Sunday, September 21, 2008

What is it with band away trips these days?

Michigan State 23, Notre Dame 7

This will be as brief as I can make it, considering how much I'd like to say. I've got a million things to do today, and no time for any of them.

Let me just start by saying that people who don't understand anything about the University of Notre Dame should not go on jawing about it as though their opinion matters. (If you have no idea what I'm talking about, you haven't read Dan Wetzel's take on our program:;_ylt=AuZQxfQsnjIMBxor08Sq7KIcvrYF?slug=dw-weis092008&prov=yhoo&type=lgns )

I am aware that we haven't won a national championship in about twenty years, or a bowl game since 1993, and that everything has gone downhill since Lou left.

But Notre Dame doesn't feature in national media prominence every year just because the media says so. It's because we have too many fans who CARE about the's because there's demand for's because Notre Dame Stadium has sold out for every game since 1967 (or something like that), even during last year's devastating 3-9 collapse.

Notre Dame isn't about winning for winning's sake. It's not about hopping on the bandwagon when we're good and turning our backs when we're not.

Notre Dame is about family. It's about, as Lou Holtz, pointed out, Mary on the Dome. It's about hard work, perseverance, excellence for the sake of bettering yourself, your community, your school, your future, your world. We're not all in this because we're all crazy obsessed with football. We're all in this because these are our friends, our classmates, our dorm mates. Our family.

The three most important aspects of life at Notre Dame are religion, family, and education. I don't see football mentioned there anywhere.

So if you're trying to tell me that Notre Dame isn't the Notre Dame of old, that the mystique isn't still there--you're missing the entire point of Notre Dame.

It doesn't matter what our football record is. We still have fans who stay to the end of every game, win or lose, to sing the alma mater. We still have the best, most unique game day environment in all of college football. You know what Michigan State felt like yesterday? It felt like Penn State. All the white, the jumbotron, recorded music played over a loudspeaker. Generic College Town USA.

Notre Dame doesn't feel like that. Notre Dame feels like no other place in the country. Notre Dame isn't about the state, or the conference, or the region, or the flashy advertisements, or the name plastered all over the field. Notre Dame is first and foremost about that golden dome, about the family, about supporting each other. People forget that.

And don't even try to tell me that teams don't get excited to beat Notre Dame any more, Wetzel. Don't tell me they don't love to hate us. Don't even go there.

If that's true, then please explain to me why last year USC let themselves lose to fucking Stanford but came into Notre Dame Stadium and kicked our asses 38-0.

But enough of that rant. On to the actual game, or as much of it as I can stand to rehash.

The Good

Defense. Once again, they prove stouter than our offense. Javon Ringer racked up 200 yards, but he spent more time fighting for inches on the three-yard line than making triumphant dashes into the end zone. He didn't get a single easy touchdown all game. He only had one real breakout run--a near-triumphant dash for the end zone--and that was late in the game when the defense was tired. Even then, they managed to catch him up and knock him out of bounds.

The Spartans had to fight tooth-and-nail for pretty much every scoring chance, and our D held them to more field goals than TDs, giving our offense every chance to make it a close game, even a victory.

Which bring us to

The Bad

We tried to pound the football this week. We really did. Over and over and over. It was a good effort, theoretically. I appreciated the commitment.

But our offensive line started to break down again. Two sacks. No holes for the runners. The longest run of the day was by Golden Tate, and he's supposed to be a wide receiver. Armando Allen had a few good dashes, but Hughes got absolutely stuffed on every try. Was it the hostile environment? Was it monstrous D by the Spartans? Was it poor decision-making by the runners?

Our short passing game seems to have emerged, but Jimmy's decision-making is often still questionable. We had a couple interceptions. We had quite a few missed opportunities. We had some horrific flashbacks to last season. We had no scoring in the first half, and only one brief success in the second.

The team looked pretty crushed after the game, but not like they did after every game last season. Not in the defeated, dejected, oh-let's-just-give-up sense. But disappointed in themselves. Angry, almost. Like they know they can do better, but something just went wrong.

MSU's really the first decent team we've faced all season, and it sent our offense spiraling backwards. But I don't think they did it in a way that's going to handicap us for the rest of the season. I think it's just going to give the team a lot to think over this week as they strap their pads back on and gear up for the Boilers. Mistakes to correct. Many things to work on.

But no reason to throw in the towel. We've got a lot more to work with this season, and we've still got a bowl game in our future if we play the rest of the season right.

We've just got to get rid of

The Ugly


Jimmy, can you please try not to be such a total tool box?

I saw you after the game, Jimmy Clausen. I saw you throw that golden helmet on the ground and scowl your way through the alma mater and barely put your finger in the air before you stalked off the field.

You'd better be careful what you do with that helmet, Jimmy. There were a lot of people who came before you who made it an honor to wear that.

And if you want your respect on the field, you might want to try showing a little respect off it.

And finally, the coach

In the immortal words of Knute Rockne, "One loss is good for the soul. Too many losses are not good for the coach."

Charlie's reached breaking point.

We've got too much talent for us to be as mediocre as we appear.

After last weekend, everyone was ready to jump on the bandwagon again. "This is not the team from last season, hurrah! See? Almost the entire Observer staff picked them to beat MSU!"

But this team still has its own fun set of problems to overcome, and like it or not, I think one of the big ones is the coach.

Next weekend we face Purdue. As far as I know, they don't have a Javon Ringer, but they do have a pretty decent senior quarterback in Curtis Painter, and they're the next real litmus test for whether this team is going to sink or swim.

...and for whether Charlie's got the answers or just a bunch of BS he backs up with four Superbowl rings and an ego larger than his waistline.


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