Friday, December 11, 2009


It's a mixture of relief and--dare I say it?--optimism: Brian Kelly is the 29th head football coach at the University of Notre Dame. For a lengthy, in-depth recap of Kelly's coaching credentials, I recommend the always superb Blue-Gray Sky.

For now, all you need to know is that this is a man who just coached the Cincinnati Bearcats to a perfect season, and now they're going up against Florida in the Sugar Bowl. (Although popular opinion seems to be that Cincinnati's going to get smeared all over the Superdome. I offer no opinion on this except to say that you all should know how I feel about Urban Meyer by now, so--Go Bearcats!) And now Mr. Kelly is forgoing the chance to coach in New Orleans by taking up residence in the Gug's big, cushy corner office.

Before I get going on the new coach and start paraphrasing everything I just heard in the press conference, I just want to say: mad props to Jack Swarbrick for keeping the lid tight on this thing right until the very end. I commend you, sir. Also, I found it a very classy move that you presented our new head coach with a medal of Mary instead of a helmet or a football jersey. Way to be true to the spirit of Notre Dame.

Coach Kelly--apparently a Boston Irish Catholic--seems to get the spirit of Notre Dame, too, which is pretty much essential for anyone who's going to attempt to lead the football team at Our Lady's University. He spoke of the university's tradition, its high academic and athletic standards, and approached the university not only as a fan but as a coach. He spoke of developing players who work hard on the field and are gentlemen off the field. He spoke of Notre Dame in a way, I thought, that represented Notre Dame.

Plumes of reactionary optimism

For as despondent as I've felt since the end of the season, I have to say I was pretty darn pleased to get that e-mail announcing Brian Kelly was our new head coach--because if it wasn't gonna be him, who else WAS there? I think, at this current moment in time, we actually did get the best man for the job. And I have to say, I'm way more up-in-the-clouds about all this than I thought I'd be.

Part of this, I think, is reactionary: looking for (and finding) things in the new head coach that were lacking with the last. This sort of amplifies the feeling of all-around glee at the thought that Notre Dame finally has a coach who
A) comes in with a .747 win percentage after 19 years of coaching
B) has proven he can turn limp programs into national champions (Grand Valley State, D-II) and conference champions (Central Michigan, Cincinnati)
C) has been a head coach--IN COLLEGE--for almost two solid decades

This man has a proven track record. He's not being sucked in through the NFL. He is not a gamble. (You know, so I assume.)

In case you've missed out on my biggest beef with Charlie the last couple seasons, here are the two things I've griped about the most:
1) Lack of fundamentals
2) Having a head coach who's still learning how to be a college head coach. (And by that I mean--watching in agony as he figures out that no, you can't treat college kids the same way you treat guys in the NFL, and no, college players don't come pre-conditioned with great fundamentals, and no, no matter how clever you think this play is, if your players aren't disciplined and consistent, all the scheming in the world isn't going to help you.)

And pretty much right off the bat Brian Kelly proved that he understands the nature of being a head coach in the college game.

Two little words that one reporter called "vague," but which were music to my ears: player development.

Ah, yes--YES! There it IS! College players have to be DEVELOPED! That is the why college football has become so crucial to the success of players in the NFL, is it not?

This is not to say that Charlie didn't know how to develop a player. I mean, he developed Brady Quinn. I'm just saying--Charlie came from the pros, he ran a pro-style game, he's a pro-style man, and I...

You know what, I'm just going to stop talking about Charlie. He came, he did what he did, he helped turn the program in the right direction, I wish him the best.

Back to Brian Kelly and player development. I liked this quote:'s not just about being bigger, faster, stronger, it's getting your players to trust. It's getting your players to be accountable on a day to day basis. It's developing them as young men, and you have to do that through relationships.

Boom! Right there. This is a man who knows he's dealing with college kids, knows he's dealing with people who are still maturing and learning how to manage themselves, and that is as crucial a part of the college game as anything else. Another choice example:

Eating at Burger King at 3:00 in the morning is not going to make you the best for your 8:00 workouts. Not being on time, not paying attention to detail, not being purposeful in what you do on a day to day basis. Attention to detail is absolutely crucial in this process of winning, and so when I talk about working on winning, I mean you do that from the first day you step on this campus if you want to win.

This is not me accusing the players or the previous coaching staff of anything in particular. This is just me saying that the new head coach is talking like a man familiar with success, familiar with making success happen in a college system, and familiar with how college kids work. And that, to me, is extremely promising.

Another comment that I particularly liked was this one, which almost certainly struck a chord with me because it's exactly the sort of thing I've been griping about for the past few seasons:

You don't win on Saturdays with Xs and Os. You win on Saturdays because you've been working on it all week, and so it's that attention to detail. It's morale, it's camaraderie, it's one voice.

YESSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSS! THANK YOU. Thank you thank you thank you. You have NO idea how good that is to hear. No idea.

(Once again, not trying to disparage anybody. I'm just sayin'--when your life for a few years is X's and O's, like Charlie's life was, you tend to approach the game in X's and O's.)

Something else that pretty much made me want to jump up and down and pump my fist in the air:

I think it's important to point out that you win and lose football games as a whole.

Yes. YES. YES!!!! I mean, I know this is sort of obvious to anyone who pays attention to the fact that football is a team sport--but it strikes me that, too often these days, people don't really approach it that way. I mean, theoretically head coaches do, but speaking as a lay person, it seems like teams are often lopsided--strong on one side or another--due to the leanings of whatever position their head coach happened to coordinate before he became the head coach.

I have this problem as a fan, too; I expect teams to be lopsided one way or another. For example...when I'm watching the Indianapolis Colts, I pretty much expect Peyton Manning to go out there and win the game for them. I know, somewhere in my head, that of course the defense has to do its job, and Peyton would be nothing without his O-line and his receiving corps of thrifty ballcatchers. But let's face it--when the game's on the line, I expect Peyton Manning to go out there and win.

It's the same problem watching defensive teams--you know, like how Da Bears used to be. How many teams can you watch throw six picks against Arizona on Monday night and still expect them to be able to win? The Bears did it a couple years ago. It was absurd.

Anyway, the point is--at the very least, Brian Kelly is approaching football the way a head coach needs to approach football: as a head coach, one who will oversee ALL aspects of the game:

So offense, defense and special teams has been what I'm an expert at. And when I talk about expert at it, I mean I don't just rely on one side of the ball. As a head football coach, you are responsible for all those areas, and as you can tell probably from my experience in Division II, we had when I started two full time coaches. So you couldn't just be the offensive coordinator; you couldn't just be the defensive coordinator; you had to be involved in all those areas. I will be intimately involved with what we do defensively as the head football coach.

Now, of course, we don't know how any of this is going to translate, but I hope for the best.

I look forward to our special teams next year.

Enough about the past. Let's talk about the future.

First off, Brian Kelly is a living-in-the-present type of guy:

Well, we go to work right away. We don't get a five year plan. This is a five minute plan. I mean, we're working on it immediately, and we expect our football players to play at a high level immediately.
Boom! Hit the ground running. I like it.

Second, let's focus in on our immediate future: recruiting. Kelly said that recruiting would be the first thing on his docket: calling our recruits, trying to keep the commits, going out there and fighting for the future of the Irish. I'm curious to see how this goes, and if any more of our recruits will end up falling through the cracks. Some players commit because of the coaches and then de-commit once they're gone; not all of them can be total badasses and commit after the head coach has been fired like Louis Nix.

In a related note, it will be interesting to see which Irish coaches are retained for the staff, too. Coach Ianello's already taken the head coaching job at Akron, and considering the state of our defense I think pretty much everyone expects us to have a new defensive coordinator...but I'm curious to see who of the remaining staff will stay, and what kind of impact that will have on recruiting.

Regarding the approach to recruiting and the kind of players Kelly is going after, the one big thing he mentioned was passion:

They have to love to play this game. So in the recruiting process, as we go from coast to coast in finding that right profile, I want to be around players that love to play this game. I love being around it. If you're not passionate about what you do and how you do it, you probably won't connect with me. So I'm looking for that passion, and it's got to resonate with me in the recruiting process. Yeah, we'll look at the profiles, but I've never gotten caught up in profiles as much as making sure that that passion is there.

After the effort the Irish team put forth this season, I think everyone's pretty much zipped their mouths shut Re: accusing the team of not playing with passion. So it's nice to see that the requirement for passion is there. (You would assume that anyone willing to kill themselves to play at the level of D-I football is passionate about the game but, you know, based on the clearly 100% accurate storytelling of the movie Rudy, not everyone who suits up on Saturdays always has their full heart in the game.) It might seem a little iffy to hear him talk about not getting "caught up" in the profiles of players, but for now I'm willing to ride with him on this one. In recent years, coaches at programs like Boise State, TCU, and (dare I say it?) Cincinnati have proved that you don't have to have a team full of top-rated, emu-faced recruits to win games. You've just got to make sure you can make the players you've got work as a team.

So...we'll see how it goes.

The last snippet I want to post has to do with our team--the current collection of next year's Fighting Irish. As I said, I think our team proved this season that they are hungry for victory--hungry for excellence. The letdown at the end of this season (UConn?? Really? UCONN????? Sorry, I still can't get over it.) will become a blip in Irish football history if Coach Kelly can turn this team's drive and potential into the one thing that matters most in the world of college football: wins.

As I've said all season, potential is frustrating. Potential is maddening. Potential, if unmet, eats you up from the inside.

And that, I think, is at the core of this whole idea of player development, of taking the potential of each player, and then moving them, as Kelly says, "to a level they can't get to by themselves. That's player development. That's at the core of what I mean, to get people to do things that they normally wouldn't do on their own."

So let's see how it goes. Let's see if we can get there. Let's see what Coach Kelly makes of the players we have here, and the players that we've yet to gain.

And of our team, the new head coach says this:

They want to win. They want to win. They're like any other football program that I've been around; they want to win football games, and they want to be led. They want to be developed. I could tell that immediately.

You do not come to the University of Notre Dame because you want to be average. You want to be the best of the best. And that's why I'm here. It inspires me to be around young men like I had in front of me today.

In the words of Rocket, kids: GO GET IT.


Wednesday, December 9, 2009

I'm going to keep rambling on even though it's way too late to matter

So um, first things first--if you want any actual updates on ND football, go to Blue-Gray Sky. Everything they have posted for the past couple weeks is effing brilliant; pretty much every other Notre Dame blog I read has been linking over to BGS constantly since the close of the season. There's a lot of new stuff to talk about--the coaching change, the players' reactions, players de-committing and newly committing, Jimmy and Golden declaring for the draft, etc etc etc. I don't plan on covering any of that, but it's important stuff to know, so, you know, go read BGS. It's good stuff.

Second things second--there's an excellent post over on Her Loyal Sons that covers the players' reactions to Charlie's firing. There are some excellent press conference snippets in there, and it really sheds light on how mature the players have gotten, how dedicated they are to the program, and how much they really GET Notre Dame. Which is an excellent reflection on Charlie and the work he's done off the field these past five years. (Which, in some sense, is sort of shocking to realize, isn't it? Because we just expect these things to immediately translate themselves to the field, and when they don't....)

UConn 33, Notre Dame 30


This is my basic reaction to the UConn game, Jimmy's black eye, and everything else that's been going on in the world of Notre Dame football for the past few weeks.

Regarding JimmayJimmayJimmay and his shiner, let me just say this....

Although I have been waiting for someone to punch Jimmy in the face for approximately three years, and although I can think of dozens of personal reasons why I might want to slug him personally, he got punched out because of a football game, and that pisses me off. I know there were other factors involved, but seriously--after three years of this kind of shit, can you really blame him for declaring for the draft?

Anyway. I feel like I never really made myself sit down and work through the end of this depressing, depressing season, so I am going to do that now. If you don't want to sit here with me and rehash the utter agony of the UConn game or the absurd bumblefuck that was the Stanford game, you should just walk away right now.

But if you're a masochist like me, then by all means continue.

Dog Bites

What the effing EFFER, you effing little EFFERS? How are you going to go out on YOUR field on YOUR Senior Day and lose to UCONN?

I thought we were past this, guys. No seriously. All season long I have been saying how far this team has come since that awful, frigid day on which my fingers froze to my piccolo and you broke my heart and made David Bruton cry. (Yes, I am going to keep bringing this up until it stops being painful. Oh wait--that would be never.) And as bad as last season's home finale was (and I can't BELIEVE I'm going to say this), this season's was worse. You know, I know UConn had that whole "avenge their fallen teammate" thing going on, but I don't care. That didn't stop all their opponents leading up to Notre Dame from beating them, and no way in hell should it have stopped us. What happened to Jasper Howard was horrible--it really was--and as much as I'm a believer in intangibles, they are called INTANGIBLES for a reason. No freaking way should a team be able to come in and kick us around on our home turf during hte last home game of the season. Not when we've got an NFL-worthy QB-WR combo and a bafflingly experienced offensive line (the baffling part being why they aren't the best damn line in all of college football) and a whole bunch of seniors standing on the sideline, waiting for something they've been waiting for for four years and now will never get.

See, THAT is what breaks my heart. It is bullshit that those seniors didn't get to play. Bull. Shit.

There are moments in life that you cannot redo, that you cannot take back--opportunities that, once they're gone, are gone forever. And to work that hard, to come that close, and only get to run out of the tunnel....

I mean, that in itself is an experience worth having, trust me. And not that I ever wore a football uniform, but, you know--just to put on that uniform is special. And to stand on the sideline--that's something, too.

But, um, I get the sneaking suspicion that that is NOT precisely what those young men broke their backs for for four years, and they deserve better than that. They deserve better than to watch helplessly from the sidelines--all suited up at last but still unallowed to go out on the field and actually help their team win a game--and watch as we lose to some mediocre-ass team whose school hasn't even been playing Division I football for a decade.

What the HELL?

I mean, it's one thing to listen to obnoxious non-Notre Dame fans whine on and on about how Notre Dame's not even good anymore, not even relevant, can't win a bowl game, has seen its last glory days, is only clinging blindly to its past, is soooo overrated, has no real place in the elite of college football anymore, and blah blah blah blah blah...... I mean, whatever, right? Because by constantly whining about Notre Dame, all those people are doing is keeping Notre Dame relevant.

But it's really another thing to watch you prove them right. That's really NOT COOL.

I thought we'd gotten past this, guys. I really did. We had such confidence this season. Such...swagger. (Apparently Jimmy really did rub off on the rest of the team.) We had such heart, such grit, such determination. Such Golden Tate. We were this close--THIS CLOSE--to being undefeated.

But um, we were also equally close to being 2-8.

So that puts us right where we belong, at a nice even .500. And that burns.

I mean, is it just me, or does it seriously feel like we're just carrying around all these things that Notre Dame is supposed to stand for, but that it doesn't anymore, because we are in the drought of droughts, and we can't win a national championship to save our lives (and/or coach)?

NOTRE DAME is still there. The spirit, the energy, the tradition, and...everything. It was there before the USC game. You could FEEL it.

But it did not manifest into the much-needed win, and that's what has me worried.

You'd think I would be more optimistic, what with the coaching change and all, but if you have read my previous post (which probably you didn't, because mostly I feel like I am writing to myself these days, but that's okay because at this point it's mostly therapy anyway), you will see that trying to find a new head coach has me more worried than anything. Because if it's not the right guy, we are so SCREWED again, for another five years. And I just can't take much more of this.

So...about the actual game

Right. Well. If you did not catch the UConn game / have already erased it from your memory, it was all bonbons and gumdrops and lollipops until the second quarter. We were up 14-0, and it basically looked like the game was going to be a repeat of the Washington State game.

And then. Then the personal foul.

Sergio Brown's late-hit penalty kept alive a UConn drive that would eventually give them their first score of the game. And after that...the momentum changed. New life for the Huskies. Bad news bears for the Irish.

And in the second half...a bigass breakdown on special teams that allowed UConn to return a kick for a touchdown. More bad news bears.

Let's pay the blame game for a second and blame lack of fundamentals for the fact that these two plays occurred at all. Either one of these plays doesn't happen, and Notre Dame doesn't have to go into overtime on Senior Day. Theoretically.

But then, of course, you can't blame this game on Sergio Brown or the special teams. First of all, that's not fair, because football is a team sport, and there were plenty of chances for the entire TEAM to make sure UConn did not win the game. Second, by all reports Sergio Brown was found crying in Coach Weis's office after the game, trying to apologize, which Coach Weis would not let him do, because Charlie insisted on taking all the blame for this loss (and every other loss) on his own shoulders.

Which, actually, is a good sign. In a way. I mean, these guys care about the team. They really do. They try. I mean, I think you'd be hard-pressed to find a guy who tries harder than, for example, Golden Tate. And, you know, they've got (or they had) a head coach cares about the team, too--and more importantly, he cares about the individual players; so much so that he has consistently taken all the blame upon himself, tried to shield all his players from as much of the media BS as possible, and turned his entire head of hair gray in the process.

They are so much more of a TEAM than they were last year, and that is what makes all of this so upsetting. Because you KNOW they're good enough to rise above all this crap and execute well enough to win every game...but, um, they weren't consistent enough to actually DO it. And we can all sit around and point fingers and blame who we want to blame--the coaches, the players, the refs, NBC, or my personal favorite, lack of fundamentals--but at the end of the day it is not one person or entity that makes or breaks a game. (No, not even Golden Tate. Although I'm sure the Heisman committee would have you believe otherwise. You tweak the outcome of say, three big plays this season, and suddenly the Irish are 9-3, and sure as shit you'd be finding Golden's name near the top of the Heisman pile. Which is SUCH a crock of shit, because one player should not have to take the ENTIRE game into his hands so that his TEAM wins so that he can be considered for an INDIVIDUAL trophy. Although if the Heisman committee were actually fair, the winner every year would probably be some random-ass player from the WAC or the Sun Belt or some other conference no one cares about, who does crazy shit on both sides of the ball but who no one's heard about because, again, he plays for some conference no one cares about. But whatever, my point is--you cannot point blame at one single aspect of a team.) That's not what does it. It is the whoooole package.

And this here package we've got is starting to look a little beat up. Is it not?

So we're getting a new box (aka coach). That's what we're doing. We're chucking out the old box and we're getting a new one. And in T-minus three years, we'd better have some shiny new rings in that box, or somebody's gonna have some explaining to do. (Just in case you weren't aware, Leahy, Parseghian, Devine, and Holtz all won national championships in their third year as head coaches. So clearly it stands to reason that if the third season doesn't produce a new banner in the tunnel, we're doomed. I think J.J. should wait until at least the third season this time before renewing the contract. Just a thought.)

Stanford 45, Notre Dame 38

Tree bark

As for that other game we played to close out the season...

Well, it was not a banner night for either defense, let's just say that.

But it was the same damn story we've seen from the Irish all season. So close--so close--so close--down to the wire--and then ahh--aw--not so much.

Although, I have to say, mad props to Sergio Brown for playing harder than I've ever seen him play. He was clearly trying to make up for the UConn game, and dude, I think he succeeded. For the first time all season, he was right up there with Kyle McCarthy and Manti Te'o (11 and 10 total tackles, respectively). Check out these stats for Mr. Brown: 7 solo tackles, 3 assists, 2 tackles for loss, 1 forced fumble, and 1 sack. Best individual defensive stats of anyone on the team. I tip my hat to you, sir.

But, unfortunately, the 31 combined tackles of these three players was not enough to stop Stanford's offense / human hippopotamus Toby Gerhart from scoring 45 points. (Again with the whole "it's a team sport" thing.)

And what's really depressing is--even if we had won, would it have made that much of a difference?

In the grand scheme of things, Charlie was getting fired anyway. And with Charlie gone, no head coach and no offensive coordinator for the postseason, bowl game. And without Coach Weis, it's really not surprising that we're saying bye-bye to Jimmy and Golden. (Although, you have to admit, it's a little selfish. I don't care who we have has head coach next year, that quarterback spot is going to be hurting. C'mon Dayne--HEAL! You too, Michael Floyd. Get your collarbone back in the game. XXXOOO.)

So...6-6, 7-6...the end of this season was so depressing I feel like I would hardly have been able to differentiate between the two. And it's not even remotely cheerful to think that we played better against Stanford than USC did, because USC is a crock of SHIT this year, and it's absolute BS that they're even still ranked in the BCS poll. What kind of crack are those computers SMOKING?


It is a long, bleak off-season, with no more Golden and no more Kyle and no healthy quarterbacks (anyone know when Nate Montana's rich little legacy ass is supposed to show up on campus again?) and, at the moment, no verdict on a new coach. Plus we've got next year's thrilling line-up of Tulsa, Utah, Western Michigan, and Navy to look forward to. (Except Navy...oh wait. Oh, we lose to them now. I forgot.)


And I'm not even really looking forward to this year's bowl games, because I'm pretty much counting on 'Bama to smoke the national championship (no offense Texas--I'm not messin' with you, I'm just sayin'...), and I'm only vaguely interested in watching Cincinnati, because if Kelly's not coaching for us next year who cares, and if he IS coaching for us next year but not coaching them in the bowl game, then...again, who cares?

You see? You see what this season's done to me? I'm so morose. I didn't even watch the Colts keep their unbeaten streak alive last Sunday, or the Bears (finally) play some defense and win an ugly game. (Of course, odds are those games weren't even broadcast in my area, but the point is, I didn't even look to see if they were ON. And although I watched most of the first half of the SEC Championship last Saturday, I was also, you know, flipping back and forth between that an episode of Gilmore Girls. Further proof that I should never actually be a sportswriter. When my team's not in the mix, it is SO hard to make myself actually care. Because I love football, and I love sports, you see, but mostly...I love Notre Dame.)

Thus concludes the 2009 Irish football season. Mad props to Golden Tate for making All-American. (You hella belong there.) Good luck with all your other award nominations, and with the NFL Draft.

And to you, JimmayJimmayJimmay....I still can't believe you said you'll miss NDSP.


Wednesday, December 2, 2009


I've been feeling understandably melancholy about the state of ND football for the past two weeks, as I'm sure you can imagine. You might also imagine that there are other words besides "melancholy" running through my head when I think about this season, and you're probably right, but for the moment, melancholy is what I am.

I am not relieved that Charlie is gone. I am...other things.

I'm overwhelmingly disappointed that this season did not work out as it could have. We seem to have lost some crucial elements of ND football that make it feel like the tradition that it is. We should not be losing to Navy. We should not have to take every game down to the wire. We should not have seniors standing on the sideline on Senior Day staring at a field that, after four years of work, blood, sweat, tears, injuries, and sacrificing hours upon hours of study time/energy/youth, they will never get to play on. Not one snap, not one down, nothing. That, to me, is the biggest tragedy of this season. And last season. Even the year we went 3-9, we won on Senior Day. And there's just no excuse for that. There's no excuse for not wanting to win on Senior Day as badly as the other team.

I mean, okay, so maybe the other teams get hyped up because they're playing Notre Dame. But, um, in the words of Lou: HELLO, you get to represent Notre Dame! There's no greater motivation than that.

And--ugh--we got SO CLOSE. We were so close, all season, to being what we might have been. And we never broke through that last barrier.

So, we ended the season 6-6, but we were about half a quarter of football away from being undefeated.

We are also equally that far away from being 2-8.

And that puts us right where we belong -- at .500.

And, ladies and gentlemen, there is just nothing more depressing than mediocrity.

Because, you know, you COULD be great,'re not.

And you could be the biggest effing pile of shit you've ever seen,'re not that, either.

You're right smack-dab in the damn middle, and the worst part is--you look at all these players we've got, at the season Jimmy and Golden and Armando, and McCarthy and Te'o, have had despite the way the games have gone, and you look at how experienced our O-line is (or is supposed to be), and you think to yourself-- WHAT THE HELL? Why not a BCS year? Why and how and when did Notre Dame fall so far as to be practically irrelevant except for our history, our TV contract, and our widespread (and totally BALLER) fan base?

And I'm not sad to see Charlie go, in a sense, but I am despondent. I am afraid that we will have another five years and more of the same and I just can't help feeling like I'll be skeptical for the next three seasons until something's proven again.

Plus with all the wild speculation about Jimmy and Golden leaving, and knowing Crist isn't really going to be healthy until the start of next season, and wondering who the hell is going to coach our defense and with Mama Kyle departing.... It is time for a change but I am not necessarily glad and I am not necessarily confident that we will go where we want to go.

Swarbrick seems to know what he wants and he certainly acts like he knows what he's doing and there is every possibility that he looked at next year's schedule and said, "What the hell, why NOT Western Michigan?" because he knew he'd be getting a new head coach long before it seemed Charlie's time was truly up, and he thought he might as well pave an easy road for next year's newbie at the helm. I mean, I'd hate to think that's true, but also in a twisted way it would give me more respect for the whole BS Western Michigan decision if it WERE true. It's all useless speculation of course, and based on absolutely nothing...

Don't mind me, really; like I said, I'm despondent.

So. Just thought I'd drivel on with those thoughts for a while. I have some other things to say about the last two games, which I figure I'll cover some time between now and when we figure out whether or not we're going to a bowl game, and whether or not that bowl game is (most depressing of all possible outcomes) in Detroit. Hopefully the next time I blather on about ND football I'll have something more cohesive and useful to say. But for now, I'm just another member of the bleeding hearts club.

Which is unfortunate, because all season long here I was thinking that it was my spleen that wouldn't survive the season intact.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Oh, no. not again.

Pittsburgh 27, Notre Dame 22

"Curiously, the only thing that the bowl of petunias thought as it fell was, 'Oh no, not again.' Many have argued that if we knew why the bowl of petunias thought this, we should have a better understanding of the universe than we do now." --The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy

Bowl of Petunias

You can't deny it. That's EXACTLY what we are. We are like that bowl of petunias from the Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, watching our team plummet into the fourth quarter, trying to scrape together a win again and again and again. And on the sideline is the team, having a lot of thoughts just like the whale, trying to make things happen.

And sometimes the whale splashes into the sea and swims cheerfully off into next week's game.

And sometimes it slams head-first into the ground.

Either way, I can bet you the only thing the fans are thinking is, Oh no. Not again.

(If you have no idea what I'm talking about, just don't...don't even worry about it.)

I've calculated your chance of survival, but I don't think you'll like it.
--Marvin the Robot

So.......I think this quote pretty much sums up Charlie's job situation right now.

Which is too bad, really, because it's just another distraction the team / coaching staff DOESN'T need if they want to avoid another disgusting 6-6 end to a season.

Not that I'm suggesting we're going to lose to UConn. I'm just saying that the rest of the season looks pretty bleak when you consider that our offense didn't bother to show up for the first half of the last game, Michael Floyd still looks as rusty as an old man's pickup truck, and Stanford just scored more points against USC than ANY TEAM EVER.

Have I been to this planet before? ...I HAVE been here before!

I think we've been on this planet all season long. This can't-get-it-done-til-the-
last-second planet. And, even then, we can only really accomplish the getting-it-together business against teams that aren't very good. You could make an argument for Boston College, I guess--but really, who wants to think about Boston College right now?

It's too bad our offense and defense can't show up for the same quarter. In the first half, that would've been...really helpful.

So. This is basically the same stuff we've seen all season long: 65% passing from Jimmy, 5.5 ypc for Armando Allen, 100+ yards receiving and 2 TDs for Golden Tate, and very little offensive production until the fourth quarter. The defense did enough to enable the offense to win. And this week, for the fourth time, we came up short.

At this point in the season, I'm gonna have to say: this is just the team we've got. I'm going to keep hoping for a really miraculous transformation in the sunshine in California,'s the end of the season. Everyone's got to be worn out by now, and I feel like all the major problems we have aren't things you can fix in a one- or two-week stint. When you don't show up for all four quarters of a football game...when your veteran O-line gets penalized week after week...when you can't buckle down and make things happen except in the clutch.... I don't know, maybe it's just me, but that sort of screams lack of discipline and fundamentals, doesn't it? And if they don't have those by now, it ain't gonna never happen.

Not this season anyway.

42 23
--The answer to the Ultimate Question of Life, the Universe, and Everything

For the purposes of our team, the answer to the Ultimate Question is Golden Tate.

The kid absolutely will not quit, no matter what the odds. Not even when the Vogons have destroyed our planet and we've been tooling around the galaxy with the idiot who signed the orders.

Also, I'm pretty sure that pretty much every Irish fan in existence zapped Golden Tate with the Point of View gun, because general consensus before/during/after the game seemed to be that it had been way too freaking long since ND ran a punt back for a touchdown, and somebody needed to do something about it.

So thank YOU, Golden, for making it happen.

Infinite Improbability Drive

Odds Charlie will be back next season?

Odds the Irish will score 55 points against Stanford?

Odds Zach Frazer will show the Irish a thing or two about quarterbacking?

...............I don't even want to know.

I don't have a lot of words this week. At this point in the season, there's very little left to say.

Only two weeks of football left... I'm just taking it one day at a time. (Too bad there's no patch on the market for football withdrawal.)


Sunday, November 8, 2009


Navy 23, Notre Dame 21

Note: I am not nearly as rational and collected as this note makes me sound. If indeed it makes me sound like either of these things.

EXPLETIVE — EXPLETIVE — EXPLETIVE — irrational bout of self-loathing —


So, Irish fans, if you’re like me, you had yourself convinced that the spirit-crushing triple overtime debacle of 2007 was nothing more than a hideous byproduct of the tradition-shredding, nightmare-inducing 3-9 death spiral of horror, and that last year’s unnecessarily close game in Baltimore was proof that we would go right on beating Navy for another 43 years without a hiccup.

Guess what? We were wrong! Ha!

Apparently now this game is just like any other, and the biggest weapon we had going up against the Naval Academy—the solid and unwavering conviction that, no matter the odds, we were going to win and both squads knew it—is poof! Gone. Out of existence. No longer a factor. Navy knows it’s an even spread now.

But apparently the Irish didn’t.


Listed above are the three states of emotion I had from the end of the first quarter until the end of this game.

The first part of the first quarter was all roses and sunshine and feeling fluffy, bunny-shaped torrents of glee at the sight of Michael Floyd running around in full uniform catching the ball again. It was apparent even on the TV broadcast that all the Irish fans in the stadium were feeling giddy about this too, and were consequently way too distracted by endorphins to notice that the football game was going to shit until we reached halftime down 14-0.

Or perhaps until Nick Tausch missed that first field goal. That, too, was a pretty good indicator that whatever luck was hanging over the stadium on Saturday was not there to swing things our way.

I wasn’t miffed at Tausch for missing that first field goal. It was a long one, and at an angle.

The second one, though, was all in his head, and THAT was not okay.

It became even more not okay later when we were fighting for our lives in the fourth quarter, but then of course you can’t blame Nick Tausch for losing this game. Not...really.

For those of you NOT watching at home….

…allow me to give you a darling recap of the ENTIRE COMMENTARY OF THE GAME:

Announcer 1: Man, these Navy kids play so hard! Golly, they’re just so disciplined! They really just play harder than hard for this game! You’ve got to admire the way they play so hard!

Announcer 2: You know, I think it’s the way Navy plays hard that’s really impressive! I mean, just look at the size of these guys—they’re smaller than the Notre Dame guys! I mean, would you just look at this weight comparison chart? Gee whiz, I can’t get over how they weigh less than the Notre Dame guys! And yet they play so hard! They really make up for that weight difference by playing hard!!!


Announcer 1: Let’s look at some statistics from the first half. Man, you know what, I just don’t think these numbers reflect how hard those Navy guys have been playing!

Announcer 2: No kidding! I mean, just look at their coach—he really gets them to play hard! I mean, Notre Dame, they’ve got some good players. That Jimmy kid, he’s a tough guy. But look how hard those Navy guys have been playing!!!!!!!!

Announcer 1: I KNOW! I don’t think anyone understands HOW HARD those Navy guys play!!!!!!!

(During a commercial break….)

Announcer 2: Do you think anyone’s noticed that we ran out of things to say about this game after the first quarter?

Announcer 1: No way! We’ve been commentating Notre Dame football forever. All we have to do is keep mentioning the past so people know that we know what we’re talking about.

Announcer 2: Good point! When we get back from commercial, let’s mention that 2007 overtime loss again!

So, you know, if you were actually AT the game and you thought it was bad…oh trust me, it was worse watching it at home. I mean, occasionally the commentators would spew out player names and tell you what down it was, but for the most part they were completely useless. I kept the game on mute for pretty much the entirety of the fourth quarter.

So WTF happened out there?

You know, after a lot of deep soul-searching and original, innovative thought, I have come to the conclusion that perhaps we didn’t play hard enough.

Or, perhaps, that the Navy guys played harder.

But that’s just idle, unfounded musings…pay no attention to the lightness of my thoughts or the glimmering postulations of my being.

I think, perhaps, what really sunk us was our (team’s) conviction that we were going to win. We were playing Navy, for goodness’ sake, and we’ve spent almost this entire season winning (or losing) games in the final minutes of the fourth quarter. I don’t think the team ever got worried enough, because I don’t think they truly believed they would fail to pull it out.

But Navy did.

Navy (I think) had two weeks to prepare for this game. Navy has seen us win games in the fourth quarter all season long. Navy knew what to prepare for.

And Navy won the last time they came to Notre Dame Stadium.

I think our pride worked against us, in the same way it worked against us in the USC game. Only for the USC game—we had two weeks to prepare, we respected our opponent more, and we put in the kind of effort to try to beat them that Navy put in to beat us. (Though you might argue that Navy played even harder.)

That’s really what I think it is—I think we came back from San Antonio and our arrogance bit us in the butt. Michael Floyd came off the bench and we convinced ourselves we would be unstoppable. Jimmy came out at the end and readied himself to play Superman again—the savior of the fourth-quarter deficit. But Navy was ready for us. Navy was not tired, Navy did not quit, and Navy’s secondary--somehow--made two of the best receivers in all of college football miss.

Sometimes it was pressure on the quarterback. There were a lot of tipped passes toward the end of the game. But mostly it was just good coverage—damn good coverage. The kind of coverage that usually Golden Tate and Michael Floyd are able to wrap their hands around and beat. But apparently not against Navy—not against a team that wanted this game so bad the announcers could talk about nothing else.

Make no mistake: our offense didn’t choke this one up. The Navy defense beat us.

They beat our receivers. They beat our O-line. They beat up on our quarterback so hard he lost the ball and a scoring chance and convinced most everyone that Evan Sharpley was going to have to try to win this game.

Which, if you remembered the last time Evan Sharpley started against Navy, did not exactly bring warm fuzzy feelings to the cockles of your frazzled heart.

I was also concerned about the play of Michael Floyd. Especially in the fourth quarter, Jimmy gravitated toward his favorite target, and Floyd did not quite come through in the clutch. Was it the defenders? Was it fear of ripping the ball down too hard and injuring his collarbone again? Or was his head just not all the way in the game because he’s been out for seven weeks, and he is—dare I say it—a little rusty?

That interception was just bizarre. What was Floyd doing on that play? It looked almost like he was trying to block the defender, as though it was some sort of run play or something—and then he couldn’t turn around fast enough to even see the ball that was flying in his direction, and it bounced off his back and a Navy guy caught it—and now Jimmy’s 3-for-3 on interceptions that weren’t his fault.

Those Navy guys swarmed to the ball like we did against Boston College. It was a little terrifying. And unexpected—we’ve been so good at ball control this season.

But once again, I maintain that we partially beat ourselves in this game by having too much faith in our ability to win in the clutch. We HAVE to start playing in the first and second quarters like we do in the fourth. Which is easy to say but harder to do, considering how much more tired the defenses are in the fourth quarter.

The Navy game is proof, just like the USC game was—you cannot count upon your ability to make it happen in the fourth quarter. You cannot. You have to play 100% of the football game—play like it’s the fourth quarter all the time.

Navy did. We didn’t.

The Red Zone is Not Our Friend

I think if Charlie calls a pitch play on a first-and-goal one more time I’m going to have a seizure. “Oh, sure, we’re two yards away from the endzone, let’s toss the ball BACK five yards, the defense won’t have any time to adjust to THAT before our player gets close to the goal line!”


I don’t know what it is. I don’t know WHY our team can’t score from less than 20 yards out. It is not only pathetic but alarming.

Granted, in this game, especially toward the end, turnovers were our biggest obstacle to getting in the endzone.

But even so…it’s not as though it’s just this game, and just against this clawing, persistent Navy defense that we’ve failed to come through from scoring territory. It’s every game this season. It’s one thing to come away from a possession without scoring—it’s quite another to come away from the red zone five, six times a game with a field goal or less.

How consistent we are in this deficiency. Oh goody! Consistency!


Struggled against the triple option, more than they did last year. Came through in the fourth quarter once again when our offense needed some desperate chances to score. Disappointed at that huge pass they gave up—but when a team is running and running and running the ball all game, how much can you really prepare for that? I mean, I guess you can cuss at our secondary if you like, seeing as we’ve been giving up deep balls all season long—but really, when you’re holding a team like Navy to three TDs in a game, and almost equal time of possession through the first half…

There were plenty of things I would have liked to see the defense do a little better, but really, against this style of offense, you’re going to be on your heels most of the time trying to figure out where the ball’s going. And the Navy quarterback played his system very well. The one thing I might’ve asked for more is a turnover. That’s what our offense really needed our defense to do—and granted, our defense is a lot better at interceptions than forced fumbles, and it’s hard to pop the ball out of the hands of the disciplined players you’ll find at the Naval Academy….but it would’ve been nice.

Even so, I don’t think our defense lost this game. I think the Navy defense won this game. Even though our offense (and our special teams with those onside kicks) tried really hard at the end to make the Navy D's effort fall short.

So…Pittsburgh next week

Let’s hope this week was a wake-up call. We’re going to have to play a little tougher and a little harder in every quarter from here on out if we have any hope of being the kind of team we want to be next year.

I don’t know how the Irish nation / the team is feeling in general after that game, but I maintain that the players have their standards set high for next season. And at the moment they’re slipping away from the pinnacle they’re trying to achieve. And I anticipate that the pollsters will rightly punish them for it, and that even a win against Pitt—unless it is a solid throwdown of a win—frankly isn’t going to help us much.

So unless we’re throwing up 40 points this week and we demolish UConn and Stanford, we can pretty much say good-bye to any bowl game higher than the Gator.

Although you never know. Those bowl scouts—they’re a funny bunch of squirrels, and they think mostly in profit margins. So if they think ND fans will come out in droves to see us play, for example, in the Cotton Bowl, we could easily end up in a place we don’t belong.

We could also easily start playing like it’s a place we DO belong, but after last weekend I’m a little too heartsore to be feeling very optimistic about our chances of winning the kind of bowl game that has any weight to it at all.

Lou always says “it’s a different team every week”—and we can assume the man knows what he’s talking about. So I expect this week’s team to be a far cry (in the RIGHT direction) from the team that just lost to Navy. (It’s like a twilight zone, typing those words, but I have to do it to convince myself that it’s not just a hallucination, and to adjust myself to the new paradigm of thought that must exist in order for Irish fans to accept that we are, in fact, now living in a world in which our football team may occasionally lose to Navy.)

Anyway. Looking ahead….

We’re going to get more chances to score against Pitt, because Pitt isn’t running the triple option and (hopefully) our run defense will be as staunch as it was against USC so that they can’t chew exorbitant amounts of time off the clock. We’re also going to play better against Pitt as a whole, because we just got smacked in the face by Navy. (Or, conversely, we’re going to play like hell against Pitt, but I personally have full confidence in this squad—unlike previous squads—to bounce the f*** back when they’re down.)

But I haven’t actually looked to see how good Pitt is compared to their ranking (#9? They're probably quite good), soooo…let’s just wait it out til Saturday night and see how this shit goes down.


Monday, November 2, 2009


Notre Dame 40, Washington State 14

The Irish spent Saturday night strolling down the colorful lanes of Candyland, stuffing their pockets with bonbons and lollipops and ice cream floats and tossing their opponents into the Molasses Swamp.

Appropriate, considering it was Halloween, and the Irish are 15-0 in games played on the 31st of October.

Rumbling Through the Gumdrop Mountains

Is it just me, or did the Washington State defense make our running attack look particularly spectacular last weekend? It's pretty hard to say boo to 255 yards rushing and 5.3 yards per carry. Robert Huuuuuuughes racked up 131 yards on the ground (as well as 51 through the air) and 1 TD, more than making up for the absence of injured lead running back Armando Allen. There is absolutely nothing that is not fun about watching your lead runner consistently pound it into traffic and knock three guys over at once while lunging for first downs. The WSU defense might have been a bunch of squidgy, sugar-coated gumdrops for all the difference it made to our runners.

But gumdrops are an exceedingly appropriate metaphor, seeing as they do occasionally glob onto you if you don't watch out. Case in point: the speedy, scrappy play of Theo Riddick (right), who on more than one occasion looked like he was going to make a break for the endzone, only to get tripped up by his shoestrings. You have to give credit to the WSU defense for that, at least--Theo's the fastest guy on the team, and if WSU didn't manage to stuff the run, at least they managed to stop our runners from churning up more than 20 yards at a time. But Theo was pretty sweet to watch nevertheless, and what I loved most about him was the passion he brought to the game--almost every time he was downed, he pounded the ball to the ground as if to say, "Damn! I shoulda had more."

Which is more or less exactly the attitude you want every single player on your team to have, if you expect to go forth and win any games at all.

So, props to you, Irish rushing attack. Not only did you pound it to the WSU defense all day long, you helped us rack up massive amounts of time on the clock, leading the Irish to win the time of possession battle in fine fashion, 40:54 to Washington State's 19:06. (And this week, winning the time of possession actually meant something.)

Soaring Over the Rainbow Trail

And by that, I mean Golden Tate.

So, if you're like me and you just can't get enough of Golden Tate's spectacular Hail Mary touchdown grab in between the hands of three Washington State's a little highlight clip for you.

Also in this clip is Charlie Weis's other pick for "play of the game"--the mad dash by Mike Ragone to stop a WSU player for returning our blocked punt for a score, which also deserves a ROY G. BIV nod of recognition.

Every week, there is more to say about Golden Tate. The man is absolutely unstoppable. He does it through the air. He does it on the ground. (He waves his hand around a lot and catches things on special teams.) Because it's not enough to have four grabs for 80 yards and 1 receiving touchdown. It's not enough to have 61 yards on the ground (including the longest run of the game, at 33 yards) and 1 rushing touchdown. Golden Tate must also have the absolute greatest stat of the game--which was that after the first half, he had more all-purpose yards by himself than the entire WSU offense combined.

Tate is currently #3 in the country in receiving yards with 927, sandwiched in between players from the apparently juggernaut offenses of Bowling Green, Hawaii (#1 and #2 in receiving yards) and Toledo (both the #3 and #4 receivers in terms of yardage play for the Rockets). Unranked teams in Ohio apparently have killer pass offenses this year...who knew?

And Golden Tate wasn't even the #1 receiver on our team this week (in # of receptions). That distinction goes to Kyle Rudolph--apparently Coach Weis remembered he could catch the ball and decided to actually throw it to him this week. Six catches for 59 yards and a tidy little collection of first complaints there. Though of course it seemed like every time Kyle Rudolph had a really big play, it got called back on a penalty. Speaking of which...

Our Very own Molasses Swamp

Six penalties on offense is far too many. And two completely unnecessary personal fouls on Eric Olsen that negated two really spectacular plays? Inexcusable. Olsen's a senior. It's way too late in the game for this kind of nonsense. (You know what, Eric, you better just sit there for a while and wait until I draw a red card.)

The penalties were our only really reprehensible aspect of play in this game, I thought--that and our continuing failure to make it to the endzone after we reach the red zone. Come on, guys, seriously? We can throw 50-yard touchdown bombs to end the second half but we can't run it in from the 11?

Although I guess it is nice to say that our current kicker now holds the record for the most successive field goals made by an ND player, with 14 in a row. (Which just goes to show you how much of a priority special teams have NOT been for the Irish for, oh, pretty much forever.)

Chucking it over the Gingerbread Plum Tree

But let's not let the minor frustrations of our offense overshadow the exemplary play of our gunslingers, who both, in addition to throwing beautiful touchdown passes, also apparently have the special ability to become injured by having other people fall on them. (You know, Dayne, you don't really HAVE to follow in Jimmy's footsteps, that's...just an expression...)

That horrifying (and simultaenously brain-scratching--seriously, did YOU remember Evan Sharpley was still on the team?) moment aside, however, Dayne Crist gave us a glimpse of why he was such a highly-rated recruit, and what we can expect to see from him in the future:

As the announcers point out in the video, Crist didn't have a stellar day; only 2-of-6 for passing and then that injury...but his only significant playing time in the past two seasons was during this year's Purdue game, and as I recall it there were an awful lot of Wildcat plays called in that game. So give it another year or so, throw in some more playing experience (fingers crossed for some nice, easy fourth quarters next season) and a chance for him to catch up to the college game speed...and I'd say we have another solid passer on our hands.

Speaking of which, JimmayJimmayJimmay once again proved why he's the #2 (not #1 yet? durn) college passer in America, finishing with 22-of-27 passing (good for an 81% completion rate), 258 yards, and 2 TDs by the end of the third quarter. Not too shabby.

As I understand it, there have been a lot of rumors flying around about whether dear Jimbo's going to declare for the draft after the end of this season.

To which I say: damn fool move if he does.

But I don't think he will. I am of the opinion that Jimmy wanted to play college ball--and wanted to play at Notre Dame--for a few different reasons:
1) He wanted to start all four years.
2) He wanted to win the Heisman Trophy.
3) He wanted to win a national championship.

And he's not going to accomplish any of those this year, so I highly anticipate his return next season.

(If you don't believe me, I present to you Darius Walker & Declaring Early for the Draft: A Cautionary Tale. D-Walk, despite his obvious talent and good looks, has now been on the practice squads of 3 different NFL teams, most recently the Denver Broncos. Not exactly a superstar career so far.)

I personally, despite my enduring disdain for Jimmy Clausen, would advise him to go nowhere. (Especially, you know, if Dayne Crist is seriously injured.)

Knocking over the Crooked Old Peanut Brittle House
aka This is the story of how the Notre Dame defense lit up the field ALL--NIGHT--LONG.

I have to say, the first time the Notre Dame defense went out there and failed to force a three-and-out, I was disappointed.

But that was on WSU's fourth possession, so really, who am I to complain?

There is absolutely nothing but sweet, crunchy, peanut brittle-y goodness when it comes to the defensive play on Saturday. Sure, there were some weak patches--once when our starting secondary got beat for a TD reception to WSU's Jared Karstetter, and then after our second-string came out, missed a few tackles, and gave up another TD pass to Karstetter.

But other than that, our secondary did a pretty good job of disrupting WSU's passing game--freshman QB Jeff Tuel, who passed for 354 yards and 2 TDs against Cal, was 12-of-24 passing for 104 yards. WSU's leading receiver had 3 catches for 27 yards.

Looks to me like the WSU receivers got whacked with some pretty big sticks of peanut brittle.

In other crunchy, tasty news, our defense recorded 10 tackles for loss, 3 pass break-ups, 2 interceptions, and 5 sacks.

The rest of the defense has also decided to continue the trend of proving they can tackle as well as Kyle McCarthy. McCarthy tied for second this week in total tackles, along with Jamoris Slaughter. Both Slaughter (who, by the way, has one of my all-time favorite football player names--right up there with Golden H. Tate III, Booger McFarland, Justin White-Frisbee, and Peerless Price) and McCarthy finished with 3 solo and 1 assists in tackles, behind Kapron Lewis-Moore, who had 5 total tackles.

The best news, though, is that twenty-four of Notre Dame's players recorded tackles this week, and half of them came away with more than one tackle. Which just goes to show you that our defense knows how to play like a unit after all.

My absolute favorite defensive picture of the week has to be the one of Brian Smith (above) bearing down on Tuel from above like a sheet of flying shrapnel (good for abrasions, contusions, and incomplete passes!).

Ice Cream Floats

That's what it feels like to be on the other side of this we're floating on a big, creamy, dreamy lake of--

Oh wait we're playing the triple option this week against a 6-3 Navy squad that apparently has a defense this year. Shit.

So let's just rewind to the end of this game, shall we? And stay there and celebrate with Sergio Brown for a while....

I'm not sure what's better in this picture...the aerodynamics of Sergio Brown or Golden Tate's face.

Also, if you're like me and just can't get enough of embedded video, here is a very nice highlight reel of the game, complete with intense rock song overlay. (I advise you to watch Michael Floyd's face when Charlie Weis is telling off the offense for having too many penalties, at around the 1:35 mark in the video. Even when that kid's not in the game, he is INTENSE.) Also I highly advise you to overlook the fact that this video oversteps the boundaries of the rest of this post. Or at least it does on my computer. (I'm considering a change to a new blog template, but I'm just too lazy to do anything about it right now.)

Thus concludes our stroll through Candyland.


P.S. Did anyone else notice that this game was being sponsored by the U.S. Navy? Gotta love that Navy. So classy.

Also, for those of you not watching the game at home, here is a little recap of the advertisements put out this week by Washington State University and the University of Notre Dame (paraphrased):

WSU: Guess what? We save sea otters!

ND: Oh yeah? Well we refashioned the government of Chile into a DEMOCRACY! What now? Bring it! *manly chest thump*

Tuesday, October 27, 2009


Notre Dame 20, Boston College 16

They're fast....

They're bold...

They're high-flying -- they're odds-defying --

They're heart-stopping -- they're eye-popping --

They're *Golden*....

They're the

(Coming this fall to a stadium near you!)

Come see the team that conquered oceans, slaughtered water parks, and grappled the gridiron to wrest a pineapple trophy (and the nation's top linebacking prospect) from its manxome foe in the exotic kingdom of Hawai'i!

Come view the vortex of victory that vilified the voracious villains of Sparta, vanquishing their vile view that our venue was their vacation villa!

Come marvel over the Golden victory-Smiths who snatched glory out of thin air to swat away their .500 record against a stinging, pestering, festering foe!

Let us bow our heads in remembrance of the team that broke the 42-game win streak against our noble comrades from the Naval Academy...let us not forget the sorrow of Senior Day against Syracuse...let us lament the tears of our laconic leader following our loss to the lowbrow lugs of Los Angeles...

For the STREAK-BREAKERS are but a fledgling company, and they have many yards to cover before they can return true Glory to our trophy cases...

Hail to the Interceptors

So. Five turnovers isn't a bad way to go about winning a game. Especially when three of those came in the form of interceptions--two of them courtesy of the unstoppable inferno of testosterone that is Kyle McCarthy, and the game-winner courtesy of the barreling bone-crusher that is Brian Smith. Those three interceptions suggest that our pass-rush isn't just a whim of wishful thinking. The two forced fumbles (by a back who hadn't lost the ball in his last 356 carries) suggests that our fundamentals have upped the ante not only with tackling, but with stripping the ball.

The successful conversion of a 4th-and-17 by our opponent suggests that members of our secondary ought to go home and rethink their lives.

BC came into this game ranked 106th in passing offense, averaging 117 yards per game, and left Notre Dame Stadium with 279 yards through the air, including 10 passes of 20 yards or more.

It's great that our run defense is doing so well and all, but forcing teams to take to the air really only works in your favor if your secondary doesn't keep coughing up huge plays.

Giving up the big play has been a struggle for our defense all season long, but it does seem like our defense has improved a little bit in every game this season. We've tightened up our run defense. We've improved our fundamentals in tackling. We've given Manti Te'o more playing time. We've made some strides in our pass rush. We've forced some turnovers. We've managed to win more than one game because of our defensive play.

And now, for only the second time all season, we managed to hold our opponent to less than 20 points.

Horrific 4th-and-17 conversions aside, our defense pretty much gift-wrapped this game for our offense. They handed them five possessions to rack up the score against Boston College.

But apparently the defense used double-sided tape and superglue to gift-wrap the game, because the offense absolutely could not rip it open--even though, presumably, they were trying.

Pass on

This game was (technically) won through the air by both sides of the ball. 128 receiving yards and 2 touchdown passes for Golden Tate. Passes to 6 different receivers and a 66.6% completion rate for Jimmy Clausen. (Also, you know, over 100 yards on the ground for Armando Allen and some halfway decent clock control to win the time of possession battle.) According to, Jimmy and Golden are now the top QB-WR duo in the nation.

It seems astounding that this can be the case when it felt like the offense was trying really hard to lose for most of the game.

A safety in the first quarter?

Failure to convert a 4th-and-1 on the goal line?

Less passing yards for JimmayJimmayJimmay than for Old Fogey Freshman QB Dave Shinskie?

Five turnovers and only ONE of them was converted into any kind of points at all?

I don't know what to think about this. Is our offense just hungover from the loss to USC? (The players claim they're not, but, you know, sometimes they lie.) Did the injury of Robby Parris hurt us that much? Was Charlie a complete dumbass for calling that Wildcat play on the goal line instead of just QB sneaking it? (I suppose that's debatable. We all know how I feel about the Wildcat. But that prejudice aside--when you're direct-snapping it to Robert Hughes, you're not fooling anybody. I am not at all surprised that BC's defense picked up on that play and managed to stuff us. However, despite my disdain for the Wildcat, I do expect better things out of our O-line at this point. Also, it is difficult to argue against the decision to give the ball to Robert Hughes in a situation like that, particularly when you think about the absolutely absurd 2-point conversion he made against Washington.)

Some credit is due to the Boston College defense, I suppose, but frankly any offense that can rack up 27 points and several touchdown passes against USC's defense shouldn't be having fits and starts and failures against opponents like BC. I don't want to criticize Charlie's "dink and dunk" strategy here, because I am such a fan of the short passes. Also I think it's good for Charlie to force Jimmy to rein himself in before he turns into another Rex Grossman, whose entire strategy in life seems to be, "F*** it, I'm throwing the ball downfield."

Perhaps the biggest problem we encountered with the "dink and dunk" strategy was that most of our receivers didn't do very well after the catch. You get the ball in Golden Tate's hands, and he will rack you up some extra yards. But this is not necessarily true for most of our other receivers, and if you're throwing short passes all day long, you really NEED your receivers to step up and make those after-the-catch plays, because the secondary is going to be swarming all over them like a pack of evil invading ladybugs. Robby Parris has gotten better at after-the-catch plays this season, but unfortunately he was out for most of the game. Duval Kamara did a decent job as the #2 receiver, averaging 8 yards per catch, but his longest gain was only 12 yards. And overall our offensive strategy didn't seem to work that well, considering over half of our drives didn't even make it past the fifty-yard line.

I suppose you could argue that we've improved our production in the red zone, because only once did we get inside the twenty and fail to score. I mean, that's some sort of improvement. Or something.

But...come on, seriously? FIVE turnovers and all we walk away with is one lousy field goal? That's almost as bad as making it to the red zone five times and coming away without a single touchdown. Or maybe it's worse. I really can't decide.

All I know is we need Michael Floyd the way diabetics need insulin. It shouldn't be this way, not when Jimmy and Golden and Armando are all playing so well--but without him, it seems like our offense just isn't working quite right. I don't care what kind of rankings the Rivals people are giving our QB--we should be racking up five touchdowns against teams like BC. And we're not. So something needs fixing--STAT.

For ND

On the flip side of that...isn't it exciting that we've gotten to this place again? This, "damn our QB threw for a couple hundred yards with a 66% completion rate and our top receiver & RB had 100+ yard days--this is so PATHETIC, why aren't we doing BETTER?" place. We're almost back where Weis started, at "9-3 is not good enough." Because, for this team, 9-3 is NOT good enough. We're still only seconds (and one overtime) away from being undefeated. We're still breaking streaks. We're still finding ways to win.

And we are nowhere near reaching our potential.

So COME ON, Coach Weis. COME ON, team. We are this close--THIS CLOSE to being a great team again. I don't know what it's going to take--I don't know what we have to do--but someone has to do SOMETHING to find that switch that will just TURN--US--ON.

I know that we've got it in us somewhere. I KNOW we've got the ability to play in every game the way we played in the Hawaii Bowl. And I keep thinking--maybe this week, maybe THIS week, maybe NOW we'll break out and make it happen. Maybe maybe maybe. Waiting waiting waiting.

We are sitting on this enormous effing geyser of potential and it JUST -- NEEDS -- TO -- E -- RUPT.

It's almost enough to make you want to strangle something. Possibly a giant stuffed animal in the shape of a cougar. (I mean, I wouldn't want to hurt a real animal.)

AD's Aweigh

So, in other news, let me just take a moment to vilify our Athletic Director.

Dear Mr. Swarbrick,


Look, I know you've got it in your head that all Notre Dame fans are all crazy-asses who want to be playing Top-10 teams every single week, every single season from now until forever, but that's just not true. We're not complete masochists. No one wants us to play, I don't know, Michigan followed by USC followed by Texas followed by TCU followed by Ohio State followed by Florida followed by Alabama followed by Boise State followed by Oregon followed by Iowa followed by Navy followed by LSU. I mean, maybe I'd put that kind of schedule together on NCAA Football just for shits and giggles. And I'm not saying it wouldn't be totally badass to see all of those teams on our schedule at some point. But all of them on the same schedule? Right in a row? We would die. Any team would die. Everyone would be injured by the end of the season. It would be worse than playing in the SEC. And no one actually wants that. (You know, unless our team magically transformed into the best team in the entire history of college football and kicked the crap out of all those other teams. But that's called "fantasy land," and contrary to popular belief, Notre Dame fans do not actually live there.)

What we DO want--and what you currently seem to be failing to grasp--is to at least have a STRONG schedule every season. Regardless of the ability of our team to compete for a national championship every single year, we do expect to have a schedule every single year that would actually allow us to be considered for a berth in the national championship. And seeing as we're an independent and all--you may have noticed--we are actually free to schedule games with ANY SCHOOL IN THE COUNTRY, so the fact that you are wasting perfectly good game slots on schools like Tulsa and Western Michigan kind of breaks my brain. You want to extend the Purdue series to 2021? Fine. There's a history there. You want to give us opponents like Nevada to open the season and opponents like UConn for Senior Day? Sure. Whatever.

But how the hell is our team supposed to be ready for an away game at USC when the five games leading up to it are WMU, Navy, Tulsa, Utah, and Army? With any kind of luck, ONE of those teams might be ranked by the time we face them. And I know most of our O-line is leaving next year and all, but you know, I'm pretty sure Jimmy signed up to win a national championship. And I just don't see how that schedule is going to help us make any kind of case for a national championship at all. And how the hell are we supposed to ever get any ND team in shape for a national championship game again if we don't give them a proper lineup of opponents to battle with? Even if, hypothetically, we play like geniuses next season and steamroller over every single opponent 56-0 on our way out to California to clash with USC...even if we snap the streak against the Trojans and pull out the regular season undefeated for the first time in FOR-FREAKING-EVER...even if such a glorious and unlikely thing does happen...then we've still got to face some powerhouse team in the national championship game, probably from the SEC or the Big 12, and...we just won't be conditioned for it. You simply cannot come out of a schedule like ours prepared to face an opponent that's managed to survive the gory bloodbath that is the SEC. I mean, helloooo, did you watch Notre Dame play in the Sugar Bowl?

Whether you choose to acknowledge it or not, you are setting us up to lose.

And that--that is despicable.

If you ever stoop so low as to schedule a I-AA team (or whatever the hell it is they're calling them these days), I will be sending an actual letter to your actual office that will probably qualify as actual hate mail. And it will be interesting to see whether the alumni actually let you keep your job.

Love, Me

Onward to Victory

The 25th-ranked Irish (#23 in the BCS rankings!) are headed out to sunny San Antonio this week to play unranked Washington State (1-6).

If there was ever a time to lay a smackdown on an opponent...that time is now. Washington State's closest game of the season was their 30-27 victory over SMU. Their closest loss was a 14-27 decision against Arizona State. Most of their games have been total blowout losses, and there's no reason the Irish shouldn't be able to blow the game wide open against them, too. It won't necessarily be a cupcake game, but there's no reason we shouldn't walk out of the Alamodome with a solid, convincing victory on our hands.

We're facing another true freshman QB this week, Jeff Tuel, and he just put up 2 TDs and 354 yards through the air against Cal -- his best performance of the season and the best by a Cougar freshman since Drew Bledsoe in 1990. Our secondary better watch out, or Washington State could make this game way closer than it needs to be.

However, it looks like most of Washington State's weaknesses are things our team can exploit:

-Our offense needs to score often and early. WSU has been wildly outscored by its opponents in the first quarter this season, 112-3. There's no reason we shouldn't be able to do the same.

-Their run defense has been described as "non-existent." They gave up 309 yards on the ground to Cal; the Bears averaged 7.9 yards per carry. Should be a big day for Armando Allen, and I'm looking forward to seeing more production out of Robert Hughes, James Aldridge, and possibly even Golden Tate. (I strongly suspect Charlie of using the Wildcat formation during this game. I guess we'll see how it goes.)

-Their special teams (described as "a mess") gave up a 54-yard kickoff return and a 76-yard punt return against Cal. Let's hope Theo Riddick, Barry Gallup Jr., and Golden Tate all get some good blocks, because I'm hungry for a special teams touchdown. It's been quite a drought.

Now that we've got the Boston College monkey off our backs, hopefully this will be a good week for the team to refocus, get organized, and play a solid, dominant game.

After all, I expect nothing less from the STREAK-BREAKERS!!!!!!


Tuesday, October 20, 2009

I was going to post this last night but a skunk got in my way

USC 34, Notre Dame 27


That was.

On Waking up the Echoes, the ’77 Green Jersey game, and the Pain of Unfulfillment

So. All the buildup, all the momentum, all the confidence, all the cheering thousands seemed to fall nicely into place for this game. A Trojan horse was built for the pep rally. Rocket Ismail brought down the house (or…the sky, I guess, considering it was outside) with his “GO GET IT” speech. Eric Olsen shredded the words of the Observer staff writers who predicted a Notre Dame loss. Students attacked the campus sidewalks with chalk. Fans poured out to greet the Trojan buses. The team, looking more solid and more confident than I’ve seen them in a long time, appeared absolutely ready for this game. The crowd came out ready for a WIN. And until that clock hit 0:00 (TWICE), the team did not give up.

But there was no fourth-quarter miracle comeback this time.

The captains didn’t come pouring out of a Trojan horse on the field and the team didn’t don the green jerseys and we didn’t wake up the echoes of ’77, and our five billion visiting recruits didn’t get to see us knock off a top-10 team at home.

And that’s, you know, not okay, but that is that.

I’m glad we didn’t wear the green jerseys. This was a game that didn’t need green jerseys. This game was about proving something—proving we know how to win no matter the circumstances, the deficit, the color of our uniforms.

Which, you know, didn’t work out in the end, but all I’m saying is I think we had the right attitude in our approach to this game: that we are a team which needs no green jerseys to compete with USC.

ESPN will be saying all sorts of things about us, I’m sure, but I don’t care to listen to them. I don’t really care about their opinions or their two-bit analysis based on approximately 30 seconds of highlight reels. All the unimportant hype leading up to this game—the hype that had to do with Charlie’s job and Jimmy’s Heisman candidacy and blah blah blah rather than the hype that actually mattered, aka the efforts of the student body and the Irish nation in general to make sure the team felt their support—will be discussed ad nauseum, I’m sure.

The commentators were trying to say during the broadcast that this game will show whether Notre Dame can compete with Top-10 teams or not, whether they’re “back,” whether they’ve “arrived.”

But in this crazy-ass perpetual motion machine called life, we’ve never arrived; we’re always arriving. It doesn’t matter how good you are, or how good people think you are—every week you’ve got to go out and prove what you are. That’s college football. Every seven days, there’s a new world order.

So, okay, maybe we’re down this week. But we’ve got a lot of football left to play and a lot of things left to prove and if you think this season and this team and this quarterback and this coach are going to fall apart because of what happened Saturday, you are a damn fool.

This is not to say that I am not crushed.

This is just to say that I am still in one piece, and I believe the team is, too.

Did you see how excited USC was to win that game? We effed their shit up, and they know it.

It was not easy. We did not go down quietly. We made their defense give up things (like touchdown passes) that they haven’t given up all season. Once again, in the clutch, when all we needed was for our defense to do something miraculous, they came through. Once again, in the final seconds, we were still pounding at the door with a battering ram.

Only this time, the door did not break.

The Michigan game we lost despite our clear superiority of play. We lost because we couldn’t hold on to the damn ball long enough. We lost because our defense was not yet the SuperClutch Club (still only available in the 4th quarter & beyond).

This game we lost because…well, we just lost.

I’m not going to whine about the officials, although it is tempting. They did a piss-poor Pac-10 job as usual, failing to call flagrant face masks and making up for it later by throwing flags down on only vaguely apparent mishaps. I could also argue for Kyle Rudolph’s endzone grab to be an actual TD, but…well, apparently the rule book is against me and there’s really no point now. The officials did not win or lose this game. They even rightfully managed to give us one second back on the clock and one last chance for a miraculous Overtime Spree of Glory.

But it was not to be.

How can I say this? We got outplayed.

Not by a whole helluva lot sometimes, but, well, we did. Their front four tore holes in our O-line all day long. Our secondary struggled like Houdini in a straitjacket against the pass. Our special teams, I’m glad to say, were decent—but then that blocked PAT.

I guess people are going to try to say that our team got “exposed”—Jimmy got exposed, our offense got exposed, whatever. I mean, like I said I’m not going to pay attention to ESPN / the AP / sportswriters in general this week, so I don’t really know what they’re saying. Certainly the Heisman committee is going to take a few steps back from the Jimmy-hype, but then again I stopped caring what the Heisman committee thought after they gave the trophy to Troy Smith. I might look at the polls later, but I’m not expecting gossamer reviews there, either.

So. We faced a top-10 team, and we fell just short. I’m sure people are thinking, DAMMIT if we’d just kicked that field goal, and then gotten that PAT….

But I’m glad we didn’t kick that field goal. I’m glad Charlie went for it on fourth down. I’m pissed as hell that our O-line didn’t make it happen—there’s no excuse for that. I don’t care who we’re playing. I don’t care if it’s the New York f*ing Giants—you go out there and you get that yard like your ability to procreate depends on it.

However. If the team didn’t prove that it deserves to be shot up in the rankings and clawing for a spot in the Top 10 just yet, they did prove that the era of USC dominance is waning. Or so I think.

Here's a helpful graph from Her Loyal Sons to better display what I'm talking about:

On that last drive, we successfully chewed up four minutes on the clock and brought the game down to the very last second, with the ball in our hands and on our terms. (For the most part.) In the last two plays from scrimmage, though, we got outplayed. They knew we were going to pass, and the D-line banged up on our O-line like they’d been doing all day (though I don’t think, this season, the term “manhandled” is applicable) while the secondary stuck on our receivers like flypaper. That Rudolph almost-TD catch gets more and more painful every time I think about it.

Nevertheless, we were not defeated in this game until that final (final) second ran off the clock. And not once did the players look defeated until it was all done.

And that is everything. That says everything.

This team really, truly, without a doubt, thought they were going to win. Knew that they could win. And proved that they could. They will not stop fighting until the final whistle blows. And that, right there, is the mark of a real team.

There is a sort of strange numbness in me right now. I did not expect them to lose. Call me a delusional Notre Dame fan if you will, but I think the team proved on Saturday that beating Southern Cal is not a matter of delusional fantasies. It was a real and tangible possibility right up until that last play from scrimmage when time ran out on us.

Unlike the Michigan game, I’m not going to say we should have won. But unlike the last six years out of eight, it was not a matter of there-was-no-effing-way-we-could-have-won.

we’re in ur win/loss record, screwing up ur dynasty
..........aka let’s talk about recruiting

I didn’t keep my eyes on the TV to see if they showed the alma mater, or to see how the team/student section responded to the alma mater at the close of the game. I’d imagine there was a certain amount of frustration and despondency. But I do not expect that there was heartbreak. I don’t think this game should break the team and it shouldn’t break the fans, either. Heartbreak is 2005. Heartbreak is having the game sealed shut and then having victory snatched away from you.

We never had the lead in this game, so there was nothing to take away from us. Only something that we failed to earn.

And my hope is that this makes the team more pissed off and frustrated than defeated. Knowing we were inches away—knowing what we’re capable of—

We’d better go out there and pound it to those Backup College bums like the bunch of second-rate, mealy, yeast-filled lumps of pizza dough they are.

Or at least, that’s what we need to do. We need to stop being the team that makes clutch drives in the fourth quarter and start being a team that kicks so much ass there’s not even a need for a fourth quarter. How about 35-0 by the end of the third? That sounds like a good score to me. Let’s give Dayne Crist some more playing time. That sounds even better.

Anyway, getting around to the main reason I brought up the alma mater: this is one of the many things that impresses the hell out of recruits. Win or lose, the entire student body stays to the end and sings the alma mater with the team. That’s respect. That’s solidarity. That’s family.

That’s Notre Dame.

So…I think the loss will be a little bit of a blow to our recruiting chances. But with the way the fans were, with the way the team played to the end of the game, and with the kind of atmosphere you get from being at a Notre Dame game in general…I don’t think the day will be a total failure as far as recruiting goes. But time is quickly running out on Charlie’s ability to recruit in general.

Let’s backtrack for a moment on that.

I’ve been re-reading bits of Murray Sperber’s Shake Down the Thunder. He makes a good point that Notre Dame’s pool of talent has suffered in the last decade (or so) because of our commitment to not admitting complete and total dumbasses / convicts / etc. into our school. (Randy Moss is the example Sperber used regarding the end of the Lou Holtz era.) Notre Dame worked hard for half a century to change its image from “Football U” to “New Ivy”—and judging by our student-athlete graduation rate and the administration’s demand that athletes suffer through classes like Calculus along with the rest of the student body, we intend to stay that way. Which is one of the many things I love about Notre Dame.

However, Sperber rightly points out that you do tend to lose out on some of the top talent in the country when you’re not willing to make concessions, such as inventing fake majors and allowing players to stay on for a final semester enrolled only in one class of ballet.

Sperber also noted that the advent of widely televised college football in the 80’s and 90’s neutralized ND’s advantage in nationwide recruiting, as other teams—particularly those ranked in the Top 10—gained more coverage on programs like SportsCenter and rose into the national spotlight.

The recruiting woes extended from the end of the Lou Holtz era right up until approximately now in the Weis tenure. This is not to say we didn't have any good players during those years--we just didn't have enough.

The recruiting landscape changed when Charlie came into town waving his four Superbowl rings, turning 50% passers into Heisman candidates and signing the #1 recruits in the country at completely ostentatious press conferences involving spiky hair, stretch limos, and the College Football Hall of Fame.

Whatever Charlie’s faults, they are not in the area of recruiting.

However. Time is running out on Charlie’s ability to make all the promises he’s been making to lure these top recruits to good ‘ol ND. It’s easier to nab talent when you can promise them lots of playing time right away and the opportunity to turn a team around.

But see, now we’ve got the talent. Now we’ve got some depth on the roster. Charlie’s been here for five seasons—all these players are his recruits. And we’re still not winning games like the one against SC.

If Charlie wants to keep landing the kind of recruits he’s been landing (Manti Te’o, for example), we’d better start throwing down some more performances like we did in the Hawaii Bowl.

Also, it’d be great if, before the fourth quarter comes around, he gets some more production out of the talent he’s got. Otherwise we’re going to start experiencing the same kind of talent drain we did in the late 90’s, we’ll be out another coach, and we’ll be right back at square one—with no Lou and no championships and no jeweled shillelaghs.

on the continuing battle against turf toe and other deficits

So, I wish I’d seen a little better production out of our offensive line, but I do have some positive thoughts on the offense:

-when we absolutely needed to make it happen in the fourth quarter (right down to the last possible second), we did
-we successfully ran the ball on a number of occasions, got more than one 10+ yard run out of Armando Allen, and on one scoring drive we got three first downs in a row
-the five sacks the defense recorded on Jimmy did little to prevent our offense from continuing to drive the ball down the field and score
-after failing to convert the 4th-and-1, the O-line sat down on the benches, gathered themselves, went out there and helped us score two more touchdowns

There were some positive things in the numbers, too. We got more first downs than they did—27 to their 21. We won the time of possession battle by a slim margin—31:11 to 28:49. We had zero interceptions to their one.

But those stats really don’t mean very much when you consider the other numbers. We had less than 100 yards on the ground, less than 300 yards passing, and only 367 yards of total offense to USC’s 501. (Golden Tate still had 100+ yards receiving, but, you know, he’s Golden Tate. Robby Parris got close, but no cigar.) We averaged 4.9 yards per play to their 8.1. We only converted 35% of our third downs.

Even so, the score ended up close, and in the stats, it shows. Trips to the red zone: USC – 5 chances, 5 scores. ND – 4 chances, 3 scores.

And just like that, we’re at 4-2.

I know it’s no use lamenting the loss of Michael Floyd, but damn. USC should be sending a letter of thanks to the Michigan State Spartans. No defense wants to see Floyd and Tate and Rudolph spread across the field. You put Michael Floyd in there, and suddenly your coaches are a lot less in the mood for slip ‘n slide and a lot more in the mood for drilling a pass rush that will knock the earwax out of you.

Not that that will save you from the Man, the Mystery, the Mohawk that is Michael Floyd. But you can always try.

Anyway, the point is—

Once again, we’ve proved that there is no such thing as a safe deficit for our team in the fourth quarter. It ain’t over ‘til it’s over. Even against one of the toughest defenses in the country.

That alone says a lot. Can we compete against a top-10 team? Yeah. We can. And can we win?


I’d have to say that our offense v. their defense was the more anticipated matchup of this game, and when it came right down to the wire, their defense won out. 55% passing, 2 TDs, and 5 sacks is not exactly a red-letter day for Jimmy and the O-line. No video game stats against this defense—which is more or less to be expected, I suppose.

That said, I was more disappointed in the O-line than I was in Jimmy. I expect more out of a group of veteran players who, most of the time, were only dealing with a four-man rush. You should not be giving up sacks to a four-man rush. Not when you’re all the size of Mack trucks. (Never mind that the USC players often seem to be a variety of slightly bigger Mack trucks.)

I do have some theories on this, though. Here are my vague thoughts on the O-line…

I’d imagine the O-line struggled a little bit simply because this is the best defense we’ve faced all season. This was their first big test under their new line coach, and, much like that 4th-and-1 we failed to convert, they came up a little short.

As previously mentioned, though, it is a mark of how much the team has improved that two of the drives which started with sacks resulted in touchdowns. It is also impressive to note that the same team which failed to score a touchdown against USC for nine consecutive quarters scored the first touchdown pass against SC’s secondary all season. (Because Golden Tate is a BEAST.)

I don’t want to look too far in the future, but thinking about next season—we’ll be losing a good number of starters from our O-line, but all the returning linemen will have a solid year of Coach Verducci under their belts. I think Coach Verducci’s done well with the line so far, and I think another year of consistency in coaching and drilling fundamentals will do a world of good for the next time ND faces a top-10 team.

Also I think it’s important to note that ND only had 4 penalties yesterday (to USC’s 8), so we played a much, much cleaner game than we have been. (Also, you know, the Pac-10 officials were blind and kept missing things. Which occasionally worked in our favor.) Anyway, if memory serves me correctly, only one of those four penalties was holding. Which is good, in a sense.

However…I am partially convinced that the O-line’s play against the four-man rush suffered not only because of the level of talent on USC’s squad, but also because our line has been drawing a lot of holding penalties this season, and I’m going to guess that on Saturday they were trying really, really hard not to draw any more. Which to me points to a breakdown in fundamentals. I mean, I have no experience as an actual offensive lineman, of course, but it seems to me that, when it comes down to potentially allowing a sack vs. drawing a holding penalty, that’s basically equivalent to winning your match-up with good fundamentals vs. drawing a holding penalty.

So if we’re not drawing penalties and we’re allowing sacks and everything I said in the above paragraph makes some sort of sense…we must be choking it up on fundamentals somewhere down the line.

Of course, I’m no expert on O-line play, so my theories could be entirely wrong. But those are my theories, anyway.

i love you, then i hate you. then i hate you, then i love you.
aka defense it would be great if you would stop letting our opponents into the endzone.

So. Our opponent scored 30+ points. Again.

And our defense came up with some big-ass plays right at the very end of the game. Again.

Why can’t the defense that forced 3-and-outs and two field goals in the first half of the game and made a clutch interception in the fourth quarter show up for the entire game? (Pause for a shout-out: thank YOU, Gary Gray, for saving our asses and giving us the chance to take the game right down to the wire. Again.) You can make goal-line stands against teams like Washington, but notsomuch USC.


I mean, there were some good things. We got three sacks. Eight different players recorded tackles for a loss. As requested, other members of the team learned how to tackle. Three players managed to finish above Kyle McCarthy this week in total tackles: Manti Te’o and Brian Smith both had eight and Gary Gray had six. McCarthy finished with an unusually low five (tying him with Kapron Lewis-Moore for the week).

Also, for most of the game, we did seem to shut down the run. There is something to be said for a defense that holds Running Back U to 121 yards rushing and Joe McKnight to less than 80 yards on the day. (Though let’s not talk about those long runs we gave up just now.) We did force the Trojans to take to the air.

Unfortunately, this didn’t seem to slow down their offense very much, considering that two different receivers had 100+ yard days and Barkley was 65% passing with 380 yards and 2 TDs. So I guess our pass rush / secondary / defensive scheme in general needs some work. (Seriously, who are these effing freshmen quarterbacks and why are they so much more mature than Jimmy was?)

Probably it is important to point out here that USC’s offensive line has accumulated the second-most starts in college football – right behind Notre Dame’s. So Barkley had some decent protection in the pocket, especially considering how apparently anemic our pass rush has become.

So here’s my wish for the rest of the season: let’s hold all of our remaining opponents to less than 30 points a game. Including obnoxious teams from Boston and teams that run the option and teams that did not deserve to win in triple-overtime last year. Think you can handle that, guys?

Great. Thanks.

So…the future

I’m coming home this weekend for the Boston College game.

I’ve got absolutely nothing to say in preparation for this game except that this is still a season for breaking streaks and those feathered fools are going to get what’s coming to them.


(Note: Regarding the title of this post... Last night, I was on my way over to the building where I get wireless so I could post this note, and I encountered one of our resident skunks sniffling around outside the building. Needless to say I backtracked quite quickly, before the skunk could feel even the least bit threatened. And so here we are with this post on Tuesday, several days too late to be of any consequence. But whatever. Also, true to my word, I still have not checked the polls or read a single word regarding the matchup on Saturday. So if there's anything really crucial I missed out on, let me know I guess.)