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.

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