Notre Dame 20, Boston College 16
They're high-flying -- they're odds-defying --
They're heart-stopping -- they're eye-popping --
(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.
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 Rivals.com, 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.
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.)
So, in other news, let me just take a moment to vilify our Athletic Director.
Dear Mr. Swarbrick,
WHAT THE HELL ARE YOU SMOKING? WESTERN MICHIGAN? REALLY? WESTERN MICHIGAN? ISN'T IT BAD ENOUGH THAT WE ALREADY PLAY TWO OTHER TEAMS FROM MICHIGAN? AND WHAT IN THE NAME OF ALL THAT IS PLATED IN GOLD LEAF COMPELLED YOU TO PUT WMU IN THE SAME STREAK OF GAMES AS TULSA, NAVY, UTAH AND ARMY? DO YOU WANT NOTRE DAME TO NEVER MAKE IT TO ANOTHER BCS BOWL GAME EVER AGAIN?
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.
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!!!!!!
GO IRISH BEAT COUGARS!