Sep 21, 2008

The Saturday Spartan Hangover... More Whine Slave!

That noise you all heard, was ND nation's hopes of miraculously having an 11-0 record before the USC game, crashing into Spartan Stadium. It has happened every year since 1988, that moment when we as a fanbase witness the end of a National Title run.

Does this sound a little far-fetched? Of course it does. But when you are a major Independent, that is the main goal every year. And after reading a few of the message boards, you would think that ND was heading to the Super Bowl this year. Quit fooling yourselves, and start drinking heavily.

I'll have more commentary on the season as a whole later on, but let's look at the game...

Where art thou Kamara? Always around an interception it looks like. Of Clausen's 6 INTs on the year, 4 of them had been pass attempts to Kamara. Two were against San Diego State, and two were this past Saturday against Michigan State. I criticized Kamara heavily for the two against SDSU, and for good reason. The two yesterday were not as visibly Kamara's fault as the previous ones, but there was an exception. You can call it a lazy route, or you can call it a lazy throw, either way the play was just lousy. The jump ball for Kamara was not the best throw by Clausen, but Duval clearly had possession of the ball for a split second and had another split second gone by, his foot would have hit the turf and it would have been 7-3 Irish and maybe a totally different game. Kamara didn't hold onto the ball and Otis Wiley muscled it away from him. Kamara should be our best jump ball receiver, and especially in the redzone. He wasn't Saturday, and in fact, had 0 catches. Kamara has to step up. I believe he can, but something isn't clicking right now.

We'll always have Parris. Robby Parris made his biggest contribution this season with 4 catches for 22 yards. Parris has good hands and he should be counted on coming down with the ball going over the middle of the field. However, the quick swing passes with him in the slot should not be in the playbook. You know the play. Samardzija and Stovall were masters of this route and had the ability to get the YAC needed to make this play work. Watching this play Saturday was like watching slow motion. Someone else needs to run this whether it be Tate, Grimes, Floyd (he has this season), or one of the quicker freshman in John Goodman or Deion Walker.

Other catches. As stated last week, Notre Dame's two best WR's are Golden Tate ( 5 rec. 83 yds. 16.6 avg) and Michael Floyd ( 7 rec. 86 yds. 12.3 avg. 1 TD). Tate is the biggest playmaker on the team regardless of position and he brings 120% effort with him. Floyd's role in the offense has increased every week and it should continue to do so for the rest of the season. These guys make plays.

I insist, take it... As bad as the game was for the Irish on a lot of different fronts, they still had chances to win and promptly shot themselves in the foot time after time. Two turnovers while they were in scoring opportunities, the INT in the endzone and Floyd's fumble and the INT deep in our own territory that led to a Ringer TD. That was quite possibly a 21 point swing and might have made the final score look something like 21-16 Irish. It's that simple. Don't turn the ball over.

Time travelers. That's what the offensive line looked like. 16 yards rushing and 3 sacks given up. It looked entirely too much like 2007. They got physically kicked in the ass by the Spartan front 7 all day long. I don't have words that are venomous enough to describe my feelings about the lack of physicality by the O-Line. Right now, Strawberry Shortcake would terrorize them. The sacks, I could almost live with but when you put that together with absolutely no push for the running game, that is a recipe for disaster.

Running into a wall. Because of the horrific line play, the Irish running backs were unable to see any daylight and therefore had no success rushing the ball. However I saw too many times Saturday, and this year for that matter, Irish backs running right into an o-lineman and making no effort to bounce it outside. Maybe it is a lack of vision or maybe bad coaching, but they are not even trying the option to make a play. It could also have to do with...
Playcalling for dummies. Notre Dames rushing attempts were almost exclusively inside runs. No counters, no traps, no sweeps or off tackle plays (the stretch run never made it outside of the tackle box). The only variation were the draws or delays that ND ran on long 3rd down situations. This is a disturbing trend. Notre Dame should take a few tips from 2005 and 2006, and run more delays and sweeps that made Walker a successful runner. On top of all of that was ND's insistence if running the ball early with NO real results when the first 6 plays of the game were all runs. We are a much better passing team, and it is time to use that to open up the run instead of the other way around.
No confidence- NONE!!! that's what I have in our field goal unit. Two more misses for the strong legged Walker. He has a powerful leg and the ball gets the distance needed, but his accuracy is that of a 4 year old manning a Howitzer. There has also been 2 very bad snaps this year that have led to two failed attempts. The misses are piling up along with the points that are left on the field. This is why ND will continue to struggle in close games, the inability to cash in on 3 points at a time. The rest of the special teams units have improved drastically this year, but this FG unit remains the weakest link. I'm not sure if this string of poor attempts will stop any time soon... but the Irish need it to.

I have an announcement to make. Bob Griese is old and has no ability to string together real sentences. His obvious disdain for ND aside, he has a very good outlook on the game and I value his opinions as mostly fair. But for the love of god man, retire and save face. McGuire was the only one of the three to not make mistake after mistake and do nothing about it. And that is a sad statement in itself.

A few thoughts on the defense...

  • The defensive line played very up and down. There were times when they closed the holes and Ringer had to bounce it outside, but more often than not, they were not getting the production needed to protect our linebackers and make plays themselves.
  • Brian Smith is an animal and will only get better as the season continues.
  • Scott Smith saw a lot more action and it is easy to see why he looks like a Tenuta favorite. He wants to kick someones ass.
  • The goaline package is very stout and makes the opposing team earn every inch.
  • Harrison Smith played very well coming off of the edge, but MSU was ready for this and he was only slightly effective.
  • For the third game in a row the defense allowed the QB to complete less than half of his attempts. Hoyer was 12-26 for 155 yards. But they had no sacks and no interceptions.
  • The Irish still need to do a better job of wrapping up the ball carrier after first contact.

Laptopgate. This is a bullshit story that will get more attention than it will deserve because of Weis's former employer. Fucking interns...

The Subway Domer Scolding... A lot of you out there need to chill the fuck out. This is not a national title year and never was supposed to be one. Of course this is what we as Irish fans expect and demand every year, but this is still a very, very young team that is improving every week in some manner.

Michigan State is not the MSU of old. Some of you are referring to them as a middle of the road team, but they do what they do very well and that is play physically and run the football. They will finish no less than tied for third in the Big Ten.

Turnovers killed this game for ND, but the lack of emotion showed by the entire team (some individuals are exempt) is what poisoned the Irish from the start. MSU played with fire and passion and they set out to do what they wanted to do, and that was to make this game personal and come out kicking ass. This was a rivalry game that most Irish fans don't want to acknowledge. We should. The Megaphone was hoisted proudly by the Spartans and that alone was evidence of their desire to win. They made this game huge in their hearts and minds. We didn't make it at all.

There is hope. Notre Dame is 2-1 with a still very manageable schedule. A 7-5 or 8-4 season is more than reasonable thinking with a mid level bowl bid. I still think ND can win at least 9 games, but I am a big homer and I will spend the rest of the day gazing through my blue-gold glasses. For peace of mind, I suggest you do the same.