Oct 6, 2008

Stanford Hangover... Steamrolling

Alright, so maybe the Irish aren't steamrolling the competition so far, but if any of you followed my advice on the beer this week- you should be.

Really though, this is feeling pretty good. After a 2007 season that started out at 0-5, a 4-1 start feels like heaven.

Thank-You's and Fuck-You's. First, I wanted to thank everyone that came over to Subway Domer for the Live Blog during the game. I had a great time and I will definitely do another one this season, I'm just not sure which game yet. (October's schedule is not as kosher as September's was for my real life). The fuck-you? To Mediacom. My digital cable has 2 NBC channels and neither of them worked for shit. The digital signal was going all apeshit for the entire game. Pitiful, that this is the technology that is being forced down our throats.

On to the Game...

Clausen continues his march for the Heisman. Well maybe in 2009. Jimmy is cruising right now with another career performance in hand after he went 29-40 ( 72.5%) for 347 yards with 3 TD's and 0 interceptions. I'll take that stat line any day regardless of the opponent. Clausen was dominant. He was making good decision after good decision which included a lot of check downs to Armando Allen, which Weis said in his post game press conference that he had been preaching the importance of checking it down to the RB. Clausen also had quite a few audibles that turned into big plays with the biggest being the long TD to Floyd and his TD pass to Rudolph. He looks like he is having a lot of fun and is becoming more and more confident in his abilities and those of his teammates around him as well. Jimmy is still young and he should only keep improving as the season continues.

Sack this. Notre Dame had been criticized by the media and famously by an opponent for not getting the sack totals that should come from a team that blitzes 75% of the time. Notre Dame shut a few people up with a 5 sack performance from 4 different players; Sergio Brown, Brian Smith, Darius Flemming, and Pat Kuntz (2). The sacks don't tell the whole story though. ND also had 2 QB hurries, 1 pass breakup, and 3 INT's. This is all due to the pressure the defense is putting on the QB. Just like winning, sacks are infectious. And with the amount of times ND blitzes, the sack totals should only increase as they march on this season. Just remember, even if they don't get to the QB, the pressure is dictating the opposing offense into doing things it doesn't want to do, and that is why ND hired Jon Tenuta- to control that side of the ball.

The drama continues. Brandon Walker missed two more field goals this week- badly. I'm not going to hammer the kid more, since everyone on the planet is already doing so. I will say that I am shitting my pants. If he is the best option we have at kicker, than we might have some real bumpy games ahead on the road. The Irish have to make the most of every opportunity it has in enemy territory and with no real threat of 3 points, this makes winning close football games very tough. Remember the playcalling last year? This effects the way Weis decides what to do once the Irish get inside the opponents 30 yard line and even more so inside the redzone. This is the biggest red flag for this team.

Michael Floyd is playing out of his mind. Consider this: last year, Notre Dame had a freshman WR that set records and became a huge part of the offense. That WR was Duval Kamara. He ended the season with 32 receptions for 357 yards and 4 touchdowns. Floyd has 21 receptions for 333 yards and 3 TD's in 5 games. Plus, he has by my count (could be wrong here) 4 pass interference calls that were called because defensive backs can't handle him. Against Stanford he had 5 catches for 115 yards and 1 TD. Keep your eye on Floyd, and I know you will, because he is rapidly becoming a legend in South Bend- a place where the term "legend" should never be tossed around lightly. Floyd, in my opinion, will become the greatest WR in the history of Notre Dame- by his Junior year. I just hope he sticks around.

Fruitless. Notre Dame did a great job of creating turnovers Saturday, but it netted 0 points. Three interceptions (and a fumble that maybe Kuntz could have took to the house and not his own INT that he stated in a post game interview) were turned into 3 drives that ended in emptiness. Had the Irish capitalized on these turnovers, this could have been a blowout. This is something that has to be addressed with 7 games left. If ND wants the respect it thinks it deserves, the wins need to be by bigger margins and that comes with points off of turnovers. Just ask Michigan.

Speaking of turnovers... Notre Dame had 0 for the second straight game this season. For a very young team just learning how to win, this is extremely important. ND has not shot itself in the foot because of better pass protection, better ball handling, and better decisions overall. This stat alone can determine the outcome of a game and ND is keeping itself on the right side of zero.

The cream rises to the top. Before the season started ND was looking at a 3 player logjam at RB. But it has become more of a one man show these past two weeks and Armando Allen looks like the guy. Allen didn't have a great day running the ball against Stanford with only 36 yards on 9 carries, but he did have a touchdown running the ball and he added another touchdown receiving to go along with his 7 catches for 66 yards. So Allen had 2 TD's while being a duel threat in the backfield, he is doing something even bigger than that- pass protection. When the play calls for Allen to stay in and pass block, he has done a fantastic job of locking in on his assignment and taking that player out of the play. This is more visible when the opposing defense brings a blitz: Allen steps up and takes the blitzer out of the play. Armando does this better than any other back on the roster and that is the real reason he is getting more snaps this year. He has solidified himself as the number one back, and should stay there with his solid overall play.

Bronco Nagurski anyone? Maybe I'm getting a little ahead of myself here, but Kyle McCarthy has been stellar. Kyle came into the Stanford game as the national leader in tackles and then had a 14 tackle (7 solo, 1 TFL) day with an interception. He is everywhere that the ball is. I'm serious. Name a defensive player that has done more this year. When Kyle hits a guy, he goes down. It may not have a lot of flash, and there really is nothing flashy about McCarthy, but his play is consistent and hard-nosed. I'm just saying.

Krazy Kuntz. I have kept preaching that Brian Smith is the emotional leader out on the field for the defense, but I would be remiss if I didn't include Pat Kuntz in that conversation. Kuntz had a great day defensively for the Irish Saturday with 3 tackles, 2 of which were sacks, an interception, and a fumble recovery at the end of the game. But, his biggest impact may have been his swagger and his freakish ability to freak people out. We should have known that Pat was up to something after his striptease during the Friday pep rally, but sporting the most conservative hair style he has had in quite some time, he dropped the bombs for the Irish. If a jawing was needed you could bet Kuntz was there. He was a warrior and helped get the team fired up for Stanford and their mouth running bitch, Chris Marinelli. Kuntz showed a lot of class after the game with his comments in the presser:

"There was a lot of talking going on between all of us. It was just a battle. I
have to give them credit. They are a good team and they are a very improved team
from last year, just like us. Good luck to them in the rest of their season."

Marinelli should have known better, but Jim Harbaugh coaches him.

I thought we were tight? Tight end has been one of the positions that Weis has really recruited well. And it's a good thing too. After Ragone got injured for the year and after Yeatman ran into Johny Law, fans were wondering what in the hell we were going to do. Start a freshman from game one and keep on trucking, that's what. Rudolph had his best game in an Irish uniform against Stanford with 5 receptions for 70 yards and 1 TD. He is quickly becoming a real middle of the field threat that defenses are going to have problems with. With all of the receiving options ND has on the field at one time, Kyle (even at 6'6" 252 lbs.) gets lost in the mix by defenders. His run blocking is improving each week as well. John Carlson and Anthony Fasano before him, made a living by running precise seam routes and making clutch catches. Rudolph is following that recipe and the final product is delicious.

Turk is Good. In what is one of the most pleasant surprises in the 2008 season (which is saying a lot actually) Mike Turkovich has found a home at left tackle. He has played very well this season and has helped anchor a much improved line in 2008. The scare is over. Weis said in his Sunday presser that Turkovich is ready to play this week. Turk was helped off of the field Saturday and it looked like he injured himself really badly. Weis stated:

“Much better than we thought it would be, actually today he handed in his
crutches and handed in his brace and he’ll be ready to go (Monday), which is
something totally, way better than I expected.”

Great news.

Lambert is lost. If Darrin Walls had played this year, do you really think Lambert would be playing as much? 90% of the big pass plays go right at Lambert. He seems incapable of making a play on the ball and is routinely burnt by wide receivers. I hate ragging on a kid, but i can't help but wonder how ND would benefit from Walls, McNeil, and Gray as opposed to what we have now, which is still good, but vulnerable. North Carolina has 2 very good WR's and I can't help but cringe at watching one of them run by Lambert for a long fade for 6. I hope he proves me wrong.

Harbaugh is a bitch. I won't get too in depth here. You saw the game, and I'm sure you heard all of the stuff afterwards as well. Harbaugh = B-I-T-C-H. simply

"Hey Jimmy! Can we have your autograph?" - Nate, Evan, and Dayne