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?