Sunday, November 25, 2007

Good Omens

Notre Dame 21, Stanford 14

All right, so...I'm glad we've gotten this season out of our system.

I'm also glad we've won out the last two games of our season for the first time since 1992.

I'm also so glad that the players and coaches have nine months to rest, train, recruit, and basically rethink their lives before they strap on a bunch of pads (or, you know, a headset) and hit the gridiron again.


Yaaaaay we won our last two games of the season. Yaaaay the two teams we beat have four wins between them. If you add Notre Dame's total number of wins for the season to that number, you have a winning season!!!

Duke + Stanford + Worst Notre Dame Team In History Of Football = Bowl Eligible!

Eat your heart out, International Bowl! DuFord Dame is on its way!

Oh Jimmy

If I've said it once, I've said it a thousand times: you are not a scrambling quarterback. No, really. Get over it. Stop trying to stiff-arm people who are twice your size. Also when you try to throw the ball away (providing this option occurs to you while you're still on the field), maybe try throwing it to the sidelines instead of chucking it pell-mell into the arms of a Stanford player.

Overall, progress has been good. I'm sure you'll get over this little phase where you stand in (or behind) the pocket forever and then decide to run with it even when there's nowhere to run.

Granted, it's not all your fault. It would help if our receivers could get open faster. Also it would help if our O-line gave you better protection. But do not need to run away and still try to make a play out of it every time some opposing defender has chased you ten yards behind the line of scrimmage. It's pretty much okay to chuck the ball out of bounds in these situations. I promise.

I realize that if you just chucked the ball out of bounds every time you were under pressure you would never complete a pass, but still. Let's work on a nice delicate balance so you don't keep getting sacked five times a game.

Replay officials say whaaaaat?

Dear Pac-10 Replay Officials Who Worked the Stanford Game,

I don't believe you.

It deeply troubles me to see men so invested in the glorious game of football who have no respect for its wondrous athleticism, majestic physicality, or downright badass playmaking.

If you die a mysterious death on the sideline someday from a wayward flying cleat, rest assured I will only see it as glorious recompense for your erroneous attempt to screw my beloved team out of one of the only wins it has truly earned all season.

It is a crime to rob these young men of such Herculean efforts on the field, and your blatant disrespect for the game of football and troubling disregard for the tremendous amount of effort this team displayed on Saturday is utterly horrifying and mind-boggling. I suggest you retire to the Poconos and take up the officiating of some sport that is more your speed. (Like golf. Or shuffleboard.)


Talk to Chuck

Well, somebody ought to.

Often this season I have wondered if Charlie bothers listening to his assistant coaches. (Particularly his offensive coordinator. And who in the bloody hell is their Offensive Line coach? What's he been doing with his life?)

I mean...look. You don't just lose nine games. It's not the sort of thing that just happens.

And it's not like we were robbed of any of those games, either. The only game they tried to rob us of was the Stanford game, but that turned out fine, so...moving on.

No, in all the other games, we either got our asses completely handed to us or we just couldn't get it done.

I don't have a real solution for this, Charlie, but Lord knows I hope you do. You like to be the man with the answers, but you haven't exactly had any of those all season.

So I think this is going to be a good off season for everybody. Let's hope those players hit the weights until their thighs have the girth of two small children and their biceps weigh more than a standard jersey chaser. Let's hope all our recruits stick. Let's hope we get back to fundamentals so our team actually knows how to block and wrap up and tackle and...kick a field goal, for Christ's sake. And lets hope Jimmy and his receivers spend the summer glued to a TV screen until they have complete comprehension of Charlie's scheming.

And such.

What tho the odds be great or....

So, anyway. We beat Stanford. We should have beaten them by like three touchdowns, but whatever.

At least we get to send our team into the off season on a high note, for once. At least the players have something to feel good about for the next nine months or so (at least until they watch the replays of the Michigan and USC games again).

In a game where pretty much no one scored in the second half, there were a lot of really dazzling plays.

Tom Zbikowski proved to the world once again that he is an absolute beast. It's too bad, first of all, that we've hardly seen this side of Zibby this season (or last season, for that matter), and it's further terrible that every single time he has gotten into the endzone this season or made a punt return longer than fifteen yards, either our offense has been unable to capitalize or the entire thing has gotten called back.

We've seen life from our wide receiving corps (finally), and against the 11th-ranked pass defense (or was it just pass rush?), no less. Duval Kamara came to life with some outstanding grabs, his lanky figure and sticky hands this week almost resembling--dare I say it?--good ol' number 83, Jeff Samardzija. David Grimes likewise impressed with the most outstanding catch of the game--a total dive into the end zone for a ball entirely out of his reach that remained in his possession the entire time and never once hit the ground even though his hands did. (Even the booth commentators were shocked by the call on that one. I think it's just a crime to take that kind of effort away from a kid. Absolutely freaking ridiculous.) Junior Jabbie also impressed near the end of the game with a couple of nice grabs and a breakout run that (unfortunately) led to nothing.

Our running backs continue to cause problems as far as turnovers go. Hughes and Schwapp both fumbled early in the game to kill two ND scoring chances. Robert Hughes, however, made up for it by tacking up two forty-yard runs at the beginning and end of the game, and by rumbling in ND's final score of the game. What I would like to know is--where was Hughes in the middle of the game? In the first quarter and fourth quarter, Hughes made a tremendous impact, but in the middle it seemed like we were (a bit unsuccessfully) passing all the time, or handing off to Armando Allen, who is speedier but not as large as Hughes. If Allen could break through the holes, he would definitely pick up more yardage, but he doesn' t have the ability Hughes does to pummel his way through the holes like a bull and drag defenders with him for a couple more yards when it seems like he should get none at all.

On Defense, Trevor Laws continues to eat people. It was so troubling when he got injured twice near the end of the game, but that didn't stop him from getting in there and knocking people around.

Also, can anyone else believe we injured their first and second string quarterbacks in the same game? The ESPN commentators were absolutely livid they put Tavita Pritchard back in the game after they'd "taken his helmet away." I kind of have to agree, though...what if he had a concussion? I mean, really. Do you want a quarterback playing with a concussion??? Although I guess Stanford didn't want to put their third-stringer in and have us pull a UCLA game on them.

Isn't it ironic, though? Jimmy gets sacked five times and he's fine and their two QBs are the ones getting concussions and hand injuries and whatnot? I guess Jimmy's getting pretty tough by now....


Next season will be my senior year, which I'm kind of freaking out about.

I do, however, have ambitions to go to every single Notre Dame game next year, so if anybody's with me on this...let's start planning now. We have Michigan State, BC, Navy, Washington, and North Carolina away (as well as USC, but supposedly the band's going to that one). Go Irish! Beat Everyone!

Also I would like to thank everyone who's tuned in and listened to me rant about football all season. It's been an adventure.

Until next year then, kids...stay safe, and, as always, love thee Notre Dame.

Sunday, November 18, 2007

We Woke up the Echoes, but They're Still Drowsy

Notre Dame 28, Duke 7


We beat one of the worst teams in the country.

At home!


I'm very excited about this, in the sense that I might have thrown myself off a cliff by now if we hadn't won yesterday. (I am, of course, exaggerating. You'd have to drive for hours to find anything remotely resembling a cliff in Northern Indiana, and who wants to waste that much gas?)

But really. I'm excited about it. I'm glad we won, especially for the sake of the seniors. (Those poor effing seniors. Especially the fifth-years. What a bomb for a season.)

Before I get to the jubilation, however, a few key points...

Coach Weis
Hooray for a redeeming win in the stadium. More people seemed willing to form the "W" when we played the 1812 Overture this week instead of booing. was Senior Day, and we beat Duke, so perhaps "redeeming" wasn't the right word. I can give you props, but I can't give you mad kudos on this one. Actually, in light of this entire season, not sure I can really give you any kudos.

Wouldn't it be funny if we ended up 3-9 this season? I mean...wouldn't it?

Capitalizing Win

So we finally managed to take advantage of some of our opponents' blunders and scored when they turned the ball over. Refreshing!

However, the fact that we almost went into halftime tied at 0 with Duke really says a lot about our consistent lack of progress over the season. I mean, yes, we won, we almost got a shutout even, and later in the game it felt good to see our offense score of its own accord. (Which, granted, they have been doing more and more often as the season progresses.)

But still..I's Duke. They had the same record we did coming into this game, with a somewhat less intimidating schedule. The fact that it flickered into anyone's mind (including my own) that we might lose to Duke is depressing beyond all reasonable explanation.

We didn't, though. So that's good.

It's still just so frustrating to see our team struggle with pass-blocking, rushing, field goals, giving it up on 3rd-and-long, and, above all, penalties.

Some of those penalties, I swear, were just the referees being blind. But a lot of the other ones were completely unnecessary. (Especially at the end of the game. But some of those don't really count because, come on, Tommy Z was in at QB and the student section couldn't get over it, and our regular starters weren't out there. And what do a couple of false starts in a row mean anyway?)

Clearly, our defense did pretty well, considering we almost got the shutout. (The last time we got a shutout win, we beat Rutgers 42-0 at home. It was...five years ago, I think. I was a sophomore in high school, and it was the first time I'd ever seen an ND game inside the stadium. And they scored all the touchdowns in the end zone opposite the one my dad and I were sitting behind.)

But still...we gave up some first downs that we shouldn't have, and a lot of our success on turnovers resulted from the slippery conditions as much as the effort of our players. Plus (okay, I know I keep saying this, but just hear me out)'s DUKE.

I'm ecstatic that we won, I'm happy for our team, the students, the band, the alums, the coaches, absolutely everybody in the ND fan nation, but...let's face it. If it hadn't been Duke, we still might have tanked. There aren't many teams in the country you can go scoreless against for almost an entire half and then not pay for it later.

All the same, as I was watching the game, I kept thinking, "Damn. If only this was our first game of the season."

Then it wouldn't be quite so troublesome. Then we might be in, not good, but at least a mostly acceptable state to improve upon for the rest of the season. Then our team would have more confidence and we might have better chemistry/intuition/whatev
er the heck it takes to get the O-line thinking and moving together.

But no. Such is not the current state of things.

At least our players will be riding on a high heading out to California to face a stunning 3-7 Stanford team.

I'm convinced we're going to beat them, because they already beat USC, and we just have a knack for beating teams that can beat USC, even though we remain incapable of toppling the Trojans ourselves.

Also, it's Thanksgiving weekend, and I'd like to think it's going to be a good Thanksgiving weekend. (I can always hope, right?)

All right, well...enough lamenting. This season has been sad, but now it's nearly over and we can only hope Charlie has learned enough from it to somewhat deflate his enormous ego and prepare him for the trials of putting together a solid team next season. (Which is still going to take more than excellent recruiting and clever scheming.) VICTORY!

Everybody kept talking about it being a day of "lasts" on Saturday. Last home game, last game for the seniors, last this, last that... But psh, it was a day of firsts.

It was the FIRST time we've won at home all season, the FIRST time the band has gotten to play the victory clog at the end of a game, the FIRST time the freshmen experienced the utter euphoria in Notre Dame Stadium after a victory, the FIRST time the team has gotten to celebrate with instead of just merely salute the students...

It was also the FIRST time Robert Hughes (HUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUghes) has rushed for over 100 yards in a game (making him the FIRST since D-Walk to do so as a freshman), and the FIRST time all season the entire student section has really caught on to a new cheer. (I love saying HUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUghes, because, first of all, it makes me think of LOUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUU, but also it makes me think of MUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUHSin Mohammed and Da Bears, and both of those things are always good things.)

Also it was the FIRST time many of the seniors have gotten to take the field during a game and play a snap or two for the Irish.


I swear he's been a senior like three times already, but who cares, this time he got to QB it at the end. (Uh-maz-ing.) He didn't really get to do much because, oh yeah, the O-line still can't open up holes for people and we kept getting called on false start, and then Travis Thomas fumbled the ball away, but whatever, it was still SWEET.

Saturday also marked the FIRST Notre Dame game my cousin John's ever been to (which was fun), as well as my FIRST season getting a shamrock award for band.

Speaking of was also the FIRST time the PICCOLOS WON SECTION OF THE YEAR! (YEAH PICCS!)

So yeah. I will miss the seniors (especially the band piccolo seniors), but how can you look back on Saturday and be sad? It was the first time all season we've had so many things to celebrate.

So rock on, Fighting Irish, and head out to California and show those losers who's boss.

Never forget...

*clap clap*


Monday, November 12, 2007


Air Force 41, Notre Dame 24

I've been a little sluggish and heartbroken this week. My desk is unusually messy. There are candy wrappers all over. I finished all my homework for Monday. I did my laundry before the basket was all the way full. I have no idea where my large umbrella is. Also, Notre Dame lost to two service academies two weeks in a row.

Clearly, all is not right with the world.

Go Team

After last weekend's dazzling 44-point scoring spree and subsequent spirit-crushing triple-OT debacle, our offense limped and gimped to a staggering 24 points, making our offensive totals from the last two games combined about as hefty as our point totals for the entire rest of the season.

It has rarely been more depressing, in the entire history of college football, to be a Notre Dame fan.

The fact that the students had enough heart left at the end of yesterday's game to start the "We are ND" cheer is kind of staggering.

But that's what Notre Dame is all about, and that's why the rest of the country thinks our fans are delusional.

I am always prepared to believe, even in the direst of circumstances, that our team can prevail.

People have been saying it all season long: with the talent we have on this team, there is no reason for us to be playing like we are. But teams with less talent than us have been playing better than us, because football isn't about the talent. It's about the team.

So many of our guys have SO much talent, but we're not playing in a way that allows them to succeed. Armando Allen, for example, can be an absolute beast when he gets a little room to run, but he rarely has that room to run. Ability can only take you so far if there's no one to block for you.

Another example: John Carlson. Monster tight end. Should be having monster season. Not so easy to make a play, though, when you're constantly being thrown the ball under double coverage (*coughcough*Jimmy).

It's so late in the season now I don't think this year's team is ever going to gel. Do I think we're going to beat Duke on Saturday? Well, yeah, but Dear Lord, it's Duke; they have the same record we do (and no--not half as much talent). The only disadvantage there is that we're both going to take the field thinking, "YES!! We're going to WIN this one!!!" And also every team seems to have a little extra bloodlust when they play Notre Dame.

Speaking of which, how many of our players went down yesterday with injuries? Yikes.

Oh God, and speaking of going down...

Congratulations, you got sacked six times. Maybe try dumping the ball off a little quicker in the future. Or, I don't know, THROWING THE BALL AWAY.

Look, I appreciate that you are a play maker and that you want to make plays happen and that you would prefer to get positive yardage. But I think I would appreciate not ending up in 3rd-and-19 situations wherein, for SOME REASON UNBEKNOWNST TO THE ENTIRE STUDENT BODY, Charlie always seems to want to run the ball. ("They'll never see it coming!!!!" ................Yeah. Okay.)

Jimmy just takes too long in the pocket. Always. He is, apparently, not that good at reading defenses yet, we can bet he doesn't have 100% command of Charlie's playbook, and--although he's started a number of games this season--he's still a freshman.

I'm not worried about Jimmy's evolution as a quarterback in the long run. Brady, as a freshman, wasn't much to shake a stick at (that first USC game of his, which I was in the stands for, still makes me cringe), and he didn't really break out into Heisman-candidate form until his junior year. So Jimmy has time and a head start and will be fine in the long run...he's just making me mad now.

Look, Jimmy, I'm sorry, but you're not a scrambling quarterback. Also you can't try to stiff-arm people the way you do when your biceps are still smaller than your head. I mean, have you seen Brady's biceps? He could wrestle an alligator. (Although, as Peyton Manning has proved, it does not necessarily take great biceps to be a great quarterback.) Also...please get over yourself. Thanks.

Our poor effing defense.

If it wasn't for our offense, they'd be doing so great.

They made a lot of crucial stops, forced some key turnovers, punts and field goals, improved greatly against the option, aaaand were basically on the field so often they're all going to need open-heart surgery by the time this season is over.

I mean...really. The offense failed to capitalize on most of the good opportunities the defense gave them, and even when they weren't failing at that, they managed to turn the ball over at really inopportune moments.

Why do you think the student section gives up on doing the arm motions to Celtic Chant midway through the second period? We only play Celtic and the Imperial March when our team is on defense, and we play Celtic so often I feel about ready to mutiny by the end of the game. So yeah, it'd be nice if we got some more songs to play on defense (maybe an adaptation of Dropkick Murphys' "I'm Shipping Up to Boston"? It's...Irish-y...), but also it'd be REALLY FREAKING FANTASTIC if we hardly had to play it at all.

I mean, I guess you could argue that if our defense was truly monstrous they would take matters into their own hands and just win every single game for us (a la the UCLA game), and that giving up 41 points is not exactly a mark of great success, and that Navy should not have gotten a 2-point conversion (EVER), but's really f$%^*@# hard to defend against the option, and, for example, when we really needed our D to force a 3-and-out near the end of the game when it looked like we might have the slightest chance to come back and at least tie....they forced a 3-and-out. You know?

Charlie: What. The. F.

Okay. So.

You can't treat these kids like they're veterans. They're not. Some of them are, but as a team they're not. I mean...I hope you're still drilling fundamentals like wizz-ow (yes, that is "wow" with a random "izz" stuck in the middle), but I feel like probably no. It certainly doesn't look that way on the field. Nothing's working. I mean yes, we got 24 points in our second-biggest offensive effort of the season, and, yes, we had some pretty fantastic catches in the end zone (which unfortunately I did not get to see because they were all in the other end zone), but we still have all the same problems we had at the beginning of the season. All of them. (The only thing I can say is I guess our penalty count is down.)

Jimmy got sacked left and right. We dug ourselves into WAY TOO MANY third-and-longs and were unable to convert. We had to go for it on fourth too many times. And, when it came down to the wire, we were unable to convert a 4th-and-1 on a QB sneak. Those aren't just problems. Those are irreparable damages.

At least for now.

This team (most specifically the O-LINE) is going to have to make leaps and bounds in training during the off season to really bulk up and be strong enough to make the difference in next year's team. We can't do anything if we can't block and open up run lanes and, I don't know, tackle. I mean, yeah, that's all really basic, but that's exactly what we can't do. We need to get everyone set in their position (and stop switching people around all willy-nilly), get everyone to build up their legs like tree trunks, and just let it sink in 'til the O-line's like cement and the team is...well...a team.

Also the underclassmen need to wake up and realize what they're doing, what they're missing, what they're not going to have some day.

This is not Notre Dame football. This is like some twisted horror story taken out of some deranged USC fan's dream.

But this is also, all, really, stuff that can be FIXED. This is basic stuff.

The question is: does Charlie know how to build a college team?

We know he knows how to scheme, and we know he knows how to recruit.

But does he know how to take players through the transition from high school to college, from college to the NFL, in a way that will strengthen both the players and the team?

Yeah. I'll get back to you on that one.

In the meantime, I'll be preparing for a decimation of the Blue Devils, who have kind of an ookie mascot and also no hope of triumphing in Notre Dame Stadium this weekend, because A) It's Senior Day and B) they're completely lame.

Wake up the freaking echoes already, will you?

Sunday, October 21, 2007


USC 38, Notre Dame 0

So....lots to say. Bear with me; it's going to be a long one. I've decided headings would be helpful to help me subdivide my thoughts, that'll be good.

I know I've had a night to sleep on it and everything, but it's's so hard to think about. I've been thinking about this Rush Limbaugh quote: "Sports are the one thing in life in which you can invest total passion without consequence."

This has always been one of my excuses for being so ridiculous about football.

But...I'm not sure if that's true anymore. It's just a game, I suppose. But...the effect it has on people...on our student body...on the fans...on our school as a whole.... It's kind of ridiculous all the pride that's wrapped up in it...isn't it? It's so humiliating to think about us...and....yesterday.....

F$%^*. F*** this and f*** the f***ing Trojans and their f***ing f***ing f***ing!!!!!!

On another note, someone please just rip my heart out, cut it into little pieces, and redistribute it among the members of the Notre Dame football team. I can't take this, and maybe they need it more than I do.

On the fans
My MVP for the game: The Notre Dame student section...Freshmen.

The whole student body is great, obviously...except for the people who WENT HOME EARLY and sold their tickets....and except for the people who decided to LEAVE EARLY and stop supporting our team in the lowest moment of their season.

But the freshmen pretty much blow me away. They cheer the longest and the most often, and (the seniors will say this is just because it's their first year here and they'll get over it...but I hope they don't) they come to more pep rallies and they do all the arm motions more consistently and instigate more cheers than the rest of the student body. And at the end of the game yesterday, their stands were the fullest.

And I'm not knocking the rest of the student body or the band or anything (yay band), because I know there were thousands of others who stayed until the bitter end...but if you just left because you were disgusted, you weren't doing your job (as they remind us every Friday at the pep rallies) as a member of the greatest fan base in the country.

Do you have any idea how many (SO MANY) recruits who are won over by Notre Dame mention the fact that the entire student body stays until the very end to sing the alma mater? That that is one of the things that made them want to go here? It impresses the hell out of most people.

I mean, I understand how painful it is. I really do. And how frustrating, and disappointing, and...yeah. And maybe people had to catch flights and buses and things, but even so. If you're going to come out for the game, come out and stay. Stay until the bitter end. Give more than you're getting back. It'll come back around eventually.

Anyway, enough of that rant....kudos to the ND Freshmen. The highlight of the game for me was probably when you started chanting at Pete "yes, I am a total douche bag" Carrol after he called a review on that pass COMPLETION that he probably could have just...let go.

Maybe the Freshmen cheer was inappropriate (well...besides the fact that it was completely appropriate) and a little less than classy...but, I mean, it's USC we're talking about here. Petey Pete was probably so busy jamming his head even farther up his own ass (I mean, how do you think he gets his face to LOOK like that?) that he didn't even notice.

Three cheers for the student body.

Our beloved team

This is pretty much the toughest season to be a member of the ND football team in living memory. We know that no matter what we do now, we're going to have a losing record. (Although P.S. as of this morning, the International Bowl website still had the ND fight song playing as its intro. Maybe they're still crazy about us. Or maybe they just think it's the NCAA's official anthem or something because it's so popular and amazing. Who knows?) And I know this was true of Ty's team a few years back (5-7 ouch), but um it still wasn't this.

I would personally like to pelt Kevin White with rotten beets for scheduling the USC game on the first weekend of fall break right after midterms. I know it shouldn't make a difference, but I feel like it does. It's been a tough, tough season. This will be our first bye week of the year. Half the student body is sick, and I would be surprised if that didn't extend to some of the football players as well. If the players aren't out-of-their-minds exhausted at this point.....well, no. I can't think of another scenario. They all must be.

Look, I know none of the football players read this, but what I have to say to the team is this:

I am still with you, damn it. We are still with you.

Cheering for another team doesn't even compute in my up is not acceptable...maybe I'm just completely psychotic, but loving anyone but the Irish is simply inconceivable.

I don't really care what's going on in the rest of the college football world. It doesn't matter. Cheering for the Irish, even when they're losing, means more than cheering for any other team to win...ever. And it'sbecause the students stay until the bitter end. It's because we're more than just football, too. We're the Notre Dame family, can't turn your back on your family.

At the pep rally on Friday night, the '77 team looked so excited to be back. All the speakers from that team seemed to mention that the guys just loved being around each other. They loved being a team.

Does our team love being a team? Do they love being around each other?

I feel like...I feel like maybe not.

This is such a hard year. Everything gets amplified when you're losing...every mistake you make, you take so personally...every little thing that bothers you, bothers you that much more, and I feel the face of disappointment, it becomes so much harder to be tempered. To let things slide. To regulate yourself, your emotions. You experience the highest highs...and the lowest lows...and everything in between is this sort of blahh zone where it doesn't really matter if you're getting the little things right or wrong, because it's the big things that are screwing you up. And you forget that if you work on those little, little things...if you get those straightened becomes easier to handle the big things.

All right, well, maybe I'm just babbling now. But I think, if you remotely follow what I'm saying, that all of that is true for life, too, not just football.

But we're talking about football, aren't we?

Here's the point I'm trying to make: We are ND.

The crowd didn't start chanting that at the end of yesterday's debilitating loss for no reason.

And if we are delusional Notre Dame fans, that's only because there's really no other way to be. It's all about keeping the faith....damn it.

Hi, Offense. We need to talk.

OK so...I'm not really sure I understand some of Charlie's game-calling. I mean, the big problem on offense yesterday wasn't so much the play calling as it was Failure To Execute, but...really, Charlie? Running it on third-and-really-long? Why do we continue to do this? Why? WHY?

We can't even run it on second-and short. Why does it seem like third-and-long is going to be any better?

We didn't get our run game going until the very, very end. At first I was angry about this, trying to run the ball when maybe we should have been trying to sling it downfield, but...I realized Charlie was trying to end the game on his own terms. We finally got ball control, for perhaps the first time all season.

It would've been so, so much nicer to get a score at the end of that very long drive (during which we got more first downs than we had for the entire rest of the game...), just for...some small dignity's sake. And I like that we kept going for it instead of punking out and going for a field goal.

But it also says a lot in that...maybe Charlie just didn't think we could get it done in the air.

I don't know how I feel about Evan Sharpley anymore. I still feel like the main reason he's been successful coming in to run the two-minute drill, or just taking over halfway through for Jimmy is because...he's a different QB, and coming in halfway through he put the other team's D on its heels for a drive or two...until the defensive coordinator for the other team made some key adjustments. And then...he proved just as ineffective.

I don't know what it is anymore. It's the same problem as last week--too many problems to name. A lot of Evan's balls were simply uncatchable...he overthrows long balls when he's under pressure. And let's face it...when is he NOT under pressure trying to throw the long ball?

I was very, very disappointed at the way our O-line broke down in the latter part of the game...and Evan got sacked, what, five times? I mean, the fact that Armando Allen managed to run ten whole yards on one play, and he actually found some holes and everything during that last drive was nice to see. But it was way too little, far too late. I feel like we've regressed. All the problems are still there, and they're not getting better.

We're pretty much going to put this one on the coaching staff. The players just don't look ready. Still. I feel like this all goes back to training camp, to the practices not being physical enough, to the players just maybe not being well-conditioned enough and not understanding the fundamentals well enough. If you don't have the fundamentals (as we have already learned this season), NOTHING ELSE WILL HELP YOU.

D, D, D....Don't Kill the Offensive Players in their Sleep.

Look, our defense is really pretty good. That they can't keep it up for sixty minutes of football is a shame...but considering how little time they have to rest in between drives, kind of understandable. And there are other things the rest of the team isn't helping them with....the Trojans' first score, for one, was not really the D's fault. It was the special teams' fault.

I mean, overall, 38 points is too many to give up. But also, overall, the Defense did not lose that game for us. They kept the Trojans' punter quite the first half, anyway. The Trojans only got within scoring range twice (of their own accord), and one of those times our D held them to a field goal.

As for the second half...

I'll confess that midway through the third quarter it was so painful to watch, I couldn't tell you how or when the Trojans scored, and I pretty much stopped caring. All I wanted was for our offense to find the end zone once. Or even split the uprights once.

And I will say this: I still think the Trojans are overrated. I don't think they played all that well, honestly; I don't think they're that impressive, and I don't think they played a very clean game.

Which brings us to our

Surprising Stat of the Game

Notre Dame didn't get a single penalty until the second half. I think they ended the game with just two penalties, total. The Trojans had way more, and although this certainly doesn't surprise's really sad. We played a very clean game, and got pretty much nowhere. So what does that say, really? It's easy to point out penalties and say, "damn, we keep shooting ourselves in the foot." But um...we didn't really do that in this game, and we sort of still managed to shoot ourselves in the foot.

That's perplexing.

I feel like Charlie's going to lose a lot of sleep over that one.

Special teams? ...they certainly are.

Hi guys. We need to talk, too.

I feel like some of the blocking on returns was better, so that's good. But also I feel like we haven't had any sort of return for a touchdown since...I don't even know when. Did we get one during the UCLA game? I feel like no. Maybe Penn State? Maybe it's just that the other teams' special teams are getting better, and they know who to go after. But I feel like...we should be better at this. Especially since we seem to be getting so many opportunities to return kickoffs these days.

And...well, I know that the offense isn't helping you out any with the field position battle, but...when Geoff Price punts well (which he's doing more consistently these days), and you're running down field, you know, and you have a chance to wallop the guy who just caught the ball...PLEASE DO SO. I mean, I'm glad they didn't get any punt returns for TD's or anything (at least...they didn't while I was watching...I dunno, I went to the bathroom once, maybe I missed something), but all the same...we've been having these problems with missed tackles.

Plus it was USC yesterday. You shouldn't ever need an excuse to launch yourself at those players with all you have and knock the patooty out of them. Come on, guys....1967.

And as for the other battle that went down on the field yesterday....

In his most inspiring speech thus far this season, I think our head drum major actually said it best: the Trojan band members are a bunch of ass clowns.

I know...that's completely un-classy of me. I apologize.

But also...I think it's true.

Poignant example:

One of the Trojan band members yesterday could not find his spot on the field. He ran around for a little while, clearly lost, and then finally gave up and ran to the sidelines and told one of the directors, in a completely elegant fashion: "I can't find my f%^*-ing spot!"

The band director replied: "Just get off the field. Go."

Trojan band member, resplendent in dorky fake helmet and douche-y sunglasses, right in the middle of a gaggle of ND band members patiently awaiting their turn on the sideline: "FUCK!"

And he stormed off angrily.

Not even kidding. There are multiple witnesses.

Look, I don't want to nitpick here or anything, but...


I mean, it's not like we use some super-secret yard line marking formula or something to prevent people wearing douche-y sunglasses from finding their spots. College football fields are pretty much the same...I don't know, everywhere.

Also...the band director did not reprimand this kid for using extremely foul language in public, in full uniform, in front of another team's band. He just let him walk away.

Even if this little interlude had not been followed by what was possibly The Most Boring Halftime Show Ever, it still would have pretty much closed the door on whatever minor, deep-seeded, band member to band member respect I had for the marching Trojans. I still hate the OSU band more, but that's only because I have some respect for OSU and what they do as musicians and marchers (aka...they actually march). It's really hard to despise the Trojan band when I have pretty much zero respect left for them. I sort of just...feel bad for them. It must be really embarrassing to be part of an organization that doesn't respect itself.

Somewhat Classless Rant Terminated.

Enough about the Trojan band.

Here's where we stand for the rest of the season:
Fall break and bye week. Dear God, I hope the players get some rest and have time to bounce back, We really need to win out.

Navy. 43 years so far. If this is the year we lose to the Middies...Charlie better watch out.

Air Force. I have a lot of love and respect for our military...but we should win this one regardless.

Duke. My cousin's coming to this one. Let's win it, shall we?

Stanford. Suddenly looking intimidating, aren't they? Let's win our next three games...then we should be able to handle Stanford.

In closing.........

I'm just going to say, once again, that I'm really glad these things are not in my hands.

Charlie's got a week to sort of reevaluate everything and get our team mentally prepared to handle the rest of the season.

And I hope the underclassmen are really bonding over this....

........because I want to go win a bowl game next year, dang it.

Have a good fall break, everyone. I'll be ready the next time the Irish take the field....

And, just because yesterday's game was so depressing, here's a highlight that always cheers me up:

Tommy Z is a monster. Never forget that.


Sunday, October 14, 2007

On the verge of spontaneous combustion

Boston College 27, Notre Dame 14

Let's assume, for the sake of my sanity, that the refs called a perfect game yesterday. I mean...I don't think the refs ever really call a perfect game, because sometimes they just don't see things, and they're human and they make mistakes, but...for the sake of the game let's just assume that the refs got it right on all the big plays.

I'm not going to lie...that idea's really hard for me to swallow. I mean, it's really great that an online sports headline yesterday proclaimed that BC "cruised" past Notre Dame, and it's also pretty much fantastic how many times the crowd booed at the refs yesterday, and it's equally stupendous to ponder how blatant the holding penalty was (I don't really know; I didn't see it) that called back our last attempt to score in the game.

But for the sake of sports, let's just call it even.

Once again, the Irish offense sputtered like a car engine that's had its parts replaced too many times. The transmission still works fine, so there's no need for a total rehaul, but the replacement parts never seem tune with one another. (The brakes work great though, apparently.)

All right, maybe this is a bad analogy, but even so, we had ONE successful offensive scoring drive the entire game, and even that was only successful because of a "roughing the passer" penalty that drove us deeper into the opponent's territory than we'd been all game.

I honestly can't tell if our offense is getting better or not. I seem to remember watching the last half of the game through my fingers praying for something good to happen. I don't know what it is, but something still just seems...not right. They're better than they were at the beginning of the season, but it's still...just missing something. There are too many incomplete passes. TOO MANY third downs. Not enough push from the O-line to open up the running game. And, as always, there is WAY TOO MUCH pressure on the quarterback. Not as much as there has been. I feel like there were less sacks in this game than usual.

The real problem, though, is that really there isn't one thing you can pick out and say, "that's our problem." It's not like it's just the O-line anymore, letting defenders through like a sieve. I mean, we still have problems with that, but it's not as painful as it was at the beginning of the season. It just seems like a little bit of everything. Possibly it would help if we could figure out just who our quarterback was. When we switch to Evan mid-game, it always seems like something really great happens right away, but then after that we stall again. And I'm sure Jimmy's going to be really great...some day when our entire offense knows what's going on and he stops throwing into double coverage. And Evan also would be so super if, as Amelia so astutely pointed out during the game, he didn't have a depth perception problem.

The O-line needs to tighten up, the QB needs to dump the ball off faster, the receivers and backs need better blocking when they actually manage to get the ball, and it just...there's just something that's NOT CLICKING.

And it also feels like even when we make a great play, somehow it's just not great enough. Like Evan fighting to avoid that sack for what seemed like forever and at the last minute tossing it to John Carlson for what appeared to be a first down. And then it wasn't a first down, so the whole brilliant play was undermined by like half a yard. Stuff like that. It's so frustrating you sort of want to rip your hair out, but there's nothing you can really do about it, so you have to restrain yourself before you end up bald.

But enough on our offensive offense for right now, because I like my hair.

Glad to see Geoff Price is continuing to punt well. Don't know what was up with that low-snap business, though. Is that really a rule? I mean, are we serious? If the punter's KNEE touches the ground it's a dead ball? Or is it because his knee hit the ground and then he touched the ball? That makes no sense to me. Would he have been able to pick the damn ball up and run with it, or was his knee hitting the ground pretty much the end of the world? I don't get it. Someone please explain it to me.

Besides some pretty good punts, though, special teams play continues to waver between moments of brilliance (forcing BC to miss an extra point and a field goal) and moments of...lameness. We also missed a field goal, and none of our returners got a legitimate chance to scamper for the endzone.

And speaking of returners...I like Rocket's idea of chanting the player's names when they're back to return, but what about ARMANDO ALLEN??? You know that had to piss him off. I mean, I'm a big fan of Golden Tate and all, and his name is fun to chant, but number 5 got the ball on returns yesterday way more than number 23, and I think if we're going to chant names, somebody should really have Armando's back. (I'm just sayin'.)

I like our defense these days. I don't love it yet, but I sure do like it a lot.

We still have this kind of heinous problem of giving it up on big third-down plays (and also letting opponents score four touchdowns on us in our own stadium), but we're doing better. We stuffed a legitimate number of BC's drives and got a stunning pick-six on the best QB we've faced all season. Also, our secondary coverage is getting better. BC still got WAY TOO MANY first downs, but there were no endzone scampers on screen passes, and if Matt Ryan threw for a first down, then at least there was usually a defender there to wrap the guy up right away, which...sometimes is all you can ask for. And except for that unnecessarily long run at the beginning of the game, they didn't really blast us open on the ground either.

Also I would like to point out that we stopped their cocky-ass attempt to get a fourth down conversion early in the game. Ha-ha-ha...go be arrogant pricks somewhere else next time.

I also would like to thank the stadium crowd for helping BC to false start at least four times. Excellent work by the fan base. (I think we really brought the noise. Or did we blow the roof off? Sometimes it's hard to tell.)

Also I pretty much realized yesterday that eventually football's going to kill me. I'm not going to die in a car crash or as an old woman asleep in my bed or in a nursing home with some mysterious disease. I'm just going to keel over one day, mid-football game (probably as the result of an interception or a botched field goal or something).

I can't take this feeling of feeling too much over something I have no control over. I mean, is it really necessary for my heart to leap into my brain and bounce around until it feels like my head's going to explode every time we have a third and long? And what about when we make it into the red zone? That's even worse. I'm pretty much on the verge of spontaneous combustion preceding every snap.

It's great. And terrible. And probably vaguely concerning, but...I think after the USC game I'll get better. (No, really.) Unless we lose. Then I'll just....die.

At any rate...

Bring on the Trojans

No, really. I still mean it. USC has been exposed, and they're not as great as they think they are.

They're probably going to play way better against Notre Dame than they have against their last two opponents (just because we're Notre Dame and apparently we piss people off), but that's okay, because we're going to play way better against them than we have against our last two opponents.

Also, really, they're overdue for a loss in ND stadium. (And pretty much our team needs to know what it feels like to win at home, because this is ridiculous.) Actually they might be overdue for a loss, period. How long has it been? A week since they lost? That's really too long.......

But honestly. They lost to Stanford and had to pull a win from between their teeth against Arizona.

I'm pretty much shaking in my bunny slippers.

(That's not true. I'm too fierce to own bunny slippers.)

I haven't actually watched USC play a game this season because even just looking at their uniforms makes me want to hurl, but based on what I've read and the fact that Pete Carroll used the word "cool" in his post-game analysis last night sort of makes me think that, on a good day, our kicker could probably beat the crap out of them.

All right, so this is blatant lie, but quite honestly I don't think the Trojans are going to throw anything at us that we can't handle. I vote that our defense goes out there and kills some people, and I further vote that our offense works on its short passes, because nothing else seems to be working, and if we can't find a run game, then quick slant routes are going to be our key to victory.

Lastly I would like to point out that the Trojans have the dumbest mascot ever. Let's review, kids. What happened to Troy in the end.........?



Sunday, October 7, 2007



The Irish win! The Irish Win! THE IRISH WIN!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

As I was running around in Stonehenge and the reflecting pool last night screaming and cheering and splashing people and trying to take pictures without getting my camera wet, it felt like everything I'd been waiting for since the Sugar Bowl had finally arrived.

There are going to be a lot of stupid sports reporters saying the Irish shouldn't get excited about 1-5, but that's because they're sports reporters, and it's their job to be stupid. Unless they've gone to Notre Dame, they really just Don't Get It.

I'm still jealous of everyone who got to go out to the game and see the glorious turnaround in person, but quite honestly there's nowhere I would have rather been last night than Stonehenge, squeezing up against strange drunken shirtless people chanting out "GO IRISH BEAT EAGLES" like some sort of crazed ecstatic zombie.

It was amazing.

I'd forgotten how the euphoria of victory tends to blur my memory of what the team did right and wrong. When we lose, all I can think about are the plays that went wrong, the glaring mistakes that drove us into the ground, or--in some cases, but not so much this season--the one play we gave up that could have turned everything around. This season there have been so many devastating games that the last month or so has been one long blur of pain. We've been able to see our team improving, inch by inch, since the blowout against the Wolverines, but the question from week to week has still been, "Will they?" ...will today be the day?

I think the answer for yesterday was an emphatic, "Hell yes!"

Before I move on, I want to give mad props to our team for bringing home an Irish victory. Los Angeles was overthrown last night (by us and Stanford...*snicker snicker*), and the only lament I have for our players (who looked happier than they have since last November) is that the band wasn't there to play them our alma mater or the fight song (five zilllllllion times). Probably, though, they were so insanely out-of-their-minds ecstatic about winning they didn't even notice.

Our Defense last night was straight nasty. We ate some people. We forcibly took the ball back on every other drive in the second half. We brought 1967 like no other.
Bethel-"My Name's Too Long to Fit Comfortably on the Back of my Jersey"-Thompson is going to be having nightmares about Mo Crum, Jr. for a month. Ben "the announcers freaked the ND fans out every time they talked about my injury last night because #55 on their team is named Olsen" Olson is going to be cursing Tom Zbikowski and Trevor Laws until his knee's back to normal.

In all sportsmanlike fairness, I hope Ben Olson is going to be 100% sooner rather than later, because as amazing as it was to see our D knocking people's brains out, one injury can ruin someone's entire career, and...good football players should have the chance to play football for as long as possible. (Unless maybe they play for USC. Then maybe I don't care. [Just kidding.] {Not really.})

And hey, Jim-may finally scored! (AKA our O-line hit some people! Yaaaay!)

I'm feeling deliriously happy about all this. Do you know what this means for our season? (You're reading this, so you probably do.) In the [hopefully] prophetic words of Will Loftus: 7-5 starts here.

The campus is electrified. (Or...they were. Right now campus is probably mostly sleeping, or at the very least walking blearily through the dining hall.)

The players are on top of the world. (Actually, they, too, are probably sleeping, or at the very least blearily thinking about how they have to watch film some time today.)

The International Bowl is starting to get really, really excited for us.

The entire legion of Boston "hey, we were raised this way so actually we don't know we're complete A$$holes!" College fans is preparing their caravan to South Bend, utterly convinced that we've got nothing on them.

To which I say...

We've got a lot of work to do to beat the Eagles.

It took me a while to remember, in the wake of the absolute bliss of winning, that yes--there were a lot of problems with our game, and yes, Boston College is a top 10 team (psh...for now), and um...let's be happy, but not get carried away with ourselves.

I don't want to be like the commentators last night who refused to give credit to the Irish players where credit is due. Our defense Woke Up The Echoes last night, and by the fourth quarter created so many turnovers and prevented the UCLA offense from getting into the endzone so many times it seemed like They Could Do No Wrong.

And they were amazing, and I love them, and let's bring that intensity every game for the rest of the season until our opponents are so sore and battered they feel sorry they ever decided to play the game of football.


The reality is, with Ben Olson in for four quarters, it would have been a different game. I'm not saying we still wouldn't have emerged victorious, but it would have been much tougher. Much closer. With, most likely, far fewer interceptions.

But the D played well even before Olson got knocked out, so that's extremely promising.

Unfortunately, we still demonstrated our vulnerability on third down. UCLA got more 3rd down conversions than necessary, and although there were no game-devastating mistakes made by the D, there were way too many missed tackles. Mo Crum (although he was one of the heroes of the game)--and there were others, but right now he sticks out most strongly in my mind--had this issue with tackling people, particularly in the first half. I mean, he would be there to make the play, he'd hit hard, but he wouldn't wrap them up and bring them down right away, so the running back would still get like five yards on the play, and often it took more reinforcements to bring the guy down. (I mean, there weren't really any HUGE breakaway plays that cost us points, except for the one that got called back--but I think that was a special teams issue. Wasn't it? Like I said, it's all a blur.)

The tackling issue might just be a commentary on the outstanding strength and athleticism of the UCLA running backs, but...I'm gonna have to say no. There isn't a single running back in the NCAA that our defensive players could not eat for breakfast. (And no, I don't care if they're the size of the Bus. Our D EATS PEOPLE.) And just hitting them and slowing them down is not going to prevent them from getting across the first down marker. I mean, what if that's the goal line? You don't want to give them a damn inch. Wrap their asses up and bring them to the ground like you're saving them from a speeding bus. (OK, maybe that's too nice of a simile, but I couldn't think of anything fiercer.)

Once again, our O-line has shown some improvement. On some plays, Jimmy had All Day Long to throw. On some plays, our running backs surged for a first down. We even completed a successful QB sneak across the goal line.

However, once again, our offense struggled mightily. Our defense won this game for us, and everybody knows it. Actually, if I was on defense, I'd be really pissed off at the offense for letting it be remotely close in the fourth quarter. The score, easily, should have been 35-6, if not more. I mean, don't take me wrong--I will take 20-6 any day. I will take 7-6, 14-6, whatever-6, as long as the Irish are on top.

But if you're on the Irish D, you have to be frustrated with the offense, especially in the fourth quarter. You force turnovers how many times, and your offense can't even run the ball to get a first down and keep the clock running so you can rest? I mean, I've never really played football, so I don't know. Maybe the defense wanted to get out there and kill some more people. Probably, though, they would have preferred standing on the sidelines and cheering the offense on to another score before they had to suit up again.

I'm really impressed, though, with the intensity the D brought all game long. They probably had so much adrenaline pumping through their systems when they realized they were going to win that they couldn't help themselves, but umm...let's do that every game. Shall we?

But BACK to the offense...
We're really, really, really going to have to get it together if we're going to have any hope of winning out. Our defense is not going to be able to single-handedly beat the next 2 teams we play. I'm sorry, it just isn't going to happen. We need to find the end zone. We need to find the first down marker. We need to find our run game. We need to find the successful deep ball. We need to never have another play ever again in which the entire offensive line ends up on its asses and Jimmy has to throw the ball away before he is completely destroyed.

And speaking of such things, here's how it's looking for the rest of the season....

BC and USC are going to be highly emotional, extremely physical, terrible, heart-wrenching, either amazingly uplifting or tremendously spirit-shattering games.

Navy, Air Force, Duke, and Stanford, the "cupcake" games, are going to be hard-fought footbawl matches, during which we cannot lose our focus, or else we'll end up like USC. (HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA USC lost to STANFORD! P.S. We're not going to.)

But in the next two games, our team is going to have to grow up a lot to pull off a couple W's. The O-line is either going to cement or crumble, right now. The D has to fix the botched tackles and perfect its secondary, right now, or we will fall again.

Stanford's win over USC was like the icing on the cake last night, but this doesn't make the Trojans any less intimidating. On the one hand, Stanford did us the favor of beating them, and showing us just how to topple Troy. On the other hand...they did USC the same favor. USC is going to be fiercer, tougher, nastier, and better the entire rest of the season, and therefore much harder to beat than before. The beauty of playing an undefeated team (*cough*BC*cough*) is that after a while, they start to believe they're really invincible, and at the height of their pride and arrogance is when they have their fall. (Or you know...they win a national championship. But as we have seen, this is NOT THE CASE this season.) However...Stanford did do our team an enormous pyschological favor. SC will have made long strides to fix whatever deficiencies allowed Stanford to beat them by the time they play us, but that doesn't matter, because Stanford has already removed the little evil mental barrier telling our players and fans that we don't have a chance against the Trojans.

(Speaking of which...everyone who traded in their USC ticket so they could go home early for fall break...shame on you.)

And as for special teams--WELCOME BACK GEOFF PRICE! I missed you.
Also congratulations to Brandon Walker. Thanks, guys, for not making us look like complete morons in the kicking game. We still need to work on blocking, though, so some of our devastatingly fast returners have a chance to scamper for the endzone.

Anyway...what was I saying?
(See what I mean about Euphoria? It kills your sense of order and logic. I love it.)

Oh right. So...can we win out?
Abso - f$%@ing - lutely.

And will we win out?
Thank the Good Lord in all His wisdom...I have no business making that decision. All I have to do is show up and scream my lungs out. It's up to the players and the coaches whether or not we emerge victorious on Saturday.

But I have faith.

The entire Notre Dame legion is ready for the Irish to return the favor that BC so kindly bestowed on us in 1993 and 2002.

So bring your game face, Irish fans. It's on.


Sunday, September 30, 2007

Game Plan for the Season

Purdue 33, Notre Dame 19 that I've gotten over the euphoria of screaming my lungs out and thinking, for most of the second half, that we had a solid chance to win this one, it's starting to sink in that we are, yes, really, in fact, actually, depressingly, numbingly 0-5. I mean, 0-2, 0-3, 0-4 were bad enough, but 0-5...Jesus.

Let's not make it to 0-8. How about that?

First of all, regarding the actual game yesterday...I was encouraged by the second half. Our running game is once again a big load of horse hooey, but apparently now we have a passing game. Also, we have the ability to get first downs, even if we had to make more than one nailbiting fourth-down conversion in our own territory to do so.

Speaking of which...welcome back, Charlie. We had ourselves a footbawl game yesterday. Our team still has a loooooooong way to go, but we were going for it, going for it, going for it all game--mostly in the second half--and the fact that Charlie felt he could call plays on fourth down and trust our team to get it done says a lot. The fact that we got ourselves in so many fourth down situations says a lot, too, but at least we were grinding it out and moving the chains and completing passes and getting the ball in the endzone (even if we couldn't get it through the uprights). And, um, the fact that we have a passing game speaks volumes about the O-line improvement. (It'll speak even larger volumes if, next week, one of our backs gets a run longer than five yards.)

Also, although some of our coverage still obviously needs some work, I wasn't overly distraught with our defense, particularly in the red zone. We held Purdue to a lot of field goals, and as long as we continue to give up the big play (LIKE 3RD AND 29---ARE YOU EFFING KIDDING ME???!??!?!?!?!?!), I'd rather have the opponents tacking up 3 on the board than 7. Especially in the latter part of the game, our D really had some good coverage, stuffing a lot of runs and even sacking the QB a couple times. The problem with this is that we made all these amazing plays on 1st and 2nd down, and then on third down...pfffbbbbtt. Purdue only punted like four times the entire game, and even those punts didn't help us out in the good ol' field position battle, because Zibby had to fair catch most of them (their punter's kicking strategy--get it as high as you effing can--was pretty effective), so he never really got a good chance to scamper for the endzone.

Although speaking of scampers for the endzone, kudos to our special teams for NOT letting Purdue jack one off on us on a return. In general, we did a lot better in the field position battle this week...although wtf was up with our kickoffs? Anybody know what the whole "let's just let it bounce across the field" strategy was about? And P.S. What happened to Geoff Price? He was GOLDEN last season. GOLDEN!!!!!

Oh...and speaking of that...did I not say months ago that Golden Tate III was my new favorite ND player? I think he pretty much rocked my panties off yesterday. (Although they should have had him deep for more kickoff returns. He's got nasty speed.)

Anyway...overall I feel encouraged. I also feel like the refs called a BS touchdown for Purdue and then, purely on penalties, allowed them to make another long drive down the field and score again. But you know...whatever. Tooooo bad Charlie used that challenge early in the game.

Can't blame it all on the refs, though. That interception in the endzone pretty much killed our chances of winning, much as I hated the refs yesterday, we shot ourselves in the foot enough times to make the score what it was.

However, all that aside, here's my new game plan for the season:
F*** it, let's just beat USC.

No, I'm serious. I think we could do it. All we have to do for the next three weeks is prepare for beating USC. Let's avenge that 2005 WIN/loss against the Trojans by kicking their boo-tays in our own stadium.

Here's how we do it:
1. Keep drilling fundamentals
Let's get the team hitting, running, blocking, stripping the ball, and eating grass so much they do it while they're sleeping. (Not so much they could do it in their sleep, but so they actually do it while sleeping. Can you imagine that? A bunch of football players wandering around in their sleep trying to, I don't know, tackle the fridge and strip the toaster?)

2. Chain-gang the O-line
They must now sleep together, eat together, go to class together, hit on girls together, and follow the QB around trying to protect him from reporters, cynical fans, jersey chasers, and expired dining hall mystery meat together. They will do this until they develop ESP, and no longer have to look at each other or even think to know where they're going to go on a play. They will stare down the opposing team's defense and know, at a glance, both what play the D is about to run and the name of the girl the strong safety was trying to hit on last night. And we will positively own everybody's asses.

3. Run the plays, run the plays, run the plays.
Devise a set of plays that will stumbumble the Trojans, and then practice them over and over and over until they are perfect. If they're not absolutely perfect every're not tired enough. Run fifty laps and then do it again.

4. Institute new standards for muscle mass.
Your biceps must be larger than your head. Your individual thighs must be larger than a standard jersey chaser. If you can't bench-press the coach, you're not strong enough. Go back to the weight room and try it again.

5. Smashmouth footbawl.
If your perfectly executed plays fail...just hit those fuckers so hard they see 1967: stars and flowers and acid-trippy birds. Hell, hit them so hard you're seeing 1967. Then get up, dust yourself off, and do it again, until every one of those bastards is on injured reserve. If you make it all the way through their depth chart in a single game...congratulations. You win.

6. Screw UCLA and BC.
We're not even going to do X's and O's for those games. Let's just come out with a basic 5-play scheme and see if we can't do something. Really, we'll have spent the entirety of those weeks preparing for USC, but we're not going to tell anybody that, and we're sure as hell not going to run the same set of plays for UCLA and BC that we'll pull out of our butts for USC.

7. Basic plan for defense.

8. Regarding special teams.
On our returns...
The ball either gets past the fifty or into the endzone. Every time.
On their returns...
The ball does not get past the twenty-yard line. Ever.
On our kicks...
The ball soars so high through the uprights it goes over the fucking net.
On their kicks...
We block it and recover, then run the ball fifty yards or so for good measure.
But in general...

I think that's all I have for today, kids.


Sunday, September 23, 2007

Sometimes you just need to be sick

...which I am, coincidentally, and I'm taking the day off. I'm going to lounge around my dorm room napping and watching football and trying not to hack up a lung. Also I might venture to the Huddle for food at some point (or, if I'm feeling really adventurous, the dining hall), but that's sort of secondary to the napping and the cough drops. (Although if I run out of cough to the Huddle I go for more. I go through cough drops like a FIEND when I'm sick. It's really not healthy. I really don't care.)

Anyway, I was thinking this morning during that haze between awake and sleep (after I'd given up trying to remember this completely amazing dream I was having) that sometimes it's really good to be sick. Not the kind of sick where you're dying, or the kind of sick where you feel so shitty you literally cannot move or whatever...but the kind of sick where you definitely need to just stay home and take care of yourself.

I remember being sick in elementary school. That was the best. Not the being sick part, but the being able to stay home all day and just kind of...veg. Stay in bed a long time, read a good book, curl up on the couch and watch TV or movies or whatever and just kind of...tune out of the world for a while. And especially with elementary's not like there were huge consequences for missing a day. I feel like there weren't a lot of days I NEEDED to be at school for something...and even if I did, whatever, it was elementary school, not the MCAT or something. And when you're little it's really hard to be sick and just tough it out and get on with things, which people tend to do a lot more later when their lives feel more crucial and important.

But you know what, maybe that's a bad thing. Being sick, I think (aside from all that scientific mumbo-jumbo about viruses and whatnot), is part of our body's way of telling us to slow down. I feel like I don't get sick very often, and when I do, it's usually because I haven't been sleeping enough and I haven't been eating well and I've been stressed out. (All these things, coincidentally, happen at school all the time.)

So I'm sick now and I'm going to take this day to just chill out. I'm going to try to ingest some vitamins and drink plenty of water and sleep some more and start my readings for class earlier in the day so I'm not trying to cram it all in after ten o'clock at night.

And it's going to be good.

In other news....

Michigan State 31, Notre Dame 14

Can't even describe my feelings about Notre Dame football. John Sullivan's injury was deeply unfortunate and may have sent our offense reeling backwards for the rest of the game, although of course I didn't notice if he was ever put back in. (Anyone know?)

We have to win all the rest of our games except one (which we can pretty much count as USC, I think, though I always hope to kick the crap out of the Trojans) to even think about getting into a bowl game. I don't think this is going to happen. I can only hope, at this point, that we're going to win all our games in November, but October...UCLA, Boston College, and USC. The best we're going to get is 2 out of 3, though at this point I guess the Irish are hoping for even one out of three. Or just win...

I don't want to go the month of September without a single W on the board...or without a score higher than 14. (Unless the score is 14-10. Then, I guess...okay.) It's sick that we're now overly excited about first downs and I overhear people talking about "just hoping for a respectable loss, 10 points or less." Well, you know what? No. That's not good enough. I don't hope for losses, ever. Sometimes I anticipate them, but that's not going to stop me from hoping for the miraculous.

You know what, if we're going to be pussies and just pull out of the game fourth quarter with tons of time left, then let's just be pussies against all the teams the rest of the season...except USC. Let's just start game planning for that now. Get the team good and conditioned and hitting people, and let's just make the game plan for every week the same game plan we're going to use against USC, only we're not going to tell anybody about it and maybe our offense will shoot itself in the foot so many times no one will even be able to tell WHAT our game plan is, but you know what, that's okay, because if we make it to October and we kick the ever-loving poo out of the Trojans, then who cares? Let's just beat USC and Navy and we can pretty much call it a season.

Because right now, it's hard to tell what the hell the team is doing and I'm starting to lose confidence that they're going to give us much more than that.

I'm also way past the point where I can give anything remotely resembling football analysis, so let's just say I'm lost and confused and frustrated and pissed off and disappointed and (as has been mentioned before) ready for a nice long nap.

I don't know what the coaching staff's plan is for this week, but they better find something, and soon, because this is ridiculous. It's not even really about winning, although it is humiliating to be so awful. It's about playing the game, damn it, and playing it all the way through to the end, and playing it as a TEAM, and playing it with heart.

And right now....are we even doing that?

Sunday, September 16, 2007

There are hardly words...

...but I have to write something anyway, because this has become my own personal form of therapy.

Michigan 38, Notre Dame 0

I don't really want to talk about it. But I am going to babble about it. And then I'm going to try not to think about it; otherwise I would just spend all day curled up on the futon eating chocolate, watching mindless television, and praying for the Bears to win because...I've got nothing left.

As painful as it is these days to love the Irish, I think it's twice as painful to be in the band. After all the fans have lapsed into an astonished, horrified stupor and can't bring themselves to respond to Celtic Chant, we have to keep playing. Long after any hope of winning the game has passed, we still have to cheer "Go Irish Beat Wolverines!" because that's our job. And way past the point where the team has left the stadium and the cheerleaders have packed up their pom-poms and headed for home, we still have to stand on the field and numbly play through school songs and halftime music to a crowd of Michigan fans who only stayed behind to hear the Michigan "air guitar" Band play Hail to the A**holes one more time.

And then we had to move aside for the Michigan band to take a picture. And then we had to line up in post game formation again. And then we had to wait. And then, when pretty much everyone had left the stadium except a few douche tools who decide to hang out above the tunnel to heckle us (as if there was anything more to say), we had to march out of the Big House, down the street, around the corner, and across some railroad tracks in the midst of hundreds of degenerate, drunken Michigan fans, who at the very least did not throw their beer cans at us--but that's only because they didn't need to.

One little punkass kid, though, did walk next to us for a few seconds to make fun of how we marched and his parents laughed as though it was cute. I almost whacked him over the head as I went by, but I restrained myself. He'll probably need those four brain cells for something one day. (Possibly to buy crack from his neighborhood drug dealer.)

At any rate...

Analysis is pretty much pointless right now. There's nothing I can say about the game that the scoreboard didn't say.

What I can say, though, is that at this point I'm seriously concerned about our team's recovery. I can't imagine how the team's feeling at this point. I personally feel like someone ripped out my heart and stapled it to a dartboard and let people (in really hideous helmets) take shots at it all night. Maybe if you multiply that by a hundred and ten thousand...that's probably how the team feels. Plus, I imagine that about half the team is pissed off because our offense is doing a stunning imitation of a whale dive-bombing off a cliff into an ocean of horseshit (can't you smell the stench from here?), and the other half is pissed off because they can't figure out wherethefuck they went wrong.

At this point I'm not as much concerned with coaching or playcalling or execution. I'm worried about our pride. I'm worried about whether the team has anything left. I'm worried about how you rally from an 0-3 start and get your team (your team that has failed to score an offensive touchdown in twelve quarters) to believe that they can go out and punish someone and bring back a win. Where do you even begin?

Maybe (and I'm not saying this because I'm in it, I'm saying it because it's the only place I can even think to begin) you start with the band. Maybe you start with the fact that we come out for every home game and we're traveling to every away game in September and we scream as loud as we possibly can on every [defensive] play not just because we have to, but because on every play we want to see our team do something good. Because even if we've spent an entire game (or multiple games) in the gutter, all it takes is ONE PLAY to make us all jump up and down and scream like morons and pee our pants (<--okay, exaggerating) from excitement. That's it. Just one.

And that's easy to forget. It's easy for a crowd to lose faith, but it's just as easy to get them hooked again.

We got some pretty remarkable first downs against Michigan, after digging ourselves into some painful 3rd-and-20's. It just seemed like every time we got one of those first downs, something terrible happened.

We need to stop shooting ourselves in the foot. We need to rebuild team confidence.

I think the first step toward doing that is to keep Notre Dame Stadium sold out for the rest of the season. (And for the rest of eternity.)

I know the price of an ND ticket keeps dropping, but I think that should only make people more eager to snatch them up, because hey--at least now they're affordable.

Maybe I shouldn't be worried about this? We aren't the best fans in the country because we color-coordinate or because we wave pom-poms (gag me...I would die if we did)...we're the best fans in the country because we pack the stands every weekend, and we stay to sing the alma mater after every game. (No matter how painful that might be.)

We just have to fight the mental war NOW. That's one we have to win. Because if other teams (formerly viewed on our schedule as cupcake teams) become convinced that we have nothing left, that they can come into our house and beat us, that we don't even have it together enough to even beat ourselves, then we're screwed. Then this is going to be the worst losing season in ND history. Then we're finally going to break our win streak against Navy.

But this is not acceptable, because We are ND. Maybe the entire football team should just stand on God quad for a while and stare at the Golden Dome and think about what that means.

You know, I'm not skipping out on my brother's wedding reception early so I can march into the stadium and watch our team lose to a bunch of miscreants who can't even find the fifty-yard line. I expect more. In fact, I'm counting on it.

Enough of this.

I'm going to the band picnic.

Sunday, September 9, 2007

Since I didn't sleep on the bus, it may be time for another nap

Penn State 31, Notre Dame 10

Well, now that we're 0-2, here are some thoughts.

First of all: office supplies are not intimidating, so you can just cut it out with all that Wite-Out crap. No, really. I wasn't overly impressed with Happy Valley. I mean, okay, they were all wearing white...woohoo? Also not as loud as I expected. Or as intimidating. Pretty crass, though. Who cheers when there's an injured player on the field? I mean, who does that? And then "boo"s the player when he finally gets up and walks of the field? That's just rude...

That said, I wasn't overly impressed with Penn State's team. I don't think they're that good, and I don't anticipate them having a tremendous rest of the season, even though they do play in Big 10 and the Big 10, as a general rule, blows. (This season's prime example so far: Michigan. HAHAHAHA.) Anyway, I know they beat us, I know the score was 30-10, blah blah blah, but I just don't think there's anything special there. I feel like their success was more of a result of, A) the refs helping them out...a lot, B) our team sucking it up with mental errors, and C) special teams.

So, first of all, ND lost over a hundred yards in penalties. This is obscene, even for a young team. I personally think the refs were full of crap. Prime example: trying to call intentional grounding on Clausen when #82 clearly caught the ball and fell out of bounds with it. (This is one penalty they actually took back...damn straight.) The game's really hazy now because last night is a blur and I'm still really tired, but I think there are two really big penalties (that, from where I was sitting, may or may not have been accurate...but we're going to guess not, because the one time I was standing right where the penalty was called it was total BS...facemask my ASS) that might've changed the course of the game.

One is our best pass of the game...Clausen throws it downfield and our receiver gets to, what, the twenty yard line? Fifteen? And then the whole thing gets called back on a holding penalty and the drive is stalled. (Painful.) The other (actually, there were multiple calls on this drive, but whatever) came on one of Penn State's drives later in the game, and they called something really obscure...illegal line shift or substitution or something...and Penn State got to keep going...and then there were a couple more penalties that basically brought PSU to the 3-yard line and they scored...though they almost screwed themselves over with a false start and we maybe could have stopped them...but we didn't....

Granted, the refs did call a couple in our favor. Blatant roughing the kicker that kept one of our drives going (not that it mattered in the end) and a pass interference call that might've been our only offensive touchdown...but wasn't.

All bitching about penalties aside, we didn't get into the red zone very often, and when we did we failed to capitalize. The two times we did score were the result of great plays by the defense and special teams. Our offense, disturbingly, failed to find the endzone...and I think if you can't score a single TD on offense, you really don't deserve to win the game.

I think what I'm really trying to say, though, is that this loss to Penn State is pretty much our fault. When Georgia Tech beat us, they pounded us into the ground. They played very well. Their team executed nicely and they brought pressure that flummoxed all three of our quarterbacks. I'm not saying Penn State didn't bring pressure...but I will say that a lot of our backwards progress on offense came from poor decision making on the part of the QB. Yeah, okay, it's great that our Spikey-Headed Wonder feels comfortable rolling out of the pocket, trying to fight off defenders, and going for it when he sees an open lane, but um...maybe don't do that when John Carlson is wide open. Or it looks like John Carlson might be wide open. Or John Carlson is remotely near the field.

Obviously I'm exaggerating, but our other JC on the field--wonderful #89--is a GOOD tight end, and he's taller than all of our other receivers right now. And yeah, he got his hands on the ball a couple times, but there were definitely a few instances where Jimmy took off running (for, more often than not, a gain of negative two) and Carlson was open. (Painful.)

That said...we played a little better than last week. Our defense really isn't bad, it just...gets tired. It certainly plugged up PSU's offense more effectively than it did Georgia Tech's. (Though, clearly, that doesn't say spades about its improvement.) The biggest problems we had were with missed tackles, particularly on special teams. Also we maybe need to work on the pass-rush.

We're going to get better every week, I think, but...I don't know if Jimmy's really going to get up to speed this season. (Kind of like Brady's freshman season. Sort of a disaster.) I can always hope, though.

So...with ten games left, who do we have a chance against?

We're going to the Big House next weekend...gahhh. I'm excited about this. I think we do have a chance against Michigan (also 0-2...again, HAHAHAHA), but, unfortunately, I think their homefield advantage may actually be a factor. Probably Michigan fans will be more intimidating than PSU fans (or at the very least more violent...cover your collective head, band; there are likely to be beer cans thrown our way), and also their team is going to be just as pissed off as ours with something to prove.

However, the fact that we're both sucking it up right now leaves me feeling more optimistic about our chances in Ann Arbor. Plus, we're long overdue for a win against Michigan (keeping in mind, of course, that there's no such thing as not being long overdue for a win against Michigan. Everyone should beat Michigan all the time...they suck). Plus we need to take our all-time winning percentage back, so a smackdown in the Big House seems in order.

Also we're going to beat MSU. I don't care how well they're doing when they come to South Bend; their mid-season meltdown is going to be just about due by the time they roll into town. Plus my brother's getting married that morning, so I'll bring good luck from the ceremony (we hope).

And we'll leave the rest of the season an optimistic blank for now, til we see what the team can do once it actually finds its rhythm (or the endzone...whichever comes first).

Note to Dr. Dye: We need to start playing the victory clog during Saturday morning rehearsal. Clearly, it's bad luck not to.

Note to Penn State: Your stadium smells like a barn.

That is all.

Sunday, September 2, 2007

I hate Sting-y things

Georgia Tech 33, Notre Dame 3

Okay, so, after watching Georgia Tech pretty much have their way with us on our home field, I have a lot more questions than answers. And because I don't feel like putting myself through the pain of reading what any of the overdramatic sportswriters have to say, I'm going to provide my own heartbroken analysis of the pain. I mean game.

So, offensively...

1. Who the #$^%*& is our starting quarterback? I know DJ came out with the team initially, but Sharpley was in before the half was over, and Clausen came out in the 4th, so really, what are we left with for the Penn State game? I don't know if playing all three QB's was in Charlie's game plan originally, but it seems to me if you have one QB, you should maybe stick with him a little bit longer than a quarter and a half. I honestly don't know what went on behind those decisions, and frankly it didn't help our team any. It certainly didn't seem to throw off Georgia Tech's defense.

OK, I know DJ didn't exactly play his best game. Fumbling the football once is bad enough, but people tend to forgive you as long as you make up for it later...which, clearly, didn't happen.

But for as much trouble as we got into with DJ at the helm, I don't think you can exactly say that Sharpley or Clausen would have saved the day as the starter, either. Our major offensive problem for the day wasn't any of the quarterbacks. Even with Brady Quinn in there, would we have fared much better? Obviously with Quinn there would've been a sense of leadership, consistency, and experience that the three QB's we have now lack--but that isn't necessarily their fault. But even Brady couldn't have stopped the major problem with our offense yesterday. Which brings me to my next point...

2. Offensive line--WTF???????

We have plenty of good running backs, they just didn't have any holes to run through. You have to give credit to Georgia Tech's defense for making hell for our team, but at the same time...offensive line, WTF????

5th-year center John Sullivan also has no excuse for snapping the ball way too effing high multiple times throughout the game. I guess you could argue that he's gotten in the habit of snapping the ball to Brady, who hovers somewhere around 6'2", and Jones and Sharpley are--what? Closer to 5'11"? But even that's no excuse.

But really, O-line. Tech's defense got more sacks on our QB's yesterday than some teams get in a season. Sharpley got sacked, what, seven times in two quarters? No, less than that. Like a quarter and a half, maybe. Is there some new rule in college football where you're not allowed to throw the ball away??? Because nobody did that, and while none of them got intercepted the entire game, none of them got decent yardage or a touchdown, either.

I have to say, though, play of the game: Sharpley effing drops the football and maintains enough composure to pick it up, throw off some defender and complete what is almost a first-down/touchdown pass to John Carlson (who, if he hadn't been tripped up by that effing defender, would've made it all the way to the endzone).

Is it sad that, at least from where I was sitting, that was the best play of the game?

Anyway...I'm not saying our O-line was the greatest ever last year (our running game wasn't exactly superb, even with Walker, and Quinn still got sacked at least twice a game), but if they'd played half as well as last year's line it would've been an improvement. If they'd been able to open up some holes, one of our--what is it, five?--talented running backs might've been able to pick up some significant yardage. Maybe our QB's wouldn't have been under constant pressure and would've been able to complete a pass worth more than seven yards. Maybe there wouldn't have been five kabillion sacks and we actually would've found the endzone (or, at the very least, the other side of the forty-yard line).

Even our punter didn't have time to breathe before getting the ball into the air.

You could say Georgia Tech had our number, but I don't think even that's true. With three different offensive systems/QB styles to worry about, I don't think Georgia Tech could possibly have known what was coming on every play. It seemed more like their defensive coordinator decided to stop losing sleep over it and said, "Screw it. Let's just throw a blitz on every play and see how those fuckers handle it."

To which I say: good point.

At any rate, the last worry I have about our offense doesn't concern the players. I think he's aware, but all the same...

3. Charlie Weis--WTF?????????????????

Personally, I think the whole 3-QB thing isn't really working out for anybody. Just...pick one. I don't care how talented they're all looking right now, just pick one and stick with it and everybody else can deal with it.

That way, the one QB will be able to look his offense in the eye and say, "I'm your leader, you're going to follow me through thick and thin even if I throw an interception on every play, because damn it, I'm your leader." And that way we'll have, A) One offensive system to worry about, B) one effing style of quarterback to rally the team around, C) more time to discuss BALL CONTROL with our QB's, RB's and special teams, and, D) a chance to get the team relaxed and into a rhythm with our offense instead of changing it up all the time, MID-GAME.

With what we have now, there's consistency.

I never thought I'd say this, but really...just...just start Sharpley. I think he runs the style of offense Brady ran, and the team in general seems more familiar with it, and I think Charlie himself is more comfortable with it. Jones is really my favorite, but...he's more of an option quarterback, and I just don't see our offense pulling off the option successfully. (Also I effing hate the option. Screw that.) I think Jones does a good read and a good run, but...I just don't think it's going to work for us. Plus if all else fails, Jones could make a helluva wide receiver (a la Arnaz Battle). Providing our QB's ever get any time to throw, that is. And yeah, OK, Jimmy's our little prickly-headed superstar, but he needs to take a year on the bench to get over himself. (OK, really, in case you don't know this about me, I just don't like Jimmy Clausen. I think he's talented and he throws the ball pretty, but he needs an attitude adjustment. Somebody stick a pin in that overinflated head, PLEASE.)

I don't think there's much more to say about that.

And as for the defense...

I just...I just don't know. Georgia Tech had good field position pretty much the entire game, and our D managed to at least keep them out of the endzone until the end of the second half, but GT still scored pretty much every time they got their hands on the ball (although kudos for the blocked FG, that was pretty sweet). Georgia Tech punted, what, three times the entire game? And they had zero turnovers.

I mean, basically, the best thing that happened for our team yesterday was Michigan losing to Appalachian State (HAHAHAHHAHAHAHA!).

But now that this pain and anguish is over with...I can only hope for better things vs. Penn State. I think our team is capable of playing much better than they did yesterday. (OK, any team is capable of playing better than we did yesterday.) It sucks that our opening schedule is so brutal, but all the same...Penn State is overrated, and Charlie Weis is talented on the road. (We hope.)

Plus I think what people don't realize is that yesterday was jinxed from the get-go. Coach Weis hosted the pep rally on Friday night, and the band failed to play the Victory Clog during its morning practice. (The last time we did this was before the Michigan game last year. Always a bad idea.)

And I am not spending seventeen hours on a bus next weekend just to see our team lose.