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.
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 also...it'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.
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?