For the sixth game in a row, Boston College has beaten Notre Dame after a disastrous 17-0 loss for the Fighting Irish. Allow that to soak in a little bit as you stare at Chris Crane holding the Frank Leahy Memorial Bowl Trophy as the Ireland Trophy comes into view.
That game sucked.
I was so distraught, that i immediately erased the game from my DVR. I knew I wouldn't be able to watch it again. I just can't. I usually watch the game 2-3 times before I post a hangover, but not this time. This was painful. So please forgive me if my upcoming thoughts on the game are a little off.
Stating the obvious.
- You will not win football games when you lose the turnover battle 0-5.
- You will have a hard time moving the football with penalties in crucial situations.
Notre Dame has had some turnover problems this year in its losses. In the four losses that Notre Dame has had they have lost by a combined score of 105-64 (26.25-16) with a turnover margin of 13-4 (3.25-1). If you take the Pitt game out of the equation, in which ND actually won the turnover battle 3-0, the Irish lost the turnover battle 13-1. This is a bigger indictment for the reasoning of the losses than anything else in my opinion. Turnovers are KILLERS. They take away any kind of success that an offense might have with one poor decision or one slip of a finger. This is very evident in this last game:
- Turnover #1. After going nowhere in the first quarter, ND started moving the ball against BC and made it to the 50 yard line. Clausen threw an INT that was returned 76 yards for TD.
- Turnover #2. Trailing 10-0, ND started driving the football and were sitting in BC territory. Clausen threw an INT.
- Turnover #3. The second half started out well for ND... for a second. The Irish forced BC to punt after a 3 and out and it looked like ND would get the ball in good field position. Tate fumbled the punt and BC, then drove for a TD to make it 17-0.
- Turnover #4. Late in the third quarter ND drove the ball 63 yards on 6 plays and looked like it was threatening to score when Clausen throws pick #3 in the endzone.
- Turnover #5. Down 17-0 with almost no chance to win, ND drove the ball 47 yards for Clausen to throw his last INT inside the redzone.
- Turnover on Downs. ND also turned the ball over twice after failed 4th down attempts. One in the third on only 4 plays and once in the 4th after a 9 play 53 yard drive.
- The blocked punt. This was the second blocked punt in the last two weeks. This was deep in Irish territory and luckily ND escaped with a missed FG attempt.
The Irish had 6 penalties for 58 yards compared to BC's 9-90. Yet the Irish penalties seemed so much more crucial. They killed drives and kept the Irish pinned back deep in their own territory.
- Chop block on the first drive after a big play to Floyd.
- Holding call on a Allen reception that put ND inside the 7 yard line of BC.
- Two holding calls/ block in the backs on Jonas Gray on kickoffs.
- Holding call on an Allen run that was for first down yardage.
- Can't remember the 6th, but I'm sure it sucked.
These things I just mentioned, are reason enough that ND got dominated by BC. But how about a few other reasons/excuses?
Stating the not so obvious at the time... maybe.
- Clausen's ankle injury is killing his accuracy. However it is bothering him, it is destroying him. Most of his passes looked off target, even some of those that the WR's caught. All of his INT's were high.
- Clausen was battling the flu. If you ever had the flu than you understand how bad it sucks. Even if it wasn't the flu, Clausen was sick and he looked like shit physically. The real question should be if he should have played at all or even in the second half. Hindsight is always 20/20, and I don't have a real answer.
- The lack of a real threat running the ball killed all hopes. We all knew this would bite us in the ass, but when ND needed to get something going after turnovers and stalled drives, they tried to run the ball to help get into a rhythm. The only rhythm was that of BJ Raji dancing after he threw Eric Olsen (LG) back into the backfield 5 yards. Olsen fell back into Aldridge and took James down for a 5 yard loss. That says it all. We needed some yards running, and we were totally lacking.
The defense played well. The defense did a very good job of stopping BC, but they still allowed over 100 yards to a BC rusher and created no turnovers. I'll give BC QB Chris Crane credit, he did not make any mistake that would put his team in jeopardy of a turnover like he has in so many games this year. The defense only allowed 246 yards (79 passing, 167 rushing) and only gave up 10 points. The longest scoring drive that they allowed was a 73 yard drive that ended in a FG. The defense didn't play great, but they played well enough to win. BC was in complete control of the game defensively, so the BC offense did not have to do much. That allowed Crane to make good decisions and cancel out any type of opportunity that the defense could create for itself and the team. My hats off to the Irish defense.
Charlie Weis. I'll save you the trouble. Charlie Weis will not be fired after the season is over. (The Chicago-Sun Times wants to sell papers). Not happening, so quit talking about it or suggesting it, because that is as futile as talking about Notre Dame's chances of making a BCS game this year. Weis is making his fair share of mistakes, without question. He is also doing some things right as well. But no one wants to hear about the things he does well, so let's look at a few things that he needs to change and will be changing:
- Shut up Chuck. Quit spewing your philosophy of coaching to the media. Quit talking about the NFL, Tommy Brady, and the two Bills. The two Bills never give the media anything to write about. You keep divulging all of your mind tactics for all to hear when it should be a team only kind of thing. The good cop bad cop crap with Jimmy? I'm sure Clausen can read the paper and doesn't give a shit about the good cop bad cop deal with you and Paulus. Give Tressel like answers- coated in an extra layer of vanilla.
- Call the plays. I know that handing over the playcalling duties sounded like a good idea at the time to EVERYONE, but it just isn't working. Notre Dame pays you millions of dollars to call these things because that is what made you so good to begin with. I know you announced that you would be doing this. Good job. The defense will be fine with Brown and Tenuta. You can't tackle anybody with that leg anyways.
- You are going to need to make some coaching changes at seasons end and I think you need to look no farther than John Latina (offensive line) and Jappy Oliver (defensive line). These units are grossly under performing. The offensive line has players that almost every school in the country were after and they still get blown back on running plays. The defensive line is undermanned for sure, but they are not getting a decent production week in and week out.
These are just a few things that can be done that will help the team and the perception of the team throughout the country.
The program. After this loss Irish fans are losing their fucking minds. Why? Did you all seriously think that ND would be 10-2 this year? Well I did too. But I am also aware of most of the so called experts predicting an 8-4 / 7-5 season. Did I miss something? Is the season over? No? That's right, the Fighting Irish still have 3 games to go and are sitting on a 5-4 record. Slightly better than the 1-8 record at this time a year ago.
The Irish are set to play Navy (N), Syracuse (H), and USC (A). If ND beats Navy and Syracuse and loses to USC, that puts them at 7-5 and either an undeserved Gator Bowl berth or a trip to the Sun Bowl. Even if the unthinkable happens and ND splits with Navy and Syracuse and end with a 6-6 record, they will still go to the Sun Bowl more than likely or even the International bowl.
No matter what your feelings are about the type of bowl game the Irish go to, they will have a chance to end the bowl streak. But maybe what's more important is that they go to a bowl game- period. When a team has the chance to get more practice time- ESPECIALLY FOR A YOUNG TEAM, that makes the preparation for the following season easier. And with a team that could have 17 starters (18 if you include Walls returning in the spring) coming back for 2009, you have the beginnings of what could be a very good ND team. Maybe not NC good, but BCS worthy. I'll take that. The young players this year can and should improve next year, including Clausen which I might remind everyone is a TRUE SOPHOMORE.
I'm just saying that we all should think twice before we jump off of the bandwagon. The program has its holes, but it also has its bright spots. I'm saving my ankles for the cheering in a bowl game. It's going to happen. And then I'll need those ankles for the 2009 and 2010 campaigns. Am I a little too optimistic for you? That may be, but I am just a fan- just like you and I need something to cheer about and something to believe in as well. We all do in these turbulent times in the world. Just give it time. ND is still better than it was in 2007 and will be better in 2009 than it is now. I hope. I believe.