Sunday, November 9, 2008

The only thing I can come up with is football dysentery

Boston College 17, Notre Dame 0

Those of you who watched yesterday's game (which I would imagine is...everyone reading this) understand what kind of a sucker-punch-in-the-face, flashback-to-last-year's-b
loody-nightmare-of-a-season, big-steaming-pile-of-dung game it was.

Because I have news for you, Boston College: you're still not any good. You're probably thinking you're pretty good right now, but it's a lie. It's the biggest lie in college football, next to Pittsburgh being ranked again.

The way I see it, the Eagles didn't do a whole lot to win the game. Instead, Notre Dame's offense went on the field and took a huge crap on themselves, doing pretty much everything they could to put the game in BC's hands without claiming a single point for themselves.

That's beyond crap, though. It's even beyond diarrhea. That's football dysentery. It's messy, it's smelly, it's disgusting to watch, and it's disturbing mostly because you know it is not the normal state of affairs.

I don't know what team showed up yesterday to play Backup College, but it wasn't my beloved Irish. That wasn't the offense we've seen all season. That wasn't even the Jimmy Clausen we've seen all season. That was an "oh shit, somebody poisoned the water hole!" Irish team...and now they've all got dysentery.

So here's the thing about dysentery

It's not like diarrhea. You can't just take some Kaopectate and wait for it to go away. You can't expect it to be over in a week. It's an infection in your intestines, and (as anyone who's played Oregon Trail knows) sometimes it proves fatal.

I can't tell you where our football team's headed for the rest of the season. I can't tell you whether they'll bounce back and beat a not-too-shabby Navy team next week.

I can say (like pretty much everyone else in the ND football world will be saying) that we pretty much have to beat Navy if we want to remain bowl eligible. And Syracuse, of course, but I'm more concerned about Navy at the moment, because that's the team we have in front of us, and also Syracuse is 2-7. As you may have noticed, we've gotten pretty good at beating teams that suck. It's the teams with winning records this season that are giving us all the trouble.

Anyway, the point is that a few years ago ND made it to a bowl game with a 6-6 record, almost entirely through the merit of being Notre Dame. However, during that season I do believe we actually managed to beat a few decent teams, so that probably worked in our favor as well. If we go 6-6 this season...I think things get a little more iffy. Pummeling Syracuse isn't exactly going to catapult us into the top 25. And if we can't beat Navy, the odds of us beating USC are...well...

What I'm saying is, this year a 6-win ND team isn't exactly a gimme for the Capital One Bowl or the International Bowl or the Meineke Car Care Bowl or any Random College Town With a Stadium and an Obscure Sponsor Bowl.

And as long as we've got the dysentery in our system, the rest of the season could play out a little messy. It might take some antibiotics to get things going again.

Somebody poisoned the water hole

And oh hey, guess who it was?

It was us.

Last week's quadruple-overtime loss was what I like to call a Spirit-Crusher. (Not just a spirit crusher, you know, but a Spirit-Crusher. The hyphen is very important.) It's the kind of thing that takes all the gas out of the rest of your season--or, conversely, gives you so much of it you've got dysentery.

As Notre Dame fans, we've all seen them before. The most recent of these (which any of the seniors can attest to) was USC 2005, aka the Biggest Lie I've Ever Seen. You could see what that game did to the team. It half-destroyed them. It crushed their momentum. And it carried over. It carried over to the bowl game, and painful tinges of it followed them the next season when they went out to USC and got tormented again, only this time the torment was just plain losing, as opposed to having victory ripped from your hands on a completely bogus and illegal touchdown call after the clock had already wound down to 0:00.

Or, if you want to bring up even more painful memories, 1993, when a field goal lost us the game to EXPLETIVE UNHOLY EXPLETIVE MORTAL SIN EXPLETIVE ENTIRELY AGAINST THE CATECHISM EXPLETIVE Boston College and in the long run cost us the national championship (which Lou, by the way, still maintains we ought to have won). [This, for those of you who aren't aware, was before they instated the BCS and had an official national championship game every year. This was Back In The Day when everyone just played out their season, got picked for bowl games, and after all the bowl games were finished, a National Champion was declared. Which is why when we talk about Notre Dame's 11 national championships, we have to say "consensus," because without that "consensus," we'd have way more. And so would a lot of other schools, but I don't care about them.]

You could say that 1993 game was the greatest Notre Dame Spirit-Crusher of All Time, because since that game:
-Lou was forced to leave
-Notre Dame hasn't won a national championship
-or a Heisman Trophy (though I still maintain that the Heisman was absolutely robbed from Brady Quinn by that convict from Cleveland whose name no one even remembers anymore, and oh hey guess who's the got the big guns in Cleveland now you stupid jerks)
-or a single bowl game (making it the longest dry spell in ND football history since the days of Knute Rockne)
-We renovated the stadium and blocked out most of the view of Touchdown Jesus
-We hired Bob Davie
-and George O'Leary
-and Ty Willingham
-We snapped our NCAA record 43-game win streak against Navy
-We've suffered through the Absolute Worst Season in Notre Dame Football History
-We hired Charlie Weis, who for a brief flash looked like he might be our salvation but now looks like he could be the death of us (the jury's still out on that one, I'm afraid)

And now, we've got dysentery.

I'm not going to be looking at stats for this game. They're not important.

And if you don't believe me, just consider the stats from last week. I think the bloggers at Section 29, Row 48 phrased it pretty nicely, in the form of a question:

How do you outgain a team, win the turnover battle 3-0, have your unreliable kicker nail four straight field goals, commit fewer penalties than your opponent, do better on third downs than your opponent, get more sacks than your opponent, more first downs than your opponent, hold a 14-point lead at half and still manage to lose the game?

So yeah, screw statistics for this week, on the basis of not just that, but also on the basis of Dear God, this game is still too painful to think about. (Especially now that I'm sober.)

So I'm just going to play my favorite game instead.

The Blame Game!!!

Much as I would love to place all the blame for this loss on my favorite little emu-faced gunslinger, I can't. I can rest maybe 96.5% of the blame on his shoulders, but not all of it.

Okay, fine, even that's a little extreme.

Attempting to speak with some amount of objectivity...

It really was sort of the whole package that drove us under. Offense, defense, special teams, coaching. The football dysentery.

Not quite as much the defense as the offense, though. I mean, Boston College only really scored of its own volition once the entire game. The rest of it was the result of obscenely good field position and turnovers and blocked punts (which I guess goes along with obscenely good field position) and all of that other nonsense. Our defense really played a lot of solid football. We had some good coverage going on...we had that whole stiff-on-first-and-second-but-limp-on third thing going on...we almost picked the ball off a few times....

But the D (and the special teams) couldn't quite manage to do what our offense really needed them to do, which was take the game into their own hands and put some effing points on the board.

This is not something you should have to ask your defense to do. I'm just saying it's something we desperately needed them to do. They were just so busy fighting the OMFG BC HAS AMAZING FIELD POSITION AGAIN? battle, they didn't quite have time.

The special teams also failed to come through. The punts had plenty of altitude but not enough distance (particularly the one that was blocked), the returns were overall less-than-average (especially the one that Golden Tate fumbled), and the coverage on BC's punt returns was only average at best. And poor Brandon Walker had to pace on the sidelines the entire game watching the team choke so badly they didn't even get into field goal range until it was too late in the game to matter.

And our offense bit the big one and did approximately nothing the entire game. Unless, of course, you count them dumping the ball into the hands of BC's defenders--was it four times? five?--as doing something. In that case, we did quite a lot.

I'm not going to pull a Michigan and give some BS "clearly we're still the better team and the better team lost" speech. (In case you weren't aware, they do this after pretty much every game they lose to ND.) Because clearly right now we're not the better team. Right now we've got dysentery. And apparently the biggest byproduct of this dysentery is


Flag! What a pretty flag! Look at all the flags! Pretty yellow flags!

It could be a f^&*$% Olympic sport. Flag-tossing. Look at those referees go!

I don't even want to know how many penalties we incurred in yesterday's matchup. I will just sit here and pound on my keyboard in not-so-blissful ignorance.

If anyone's going to try to sell me the "hostile environment" bullcrap for this game, I'm not buying. (I've got enough crap on my hands as it is.) I think you can blame a loud, hostile environment for maybe one or two false starts, but other than that it's just your team screwing up. Not communicating, not focusing, not in the groove.

We just never had the groove yesterday. We never got anything going. We had a few nice catches, a few decent runs, but overall it was just...not there.

I realize that Boston College has a good defense and all, so it's not like I can't give them any credit for shutting us down. I'll give them approximately 50% percent of the credit. Okay, maybe more like 40%.

There were just too many bad decisions made by the offense yesterday. Too many. A lot of them very obviously by our quarterback, who's still learning how and when to scramble, who still has a propensity to throw deep balls into heavy coverage, and who doesn't quite yet have the savvy and the authority to say "screw it, we're not running that dumb ass play" while still in the huddle.

For example, all these awful play calls we have on third-and-long. I don't know who is making these decisions, but our inclination to run the ball on 3rd-and-25--not just this season, but last season too--is really distressing. I mean, maybe I'm not a football guru or anything, but as a fan, I have seen this "run-the-ball-on-third-and-ridiculously-long" thing work maybe 1 out of the approximately 465 times we've tried to do it. Call me crazy, but it seems like this strategy just isn't quite working for us.

I don't care if your quarterback's thrown three picks already. I don't care if you're deep in your own territory. I don't care if you think there's no way you're going to get the ball on first down even if you pass. Running the ball on third-and-long when you haven't established control of the ground yet basically reads like a "screw it, let's just try for the next set of downs" sort of play. And frankly, it pisses me off.

But that falls under the realm of coaching, I guess, and not as much penalties...though perhaps it's a fair argument that good coaching prevents a lot of penalties from being made.

Whatever the case, we played sloppy enough for our penalties to offset our gains. This is doubly distressing because it's happening so late in the season. Our penalty count has been pretty excellent so far--we've even had a couple games where we were virtually faultless.

But like I've been saying, it's the dysentery. Something is in the players, screwing them up, and if they can just flush it out of their systems I think everything will go back to being okay.

Which brings me to our next concern

Navy. The Midshipmen have won two straight since losing a 42-21 crusher to Pittsburgh. I would say they're on a roll, except their most recent wins have been over a 1-9 Southern Methodist squad and historically incompetent Temple. They have a 6-3 record, with their other two losses against Ball State and Duke in the second and third weeks of the season. Before you guffaw, however, keep in mind that Ball State is actually ranked this season (another sure and depressing sign of the Apocalypse), and Duke has managed to scrape together enough wins already to double their season win total from last year...which I believe was 2. Maybe 3. (All right, you can guffaw a little about Duke.)

At any rate, Navy should be no limp noodle this season, and if you guys remember last season, it's always tough to defend against the option. They haven't beaten any one in particular (unless you count Wake Forest, a team that was ranked when Navy beat them, but has since fallen out of the Top 25 into the shadows of football glory), but they have beaten most of them soundly, and they look to be averaging around thirty points per game. In fact, in none of their games have they scored less than 21. (That's what the option will do for you.)

However...their defense will be nowhere near as good as BC's; Navy's opponents seem to be averaging around twenty points a game, and considering they've beaten approximately nobody, this is encouraging.

So here's our chance--beat a team with a winning record on the road. Tidy up that little mess from last year with a win to re-start our streak. Cling to those hopes of a bowl game. Get rid of that awful dysentery.

I will be heading to Baltimore for the game next weekend, so I shall babble about the glorious-ness of that trip when I return.

Oh, and regarding the dysentery...somebody ought to call Dr. Lou.


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