People are pointing to this game as proof that Fighting Irish football is heading in the right direction. I agree. We are heading in the right direction. But they are doing it like a drunk driver heading home from the bar... all over the place. You will make it home in good shape 9 out of 10 times- but it's that 10th time that can land you in hot water. That hot water for ND was a loss. Their drink of choice? Turnovers. My head hurts just thinking about it, but here we go with another hangover.
Is that really our offense? Because I love it. That was one of the better gameplans that we have seen from Weis while he has been at ND. Starting the game with 5 wide- brilliant. These are the type of things that made Weis such a coveted playcaller. I know Haywood is calling the plays, but if you think Weis is letting him come up with the entire gameplan, you're nucking futs. This offense pretty much moved at will on North Carolina's defense, and the biggest stops were made by our own guys mental mistakes. The evolution of this offense has been stunning since the San Diego State game and almost unrecognizable from 2007.
Is that really our defense? Because I thought we were supposed to be aggressive. I saw our corners giving 10+ yards of cushion, and a lot less blitzes. Maybe I'm wrong, but that was as soft of a unit as I have seen this year. The problem lies within our inability to take a ball carrier down on first contact. I don't know how many yards we gave up after the first contact by a defender, but it had to be a shit ton. This is the bye week, so TACKLING DRILLS are in order. Break out the Irish Eyes and put all of the defensive players together. The emotion is there, but there are other issues that have to be addressed.
James Aldridge for the touchdown. I have never heard that in 2.5 years. Aldridge scored the first touchdown of his career for Notre Dame on Saturday. Aldridge is looking more and more like the running back that everyone thought he would be coming out of high school as a 5 star prospect. Let's hope he keeps improving.
"Kamara might be a better safety prospect." This was a quote from Duval's coach in high school during his senior year. He certainly looked the part on a pass break up when Duval turned himself into the defender and smoked a UNC linebacker as he was trying to intercept the ball. But, Duval also had his best receiving day in quite a while with 5 receptions for 58 yards. And maybe more importantly, some of those catches were fucking clutch. If Kamara can turn himself back into the dependable receiver that he was in 2007, this offense is going to be that much more dangerous.
Speaking of dangerous receiving threats... Golden Tate is still playing out of his mind. He had 5 receptions for 121 yards and a TD. Weis was looking for the "dive right in" kind of mentality and he found it in Tate. This kid needs the ball more and more. He has the same ability as past Irish greats to make you hold your breath as you wait for something great to happen. Golden made one of those catches as he stole an interception from a North Carolina defender on a jump ball and he came down with the reception. He has what looks to be the surest hands on the team, and Clausen's confidence in Golden to grab any ball thrown in his direction is growing every week. Tate is perhaps our biggest threat with the ball in his hands and I would hope that Weis would try to get a little creative and come up with more ways to feed Golden the rock. Get ready people- Golden is only a sophomore and he will only get better as his skills as a WR keep developing.
I thought he hooked it. When Brandon Walker came out and tried a 42 yard field goal, I said to myself, "Don't hook this fucking ball." The kick went up and the ball left my TV screen as Brad Neslar exclaimed that he missed it. Then the ball came across the screen and the officials put their hands up in the air. Kudos to you, Brandon Walker. Neslar had his voodoo on me and I almost flipped out of my chair. I hope that Wallker can continue to prove me wrong. I wondered why ND didn't kick the FG when it was 4th and 7 in the 4th quarter. Was Weis still not convinced that Walker was coming around? Let's ask Weis:
"I thought we needed a touchdown. It had nothing to do with the field goal
kicker (Brandon Walker). I thought we needed a touchdown. Obviously, I put the
kid in before, so it's not about him, but I thought we needed a touchdown
because I was concerned that they were getting in that 2-tight formation and
pounding us, and I was concerned with them being able to run out the clock. That
is the only reason. It wasn't any disrespect to Brandon."
Also, it was great to see just about the entire team come up to Brandon and give him a pat on the back, ass, and/or helmet. We're going to need him and they all know it as well.
Floyd. The "F" stands for freshman. Mike Floyd has made some amazing plays this year as a true freshman. He owns defensive backs. He jumps up in the air and plucks the ball out of it and comes down with it. Teams are having a tough time defending both him and Golden Tate. However, he made a crucial mistake at the end of the game. No matter what the call was or what it should have been, as soon as Floyd caught the ball he needed to just get down. I am still not convinced that it was a fumble, but it wouldn't have made any difference if he would have just hit the ground with his knee while three North Carolina defenders were coming down on him. This is a key lesson that Floyd should learn from, and I think that he will.
I gotta get out of here. As you can probably tell, this "Hangover" post is a day or two late. This loss was a tough pill to swallow. I saw so much good from the offense that I just can't wait for this bye week to end and some animal abuse begins with the Huskies. But, this team needs a lot of work on the defensive side of the ball. Maybe it was the scheme, maybe we are just soft- maybe both. Either way, ND is 4-2 and staring at a bowl game. This is a much improved team, and perhaps that is what I'll take away from this game the most. I gotta go.