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 defenders...here'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 downs...no 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 game...like 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.
GO IRISH BEAT NAVY!
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*