Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Initial Impressions

After surviving another round of finals and thankfully wrapping up my Christmas shopping, I finally found some time to spit out a few thoughts on the new Notre Dame coach.

What difference a (head) coach makes: While not many leads for Kelly's first staff have surfaced, fans will notice that Kelly is much more detailed and methodical than perhaps Weis was when assembling his first staff. Rather than reaching for the big names, Kelly is more focused on finding coaches that are on-board with his coaching philosophy. Having many years of experience as a head coach, the assembly of Kelly's staff will be fairly different from that of the Weis era. Expect him to bring in a lot of familiar faces from his previous experiences as well as a few carefully selected people to help him adjust specifically to the Notre Dame culture.

Living in the lime light: There has been fairly unanimous agreement that Kelly has handled himself well with the media up to this point. Keith Arnold from NBC Sports recently pointed out how BK's decision to hold 2 separate media sessions illustrates his understanding of the media and what it can influence. Unfortunately, Charlie's Nasties was not invited to the internet reporters presser. For now I'll blame it on the blog name, but if I keep getting rejected from these private parties, I could turn this site into slander city.... so watch yourself coach.

I'm really glad that Kelly has been able to hit it off so well with the media because, frankly, it is demanded. At a school like Notre Dame, winning records are expected to be accompanied by a good public image. I'm not sure if an iron-fisted lock-jawed coach like Belichick or Parcells could makes things work here. Don't get me wrong, any particular style of coaching could work here, but unless a coach is able to communicate positively with the media, alumni, and fans, it would probably not lead to a lasting marriage.

Tough Gentlemen: In his opening press conference, Kelly told his players to take some time off over the holidays. I would advise them to take advantage of this break because from what I've heard, they are going to have a fun spring in Kelly's conditioning program. BK has put a very strong emphasis on his ability to develop players, and while a certain component of that is coaching, an equally important factor lies in the strength and conditioning programs.

I have confidence that this no-nonsense approach to conditioning should have a positive impact on the team. Everyone always references USC's full contact practices as an ingredient to their success, and I think Kelly will be moving closer to that model than Weis did.

RKGs: Kelly made an interesting comment that (paraphrasing) schools like Notre Dame can sometimes get caught up too much in the public opinion of recruits. The idea is that there is so much football talent nation wide, that a good number of players inevitably slip through the cracks of recruiting sites or that some players are positioned to play better in college than their high school resume indicates. Coach Kelly's performance on the recruiting front will be well documented (and likely criticized) over the following weeks, and I'm very curious about how this comment will work its way into ND's recruiting plan.

To draw on an almost completely irrelevant analogy, some of my best players in EA Sports NCAA Football have been 2 star players that, while being terrible at almost everything else, happened to be 6'6" and run a 4.4 forty. I know its a stretch, but you get the picture. Look for Kelly to reach on a couple recruits in order to get some qualities guys and hard workers into the locker room as well as to push his players in practice.

That's it for now. Eventually I might put up a poll for a new blog name or something like that, so start brainstorming now. Go Irish!

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

More Coaching Search News



Whether you believe anything less than Meyer or Stoops will be considered a failure or that Jim Tressel would look better in a Blue and Gold sweater vest, if you believe anything ESPN's Joe Schad says, this week is probably going to be interesting. In the above interview, Schad says that he would be shocked if Notre Dame's coaching search wasn't over by the end of the week.

Blue-Gray Sky took attention to Brian Kelly's recent Twitter update, and with a reported interview also scheduled with Stanford's Jim Harbaugh this week, I might finally be able to start thinking of a new name for this blog.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Swarbrick on Weis / Coaching Search

If the Notre Dame message boards aren't enough, espnChicago has plenty of interviews and rumors about our coaching search. Because I've been walking past George Smith on my way to classes since Monday, I thought I'd post his interview with Jack Swarbrick:

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Wojo Rising

Gene Wojciechowski and the ESPN crew are at it again. I know that these people are just trying to bring hits to their website and money to the bank, but some of the fantastic journalism surrounding the Notre Dame coaching situation is bordering on the inaccurate. Here's some commentary on the worldwide's most recent attempt to exploit a program that is no longer nationally relevant (by the way, how much press has the impeding coaching change at Michigan been getting lately?).

For starters, the obligatory jab at Weis while comparing him to Ty:

"Unlike Tyrone Willingham before him, Weis got a full five years to build his program with his own recruits, his own system and his own assistant coaches."

What disappoints me about this comment is that any Notre Dame fan can refute this claim with a stock rebuttal so commonly used that I'm not even going to waste space writing it. ESPN needs to recognize that the factors that kept Weis around for five years are so different than Ty (and really even Davie) that they don't merit being discussed.

Now another personal jab that merits a longer response:

"As an NFL coordinator, your constituency is your owner, your head coach and your players. At Notre Dame, that constituency stretches like a pair of Sansabelts, from school president, to athletic director, to administrators, to players, alumni, NBC, media and subway alums. I'm not sure Weis totally embraced that role. One of his final acts at Notre Dame -- cancel all media access to his players this past week -- was more fitting of Belichick than of a college coach. And then to slink out a back door …"

While Weis may have entered Notre Dame with these personality issues, most ND fans will probably disagree with the statement. The national media has chosen to keep the easy caricature of Charlie as the arrogant coach, but the truth is that by his third season, Weis began to make considerable efforts to become accessible to his fan base. From augmenting his busy travel schedule to include visits to many alumni associations, to holding autograph sessions for the student body, to creating a Twitter account, to changing his tone with the media, I feel that Weis has made a considerable effort to appease all of his constituencies. And as for sneaking away at the end of the Stanford game, can anyone really blame him? Hasn't this guy been dragged through the ugliest of media mud the last few weeks that he should be allowed to exit holding onto some dignity?

And to end the article:

"Swarbrick told me months ago he'll use a two-page checklist to assess the state of a Notre Dame program, but Weis knows better. His dismissal comes down to two letters, not two pages: W and L."

It's a nice conclusion; in fact, its a way better conclusion than the abrupt "Go Irish" that I usually end posts with. However, this is another gross over-exaggeration that underscores what Weis has done for the program. Dear ESPN, its pretty easy to write why Weis should (and probably will) be fired this week, but for feature article after the Stanford game, I find it irresponsible to only include Weis' shortcomings. Yes, Weis didn't win enough football games over the last three years, but throw the guy a bone for the talent he has been able to bring to South Bend, the improvements he's made to the offense, and the countless hours that he has given to the program.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Tough Stanford Loss

Tough Stanford loss tonight. I thought everyone played hard except for a few boneheads out there. If this is the last Charlie Weis and Clausen game, it was an exciting one, and exemplary of their time together: Great offensively, but could not put a full game together. The only thing now is whether Tate joins them in the NFL or not... I think he'd be as good a playmaker as Percy Harvin, DeSean Jackson, or Steve Smith.


IGB: Goin back back to Cali Cali

Just when the Domer Law Blog thought to have claimed the latest entry for this week's IBG, The Nasties crew published Sarah's questions from Bad Trade 15 minutes to kickoff. Here we go:

1. Take a second and go look back at your post from the first game, with all of its promise and optimism (or not). What is the single biggest difference between the team you thought we had at the beginning of the season, and the team that we've seen on the field that now sits at 6-5?


One of the questions in the first week of this season's IBG asked us to find an image to describe the season, and in hindsight, I still think my pic was appropriate, albeit maybe for the wrong reasons:

The picture inadvertently previewed the edge-of-your seat action that was this season. A bounce of the ball here, a better play in the redzone there, and Notre Dame could very well be undefeated (or perhaps just as easily be 2-9).

To answer the question though, the single biggest difference has to be the secondary. I understand that it is tough to cover receivers when the quarterback has all day to throw, but I did not foresee the tackling issues that our veteran secondary would have.

2. Clearly, even from Coach Weis' own comments, it appears that the conversation has shifted from "Will Coach Weis be fired?" to "Who will be his replacement?" With that in mind, I'd like you to answer the following three questions:
a. If we lived in a perfect world, and could lure any coach to Notre Dame, who would be your choice? (Please limit yourself to coaches actually alive and able to coach right now - yes, we'd all love to have Knute Rockne back on the sidelines.)

In my mind, there isn't one clear favorite, and I think that there are 2-3 coaching hires that could improve this football team. If I'm forced to pick, though, I'll land on Brian Kelly. I'm impressed with his ability to turn around programs like Central Michigan and Cincinnati (and I particularly like his ability to take the Bearcats to the BCS), but I'm actually most impressed with Kelly's ability to coach Grand Valley State to a 118-35-2 record during his 13 years as head coach. Especially with how the success of programs tends to ebb and flow (even for the powerhouses - remember USC in the 90s?), this consistent trend of domination is very appealing.

b. If you were the AD for the University, who do you think is the best hire you could actually pull off, and how would you do it?

I suppose the most prestigious get would be Urban, and I think their are two points to sell it. Firstly, lets congratulate how Urban has been able to turn around program after program and win multiple titles with the Gators. So early in his career, Meyer seems to have already accomplished everything a coach dreams for. There is another unmet challenge in South Bend. Coach Meyer, take on the challenge of resurrecting a once national powerhouse, that the entire nation now thinks has a competitive disadvantage, and returning them to glory. The second point would probably be about moving Meyer's family to the Bend as a way to stay close to them.

c. Prediction time - taking everything you know about the program, the AD, and the current coaching situations around the country - who will be the head coach for the University of Notre Dame next year?

Every day actually leads me closer to thinking that Weis may actually return. ND won't be able to get there hands on a Kelly, Johnson, or Meyer until after they coach their current teams through the BCS, and like Brady Quinn said, there are a lot of factors that contribute to having a bad season, and not all of them fall on the coach. I feel like if Jenkins and Swarbrick don't find someone they really like, then I think that they might not pull the trigger. I'm still going to throw my hat in the ring for Kelly, but if Weis ends up back at Notre Dame for one more chance, I won't be as surprised as most.

3. As the title of this IBG post says, there is still one more game to be played. And, in fact, it's a red-hot Stanford team that scores points in bunches and beat SC in the Coliseum 55-21. To say that our program is in turmoil at this point would be a drastic understatement. So, what do you think is going to happen this weekend? Do the players rally and play up to potential for their embattled coach, or come out and go through the motions trying to get this season behind them?

I will say that at +10, Notre Dame is a pretty good Vegas bet. Unless we're playing teams with a vast disparity in talent (one of whom #6 ranked Boise State took down 44-33 last night), the Irish like to keep things close. Look for our offense to spurt out some impressive drives among some head scratching stalls while our defense makes some big stops and gives up some big gains. In the end, though, I am unfortunately expecting Stanford to win.

4. Finally, with all of the disappointment and frustration and a lame duck coach, what are your plans this weekend for the game?

Plain and simple. Cheer, cheer for old Notre Dame.

Friday, November 27, 2009

Catchin up

Sorry for the brief hiatus. I just couldn't bring myself to do write ups following losses to Pitt and UConn. While reflecting on why I didn't want to write the Duds and Studs issue for the Pitt game, I stumbled across this bit from Blue Gray Sky:

There isn't much to rehash in ND's ugly 27-22 loss to Pitt this past Saturday. It featured many of the same issues that have become all too familiar lately: a running game that disappeared, curious play calling, lackluster defense, questionable interpretations of "indisputable" by the replay officials, some amazing plays from Golden Tate, and ultimately a game that came down to the final drive, this time with ND coming out on the losing side of the ledger. And as the game wound down to the unsatisfying conclusion, Brent Musburger accurately noted that with the loss "the long knives are now out for Charlie Weis".

This quote seems to ring true after the UConn game as well. Whether it was because of untimely penalties, missed assignments, or questionable play calling, our star studded offense found itself stalling during critical times (which in the UConn game consisted of the entire second half). Tate has been getting praise all year, but at this juncture in the year, a team needs some other people to come up big when the team is struggling. Not to be all negative, I'll throw some props to kicker David Ruffer, who stepped in for an injured Nick Tausch and delivered in both games while getting Notre Dame its first touchbacks in years, and Ben Turk has found his groove as a punter, registering 47 yards per punt against UConn.

Now for my two cents about everything that has been going on the last two weeks:

On Clausen: I don't know about Tate, but Clausen is gone next year. He posed for pictures with his family after the game, he didn't return his jersey with the team laundry, and his parents have put their house on Angela on the market. Am I glad that he is going? Jimmy is an incredible football player, and his absence will be felt next season as Dayne will struggle getting acquainted as the starter with a green offensive line. However, it will (unfortunately) be refreshing not to have him around. The program needs his athletic ability, but all of the noise surrounding him is getting old.

On Weis: Thanks for those of you who inquired about the future name of this blog - it gives me some confidence that Charlie's Nasties won't die with the coach. That being said, I have no idea what will happen at the end of the season. On one end, our team has played down to all but two opponents this year, and losing three weeks in a row is inexcusable to the point that I think we should let him go now and spare his family the grief of another week of criticism and jabs from the media. On the other hand, this guy loves Notre Dame, works his freakin tail off, and scores well in all of Swarbrick's performance metrics except winning games.
I was able to find odds on who will replace Weis next season, but I wasn't able to find odds on whether or not Weis will be fired. I speculate that whatever this mythical number is, that it is probably overvalued because I do see a situation where Weis comes back. If Swarbrick doesn't think he can land a better coach, then as a business man I can't see him taking the risk while eating the rest of Charlie's contract. I could also see Jack using his performance metrics to justify keeping Weis based on his elite graduation rates and recruiting abilities.

You can't question this guy's effort. Remember how arrogant Weis appeared when we hired him? Well Weis cared so much about this that he consulted a professor at the University about how to better his image to the public. Have you seen the other coaches from the Belichick tree? How many of them would have created a Twitter page in an effort to be more open with their fan base?

That being said, this is an unlikely scenario. Notre Dame has blocked the tracking of its private jet used for coaching searches, Swarbrick has cancelled Weis' west coast recruiting trip, and even Charlie is acknowledging that his record will probably not be enough to justify keeping him as a head coach. If tomorrow's game against Stanford ends up being Weis' last , then I would like to say thanks for the long hours and hard work. Thanks for putting up with the media. Thanks for reminding us that Notre Dame can recruit the best of the best while maintaining our academic integrity. The last three years have not met my expectations from a win - loss perspective, but I thank you for your hard work and wish you the best of luck in the future.

Go Irish.

Friday, November 20, 2009

Marshmallow Time!!!!

staypuft-marshmallow-man.jpg


It's been 3 years of sitting in the student's section at the games where I got to see the seniors throw marshmallows at eachother. Come tomorrow, I can't wait to be a part of it. Some people will inevitably put gravel or pennies in their fluffy projectiles to make them go farther, and for that the ushers will try and stop anyone who look suspicious enough to throw one. Whatever, if I get kicked out of the stadium for throwing something two rows above me which feels like a light breeze to whomever I hit, so be it. And for those sitting in the section next to the seniors or those below them in the gold seats- tough. Get a hot chocolate and be thankful for the free toppings raining down on you.


Security is going to be tight, so until the magic moment, all marshmallows must be kept away from the ushers' eyes. Some ideas on where to stash them.


- the seat of your pants - conceals, fulls out those apple bottoms, and also provides a cushion for halftime


- stuffed into winter gloves- the temp is going to be on the warmer side tomorrow, but bring gloves anyway to pack full of marshmallows. My guess is that you can fit 12-15 in each hand.


- cowboy hat - tried and true method of concealing things, whether it be a hidden camera, or a bag of pillowy marshmallows


- duct taped to your chest - works for both guys and girls, get taped up like your going undercover in a sting operation, and then when they least expect it, unload a barrage on them


and of course...... prison rules if need be


Tomorrow's game is going to be fun no matter what. Hopefully we will win and do so in convincing fashion, but if we are down, come 4th quarter- there is going to be some interesting things being chanted towards Charlie's direction. GO IRISH!


Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Get the Moving Vans Started

Herbstreit thinks decision is made and Weis knows as well....

My only thoughts on this matter are if he is a lame duck coach, thats fine. But if he loses either of the last two games, fire him or ask him to step down before the bowl game. Bowl games are rewards for coaches and teams who have played well in the season. They are showcasing those teams for fans and recruits with the hope of coming home with hardware. The players deserve to be there, but the coach does not if he can't find a way to win out with his job on the line.

Monday, November 9, 2009

Navy Duds and Studs

I feel like with all of the negative fan criticism towards Weis stemming from the loss that I should add my two cents on how this loss affects Weis' job security before launching into the weekly Duds and Studs segment.

Effect: The defense is a major point of concern. Yes, we let Navy dominate us on the ground and let them score 23 points. However, even with a shutout against Nevada, our team is giving up 29 points a game, so the Navy performance can almost be viewed more as a continuing trend than anything new.

Cause: Everyone knows by now that Weis is an offensive coach, but as a head coach, he still must be held accountable for the defense. The poor performance of the defense this season leads me to believe that A) Weis does not understand defense enough to be a head coach, or B) Weis has not done a good job of hiring and promoting his defensive coaching staff

Effect:
With two All-American receivers and a (former) Heisman candidate quarterback, our offense was shut out in the first half and managed only 21 points.

Cause:
I am actually going to give Charlie a pass here. His offensive game plan lit Navy up for over 500 total yards, and we gained as many first downs as we did against a hapless Washington State. The missed opportunities while going 2-6 inside the red zone seemed to be more the fault of the players than the coaching. Weis is a damn good offensive coach.

Verdict: Weis has three games left, and he must win out to keep his job. Our last win against a ranked opponent was in 2006 against Penn State, and we were favorites in that game. Losing to Pitt next week would cement the idea that Weis' teams cannot win against anyone ranked higher than them, which is unacceptable. Losing to UConn or Stanford (both of which are having good years) cements the idea that Weis' teams play down to (on paper) inferior opponents, which is unacceptable.

Now for what I'm sure everyone really came to read:

Duds

Excise Police: On a weekend where there is so many football related issues to talk about, I'm not going to spend too much time here, but the same week Notre Dame sponsored an event for off campus students to learn how to live safely in the dangerous city of South Bend, the Indiana State Excise Police broke up a party thrown by my friends only to ticket 2 younger siblings that were visiting for the weekend. Great use of resources.

Sergio Brown / Robert Blanton / Harrison Smith: Our defensive backfield has had issues all season, but this was one of the more frustrating performances. I'm not sure if Sergio took one step downfield to stop the run as he was content catching the fullback after ten yard gains instead of proactively trying to hit someone. Blanton's showboating after big plays is really starting to irritate me. Against Washington State, he was able to tip down the only deep ball thrown at him, but his celebration seemed unwarranted considering that a better ball would have resulted in an 80 yard touchdown. Similarly against Navy, RJ was heavily lobbying that the receiver should have been down at the 1 after he missed an assignment that resulted in a touchdown; just get off the field and get the next play right. This paragraph is getting kind of long so I'll let Brawling Hibernian comment on Smith.
Remember Washington?: This time Notre Dame was unable to get points in the red zone as missed field goals and turnovers inside the 20 negated an otherwise stellar performance by the offense. Credit Navy for standing strong when it counted, but one, if not both of our turnovers, were more mental errors than great plays by Navy, so this blame really goes on the players.

Coaching: The offense was great, but the defense was hard to watch. We gave up 348 yards on the ground because our coaching staff was not able to make adjustments. Our DBs were not prepared to defend the one pass that hurt us. Most importantly though, is that down 2 touchdowns with 12 minutes to go in the game, our entire sideline looked like they would rather be sitting in an Accounting class. In the NFL, its hard to tell someone who's making millions of dollars a year to yell; in college ball, it should be easy, but yet not one of our coaches made an effort to motivate the sidelines during the game. Maybe the cliche of coming out flat was why we couldn't score in the first half or why we couldn't make stops when we needed to. To me, this is my single biggest knock on Charlie Weis' teams; it is too hard to get them excited unless the game is in its final minutes.

Studs

Clausen / Floyd: I have to put them in here for the stats. Jimmy ran off 452 passing yards and Floyd grabbed a game high 141 receiving yards to go along with his touchdown. Even though Floyd had a few big drops, you have to applaud the guy's ability to come back after an injury with such a big game. Jimmy almost found himself in the Duds column this week for his two turnovers and poor reads in the fourth quarter. This is probably overstepping my bounds as I don't know what was going on after Clausen's fumble, but I can tell you that it reinforced every negative stereotype about Clausen when he laid on the ground showing off his injury after the fumble.

Tate: 9 catches for 132 and a touchdown. Also made a great play on the onside kick to give us a chance to win. After Clausen missed on his fourth consecutive first down fade to Floyd in the fourth quarter, a student next to me lamented about Floyd's return, complaining that now less passes will get thrown to Golden.

David Ruffer: The kickoff specialist gave Notre Dame it's first touchback in a long time.

Bye Week: At least I didn't have to watch my Browns lose this weekend, too. If Notre Dame decides to cut ties with Charlie at the end of the year, the school might learn a lesson from the Browns, who have found a comfortable place in the cellar of the AFC North behind two former Belicheck coaches in Romeo Crennel and Eric Mangini (who we inexplicably hired after he was fired from the Jets). Our next coach should be proven, either with BCS appearances in college or with rings in the NFL. Notre Dame should be an attractive coaching job, and we need to stop trying to find the next breakout coach and make a hire with less risk.

That's it for the Duds and Studs segment. Go Irish! Get a freakin good win, please!

Photos from the AP.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

IBG: Lots of Gold Helmets Edition

I'm finally done with my overloaded first half of the semester, I've had a chance to travel the great state of Ohio over fall break, and after a fantastic Halloween last weekend, I have finally run out of scheduling excuses and must finally host an installment of the Irish Blogger Gathering. In addition to finally having some free time, posting for the Navy week seemed to make sense over here because our very own JY has two younger sisters attending the Naval Academy this year. So with that intro, let's jump into the questions.

I'll be linking other member's responses as they come in, so keep checking back to satisfy your mid-week Notre Dame fix.1. With all of the recent injuries, what scenario would you rather have? Option A: Dayne Crist out for the season, Trevor Robinson out indefinitely with an ankle sprain and Jimmy Clausen suffering week to week with turf toe OR Option B: All of the above players are 100% and Floyd is out for the year?

I'll be interested to hear everyone else's take on this, but I'm going with option A for two reasons. Notre Dame has not performed well in the red zone in Floyd's absence; Air Mike is able to use his 6'3" frame and superb hands better than anyone when he has little space to work with. While not having Crist available if Clausen goes down is a scary prospect, the second reason I'm picking option A is our depth at quarterback. Sharpley isn't going to win the Heisman, but he has gotten some quality playing time over the past few seasons, and if he had threats like Tate and Floyd to through to, I'm sure he would do alright.2. After experiencing our first neutral site game at San Antonio this week, it got me thinking about our upcoming off site game against Navy. What are your thoughts on playing Navy in Ireland in 2012? Should the 7-4-1 model take us abroad?

I was more focused on trading baseball cards and pursuing my inevitable career as a comic book artist in 1996 when Autry Denson led the way to a 54-27 victory in Dublin, but I can still say that the upcoming Dublin game is (gasp) a good thing. Firstly, this matchup speaks to the incredible versatility that Notre Dame has in scheduling; how many other Universities can offer recruits the chance to play ball in front of thousands of crazy football (the other kind) fans? Second, unlike in the NFL, college teams, and especially Independents, are afforded the opportunity of scheduling around big games. For the 2012 matchup, it looks like Notre Dame will open the season against Navy and then return home for a bye week before facing Pitt, likely avoiding the chance to have a 'let down' or 'looking ahead' or a 'we got screwed up by the time change' game. As for regularly going abroad, I feel like once a decade is plenty enough; these types of games should be special.

3. Navy's unique offense and personnel always seem to test the Irish in some ways that other opponents don't. What position matchup are you most looking forward to this weekend?

ND Offensive Line vs. Navy Defensive Line. The last two seasons, ND averaged 4.5 and 3.7 yards per rush, and this year I want to see us reassert some dominance in the trenches. Expect a healthy dose of Allen and Hughes while the offensive line flexes some muscle.

4. The Navy football stereotype is generally that the players are undersized and have less star power, but by emphasizing the fundamentals, minimizing mental errors, and playing as a team, they are always able to put up a fight. What position or player on Notre Dame's roster do you think could benefit from approaching games with this attitude?

We have been starting to see more of it lately, but I would like our defensive front seven, especially the linebackers, to play a little more like Navy. Against the run from a pure statistical standpoint, things have been bad, but they could be worse. With Tenuta's blitzes, though, it becomes even more important for the first defender to make a sound tackle because there might not be much help if he misses. Let's start bringing our feet, wrapping up, and driving through the ball! Te'o will lead the charge for improvement over the final stretch.
If we can get these many bodies in the backfield every play, we should be fine

5. Everyone in the country saw that Navy took #6 Ohio State down to the wire in the opening week; how will the Midshipmen fare against the Irish? Predictions please.

Before losing to Temple last week, Navy looked like a very respectable 6-2 team, with their two losses coming on the road at Ohio State and at Pittsburgh, and they even put up 63 points against Rice. However, Notre Dame's fire power should be too much to match. My stat of the game is that Navy has not given up more than 35 points this season; look for the Irish to top that mark and beat Navy 38 - 13.

IBG Responses:

Domer Law Blog is excited for Dublin
One Foot Down is looking forward to some option football
Brawling Hibernian picks Option C

Monday, November 2, 2009

WSU Duds and Studs

Here we go again...Duds

Young Special Teams: For the first time that I've noticed this season, freshman longsnapper Jordan Cowart had some trouble snapping the ball, which led to the blocked extra point. Cowart's snap may or may not have been the primary cause for Ben Turk's sky high 10 yard punt, but the other Aquinas special teams product also struggled. Similar to the difficulties Brandon Walker faced, the issue doesn't appear to be talent with Turk (he's only a freshman), but inconsistency has been a problem, and inconsistency is the last word you want to use when talking about special teams.

Injuries: With a 24 point lead halfway through the 3rd quarter, I have no problem leaving Jimmy in the game to let him try and get 1 more security touchdown before handing the game to Crist. Fortunately, Clausen's turf toe doesn't look to be bad as Weis said he could have continued playing if needed. Unfortunately, Crist suffered a more serious injury shortly after. "At first, we thought it was definitely really bad" said Weis, "now we're thinking it might not be as bad and we're waiting on the MRI." The worst injury, however, was to Trevor Robinson. I hope TRob can make it back soon, but from what I saw on the tape, an pretty solid ankle sprain (2-4 weeks) or a broken ankle (longer) don't look out of the question.Eric Olsen: Two personal fouls is bad. The second personal foul by itself didn't look that bad, but you have to figure the ref gave him some warning before that one. At the same time though, you have to love the aggressiveness from the offensive line. Watch the next time we complete a 15 yard pass; Paul Duncan and Chris Stewart will be there to pancake a DB 2 seconds after the ball gets there.

Studs

Duval Kamara: Duval, to put it mildly, had some consistency issues last season after exceeding expectations in 2007. With Floyd and Parris out, though, Kamara provided Clausen with some key outs when he needed it, registering 3 catches for 36 yards and a touchdown. Also with a key block on Tate's TD run, Kamara deserves a some credit for his performance this week.

A for Effort: Obviously you have to throw some major props to Mike Ragone this week. Its pretty easy to stand out on the field after a turnover, hang your head, and say "f it," but sprinting 95 yards to stop a 2 point play that (very likely) would have had no outcome on the final score speaks to the heart and pride that this team has. Another catch by Rudolph demonstrated the same effort (even though it was negated by a penalty) as he churned his legs for 10+ yards with 3 defenders on his back. And speaking of dragging defenders...

Robert Hughes: It seems like, for better or worse, Hughes specializes in beating down on lesser opponents. His stat line of 131 yards (5.5 ypc) and a touchdown downplay the tough running by 33. Allen got to rest, Riddick looked good during his time (9 carries for 51 yards and 3 catches for 24 yards), but this night belonged to Robert Hughes... haha TRICK - nice try Rob, but how could I leave out...

Golden Tate: A regular on the studs list, Tate lifted himself past Clausen in the Heisman (at least for me) with his performance against Washington State. With 4 rushes for 61 yards and a score, I'm questioning whether our best runningback on the team doesn't play wide receiver, but with plays like this, how can you keep him behind the quarterback? Maybe Floyd's return will finally let me stop writing about this guy every Monday.

Fun fact to send everyone off: the Irish are 15-0 when playing on Halloween, and USC lost this year... anyone think the AD should start scheduling that game asap?

Friday, October 30, 2009

IBG: How can I enjoy the game when all my exes live in Texas?

Whiskey at One Foot Down had the questions this week. Enjoy, and Go Irish!

1. The 7-4-1 scheduling model has been the subject of much heated debate amongst Irish fans since it was first announced back in 2006. This week the Fighting Irish will play the first neutral site “barnstorming game” in said model so now is as good of a time as any to weigh in on the controversial subject. What do you think about a) 7-4-1 as a whole, b) the neutral site/ barnstorming game in general and c) specifically playing Washington State in San Antonio.


a) Don't like it. In theory, especially as a student that doesn't have to deal with a ticket lottery, the more home games, the better. However, the schedule greatly inhibits ND's ability to schedule meaningful non conference games (see Western Michigan). Seeing Utah should be alright, but even the Utes won't agree to multiple trips to South Bend for nothing in return, and with BCS conference schools hesitant to give up their TV contract money to NBC, the quality of opponents will only get worse.

b) Not a bad idea. Especially for alumni in Texas, for example, that cannot normally attend an ND without a great deal of travel. If its a good venue and a good team, it can be a great tool to keep ND prominent on the college football map. That being said, I would much rather prefer to reinforce our prominence by winning games instead of putting on side show tricks, which brings me to...

c) Bat S*** Crazy. Scheduling a terrible football team whose fan's don't travel to games in Washington does not make any sense. This game does not build tradition. This is the least attractive opponent to bring recruits to (at least Nevada was the opener). If we were able to play A&M or Texas Tech in the Alamo Dome, it would have been awesome, but it suffices to say that this matchup falls short of what the barnstorming concept encourages.2. I have personally had this game circled on the schedule for quite some time as the one “sure thing.” After the last few games I have really been looking forward to a drama free victory. As luck would have it I started looking at the Cougars more closely this morning and it appears that freshman quarterback Jeff Tuel went 28 of 42 for 354 yards and 2 TD’s in a losing effort against Cal over the weekend. With the Irish secondary still struggling to get it together what are the chances that yet another freshman signal caller makes this one way more interesting than it should be on Saturday night in San Antonio?

I'll go easy on the secondary here. Weis has a tendency in his game plans to find what a team does best and take that away from them. Against BC, the focus was on defending the run, and we shut them down pretty well. In fact, a majority of our opponents have had strong ground attacks relative to their passing games. With only 3 TDs coming from runningbacks this year, WSU will probably try to throw the ball, and expecting this, I think Charlie/Tenuta/Corwin will put the secondary in a better position.

3. Assuming that the Fighting Irish are able to take care of business and put this one away early what non-starters would you most like to see get some reps this week? Why?

Jonas Gray and Theo Riddick. Lets keep Armando healthy, and give these guys a chance to show off their legs. I would especially like Jonas to get some carries to work on his ball handling because this guy has the chance to be pretty good in a year or two if he can make the next step.
4. With the game being played on Halloween Night chances are that if you are not traveling to San Antonio you most likely have a scheduling conflict. Whether you are supposed to be at a party dressed as Fat Elvis, taking your kids trick-or-treating or just dealing with your doorbell ringing nonstop how do you plan to watch the game? If you are going what are you most looking forward to?

Fortunately as students living in South Bend, the focus will definitely be on football, and with the TV close to the door (if you are planning on robbing my house please ignore that last comment), it will be easy to dish out candy to anyone that stops by (which will probably be no one). Afterwards its time for the always fun costume parties, which I hate to say is what I'm most looking forward to. For everyone that couldn't make it to the game though, here's a picture of the band compliments of my dad who found a way to sneak to San Antonio.
5. Trick or Treat? Predictions please.

Like Whiskey mentioned, Washington State was perhaps the most guaranteed victory coming into the season, and Weis has two options: run up the score and impress some recruits, or take another game down to the wire, starting the search for the next head coach. I highly doubt that this game will be close though. Notre Dame wins 41-17.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Boston College Duds and Studs

With five straight games decided by a touchdown and four come from behind victories, I think its safe to say that the student body is getting their money's worth for their tickets this year.

Running the ball 27 times against 39 passing attempts didn't do well to help us control the clock and put the game away, poor special teams coverage gave us bad field position, and our secondary digressed from their performance against USC, but we still won, and for now, that's good enough for me.

Sitting at 23rd in the polls, Notre Dame has arguably matched expectations (especially factoring in the loss of Floyd) to this point in the season with a 5-2 record, but there is much improving that needs to be done over the next two weeks to prepare for what is increasingly looking like a tough 3 games at #15 Pitt (7-1), UConn (4-3), and at Stanford (5-3).

Duds

Pass Defense: By this point in the season, our secondary has proven itself to be a major point of concern; we are ranked 117th nationally against the pass, and 3 freshman quarterbacks have had career days on us. This has inevitably led to some anti Corwin / anti Tenuta posts from the ND faithful. It was encouraging to see our front seven apply some pressure at the end of the game, and moving Harrison Smith to more of a nickle/backer roll helped some, but this needs to be improved for us to beat Pitt.

Robert Hughes: Hughes only got four carries, but thats about 3 more than he should have got. If Hughes or Alldridge are on the field, it should be in a fullback / dual halfback roll opposite Allen because Armando has proven to be the best back when healthy.

Red Zone: Like in the Washington game and the end of the USC game, the Irish continued to struggle with red zone scoring on Saturday, scoring a touchdown only once in four attempts. Tate's speed is somewhat negated by the short field, and Parris and Kamara have been unable to make the plays in the endzone this year. The problem with throwing the ball in the short field, though, also falls on Clausen. Jimmy has a tendency to stare down receivers in the three step game and often throws to a well covered first read. The solution? I know it won't work 100% of the time, but it would be nice to see a non-gimmick, hard nose running game from inside the 20 (or 1!).

Ben Turk: Notre Dame found itself on the wrong end of the field position battle in part due to poor kick coverage. However, it is obvious that Turk needs to do some improving, registering an average of 32.7 yards on 6 kicks (for comparison, my high school teammate, who wasn't recruited anywhere, had a net of 34 yards senior year). BC's Ryan Quigley was able to help his team out with a 42 yard average on 5 kicks (keeping in mind that he is kicking to Golden Tate) and a long of 56.

Studs

Manti Te'o: My friends used to jokingly ask whether we would rather take a bullet to the chest or get hit by Ray Lewis, the moral of the story being that there are good linebackers, and then there are linebackers that you are kind of scared to play against. Notre Dame hasn't had one of the latter in awhile, so it would be nice if Manti can continue his rapid development and start really taking some heads off.

Golden Tate: I try to mix up the players in this weekly post, but I can't seem to keep Golden off of the list. Hauling in a career high 11 receptions for 128 and Notre Dame's only two touchdowns, #23 was the game's most valuable offensive player.

Kyle McCarthy: The secondary has been struggling this year, but it is not because of Kyle McCarthy. With five interceptions so far this season (three of them meaning the difference between wins and losses), McCarthy gets my vote for game MVP.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

IBG: Screamin Eagles

Welcome to another installment of the Irish Blogger Gathering. The Brawling Hibernian hosts the questions this week. Enjoy.

1. Coming off a very difficult loss to a rival that has now beaten them eight straight times, Notre Dame faces another that's beaten them six straight. Can Notre Dame end the losing streak against BC or will the combined weight of the USC loss and recent history against the Eagles be too much to overcome? Explain.


Boston College will play Notre Dame close like they do every year, but Vegas is slotting the Irish as an 8 point favorite for a reason.BC is 0-2 on the road this year, and in their two conference wins (Wake Forest and FSU), the Eagles nearly blew the game by letting the opponent rally in the second half. However, this game is really more about Notre Dame than Boston College. After playing USC down to the last second (BC was blown out 48-14 by then #5 Va Tech), the Irish find themselves in a cliché “gut check” scenario. Will the players rally behind their coach and play like they did last Saturday? If so, the Blue and Gold should come away with a 2 touchdown win.

2. Not unlike Notre Dame's defense, BC's offense has been pretty erratic this season. While in their most recent win, they rolled up 480 total yards and scored 52 points; in their two losses, they've averaged 109 yards and 11 points. Which BC offense and which ND defense show up on Saturday? Why?

BGS ranked BC’s offensive line second behind USC’s, and that doesn’t bode well for Notre Dame’s defense. BC’s 1.5 sacks allowed per game (much better than ND’s 2.3) leads me to believe that ND’s weak pass rush will be unable to pressure the quarterback, and with BC’s trio of quarterbacks demonstrating the ability to protect the ball, an Eagle air attack could spell trouble for the Irish. Once again, though, it is worth noting that BC’s two abysmal performances have come on the road, so a big crowd in South Bend could throw them off of their game on Saturday.

3. Does anyone seem primed to have a Robby Parris-like breakout moment against the Eagles? If so, who is it and why?

I would like to see Armando Allen return to his pre-Purdue form. After sitting out the game against the Boilermakers with an injury, Allen has only accumulated 90 yards on 24 carries in the last two games. The lack of a ground game amidst our offensive passing inconsistency caused a 4-1 squad to limp to a 6-6 record last season, so as we begin the road to January, regaining a player like Allen will help us survive some of the unexpectedly tough games that will inevitably come up.

4. It's been an and up-and-down year for Boston sports. After a strong start, the Red Sox folded in the second half of the year. The Patriots, meanwhile, seem to be on the upswing after a 59-0 dismantling of Tennessee. For their part, Boston College has seemed as though their season could go either way. Ultimately, will the Eagles be the Sox or the Pats?

Currently sitting on top of the weak ACC Atlantic division, the Eagles will be in position to play for the ACC crown and a BCS berth. The remaining schedule include a tough MAC opponent in Central Michigan, and winnable games @ 3-3 Virginia, 4-2 UNC, and @ 2-5 Maryland. However, even if BC makes it to the ACC Championship game, they will likely be bested by a superior Coastal team like Ga Tech, Miami, or the same Va Tech team that spanked them 48-14 earlier in the season, so my vote is for Red Sox.

5. While most Irish fans refer to BC as "Fredo", tell me to which other cinematic character you would compare the Eagles.

Since 2004, Boston College has won 4 bowl games, had at least 9 wins every year, and hasn’t lost to Notre Dame. While they have failed to win the ACC during any of these years, I don’t think it is that much of a stretch to say that they have actually out performed Notre Dame, especially when factoring in their current 6 win streak over the Irish. So, while some ND fans view BC as an incompetent little child, I will give the Eagles some credit by comparing them with Tommy Boy. Viewed by many to be incapable, Tommy was able to overcome the odds and succeed despite his shortcomings. Hopefully this weekend will see BC demoted back to its current nickname of Fredo, but for now, lets think of them more like a fat guy in a little coat.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

USC Duds and Studs

Hello everyone.Notre Dame is on fall break, so I will be making my annual rounds of Ohio colleges with my roommates this week. My blogging may be a little more sporadic as I am technically “off the grid,” using pay-phone-computers to type sentences at a time as I hitchhike from city to city. As much as I would like to take the week off, though, I feel like I need to earn my salary by offering some thoughts on the USC game, so I’ll start by giving the Duds and Studs from the game.

Duds

Pass Rush: Barkley is going to be a special player, but a true freshman should not light up a defense the way he did on Saturday. Weis has done a great overall job of recruiting since he started coaching, but he has had trouble pulling in D-Linemen, and specifically D-Tackles. Having a Gerald McCoy or Omar Hunter in the trenches would help apply some pressure, but Hart and Tenuta need to find a way to get pressure with what they have.

Pass Blocking: A year after USC sent 10 defensive players to the NFL, the Trojans were still able to field a menacing pass rush. Clausen was brought to the dirt five times, but the bigger issue was that Weis continually had to keep a runningback in for protection instead of sending a player like Allen on routes.

Darrin Walls: While Blanton earned the dud DB award last week, Darrin Walls seemed to shoulder the most blame for the aerial beat down this week. With as mush experience as Darrin, has, one would expect him to better close on routes that he is leaving wide open, and he had a tough time bringing down USC’s big receivers as well.

Heart attack: With the way the past five games have gone, the mean age of Notre Dame alumni could very well drop 2 years over the course of the season. Out of all of the close games, though, it is worth noting that we probably had the best shot of winning against Michigan and USC. Down in a hole late against Washington, the Irish had no business shutting down the Huskies on 8 plays from the 1 yard line. Michigan State had a wide open receiver in the endzone for the win – that loss is more on them than us, and Purdue made us scratch and claw for a victory in West Lafayette. With Michigan, we failed to run out the clock. With USC, we (arguably) failed to manage the clock on what (arguably) should have been a scoring drive. A loss in the expiring seconds is always tough to stomach, but it’s even more difficult with a timeout on the board and a down to spare.

Studs

Trick Plays: There is more or less a consensus that if a team needs to use trick plays, then they are usually an inferior opponent. That being said, I felt that Weis did a good job of playing with what he had. The fake field goal kept the Irish from being on the bad end of a first half blowout, and even the Wild-Goodman served as a good means of keeping USC off balance. I’m not saying Charlie called a perfect game, but he did install some clever stuff over the bye week.

St. Ignatius: Speaking of the Wildcat, two former Wildcats had good games against the Trojans. Johnny Ryan came up with a critical sack in the closing minutes of the game that gave the Irish their chance to tie the game. Robby Parris might as well have been wearing the #3 this week; with 9 catches for 92 yards, Parris stepped up to prevent USC from locking down Tate and freezing the offense like they did a year ago. Saying that it was unfortunate to see Robby get injured (on a late hit) at the end of the game would be an understatement.

Golden Tate: With only 2 catches for 15 yards against USC last season, Tate may have boosted himself into All-American discussion with his play against USC this year. His 8 receptions for 117 yards and 2 touchdowns kept the crowd (and the team) in the game. I feel like this post is lamenting too much on what could have been, but can anyone even comprehend what this offense would be like with a healthy Floyd and Arrelious Benn at Clausen’s arsenal?

Tackling (!?): Going off the grid / into the wild / rogue / Get in the Bronco Shawn! has prevented me from rewatching the game, but it seems like our tackling improved against USC (3.7 YPC was better than I expected). Granted, we did not shut them down, and a few missed tackles led to some big plays that should not have been. Again, I stand to be corrected, but if this is true, then this is more evidence that the bye week was well spent. If the defense can build off of this performance in the coming weeks, we have a good shot of finishing with 10 wins.

Photos from the AP.

Monday, October 19, 2009

One Bright Spot from Saturday

Saturday's defeat to the hated Trojans highlighted a number of the problems which have plagued the Irish this season. I usually blame poor tackling as the number 1 cause in my book. The defense stopped playing two-hand touch and played a decent game (one John Ryan even had a sack). I still need to watch the replay of the game on Universal HD sometime this week, but at the game it just seemed that the defense schemes on important plays (short yardage/3rd down) were just wrong. The guys on the field played their hearts out and came through again when necessary against a very talented team. But I feel that when a coach is known to use his tight ends vertically down the field in short yardage situations, the play should not be to leave them uncovered. All and all the team played whard, finally got a due turnover, and had multiple chances to send the game into overtime. There is nothing to hang our heads about that, and it was one of the more memorable games in my 4 years.


The Charlie's Nasties' recruiting desk correspondant known as "The Franz" first allerted me Friday that the speedy recruit Tai-ler Jones would be attending the game against USC, and was having doubts about his verbal comit to Stanford. Sure enough with a good performance Saturday from Weis's offense, and a fantastic stadium atmosphere during the game, the WR Jones changed his comittment to Notre Dame. This is an awesome pick-up for the Irish since his speed and elusiveness will complement well the other playmakers in the WR core, and it comes at the loss for his hometown Florida Gators, and the rising Stanford. Mark my words, Jim Harbaugh is going to build a very competitive program in the next few years, and the Cardinal will/won't be a pushover game.

And how much better did the student's section look this week with everyone just wearing green. Pick your favorite green t-shirt and wear it, and wow, it looks better than just about anything we've thrown out there in a while. Who knew that any real shade of green (not the 2007 shirt) would look better than a pasty/sandy gold shirt?

Thursday, October 15, 2009

IBG: So You're Saying There's a Chance?

Greetings all. Fall Break is right around the corner, and ND community has had a week to emotionally prepare for the game that will decide our season. A few (students? faculty? employees?) have been decorating the campus with images of encouragement heading into Saturday's showdown. Every public computer in the labs is sporting a new background sponsored by ND Gameday reading "Go Irish Beat Trojans," chalk on the sidewalks has been present until the recent wet weather, and on the way into the dining hall today, I walked over about 50 sheets of paper taped in front of the doors reading "Stomp USC." There is definitely a buzz around campus, but yet not one of the Observer news reporters picked an Irish win. So which one is it? Time for another round of the Irish Blogger Gathering to find out. Thanks to the OC Domer for hosting this week.1. The weather forecast for Saturday's game (as of this writing) has the high temperature in the mid 40's with some chance of rain (or snow?). What weather would give Notre Dame the best chance to beat USC? Why?

Over the past few USC games, the traditional answer would probably be a cats-and-dogs downpour mixed with sleet and flurries. However, I feel that our passing game is better than USC's passing game, and that our running game is not as good. That being said, I'm probably just rooting for the ground to be cold and slopping to slow down Joe McKnight, and the air will stay clear so we won't lose much on our passing attack.

2. Irresistable Force or Immovable Object? Notre Dame's offense is ranked #10 in yards (470 per game) and #27 in points (32.6 per game). USC's defense is ranked #6 in yards allowed (238.6 per game) and #4 in scoring allowed (just 8.6 points per game). In 2008 Notre Dame had just 91 total yards against USC. Will the Notre Dame offense be able to move the ball on Saturday? If so, how?

At this point in the season, the team stats are usually pretty skewed, for example, ND and USC both had stunning performances against Nevada and San Jose State, respectively, but they are perhaps weighted a little more heavily than they should be. That being said, the best defense ND has faced all year has been Michigan State, who is nowhere near the caliber of USC, and the sobering fact that 70% of our current roster has never scored a touchdown against the Trojans unfortunately points me towards the immovable object.

3. USC's offense is #22 in yards (430.6 per game) and #53 in scoring (28.8 points per game). Notre Dame's defense is #100 in total defense (403.2 yards per game) and #59 in scoring defense (allowing 23.8 points per game). Will the Notre Dame defense be able to slow down the USC offense? If so, how?

Short of a few incredible goal line stands, the defense has not shown much to make me think we will be able to slow the Trojan ground game. However, I would be content with letting USC pick up 4 yards and a pile of dust because if we prevent a big play, that will keep us in the game and give the offense a chance. The problem is in the passing game. Barkley is a true freshman and should make some mistakes if we are able to apply pressure, but our pass rush has been non existent, leading me to believe that USC will be able to attack by land and air.

4. In 2008, with Michael Floyd unable to play due to injury, Golden Tate had 2 catches against USC for a team-high 15 receiving yards. How do you expect Golden Tate to play against USC this year?

Tate is better, Jimmy is better, and (most importantly) the O-Line is better than last year. Combined with the emergence of Kyle Rudolph and Weis' creative ways of moving Tate around (he lined up as a fullback once last game), Golden should have the opportunity to make more plays than he did last year.

5. Jimmy Clausen has started to get some Heisman buzz. In your opinion, which Notre Dame player is the most deserving of Heisman attention, Jimmy or Golden Tate? Why?
When Larry Fitzgerald was denied the Heisman a few years ago, I came to terms with the fact that the award no longer goes to the best college football player, but to the best QB or RB (who usually plays for the best team). I still think other position players can win, but it would take an abnormaly spectacular season for another position to win. So for now, JC should be getting more talk.

6. Overrated or Underrated. Notre Dame cracked into the AP Poll at #25 this week. Are they overrated or underrated at #25? Where would you put them in your poll?

Watching Boise State play last night causes me to scream underrated. I'm not saying that ND would beat the Broncos, but when a top 5 team goes on the road and barley beats an unranked team from Conference USA, it makes me cringe. So much of the AP vote is linked to media bias (such as preseason rankings, which are pretty much BS) and the strength of out of conference scheduling is not factored enough into the equation. Take Utah for example, who shocked everyone by beating Alabama at the end of last season. The AP placed the Utes one slot ahead of ND for beating Utah State, San Jose State, Louisville, and Colorado State - all by less than 2 possessions. I think it is much easier to play 10 easy games a year and get all the players hyped up for one or two really big games than to consistently face legitimate opponents week in and week out like the Irish do. If these flaws in the current system were better accounted for, I think ND would only be 1-2 slots higher, but the top 25 as a whole would look a lot different (sorry for rant).

7. USC Song Girls: Ambassadors of Collegiate Goodwill or Anachronism from a bygone era of oppressive sexist stereotypes?
8. Green Jerseys? There's a lot of "green" talk coming from campus this week, and it raises the question of whether the team will be wearing green on Saturday. Do you want to see the green jerseys or not? Why?

Personally, I feel like the program hasn't earned the jerseys since the 2005 USC game. If they wear them Saturday and we win, the jeresey-wearing will be (duh) justified, but ever since I've been at school, the green adidas moneymakers have somehow worked their way into games where we get blown out or play a clearly inferior opponent. I want the team to just go out and play hard for four quarters. Don't tell me how the team is really sure they are going to win, and don't give me the green jeresy bs. Just go out there and play like you mean it.
9. Name the next number in this sequence: -3, -20, -38, -35, _______. Explain.

-7. Unfortunately, the holes in our defense cannot allow me to pick an Irish win. If Barkley can't be forced into making 2-3 game changing freshman mistakes, or if our defense can't find away to play with the resilliancy of a goal line stand for the entire game, I think that the Trojans will extend their winning streak to a depressing 8 games over the Irish.

Monday, October 5, 2009

Washington Duds and Studs

Last season, the Notre Dame vs. Washington game was one of the few games where Weis and Co. completely dominated every facet of the game. The 33 to 7 Irish victory was one of 12 Huskie losses last season, and Notre Dame was so dominant that Washington was unable to cross midfield until the end of the game. This year probably drew better TV ratings.For the past four weeks, the Irish have managed to keep everyone on the edge of their seats until the final whistle, finding a way to outdo themselves in comeback absurdity each week. Of course the irony is that when looking at the last three minutes of each of the past four games, its clear that Notre Dame had the best chance of beating Michigan, the one team we lost to.

On that note its time to begin another segment of Duds and Studs:

Duds

Brian Smith:
The Kansas City product is the vocal leader of the defense, and he is putting up just over 5 tackles a game, but his tackling fundamentals still drive me crazy. A play before the goal line stand (in the 3rd quarter) exemplified Smith's improper technique: his athleticism and nose for the football proved true as he shot the gap and collided with the runningback 3 yards in the backfield. However, because he failed to wrap up with his arms and drive through the tackler with his legs, the runningback bounced off and turned the play into a 10 yard gain.

Robert Blanton: On the same play, Blanton got juked out of his shoes. More than that though, RJ had a rocky game in coverage, surrendering the 37 yard completion to James Johnson that set Washington up for the game tying field goal. Blanton is a tough kid with a good work ethic, so I have confidence that he can improve, but as of right now, it looks like McNeil and Gray are our two best corners.

Robby Parris: The senior made the most out of his two receptions with 46 receiving yards, but a key drop in the endzone puts him in my doghouse for now.

Red Zone Offense: Notre Dame's first 5 trips to the red zone resulted in 5 field goals. It's always dangerous to let a lesser opponent hang around until the end of the game, and when Notre Dame failed to score a touchdown until there was 3:00 left in the first half, it let Washington do exactly that. Not having the big targets of Floyd and Kamara hurts, but the Irish must find a way to punch it in if we want to have success.

Defense: 281 yards through the air for Locker, and 176 yards on the ground, including 136 yards on a 6.2 yard average by Chris Polk. The bye week is a golden opportunity to work on tackling and coverage fundamentals, and I hope that our coaching staff takes advantage of it.


Studs

JC: As you've probably read on ten other sites, Jimmy's performance against UW was good enough to make him the most efficient quarterback in the country through five weeks and earn him O'Brien Quarterback of the Week honors. For those of you keeping score at home, this is the fourth straight week that Clausen has found his team down in the fourth quarter and the fourth straight week he has responded with a touchdown drive. What suprises me most is that his 422 passing yards is a career high; the way Jimmy is airing it out I expect him to break that this year.

Tate: His 244 receiving yards is a game high among D-1 receivers through 5 games, and the mark is second in the Notre Dame record books. What I continue to like best about Tate though, is his ability to fight through and break tackles. Listed at 5'11" 195 lbs (yeah..right), this receiver is one of the toughest to tackle in the country.

Young Diesel: Even with Darius Flemming out, the young defensive ends Kapron Lewis-Moore, Ethan Johnson, and Kerry Neal all had big games. Kerry Neal had the key sack in overtime, and Johnson lit up Locker after a Clausen interception to cause a fumble. Like the offense from last year, the youth up front still yields to some inconsistency, but there are definitley bright spots. And speaking of tackling... did you hear that we have this kid named Manti?

Defense: 3 goal line stands and a jarring hit when the game was on the line. Yes the overall tackling is a concern, but since folding in the Big House, this defense has found a way to fight when its backs are up against the wall, and that fire under pressure is what will keep us in every game.

Nick Tausch: 5 field goals out of 5 red zone trips is much better than nothing. While I was frustrated that we couldn't score, I agree with Weis' decision to kick the field goals instead of trying to go for it. Anytime you get stuffed at the line 3 plays in a row, you're probably not going to power it in on 4th down anyways. Props to the freshman for giving us some consistency in the kicking game.

Photos from the AP

Thats it for now. Go Irish!

Thursday, October 1, 2009

IBG: Wash on, Wash off

Hey all. Subway Domer came up with some good impromtu questions this week, but before we get into another Irish Blogger Gathering, I'd like to throw some shameless props to this blog as Charlie's Nasties has reached 200 posts.

Sorry for that... now into the IBG:

1. Describe your worst nightmare coming true on Saturday. Can that nightmare become a reality?

Losing to Washington would be bad for a couple of reasons. First, it would obviously drop us to 3-2 on the season, but more importantly, it would be another example of Notre Dame struggling against (or losing to) a team that they should (on paper) beat by at least two touchdowns. Michigan State lost to Central Michigan, and Purdue lost to Northern Illinois, but for some reason, they took our team right down to the wire. Losing to a Huskie squad that lost at Stanford last week would not be a good thing.
While getting a win is always the most important objective, coming out of this weekend injury free would be huge. Clausen has already said that he won't be 100% until after the season, and without Armando Allen, our run game lacks big play potential.
So can it become a reality? Of course: Clausen and Allen are already banged up, and Washington beat friggin' USC! Let's just hope the Irish come out ready to dominate and can shut the Huskies down early.2. Can we all agree that Jake Locker will be the best quarterback that we have/will face all season?

A few IBG's ago, I picked Locker as the number one quarterback we will face, and I'm going to stick with that statement. BGS ranked Locker and Kaepernick as the top 2 QBs followed by USC's QB rotation. After watching two Nevada games this year (@ Missouri in some crazy Thursday night football a week ago), I would bump Kaepernick down a few spots (he has more interceptions, 4, than TDs, 2). Also, Michigan was ranked 11th out of twelve opponents in terms of quarterback strength, but after Forcier has led UM to a 4-0 start, I have to put him into at least the top 5. However, Locker's athleticism, arm strength, and (Tebow-esqu?) leadership skills cement him as the #1 in my book.

3. Replace two starters on both sides of the football for the Washington game. Who are they, who are they replacing, and why?

Offense: Trevor Robinson replaces 4 year starter Sam Young. #74 has been a staple of the ND line since 2006, but he has been a little disappointing as a senior with too many personal fouls and false starts for someone who is supposed to be a leader on the line. A game sitting out might help him get his head on straight (and I think T-Rob would do fine in the replacement role).
Defense: I would expect the IBG answers to be fairly unanimous in lobbying to move Brian Smith to the middle and start Te'o at the Will. Toryan Smith is on the short end of the stick here, but he is slow against the pass and is not seen in the pass rush. Smith's tackling against the run still worries me, but Te'o is one of the best tacklers on our defense (wait a sec, you're supposed to keep your feet under you when you tackle someone?), so the trade off there shouldn't be too bad.

4. Ty Willingham enters the stadium in the second quarter. What happens?

In the many interviews Swarbrick has had to face regarding Weis' job security, he continually references an evaluation process he conducts at the end of the season. Coaches are judged on wins (duh), but also a series of other criteria such as academic performance, trend of the program, and recruiting. Journalists are quick to point out the win loss similarities between Willingham and Weis, but I don't think it would be much of a stretch to claim that Willingham probably didn't do that great on portions of the review that Weis excelled in.
After watching Ty drive Washinton to a 0 win season, I think the nation has finally acknowledged that perhaps Notre Dame made the right move with letting him go, and if he shows up at the second quarter, I don't think much would happen outside of some obligatory face time on NBC.

5. Are you impressed with the improvement in the run game in 2009, or is it a figment of our imagination?

I'm impressed... as long as the run game is featuring Armando Allen. With over 100 yards per game, Allen is actually making me believe that we can ram the ball down (some) team's throats this year. While Hughes and Co. put together a good effort against Purdue, I still think that Purdue's because the Boilermaker's defense is so suspect that you have to file the performance under a similar bucket as Stanford and Duke in 2007 rather than a prequel to the highly anticipated (insert "lighting & thunder" cliche) tandem with Allen.

6. Who's hotter, Wendi Nix or Erin Andrews? Why. It your hottie a defensive or offensive player?

Gotta go with EA here. Maybe its just from the new NCAA game (the "...with Erin Andrews! Yes, Erin Andrews!" tagline is definitely creepy). I'm also not sure what to make of the offensive / defensive portion of the question, so I'll just have to go with special teams.

7. Predictions please...

Vegas has ND as 13 point favorites this game. The question is, do the Irish continue to play cardiac style, or does the team assert itself and let the fans have a good time while they coast onward to victory? In the words of Lee Corso (not to endorse anything he says or does...) "Not so fast! Notre Dame pulls out the win, but CLOSER than the experts think!"
Notre Dame: 31 Washington: 21