Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Dear Diary...Notre Dame-Purdue


I wasn’t planning on doing a running diary since I watched the game at a bar in DC with my roommate C-Loss and my buddy Kearney, but after the ridiculous nature of the game that pushed me every so much closer to the brink of a massive heart attack I needed to go to the tape and fire one up.

8:08 The Irish kickoff coverage unit comes out inspired. Everyone has asked what’s happened to Anello and why aren’t we hearing his name anymore. It’s because Zeke Motta is on special teams this year—he’s got the same motor only he’s faster and bigger, so he’s flying down the field faster and making the initial hit most times…first play is no different.

8:10 The first 3rd down of the game for Purdue and once again we’re sagging so far off their receivers that they easily pick it up right in front of Robert Blanton. Why don’t we play any bump and run? We have four studs at CB, I have no problem with them bumping and being on an island. Beats the alternative at this point.

8:12 Purdue quarterback makes a good read on another all-out blitz to get it to 3rd and 1 and the running back burst through for a 25 yard run. Our line just got flattened.

8:13 Fleming blows up a play on first down. He’s got so much talent and I love him, but it’s going to take me some time to forget Tate Forcer breaking his ankles. I hate that cocky little bastard—next year I want his head on a stake.

8:13 Touchdown Purdue on a slant…terrible tackling by the secondary turns what should’ve been a 10 yard gain into a 30 yard touchdown. Sickening. I had hoped for a fast start so we could get Jimmy out of the game and rested…depressing when you know right away you’re in for a dogfight with a team ¼th as talented as you.

8:14 Jimmy is going around to everyone on the offense getting them fired up before the first drive. Is this the same guy as the one who seemed so self-obsessed and disliked by his teammates two years ago? He’s come of age in every single aspect of his game—he’s a leader and a gamer, two things no one ever would’ve uttered in 2007.

8:17 Riddick has a good return that starts us on the 40 yard line. Right away we draw Purdue offsides and it’s 1st and 5.

8:18 Brad Nessler reveals that Jimmy had turf toe last year…I had no idea. Interesting. I feel like NBC sideline short-bus rider Alex Flanagan would’ve found out Jimmy has 10 toes and then thrown it back to the booth.

8:19 Great little screen to Jonas Gray, who weaves for a 20 yard gain and we’re down to the 31.

8:20 A big loss on first down and an incompletion to Tate leaves us with a 3rd and 17. This is followed by Sam Young committing his 59th penalty of the year before the snap. How does a fourth year starter make so many stupid mistakes? His play has finally jumped to the next level but you certainly can’t call him great because he just does so many boneheaded things that sabotage the entire offense. Someone needs to just smack him upside the head.

8:22 Purdue jumps offsides. Could we have found a team that commits more penalties than us? This would be a welcome change.

8:23 Jimmy rolls right and delivers a dart to Kamara a yard short of the marker. The Irish are lining up to go for it…out of the shotgun. Jonas Gray is stoned in the backfield, turnover on downs. At this point in the night my roommate C-Loss started to unleash an avalanche of hate and negativity. He was not happy about the call—it would not be the first time he wasn’t happy about a call. In this instance I agree—if Jimmy can’t take it under center then either throw the ball, put Crist in to hand it off out of the I-formation, or kick. Not a great start

8:27 Notre Dame dodges a bullet when Elliot misses a receiver who had burned Toryan Smith over the middle…would’ve gone for at least 30 yards. Of course they go back to the same play and Toryan gets burned again as they pick up a 20 yard gain. Can someone explain to me why Toryan is in the game right now? We’re playing a team that’s spreading us out which means he’s going to have to be in coverage—not his strong suit to say the least. Why are we so hesitant to unleash Te’o? He couldn’t be worse, could he? Toryan is the Asaph Schwapp of the defense—if someone is directly in his path he’s devastating…if hitting the person requires any sort of laterally movement then he’s toast.

8:28 Kerry Neal blows up a play in the backfield on first down…good to see he still has a pulse. That could be the first time I’ve heard his named called all season

8:29 Blackledge points out that the Irish are playing a lot more conservatively on defense today…in fact on the last play we didn’t send any blitzers. Can we get a shot of the press box to make sure Tenuta is still up there?

8:30 Bad punt by Purdue plus a penalty gives it to us at the 22.

8:31 First play Jimmy hits Jonas Gray for a nice 23 yard gain.

8:32 False start on Rudolph. Blood pressure rising. Blackledge breaks down Jimmy’s beautiful throw to Rudolph against MSU last week, which brings the BP back down a tad.

8:33 On 2nd down Clausen hits Tate for a good gain and limps back up to the line for 3rd down. He’s in some serious discomfort. He deserves a lot of credit for sticking it out last week and this week.

8:34 Jimmy tries to go to Golden on a fly route and it draws a pass interference. Debatable call, but not nearly as brutal as the pass interference non-call on the final Michigan drive. I’m not bitter or anything.

8:36 On 3rd down Jimmy gets taken down behind the line forcing 4th down…but wait! A Purdue defender came right up and Jimmy face on the ground and either spit on him or just screamed at him. Personal foul is called for taunting. It’s so nice to see the other team being stupid instead of my team. What a boneheaded play by a guy who is the captain of the defense. Jimmy didn’t respond to him when he did it too, another sign of maturity; last year he would’ve been popping off at the mouth if that happened. First down Irish.

8:38 Touchdown in the corner to Golden Tate! Beautiful throw and catch…and it’s coming back. Illegal formation. Can we go a game without points being taken off the board, whether it be from penalties or stupid replay officials? Talk about a negative trend.

8:43 A five yard run followed by a couple incompletions means it’s time to trot out the field goal unit. He’s actually four out of five on the year which I tend to forget because he missed a chip shot against Michigan and an extra point against MSU. He splits the uprights and it’s 7-3 Purdue.

8:44 Great kick by Tausch and Anello takes down the returner short of the 20. Good to see the coverage unit has woken up. Last year they were deadly and with the new infusion of talent from the underclassmen this year it should be even better. It’s just a matter of being disciplined.

8:46 First down they complete a pass for 9 yards. Why? Because the receiver had a ten yard cushion. Can we stick someone on the line already? Is it that the cornerbacks aren’t as good as we think or is it the scheme that’s making them look bad?

8:47 Purdue first down and then Joey Elliot takes it for six on first down.

8:48 Darius Fleming blows up another play in the backfield. Could he finally be taking the next step and realizing some of his potential? He was my favorite person on the defense coming into this year to the point where I was about to buy a #45 jersey. But that little nugget from Michigan keeps entering my thoughts when every Fleming’s name comes up. Hate him. So much.

8:52 First play of the 2nd quarter is Kyle McCarthy breaking up a pass on 3rd and 6, forcing a punt. Blackledge said that if he would’ve went for the pick instead of the hint it would’ve gone the othey way. Maybe, but I’ll take a stop no questions asked at this point. The defense seems to be holding up pretty well compared to the last few games.

8:53 Dayne Crist enters the game. Apparently this was planned though the thinking was most likely get a big lead on the inferior team and then put Dayne in.

8:54 First snap and Crist rips off a 16 yard run! Got some wheels on that Great Dayne.

8:55 Crist misses an open receiver—gunned it a bit and a little low. Facing 3rd and 6.

8:56 A draw play to Golden Tate who was lined up as the single back goes for 15. What a great play. This is the type of creative play-calling I like to see from Charlie—it’s Holtz-esque like when he had Brown or Rocket.

8:57 Robert Hughes BOWLS over three people on a 20 yard rush. Good Lord where did THAT come from Robert? He follows it up with another strong run on a pitch to the right where he lowers his shoulders and delivers a hit as he’s taken down. This is what we wanted/needed from him all year (not to mention last year).

8:58 HUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUGHES! Another hard run from #33 for 7-yards takes it to the two yard line.

8:59 Hughes rumbles into the endzone to finish off the drive. Back from the dead in the nick of time. Brad Nessler comments “that’s just plain smashmouth.” When’s the last time we heard that about the Irish? Hell yeah, I love it. Irish 10, Purdont 7. Could we PLEASE put this away and keep Jimmy rested?

9:03 Ray Ray Herring contains the returner who tries to bounce it to the left. There’s a flag down…and it’s a late hit on Purdue! ESPN does nothing to help us see what the actual penalty was because apparently it was off screen. Sure seems like a gift but I have no idea due to the crappy replays. Keep in mind there were three flags thrown at the same person so I’m guessing it was legit. The call prompts this text from my Dad: “Where are these refs from St. Mary’s? I love it!” No objections here. Back’em up! KILLLLLL!

9:04 Backed up at the nine yard line they complete a 12 yard pass to a receiver that had about five yards of cushion on all sides. Typical. Purdue follows up with their first down cheer, which apparently is “1-2-3-4 FIRST DOWN, BITCH!” It comes through clear as a bell on television as if they wanted to make sure no one had any misconceptions of how classy West Lafayette, Indiana is.

9:05 KLM makes a good stop for no gain. He’s becoming more and more noticeable which is always good. He’s got loads of potential and with how terrible our line has been it’s time to turn that into production FAST.

9:06 The Purdue running back breaks Blanton down and gets by him for 5 yards. We’ve gotten way too many ankles broken this year all over the defense. 3rd and 5.

9:07 We get our hands on the quarterback twice but he slithers away (FINISH!!!!!!) and throws an incompletion. Purdue is called for a hold but it’s declined and the Irish have the ball back on the 38.

9:10 Golden running the Wildcat on first down takes it up the middle for a couple yards. I would be really curious to see a statistical breakdown of how we’ve done out of the wildcat. I want to do it but I don’t know where to get a tape of the Michigan game—if anyone knows please chime in.

9:11 More Wildcat, this time Golden hands it to Theo Riddick who takes it 24 yards down the right sideline. Great run, great blocking. Great, Wilford Brimley’s twin brother Joe Tiller has joined the booth. Need to work on that mustache Joe, it’s sorely lacking. He credits beating Notre Dame in 1997 for kickstarting the program.

9:12 Crist shows some athleticism and makes a two yard gain out of nothing. Very athletic for a big dude. 3rd and 4.

9:13 Golden on the draw play for a first down. That’s eleven straight runs according to Brad Nessler. That has to beat our record under Weis by at least seven, maybe more.

9:14 TOUCHDOWN GOLDEN TATE OUT OF THE WILDCAT! Great blocks by Theo Riddick and Dayne Crist—who was split out wide—spring him. Beautiful, C-Loss is gonna start wearing a I-Heart-Wildcat shirt soon. 17-7 IRISH, little under five minutes left in the half.

9:15 Joe Tiller says he thought that Clausen wouldn’t make it through the game and it would be the worst thing that could happen to them because Notre Dame would run more. Interesting.

9:16 Another well covered kick which is backed up even more thanks to a holding penalty. Thank you Purdue. Thank you.

9:18 They’re showing a replay of when Notre Dame lost to Purdue in 1999. They fail to show that Notre Dame ran out of time inside the 10 yard line because Bob Davie had used all his timeouts in the 3rd quarter. I swear that Davie used more timeouts in the 1st and 3rd quarters than 2nd and 4th.

9:19 Joey Elliot misses a receiver who was wide open down the seam. Who was in coverage? Toryan Smith. Come on Charlie/Tenuta/Whoever, GET HIM OUT OF THERE.

9:20 Brian Smith comes up with a stop on 3rd down as Elliot scrambled left. Time to punt again, things are looking gooooood.

9:23 Clausen is back in the game with 2:48 left, presumably to air it out with so little time left in the half. C-Loss was LIVID that we would be throwing the ball after running so effectively. Watching this game with C was like watching it with Peter Griffin’s father from Family Guy. We couldn't have scored enough points and held them to few enough points to make him entirely happy.

9:24 Jimmy throws two short passes and it’s 3rd and 5 with 2:09 left. Timeout.

9:26 Jimmy gets pressured and it’s incomplete. C-Loss is ready to fire Weis from the bar.

9:27 Maust unloads a bomb…and by bomb I mean a 33 yard dud that underkicks the coverage and gets returned almost to the original line of scrimmage. He needs to go to the bench forever. There’s a spot next to Brandon Walker waiting for him. My Dad texts "Jimmy could punt better," Panzer texts that "Game Face is on the sidelines warming up his legs." People from O'Neill Hall at ND will die at that line, others will have no idea who Game Face is. He could be a column all to himself. The defense needs to step up, we can’t afford to give up this momentum.

9:28 Holding penalty on Purdue on first down. They’re just as bad as we were the last few weeks. After two positive plays though it’s 3rd and 3 on the 36 yard line.

9:29 Incomplete on 3rd down, great coverage by Gary Gray. Wasn’t a good pass but there’s no chance the receiver could’ve done anything any way because of Gray. Great playing. I'm getting about 15 texts a minute and Kearney comments that I'm likely spending more on texting than on the open bar. There's a reason I paid for unlimited drinks/texts...

9:30 Purdue goes for it on 4th down, Bolden is WIDE OPEN out of the backfield and he drops it. Lucky break for the Irish. I don’t like how we’re relying on luck instead of seizing opportunity. Irish ball.

9:31 Clausen is back in the game and starts with a tight end screen that Rudolph takes into Purdue territory. Great catch and run by #9—it’s so tough to take him down in open space, he’s a BIG dude.

9:32 Clausen is taken down for a one yard gain after scrambling and we have to burn one of our timeouts.

9:33 Clausen completes a seed to Shaq Evans for a first down on the same route he biffed on against Michigan. After an incompletion on 1st down there are 24 seconds left. Let’s get some points here.

9:34 Notre Dame calls their final timeout before the play. Not even a little happy about that one. Did the ghost of Bob Davie just call that? Are we conceding to a field goal attempt?

9:35 Clausen goes to the endzone and it’s picked off. That’s his first INT of the year. Shaq Evans was the intended target and he did a pretty poor job of making any sort of attempt on that ball. If Michael Floyd is in the game that’s six points. Disappointing, but we’re still going into the half up 10 bearing complete catastrophe.

9:37 The All-State Good Hands Replay is the Samardzija catch against Purdont in 2005. That never gets old.

9:39 Halftime Skinny: Have to be happy with how the first half went after that first drive. Notre Dame put the clamps down on defense, cut down on the stupid penalties, and executed a brilliant Charlie Weis gameplan on offense. Very positive signs. C-Loss isn’t satisfied. For each beer he drinks he expects at least two touchdowns from Notre Dame (all rushing) and negative one touchdowns from the opponents.

9:58 I'm informed at halftime by my buddy Pat from Michigan that Matt Leinart was named player of the decade. No word as to whether there will be a manhunt for the people who submitted ballots that didn't have Tim Tebow at the top.

10:03 Dave Matthews brings us back from halftime. There are literally a thousand other songs/artists that are a better fit for ESPN. Is Taylor Swift going to do a promo too? Maybe Miley Cyrus?

10:04 Irish start with the ball and Dayne Crist is at the helm. Hopefully we can put this away so we can keep Jimmy rested. He needs to be 100% for Southern Cal, that’s really the only thing on my mind (other than winning these next two games).

10:05 Two runs right up the middle—one for no gain and a second for eight yards by Jonas Gray—puts it at 3rd and 2. Have to impose our will and break theirs at this point. Crist sneaks it for four yards and a first down. You can feel some of the air deflate from the stadium. Good start.

10:06 Crist completes his first pass out to the right flat to Golden. He threw that about 115mph. Easy there Dayne.

10:07 Golden takes it for a first down out of the Wildcat. The addition of that formation has absolutely been a positive.

10:08 More Wildcat by Tate on first down for a good game…and we’re backing up thanks to an illegal formation on Kamara. Please don’t start this again. Gray picks up six and it’s 2nd and 9—note that it would’ve been a first down had it not been for the penalty. Not only do we have a lot of penalties but they all seem to be so dam costly.

10:09 Two straight runs—one by Gray, one by Tate—get stuffed and it’s time to punt. Thank you Duval. A weak punt followed by a good return makes it probably a net 20 yard punt.

10:14 Fleming with a sack coming all the way from the opposite side of the field on first down. He looked like a lion locked in on a zebra.

10:15 Blanton breaks up a pass but it should’ve been a pick-six. He’s usually got a knack for the big play but we’re still waiting on one this year. Where that swag RJ?

10:16 Incomplete on 3rd down and it’s three and out for the Boilers, great start to the second half for the defense.

10:19 Purdue is really stacking the box now daring Crist to throw. On second down he completes a little pass to Hughes on second down that brings up a 3rd and 2.

10:20 Hughes bullies his way for five yards and a first down. Another good, hard run by #33. Welcome back to the RB rotation Robert. These little first down pick ups are the things that totally deflate a defense.

10:21 Another illegal formation call on Duval Kamara after a five yard gain on first down. Terrible.

10:22 Hughes takes a draw play for five yards (which would’ve been either a first down or 3rd and inches with the Kamara penalty) but does a little dancing instead of running a guy over. Don’t get cute Robert, just bowl over people.

10:23 Crist completes a pass on a bootleg to Rudolph who takes it for a first down. He’s just a beast.

10:24 It’s time for Todd’s Taste of the Town! They’re at Bruno’s Pizzeria! Which as all Notre Dame student know was founded in SOUTH BEND! The best thing Purdue has to offer is a spin-off of a mediocre pizza joint from South Bend, IN. That’s pretty sad. C-Loss, who absolutely hates the segment Taste of the Town when he’s sober (let alone in drunk venomous mode), looks about as happy as a Democrat at a four hour Sarah Pallin speech. Angry texts are flying.

10:25 Meanwhile there’s still a game going down and the Irish pick up a first down on a pass to Bobby Burger! The walk-on from Dayton breaks a tackle and rumbles nine yards. Pat immediately texts that he’s one of his five favorite players.

10:26 Golden Tate takes a pass in the flat for another first down. We’re rolling right now, time of possession for the quarter is 10:28-1:18 in favor of Notre Dame.

10:27 Irish run a draw play on 3rd and 10 that gets stuffed and it looks like the Irish are going for it. Notre Dame calls timeout.

10:31 They’ve decided to go for it…and Crist is sacked. That’s deflating. Trevor Robinson got blown away on that play.

10:32 First play is a little bubble screen (paging Ty Willingham) and the receiver breaks four terrible tackles and rumbles all the way down to the 31. So one play and they’re in field goal range, atrocious. There’s a momentum swing right here and we’ve hardly put this game out of reach even though we’ve dominated. They've also run out of green beer at the bar. We're reeling on all fronts here.

10:33 McCarthy stuffs the Boilers for a short gain on 2nd down bringing up a 3rd and 5. Fleming is down but it looks like it’s just cramps. We can’t afford to lose him.

10:34 Blanton whiffs on a tackle that would’ve stopped the receiver short of the first down and Purdue is inside the 15. I sound like a broken record but jeez can we stop making everyone look like Reggie Bush?

10:44 Notre Dame’s defense is stiffening in the red zone. It’s 3rd and goal.

10:45 Touchdown on a slant and suddenly it’s a three point ballgame even though it feels like we’re up by about five touchdowns. Notre Dame 17, Purdue 14 after the kicker sneaks the extra point in by about 3 inches.

10:49 Riddick has a nice return and it’s Irish ball at the 32. This is where we need a nice long drive to just ice this game. First play Crist airs it out and over throws a WIDE OPEN Golden Tate who could’ve somersaulted down the field and no one would’ve caught him. Blown opportunity there and it’s second down.

10:51 Purdue stuffs Tate in the backfield on a sweep and you can just feel the momentum shifting heavily in Purdue’s favor. Screen play is broken up on 3rd down and it’s three and out. Crap.

10:53 Harrison Smith interferes with the returner so of course we tack on 15-yards to a mediocre punt. To say I’ve been unimpressed with Harrison this year would be an understatement.

10:54 Hinkle texts me that Penn State is taking the gas and he sent Billy this text after Clark's second pick of the day: "how much do you miss a I-AA schedule?" If Notre Dame pulls this out this will be a great day.

10:55 False start on 2nd and 8 makes it 2nd and 13. Stupid penalties are contagious apparently. Sorry I’m not sorry that we infected Purdue. Jimmy is stretching and warming up on the sidelines.

10:56 Te’o misses a tackle that would’ve blown a screen pass up in the backfield on 3rd and long and the receiver weaves for a first down. Come on Manti…

10:58 Notre Dame burns their second time out. Bob Davie Syndrome is alive and well, Jiminy Christmas. 2nd and 4, Purdue ball inside the Irish 35 with under 10 minutes left.

11:00 Illegal motion on Purdue brings back a first down run. That’s Purdue’s 10th penalty of the night. This is followed by a delay of game. 2nd and 14.

11:02 Diving catch by the tight end cuts it to 3rd and 2.

11:03 Brian Smith takes Bolden down in the backfield for a one yard loss after the running back broke a McCarthy tackle. They’re going for it on 4th and 3. INTERCEPTED BY DARRIN WALLS. The ball was underthrown—if it would’ve been on the money it would’ve been a touchdown because Walls had lost his footing. Huge stop by the Irish, seemingly huge mental mistake by Purdue to not take advantage of the kicker they have that apparently can boot it 59 yards.

11:05 Clausen is back in the game. After a short run by Hughes Sam Young misses an assignment and the defensive end comes in unimpeded for a sack. Another timely big play by Sam Young.

11:06 Screen play goes for very little game but it would’ve been called back any way because of holding on (you guessed it) Sam Young. Irish are forced to punt with 6:05 left. We’re asking the defense to step up again and I don’t feel particularly comfortable with it. Not even a little. I’ve seen this movie before, why the hell do we always do this?

11:08 Purdue is already over midfield. Remember, they also have a kicker that has a huge leg so worst case scenario they’re already close to field goal range.

11:09 First down inside the 20 after a screen pass, though it’s backed up by a block in the back. First down at the 40 with under four minutes to go. I’m nauseous again.

11:11 Touchdown Purdue. Total coverage breakdown by Notre Dame and there isn’t a guy within 25 yards of the running back who had slipped out of the backfield. Almost a spitting image of the Michigan State game where we got lucky and Cousins overthrew his receiver in the endzone. No idea how that happens. Purdue takes the lead and Notre Dame’s season once again comes down to a single drive. Purdue 21, Notre Dame 17.

11:13 Notre Dame takes over at the 25 yard line with 3:37 left. Jimmy Clausen is in the game. Show me what you got Jimmy.

11:14 Offsides penalty on #97 starts us with 1st and 5. That’s nice. Clausen narrowly avoids a sack thanks to a last second block by Sam Young and zings one to Tate for a first down at the 45.

11:15 Swing pass to Hughes for one yard on first down. Clausen completes a pass to Rudolph in the right flat and like always Kyle rumbles for a big gain to the 32. Big block there by Paul Duncan at the last second allowed Jimmy to get off the throw.

11:16 Four yard run by Hughes on first down, clock still ticking away.

11:17 Jimmy is sacked on second down. Paul Duncan gets abused. Notre Dame calls their final timeout and it’s 3rd and 14. How badly do I miss Michael Floyd at this moment? Can’t even describe how much. We HAVE to pull this out.

11:19 FIRST DOWN THROW TO ROBBY PARRIS. Great throw and great catch gets by the marker by a yard. Irish are back in business, 1st down at the 21 with 1:15 left.

11:20 Go for the endzone with a fade to Golden, incomplete. I’m way too confident that we’re going to pull this off. This is Jimmy’s fault.

11:21 First down inside the five after Clausen connects with Tate. Great throw and a good run after the catch…less than one minute left.

11:22 Incomplete pass to Robby Parris who was looking for Pass Interference. 42 seconds left. Hughes is stuffed on 2nd down and Notre Dame is rushing up to the line to spike it. TIMEOUT PURDUE!?!? Talk about a gift, Good Lord. An extra play for the Irish. Purdue has shot themselves in the foot/head all day long with penalties and now this stupidity.

11:23 Clausen rolls right and throws an incomplete pass. 4th down. Ballgame, Season, Charlie Weis’s job, all on the line right here. Blackledge calls for them to throw to Rudolph, couldn’t agree more.

11:24 TOUCHDOWN KYLE RUDOLPH WITH 24 SECONDS LEFT!!!!!!!!!!!!!! SEASON SAVED!!!!!!!! JOB SAVED!!!!!!!!!!!!! HEISMAN CAMPAIGN LAUNCHED!!!!!!!!!!!! LEGEND BORN!!!!!!!!!!! DOGPILE IN THE BAR!!!!!!!! BEER THROWN EVERYWHERE!!!!!!!! I JUST MADE A NOISE THAT ONLY GUS JOHNSON COULD HEAR!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

11:24 Three people immediately text me "I'm getting too old for this." Brad immediately texts "rage mode ON."

11:25 In the immediate aftermath of the touchdown at the bar I notice that someone is handing my buddy Kearney an ice bag and he’s bleeding. Turns out that when the Irish scored I delivered an unintentional left hook that hit him square in the right jaw. The fact that he even felt it over the adrenaline and dozen beers he’s consumed is staggering and leads me to believe I deserve a Bengal Bouts Finalist Jacket. Kearney’s pearl of wisdom: “better you pop me and Notre Dame win than lose and me leave without a bloody lip.” That’s called a dedicated fan. It’s great to watch games with people who care almost too much like Kearney and C-Loss (God Bless his bitter soul). There are probably 10-15 people I know that qualify for that distinction with Notre Dame football but it'd be stupid to try to list them because I know I'd leave someone out. I remember at a game my Freshman year my buddy (and current Marine) Sully and I were in the bleachers of Notre Dame Stadium discussing what could keep us from a game. I said what about a coma and he replied, “if you’re in a coma for a game we’ll break you out of the hospital, lay you on the bench, and then throw you up for pushups every time we score.” Wouldn’t want it any other way.

11:26 Notre Dame kicks off and stuffs them back at the 20. Credit the coaching staff for really getting on special teams the last few weeks.

11:27 TE’OOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO WITH THE SACK! Sergio Brown tries to take credit for it. Please Sergio, step aside. Allow Notre Dame Nation to enjoy the first of Manti’s 40 career sacks.

11:29 A terrible trick play is fumbled and Ethan Johnson recovers. BALLLLLLLGAME. First win on the road against a Big 10 opponent since the infamous Michigan State game in the rain in 2006 (gross stat there).

This season is taking years taken off my life. Years. But a win is a win is a win. This is why we’re college football fans right? To experience to the highest of highs and the lowest of lows. It just so happens that we seem to do it every week. We’ll take it.

BRING ON THE HUSKIES!

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Facing the Music


I'm sitting here as PTI wraps up and the bottom border of ESPN flashes "COLLEGE FOOTBALL LIVE NEXT." I'm not going to watch it, I know Penn State will only be discussed in the context of Saturday evening's game, and I've had that conversation as honestly as I can with myself about 10 times since the game. Here's where I'm at:

There's really only one short bright stretch to this game, right? The first 10 minutes. 3 and out, first offensive play from scrimmage TD, tack on a field goal to that and we have a double digit lead. At this point, I'm thinking, "We look good," the coaches were thinking, "Let's slow this down," and Iowa was thinking, "This is familiar." From that point on we took the liberty of lowering the shotgun to the top of our foot and firing away. Not to say we didn't deserve to lose, we did, but the way we did made me sick to my stomach.

Firstly, before I proceed to make myself as miserable as possible with an in house analysis, Iowa is better than us. They abused us with the running game and capitalized off our turnovers and limited their own. When I say they deserved to win, I mean it.

Our offensive line is bad, every kind of bad. They were physically overmatched, communicated poorly, and they blew assignments. Iowa's D line had them for dinner, Clark had defenders in his face almost every time he dropped back and the run game looked like its 2009 familiar self. The 0 sacks surrendered is more of a testament to Daryll's mobility than to the line. About Daryll's mobility...

USE IT!!!! That 1st interception thrown absolutely killed me, it's 3rd and 2, hes rolling right, he weighs 245 and he has a good 5 yards of field in front of him. Tuck the ball and get it. Instead he opted to throw the short out (more on these later) and it got picked. He claims the ball slipped, and I might believe him, but the ball wouldn't have slipped if he had chosen to use his legs instead of forcing it. We are running Clark with more caution this year because of the absence of depth at QB, but if you can get a first down and then slide that's a play any QB should make, whether it's DC or Kerry Collins. The dual threat quarterback is DEADLY in college football and the "Spread HD" is at its best when we have a quarterback willing to run. Without one we are the predictable, containable offenses of 2006, 2007 and apparently 2009. That really showed on Saturday with all the passes to the sidelines, the "movement" of the pocket that looks fancy but doesn't fool anyone, the stubborn scheme that changes like the weather in Orlando. We did not challenge the middle of the field, we did little to impede Iowa's pass rush, and when we did Royster dropped the screen pass that would've gone for a first down. Shotgun! Clark has to throw the ball 20 yards laterally to gain 3 yards in this system. The safeties can cheat to the sidelines against this system. We can go 8-4 with this system.

This game was a nightmare from the past, a step backward. I wish we would've lost differently, all the usual gripes that went dormant last year resurfaced on Saturday. Last year we didn't know what we had in our offense and we played hungrier, calling whatever it took to win. This time we wanted to win on some bogus terms, we were determined to play a certain style of football and if that wasn't enough, so be it. I'm more upset with the coaches than anything here, we are so easy to play against in big regular season games. We have a few scripted plays and then we reel it in the rest of the game, trying to grind it out instead of going and getting the W. We ran a 3 back Power-I formation twice on Saturday, and both times we ran a counter with Chaz Powell. The first time it gained 8 yards and the second time it gained 0. That formation wasn't anywhere to be seen the rest of the game, the ONLY look the D had at it was the play that we ran twice. We could've play action passed, we could've faked the counter and ran Royster straight ahead, but we went with what was comfortable, what was familiar. That's the recurring theme that has killed me watching this team over the years. We won't always have the talent to comfortably beat teams the way that we want to, sometimes we have to adjust. And why wouldn't we? Why wouldn't we do everything in our power to win the game at hand and keep the title dream alive? I'm tired of playing not to lose. To show you how much this hurts I'm going to quote the original protagonist of this dressed up conservative offense Anthony Morelli when he said, "The defense isn't going to give us anything, we have to take it."

Great Moments in Notre Dame-Washington History

First we have some highlights from Ty Bowl I which includes the famous "Throw Right" for young and terminally ill Notre Dame fan Montana Mazurkiewicz. Until the first Ty Bowl rolled around I really didn't dislike or resent Ty Willingham. I thought he was a class act and handled his firing well...he just wasn't a good coach. Feelings changed that weekend when he played the race card in an interview with John Saunders. The part of Notre Dame Nation that still respected him as a person took on the role of Michael Corleone and Ty took on the role of Fredo--the Molder of Men had officially burned all bridges to the Golden Dome. Notice how happy and full of hope he seems in the interview at the beginning of the video.

And here we can relive last year's thrashing with the little number below. I'll remember this as the game where Charlie Weis coached against Ty Willingham and Bob Davie announced while throwing it to Lou Holtz at halftime. That's has to be the equivalent of all the planets lining up in order. George O'Leary was asked to be the sideline reporter but declined. Not the highest quality video but you can use it to remind yourself what happens when Notre Dame plays high school level opponents.

Before that though, let's take a look at this video which I like to call "selective memory." As you can see a Washington fan put together highlights from the 2008 Notre Dame-Washington game (you know, the one where Notre Dame tossed the Huskies around like a rag doll and it took Washington until the fourth quarter to cross midfield) and somehow made it seem like Washington not only was in the game but dominated it. It's captioned "watch the Huskies lay the beatdown on Jimmy Clausen." I guess it will go on their DVD of the Ty Willigham Era? Game outcomes be damned! Judging by the captions on the bottom of this video (specifically ZuluWarrior1865's comment) there won't be many people in Seattle buying it.

(PS--try not to gag when you see Brandon Walker's stats...they sit there taunting you before you even click the video)

Monday, September 28, 2009

It's a Beautiful Morning...


Notre Dame comes back and wins in the final minute. Penn State takes the gas at home against what’s becoming a hated rival. Great weekend in my book. Let’s tackle ten topics today.

10. Jimmy Clausen

Consider his Heisman campaign officially launched. He comes in off the bench after sitting out 2/3 of the game with an injury and engineers a drive for the ages to keep the season alive. You can’t say enough about how this kid has matured and come of age in every single aspect of his game. Forget the fact that he’s been lights out and his stats are off the charts (three 300 yard games, 66% completion pct, 10:1 TD to INT ratio), it’s the other things that point towards greatness.

For example, right after Purdue scored the first touchdown of the game and before the offense took the field for the first time, he went up to every offensive starter to get them fired up. It’s obvious that he’s taken on the role of leader that so many clamored for him to seize…and one of the best things about it is that it isn’t contrived. It’s very apparent that his teammates like him and respect him—a claim you couldn’t have made with any degree of certainty two years ago. He’s answered the bell and proven to those who doubted (including many former Notre Dame legends like Marc Edwards) that he could take the reigns and flourish. He’s poised, has a great sense of the pass rush, and always has his eyes downfield—you just can’t say enough about him. His calm under fire rubs off on his teammates as well. Think about it: in the last three weeks he’s led drives late in the 4th quarter to give the Irish the lead—two of them when he was injured. I can honestly say I’m just as confident that Jimmy will deliver in the clutch as I was when Brady was at the helm.

He arrived in South Bend with unbelievable fanfare and it seemed as if there was no way he’d ever live up to the expectations he was burdened with. If he sticks around for next year he may end up surpassing them.


9. Penn State

Let’s go back to my preseason Penn State preview!

“Penn State has never handled preseason expectations well—the two highest rankings they’ve achieved in the past ten years have come in years where no one picked them to do anything (unranked in 2005, #22 last year). They were routinely a top ten preseason team in the late 90’s and played in more Alamo Bowls than BCS bowls. They had a chance to head to the championship last year and just had to take care of an Iowa team that was headed to the Outback Bowl but they laid an egg. They have to replace their entire secondary and three All-Big Ten Offensive Linemen. Sorry Bill, you won’t get a shot at Tebow. You won’t even be close. The Nittanys go 10-2.”

See, what Billy learned this weekend is that all the noise 110,000 fans wearing white tees can create doesn’t help an offensive line block. It also doesn’t help a quarterback complete passes to his own team. Daryl Clark started the game with a bang and ended with a thump. The first two drives he went 6/9 for 104 yards and a 79 yard touchdown pass. The rest of the game he was 6/23 for 94 yards and three interceptions. His Heisman predictor rating on ESPN just has a picture of a skull and crossbones. Look at the bright side Bill—if the Nittany’s take care of business against the teams they should beat for the rest of the year they could end up in Capital One Bowl, which is in Orlando! Don’t look past Eastern Illinois though…heard they’ve got a fiesty pass rush.


8. Sam Young

Young has improved leaps and bounds since Frank Verducci arrived, tapping the vast potential everyone saw when he was a five star recruit coming out of high school. That being said, he has mental lapses that are so inexcusable that I can’t say he’s having a great season. I would guess that he’s the most penalized player in America through four weeks. He has to be! I can remember six different penalties called on him—holding, false starts, and personal fouls—off the top of my head. This Saturday the trend continued and on top of the stupid penalties he whiffed on a block on 4th and 1 during the first drive of the game that resulted in a turnover on downs. He’s like a quarterback who has played great…but every other quarter he just fumbles a snap and sabotages a drive.

This is something we just can’t afford from a four year starter; I don’t care how good he’s playing the rest of the game. As far as I’m concerned he’s doing as much harm with these mental breakdowns as he was the past few years when he blocked like a matador. I hope Verducci rides him hard and fixes this so we can focus on the fact that the rest of the time he’s playing himself into a high draft pick.


7. Robert Hughes

A big welcome back to Mr. Hughes! When he got in the game in the second quarter he kicked it into a gear we hadn’t seen since his freshman year. He ran like a bull and would not go down without three people on his back. This is exactly what most people expected him to be like out of the gate last year, but for whatever reason he just stopped running with a purpose. Slowly he slipped down the depth chart and suddenly he found himself being shifted to fullback. Armando’s injury provided what could have been his last chance to make a case for him to stay at running back—and he ran like he knew it. His stats didn’t light the world on fire (15 carries for 68 yards…37 of them on 4 carries during a 2nd quarter drive), but if he can run with the power he displayed against Purdue he’ll be back in the mix for touches especially in the red zone.


6. Charlie Weis

He’s still under fire from a lot of Notre Dame fans and it seems like each week he has to win to maintain any sort of support, but credit needs to be given where credit is due. Weis put together a fantastic gameplan against Purdue. His quarterback was banged up, his best receiver was out, and his top running back was out…but he found a way to win. A heavy dose of the running game, a second package put in place for Dayne Crist, and another brilliantly called and executed two minute drill with the game (and maybe—as always—his job) on the line. My buddy Brad pointed out Weis has proven that he calls the best two minute drill in the country. Couldn’t agree more.

Also, Charlie’s utilization of Golden Tate was a thing of beauty. He put together a gameplan that resembled one of Lou Holtz when he had Rocket and Tim Brown—get the ball in your playmaker’s hands as much as possible by any means necessary. Golden lined up as quarterback in the wildcat, tailback in the I-formation, and split out wide. He performed well in every role and I hope this continues going forward—the guy just makes plays.


5. The Offense’s Next Step

Notre Dame has learned how to come from behind and win. They’ve done it two weeks in a row (three straight weeks of lead-taking drives in the final quarter counting Michigan) and that’s something you must do in order to be a great team…but there’s still one thing they must learn how to do if they’re going to officially take the leap: SLAM THE DOOR. The past three weeks we were clearly the better team on the field and allowed the opponent to hang around instead of putting them away. Two times we got away with it, one time the opponent jumped up and bit us. Let’s look at what we could call potential “Slam the Door” drives in the 4th quarter of the past three games.

MICHIGAN: Took over with 3:07 left to play after a good stand by the defense. Armando picks up a first down on the first play with a 13 yard run. Hughes is then stuffed for no gain, Michigan has to burn a timeout. Clausen attempts a fly route to Tate which falls incomplete (should have been pass interference). No time runs off the clock. Clausen can’t hook up with Evans on 3rd and 10 and the Irish are forced to punt.
Drive Summary: 4 plays (2 rush, 2 pass), 13 yards, 0:54

MICHIGAN ST: Took over with 4:48 left after another great stand by the defense. Armando had a five yard rush on first down but it was backed up 12 yards thanks to a personal foul penalty after the play on Sam Young. This essentially amounted to a loss of down. Clausen then bailed out Sam Young with an 18 yard pass to Tate for a first down. Armando was stuffed in the backfield for a five yard loss on first down, ripped off a 9 yard run on second down, followed by an incomplete pass intended for Goodman on 3rd and 6.
Drive Summary: 5 plays (3 rush, 2 pass), 15 yards, 1:50

PURDUE: Took over the ball with 7:34 left after Darrin Walls intercepted a 4th down pass in Irish territory. Robert Hughes had a three yard run on first down. Second down we gave up a sack. Third down a dump to Hughes got three yards (a holding penalty was called on Notre Dame and declined)
Drive Summary: 3 plays (1 rush, 2 pass), 1 yard, 1:38

The averages are four plays for 9.7 yards and 1:17 run off the clock. That’s pretty atrocious. We’re constantly on the defense for not being able to come up with the necessary stop at the end of the game, but you’ll notice that in each of these instances the defense DID make the necessary stop and provided the offense with a chance to close the game out. That doesn’t exonerate the defense by any stretch but it certainly is cause for pause.

The defense loaded the box and dared Notre Dame to pass on all three of those drives. It’s unfortunate that we couldn’t simply impose our will and jam it down their throats, but if we can’t we need to figure out how to be effective in other ways. I think Charlie has made some good calls in these situations (many—namely my roommate—disagree), it just comes down to executing. If Shaq Evans has the timing correct on that comeback route we’re 4-0 and ranked top 10 in the country right now. If we don’t take a five yard loss on first down in that Michigan State series we’re looking at a 3rd and 1 after Armando’s 9 yard run instead of 3rd and 6. I tried but I really can’t say anything redeeming about the three plays in the Purdue game.

Notre Dame works on the two-minute drill hard in practice and you know what? It shows. I think it’d be wise if Charlie started simulating circumstances in practice where we need a long, clock-killing drive to close a game out. Our longest drive of the year came against Purdue in the second half and it was only 6:20 (and resulted in zero points). If we put practicing those drag-out drives that kill the will of a team to use like we do the two-minute drill we’ll be taking one of the final necessary steps to being a great team on the offensive side of the ball.


4. The Irish Defense

For how much confidence I have that our offense will deliver, I have an equal lack of confidence that our defense will make the necessary play to win a game. Two straight weeks there was a total coverage breakdown on a drive late in the fourth quarter and there wasn’t a defender within 20 yards of a running back out of the backfield. Purdue quarterback Joey Elliot connected, Michigan State quarterback Kirk Cousins did not (thank you God in heaven).

This is a unit that plays on its heels (in spite of the fact that they blitz on almost every down). I don’t know whether it’s a matter of still not being totally comfortable with the system or what, but it seems like rarely do you see anybody in a position to make a big play. Darius Fleming has made some great strides, Kyle McCarthy has been a rock in the secondary, and (gulp) John Ryan has actually been solid on the defensive line (this is the first year he has as many tackles as high fives)…but other than that it’s been pretty sub-par.

There are certain things that just don’t make sense to me. For example, why was Toryan Smith in the game so much against Purdue when they were spreading us out? He’s terrible in coverage and the Boilers continually picked on him over the middle and he could do nothing about it. Toryan is a tough guy but he’s proven to be the Asaph Schwapp of our defense—if someone is directly in his path he’s devastating, if hitting the person requires an iota of lateral movement then he’s toast. Why not put Te’o in there? By almost all accounts he’s one of our top three linebackers; why not give him a chance to learn against these less talented teams where he’s the better fit anyway?

Another thing that doesn’t make sense is that our cornerbacks don’t look great. Everyone thought the secondary would be one of our biggest strengths this year but we consistently are giving up 8 and 9 yard passes with little to no resistance. Why are we sagging off of the receivers so much? Is that a schematic flaw or are they just underperforming? I can’t really remember any true coverage sacks—please correct me if I’m wrong—which is staggering given our talent.

We have studs out there in Blanton, Walls, McNeil, and Gray. Why not give them a chance to jam the guys at the line (especially Blanton and McNeil because they’re the more physical of the co-starters) and throw off timing? Walls was on the receiver like a glove when he made that pick but there have been far more times where receivers were roaming free in the intermediate range of our defense than times I remember great coverage.

The honeymoon period with Jon Tenuta has officially been over for a couple weeks now. He really needs to make some adjustments in order for this team as a whole to reach its fullest potential. He’s not playing with a stacked deck like Charlie is on offense (our defensive line should be known as IHOP), but if he’s one of the best in the business he needs to figure out a way to be a GOOD defense.


3. Eric Maust

I’m ready to move on to the future. Maust’s punting average has dropped from 42.1 in 2007 to 41.1 in 2008 to 39.8 this season. He’s incapable of unleashing a bomb like Geoff used to and he’s not consistent enough to justify keeping him out there, especially when he lays 30 yard eggs at the most inopportune times. I know Charlie isn’t hesitant to yank the punter if he isn’t performing even if he is a senior (just look at 2007 when Geoff was yanked for Maust) so I’m assuming Turk has been doing something to keep himself off the field. I’d certainly like to know what though. My college roommate Jeff was at the game this weekend and said Turk was booming punts 10-15 yards further than Maust in warmups. I’ll be very interested to see what happens over the next couple weeks.


2. The College Football Landscape (rapid fire reactions to the weekend)

Michigan plays with 12 men in the Big House…the officiating crew being the 12th man, not the fans. As far as I’m concerned both Notre Dame and Indiana were victims of abhorrently bad officiating in Michigan Stadium. Imagine what would be going on in Ann Arbor if the Skunkbears were 2-2 (like they should be)…

Analysts need to settle down on the conversation of whether non-BCS schools deserve to be in the national championship game if they run the table. Every year a couple mid-major teams emerge early in the season and everyone flips out over how they’re going to blow up the BCS. With very few exceptions they trip up along the way in conference play and the discussion is squashed (Fresno State a few years back, East Carolina last year, etc.). Before we start making statements like “if BYU runs the table and they aren’t in the national championship I’m done watching college football” (how’d that Tomahawk Chop taste Steve Young?), let’s wait and see how October goes. If there was a way to short Houston stock right now I’d have unloaded my bank account already.

Did the video of Tim Tebow being taken out in the ambulance make anyone else think of the WWF? Didn’t you expect Jim Ross to be announcing that scene?

Is the quarterback sneak not in Mississippi State’s playbook?

Big thanks to Washington for getting their doors blown off this weekend by the Fighting Jim Harbaughs of Stanford. The only redeeming thing about them beating Southern Cal was the fact that they’d be ranked when we played them. They have exactly zero votes in both polls now. Super. Honorable mention to the Wannstache and his Pitt Panthers for losing to NC State.

Southern Cal is already back up to #7 in the country. I can only hope they climb into the Top Five somehow before October 17th.

The U is back! The U is back! The U is…uh ohhhh.

Bobby Bowden, it’s time to go…


1. Stress

Here are the five texts that rolled in two minutes after we scored the final touchdown against Purdue:

“I’m way too old for this.” –Hot Carl
“Heart attack within five years.” –Pat
“We’re living ten years less.” –My girlfriend
“I had legit chest pains. Felt like a NOS hangover.” –Panzer
“These games aren’t fun.” –John Ifky

Median age of the people who sent those texts: 23

I love college football and I love the emotions it conjures up; that’s why it’s hands down the best sport in America. But for the love of God Charlie, if you want more than half of your fan base to make it to January without a massive heart attack please just give us some more games like Nevada. I don’t know how much more I can take of this. That being said, if the alternative is losses go ahead and keep doing this. I’ll just watch games with a defibrillator handy.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

THE LASTING IMAGES OF 9/26/09

THE THRILL OF VICTORY
THE AGONY OF DEFEAT
To say I'm looking forward to Billy's next post would be the understatement of the century. I watched the Irish win at a bar but if I can find a replay of the game there will be a retro diary...Billy, WHY DID YOU TOUCH THAT BUTTON AGAIN?!? YOU WERE EVEN WARNED BY SOMEONE FROM THE FUTURE!!!

Enjoy that LOOOOOONG flight back from Happy Valley to Orlando.

I WILL NEVER GRADUATE
KISS MY NITTANY...GO IRISH

Friday, September 25, 2009

GAMEDAY: TROUBLE BOILING?


I think the fact that I’m so nervous about this game says something about Notre Dame’s season. Let’s talk this out. Preseason this game was supposed to be an automatic win, a gimme. Suddenly, with three of our five biggest offensive weapons sidelined or banged up and a defense with more questions than my girlfriend had while trying to watch The Godfather, going into Ross-Ade Stadium is a scary proposition. Purdue is not a particularly talented team—in fact this is probably the weakest squad the Boilermakers have fielded in over ten years. But they also have shown more progress than expected even with their loss to Northern Illinois. They blew the doors off of Toledo (who turned around and blew the doors off of Colorado) and took Oregon down to the wire in Eugene. Last weekend was a bit of a reality check, but make no mistake; this is a team that is more than capable of pulling an upset.

The Irish have made unbelievable strides on the offensive side of the ball…but now Michael Floyd is gone. Some people point to how the floor dropped out from the offense after he went down last year but I don’t necessarily buy that has relevance in terms of this year. No one will deny how huge a gamebreaker he is, but this year Jimmy actually has a functional offensive line. Many forget that Floyd barely played at all in the Hawaii Bowl last year and when he was in he was ineffective because he was probably 60% healthy. The offensive line kept Jimmy upright in that game and I believe that will be the defining difference between last year sans Floyd and going forward this year without him. Michael will be missed, but his absence won’t be a offensive death knell like it was the last couple regular season games last year.

Speaking of Jimmy, he’s banged up. Last Saturday was a gutty performance in leading the Irish to a comeback victory. I think Charlie relieves some of the stress in this week’s gameplan and we really get to see just how much the offensive line has improved in the run blocking department. Northern Illinois shredded the Boilers for 280 yards on the ground last week. Is it a stretch to think the Irish should be able to do that, especially when Purdue can’t load up the box due to our passing game? I’d like to think yes but the jury is still out. We’ve shown great flashes this year—enough that I’d call Verducci a Frank Broyles Award candidate—but now it’s time to impose our will with the running game being the focal point. This will be a huge test.

Speaking of the running game, it will be hampered a bit because Armando Allen may not play. I love Jonas Gray; I love the way he runs and I think he has loads of potential …but his matador blocking and tendency to fumble are two things we really can’t afford this weekend. We have a talented stable of backs and I think they’ll get their shots as well this weekend, but if there’s one thing we’ve learned over the past five years it’s the difference having a back that does all the little things makes. Armando has slowly entered the Darius Walker Zone with his ability to pick up blitzes and fall forward for that extra yard when he’s going down. Can Jonas, Theo Riddick, or Robert Hughes step up? Frankly if we want our season to stay on track they have no choice. They’re not facing a high-caliber defense, it’s time to deliver some big plays on the ground.

Our defense’s shortcomings have been discussed ad nauseum at this point. Purdue doesn’t have the high powered offense we’re used to seeing with their “basketball on turf” attack, but they still posted over 450 yards two of their first three games (including Oregon). The last two weeks the Irish have made Tate Forcier look like Joe Montana and Kirk Cousins look like a first round draft pick. Jon Tenuta defended his scheme this week and the company line seems to be that they’re on the verge of breaking through. I don’t really know what else to say that hasn’t already been said at this point. Our defensive line has been bad, our linebackers have been nearly as bad, our secondary has been a letdown (minus Kyle McCarthy), and we seem to blitz no matter how much/little sense it makes in a given situation. I do know that if we get flagged for one more late hit I’m going to go to my cabinets and just start throwing glassware at the television (apologies in advance to my roommate C-Loss—it’s his glassware and his TV).

I thought we’d know a lot about our team and what expectations should be after the first three weeks. I know it’s going to be another month (at least) until we have a nice relaxing Saturday like we had against Nevada. There’s a boatload of talent on the offensive side of the ball that seems to have come into its own, but the Irish have done just about everything in their power to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory. Penalties and special teams are the main culprits—things that good teams do well, things that are easy to fix with DISCIPLINE.

This game will go one of two ways. The first is like 2005 where we come out with the pedal on the metal and immediately deflate the stadium en route to a beatdown. The other way is that we let them hang around and it goes down to the wire in yet another game that is stressful enough to take a year off my life. I’d love to say Notre Dame steps on Purdue’s throat early and coasts to a victory just like that 2005 masterpiece…but I just can’t. There’s nothing I’d like more than to have some confidence restored with a complete game as we march toward October 17th, but with so many banged up this has turned into a “get a win and get the hell out of there” game. We only need to bring our B- game and we walk out a victor. The Irish post a 3.0 and stay on course.

Notre Dame 31
Purdue 23

A Great Moment in Notre Dame-Purdont History


Ray Zellers tells the Purdue defense to assume the position in the 1994 meeting.

Some Hate, I Educate






Here, I didn't have to go to last year to find this...



http://www.notredamesucks.org/

I don't have time to syphon off any more hate for you right now, I'm channeling everything towards a certain middle American state/afterthought: Iowa. Let me just say that after 1 "Iowa state facts" google iteration, I found that all my preconceived notions were true. Corn is a major industry, it's among the least visited MIDWESTERN states, and Herbert Hoover, president during our country's great depression, was born there. Also, Field of Dreams was filmed there, one bright spot. Now, I don't mean to be classist, but don't they have some weight to pull? We're just rewarding senate seats for that kind of performance? It doesn’t seem right... Let’s get to these comments from Adam Rittenberg’s ESPN Blog and other game conversation. Welcome to the truth vacuum people.

andyhawkeyes (in response to another post): I love how he says, "I just can't see Daryll Clark letting Penn State lose this one, especially after how he struggled last year in Iowa City." LOL! As if Iowa's defense had nothing to do with it. They are the reason we won that game. Also Mr. Rittenburg the games outcome doesn't depend on whether or not Daryll Clark wants to let Penn State lose or not. Iowa might not want to LET him win!

Response: Thanks for the revelation andy, I would hope Iowa doesn’t want to let him win. Daryll lost it for us, he said so himself, so it must be true. They won that game because 17 sailed a slant pattern to Derrick Williams for a pick and the Iowa offense drove the field, and their kicker made a clutch kick. The defense did an okay job, but we shot ourselves in the foot with poor offensive execution. However, this is the one subplot I worry about here. Clark has been very open about how much this game means to him and how he places last year’s loss solely on his shoulders. He might want this one too much. If Iowa comes out stuffing the run and we’re forced to pass I can’t say for sure that Clark won’t press. He needs to trust the guys around him to make plays, and we should be okay. The weather this time around should be a lot more conducive to passing: 55 and rainy, which is actually an upgrade from 25 and windy.

the_iowa_hawkeye (in response to another post): "Iowa will not be able to run the ball at will on PSU."
Funny, that's what the Zona fans said last week.

Response: Zona doesn’t have Jared Odrick and Ollie Ogbu. If Iowa is going to have a chance they’re going to have to move the ball through the air. Which I do think they should be able to do a little bit. Stanzi seems to have the right “QB intangibles” that allow him to make throws when his team needs it. Penn State’s secondary is still not there yet, a couple guys were caught out of position last week and Vaughn actually put up some numbers on us. So the_iowa_hawkeye I’d be thrilled if Iowa comes out running.

hawk4trees: “Everyone!! I just returned from the future, and I would take Iowa to beat the spread if I were you. I will not, however, tell you who wins. (But it was one #### ugly game, eeeg)”

Response: So wise, so cosmically stoned.



UpsetCubsfan :Iowa beat Penn State again last year for the 6th time in 7 games. if you hit a button 7 times and it shocked you 6 times... what would you expect the 8th time you hit it? Would you already consider yourself stupid for not expecting a shock? 
Would you trust some dude from ESPN who says... go ahead kid... we say it will be alright this time!
Would you talk smack about how there is no way this button will shock you THIS time and say "hey fellas.. watch this!"

Response: No, I probably wouldn’t touch the button again.

The 6 out of last 7 argument seems to be a go to for the Hawkeyes and why not? They get a real kick out of it, like when they see a dog chase a tractor. Looking at the last 7 PSU vs Iowa games I realized that “Yeah, they probably should’ve beaten us 6 out of 7.” I know Penn States dominance over the last 4 is an occupying thought, but looking back further than that we’re talking about the dark ages. Notre Dame 2007 dark ages. They beat us every year from 2000-2004, when we were a combined 26-33, a stretch during which they went 41-21. We did not play them in 2005, when we went 11-1, didn’t play them in 2006, we beat them in 2007 with Morelli at the helm, and then lost last year. So really they’ve upset us once in 8 years. Isn’t that the conversation we should be having? With all this history talk is anyone mentioning that Iowa’s ONLY national championship came in 1921!?!? Does that count? Do we even have to talk about how the landscape of college football has changed since 1921? This stuff drives me nuts. I don’t mean to make make you more upset, cubs fan, but if you thought that college football was similar to some electrically charged button, doesn’t that make you an idiot? If you were a real big shot and had huge nuts wouldn’t you just start a blog and parade around your opinion uncontested??

jritchkoff04 says: “ESPN said they simulated the PSU-Iowa game 10,000 times.
They score it as PSU 27.3 to Iowa 13.8.
They say that PSU covers the 9.5 point spread 64% of the time which is surprising given they have PSU having 2.7 TOs to Iowa's 1.7 TOs.
They have PSU's win % at 83%.”

Miller_ms responds: “There's a reason why they play games in real life. Because on any given day, any team can beat another team. I bet if you ran the simulation of last years teams the end result would be similar of this years or favor PSU more. But what happened in reality?”

Response: Computers are always right.

The more I read about this Saturday’s game, the more I do think it will be close, but I really don’t see Iowa beating us. They just don’t have the talent that we do and our crowd is going to be ever so rowdy. A week ago I would’ve picked PSU 100-0, but I’ve calmed down a bit and I’m going with 41-20.

Also, there's a reason I write Penn State and you stalk Notre Dame, Navarro Bowman will play and Sean Lee actually does have an outside shot at playing. I would talk ND if I knew I had accurate information, like Michael Floyd being out for the year.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

THE BODOGS ARE BARKIN: Week 3 Picks

Another terrible week for both of us last week, but the Sloth of Schnecksville has nudged ahead in the standings. Time for a rebound...with lengthened analysis!

Mattare's Lock of the Week: Boise State (-16.5) over Bowling Green

Boise State is just a well-oiled machine that has kicked their offense into high gear. They rolled through Fresno and if anyone thinks Bowling Green will stop them think again.

The Other Nine:

South Carolina (+4.5)...Spurrier still terrorizes the schools he used to own (since arriving he's knocked off Georgia, Tennessee, Kentucky, and Florida when they were ranked top 15) he just doesn't hang 60 on them like he used to.

Florida State (-14)...Matt Groethe is out for the year. The Criminoles are fast. Christian Ponder is Smart. Bobby Bowden is old. It's science.

Illinois (+14)...Arrelious Benn is absolutely unstoppable in NCAA Football 2010.

Virginia Tech (+3)...Hokies a home dog? Really?

Cal (-5.5)...Oregon just isn't very good. We can only hope the Ducks' new starting running back goes Wayne Brady on his own fans.

Colorado St (+17)...People are sleeping on the Rams too much--only lost to the Cougs by 3 last year. BYU could not be more deflated right now.

Notre Dame (-7)...Child Please.

Texas Tech (+1)...I just can't take Houston seriously yet. I'm going to choose the team led by the coach that thinks he's a pirate.

Washington State (+45)...USC only scored more than 45 points period twice in their last fifteen games. Once was against Wazzou (69-0), but still.


Mikey's Lock of the Week: Temple (-2.5) over Buffalo

"Yeah, you read it right."

The Other Nine:

Ole Miss (-4.5)- If you haven't already, go bet your next 10 years salaries on Ole Miss. You won't regret it.

Minnesota (PK)- I've watched Brett Basanez (a Northwestern alum) play all preseason for the Bears. If they're still producing players with his talent level Minnesota is the easiest pick this century.

Michigan St. (+2.5)- Just my opinion but Wisconsin sucksss this year.

Ohio St. (-14)- Arrelious Benn might pull a Randy Moss and walk off the field during this game at some point.

Miami (-3)- Like I said last week Miami's winning the ACC. Can't do it unless they get this one so that's all the reasoning I need.

Kentucky (+23)- Since coming to northern Kentucky (aka Cincinnati) I've seen alot of things UK. They're building one underrated football program down there and I think they'll use this game as motivation to prove that. Look for Trevard Lindley to pick Tim "call me Timothy" Tebow at least once.

Iowa (+10)- Just trying to make the loss doubly hard on Billy.

Stanford (-7)- Washington will beat USC and lose to Satnford in consecutive weeks. Good luck explaining that to the AD Steve Sarkisian.

South Florida (+14)- Only reason I like this is I see a big letdown for Florida St. The bulls just lost their senior QB for the year so I advise nobody to follow this one.

YEAR TO DATE STANDINGS
Mattare: 10 points...(4-6 last week, 0-1 lock...9-11 overall, 1-1 lock)
Mikey: 11 points...(4-6 last week, 1-0 lock...10-10 overall, 1-1 lock)

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

SHOTS FIRED

Ladies and Gents, it’s Penn State-Iowa Week! This means a couple things. First of all, Penn State’s grueling non-conference schedule has finally come to a close. Wait nevermind, there’s still one left in October. The Panthers of Eastern Illinois from I-AA will roll into town the weekend of the 10th, can’t forget them when talking about the cupcake sampler du jour. Bill, your Nittany Lions have digested so many of them that they now share a disease with Wilford Brimley. Don’t forget your insulin shots when you travel up north to the erector set gone wrong known as Beaver Stadium.


The second thing and more important thing is it means is that it’s time to talk about the events of last November 8th. That’s the day Penn State laid a big fat egg at Kinnick Field and watched their national championship hopes disappear when Iowa kicker Daniel Murphy split the uprights as time expired. Out of respect for what had to have been one of the most devastating days in Billy’s years at college I didn’t text him that day. It’s been ten months now, time to tear open those wounds! Let’s look at that kick from behind the goal posts.

Now from the corner of the endzone!

MORE!

DON’T STOP!

ONE MORE!

I hope you enjoyed that as much as I did. Special thanks to all those “large fore-headed Iowans” who brought their camcorders to the game to capture that moment for us to remember forever.


Now let’s look at this year’s game for a bit. Penn State has looked thoroughly unimpressive. Their offensive line apparently “gelled” in their big win over the Temple Owls last weekend as they ran for a whopping 186 yards (117 yards less than last year when they played Temple for those keeping track). Be afraid: the Iowa defense’s motto this year is "six seconds of hell" which ironically is Billy’s motto in the bedroom. It’s fast, spastic, and bodies are flying everywhere…but it’s so effective that the other team on the field is normally left bruised, flustered, and confused.


The defensive side of JoePa(roleOfficer)’s team has two starting linebackers (Sean Lee and Navorro Bowman) who aren’t going to be playing because their knees hurt. Hawkeye Freshman Adam Robinson ran for over 100 yards last week against Arizona, a defense that held Central Michigan (the same one that shredded Michigan State) to 74 yards rushing. Does this put fear in the hearts of Penn State fans? No, but the combination should allow doubt to creep in.


There are a lot of these “revenge” games that have popped up over the last few years and they never really turn out the way people anticipate. There are a lot of times where the team gets their “revenge,” but it isn’t the bloodbath that’s expected. I think this is one of those games. Penn State hasn’t had a legitimate test yet and they’re banged up. Iowa has looked better and better each week and have won six of the last seven against PSU (including a 6-4 barnburner in 2004 on Homecoming in State College...which Billy skipped out on to watch a NOTRE DAME GAME). I think they cover the 10pt spread in a grind it out game, but the homefield advantage Penn State gets in the Erector Set pushes them over the edge.


For Penn State Haters everywhere it’ll be unfortunate…but we’ll always have November 8, 2008


Notre Dame - Purdon't


Just a little preview of what's to come Saturday.

GO IRISH

the latest from my favorite people on the planet

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Charlie Weis: A First Quarter Assessment


This year I said I would form my opinion on Charlie Weis and whether or not he was going to be the coach to lead Notre Dame back to where we belong. Through three games it’s time to make some early assessments. First, we'll look at the positives.

1. He has proven that he IS the offensive genius we thought he was.

Let's just throw out the beatdown of Nevada. Against Michigan we put up 500 yards of offense and 34 points (100+ yards called back on penalties, some of them--namely the hold Rudolph's run--questionable to say the least). We also engineered two beautiful drives in a hostile environment when the game depended on it. That represented significant progress from the last two years. Against Michigan State we once again put up over 30 points, 400+ yards of offense, and put together another drive to take a lead with the game on the line in the fourth quarter. He finally has significant talent in place and he's utilizing it extremely well--the playcalling has been great and he's had defenses on their heels from start to finish.

2. The transformation of Jimmy Clausen

Jimmy Clausen has turned into what could be the best quarterback in Notre Dame's history. Some people may loft accusations of hyperbole, but he's so in control it's unbelievable. He's averaging over 300 yards a game and has thrown two balls that could have even been CLOSE to being intercepted--and one was because Golden Tate broke off his route when he wasn't supposed to. That's thanks to Charlie Weis's tutelage. There's no denying the effect he has on quarterbacks after seeing this and looking at how he took Brady Quinn from mediocre to 1st round pick.

3. He's learning to adapt and it's paid off--especially on the O-Line

The most important newcomer for Notre Dame this year wasn't Manti Te'o--it was Frank Verducci. The improvement along the offensive line has been staggering. There have been two sacks allowed and both were allowed by Jonas Gray. Not one has been credited as a sack allowed to an offensive lineman. We've converted more 3rd/4th and shorts on the ground this year than we did the last two years COMBINED. A lot of coaches are stubborn and refuse to turn over their staff--which played a significant role in Willingham getting canned when he did--and he has proven he's willing to do that.

Now it's time for the negatives and the huge question marks yet to be answered

1. We continue to lose games to teams with lesser talent

I think we got screw in the Michigan game by the referees. I still don't think that's an excuse--we were CLEARLY the better team on the field and it's ridiculous to think we couldn't find a way to win that game in spite of the odds. Every successful coach at Notre Dame has taken care of business against the teams we should beat. The ones that lose to the Air Forces (Faust), BCs (Willingham), and Purdues (Davie) of the world are the ones that are kicked to the curve. It's not good that we've lost to all three of those schools I just listed--plus NAVY--under Charlie.

2. We are incredibly sloppy and undisciplined

This plays into the first thing and is far and away the most alarming thing. Two straight games with at least 9 penalties. Some of the holding calls in the Michigan game were questionable, but there's no debating the legitimacy of a call when you hit someone outside the field of play. Absolutely inexcusable. The Armando celebration penalty was questionable, but you need to be more disciplined and learn from history (we got screwed for the same exact thing in 1999 in the Big House on a Bobby Brown celebration penalty). This sloppiness and lack of discipline absolutely falls on the coach. If this isn't corrected then the ceiling for Notre Dame will be 9-3 year in and year out.

3. Our defense--specifically our d-line is atrocious

Now this is where a gray area appears. How much blame does Charlie take on for this? We allegedly have one of the best defensive coordinators in the country in Jon Tenuta. Weis has totally turned the reigns on that side of the ball over to him and Corwin Brown and really that's not that uncommon--even among succesful coaches. Steve Spurrier didn't even know his defensive players' names in the 90's when he was dominating at Florida, Joe Gibbs essentially had the same approach when he was coaching the Redskins in the 80's. There's a very obvious problem after three games and Charlie has a responsiblity to step in and dictate a different gameplan (because Tenuta has one and it's blitz every down in every situation). In his press conference this week he alluded to doing this so I'll be curious to see what the changes are. As of right now though I'm willing to give him a pass on this--if only because the side of the ball he's in charge of has been a well-oiled scoring machine.

4. Our special teams has been an embarrassment

This goes right back to #2. Coverage comes down to discipline and we've been terrible at it. One of the most underreported things from the first two games was how terrible our punting was in the clutch. Maust unleashed a 20-yard dud in the Big House when we NEEDED to pin them, then did the same exact thing in the 4th quarter against Michigan State (he just got bailed out by a block in the back). The little things win or lose games. Special teams might be the biggest of the "little things" and we get a big fat F for our performance thus far. Charlie needs to address this immediately, whether it's get different guys on the coverage units or get Ben Turk in the game for Maust. Special teams were more to blame for the loss to Michigan than the refs were.

5. We've never won the big one

First of all, let's not mistake the Michigan game for a big one (that loss falls under category 1). As it has been pointed out about a billion times by a hundred different analysts—who all think they're the first person to say it and clever for thinking it up—Charlie Weis's signature win is a loss to Southern Cal. In my mind our season and Charlie's regime comes down to the Southern Cal game this year. There comes a point where you need to slay the dragon and I think the time is either this year or never (under Charlie). They've proven they're vulnerable, they have a rebuilt defense, and their offense is far from the explosive juggernaut that rolled into town the last time we had a program defining game with them in 2005. There will be a ton of recruits in town for that game--the result will tell them the direction of the program. I think ultimately it will tell us too.

The knee-jerk reaction of many people on message boards has been hit the ejection button. I look around the coaching landscape and I just don't see many realistic options that would be an upgrade over Charlie right now. Some cry for Brian Kelly but are we really willing to go through the turmoil that's sure to follow a firing and risk losing the relatively strong foundation we’ve built for Brian Kelly? The only realistic option I'd be excited about is Jon Gruden, but even then there are some questions.

I really think that the verdict on the Charlie Weis Era will be delivered on October 17, 2009 and I'm willing to withhold judgment until then. I’m pulling for him hard, but I'm still on the fence. The way he wins me over is by doing the jig with me at the 50 yard line when the clock hits zero that day. Hopefully see you there Coach.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Deja Vu (3-0)

So for the third straight game against a non-conference non-contender, Penn State went up early and then threw it in neutral for the last 30 minutes. Clark threw a terrible interception and looked strangely uncomfortable against a Temple secondary. The rushing game finally got going however, as Royster was able to get 139 yards on 19 carries. The secondary gave up 200 yards passing to Mr. Charlton and they're going to have to play more disciplined.

I'm excited for conference play, I'll finally be able to get some idea how good this team is. History has shown that you can't look at the outcome of these "easy" games too literally. Looking back at a couple recent Penn State seasons I found contradicting evidence: in 2005 during an 11-1 season, we needed a last minute TD to beat Northwestern, and we only beat USF team that would go 6-6 by 10. On the flip side in 2007, we opened the year with an "impressive" home win against FIU winning 59-0, Penn State went 9-4 that year but it was clear we weren't in the national championship picture. Don't get me wrong, I have been watching these games, and I will say that a number 5 ranking is pretty lofty for the team I've been watching. But how can I not be optimistic? Don't we have a chance to beat everyone left on our schedule? If we do that, don't we have a chance to play for it all? Shouldn't I be excited if we have a chance to play for it all?

I've already gotten way ahead of myself, we play Iowa this week. I have been waiting for this game since November 8th. I'm flying back up to PA for this one, HD will not do this massacre justice, I need to be there. Sadly I will be on the alumni side for the first time looking across at the student section. It's okay, I had my time. 5 seasons in fact, I really needed that minor.

I'll go more into this weekend's matchup later this week. I'm going to study the comments left on Rittenberg's Big Ten blog by large foreheaded Hawkeye fans and load up on ammo.

COMO ESTAN, BEETCHES!


I could watch this one hundred times and it would never get old.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Dear Diary...Notre Dame-Michigan State


Diary #3 comes to you from my apartment in McLean, VA with my Dad who’s in from out of town and my roommate C-Loss. No pregame chit-chat, let’s get to it.

3:31 Jimmy Roberts just built up the Temple-PSU game like something shocking happened, saying the last time Temple won was two years before the attack on Pearl Harbor…and then revealed Penn State won 31-6. Don’t play with my emotions like that Jimmy. I think Yack would give his first born for Temple to pull that upset.

3:35 Michigan State QB Kirk Cousins is from Chicago and said running out of the ND tunnel will be a dream come true. I think you can do that every Friday afternoon now. You’re not special Kirk.

3:38 They show a quick montage showing the players talking up the ND-MSU rivalry, complete with another clip of the players planting the Spartan flag at the 50 yard line in 2005. I hope that makes the Irish players’ blood boil even half as much as it boils mine.

3:40 Clips from the last game each team played. Brutal.

3:41 Alex Flanagan, our female sideline reporter, does some digging and comes up with a great nugget about Charlie Jr’s age. He’s 16…which is how many years it’s been since Notre Dame beat MSU at home! Is it relevant? No. Is it interesting? Not really. In other news Alex is now reading at a 4th grade level.

3:42 Michigan State takes the opening kickoff to the 45. More sloppy special teams coverage. The kick was perfect, pinned him on the sideline and he still squirted through. Someone pointed out last week that even though there may be more talent on special teams than years past (which there is), it’s more important to have discipline than talent. Guys need to step up and get their head in the game.

3:44 Three and out for Sparty. Good stand for the defense right off the bat. The punter takes a dive after KLM throws a blocker into his Bates’ legs to no avail. Irish ball on the 15.

3:45 Clausen throws a laser to Robby Parris on an out route. Jimmy draws the defense offsides on second down and we’ve got a first down already.

3:46 Clausen goes five wide and after scrambling finds Rudolph in the left flat and he rambles 52 yards—35 before he even sees a defender. Great vision and pocket presence there by Jimmy, thing of beauty. Nice to see Rudolph involved.

3:48 2nd and 2 we go to the wildcat eliciting an “Oh God” from CLoss, complete hater of the gimmick. My Dad chimes in “what is the big deal about the Wildcat? You know what we’re going to do.” I don’t love it, but I don’t hate it. Armando promptly runs it right down the heart of the defense for a touchdown. This is the type of crow that you don’t mind eating, much like when my buddy John Don proclaimed Zibby didn’t have the speed to break a punt return seconds before the one he ran back against Southern Cal in 2005. 7-0 IRISH, fantastic start.

3:52 More mediocre coverage on the kickoff…there was a gaping hole and luckily Ray Herring (Ray Ray!) tripped up the returner.

3:53 They replayed the big throw to Rudolph, that was phenomenal vision on Jimmy’s part. Anyone who says Clausen’s not the real deal has an agenda or just hasn’t been watching. Best quarterback we’ve ever had by the time he graduates—write that down.

3:54 Pat Haden reveals that Notre Dame only had 14 plays in the first two games that they were in their base defense. Pretty crazy. They show Tenuta and as you’d think he’s standing up leaning against the glass of the press box. I want to see him punch a hole in the glass.

3:55 Sparty is on the move and are over midfield, but Fleming comes from across the field and catches the running back behind the line. Unbelievable athleticism.

3:56 Great throw and catch between Cousins and Blair White for a 1st down.

3:57 KLM has his ankles broken by Cousins on 1st down. Are these guys baffled by crossovers when they play basketball? Does Tenuta need to start having them do defensive shuffles while watching someone’s belly button instead of the eyes or ball? I mean come on already, they’re much better athletes than the guys making them look stupid.

3:58 Another first down, down to the 24. Ian Williams stops them behind the line on 1st down. Good to see you again Ian.

3:59 The Irish hold as Cousins gets rocked on back to back plays as he let go of the ball (once by Toryan, once by Brian Smith). Field goal is good and it’s 7-3. Couple bullets dodged there. On both 3rd and 4th down Cousins had a guy open but the pressure forced a bad throw. Walls has looked surprisingly mediocre this year.

4:03 Great return by Riddick gives us field position at the 45. He changed direction at the 20 and had a lot of real estate.

4:04 After a quick 8 yard throw to Golden, Jimmy scrambles for a first down. I’m blown away with how improved his pocket presence is. He just looks incredibly comfortable and in control. He follows it with a 15 yard dart to Michael Floyd to take us inside the 25.

4:07 TOUCHDOWN MICHAEL FLOYD. That’s what happens when you’re stupid enough to match up a linebacker on him. Great catch by Floyd ties him with Tim Brown on the all-time receiving TD list. He’s three games into his sophomore year by the way.

4:08 Nick Tausch misses an extra point. He’s running a 4.3 40 yard dash toward my list of people I don’t want to see on the field. Yank your head out of your ass Nicholas. Seriously, that’s just a total lack of focus…13-3 Irish.

4:12 Better coverage on the kickoff. Only takes two plays to get over midfield though and already we’re back on our heels. This isn’t going to cut it against the top teams.

4:14 Another run right up a runway created in the middle of our defense. That’s just deflating to see. We need to start gameplanning differently on defense to provide help. Kind of like we had used to have a tight end and fullback help Paul Duncan block…we need to start doing that for the defensive line.

4:16 Kyle McCarthy breaks up a pass and then stuffs the running back for no gain on second down. He’s having himself a game today already, he probably has three tackles to go with the pass breakup.

4:17 Third down pass sails long and the field goal team trots out for a 52 yard field goal attempt. There’s confusion on the MSU offensive line. Immediately CLoss says what I’m thinking—“are they trying to fake it?” After watching that fake Georgia Tech pulled off last week I’ll be skittish anytime anything looks out of sorts. Turns out they’re just incompetent, not clever. Field goal clanks off the right upright. The refs for the Michigan game would’ve awarded him the points because if you hit the post basically you made the field goal…but alas, these refs adhere to the rules and the Irish still lead 13-3.

4:21 Gain of 12 yards on first down to Rudolph on a quick pass to the flat, shades of 2005 with Samardzija and Stovall. If they can’t stop it don’t stop calling it. We’ve run the ball once, we’ve been five wide on every play but one (which was when we were in the Wildcat). This is the Weis I love, the one that will see a weakness in the defense and attack it every play until they prove they can even slow it down—let alone stop it.

4:22 The first quarter comes to a close with the Irish facing a 3rd and 4, our first third down of the game.

4:26 Wildcat on 3rd down cuts it to 4th and 1. They’re going for it with the I-formation with Hughes and Allen behind Jimmy. Allen gets it by the skin of his teeth.

4:28 More Wildcat on 1st down for no gain, followed by a false start by Sam Young. STUPID PENALTY FOR A FOUR-YEAR STARTER.

4:29 Irish run a screen to the short side of the field and there’s no room to operate. Of course there’s a hold on the play, this time on Trevor Robinson. Apparently the only reason it appears we can run screen plays this year is that we hold on every one of them. 2nd and 25.

4:30 Jonas Gray matadors two defenders and they stuff Jimmy, who is hurt. Please for the love of God Jimmy, get up.

4:31 Jimmy hobbles to the sideline and Dayne Crist comes in for 3rd and 35. Screen pass to Hughes is stuffed behind the line after Hughes tried to jump over a pile of defenders. Terrible set of plays there. A false start, a hold, and a sack that gets Jimmy hurt. We call that worst case scenario.

4:33 A very weird situation with the punt. Looked like it might have been a muffed punt but it turned out that it didn’t touch anyone. Michigan State at the 20 yard line to start their drive.

4:36 Backup quarterback (Keith Nichol) in for Michigan State, more of a scrambler than Cousins. He rolls right and out of bounds…where there’s a late hit called on Robert Blanton. That’s three of the last five plays we’ve had with a penalty. Just poor.

4:38 Nichol takes a quarterback for a first down. AND ANOTHER LATE HIT ON THE IRISH, this time Harrison Smith. What the hell is wrong with this team? Are they trying to sabotage our chances? Are we hitting them after the whistle because we can’t get to them before the end of the play? I am flat-out disgusted, this is yet another sign of an UNDISCIPLINED team. Someone tell me what needs to be done to stop this, please. Time out Notre Dame, which is good because it gives me the chance to regroup and settle down.

4:42 Touchdown Michigan State on a halfback pass. Everyone in the secondary bit. Made redshirt freshman Jamoris Slaughter look like a clown. 13-10 Irish. Another step backward for Notre Dame.

4:43 You can hear the patented “GO GREEN, GO WHITE” chant from the MSU fans. Stupidest cheer I’ve ever heard but man do they love to yell it.

4:44 Onsides kick by Michigan State, catches the Irish totally off-guard. First down Sparty. Brilliant call, even more brilliant kick—it actually went 10 yards and then somehow backed up. Special teams destroying us again. We have a high-octane offense but really that’s about it right now. We’re so undisciplined in every regard and that REALLY shows on special teams. A missed extra point, a missed field goal, a kickoff return for a touchdown allowed, routinely allowing returns past the 40 yard line on kickoff returns, and now an onsides kick allowed. That’s in the last six quarters. Pathetic. It flabbergasts me how we can be so bad.

4:48 Sparty begins to march and after two plays it’s a first down over midfield.

4:50 Nichol barely escapes a sack on 1st down and throws it incomplete. Followed by a delay of game penalty.

4:51 KLM strips the ball from behind on what was a beautifully set up screen play. Great play by KLM. Toryan Smith picks it up and returns it a couple years. Somehow Tom Hammond can’t tell Smith has it and thinks the ball went out of bounds even though Toryan not only recovered it cleanly, but turned around, cut upfield, and ran for four-five yards. Is he watching the game from the press box or from atop Touchdown Jesus?

4:52 Jimmy is back in the game. Mike Ragone gets his first target of the year—it hits him in the hands and falls incomplete. Jimmy walking and running very gingerly, apparently it’s his toe that was injured. O-Line better step up and not let anyone touch him the rest of the game because he’s not scrambling anywhere. If I’m MSU I start sending the house.

4:53 Armando gets his first true carry of the game (not out of the Wildcat) and he takes it for 12 yards right up the middle. Another really good run.

4:54 Three more runs by Allen, another first down for ND. Good blocking up there on 3rd and 3.

4:56 Jonas Gray runs it for 20 yards inside the ten. Great stiff arm got him an extra seven yards. Offensive line looks great on this drive. Timeout MSU.

5:00 Michael Floyd catches what looks like a touchdown, but he loses possession as he’s tackled out of bounds. Ruled incomplete but this should be overturned. Charlie is challenging. I think this will be overturned. More importantly though Floyd is hurt, this time it’s his shoulder/collarbone.

5:02 Ruled no-catch. Alex Flanagan reports Floyd is injured badly. Oh $%!&. Good lord that’s probably the worst news you could hear as a Notre Dame fan. I’d make an Obama commencement joke right now but I’m too upset.

5:03 Armando takes it down to the 1 from the Wildcat.

5:04 Jimmy fumbles the exchange and Armando does a great job recovering it. Forces a field goal though. Tausch splits the uprights and it’s 16-10 Irish. That’s two straight weeks we’ve essentially been robbed of four points by the replay booth.

5:06 Tausch’s best kick of the year is followed up by great coverage. Zeke Motta gets the returner short of the 20. We better start doing the little things well if Floyd and Jimmy are banged up.

5:07 20+ yard throw on 1st down. The Irish are then offsides with 15 men on the field on the next play. Pitifully bad. This is just more evidence that this is a poorly coached team.

5:09 Pass Interference on Gary Gray, giving them a first down at the 26. I’m about to stick a pencil in my eye. Will that solve anything? No, I’d just be watching this abomination with no depth perception. I restrain myself.

5:11 Walls jumps a route and misses an interception. A holding call on MSU backs it up to 1st and 20.

5:12 Only takes two plays to get inside the 15. First down for the Spartans. Tom Hammond makes a terrible joke about Cousins “dissecting” the defense. He’s an imbecile. 1:24 left.

5:13 Michigan State runs it right up the gut inside the five. But wait! Move it half the distance to the goal line after a facemask penalty on KLM.

5:14 Touchdown, right up the middle. Replay shows the entire interior line getting pancaked to the left all at once. It’s sponsored by IHOP. Gag me. 17-16 Sparty. Haven’t I seen this movie before?

5:15 That drive was 9 plays 81 yards in 2:13…Pat Haden rightly points out it was “aided and abetted by Notre Dame penalties.” 1:01 left

5:16 Theo Riddick fumbles but they rule him down. Thank God. Hammond has no idea why people are scrambling around. Is he even conscious? 55 seconds left for the Irish. Michigan State is going to challenge. I’d normally say there’s no doubt it wasn’t a fumble, but the way the replay booth has been…

5:17 They’re showing the Floyd play again. There is absolutely no way in hell that should have been ruled incomplete. Pat Haden agrees.

5:18 Irish ball. 1st down is a short throw to Duval Kumara. No sense of urgency following it and we don’t get the snap off until there’s 25 seconds left. That’s 30 seconds. Terrible. Jimmy then scrambles for a first down and limps to the sideline as we have to burn our last timeout. Just poor.

5:21 Draw play to Armando goes for 15, up to the 40 yard line. Michigan State calls timeout just before we spike it. Gracias Mr. Dantonio...

5:22 We already have 7 penalties for 66 yards. Nauseating. Dayne Crist in for the Hail Mary and he’s picked off at the five yard line. Halftime.

5:23 Charlie dismisses the importance of the penalties and talks about how we need to punch it in from the 6-inch line on that drive that ended in a field goal. I’d beg to differ—the penalties are DESTROYING US. Is this further proof that Charlie just isn’t the guy? Certainly trending that way. Great coaches do the little things well and we certainly do not do the little things well.

5:24 First thing Jimmy Roberts says at the halftime break is “Call me a homer but I thought Michael Floyd’s catch was a touchdown no question.” Can we get anyone with an iota of intelligence or perhaps a set of eyes in the replay booth? Grab a hobo off the street with 20/20 vision, I don’t care.

5:30 I feel like the reversal of effectiveness on special teams is almost Bob Davie-esque. It seemed like under Davie we’d do one thing well one year and not be worried about it going into the next year…then as soon as we stopped paying attention we’d spring a leak there and it’d become a problem (ex: no fumbles in 2000, fumble on the first play of 2001).

5:45 Irish take the field at the 30 yard line after a decent return. Jimmy is running better. Quick throw in the flat gets four.

5:46 They then show Jimmy limping up the stairs at halftime. I don’t know what they did to him to make him heal, but I’d like to see them do the same thing to Michael Floyd.

5:47 Jimmy sneaks it on 3rd and 1 for a 1st down. Michael Floyd replay is shown AGAIN.

5:48 Jimmy unloads a bomb down the field to Golden who hauls it in and takes it down inside the five and gets knocked out of bounds inside the five. Of course Tom Hammond calls touchdown and is baffled that they aren’t bringing the kicking team out. I don’t know what else to say about him, this is the first game where I’m convinced he’s totally lost it. Jimmy is really limping again. Can’t we put this game out of reach and get Dayne in PLEASE?

5:49 TOUCHDOWN, Armando throws it to Robby Parris out of the Wildcat formation. As soon as Armando looked like he was going to throw CLoss let out an “OH MY GOD” and cringed. One day he will embrace the Wildcat to the extent where he won’t want to curl up into a ball when we come out in it. It’ll be like when kids get over their fear of dogs as they grow up—he’ll never love it, he’ll never be totally comfortable with it, but he won’t fear it. One day…23-17 IRISH.

5:53 Nick Tausch has some adrenaline going, bangs it down to the two and Zeke Motta once again takes him down behind the 20. Time for the defense to STEP UP, haven’t slowed them down since the first game. Nichol is the quarterback.

5:54 False start on Michigan State on 2nd and 4. About time the opposing team fires a shot into their own foot for us. Stand up d-line.

5:55 McCarthy comes up and stuffs the running back for no gain. Good job penetrating by the d-line.

5:56 Kerry Neal busts through and nails Nichol as he delivers the ball. Time for a punt, great stand by the Irish to start the half. I’d give a lot to put this game out of reach by the end of the 3rd so we can sit Jimmy. Great 23 yard return by Tate gives us good field position. It’s time to put the pedal to the metal.

5:59 Irish are giving up 6.2 yards per play. Pretty bad.

6:00 Michael Floyd has a broken collarbone. My stomach just dropped through the floor. That’s a HUGE blow for October 17th. They flash a stat of our offense with and without Floyd last year. Doesn’t help how my stomach feels. At all. I’m sick.

6:03 Irish are marching down the field, good balance of Armando, Jonas, and Golden.

6:04 Armando Allen just saved Jimmy Clausen’s life with his block as Jimmy gets out of the pocket and completes it to Rudolph. Of course this is called back by a hold on Paul Duncan. 2nd and 17.

6:05 Golden drops a pass at the two yard line. It was an absolutely perfect ball. I don’t know what’s gotten into him. My buddy Pat said that the knock on him coming out of high school was his hands…I certainly never believed him, but after the last two games it seems like that problem is rearing its ugly head. Just a lack of focus.

6:06 Third down falls incomplete and Tausch is in for a 47 yard field goal. I’m already approaching the Brandon Walker Zone of uneasiness. He responds by kicking a ball that looks like a Tiger Woods 8-iron. It starts down the middle and doesn’t budge an inch to the right or left. Beautiful, beautiful kick. 26-17 Irish.

6:10 Cousins scrambles on 1st down and McCarthy stuffs him for a two yard gain. He tried to juke and McCarthy didn’t bite. Every D-Lineman on Notre Dame needs to watch a tape of that tackle.

6:11 Great throw by Cousins on third down for a conversion as Raeshon loses track of the receiver. This is followed by Manti Te’o getting burned by the tight end for 20 yards and they’re back inside our 30.

6:14 Hammond tells us that the player down has Italian and Romanian family…then it turns out it’s a different player. Why don’t we just get Keith Jackson for our games? He sees as much as Hammond and has the most definitive voice in college football history.

6:15 Michigan State converts another 3rd down after a devastating pick by the receiver to spring the tight end inside the 10.

6:16 Stretch play to the left leads to an easy touchdown for the Spartans. ETHAN JOHNSON BLOCKS THE EXTRA POINT! Good Lord that deserves a Bob Davie “(H)UUUUUUGE.” For those that aren’t familiar with Bob he doesn’t pronounce H’s. H’s just get in the way of the best part of the word—the six “u’s.” 26-23 Irish.

6:19 Riddick returns it to the 35…annnnnnnd it’s coming back. Holding on Barry Gallup, back to the 17. 9th penalty of the game.

6:20 Duval Kamara with a catch and a first down. Duval, you need to wake the hell up over the next month. Talk to Maurice Stovall and ask what he did to become a monster his senior year. Follow those steps, we need you dearly now.

6:22 Jimmy completes a second down pass to Rudolph and it’s the end of the quarter. We really have 15 minutes to keep this season from going into the toilet and setting our program back five years. No pressure or anything guys. Why do we always have to deal with these situations, especially against mediocre teams? Ohio State has to answer questions against top five teams, we answer against 1-1 Michigan State.

6:24 Dip texts “if the first play out of the timeout isn’t a handoff to Armando Allen I’m going to kill someone.”

6:26 Dip’s wish is granted, Armando for four yards and a first down. It’s time to show we can grind out a back-breaking drive.

6:27 Two more good runs by Armando result in another first down. Hammond mispronounces his name. Injured player on the field for Michigan State brings us to a TV timeout. Meanwhile Southern Cal is doing everything they can to screw us by losing to Washington. It’s 13-10 in the 4th quarter. Ugh.

6:30 After a four or five yard gain by Gray is followed by a sack, once again allowed by Jonas Gray. We’ve given up two sacks all year, both today and both allowed by Jonas Gray. Once again he’s on the field because Allen is banged up—just like on the critical drive at Michigan last week.

6:31 Great play by the cornerback to knock it away from Tate who was streaking inside the 10. Notre Dame is forced to punt. 12 minutes left.

6:33 After a good gain on first down the Irish stuff them up the middle on second down. Brian Smith fills the gap well with Ian Williams. Big play coming up here.

6:34 59 yard pass as Mark Dell breaks a tackle from Kyle McCarthy. Flashbacks to the Charles Rogers run from 2001. Harrison Smith runs him down. Tom Hammond credits Darrin Walls for the tackle. He just wants to get this game over so he can get back to his Matlock VHS’s.

6:36 Touchdown Michigan State right over Darrin Walls. Our vaunted secondary has made exactly one big play to start the season (McCarthy’s pick on Forcier). Walls has actually been pretty bad, like his head just isn’t in the game. This is just devastating. 30-26, Sparty takes the lead. Once again, tell me how huge the MICHAEL FLOYD TOUCHDOWN THAT WASN’T is right now.

6:41 Jimmy draws the Spartans offsides on 2nd down, making it 2nd and short. Armando catches a pass out of the backfield for a first down. I just feel so uneasy, I’ve been down this path before.

6:43 Busted route where an act of God keeps the cornerback from picking it off. It was like a punt to the guy and he dropped it after Golden cut off his route. Bullet dodged, huge bullet dodged.

6:44 Jimmy gets rid of it as he gets hammered and Rudolph reels it in and rumbles for the first down. Next play is a slant to Kamara for 8 more yards.

6:45 Armando down the gut for another first down. Good run there. On 1st down he breaks one outside and looks like he’s going for a big play and gets taken down by his shoestring. That could’ve been big.

6:47 TOUCHDOWN GOLDEN TATE! HE THEN TAKES A FULL DIVE INTO THE MICHIGAN STATE BAND. I need a picture of that from behind as he splashes into the horn section. That was an unbelievable catch and an even better dive from the top turnbuckle into the band. They review it and much to my surprise they confirm the correct call.

6:52 Spartans take over at the 25. Walls breaks on a ball and almost picks it off. Nice to see he has a pulse, that’s the aggressive, fluid player we expected to get back this year.

6:53 Cousins had a man open but it was a tough catch the receiver couldn’t come down with. Three and out, great stand by the defense. Great punt puts us back inside our own 20. Time for a drive that kills the clock and ends in the endzone. Little under five minutes left. Can’t say I’m comfortable yet.

6:56 Wildcat on first down for five yards…backed up 15 yards for a personal foul after the play by Sam Young. So it’s 2nd down and they stop the clock. Sickening. We do everything we can to beat ourselves. This leads to a flood of texts that include the words: Sam Young, expletives, and the Lord’s name in vain. And Trevor Robinson is hurt. Great.

6:57 Michigan State calls timeout. Boneheaded on their part.

6:59 A GREAT RUN AFTER THE CATCH BY GOLDEN GETS A FIRST DOWN. Unbelievable ability to make people miss gets him an extra seven yards and backs us out of a huge hole.

7:01 We’re in the Wildcat aaaaaaand Golden runs into Armando as it’s snapped and he goes to the ground for a five yards loss. I’m about to punch a hole in the wall (and I will…ask the owners at The View restaurant in South Bend, don’t think I won’t). Timeout Sparty.

7:02 3rd and 6 after a good run by Armando. Jimmy misses Goodman and it’s time for a punt. Good Lord.

7:03 Another crappy punt by Maust is aided by a block in the back. Sparty backed up inside the 20. We need one more stop.

7:04 Three plays, two first downs. 2:34 left.

7:06 They’re inside the 30 yard line after a couple broken tackles on a slant pass…they’re in field goal range. Now we’re into the Hang On For Dear Life Mode I’m so accustomed to as a Notre Dame fan. I don’t even know why I watch football anymore, I feel sick. How huge is that Ethan Johnson blocked extra point right now? They’d be able to just sit on the ball and kick a field goal to win.

7:07 On 3rd down there’s great coverage and the receiver tips it to himself for a great catch and a first down at the 18. Can we get a break?

7:08 Cousins misses a running back who is WIDE OPEN in the corner of the endzone, wasn’t anyone within 20 yards of him. Wow, that’s the break I was asking for. About as big a gift as you could ask for. Total breakdown by the defense. My hands are sweating, this is like a reoccurring nightmare. Billy if you’ve reached this far I know you’re enjoying this and you know what? Burn in hell. I hate you.

7:10 INTERCEPTION KYLE MCCARTHY ON THE FOUR YARD LINE. They brought pressure and Darius Fleming forced Cousins to throw a duck that never even had a chance. Kyle McCarthy is a hero today, just like he should’ve been last week. Mother of God we just dodged an atomic bomb. Holy crap.

7:12 Victory formation, I love you. The Irish escape. Get me out of here.

7:14 Alex Flanagan catches up with Charlie Weis and asks him how important this victory way. He gives a response for the ages: “these kids fought their asses off…excuse me…these kids…these kids…these kids…these kids fought their…butts off.” He wasn’t emotional at all, that was just Charlie being an expert wordsmith. Just go sing the alma mater Charlie.

Alright, ten snap judgments.
1. Our defensive line is atrocious…nothing we didn’t already know. We get no push whatsoever and barely even fill gaps. That pancake fest they had on their one touchdown up the middle was embarrassing. Unfortunately I see no help in sight.
2. It is mind-blowing that in back-to-back weeks we were absolutely robbed by the replay booth. Isn’t it in place to fix blown calls? How in God’s name does complete incompetence happen in our games two consecutive weeks?
3. Kyle McCarthy played an unbelievable game. He deserves all the credit in the world for being the rock of this defense.
4. Second straight week our offense delivered a crucial 4th quarter drive for a touchdown to take the lead. Second straight week the defense came out and made the opponent punt. Second straight week we couldn’t get that final first down to shut the door. This is a bad and extremely stressful pattern. I’m going to have gray hair by the Southern Cal game.
5. This is a sloppy, undisciplined team. 11 penalties is ABSOLUTELY INEXCUSABLE. We are not good enough to give opponents free passes up and down the field—especially not on the defensive side of the ball.
6. Sam Young—I love the fact that you’ve found a nasty streak and that you’re finally playing like a five star…but if you commit one more stupid penalty to sabotage a drive I’m going to drive to South Bend this December and hit you with a fire hose on your way to class.
7. What the hell happened to our vaunted secondary? Walls looked like crap, we let another inexperienced quarterback light us up (this time for 300+ yards), and it seems like we never come up with that big stop on 3rd down on the pivotal 4th quarter drive. Kyle McCarthy—allegedly the least talented of the starters—is the lone exception.
8. Another great game for Armando, who is now averaging almost six yards per carry. He picked up a couple crucial first downs and had a lot of good hard runs. He also is becoming a very good blocker, DWalk-esque. Jonas Gray on the other hand might be the worst blocker in the history of college football. He’s responsible for the only two sacks allowed all year.
9. Losing Michael Floyd is a bigger blow than most people—including myself—want to admit…it will be especially evident October 17th.
10. Another shaky week of special teams. If I could ask for one thing it’s do the little things well. This offense is good enough to put big points on the board and they don’t turn the ball over…but man do we commit so many stupid penalties and screw up little things like extra points and kickoff coverage. We’re not a sharp football team. If we want to take the next step we sure as hell better become one.

All that being said a win is a win is a win and I’m in a helluva lot better mood than a week ago this time. My buddy Kearney posted earlier in the day that "Being a notre dame fan should probably be considered a pre-existing condition. It's not even kickoff and I already can feel my blood pressure skyrocketing." We're all going to end up like Chris Farley's character on Da Bears SNL sketch. I can see us being 40 and watching the game...Kearney will just drop over mid-way through the first quarter, come to in the second quarter, then let us know that stroke makes a baker's dozen. Beats the life of a Boston College fan.
On to Purdont.

WE ARE ND