the moment that you knew that there would be no other; you were in love with Notre Dame.
When I read this question, I thought it was odd that I couldn't really come up with any spectacular or even specific moment. The closest thing to a 'moment' was probably sometime in the beginning of winter my Freshman year when I found my self on a late walk across South Quad on the way back to my dorm. The first real fresh snow had just fallen (and it was the big, slow, puffy kind, not the usual Midwest sideways sleet stuff), and the campus in general looked beautiful. Sure there are times when students complain about invasive construction (see: having to walk through a construction sight for two semesters to get to every single one of my classes), but when everything quiets down at night, the magnificent history and tradition of the University always seem to get me a little awestruck.

Kind of sappy, I admit, but you know it's true
4. Regrets, we've had a few but, then again, too few to ever let go of any of them. What game, or specific play, in Irish history turns your dreams into nightmares and haunts your every waking moment? Describe this moment and why you wish ND could have another crack at it?
Is there any better moment to pick than the Bush Push in 2005? With their only loss being an overtime shootout against MSU, Irish fans around the nation were foaming at the mouth to slay the Goliath that was the 2005 Trojans, and the crazy thing is that in the fourth quarter, we were actually winning. The most crazy thing? When the clock hit 0:00, we were winning! I guess that a certain immortality comes with the end of that game in the fact that the nation basically recognized that USC unjustly scored on the last play (whether it be from ball spot, untimely booth review, or push), but I would still have liked to see Notre Dame pull out that W. It would have given Weis a win against USC and possibly given the team a shot at Texas in the National Championship. I’m not sure how that squad would have done against Vince Young and a dirty Texas defense, but it probably wouldn’t have been any worse than the massive OSU losses in recent years. 5. With 79 consensus All-Americans and 48 inductees in the College Football Hall of Fame, it is clear that there have been many great players in the history of Notre Dame football. What was the greatest single season from a player that you ever witnessed during your Irish fandom? Be specific. Use adjectives.
Unfortunately, my football watching before I attended ND is almost entirely composed of the Davie/Willingham eras, which did not yield the All-America talent that some of the more senior members of IBG may be able to name. The easy pick for me would be someone from the ‘05/’06 teams, but I’d rather go with more of a ‘deep cut’ in ND’s all time sack leader, Justin Tuck. In a 2003 season that was generally pretty forgetful, it was memorable to see Tuck line up at DE every play and see who he was going to dominate on every play. 11 games later, #44 had tallied 13.5 sacks in the season, the largest single season number since Notre Dame began recording sacks in 1982. There was just something about the passion and intensity with which Tuck played the game that made him one of my favorite Irish players to watch.

Let's see some of this intensity! Go Irish!=

Monday, November 10, 2008

BC Duds and Studs

Duds

Haywood: Jimmy was sick, hurt, and generally playing awful. When your QB is just barely completing 50% of his passes, including some terrible interceptions, it's probably a good idea to hand off to your runningbacks instead of hucking the ball 46 times (another example of ND losing when JC has 40+ attempts). While I was watching the game it seemed that our runningbacks were also ineffective, but Allen averaged 4 yards per rush and Hughes averaged 6. The problem is that Allen only got 6 carries and Hughes got 3! Can't we just see what happens if we give Armando 5 or 6 carries per quarter?
Weis: Speaking of Jimmy being sick and hurt, one has to wonder why he was in the game at all. Last season, against a BC team ranked 4th in the country, the veteran Evan Sharpley went 11/29 for 135 yards and a TD; not great numbers, but he didn't turn the ball over. Hopefully Weis' decision to resume the play calling duties will breathe some life back into our offense. And the last point on Weis, Notre Dame has averaged 12.6 points a game in the first half, but only 9.8 points a game in the second half; someone needs to teach these kids how to finish a game, and until then I think seeing an Irish comeback any time this year is an impossibility.
Special Teams: Holding calls on Jonas Gray, a block punt for the second week in a row, and a fumble by Tate on a punt return. Notice how the BC returner (although he looked like a total wimp at times) often waved his hand when it looked like he might have had room to catch? That's because he was in a game where neither offense could do anything, so his coach told him to make sure to secure the ball before trying to be the hero.

Latina: While I'm ripping the other coaches, I might as well keep going down the line (I know, sweet joke...). I believe that (especially when JC isn't on his game) running the ball more gives us a decent chance of winning, but the reason the coaches may not agree with me is because of the terrible inconsistency of the O-Line. For every 8 or 12 yard run, there is a play stopped at or behind the line of scrimmage. Whether this is due to a mental or physical error varies on play to play, but to have a line with 3 juniors, a senior (who is playing very well this season), and a very talented freshman, one would hope that a good coach could fix some of these problems by the ninth game of the season.

Studs
Defense: BC has only been held to under 17 points once this season (16 in a loss to GT), and discounting the pick six means that our defense was able to hold the Eagles to 10 points in Boston. Good individual efforts came from Brian and Harrison Smith (9 and 8 tackles, respectively), and Kyle McCarthy (unfortunately) had another impressive tackling day with 8. The secondary only gave up 79 passing yards on 9/22 attempts from Chris Crane; Brown and McNeil helped contribute to the 40% completion percentage with 5 combined pass breakups. As Her Loyal Sons so eloquently put, "Nobody would blame you if you held the ND offense down in their beds tonight and beat them with bars of soap in tube socks."

Asaph Schwapp: The 10 yard reception was one of the few exciting offensive plays that I can recall.

CJs Pub: Thank you for providing beer and a good burger to distract me for some of the game.

Brady Quinn: In his first NFL start, Quinn went 23/35 for 239 yards and 2 TDs (and no turnovers) in a loss to Denver. All is not well for my Browns in Cleveland, but at least BQ was able to give fans the performance they were hoping for. He was calm, cool, and collected in the pocket, used some mobility to make plays under pressure, and ran the offense relatively well - the only thing missing was the W.

Other Thoughts:
I would have put Clausen on the Duds list, but 1: I thought it would be a little repetitive, and 2: you have to appreciate someone that is willing to go out and play even when he is far from 100%. JC spent all of last season fighting a bad elbow and has recently been playing with a banged up ankle and the flu, but we haven't ever heard him give any excuses yet.
I often wonder why ND has 3-5 players that rotate in at the PR/KOR positions. To me, it makes more sense to get 2-3 guys all the reps in practice so that miscues (like Tate's) can potentially be avoided.
Did anyone else think it was funny that even after Quinn's first NFL start, he still had nothing to do on Sunday (ala the Subway commercial)?
Anyone talking about Weis getting fired after this season is rightfully upset, but probably not right. Keep in mind that this guy has been standing on the sidelines with a completely busted knee for a month, which (I think) should be somewhat commended. Also, Charlie's recruiting success has created a substantial exit barrier; do you think a first year AD would risk firing a coach at the expense of our incoming recruiting class (let alone young players on the current team that might leave with Weis)?

That's it for now. Go Irish. Beat Navy!

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Irish Blogger Gathering: The “Saying A Lot By Asking Obtuse Questions” Edition

This week's IBG questions come from Her Loyal Sons:

What photo of some member of the 2008 Irish squad doing something, anything at all, really, says all 1,000 words that need to be said about this team? OR, which photo of some member of the 2008 Irish squad doing something would tell 1,000 lies about this team if you only saw the photo and didn’t know better? (Double-secret word score bonus for answering both mutations of the same question)
DomerMQ wrote about the picture of Olsen growling over Michigan’s Mouton. At the time, the picture seemed to offer hope for Irish fans; our young players were beating down on a rival that had thumped us two years straight, and they were looking angry (in a good way) while doing it. In retrospect, I think this picture (courtesy of MS Paint Like A Champion Today) may say some things about our team:
A lot of ND fans got so pumped about the Olsen picture, but since the UM beatdown, our team has gone 3-3, showing a lot of second half softness in four of those games and only showing the same fire in wins over 3-6 Purdue and 0-8 Washington. So if ND is represented by this superhero-like picture of Olsen, it seems that our kryptonite comes from playing close games against above average teams, which doesn’t seem to make us much like a superhero at all.

Some of you may know that I (domer.mq) am a football stat geek. Which statistic do you think geeks like myself should really be paying attention to this season and why? (Can pertain to ND or CFB in general.)

Clausen’s 44 attempts last weekend gave my QB analysis chart another data point that supports one of my conclusions from the article: when Jimmy has more than 40 pass attempts, we lose. This stat may be most correlated with the running game, but not necessarily in terms of YPC. When we throw the ball a lot, opposing defenses tend to only rush 3-5 linemen and drop the rest into coverage, and JC has struggled when facing a lot of defensive players in the secondary, turning the ball over or displaying a low completion percentage. Until Clausen makes the next leap in his development, we should try to stay between 20-35 attempts if we can run the ball (with Allen!) with any success at all.

Give me the damn ball!

Seeing as how Boston College is nothing but an up-jumped program enjoying the luxury and soft Corinthian leather of an ACC schedule, which team from the current top 25 would you love to see this year’s Irish play this weekend in Fredo’s stead? Why? Do you think the Irish would win? Describe the game. Paint us a picture! I’ll get the popcorn!

First off, I would very much like to play (and destroy) Boston College this weekend because while they are not generally a great team, they have won five straight against the Irish, moving the all time series record to 9-8 in favor of the Irish. This game gives us an opportunity to distance ourselves from the Eagles, which I hope the team takes advantage of.
Not to dodge the question though, if we could play any team in the top 25 this week, it would be Ball State for me. Boring pick, you ask? Maybe, but when I went to the Purdue game last year, some trash talking fan claimed that Notre Dame was the worst team in the state of Indiana, saying with a thick West Lafayette accent, “You can’t even beat Ball State!” The sad thing is that the jumbo-tron-loving Boilermaker may actually have been right last year, so I would like to see Notre Dame thoroughly handle Ball State this year just to give me some peace of mind.
Just beat 'em already!

Let’s dispose of the gradient colors and subtle vagaries of college football for a moment and answer this question with one of the supplied, absolute answers and a blurb defending your pick. No waffling! The Question: Why is Notre Dame unable to put away games when leading going into half time? The possible answers: 1) ND Players all have a soft, nougat center 2) The Coaches don’t want to tick off potential future employers 3) God doesn’t think it’s classy to blow a team out 4) The ND Fanbase can’t really stomach blowouts any more than they could stomach a protracted land war in Asia. Remember, you must pick one and you must defend it with great vigor!

While I may be able to write a more humorous answer by responding to 2-4, I really do think that right now the problem is with the players. Sure the coaches may have hurt their chances by dampening their “strategic advantage,” but the fact is that when you come out flat and don’t execute, you aren’t going to have much success. Coming out flat doesn’t have much to do with a nougat center, but not being able to recapture control of the game after you give your opponent momentum does. Remember that picture of Olsen I mentioned? The Irish have shown a lot of positive nastiness when they have been in control of games, but when the game begins to slip away, the players visibly begin to lose confidence. As Weis said following the Pitt loss, the confidence should improve as the team wins a few close nail biters, thus hardening the nougat center into something more like hardened caramel.

Tennessee just began celebrating the career of Phil Fulmer today this week as he announced that he’d been given the opportunity to make it look like resigning was his idea. Certainly, this is a clarion call to ADs across the country to begin worrying over their tea that, should their current HC not work out, they wont get a shot at #s 1-5 on their candidate list. Tell us about an AD who may be looking at this move by Tennessee and acting a bit more aggressively towards a reduction in force of his current football staff now rather than later. And who might that AD be trying to seduce before Tennessee already has a “hand shake agreement” with the guy?
I’ve never been a big coach candidate follower (unless ND or the Browns are looking for one, which I guess has been fairly often over the last decade), so don’t put much into my answer here. If I had to pick one coach that is hot on the market, my knee-jerk reaction is Skip Holtz, who has displayed some great coaching capability by beating a few ranked teams with an understaffed ECU squad. I think that Holtz will have a couple offers to choose from after this season.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Pitt Duds and Studs

Sorry for my Monday posts getting put up later every week... maybe I'll blame this one on daylight savings time. With that...

Duds

Weis/Haywood: To start off, here are a few fragmented stats about the run game:
Allen rushed for 45 yards on 7 attempts (6.4 ypc) over the first 3 series. Then, after the third series (3:44 remaining in the first quarter), Allen did not get a carry until after half time. Other ND backs averaged 2.8 ypc the rest of the 2nd quarter. After getting only 5 carries in the second half, Allen rushed for gains of 3, 2, 8, 7, and 7 in overtime.
I realize that we have three pretty good runningbacks on our team, but when your best back appears to perform best when he is in a rhythm, it might be a good idea to let him run the heck out of the ball instead of giving his carries to Hughes (who has been ineffective all year) and Aldridge (who is good in short yardage, but not as good as Allen otherwise).
As far as the decision to run an elaborate play action on fourth and 1, all I'll say is that we used to praise Weis for running those plays 2-3 years ago, but the fact that he had to take two timeouts to explain the play to his players should be evidence enough that it was not a good call.
Lambert: On a close breakup in the endzone that looked like it could have been pass interference, a student near me said "Its OK - that won't be a flag - if the ball was catchable, it would have been caught." That pretty much sums up the pass coverage Lambert has shown this season, and while he has been used as a run-support corner, he has been also recently been unable to breakdown and tackle receivers in the open field. The Sports Illustrated rumor mill predicts a few shakeups in the Irish starting lineup for the BC game, and I'll be surprised if this isn't one of them.

Clausen: Some people might disagree on this one; 23/44 for 271 yards and 3 TDs without turning the ball over is pretty impressive, but Jimmy's finish puts him soundly in my dud category this week. In overtime, Clausen was 2/7 for 15 yards and a sack. I also partially blame JC for the flat play in the second half; Clausen has shown the leadership to make his team play hungry and aggressive at times, but this fire was absent for much of the second half.
Inconsistent DBs: I thought that Raeshon McNeil overall had a pretty good game, and his two interceptions were excellent plays that stalled the Irish collapse, but McNeil was picked on when Pitt threw to him three straight times from the 10 yard line, with a Jonathan Baldwin touchdown coming on the 3rd attempt. I was startled that McCoy didn't get any carries then, but maybe (gulp) Wannstedt knew what he was doing...
The other DB is Harrison Smith, who is perhaps getting a little too much hate for his late hit penalty that extended Pitt's first scoring drive of the second half. I appreciate the intensity (and Smith continued to impress me the rest of the game), but there are some penalties that you just cannot commit, and drive extending, post play personal fouls are at the top of the list.

Studs

Bruton/McCarthy: The senior tandem combined for 31 tackles, and Bruton came down with an interception after landing on his head so hard that he couldn't get up for several minutes... and then he went back in the game to shut down Pitt in 3 straight OT series. Notre Dame fans should be praying for that McCarthy uses his last year of eligibility; taking two losses this big in the secondary would hurt a lot.

Tate/Floyd: Fortunately for Irish fans, these two are guaranteed to be around for at least one more season. Golden kept flashing big play ability, hauling in 6 receptions for 111 yards and a TD (including one ridiculously heads up circus catch), and Floyd looked unstoppable at times, getting his hands on the ball 10 times for 100 yards and 2 scores. What is somewhat disappointing is that only three other Irish players had receptions in the game (Rudolph - 2, Kamara - 2, Allen - 3). If Clausen's accuracy is going to improve to the 65% area, other receivers need to take advantage of the coverage these two are drawing and get open.
Brandon Walker: There are some people that jump to blame Walker for the loss because ND lost by three points and he missed his final field goal, but lets take a look at what this kid accomplished this weekend:
He got the Irish on the board with a no-doubter 39 yard field goal. In a close game, he was 3/3 on extra points, and when his number was called to keep Notre Dame in the game during overtime, he responded by kicking three straight field goals, including a 48 yarder. After kicking 1/7 to start the season, Walker has upped his field goal average to 53%, and he was 4/5 in perhaps the highest pressure game he has experienced.
The bottom line is that Notre Dame got the ball at the 25 yard line four times and could not score. That is what should be troubling fans, not the kicking game.

Other Thoughts:
It was a great idea for the grounds crew to wet down the field to slow McCoy for the second OT, although I think it was a little less subtle than growing out the grass for Bush in 05.
I was generally disappointed Pat Bostick was able to throw for the same yards per attempt (about 6.1) as Clausen... I guess average quarterbacks can do alright when they have a good running game to rely on...
In a somewhat unexpected announcement, Brady Quinn will be starting for my Browns Thursday night against the Broncos. As much as I have wanted Quinn to play, it seems strange that the coaches would choose such a short week to make the transition, but let's hope that he can take advantage of a porous Denver secondary and get his first NFL win. Check out this link to see how pissed ex-Browns qb Trent Dilfer is about Cleveland's decision to switch QBs at their fan's request.

Go Irish!

Monday, October 27, 2008

IBG: All's Hallow Edition

Welcome to another edition of the Irish Blogger Gathering. Here at Charlie's Nasties we don't have much besides a few rag tag college kids to our name, but this week we have the privilege of hosting the weekly IBG segment. Seeing as perhaps the most college-friendly holiday lies at the end of the calendar for this week, the IBG questions have a little Halloween twist to them. Enjoy!
1. A loss to Washington would have been spooky, but we were able to pull it out. What was your favorite part of the victory?

After offseason promises of having a power running game, it was very fulfilling to finally see Notre Dame impose their will on another team by using an effective ground attack; Irish backs averaged 5.5 ypc and ND scored 3 times (if you count Tate as a back) en route to a 237 yard performance. The Huskies looked physically inferior on the other side of the ball, but then again, earlier this year Notre Dame struggled to move the ball against SDSU and Stanford, who arguably had the same disadvantage. To paraphrase Dennis Green, the Irish running attack 'was what we thought it was' last weekend; it was just very reassuring to see it.
2. Charlie's Nasties does a Duds and Studs segment to reflect on every game. Name one player/coach that could have done better against the Huskies and one player/coach that stepped it up.

Dud: Jimmy Clausen
I don't want to be too tough on Clausen, especially considering that Weis was obviously trying to keep the ball on the ground for much of the game, but it was a small let down to see Jimmy put up very modest numbers (14/26 for 201 yards) after setting personal yardage records in each of the previous three games. While part of me really wanted Clausen to mimic the 4 TD performance against UW that Brady had his sophomore year, the game seemed more like a small hiccup than anything serious. Expect a motivated JC to put up better numbers against Pitt. (Sidenote: for anyone that normally reads Duds and Studs, I rarely cop out and only list one person, but I thought the team played so well overall this week that I had to rely on help from other bloggers... check the comments of this article to see the other Duds and Studs this week)

Stud: Harrison Smith
OC Domer broke down a couple years worth of info from the Blue Gold game, and one of the conclusions was that the game's MVPs generally went on to have a good (if not great) career at Notre Dame. When Harrison got the defensive honors this year, I was a little skeptical, attributing his spring performance more to playing a special position (see Ronnie Brown in the Razorback) than skill that would translate to the rest of the season. However, Smith has played extremely well the last two weeks in pass coverage, run support, and QB rushing (2 sacks against UW), which basically means that I was completely wrong in my Blue Gold assessment. This guy has a knack for finding the football, and I hope that he can keep playing at this level for the rest of the year.
3. Halloween involves people abandoning reality for awhile to dress up and imitate something that they are not. Pick one Halloween costume with traits you would like to see from the Notre Dame football team the rest of the season.

Over the past few weeks we've seen the Irish show flashes of being a very good football team. The 124 yards of total offense given up by the defense was the best by an ND squad since 1996, Allen rushed for 134 yards against Purdue, we had 6 takeaways against Michigan, and Clausen threw for 347 and 3TDs against Stanford. Despite these and other great performances, however, I still haven't seen the Irish put together a complete game, so I would like to see the running game working well with the passing game, the defense matching the offense, and the special teams working well on top of it all. I want to see all of ND's players all playing well together, which is why I'm picking the superhero tandem of Batman and Robin, who always work well together to win. Alright, maybe a more intimidating picture would have really stuck the point home, but I think you get my drift.

4. When trick-or-treating as a kid, there always seemed to be at least one house that handed out apples. What aspect of the football team this year is the biggest apple in your candy bag (aka biggest disappointment)?

As mentioned in my response to question 1, I have been pretty disappointed with our running game thus far in the season, especially considering the talent we have at the position and Weis' preseason pledge to focus on that aspect of our game. It was not very comforting as a fan to see our 'power running' mindset fail to yield a 4.0 ypc rusher against San Diego State, MSU, or Stanford in our first 5 games, but Allen and Aldridge have been running hard recently, and the O-Line seems to be having more success as less zone blocking plays are being used. Hopefully this trend continues and the Irish will be able to look to their ground game when the weather begins to get worse over the next few weeks.

5. This year, October 31st is coincidentally also the opener for ND's Mens Basketball team (preseason against Briar Cliff). Say a few words about one player that will make have the biggest impact on the success of the team this season (apologies to non-bball fans, but I couldn't resist).

The great thing about this year's squad is that there are so many players with the potential to make an impact this season. Just to give you an idea, I'm really excited to see Jonathan Peoples and Carlton Scott play this year, and they likely won't even be in the top 6 or 7 in minutes. To answer this question, though, I'm going to pick Tory Jackson. Jackson has the best ability to penetrate from the half court set, and having the option to slash and dash to the basket will create some higher percentage shots when Harangody is struggling (so we don't have to go into the 3-point offense), and Tory's great passing game will result in a lot of great assists. I've also really enjoyed watching Jackson D up on some of the best guards in the Big East, and I think his perimeter defense will be key to shutting down some of the better teams.

That's all for this issue of the Irish Blogger Gathering. Make sure to check out Her Loyal Sons next week. Go Irish!

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

IBG: Tailgate Edition

Welcome to another edition of the Irish Blogger Gathering. Bad Trade came up with this week's questions, so take some time to read their responses as well as the responses from other members of IBG (links in the comments section). Also, make sure to check out Charlie's Nasties next week as we get our chance to host the Gathering. Enjoy, and as always, Go Irish!

1. You're having some beers and brats outside Notre Dame Stadium, just chilling with friends. If you could have one Notre Dame player or coach drop by to share a drink, a brat and some stories with you, who would it be?

If I was choosing from the current team, the coach would probably be Tenuta. He’s got this crazy look in his eyes that, if nothing else, would be good for keeping the excise police away. The no-brainer for best player from this year is definitely Pat Kuntz. Tell me this guy doesn’t look like a good time:
2. What was your best experience ever with a tailgate party?

I had some good experiences last year traveling to Purdue, and Michigan, but it seems strange to trump a day of ND tailgating in favor of a day with one of our rivals. So instead I’ll go with the Boston College game from last year. The weather was nice, and the mingling with friends was fun as usual, but a bus full of amicable BC alums that puts this day at the top. Anyone can sit around a tailgate with friends and have fun talking football, but how often do you get to sip Hot Damn 100 out of a soup ladle with people you’ve never met before and happen to be exuberant fans of a rival school?

3. There are lots of great tailgate experiences around the country - what school's tailgate tradition do you most want to experience?

I actually haven’t heard of too many specific tailgate experiences (besides schools where the ‘experience’ is just drinking a lot), so from the very limited library of tailgating knowledge that I have, I’ll choose Purdue. Apparently, the rowdiest of the Boilermaker faithful gather at a local bar in the pre-sunrise hours of gamedays, clad in ridiculous costumes to pregame the tailgates in an even known as The Breakfast Club. Good ole’ fashion Kegs and Eggs is alright, but isn’t everything better when you get to dress up?
While I may not have too much tailgate experience under my young belt, I will get to take in what should be a very interesting experience in the couch-burning city of Columbus this weekend for the OSU / Penn State game, and if I uncover any unique tailgating experiences, I’ll be sure to share them.

4. Indiana decides that their drinking laws are far too un-draconian (I'm from Wisconsin. I don't understand these things like "kids aren't allowed in bars," "your parents can't give you liquor if they are supervising" and "no alcohol purchases on Sunday"), and drinking is now forbidden on Saturdays. The Excise Police stop by your tailgate, and proceed to dump out the liquor you were attempting to hide from them. What do they pour out?

Being a poor college student, this one’s easy. Maybe if we were feeling particularly classy, a handle of McCormick’s vodka would be confiscated, but the drink most likely to be found at our tailgate would be Ten High, the best price/value combination of whiskey that Meijer has to offer.
You know it's good when the bottle cap is a plastic twist off
5. OK, I couldn't leave it alone completely. How do you feel about the impending end of the Coach Willingham era at Washington?

Over the past 3 seasons at Washington, Willingham’s average signing classes have consisted each of 4 Four Star players, and 7.6 Two Star players. Weis’ classes during the same time period (keep in mind that one of these classes came during a historically bad 3-9 season) averaged 14.6 Four Star players and only .6 Two Star. Ty’s first two season’s at ND consisted of fairly decent recruiting numbers, but after the success of Stanford and the 2002 season faded, Willingham pulled in a miserable 2 Four Stars to 6 Two Stars in 2004. As for this season, Charlie is working on another Top 10 recruiting class while Ty currently only has 4 ranked commits for the 2009 class.
The moral of the story? You can’t win without talent, and keeping someone around for four years that recruits poor talent will often result in a few 0-6 starts. I have full confidence that the Irish will make it 0-7.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Clausen/Quinn Midseason Breakdown

Last offseason, this site came up with a three part article attempting to draw some comparisons between the freshman seasons of Brady Quinn and Jimmy Clausen. I thought that while we're in the middle of a slow bye week, it would be interesting to take a look at where the two stood after the first half of their sophomore seasons. From this high-tech Excel breakdown, it looks like Clausen is throwing (on average) more passes at a higher completion rate. JC is throwing for more yards per game, but his passes are averaging less yards per attempt.

One thing interesting to draw from last season's comparisons is that during freshman year, Quinn was attempting more passes and throwing for more YPG, and this trend has appeared to flip this season. Also, while JC is throwing 2.3 TDs to BQ's 1.5, the pair are virtually even in TD/INT ratio with Jimmy at 1.75 and Brady at 1.8. Feel free to chime in with any observations you have from the data above, but the most interesting info I got came from looking at YPG and Attempts Per Game:
Both squads were 4-2 through 6 games, and I have gone through and marked the losses of both teams. You'll notice that there seems to be a weak positive correlation between pass yards per game and losing, and although it may not seem that significant in the above graph, the chart marking attempts per game makes it fairly obvious.


The magic number seems to be 40 attempts: stay at or under and the team winds, go above that mark and you're itching for a loss. The tricky thing here is that equating passing to losing is sort of a 'chicken/egg' situation (i.e. are you losing because you're passing, or are you passing because you're losing?), but for this season, I think it is decently easy to resolve that dilemma. Against MSU, Notre Dame wasn't passing because they were down early, they were passing because they absolutely could not run the ball. At North Carolina, Weis and Co. came out with guns blazing, throwing on 14 of their first 18 plays (and the other 4 plays were 3 qb draws and a sack).


The bottom line is that numbers are just numbers, and they can't really ever tell the whole story, but maybe this chart suggests that these quarterbacks are still too young to shoulder 40+ attempt responsibility. Maybe Weis needs to learn how to incorporate his three-headed RB team and improving run blocking later in the game (what if the first play in the second half of the UNC game was a run?). If the aerial assault is to continue in 2008, Weis and Clausen need to figure out a way of eliminating the increased interceptions that come with increased pass attempts, otherwise we could be in for more disappointing losses in the second half of the year.


The good news that comes out of this post is that Jimmy is very comparable to Brady through the first season and a half, with Clausen arguably out performing Quinn. After sitting on my couch watching Big Ten football all weekend, I can tell you that Irish fans under appreciate a sophomore's ability to throw catchable balls on every attempt. The future has the potential to be very bright for Notre Dame, let's hope that the team can find a way to crank up the light switch.


Go Irish.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

IBG: Bye Week Edition

A few weeks ago, Subway Domer suggested that a few Notre Dame bloggers combine heads every week to ponder over a few Irish-football-related questions. Each week, a different blogger comes up with 5 questions, and the other members of this segment (called the Irish Blogger Gathering) do their best to come up with answers. Frank at UHND.com came up with some good questions for the bye week. Enjoy...

1. With our beloved Irish on the bye this weekend, how much college football will you be watching Saturday and what games are you most looking forward to watching?

There’s some great Big 12 action that I might be tuning into (16 Kansas at 4 Oklahoma or 11 Missouri at 1 Texas), but seeing as I’ll be back in Ohio for fall break, the game of focus will definitely be No 12 OSU at No 20 Michigan State (3:30 pm abc). Ohio State has been pretty inconsistent on offense (see: scoring 16 points against Purdue), so if the Spartans can muster up 20+ points of offense, they have a great chance of upsetting the Buckeyes in East Lansing. However, this week in the football season usually marks the implosion MSU, causing a semi-talented top 25 team to slip to the level of a 7-5 or 6-6 team, so something’s got to give.
2. Not to look too far ahead… but in looking at the 2009 schedule, do you think the Irish will be set up for a title run if they continue to improve each week as they are doing now?

Last season, I did a breakdown comparing how Quinn and Clausen performed during their freshman seasons, and my army of child labor data compilers has been hard at work crunching numbers for a sophomore midseason analysis that I should be able to put up over fall break. Let me give you a hint: the comparisons are pretty dog gone similar. What’s more, the 2009 offense will return starters at nearly every position, so the tools are there for our offense to develop into one of the more dangerous units in the country.
The schedule also looks pretty favorable: MSU, USC, and BC at home, and Michigan / Pitt on the road look to be the toughest games. So the big question is if our defense can make the leap and start competing at the next level… Plan on reading several hundred articles during the offseason as to whether or not the defense will be able to do so, but for now, I say why not? Notre Dame will go to the 2009 National Title game if they can beat USC.

3. If you could take 1 recruit we missed on from each of the last 4 years (1 from each year), who would they be and how differently would this team look like right now if we had gotten that 1 player each year? (Note, the players should be players the Irish either led for at one time or were at least a finalist for).

Anyone interested in recruiting that doesn’t have a rivals subscription can check UHND’s recruiting board to see how ND stands with the top prospects in the country. I have to applaud Frank and co. at UHND blog for this question as I think it’s a pretty interesting one. Here’s my stab at it:
2005: In this coaching transition year, the Irish did not have any commits from the Rivals Top 100 (even Stanford did). So really landing any prominent commit would have helped, but I’m going to go with Alex Boone, a top tackle that now dominates in the Big Ten for OSU. While he may not have helped us in his first two years, Boone could have teamed up with Sullivan and Young during last season to help the Irish field a better offensive line, and perhaps we could have mustered a few more wins in 2007.
2006: Here I have to go with Gerald McCoy, the top DT prospect that earned Big 12 Freshman of the Year Honors last season (redshirted 2006, though I doubt that would have been the case if he went to ND) for the Sooners. A go to DT to compliment Laws/Kuntz/Williams would have helped last season, and having a disruptive force in the middle this season would greatly aid Tentuta’s blitz schemes this year.
2007: The Irish hauled in a great class in 2007, with 7 players in the Rivals 100, but out of those 7, only CB Gary Gray was on the defensive side of the ball. Again, I think Notre Dame would have gotten the most benefit from hauling in a big D-Line recruit. #1 DE prospect Carlos Dunlap finished with the Irish 3rd on his list, choosing instead to go to Florida.
2008: Another year, and 7 more Domers in the top 100, but only 2 on defense. After watching so many highlight reels of Omar Hunter before he de-committed, I can’t possibly choose anyone else. Why pick 3 D-Linemen in three years, you ask? Remember when Abirimiri, Laws, and Landri were all starting for Notre Dame? That’s why.
4. If Notre Dame could only land 1 more recruit on each side the ball in this recruiting class, who would you like it to be? (Again, it should be someone we have a reasonable chance with).

Def: Why Jelani Jenkins? Because he’s the #1 LB? Because he’s the #4 overall recruit in the country? Maybe… but I really want this guy just because he goes to Our Lady of Good Counsel in Maryland, the alma mater of one of my good friends, and because she’s currently saving the world in Uganda, I feel obligated to throw props to her high school in absentia. Furthermore, this guy is BIG, FAST, and loves contact. I think he would be a great addition to the Irish LB team.
Off: Shaq Evans is the obvious choice, not only because of this kids play making ability at WR, but also because it would be great to see a top California recruit to spurn USC in favor of Irish. Top tackle prospect Xavier Nixon is an attractive pick, but this class already has 3 OL commits, so I feel that it would be a little more beneficial to land a receiver, a position where ND currently lacks any true position prospects.

5. If you could take one of Notre Dame’s bowl losses since the 1994 Cotton Bowl win over Texas A&M and turn it into a win, which one would it be? Why? And What if any impact do you think that win would have had on the Irish.

For me, it would definitely be the 2006 loss to OSU in the Fiesta Bowl. I have already described why that game was my first Irish 'heartbreaker' in the last IBG post, but it would also be a good bowl to reverse for a few reasons. First, it would give Notre Dame a win over the pride of the Big Ten, putting members of that conference in their place, but more importantly, it would have established Weis' teams as ones that come out and compete in big games. After nearly beating what some people thought was an unbeatable USC team, it would have been great for the program to give a good showing in their first BCS bowl with Weis. The streak would be snapped, and the Irish would (hopefully) reestablish themselves as a program that is supposed to win the big games.

Monday, October 13, 2008

UNC Duds and Studs

Duds

Lambert / McNeil: This was the first game where missing Walls has really hurt us. Lambert had a good breakup in the endzone, but for the majority of the game, our starting DBs failed to contain the UNC passing attack. I think that (especially against a QB like Sexton), we should use more press coverage; it is excruciatingly painful to see a Tarheel receiver catch a five yard hitch time and again only to turn it up field and break poor tackles from our cornerbacks.

DE/OLB: From what I could see, Johnny Ryan wasn't playing much at his DE/OLB spot, and while he is usually pretty ineffective, extra reps from Kerry Neal didn't seem to change anything. Justin Brown also looked slow to react at times as the front 3 (or 4) failed to shed blockers and allowed a pretty inexperienced quarterback too much time to throw.

Late Game Officiating: I almost left to get dinner during the overturned UNC 3rd down reception; I was convinced that there was no way the call would get over turned. I guess the refs were so disappointed with our 4th quarter scoring struggles (0 points with over 10:00 of possession) that they felt obligated to give us another shot. Also, regardless of what did or didn't happen at the end of the game, the refs did not do a good job of explaining it. I saw a ref signaling Floyd down and blowing his whistle. As we all know from the Broncos/Chargers game a few weeks ago, if this was the case then ND should have retained possession where UNC recovered the fumble (watch the replay - do you think Turkovich would have acted differently if he didn't think the play was over?). BUT, this point should be moot because the Irish got up to the line and snapped the ball before the refs stopped them and snapped it while a UNC has 12 men on the field. As I know as a Browns friend circa the Dwayne Rudd helmet rule, the game cannot end on a defensive penalty, so ND should have been given an untimed down... I realize that my writing tone must seem pretty upset about this, but to tell you the truth, I don't mind much because in the end, the Irish did not deserve to win based on their performance late in the game (and because of the botched call I mentioned that went ND's way)... What I'm more upset/confused about is that in a game where about seven plays were reviewed, why did no one look at Blanton's forced fumble?
Clausen: Before the team left for halftime, Weis said the most important thing to do was to come out and score to start the 3rd quarter because we couldn't afford another 3 and out like we had against Purdue... Another pick and a fumble allowed UNC back into a game that they were out of at halftime.
Studs
WRs: Not sure if Floyd takes the chance of fumbling that ball after his rookie year, but his 93 yards and TD make up for it. The Jordan-esque look Tate had in his eye for the entire final drive and his ability to change an interception into a big completion are two of the reasons why I love watching him play, and DUVAL (5 rec. for 58 yards) finally looked close to what he was last season. It is scary to think that all of these players are underclassmen.
Clausen: I don't want to be too harsh on Jimmy. Completing 65% of his passes and registering a career high in passing yards (383) for the third week in a row are almost enough to trump his turnovers, but what seals the deal to make me feeling confident about Clausen is the fact that he recovered from throwing a terrible interception in the 4th quarter to cover 60 yards of field in a minute and gave his team a chance to win. Look for JC to have a coming out party against Washington just like our last quarterback did.
Coaching: I liked the scheme of attacking UNC through the air and complementing it with runs as the game went on. I remember hearing the announcers say something like:
"It looks like Notre Dame can only throw against the Tarheels" followed by, "Now the Irish have come out running and are also picking up yards" and after a screen play, "Well now Notre Dame is just picking apart the defense all kinds of ways."
The game plan (at least offensively) gave us a chance to win.
Walker: It's always a little strange to give someone extra credit for doing what they're supposed to do, but 4/4 kicking (including a career long 42 yarder) will hopefully propel Walker into a strong second half of the season.

Tarheel Puns: How can you not like reading all of these story titles:
Achilles' Heel, Tobacco Road-block, Wheels Come Off on the Tobacco Road, Carolina Bruised...
Why can't I be more witty?

Now off to watch my Brownies in a Monday Night massacre probabilistic loss...

Go Irish!

Friday, October 10, 2008

Belated Quote

I meant to put this up earlier and use blogspot's auto-post feature to get it up in time for Thursday in an attempt to revive the struggling 'Quote of the Week' segment, but a couple midterms unfortunately got in the way.

Anyways, here's a segment from Charlie's presser earlier in the week talking about what JC needs to do for ND to be successful against UNC this weekend:

"Clausen is going to have to be patient this game. UNC does not blitz as much as the other teams this year because they trust their front four. It really challenges a young QB to be patient and go through a progression when there are seven guys dropping back in coverage."

If that wasn't good enough, here's a quote that HRB was kind enough to publish from last weekend's game:
On a side note, it looks like Brandon Walker won the kicking competition hands down this week, proving that a 1/7 kicker is the best that ND's 8,000 undergrad population can produce... Word on the DL is that Robby Parris was messing around at the end of practice and connected on 6 straight FGs, including a 52 yarder... just saying...
Go Irish!

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

IBG: Heart Of Darkness Edition

Welcome to another edition of Irish Blogger Gathering. The questions this week are from OC Domer. Enjoy!

Who was your first Notre Dame hero?

Julius Jones… what can I say, I’m a young college kid, and while I generally remember the awesomeness of attending ND games as a kid, I can’t say that I remember specifically too many of the names. I do, however, remember a sick nasty runningback reeking havoc on opposing defenses. #22 for life.
When was the first time the Fighting Irish broke your heart?

January of 2006. Growing up in a suburb of Cleveland, all of my friends constantly talked about the great sweatervest and tOSU, so it only seemed fitting that weeks after receiving my ND acceptance letter, I host all of my Ohio State friends for the ’06 Fiesta Bowl in order to bask in glory as my Irish stomped all over their program. Needless to say, Ted Ginn and Co. had other ideas, and I spent the rest of the night surrounded by my exuberant red jersied friends and drowning my sorrows in buffalo chicken dip.

3. Let's suppose for just a moment that for whatever reasons the Notre Dame football program begins to slide into what looks like long term mediocrity, or even long term suckitude:
  • NBC doesn't renew the television deal, and the package offered by the Versus network makes it clear that remaining independent will mean a lot less $$$ than joining a conference and sharing in their TV deal. Should the Irish join a conference? If so, which? Why that one?

I think that the U should stick it to the man on this one and preserve it’s independence, holding tradition over bigger bucks. This school has the unique capability of scheduling a big game every week, and if it wants to continue earning money without NBC, all it needs to do is kick ass against good teams week in and week out. Good football will always find its way onto TV... (Besides, we had something like a 25% return on our endowment fund last year… why do we need money?)
  • Over time, Notre Dame becomes the football peer of Duke and Syracuse, lucky to win four games a year, rarely posting a winning season. What should the University do? Drop football? Join a conference (or a lesser conference)? Drop down to Div-IA (the FCS Division)? Schedule 12 cupcakes each season?

    I we absolutely become unable to win games for decades at a time, I would have to agree with OC and join the Ivy league. I’d much obtain wins by competing against top academic institutions than by attacking the MAC, Sunbelt, and Mountain West (SDSU) on a consistent basis to post wins.

    The Indiana legislature has been taken over by a coalition of tee totaling, non-violent religious groups that outlaw both beer and football, and the University is forced to end the football program. To which college football team do you switch your allegiance, and why?
    I would never be able to root for the in state Buckeyes, and seeing as Ohio (especially the norther part) is pretty void of football power, I would have to turn to my neighboring states. Michigan and Indiana are full of rivals, so they're out of the question. In Pennsylvania, I would probably have to side with Penn State over Pitt. The school is full of (up until recently) generally positive tradition, and I would still get to butt heads with my in-state friends once a year.

  • 4. While on campus on a football Saturday you stop by the Knights of Columbus building to get your traditional steak and gristle sandwich. You also take the opportunity to pop inside the building to use the restroom before following the band over to the stadium. While waiting in line for the bathroom and watching the endlessly running Rudy on the K of C television you make the acquaintance of an older gentleman with a beard. He's rather short, but very energetic for his obviously advanced age. You allow him to cut in line in front of you. When he comes out of the restroom, obviously relieved, he thanks you and then steps in really close to you and whispers in your ear. "I'll grant you two wishes. The first - Notre Dame will beat any team you choose for the next ten seasons. The second, the Irish will also lose for ten straight years to any team you name. Quick now, what two teams will they be?!" You blurt out your two answers, and he disappears into the crowd. What two teams did you pick, and why?

    I have to pick USC for the first part of the question. 5 years of thumping the perennial California powerhouse in So Cal should give us an edge in recruiting that part of the country, and I could perhaps see Pete Carroll actually go crazy.

    After trying to escape the second part of the question by holding my breath until I passed out, I would probably say something like “Oh my!” which the old man may confuse for “Roll Tide,” starting a decade of losses to Saban’s boys in Bama. The end result of this scenario wouldn’t be all that bad though, as ND and Bama could start up an exciting ND / SEC rivalry that would hopefully be entertaining for more than ten years.

    5. I'm a terrible predictor. I'm pretty good at analysis, but I'm no good picking games because I almost always pick the Irish. But we need to get on the record here. Notre Dame has games left against North Carolina, Washington, Pitt, Boston College, Navy, Syracuse, and USC. Pick the winner of each of those seven games. Assign each pick points based upon your level of confidence in the pick. Most confident pick gets a 7, least confident pick gets a 1. Each value 1 through 7 must be used once. A perfect score of all picks correct would be worth a total of 28 points. The member of the Irish Blogger Gathering with the highest point total wins a prize of my choosing at the end of the regular season. In case of a tie, the tiebreaker is the member who has the best overall season based on quantity and quality of posts to their blog from now through the end of the season, as voted by the members of the Gathering.

    Per my previous predictions:

    UNC: W 1

    Washington: W 7

    Pitt: L 2

    BC: W 3

    Navy: W 5

    Syracuse: W 6

    USC: L 4

    Monday, October 6, 2008

    Stanford Duds and Studs

    Duds
    Coaching: It was great to see the team respond to some of the smack talk coming from the Cardinal players. The result was an amped up unit that created 3 turnovers in the opening minutes and jumped out to a quick lead. Unfortunately, the coaching staff was unable to maintain this great energy late into the game. The Irish team that came out of the locker room for the third quarter seemed a little flat and deflated, and when Stanford was getting back into the game in the fourth quarter, backups were being subbed in at multiple positions. I understand the value of experience, but this team is so young that all of the starters still need experience. Lastly, everyone is aware of ND's kicking struggles, so what better way to get Walker's confidence up a little bit than giving him a 27 yard chip shot at the end of the game? Not only was it an easy attempt, but it would have eliminated any chance Stanford had of winning the game, putting them down 10 with no time left. Instead, a failed 4th down run by Aldridge was a slap in the face to an already demoralized Walker, and gave Stanford a chance to tie the game on a big play.
    Special Teams: Walker had another tough day, but that is to be somewhat expected now. The reason the whole unit makes this list is that the coverage (other than Anello, who took some great pursuit angles to make tackles all the way across the field) was uncharacteristically weak. Particularly, the 38 yard punt return in the second half gave momentum to Stanford when we should have been putting them away.

    LBs: Recording 5 sacks and 3 interceptions, the front seven had a very good day on the sexy end of the stat sheet, but missed tackles and poor pursuit angles allowed Stanford's two runningbacks to average 6.3 yards per rush, including a 13 carry, 100 yard day for Gerhart. It was fortunate that the Irish were able to get ahead quickly, otherwise the Cardinal ground game could have been used more often.

    Studs
    Pat Kuntz: When you rock a beater and jorts for your pep rally speech, you better back it up with a good on the field performance, and Kuntz was up for the challenge. With an interception, a fumble recovery, and a sack, this animal was a bright spot for the Irish defensive front.

    Clausen: Completing 75% of his passes en route to a career 347 yards passing, JC continued to show why playing with a good haircut is better. Since the MSU game when Samson cut his locks, Jimmy is 49/75 for 622 yards and 6 TDs. Additionally, Clausen is finally starting to take over the team as a leader; it was pretty fun to see #7 pacing the ND sidelines and raising his arms (Father Doyle style) to amp up the players and the crowd.
    Floyd: It makes it easier to throw for 347 yards when you're lofting the ball to a freak of nature. 5 catches for 115 yards has Darius Walker jersey wearers happy that double D's freed up the #3 spot.
    Rudolph: Ragone missing the entire season had a lot of people worried about the depth at the TE position, but fortunately, Kyle Rudolph has stepped up in a big way the last two games. He is on the same page as Clausen, connecting five times for 70 yards and a score, but perhaps more importantly, his blocking has improved a lot since his struggles early in the season.

    Allen: Armando's 9 rushes for 33 yards are average, but his involvement in the passing game (7 catches for 66 yards) elevates him into the Studs category this week. Scoring a TDs by the land and the air, it's exciting to see Armando using his improving field vision to attack holes as well as make moves in space.Notes: I think that this game was the closest our team has come to actually having a 'nasty' attitude in a couple of years.; the hard hitting and intensity really made Stanford eat their words, and it was fun to watch. It's been great to watch the development of the passing game; lining up Tate, Floyd, and Grimes with Rudolph and Allen running intermediate routes gives Jimmy 5 very good receivers to throw to. Sergio Brown hasn't been great in coverage this year, but he has some excellent play making ability. Add another forced fumble to his resume.

    Go Irish! Beat Tarheels!

    Wednesday, October 1, 2008

    At Least Some People Like Me...

    I guess Subway Domer of sailor mouth fame started up something to pool together some of the Notre Dame blogging sites in a segment (? blogpoll? not sure what to call it) titled 'Irish Blogger Gathering,' and while the IBG may not have a ring to it quite like the KGB, I was intrigued by the idea. That being said, here is the Nasties response to the first set of IBG questions:

    1. This is Notre Dame. Notre Dame is the game circled on just about every opposing teams schedule. They hate us and want to destroy us. So, it is safe to say that if ND plays a team every year, that game will become a big game for ND and an even bigger game for the opponent. So, pick any team that ND does not currently play and make that team a rival and create a rivalry trophy to go along with your rival of choice.

    Subway listed Penn State for this one, and I think that it is a very legitimate opponent to rival with, especially considering that we are apparently at conflict with some of our student section cheers (my mouth dropped down a good half foot when I saw that an ND student actually wrote this article). However, because of more recent matchups, I'm going to have to go with Pitt. The past decade has been full of some high scoring thrillers and a few good upsets between the Irish and the Panthers, and there will always be some bitterness between the coaches after Weis ruined Wannstedt's homecoming in the ever memorable 2005 matchup. In order to commemorate that win, I think it is only fitting that the mythical trophy for this prospective rivalry should be a flattering bronze bust that combines Wannstedt's awesome mustache with Charlie's underrated flat top. Tell me you wouldn't want to see this on display somewhere in the Gug:
    2. What current rival of ND (Michigan, Michigan State, Purdue, Boston College, Stanford, Southern California- all trophy games) would you take off of the schedule and never play again?

    Although I love the MSU game from the standpoint that it is close enough to easily travel to for an away game and there are always plenty of side stories surrounding the game year to year, I would have to eliminate this game because the Irish stand to gain the most from removing the Spartans from their schedule. Every season MSU plays ND at a level that could knock off some top tier teams, but if Notre Dame wins these tough dog fights, they are never really rewarded because MSU always tanks it at the end of the year, leading people to believe that ND plays a ‘weak schedule.' If ND wants a tough game on their schedule, I would suggest booking a team that can play well past October.

    3. What entertainment rival (whether it be TV, movies, or celebrity) would you compare to ND and one of its current rivals?

    Pulling from the college video game scene, I'd equate USC to Niko Bellic (of GTA4) and Notre Dame to the Liberty City Police. Right now, everyone is drawn to the flashy life of fast cars, faster women, and machine guns. And despite their best efforts, an innumerable mass of the LCPD are unable to stop the havoc wreaking Niko. While I cringe a bit by comparing the Irish to a comically bureaucratic law enforcement agency, the truth is that over the last two season specifically (and the last few years in general), we have looked stiff and incompetent against the Trojans (not to mention anything about the Indiana Excise Police...). But fear not Irish faithful, ND will regain power in this rivalry soon enough. Like turning families against each other in the Mafia, Notre Dame is slowly getting top talent from California to spurn USC for South Bend, and these recruits will help the Irish start showing up to gun fights properly equipped.
    4. List your top 5 historical college football rivalries. After that, list your top 5 college football rivalries as of 2008.

    1. ND USC (I’m told the games were good a long time ago)
    2. OSU Mich (I’m also told these games used to be close)
    3. Navy Army
    4. ND Mich
    5. Bama Auburn

    1. ND Mich
    2. Florida Georgia
    3. Texas Oklahoma
    4. OSU vs. the SEC
    5. USC vs. the PAC-10

    5. There are a lot of rivalry games out there. What is a great rivalry game that may not be as well known as the ones in your top 5 and explain why it so fantastic.
    Kansas vs. Kansas State. You have to love interstate rivalries, and seeing as the Jayhawks and the Wildcats are the only respectable teams in their state to begin with adds that much more heat to the fire. While KSU has held the edge most recently, Mangino and a resurgent KU squad has been upping the competitiveness the last few years, and if that wasn’t enough, just watch the glory that is the KSU Wabash Cannonball:


    That's it for this week's Irish Blogger Gathering... I hope mine was worth the read. Go Irish!

    Monday, September 29, 2008

    Purdue Duds and Studs

    The economy may be tanking right now, but stock in the Notre Dame football team looks like its on the rise.

    Duds

    Pass Rush: As long as I've been writing the Duds and Studs article, I've never found it too hard to identify at least a few negatives out of a win, but this week showed a team that played just about as cohesively and efficiently as you can hope for coming off of the sloppy game against Michigan State. Sure Duval had another drop and Walker missed another field goal, but Kamara nearly hauled in a great TD catch (which I'm told was about as close to being an actual touchdown as Grimes' catch against Stanford last year), and Walker was 5/5 on PATs and knocked in his first field goal of the year (41 yards), so even those players showed improvement. Thus, I'm forced to focus only on one 'Dud' this week, which is our pass rush. Against a team like Purdue that is going to throw the ball as much as possible (55 attempts by Painter), Brown, Tentuta, and Co. should have had a grand time teeing off at the snap of the ball, but the Irish were still void of a sack. Hopefully this unit can also improve heading into next week against a Stanford team with a below average offensive line (...but a better conference record than USC).
    Studs

    Class of 2011 Early Admits: Jimmy Clausen put together his best game of the year, throwing for 275 yards and 3 TDs, but more importantly, JC was able to avoid turning the ball over. The Irish's ability to hold onto the ball all game was a big reason that we won. Armando Allen did his best to prove me and everyone else wrong by running all over the Boilermakers on Saturday; the 7.9 yards per carry and long run of 21 yards finally gave fans hope that Allen may finally be reaching the game speed that has been absent since his junior year in high school. Lastly, the third and last early enrollee of their class, Gary Gray, played a solid game in the secondary. Especially with Walls missing this year, Gray stepping up has helped the Irish more than he has been given credit for.
    Other Young DBs: Another member of the sophomore class, Harrison Smith, also had a great day in the defensive secondary. With his speed an athleticism at the linebacker position, Smith gives Brown an nice Ace in the Hole to bring in against pass happy teams like Purdue and it was refreshing to see him take advantage of the opportunity. Freshman R.J. Blanton also provided the play of the game, housing a Curtis Painter INT for 47 yards to put the Irish on the board.

    O-Line: After a slight hiccup last week, the much improved offensive line is back on the good side. The 5.0 yards per carry and 1 sack are pretty good numbers, but what I liked best was the 3/4 on fourth down conversions, two of which came on short yardage smash mouth runs.
    WRs: Weis said after the MSU game that holding Grimes out would pay visible dividends against Purdue, and it looks like Charlie was right. Grimes looked good out of the slot, especially on his 31 yard 4th down TD reception. Floyd has been so impressive lately that Rakes has called an emergency meeting to find him a good nickname, and Tate continues to show diversity and consistency with his routes, hauling in his 3rd TD of the year on top of a 5 reception performance. Wack stat courtesy of the Observer: Golden's 367 receiving yards are the most through 4 games since Tom Gatewood in 1970. Freshman Kyle "call me Dallas" Rudolph also got into the mix on an excellent play action TD catch.

    Other thoughts: Some people have knocked ND's recent recruiting success with complaints that the young talent hasn't transferred to the field. Looking at the plethora of young studs, hopefully this argument can be proven false in the next few games. After such a strong win against Purdue, I really hope the Irish don't suffer a letdown against Stanford this weekend. Toby Gerhart is a poor man's Jevon Ringer, and if ND isn't careful, he could have a Ringer-like day.

    Until then, Go Irish!