I’ve got a weird feeling going into this game. I’m not as nervous or uptight about it as I was about Purdue even though I believe Washington is a better and much more dangerous team than the Boilers. They’ve already beaten a top five team that also happens to be our rival that's owned us the past seven years. They have a future first rounder at quarterback who is literally capable of winning games all on his own—not someone I’m particularly excited to face after making three mediocre quarterbacks look like All-Americans. They have a great young coach who absolutely destroyed us while at said Goliath. In one month he’s rejuvenated a slumbering giant and performed a borderline miracle in reviving the program from the state it was in the day the Molder of Men was relieved of his duties. Why then am I not as anxious or worked up as I was last week?
Could it be that I just don't have the built-in hatred of Washington like I do of the Big Ten trio we just faced?
(That's probably part of it.)
Could it be that I’m nerves are fried thanks to the past three weeks of heart-stopping finishes?
(Yes, I can unequivocably say I feel like Tweak from South Park at this point.)
Is it that I’m trying to use this week and the bye week to gear up emotionally for the program’s D-Day on October 17th when every ounce of my being will be willing the Irish to slay the giant?
(Definitely...I've only had that day circled since October 15, 2005.)
I’m just emotionally spent and not nearly as worried as I should be about this game. Yes, they did knock off Southern Cal. Real quick let’s dissect how. First of all, the Huskies kept the Trojan offense off the field—the time of possession was 35-25 in favor of Washington. They did this by running the ball even when they weren’t necessarily being effective (33 rushes for 56 yards). If they were persistent in jamming it down USC’s throat then you better believe they’ll hit the soft underbelly that is our defensive line with a heavy dose of Polk and designed Locker runs.
The second thing they did was tighten up in the red zone. After scoring on the first possession of the game Southern Cal drove into Washington territory six times but only had six points—and three turnovers—to show for it. In fact, USC really moved at will the entire game (especially on the ground, rolling up 250 yards at 7.6 ypc clip) but Washington got timely turnovers that deflated the visitors.
Lastly what they did was destroy USC in the turnover battle. Locker did a great job managing the game and not forcing any throws that could shift the momentum in the other direction. That wasn’t the case in the Huskies’ two losses when he had a killer interception against LSU for a pick six and two INT’s plus a fumble against Stanford.
It's not like we're dealing with a great team here though. They have two losses already and have shown plenty of weaknesses--namely they have serious issues stopping the run. Southern Cal ran for 250 yards and Stanford ran for over 300 last week. The lack of depth on defense plays a part in that and that really shows late in games. Stanford actually got the ball with 8:09 left in the fourth quarter and ran the entire clock out on a back-breaking 13 play drive. On the offensive side of the ball it's all Locker all the time. There's no debating he's a huge playmaker but he's also still raw--he makes some big plays but he also makes some big mistakes.
I know they beat Southern Cal and took LSU to the wire but I just can't work myself up about them. This is another matchup where Notre Dame is the better team on both sides of the ball and really it just comes down to limiting mistakes and putting them away when we’re given the chance. Those are the two things I’m looking for this week—the two things standing between the offense being very good and great. We took strides in the mistake department last week, it's time to learn how to step on the opponent when they're down.
I think the Irish defense will give up plenty of yards to Locker but I think it will also force him into some crucial mistakes. They don't really have anyone that scares you other than him so he's going to be asked to do a lot especially if they get down early. I think that Notre Dame pushes the 250 yard on mark on the ground for the day—the first time that’s happened since God knows when (2003 with Julius maybe?). I think Nick Tausch has a couple crucial field goals when drives stall in the rain. It won't be dominating but we’re going to look sharp enough that across the board optimism starts to perk up leading into the bye week.
This will be the break I need to regroup. This will be the complete performance our team needs to build confidence. This will be the win our program desperately needs to keep momentum headed in the right direction going into D-Day.
Notre Dame 30