Sunday, November 2, 2008


Pittsburgh 36, Notre Dame 33 (4OT)

Aughhh. It burns. It aches. It stings. It pinches you right in the heart.

Because any time a game comes down to a quadruple overtime battle between place kickers, it never really feels like your team won or lost the game. (That's not realistic, but that's how it feels.) It just kind of feels like a "who's-going-to-mess-up-first" battle. And all kickers mess up sometimes. They just do.

It's games like this, though, that make you wonder why it would be such a bad thing to have ties. Sure, it might screw up the BCS a little bit, but quite frankly, f*** the BCS.

I know all of this is easy to say as the loser of this game, but I still think it's true. Nobody kicked anybody's ass in this game. It became a defensive overtime stalemate.

Still, though, like all of our losses this season, it was a game we could have and should have won.

Where we stand

Well, we're 5-3. All of our wins have come against teams with losing records, and all of our losses are to teams with winning records that, at some point-or-other in the season, were ranked.

None of those games were out of our reach, but we just couldn't hang on for the win. It's disappointing, but it's a continual reminder that this team is still hovering just on the edge of being what it could be. We haven't spilled over yet. We haven't proved our greatness.

It's both encouraging and disheartening to be able to say about these games that we should have won them as opposed to just could have or might have won them. This season has not been a matter of us doing things nobody thought we could do. It's been a matter of tripping over the things we know we can do. And it hurts, it burns, it stings, to watch the players go through that...again.

Speaking of which...

Brandon Walker.

Needs a big hug.

Look, all I'm saying is if he lets that last field goal go to his head and starts shanking his kicks during the games again, I will personally run out onto the field and maim him with my piccolo.

Anyone who makes a 48-yard field goal in the highest-pressure situation imaginable in college football really can't be blamed for anything.

And any time the fate of the game rests on the shoulders of the kicker (and rests on the shoulders of the kicker one, two, three, four times), it means the rest of your team has broken down somewhere. It was as true for Pitt as it was for us, and we just came out a little unlucky in the end.

I think Brandon Walker's a good kicker, in the sense that we know he can make the kicks. I really just hope he doesn't let this get to him. I mean, I know it will, I know it will bother him all week, but it's something I hope he can shake off by the Boston College game, because I'm pretty sure we're going to need him in good condition by the time we ship out to face those pesky Eagles.


Soooo I feel like the defense played pretty well, considering. They didn't let up at the end, except, you know, to let Pitt score that last touchdown. But all things considered, Pitt's last touchdown shouldn't have mattered, because Raeshon McNeil's second interception of the day set our offense up beautifully for a touchdown, and we just couldn't make it happen.

Also, thank the Lord for David Bruton. He is the reason you almost never see opposing wide receivers make it into the end zone after they turn short pass plays into long-ass sprints down the field. He might not knock them out til they get to the five-yard line, but he chases those effers down and knocks 'em out just the same. Bruton led the team in tackles yesterday, with 9 solo and 7 assists, so he was all over the place, kicking ass, taking names, making the Pittsburgh players cry inside. He was just ahead of Kyle McCarthy, who had 15 total on the day, and Mo Crum, who had 9.

I almost had a heart attack when Bruton got injured. He had like the most badass play of the game--he jumped up to intercept a pass and somehow got completely flipped over in midair and landed on his back with the ball still in his hands--and it was so absolutely monstrous that another defensive player went and jumped on him to celebrate before he realized Bruton was hurt.

Thankfully, he seems to have come out unscathed, seeing as he played for most of the rest of the game. Nonetheless it was terrifying.

Anyway, despite these efforts, the D still let LeSean McCoy rack up 169 yards on the day (most of them later in the game when there were suddenly these enormous holes the defense couldn't plug up), so our run defense continues to plague us.

Pass defense was better--obviously we had the 3 interceptions, but we also held Pitt's QB to less than 50% passing. So that's something

But still...we had quite the nice lead going into halftime (17-3), and we let it get away from us, particularly in the fourth quarter. Pitt was only 5-of-17 in 3rd-down attempts (keeping in mind that 4 of those third downs came on OT), but they converted all 3 of their fourth-down attempts, and the third-downs they did convert were often long and impressive...and had no business being converted, the way our defense was stuffing them on first and second downs. Arghhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh.

Not quite what we were looking for

Our offense, likewise, broke down in the second quarter. Did Pitt figure us out? Is that it? Did their D finally shake off the woes of last week's game against Rutgers and start playing like the nationally-ranked defense they're supposed to be? Oh, perhaps.

They did bring a lot more pressure in the second half, which is always bad news for Jimmy. I hate to see that kid on the run. He has gotten better at making decisions in those high-pressure situations, but it's still rare that he actually converts them into anything. At least, though (as I keep saying), he has learned when to throw the ball away. And hey--no interceptions this week, so that's a bonus.

In fact, the offense didn't cough the ball up once this week. With the turnover margin so strongly in our favor, it is further difficult to see why we couldn't have won this one in regulation.

Overtime Woes

That last drive of the game should have been a score. No question. We are perfectly capable of running a two-minute drill. And we didn't even have to get it in the end zone--just in field goal range. That last drive has me frustrated not so much at the players, but at the coach.

I think we called the first time out of the drive at an appropriate place. We had one more time out and enough seconds left on the clock to get the ball within scoring range. But we couldn't get the play off--there was too much confusion and we had to call another time out.

That, if you ask me, is a moment of poor coaching. If in one time out, you can't get your team organized and ready for the next play, you should just be...slapped. I mean, maybe the defense gave us a look we weren't expecting. That's certainly possible. But in a late-in-the-game situation like that, it's still no excuse.

And then to punk out and choose to go into overtime...that just makes me angry. Sure, I can see the reasons for doing it. But still, with thirteen seconds on the clock and Golden Tate and Michael Floyd on the're not going to at least try for the Hail Mary? I know we weren't behind, and I know it wasn't game-over if we didn't try, but still. I hate overtime. If I were a coach, I would rather chop off my right arm than willingly give the game up while we were still in regulation.

Maybe that's not the best vote of confidence in the team, but football overtime has to be the most agonizing thing ever invented. I hate it. It makes me feel like I'm going to spontaneously combust and vomit and have an aneurysm all at once. My constitution wasn't made for it. I cannot handle watching it. I feel about ready to explode with every snap of the ball.

And dear God, how can the players handle it? Every single play could be the death of you. Or, you know, the game.

Except then it's not, of course, because then you have to give the other guys a chance to score, and then it's just agony, agony, agony all over again...

Plus, you get into a position where the game can go on pretty much indefinitely. I mean, imagine if Brandon Walker hadn't missed that field goal. We could have been there all night. We could have scored sixty points apiece and still been forced to keep going. It's terrible. It's worse than baseball. Things like that should not happen in the glorious game of football.

I prefer sudden death overtimes. Maybe your team never gets their hands on the ball and maybe you think that's unfair, but hey, if your team can't get it done in regulation maybe they don't deserve fair. If your defense can't give your offense a three-and-out when you so desperately need it, maybe you don't deserve to win the game. That's all I'm saying.

I mean, I guess you could also argue that in a game like this, you could still end up in a position where you play another quarter of football and absolutely nothing happens, but that seems unlikely. Defenses get tired, teams get desperate, points get scored.

Whatever. Moving on.

Next week

Another road game, this time against the ever-loathed Backup College. They are also 5-3, and they also have beaten approximately 0 good teams. However, while our record betrays us to make us look like we don't have the ability to beat those good teams we faced, BC's record exposes them for the limp sausages they are. They got spanked by North Carolina 45-24, couldn't get it done against a 4-win Clemson team, and choked in their second week against Georgia Tech.

I'm sure BC fans will argue that even with the same record they're still obviously better than we are, that two of the games they lost were clearly closer than two of our close losses, that clearly their two shut-out wins against Kent State and Rhode Island prove their dominance (especially considering our performances against San Diego State and Stanford)...but you know what?

I say they are a bunch of ass clowns, and we're going to rip their heads off.


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