Saturday, November 14, 2009

Dear Diary...Notre Dame - Pitt

It’s time to fire up another running diary, this one comes to you live from Bethlehem, PA. Just got done watching Stanford drive Southern Cal into the ground which has put me in a great mood. On the drive up I talked with Pat and he made the comment that he’s pretty relaxed going into tonight. If we win then that’s awesome and thanks to Stanford being ranked we may have a backdoor into the BCS should we win out; if we lose we know pretty much beyond a shadow of a doubt that Charlie is gone.

One thing is very clear though: in order to keep his job Charlie must win this game. No excuses, no silver linings, no nothings. This is a MUST win. I don’t care if we fight hard, I don’t care if the refs are so bad that we conclude this game was staged by the WWF and Bret the Hitman Hart is a line judge, I don’t care if we look good or terrible. We need to win. Period.

On that note let’s get started.

8:11 Brian Smith is barking right off the bat at Pitt players as the Irish come out of the tunnel. Normally I’m all about swagger and not backing down but Brian is a whole lot of bark for a very limited bite. He did the same thing against BC last year when we got stomped 17-0. You better put your money where your mouth is this time Mr. Smith.

8:13 Pitt takes the opening kickoff and the Irish stick the returner just over the 21 yard line. Good coverage.

8:14 First down is an easy completion for 12 yards because Gary Gray was sagged literally 10 yards off the receiver. The fact that we essentially concede solid gains like this every game makes me want to gnaw my hand off. You’d never say we make the defense fight for every yard.

8:15 Kyle McCarthy could have had Dion Lewis for a loss but missed a tackle when he tried to really blow him up and it turns into an eight yard gain. Not a good sign when your best tackler is screwing up right off the bat.

8:16 Jonathon Baldwin is wide open over the middle for a catch on third down to keep the drive alive. Finding a way to stop him is probably priority #2 (behind contain Dion Lewis). He’s an absolute beast.

8:17 Kerry Neal gets his hand up and deflects Stull’s pass on third down, Pitt will have to punt. Have to be happy with that start, job well done by the defense to get off the field quickly.

8:18 AND OF COURSE WE SEND A BULLET HURDLING TOWARD OUR FIGURATIVE FOOT IMMEDIATELY AS DARIUS FLEMING IS FLAGGED FOR ROUGHING THE KICKER. What a boneheaded play. So far we’ve already had a missed tackle, allowed two wide open receivers to pick up good chunks of yardage, and got flagged for a penalty to keep a drive alive. I retract my “happy with this start” statement.

8:21 Total coverage breakdown by the Irish and Stull misses a wide open Dion Lewis down the right sideline. Herbstreit comments that there’s “a lot of confusion from the Notre Dame defense.” Shouldn’t these breakdowns have been fixed by now? Why the hell can’t we figure out how to find the running back when he’s running a wheel route coming out of the backfield?

8:22 Another bullet dodged after an open Pitt receiver bobbles a ball in the back of the endzone and steps out of bounds. Pitt kicks a field goal and it is 3-0 Panthers. This drive is a perfect example of how frustrating the season has been. Yes they only got three points, but we had stopped them and proceeded to hand them a gift.

8:25 Decent return by Theo but it’s going to be brought back for a penalty (block in the back). The same things that have plagued us all year are already showing up. All I can do is shake my head in disgust.

8:26 Two plays and it’s a first down for the Irish, the second play an end around to Golden Tate.

8:27 GREAT CATCH by Golden Tate on Clausen’s first pass of the day. If he doesn’t win the Biletnikoff Award it’ll be a crime. He has the best Notre Dame highlight reel since Rocket.

8:29 Good hard run by Armando for six yards on first down. He looks really fresh (as he should be); it wouldn’t surprise me if he FINALLY broke a long one tonight.

8:30 It’s time for the weekly burning of a timeout on the opening drive! They had to do it because the playclock was winding down on 3rd and 4. We seem to do this every game and it’s yet to effect us negatively, but it doesn’t make it any less annoying.

8:33 Good hard run by Armando on a draw play for a first down. He’s showing some nice burst tonight.

8:34 A screen to Theo is blown up and thrown for a big loss so it’s going to be 3rd and 16. They’re going to review the play to see if Jimmy’s knee was down before he got the throw off. They’re showing the replay and it’s ridiculously close, but there’s no way it should be overturned.

8:36 The call on the field is overturned, which takes it to 3rd and 22. That’s a terrible overturn, I don’t know how the hell you call the replay indisputable. Refs need to review when calls should be overturned. I believe it is WHEN THERE IS INDISPUTABLE EVIDENCE. You can’t make these calls just because you THINK it was wrong. It won’t make a huge difference—we were going to have a long way to go regardless—but this better not be a sign of how this game will be called.

8:37 A draw play to Armando nets a nice gain but not nearly enough. Time for another episode of the Eric Maust Experience. He gets off a decent punt that pins them inside the 20. Come on defense, step up.

8:42 Pitt is marching toward midfield.

8:43 Sergio Brown makes a tackle and then flips out in celebration. Maybe he feels the need to go crazy whenever he does something right just so people remember those plays and forget the ones he screws up. Sergio, good players don’t celebrate like that after a routine tackle. Frankly, your play with this year has been so subpar that you’ve lost your right to celebrate anything other than a pick six or a fumble recovery.

8:44 The defense holds again and forces a Pitt punt. Good stand there boys.

8:45 Golden Tate is snuffed out in the backfield for a three yard loss. Sam Young got blown away by the defensive end on that play. So far we aren’t handling the front four of Pitt very well at all.

8:46 Another Wildcat, another three yard loss. This time it was a handoff to Theo Riddick. The first quarter is coming to an end with Notre Dame facing a 3rd and long at our own seven yard line. Not what I’d call an ideal start.

8:50 Armando catches a ball out of the backfield and takes it for a ten yard gain, still well short of the first down marker.

8:51 Another terrible punt by Eric Maust barely gets over midfield. My head is just throbbing with a combination of anger and disgust. I swear, every male child I have in the future will learn how to punt and punt well.

8:52 Bill Stull’s parents don’t sit in their seats because they don’t like hearing the Pitt fans boo their son. They just showed where they’re standing—which is about three miles from the field. That’s just stupid. First of all, I guarantee they can still hear the boos from there. Second of all, why even go to the stadium if you’re going to watch the game from there? I understand parents don’t want to hear their son criticized but seriously, grow some thicker skin. Or tell your son to play well so the fans don’t boo. That would work too.

8:56 Great defense by Darrin Walls to break up a pass intended for Jonathon Baldwin. That’s the ability that I know is in there somewhere, I just don’t get why he’s so inconsistent. Pitt punts it to the 10 yard line where the Irish will take over.

8:58 Two plays and it’s a first down for Notre Dame. Alright boys, come on.

8:59 Trevor Robinson got destroyed on the first down play, which Bobby Burger drops in the right flat. Trevor hasn’t been beaten like that all year, there’s no way he’s 100%.

8:59 Clausen is pick off on a long pass intended for Floyd down the middle of the field. Crap.

9:00 On the first play of Pitt’s drive the center snaps it over the quarterback’s head and it’s 2nd and 22. That helps a little bit.

9:01 The Irish force a three and out and will take over at the 34. Can we get some traction from the offense here?

9:06 Armando rips off a big run for 15 yards. Theo Riddick delivered a helluva block that sprung him. I really like that formation of Armando and Theo flanking Jimmy in the shotgun. That’s a lot of speed to account for coming out of the backfield.

9:07 A slow developing screen to Armando is blown up when Trevor cant get to the defender to block him in time. He’s a tough guy but if he’s going to be a liability he’s got to get off the field.

9:08 Clausen delivers a seed to Duval Kamara for a first down on a nice comeback route to convert a 3rd and 13. Good route, great throw.

9:11 The Irish drive stalls at the 25 so out comes the field goal unit…except it’s not Nick Tausch, it’s David Ruffer to kick?!?! Ruffer splits the uprights! Hell yeah David! The game is knotted up 3-3. Can’t say this is the shootout I was expecting.

9:15 A touchback from David Ruffer! That’s two consecutive games! And to think, we found him on the interhall fields…CHARLIE GO FIND US A GODDAM PUNTER FROM THOSE FIELDS TOO.

9:17 Dion Lewis rips off a big run to get up to the 23 yard line. Come on Irish, let’s stiffen up and get the momentum rolling in the right direction.

9:19 The Irish forced a 3rd and 10 but Stull had all day and found Jonathon Baldwin wide open in the middle of the field for a 22 yard gain.

9:19 Touchdown Pitt, Jonathon Baldwin made a great diving grab on a great throw, but Darrin Walls never even turned his head to defend the pass. It wasn’t bad coverage at all (in fact it was pretty good), but you’ve got to turn your head and make a play on the ball. 10-3 Pitt.

9:21 After seeing the replay that was just a helluva catch by Jonathon Baldwin. Great throw by Stull as well.

9:23 The Irish start the drive off right away with a first down reception by Golden Tate. Jimmy did a great job eluding the rush there and stepping up in the pocket to find him.

9:26 The Irish drive stalls so it’s time for another Eric Maust punt. ANOTHER TERRIBLE EFFING PUNT BY MAUST, THIS TIME A 19 YARD TURD. I CANNOT FATHOM HOW WE CANNOT FIND SOMEONE WHO CAN PUNT. I can understand it may be tough to find a good kicker, but you’re telling me there isn’t an athlete on campus that can consistently kick a ball 40 yards?!?!?! I just don’t believe it.

9:30 Pitt took over with 1:31 left and moved to the edge of field goal range, but stalls at the 37. They’re punting it away with 51 seconds left. Golden Tate picks it up on the bounce at the 3 and returns it to the 17. Good play there by Golden.

9:32 Notre Dame just runs a draw on first down and they’re going to let the clock run out. What a disappointing half. We have 119 yards of total offense and Jimmy is only 9 of 16 for 77 yards with an INT. Armando is running hard (8 carries, 52 yards) but other than him there have been few bright spots. The Pitt pass rush has been very effective in disrupting our passing game and we’ve been totally unable to sustain any sort of offensive momentum. This is not what I expected from a coach with his back against the wall and a quarterback who’s trying to win the Heisman.

9:54 Notre Dame gets the ball to start the second half and Theo takes a knee in the endzone on the kickoff. Come on Irish, play like a desperate team because you should be feeling more than a hint of desperation.

9:55 Two runs by Armando and it’s a first down. His run on second down was a great little run for six yards off the right tackle.

9:56 Armando tears off another good run on second down, this one for 11 yards and another first down. We’re controlling the line of scrimmage right now.

9:57 Golden Tate catches a pass on play action right at the first down marker, stops on a dime along the sideline, and then scampers for an additional ten yards.

9:58 They reviewed the play to see if he stayed inbounds and the ruling was confirmed. Pitt fans are chanting “Bullshit.” That wasn’t even a close call, it just provided an opportunity to scream an obscenity in unison. No one ever has accused the Pitt student body of having an iota of class.

9:59 After losing a yard on first down Notre Dame is forced to burn their first timeout of the half because of a miscommunication. It seems to take so dam long for plays to get sent in to the huddle. I know Charlie is usually pretty good with timeouts at the end of a game, but it’s just frustrating as hell that we always need to burn one. In a game like this that seems like it’s going to be down to the wire it’d be nice to have all three in our back pocket entering the fourth quarter.

10:04 On third and long Michael Floyd drops a ball that hit him right in the breadbasket. We’re going to have to punt. Maust, of course, delivers a 17 yard punt. I have such a splitting headache I think I’m developing a tumor and the root of it is our PUNTER. I can’t even begin to describe how much I loathe Eric Maust at this moment. I want to scream.

10:07 Jonathon Baldwin makes a huge catch down the right sideline over Darrin Walls. That’s a 51 yard gain. Not bad coverage at all by Walls, Baldwin just jumped right over him.

10:10 The Irish defense holds and forces a field goal attempt. It splits the uprights and the score is now 13-3 Pitt. This seems like such a boring game to be at. Aside from the two big Baldwin plays nothing has really happened. Doesn’t sound like a particularly loud or rowdy crowd; it’s just…blah.

10:15 The Irish get it back and immediately go three and out. Eric Maust punts it 20 yards. Eric Maust’s last three punts have been 19, 17, and 20 yards. There has to be a word that transcends disgust that describes how I feel. I want to vomit.

10:17 The first play is a huge run by the backup running back who rushes it 53 yards inside the five yard line. He broke a weak tackle attempt by Harrison Smith, stiff-armed and ran over Sergio Brown, and rumbled all the way down to the 2 yard line. I’m almost resigned to what’s happening.

10:18 Touchdown Pitt. 20-3. I cannot believe how Notre Dame has just rolled over tonight. This is a deplorable effort.

10:21 Notre Dame gets the ball and begins a must score drive.

10:23 It’s 4th and 1 at our own 40 yard line. This is a huge, huge, huge play. COME ON IRISH, POUND IT PAST THE LINE.

10:24 HUGE PASS TO MICHAEL FLOYD FOR 44 YARDS DOWN TO THE 16, FIRST DOWN IRISH. That was a great catch by Floyd on an underthrown ball by Clausen. If he would’ve laid it out in front of Floyd it would’ve been an easy touchdown.

10:25 Jimmy completes a pass to John Goodman inside the 5…aaaaaaaaaaaaand it’s coming back thanks to a hold on Paul Duncan. I mean this is just ridiculous. We CANNOT afford to sabotage this drive.

10:26 10-15 yard completion to Michael Floyd on the right sideline…and guess what, IT’S COMING BACK. Illegal formation on Matt Romine. I’m so mad I can’t type anything else.

10:27 Heeeeeey, Pitt jumps offsides for a five yard penalty! It’s only 2nd and 20 now! Hooray!

10:28 Golden Tate catches a ten yard pass and we’re back to the original line of scrimmage. Big 3rd and 10 coming up right here.

10:29 Michael Floyd catches a pass on the right sideline for a first down. Need to punch it in here…quickly, the clock is becoming a factor.

10:30 Two runs by Armando and we’re on the one inch line. We’re going to let the quarter run out which means we have 15 minutes to make up this 17 point deficit. Normally I’d say we’re never out of a game with our offense, but we seem so lifeless right now.


10:34 Extra point is blocked. The tumor in my brain has to have grown to the size of an orange at this point. I mean come on, that’s just inexcusable. How the hell do we have such issues executing the most routine and easy thing in football? 20-9 Pitt.

10:37 After good coverage on the kickoff and an incomplete pass on first down Dion Lewis takes it for 11 yards right up the gut for a first down. Deflating.

10:39 Another first down for Pitt on a dump to Dickerson, who jukes Te’o and blows by for an extra ten yards.

10:39 Touchdown Pitt, Dion Lewis went right up the gut for 50 yards. He put one little move on Sergio Brown around the 35 yard line, broke his ankles, and then outran the rest of the defense. Sergio is just not good. At all. 27-9 Pitt.

10:41 A vulture just swooped in from the upper deck and took a chunk out of Charlie’s arm.

10:44 First down Notre Dame on a pass from Jimmy to Golden.

10:45 Jimmy is sacked for a 12 yard loss.

10:46 A screen to Armando is sniffed out and only gains three. Defensive coordinator Phil Bennett has absolutely gotten the better of Charlie Weis tonight and it hasn’t been close.

10:48 Clausen delivers a great pass on 3rd and 19 to Michael Floyd, who catches it and fights for an extra five yards to pick up the first down. Huge play there.

10:50 Notre Dame has moved down inside the 20 yard line with a completion to Duval Kamara on second and short. Pitt calls timeout with 9:18 left in the ballgame.

10:53 TOUCHDOWN GOLDEN TATE. He caught it at the 11 yard line and carried a defender the last five yards into the endzone. Just tack another clip onto his highlight reel. God I hope he stays next year. I think there’s little to no chance Jimmy will be back, but I’m still holding out that maybe Golden will. I can dream…27-16 Pitt with a shade over nine minutes left.

10:57 Not a great time for our worst kickoff coverage in six weeks…Pitt takes it to the 34 yard line. We know what’s coming—a heavy dose of Dion Lewis—it’s time to step up and stop him. Three and out would change the complexion of this game.

10:59 Three and out! The defense delivers a big stop as Pitt couldn’t complete a play action pass on 3rd and 1. Come on Irish!


11:02 Our two point conversion attempt fails when Ragone drops the ball. Fist. Whatever, I’m still pumped as hell.

11:05 Notre Dame STONES them on first down. COME ON BABY, THREE AND OUT.

11:06 Jonathon Baldwin catches a pass over the middle at midfield, helluva catch. Goddammit. They’re going to review it so there’s a chance it’ll be overturned though I doubt it.

11:08 Play is confirmed. That’s such a punch in the gut. We need a stop here, we’re under the six minute mark.

11:09 Harrison Smith stops Dickerson short of the first down marker…it’s 3rd and 1. XXXL play here, come on boys.

11:10 FUUUMBBLLLLLLLLEEE!!!!!! Pitt recovers, but they lose a couple yards on the botched snap and they’re going to have to punt. That was all caused because they had to rush up to the line to beat the playclock. That was a huge miscue.

11:11 Timeout Pitt. That’s huge, stops the clock with 3:46 left. Maybe he’s thinking about going for it?

11:12 Pitt punts and blasts it into the endzone. Notre Dame ball at the 20 with 3:39 left and two timeouts left. COME ON IRISH, LET’S GO.

11:13 First down is a five yard dump to Armando. Second down is another dump underneath for a six yard gain. First down.

11:14 Golden Tate catches a ball on the left sideline for a nine yard gain.

11:14 ILLEGAL CHOP BLOCK ON DAN WENGER, 15 YARD PENALTY. How the hell can you be so stupid to do something like that with the game on the line. Now it’s 2nd and 16 instead of 3rd and 1. I’m sick to my stomach.

11:15 Incomplete pass after the pass rush gets to Jimmy.

11:16 Pass rush gets to Jimmy again, he’s hit as he throws. Paul Duncan couldn’t hold him off. It’s now 4th and 16.

11:16 Notre Dame calls timeout. I want to drive to Pittsburgh and take a pipe to Dan Wenger’s kneecap.

11:18 They’re reviewing the play. Great, so now we burned a timeout and they were going to stop the clock anyway. They’re showing a bunch of replays; Musberger and Herbstreit agree with me—no way they can overturn this. Jimmy got hit and threw it 12 yards downfield albeit not even close to anyone.


11:21 Pitt gets a first down and this game is over. I want to throw up.

11:23 Pitt 27 Notre Dame 22

The Charlie Weis era is officially over. Perhaps it’s appropriate that the drive to save his job was sabotaged by a self-inflicted wound and then buried by a terrible officiating call. The final overturn of Clausen’s incomplete pass was wrong. Period. There is no room for discussion. We shouldn’t have been in that position in the first place though.

In a game that we needed to win—no excuses, no questions asked—we came out flat and dug ourselves a huge hole. Our tackling was once again terrible. Charlie Weis’s offensive gameplan was totally ineffective for three quarters against a Pitt defense that no one would mistake for elite. The contest was littered with critical mental mistakes starting with the roughing the kicker penalty on the opening drive (essentially giving Pitt a three point gift) and ending with the chop block that stalled the final drive (from 3rd and 1 to 2nd and 16 in the blink of an eye). The problems that plagued us against in the second game of the season against Michigan were still glaringly prevalent today. The lack of progress on the little things over the course of the season is disheartening to say the least.

It’s time to stop breaking down whether Charlie will be back or not—he won’t—and time to devote efforts to figuring out where we go from here. Today is a sad day for Notre Dame football.
Thank you for your efforts, Charlie. I wish you all the best in whatever your next endeavor may be.

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