ND 14, USC 10
Did anyone else feel like they fell down the rabbit hole on Saturday?
mean--there we were, enjoying a lovely golden after-afternoon (courtesy
of the field lights), sitting amongst a bunch of perfectly normal,
non-anthropomorphized flowers (and all-natural grass), watching both
teams drive up and down the field, scoring perfectly normal
touchdowns--and then the second half came around and Tommy Rees got
injured, and suddenly it was as though we'd followed the white rabbit
all the way to Wonderland.
Both endzones swelled or
shrank in size, too large or small to brook admittance. USC's drives
fizzled and turned back on themselves, like Alice stumped by the twists
of the Cheshire Cat's logic--whereas our drives had all the pointless
feeling of an endlessly circling Caucus-Race.
in the stands, getting drizzled by the weather (for the weather never
ever does a thing for me), it may have seemed as though Time was
standing stiller than at a mad-Hatter's tea party, each tick of the
clock like a frustrating riddle without any obvious end.
And yet--O Frabjous Day! Callooh! Callay!--WE WON.
In our house, the heartless red Trojans will have off with our heads no more.
How doth the little crocodile...
...improve his shining tail
And pour the waters of the Nile
On every golden scale!
How cheerfully he seems to grin,
How neatly spreads his claws,
And welcomes little fishes in
With gently smiling jaws!
I hope we are all in agreement that the Notre Dame defense was the crocodile on Saturday.
Stephon Tuitt was the jaws.
scored zero points in the second half. They also converted zero third
downs, threw an interception, missed a field goal, accrued 11 total
penalties for 95 yards, and turned the ball over twice on downs.
Tuitt was responsible for 2 sacks, 2 QB hurries, 2 tackles for loss,
and 1 pass break-up, along with being such a conspicuous beast he
probably deserves to be memorialized in his own passage of fearsome
verse. Not that we can overlook the rest of the defense--like Big Louuu,
Carlo Calabrese (who led the team in tackles), Jaylon Smith (who had
that interception), Sheldon Day (whose propensity for playing like a
bulldozer cannot be overlooked), KeiVarae Russell, Dan
"don't-bench-me-again" Fox.... Yes--like a many-headed hydra (or, um, an
unslain Jabberwock), the defense has risen again.
will tell, of course; we'll see how we play against Stanford. But
ranked or not, USC is still a formidable team to blank out for an entire
half. As Coach Kelly put it, you don't fire the coach of a 4-2 team
unless you think that team should be 6-0.
The way USC played in the second half, it's fairly obvious why they aren't.
The way Notre Dame's defense played in the second half, it's fairly painful to think about why WE aren't.
to vanquish such a burbling foe at home, after twelve long years of
whiffling it--ah! 'Twas brillig! (and the slithy toves / did gyre and
gimble in the wabe / all mimsy were the borogoves / and the mome raths
Twinkle, twinkle, little bat!
How I wonder what you're at!
anyone else feel astonished by how much they missed Tommy Rees? I
must've felt nearly as astonished as Alice after she ingested her first
bottle of "Drink Me" and grew to approximately the size of Godzilla (aka
Lous Nix & Stephon Tuitt combined).
Here's the big question resulting from this astonishment: why don't we have a back-up plan?
would think, after Everett Golson was booted out for the season, that
we would have come up with a back-up plan. I mean--Tommy WAS the back-up
plan, right? Which means Hendrix is, in the grand scheme of things,
But you can't have a backup quarterback
who only knows how to run the Wildcat. Hendrix kept chucking balls at
the turf like he was trying to nudge a hedgehog forward in a croquet
match. I imagine he wanted to avoid any accusations of stealing the
queen's tarts (by which I mean...causing a turnover) so much that he
refused to parlay with his receivers at all. One can only assume it was
But this led to two quarters of USC stacking
the box, stuffing the run, and toppling our ball carriers like a trio of
tripped-up flamingos (in a croquet match), so that we barely seemed to
move the ball at all.
In case you forgot how ridiculous
the second half was, there was a stretch in the third quarter during
which Notre Dame and USC traded the ball six times for seven consecutive
three-and-outs. That's three plays. Each. SEVEN TIMES IN A ROW. Aka
nine and a half minutes of game time with zero first downs.
even more absurd than a talking caterpillar smoking a hookah on top of a
magic mushroom that will make you big if you eat from one side and
small if you eat from the other.
However...can I just
say that I do, in fact, appreciate Hendrix's efforts not to turn the
ball over, even if it resulted in a whole lot of nada. We couldn't have
afforded a pick-six, and as long as our defense was doing as well as
they were doing, there was no reason to take unnecessary chances.
believe the kid can throw the ball; I believe he's furious with himself
over his performance; I believe he won't be caught unawares again when
it comes to being the next man in (and I believe it is wise that we are
committed to red-shirting Malik Zaire, because we're sure gonna need
that kid in the future).
The good news is that Tommy's
back. He suffered a neck sprain during the game, but he was cleared for
practice today. According to Coach Kelly's presser, he should be fine to
play on Saturday.
And only now can we appreciate how crucial Tommy is to this year's success.
maligned the playbook before, missing the versatility Golson brought to
the field; I complained that Kelly had hardly changed the game plan to
accommodate Rees at all--he'd merely been painting white roses red. And
though I've said, more than once, that I believe Tommy makes all the
right reads, not until very recently did it seem as though all those
reads were clicking.
The pace of our offense in the
first half was like nothing we've seen all season. Like nothing we've
seen for YEARS. It was the fast-paced, high-tempo offense we were
promised when Kelly first came to South Bend.
first drive was astounding in its efficiency, and disappointing only in
its lack of production. (Just imagine, if we'd scored on that one, how
much less nerve-wracking the second half might have been.) It was not a
speed I'd expected to see--not this year and not against USC--but what
better time for it to manifest? What better time to make full use of our
tight end? To split catches between Niklas, Jones, and Daniels? To
balance the offense with Cam McDaniel's century-mark game?
only the second half had matched the first one. If only Tommy hadn't
gone out. Maybe then the smackdown I envisioned might have come to
light, instead of just turning out to be a prolonged daydream.
"The time has come," the Walrus said,
"To talk of many things:
Of shoes--and ships--and sealing-wax--
Of cabbages--and kings--
And why the sea is boiling hot--
And whether pigs have wings."(And why the Irish, back-to-back
play ruddy option teams)
got Air Force this week, followed by Navy. It's a sheer stroke of luck
we've got both option teams on our schedule two weeks in a row. A
one-and-six Air Force squad isn't likely to give us too many fits
(assuming our defense hasn't had too many Honey Buns over fall break),
and it should have us primed and ready for facing Navy at home next
week. (Holla if you're going to the Navy game. I should be out
tailgating most of the day.)
I always like playing the
service academies. Not because I think they should be easy W's
(pffbt--have you seen us play Navy these last few years?). I just like
the tradition. You can't boo your own military, and it's hard to hate on
enlisted men and women who show up in uniform and celebrate by doing
push-ups and defending our country from terrorists.
it's kind of nice to take a break from all the angry bile I swallow
every time I see Michigan's winged helmets, or the seething rage that
threatens to consume me every time the "Spirit of Troy" assaults my
So stay classy these next few weeks, ladies
and gents. If you see and servicemen and women out there, give 'em a pat
on the back. Maybe a beer. Leave the ass-whooping to our boys out there
on the field.
Don't worry. They'll git 'r done.
GO IRISH BEAT FALCONS!