Thursday, July 29, 2010

Let's Crank the Goosebumps Up

One of the best ND videos I've seen.

Random clips I love that aren't in other primers: Bob Morton raging, Getherall against Air Force, Rick Clausen handing the ball to Mike Goolsby, Walls to the house vs PSU, Derrick Williams getting decapitated...hell, I love everything about this video. Even the negative highlights are included in a way that fires you up.


Wednesday, July 28, 2010

It's About That Time...

I love YouTube. One of the biggest reasons is the seemingly never-ending supply of ND videos that can make you go from 0 to 100 in about two minutes. Did I sit at my computer Thursday nights of my senior year from 3am to 4am watching videos over and over again to fire me up to send out a dorm wide email? Yes. In hindsight was that a good use of my time after coming home from Finny's? Debatable.

We're in a dead sprint to opening weekend which means it's time to start busting out the primers and previews. This video has been out since the spring and many people probably saw it months ago, but it's still worth posting.

Bill, maybe you could throw up a video of a Penn State fan's version of "The Decision," which is when he goes into the closet and looks back and forth at his blue PSU shirt and his white PSU shirt trying to figure out which one he's supposed to wear to the Whiteout.

I present to you ND Football 2010: The Trailer.

Monday, July 26, 2010

Irish Blogger Gathering: Let's Get Offensive

We're rapidly closing in on the start of the season which means we need to start breaking down every single angle of this Irish season every which way. To help kickstart this in the Irish Blogosphere I pieced together the first of what is sure to be a slew of preseason Irish Blogger Gatherings focusing on the offensive side of the ball. To check out how the other ND blogs responded head over to Subway Domer, Domer Law, and Irish Creed.

1. First, before officially shifting focus to what matters most, let's take a moment to offer a way too early evaluation of Team Kelly's recruiting efforts. They've got verbals from some highly touted prospects (Matt Hegarty, Ben Koyack, Jordan Prestwood) and are in the hunt for quite a few more (Aaron Lynch, George Atkinson, Justice Hayes), but it seems like this class lacks the flair and star power of Charlie Weis's classes. We're not even in the hunt for a Rivals five-star rated prospect and we've already taken as many three-stars as the '07 and '08 classes combined. Sure, Kelly can transform two-stars into seven-stars, but the numbers of the last ten years don't lie--championships are won with teams chock full of four and five star talent. Are you at least a little worried at this point or still in the RKG Honeymoon period?

We live in a sports world that feels the need to pass immediate judgment at all times, even if it's clearly premature with an extremely limited basis for it. We're five months into the recruiting cycle and Team Kelly has locked down a few gems (three 4-stars) and is in great position to grab another two by August 1st (Lynch and Hayes). While I'll concede that this is not shaping up to be a spectacular class, it's not heading in the direction of disaster either.

This was going to be a pretty small class based simply upon how many scholarships we had available to dish out. I think he's done a very good job to date assembling a group of guys who fit his scheme and, though not necessarily rated highly by some recruiting services, have very high potential (see: Prestwood and Burton). There are still some missing pieces that must be found at this juncture and we've already been dealt a heartbreaking/shocking whiff with QB Bubba Starling, but there's plenty of time to round out a solid effort in Kelly's first recruiting season.

This won't be a class for the ages that pushes Notre Dame over the edge (like the current junior class should), but it should result in quality starters and depth. It doesn't have the buzz that a few of Weis's classes but I'd think most Irish fans would trade buzz for substance after the last five seasons.

I will say this though--the teams that compete (and win) national championships are ones that have at least one or two superstars on each side of the ball. Within every class there needs to be a couple big-time studs (preferably 3, with at least one on each side of the ball) for it to be deemed a real success. That doesn't mean they necessarily have to be christened five-star prospects by Rivals, but they need to clearly and indisputably be high impact and high potential players. One of the biggest keys to this class is locking down that sort of an impact player on the defensive line.

With the exception of Manti Te'o (and to a lesser extent Louis Nix) we've been unable to get those big fish on the defensive side of the ball off the hook and into the boat. After being left at the altar by one-time Irish verbal commitments Omar Hunter, Justin Trattou, and Chris Martin we've hitched our wagon this year to the Florida prospect Aaron Lynch. Should he commit to ND during his campus visit as some suspect he will, it will begin a long, bumpy road to National Signing Day that Irish fans know all too well.

If Kelly can find a way to navigate it better than Weis did with the aforementioned studs that got away then he'll be off to a great start and go a long way in selling me on his recruiting prowess.

In summation: it's too early to be worried or sold on Kelly's recruiting. Check back in 365 days and there will be a slightly clearer picture.

2. The Irish switch from a pro-style offense to the spread this season. We saw it unveiled in the spring game and it is (understandably) a work in progress. That being said the Irish have a veritable bevy of talent, size, and speed at the skill positions. In general, what's your take on the switch to the spread and how high or low should expectations for the offense be going into the year?

I'm not going to lie--I'm not the biggest proponent of the spread offense. If you give me my choice of any offense I'd go with a pound the ball down your throat type any day. History has shown that even as "fad" offenses come and go, if you control the line of scrimmage and impose your will in the trenches you'll almost always be successful.

I know we're going back 20+ years now, but the victories over Miami in '88, Florida in '92, and Florida State in '93 were all situations where brawn and toughness beat speed and finesse. I guess it almost seems extra satisfying when we win that way. Or maybe it's been so long since we fielded a consistent rushing attack that I'm just wishing we'd line up under center on a 4th and 2 and flatten the opponent's defensive line for an easy rushing first down up the middle.

That being said, one cannot deny the effectiveness of the spread across the college football landscape over the past decade. Kelly has had great success with it at every place he's coached and there's little reason to believe it won't be successful now that it's arrived in South Bend, especially when you look at the talent at his disposal (Allen, Riddick, Wood, Floyd, Rudolph, Evans, Jones--that's an absurd collection of speed and talent).

This is an offense that relies on timing and precision so there will be bumps in the road early, but once the players get comfortable with the new scheme the offense should be a force. My expectations for the offense would be very, very high if Dayne Crist didn't have the serious injury questions lingering. If he hadn't gotten hurt last year we'd be set up for a serious and immediate resurgence along the lines of the '64 squad.

My current expectation level on the whole is that of cautious optimism. If Dayne's knee holds up and he can focus on becoming acclimated to the offense instead of worrying about re-injuring himself then the ceiling for this offense will be ridiculously high. Armando Allen and Theo Riddick's skills fit the spread perfectly and we probably have top-to-bottom our deepest and most talented wide receiver core in school history.

Everything hinges on Crist. If he's somehow miraculously alright then the sky is the limit. If he's only 75% like I think he will be then the offense will be good but inconsistent. If Dayne goes down and we have to resort to the backups then we're in deep, deep trouble.

3. Three-year starting quarterback Jimmy Clausen has loaded his mom, dad, and free-loading brothers into the family stretch Hummer and taken off for the greener pastures of professional football. Dayne Crist is tasked with stepping into the big, 28 TD, 7:1 TD to INT ratio shoes Jimmy leaves behind. How are you feeling about him taking the reins to Kelly's vaunted spread offense? Do you see there being a significant drop-off with the Great Dayne at the helm or is he going to come out guns a-blazin' a la Brady Quinn in '05?

First, let's talk about Dayne off the field because frankly I think it's more important for the long-term health of the program. Jimmy Clausen was probably the best quarterback in the country last year and having him back would have jacked people's expectations for the season through the roof while giving Notre Dame a legitimate chance for its first Heisman winner since Tim Brown 23 seasons ago...but I'm here to tell you Dayne Crist--not Jimmy--is the perfect person to be leading the team during this transition period.

He has three years of eligibility left, he has the physical tools to be an All-American caliber signal caller, he's a natural born leader that players respect and rally around, and perhaps most importantly he perfectly fits in to the culture Brian Kelly is trying to instill in the program. He chose to attend Notre Dame because he loved the school and wanted to win national championships. Jimmy made it perfectly clear from day one that he chose Notre Dame so he could be prepared for the NFL by Charlie Weis.

I appreciate what Jimmy contributed to ND on the field--especially his spectacular efforts last season--but I think turning the page to Dayne was a good thing at this juncture. Kelly walked in to a culture plagued by selfishness; as he said, many players were more concerned about where they stood on Mel Kiper's Big Board than the six losses they suffered last season. An essential part of purging that attitude is having the team leaders truly on board with the new philosophy to help ingrain a more positive culture. I believe Dayne is the perfect person to lead that transformation.

Now let's turn to what Jimmy to Dayne means on the field. As we touched on in the previous section, I would be very optimistic if Dayne wasn't coming off a major knee injury. I think even if he hadn't gotten hurt he would have had the normal growing pains of a first time college starter, but his progress leading the offense would've been quicker and more dramatic if none of his attention was diverted to worrying about his knee (which of course it naturally will).

An ACL tear is a two-year injury (just ask Tom Brady). A lot of people seem to think he's going to be 100% since he was running around in the spring. As much as I want to I just can't buy it; he's not going to be back to normal until 2011. I don't see a 2005 Brady Quinn season coming (32 TD, 7 INT)--I see more of a Brady Quinn '04 season on the horizon (17 TD, 10 INT).

Dayne will have flashes of greatness and he'll also make some boneheaded decisions and bad throws that kill important drives, especially early in the year. As he begins to trust his knee he'll establish a rhythm and the offense will improve, but it's a process that will take some time.

4. When a new coach takes over there tends to be a couple of players that haven't seen any significant playing time (or at least haven't made an impact) that unexpectedly emerge as major contributors (see: Samardzija, Jeff in '05). There are plenty of candidates on the offensive side of the ball, but you're only allowed to pick one horse in this derby. Who's it going to be?

This is really tough because I feel as if there are a million names being thrown around (from Cierre Wood to TJ Jones to Shaq Evans) so it's tough to find a bandwagon of my own to start. I think there are going to be a lot of opportunities for a lot of different players to contribute (and I look for the three I just named to be among them), but my pick for a deep sleeper is tight end Tyler Eifert.

Eifert was one of the most unheralded recruits to enroll in the class of 2009; in fact, it was a pretty big surprise that he was even offered a scholarship since the Irish had not planned on taking a tight end during that cycle. For those unfamiliar with him, Eifert is essentially Kyle Rudolph Lite. He's not quite as strong or physical as Rudolph (aka he of the hands the size of small dogs) on the blocking side, but he's 6'6" with great hands, leaping ability, and body control. That combination should make him one of many dangerous redzone threats at Charley Molnar's disposal, one that's not really on the minds of Irish fans since that list of threats includes Michael Floyd and Beagle Hands.

My best guess is that Rudolph will be projected as a high first round pick this spring and bolt for the NFL so chances are when you see Eifert you'll be getting a sneak peek at Dayne Crist's main safety outlet for 2011-2012. Allow me a second to channel my inner Men's Warehouse: You're going to like the way he looks...I guarantee it.

5. It's preseason which means it's appropriate for all college football fans to bathe in Kool-Aid and allow themselves to dream of invading Glendale, Arizona this January en route to claiming a national championship. Tears of joy will be shed, flights will be missed, and days--if not weeks--of "sick" leave from work will be utilized. I want that more than that weird, fat lady in Napoleon Dynamite wanted that model ship. What needs to happen this season on the offensive side of the ball for this dream to become reality?

Here's your simple, three-step plan:

1. Dayne Crist stays healthy and gets better as the season goes on...It's a constant theme in the preseason and it will be during the regular season as well.
2. Two offensive tackles emerge as reliable contributors...I don't care if it's Zach Martin, Matt Romine, or Taylor Dever. We need to keep Dayne upright and they're the keys.
3. Reverse the redzone ineptitude that plagued us last season...There was no excuse for how terrible we were at punching the ball in the endzone last season with all the talent that was at our disposal. If you've forgotten and want to get mad take a look back at the diary of the Washington game. There were far too many self-inflicted wounds (holding penalties, false starts, etc.) brought about by sloppiness and carelessness. Reverse that and we're going to have a very potent offense.

6. ***BONUS*** The arrival of college football means the arrival of perhaps the greatest American pastime: Tailgating. The assumption is that you're going to be heading to at least one game in the Bend this year which means you'll have at least one opportunity to tailgate your face off. What home games are you planning on attending, where do you normally tailgate when you're out for a game, what's your typical tailgate like (we talking a great spread and a selection of imported beverages or a pack of Bubba burgers and about 20 30-racks of Natty?), and are you inviting your loyal readers?

I'm headed out to the Michigan game because I need to feel the impact of Manti Te'o laying out Tate Forcier on a blindside hit in person and see him stand over him Drago-style uttering "if he dies...he dies." I realize Forcier is well on his way to becoming Michigan's very own Matt Lovecchio (without the success!) and may not be starting, but I can dream.

Since college I have tailgated at Radio Tower Lot, a place affectionately (and appropriately) known to those in O'Neill Hall as "The Field of Dreams." Apparently they're building the new hockey arena on top of it so it's days are numbered, a thought that makes me sick to my stomach.

(Side rant: what a shortsighted decision on the location of the new hockey arena by the University...couldn't they put the rink on top of a plot of land that no one cares about? Why not on top of the girls' softball stadium?)

Typically we'll peel ourselves out off the floor of whatever house we've crashed at after a night spent belting out "God Bless the USA" at The Backer and get to the Radio Tower Lot by around 9am. If you're looking for great food and a relaxed, family atmosphere head back to the Legends of JACC lots. If you're interested in some pregame raging, complete with full-beer flip cup, Irish drinking toasts, and Can of Shame all with the Notre Dame Victory March blaring in the background then you've landed in heaven.

We show up in bonus time armed with garbage cans full of ice, carloads of canned deliciousness (shotgunning bottles just isn't as fun), a table (multi-functional for full beer flip cup and Jerry's Kids), a football (because no tailgate is complete without one), and a full container Morton's salt (just in case an enemy fan needs to be salted...nobody enjoys salting another human being, but frankly some leave you no choice...especially the SC fan in the picture to the right).

At some point I make the trek over to the Legends Lot to visit the Wolohan Swamp Attack tailgate--a ritual I've practiced since my first game on-campus my freshman year--to catch up with some fellow alums and refuel with the delicious, life-giving combination of fried chicken and taco salad before heading back to the Radio Tower to resume pregame activities.

Are our loyal readers invited? Of course! We're not hard to spot...and if you can't find us then you'll be fine. Almost everyone in the Tower Lot is on the same page--we do it all for the love of the game.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Irish Football 101: The Glory Days of Lou

Q: So Notre Dame wins the championship in '88. How did their title defense go?

A: The Irish sprinted to an 11-0 record and the #1 ranking with senior quarterback Tony Rice at the helm, setting up a regular season finale showdown in Coral Gables with the Miami Hurricanes. Unfortunately the Canes got their revenge for the '88 game, defeating the Irish 27-10 en route to a national championship. Notre Dame finished with an identical record to the Hurricanes but were placed #2 in the polls since they'd lost head-to-head to Miami.

Q: That makes sense and seems fair that we'd end up #2, doesn't it?

A: Yes, can't disagree at all. If two teams finish with identical records and one team beat the other head-to-head then the most blatantly obvious/fair/logical thing to do is award the higher ranking to the team that won that head-to-head matchup.

Q: Why do you belabor that point?

A: You'll see later.

Q: Alright. A national championship in year three, a 12-1 season in year four. Did Holtz sustain this sort of success the rest of his tenure?

A: The next two years the Irish slipped just a bit after Tony Rice graduated. In 1990 the Irish posted a 9-2 regular season record. After defeating Miami in the final Catholics vs Convicts contest (thanks in large part to The Rocket) the Irish received a bid to the Orange Bowl against #1 Colorado.

It would be the final game in the collegiate career of Rocket Ismail and he did everything he could do go out in style. With 1:05 remaining the Irish trailed 10-9 and Colorado was forced to punt. Instead of kicking it out of bounds, the Buffs inexplicably gave Rocket one last chance. This is what happened:

In what would have no doubt gone down as one of the greatest and most clutch plays in college football history, the Rocket emerged from the pack and raced 92 yards for what appeared to be a game-winning touchdown. But a line judge threw a flag for what will forever be known as "The Phantom Clip."

Q: Wait, where was the clipping penalty in that call?

A: There was no clipping in that play. It was a call that deserves as much ignominy as Jim Joyce's call to screw up Galarraga's perfect game this year. We were robbed of one of the greatest Notre Dame Moments ever.

Q: Damn, so how did the Irish bounce back from that the next year?

A: It was another down year by Holtz's standards, going 9-3 in the regular season and gaining what many thought was an undeserved berth in the Sugar Bowl against #3 Florida. Notre Dame went into the contest ranked #18 and was a heavy underdog against the Gators and their high-octane offense led by Shane Matthews and head coach Steve Spurrier.

Many in the media cried that Notre Dame only got an invite because of their name and that their team didn't stand a chance against Florida. In the weeks leading up to the showdown it became known as "The Cheerios Bowl," because the joke was that the difference between Notre Dame and Cheerios was that Cheerios belonged in a bowl.

Q: Were the critics right?

A: Final Score - Irish 39, Gators 28. Notre Dame kept holding Spurrier's Fun n' Gun to field goals and eventually wore down their defense with running backs Rodney Culver, Reggie Brooks, and Jerome Bettis. Bettis ran for three touchdowns in the fourth quarter (3, 49, and 39 yards), all right up the middle of the Gators' defense. The Irish outscored them 32-12 in the second half and the media got to eat a whole lot of crow.

Q: How did the next couple years go?

A: The 1992 season was probably Holtz's most disappointing as head coach. It was a stacked offense led by senior quarterback Rick Mirer, tailback Reggie Brooks, and fullback Jerome Bettis (they would finish 1-2-3 in NFL Rookie of the Year voting the next season). Expectations were through the roof preseason, but they couldn't escape September without stumbling to a tie against Michigan. Then in a game that took place over the Notre Dame student body's fall break, the Irish fell at home to heavy underdog Stanford which essentially ended their national title hopes. They regrouped to finish the season 10-1-1, stomp Texas A&M 28-3 in the Cotton Bowl, and claim a final ranking of #4.

Expectations were lower the next season because so much talent had graduated, but at the same time the most highly touted recruit in Notre Dame history arrived on campus. Ron Powlus was a quarterback from Berwick, PA that ESPN analyst Beano Cook proclaimed would win multiple Heisman Trophies by the time he'd graduated from ND. He was installed as the starter before the first game before breaking his collarbone in practice. This opened the door for senior quarterback Kevin McDougal to take the reins. The Irish burst out of the gate with nine straight victories, setting up a November #1 vs #2 showdown with top-ranked Florida State in South Bend. It was billed as The Game of the Century.

Q: Were the Irish favored?

A: No, much like in the Cheerios Bowl two years earlier the experts proclaimed that the Irish could not keep up with the speed of the Seminoles on both sides of the ball. It was set up almost exactly like the Catholics vs Convicts game in '88--Old School vs New School, Brawn vs Speed, Catholics vs Criminoles.

The brash Seminoles showed up on campus before the game and let the trash talking flow. When quarterback and eventual Heisman Trophy winner Charlie Ward was asked whether his team respected the history of Notre Dame he responded, "What’s the Gipper? Rock Knutne? The Three Horsemen? I’m not here for a history lesson."

In one of Holtz's greatest masterpieces the Irish staked a 31-17 lead with just 1:37 left in the fourth quarter thanks to some creative play-calling and the rushing of fullback Ray Zellers, tailback Lee Becton, and cornerback/goal line specialist Jeff Burris. The defensive line, led by Bryant Young and Jim Flanagan, contained the ballyhooed Florida State attack and their leader Charlie Ward for most of the day. Late in the game though Ward broke through and after cutting the lead to seven, the Seminoles had one last chance with time running out.

Unfortunately, it was the last time Notre Dame was ranked #1 and the last truly iconic Notre Dame Moment to date.

Q: Did Notre Dame win the national title?

A: No. The next week they were upset in the final game of the season at home against Boston College, 41-39. The Irish were trailing 38-17 in the fourth quarter before engineering a furious comeback to take the lead 39-38 with just over a minute to go. Linebacker Pete Bercich had a chance to clinch the game with an interception with under a minute to go but it slipped through his hands. Boston College kicked a field goal as time expired to win the game. It was one of the three most heartbreaking losses in school history (along with '64 Southern Cal and '05 Southern Cal).

Q: Wow, how did they bounce back in the bowl game?

A: They defeated Texas A&M in a rematch of the previous year's Cotton Bowl, 24-21. #1 Nebraska took on Florida State in the Orange Bowl and the thought was that if Florida State won Notre Dame would be crowned national champions. The Seminoles squeaked out a victory over the Huskers and ended the season with the same record as Notre Dame but were awarded the national championship.

Q: Wait, didn't they lose to Notre Dame just two games earlier?

A: Yes.

Q: So they had identical records...and Notre Dame beat Florida State head-to-head...and Florida State was still given the national championship?!?!

A: Yes.

Q: But where's the logic in that?

A: You can't find it. It's hiding somewhere with Lane Kiffin's integrity.

Q: Still, despite that disappointment it was quite a six year run for Lou wasn't it?

A: You better believe it. During that stretch he pieced together a 23-game win streak, won a national title, finished #2 twice, finished in the top 6 five times, went to six major bowls (winning five of them), and posted a 64-9-1 record (.877 winning percentage). It was one of the most successful runs in modern college football.

Unfortunately that gut-wrenching loss to Boston College seemed to sap all momentum from the Irish juggernaut. It marked an abrupt end to Irish dominance and the beginning of a free-fall that plagues the program to this day.


This Week's CliffNotes:

* Notre Dame followed their national championship season with a 12-1 campaign, losing only at Miami. The 23-game win streak they pieced together is a school record that stands today.
* The Rocket was robbed of one of the greatest plays in college football history when some idiot official threw a flag for clipping. The play is forever known as The Phantom Clip and cost Notre Dame a victory over #1 Colorado in the Orange Bowl.
* Notre Dame won the 1992 Sugar Bowl over Florida 39-28 despite being a heavy underdog in what was known as "The Cheerios Bowl." Fullback Jerome Bettis rushed for three touchdowns in the fourth quarter to ice the victory.
* After a disappointing '92 campaign, Notre Dame won their first ten games of the 1993 season, including a 31-24 victory over Florida State in the Game of the Century.
* They were upset in the final game of the 1993 season at home against Boston College, 41-39. This is the greatest moment in Boston College history, even greater than Flutie's Hail Mary pass. This is the root of the reason we hate Boston College.
* Florida State and Notre Dame ended the season with identical records, but in the final poll Florida State was ranked #1 and ND #2 despite the fact Notre Dame defeated FSU head-to-head. This defies logic, much like Illinois deciding to give Ron Zook another year to coach their football team.
* Lou's run from '88-'93 was one of the best in the modern era of college football.

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Dynasty League Update: Mattare 1, Bill 0

Well the first showdown in our NCAA Football 2011 Online Dynasty is in the books and poor Billy Boy is reeling. My Wake Forest Demon Deacons ran all over Bill's Dukies en route to a 42-31 victory in week two. Bill had installed himself as a 7-point pregame favorite but just could not stop the deadly combination of RB Josh Adams and QB Tony Sachitas. Postgame Bill seemed to offer up a million excuses for the loss, but provided no reason for why he couldn't find a way to defeat an opponent so far below his level. Bummer.

Perhaps more importantly than what this means within our dynasty is what it means in the real world. As is customary whenever teams Bill and I root for/control play against one another we had to have a side bet. Previous bets have led to:

* ND-PSU '06 - Billy relinquishing control of his Facebook profile for 3 months (I may have enrolled him in every gay club at Penn State and given his real cell number)
* ND-PSU '07 - Me being forced to wear a little pink dress out on New Year's Eve in Philly (I may have gotten jumped outside the bar Finnegan's Wake)
* ND-PSU NIT Semifinal '09 - Me being forced to do on-demand pushups (30 a day) for the rest of the year (I may have done most of them on the floor of PJ Whelihan's)

The stakes for this video game showdown: 3 on-demand yoga poses per day the next extended period of time we see each other. That means whenever I feel like Bill needs to stretch out a bit--it could be in a bar, it could be at a restaurant, it could be on the beach, it doesn't matter--with the snap of my fingers he'll be in the tree pose or perhaps "the plow"...because there's never an inappropriate time to whip that one out.

Probably the most enjoyable part will be listening to Billy explain to bystanders why he is doing the downward-facing dog yoga pose in the middle of a crowded bar and then rant on about how he's actually the better player. Bystanders will respond "well, judging by the fact that you're posing like Daniel-Son in the Karate Kid as you talk to that girl and the guy you played is standing there laughing I'd say you probably aren't the better player." Those bystanders would be correct.

Better luck next year Billy Boy! In the meantime, better start working on that flexibility.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Trojan Turnover

Today ESPN reported two little nuggets from Trojan Land. The first was that Southern Cal is returning Reggie Bush's Heisman and essentially purging all memory of him from the annals. Unfortunately this doesn't mean that Reggie actually has had his Heisman taken away, but it is nice to see that he's now essentially been frozen out by his alma mater.

The second--and more relevant to Notre Dame fans that aren't current students--is that the indescribably delusional Mike Garrett has been replaced by former Trojan quarterback and current ND home game color commentator Pat Haden. Many on message boards are rejoicing the fact that Haden will be leaving the NBC telecasts because they claim he had an anti-Notre Dame prejudice (a natural thought I suppose given his alma mater).

I really never had a problem with Haden--in fact, I thought he was pretty good. He was articulate, clearly knew his stuff, and was for the most part very concise. I never thought he showed any anti-Irish bias. If they did something bad he called them out for it. If they did something good he praised it. If there was a bad call against them he'd react with the proper degree of outrage (specifically I remember the "roughing the center" call from earlier in the decade).

Now I obviously didn't see the '05 Bush Push telecast so I don't know how he called that one, but if people say he was objective then he could do anything objectively. I appreciate his efforts over the past decade and appreciate even more the fact that last season he uttered the line, "Kyle Rudolph's hands are the size of small dogs."

The person that really needed to be replaced this offseason was Tom Hammond. There are some people that are not made for High Definition television and Hammond is at the top of that list. It's "seriously, get the kids out of the room so they don't have nightmares" bad. Combine that with the fact that he constantly screwed up names and seems to be losing it a hair and it's time for him to go.

We don't know whether he'll follow Haden out the door, but we can begin to speculate on who the new color guy will be. Let's throw some names out there:

* Joe Theismann - Should they choose to go the ND alum route he's available and I'm sure itching to get a microphone in front of him. I'm not his biggest fan but I wouldn't be upset.

* Aaron Taylor - He's incredibly articulate but really turned me off the past few years by piling on ND. Just my opinion, but he crossed the line between objective analysis to hater. After spending so much time in the studio with John Saunders I guess I can understand how the hate would spill over though.

* Chris Collinsworth - He used to do ND games back in the early 90's but he's now the centerpiece of the NBC Sunday Night Football telecasts so he wouldn't be a legitimate candidate I don't think (though he does have a kid on the team so he'll be there anyway).

* Bob Davie - I've never muted the TV to listen to the radio (even though I loved Tony Roberts), but I absolutely would if Davie were the color guy. He's actually a great color guy, but he's someone that demonstrates time and time again that he doesn't understand Notre Dame and I could see him making 2-3 comments per season that would lead me to put a hole in my living room wall.

* Jesse Palmer - He's pretty good, I just can't see him leaving ESPN.

* Craig James - He'll be too busy attending Texas Tech games and talking with Tommy Tuberville through a headset telling him to play his son.

* Petros Papadakis - Whoever suggested him must live under powerlines. I'd rather have a picture-in-picture of Hammond's face in the upper right-hand corner of my TV screen all game than listen to Papadakis.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

The Guru Breakdown: Clay Burton

After a brief hiatus we bring back a little GUUUURRRUUUUU! This week we hone in on Florida recruit Clay Burton.

Clay Burton
Position: DE/LB
Height/Weight: 6'3 - 230lbs
Forty Time: 4.8
Hometown: Venice, Florida
Stats: 80 tackles, 13 sacks
Offer List: Tennessee, LSU, Clemson, Boston College, West Virginia, South Florida

Plays with a ton of aggression and passion....has great size, athleticism, and strength.....good use of hands....moves well laterally.....great burst off of the line of scrimmage and plays until the whistle is blown....can track down plays from the backside....good combination of speed and power of the edge.

Weaknesses/Areas of Concern: A bit of a tweener.....plays Defensive End in HS but will likely be an OLB when he arrives at ND....tackles too high at times....The other concern with him is that he may get to big to be an OLB--his HS coach said he is an animal in the gym and could bulk up to 270.

Overall: Burton plays with a very high motor and is very athletic for his size. Burton fits perfectly into the Irish defensive scheme and should be a major contributor throughout his career. As Florida Varsity analyst Michael Langston has inferred, look for Clay's recruiting ranking to soar over the next six months. A great, underrated (at least for now) get for the 2011 class.

Comparison: I actually thought he was very similar to Kerry Neal (when he was coming out of Bunn HS). He does not have the burst like Darius Fleming has, but he is probably more athletic overall. I'm hesitant to compare him to Neal though because I think he will be more successful.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

July 13, 2010: A National Holiday

Hardcore college football fans have three big offseason events to look forward to every year:

1. National Signing Day
2. The Release of the Phil Steele Preview Magazine
3. The Release of EA Sports NCAA Football

That third holiday arrived today, which meant that at lunch I had to make a trip to Gamestop to pick up NCAA Football 2011--a great moment even though it meant spending $60 on a product with Tim Tebow's mug on it. Tonight I popped in the game, watched the awesome new intro (which is narrated by Brad Nessler and totally sans any scenes involving Penn State or their hideous stadium...a big thumbs up to EA Sports this year), and then listened to Kirk Herbstreit analyze how Dayne Crist was dissecting the Tulsa defense (come on, I had to start with a cream puff).

Bill, frequent WNG commenter the Lord of Shots, and I are among 12 guys partaking in an online dynasty over the course of the fall/winter/spring. I'm sure the trash-talking from that league will spill over on to this site, so much so that Bill may decide to throw up a post or two to cut down his average time between posts in 2010 (he's currently pumping them out at a whopping pace of one every 2.2 months...only slightly ahead of Penn State's pace in recruiting for the class of 2011)!

I think our buddy Ross summed it up best with a text he sent after his first spin with NCAA 2011: "Just beat Alabama in OT. God damn I can't wait for the real season to start."

Amen, Ross*. Just 53 days until opening weekend. It can't come soon enough.

(* = Just don't expect Penn State to have a prayer in real life when they head to Tuscaloosa. But hey, you'll always have those little digital men with the big hearts who knocked off the Tide that memorable day in July. So you've got that going for you...which is nice.)

Monday, July 12, 2010

Irish Football 101: Lou to the Rescue

Q: So Notre Dame is in dire straits when they tap Lou Holtz to replace Gerry Faust. What was Holtz's background?

A: Well he'd coached at William & Mary, NC State, Arkansas, and Minnesota and experienced success at all four stops. He had a short stint at W&M, but in his second year led them to a conference championship and earned a berth in the Tangerine Bowl before accepting the job at NC State.

His record in Raleigh was 31-11-2, leading the Wolfpack to bowls in each of his four seasons at the helm. After an unsuccessful one year stint with the New York Jets he landed at Arkansas where during his first season he took the Razorbacks to an 11-1 record and a berth in the Orange Bowl against Oklahoma. Prior to the game his top two running backs violated teams rules and Holtz chose to send them home. The Hogs went on to thump Oklahoma 31-6 despite being shorthanded (ironically, by knocking off the Sooners Holtz helped seal Notre Dame's 1977 national championship).

His final stop before South Bend took him up to Minnesota prior to the '84 season, where he took a floundering program to a bowl game in only his second season. Before having the chance to coach that bowl game though Holtz was offered and accepted the Notre Dame position. He had actually put a "Notre Dame Clause" in his contract at Minnesota that said if offered the Notre Dame head coaching job he could accept it without penalty.

Q: What was Holtz like?

A: He had the reputation of disciplinarian and master motivator. His victory in the aforementioned Orange Bowl helped put him on the map as a coach who delivered in big games and his work turning around the programs at NC State and Minnesota made people believe he could do the same when he arrived at Notre Dame.

Q: Was everyone excited when he accepted the job?

A: From everything you read back then people were happy with Holtz but he was far from a slam dunk to lead the Irish back to the "Promised Land." He had only posted a 6-5 record at Minnesota the year before he took the ND job so it's not as if he was setting the world on fire. He had a reputation as a program builder but his star had faded a bit after being a prime candidate to replace Woody Hayes at Ohio State in the late 70's.

Q: How did he differ from Faust?

A: In the book Talking Irish, offensive lineman Chuck Lanza recalls the team's first encounter with Holtz. It was cold November day, less than 24 hours after the season ended the Faust Era with the mortifying Miami game and Faust had just said his final goodbye. Then Holtz walked in the door.

As Lou came in the room Lanza was leaning back, slouched in his chair with a foot up on the stage the coach stood upon. Holtz looked down at Lanza and said, "What's your name?" Lanza told him and Lou asked him how long he'd been playing football. Lanza said, "about ten years." Lou glared down and responded, "if you want to play one more you better move your foot, you better sit up in your chair, and you better pay attention."

There was a new sheriff in town that wasn't going to allow the slacking that had gone on under Faust. Holtz instantly injected discipline, toughness, and swagger to the program--three things that had been sorely lacking.

Q: Was he an instant success a la Parseghian?

A: Not quite. The Irish showed a lot of promise in the 1986 campaign but their final record didn't reflect it. After nearly upsetting #3 Michigan in the season opener, Notre Dame stumbled to a 5-6 record. There were signs of vast improvement though and perhaps the tipping point that pushed the Irish in the right direction came in the season finale against 17th ranked Southern Cal.

Notre Dame was trailing the Trojans 37-20 with under 13 minutes left when quarterback Steve Beuerlein engineered a furious rally that culminated when kicker John Carney--who had missed two game-winning kicks earlier in the season--split the uprights to secure a 38-37 victory for the Irish.

The victory set the tone for 1987. Notre Dame jumped out to an 8-1 record and in November was right in the thick of the national title hunt. Unfortunately they stumbled to the finish line with three straight losses, including a 24-0 loss to the hated Miami Hurricanes and a 35-10 drubbing at the hands of Texas A&M in the Cotton Bowl.

Q: Were people happy with the direction of the program under Holtz after year two?

A: The disappointing finish to the '87 campaign led some to question whether Holtz could ultimately take the Irish to a title, but there were plenty of positive signs in those first two seasons. The days of being totally man-handled in games against high-caliber opponents were gone, the defense showed a toughness that had been sorely lacking, and the offense sprung to life leading to Notre Dame's first Heisman Trophy winner in 23 years--wide receiver Tim Brown. Brown set the school record of All-Purpose Yards and provided an electric element that Notre Dame fans hadn't seen since the days of Nick Eddy.

Q: I mean this was in the 1980's, an era that Youtube covers pretty well. Got any videos with Brown highlights?

A: I'm glad you asked. There are plenty of highlights on Tim Brown's reel that are worth checking out, but at the top of the list was the 1987 game against Michigan State. In the second half Brown returned two consecutive punts for touchdowns, sparking an Irish victory and his Heisman campaign.

Q: So expectations were a bit higher going into Holtz's third campaign. Did he deliver?

A: You better believe it. It started in the season opener against Michigan in a night showdown at Notre Dame Stadium.

Q: Wait, they played night games at Notre Dame Stadium?!?!

A: Yes.

Q: Was the homefield advantage significantly greater at night?

A: Well at one point the crowd noise was so loud that Michigan protested and refused to take another snap until the crowd quieted down. The fans were so loud they were actually penalized at one point. Don't believe me? Let's go to the tape!

(Side question to Bill--has the vaunted Penn State student section adorned in their undershirts ever been so loud that the team was assessed a penalty?)

Q: Wow, Michigan wouldn't run a play because there was too much noise? Did they delay the game when there was wind too or when it got too hot or cold on the field?

A: What can you say--the Michigan Wolverines are a bunch of sissies. The Irish went on to win that game 19-17 and rolled to a 5-0 start. Notre Dame ascended to #4 in the rankings, setting up an October 15th showdown in South Bend with the top-ranked Miami Hurricanes. For the first time in years the Irish were expected to have a chance against the vaunted "U."

Q: Were there still hard feelings from the 1985 game when Jimmy Johnson ran up the score?

A: Um, yes. The Notre Dame senior class had witnessed the 58-7 drubbing their freshman year so the embarrassment was still fresh in their minds. The two schools were on opposite ends of the spectrum on just about everything, adding to the intrigue of the matchup. South Bend vs South Beach. Grit vs Flair. Old School vs New School.

Some entrepreneurial Notre Dame students added "Catholics vs Convicts" to that lineup, printing now famous shirts in preparation for the game that played on the fact that most Miami players had more misdemeanors on their record than C's on their transcripts (and more felonies than B's).

The venom between the two teams was palpable and during pregame warmups it boiled to a head. Notre Dame was in the endzone doing light special teams drills when Miami made its way to the locker room. A few of the Hurricanes decided to run through the Notre Dame drill as opposed to going around it and then stayed at the edge of the tunnel jawing at the Irish players in the endzone. Much of Miami's "mystique" and "aura" was based on intimidation even before the opening gun sounded. With the bully once again running its mouth some Irish players decided it was time the bully got punched in the mouth...literally.

A brawl broke out and became so large that it flooded into the tunnel. Police separated the teams and ushered them into their respective locker rooms. The Irish stewed in anger in the locker room, unsure of what Holtz would say about the events that had just taken place. He tried to refocus their attention on the game and not let the taunts and actions of the Canes distract them.

After a brief talk about the strategy the room fell silent. According to both Rocket Ismail and Pat Eilers, just before the players were to take the field Holtz lowered his voice and said, "I want you guys to go out there and play the Miami Hurricanes...but I'll tell you one thing: SAVE JIMMY JOHNSON'S ASS FOR ME." The team erupted, all but knocked the hinges off the door to the locker room and took the field.

In what is arguably the greatest Notre Dame moment ever, the Irish knocked off the trash-talking Hurricanes 31-30. Notre Dame's defense stepped up and forced seven turnovers, ran back an interception for a touchdown, and held off a late Miami charge by batting down a two-point conversion in the games waning moments. The Irish had slayed the giant, setting the stage for a run for the title.

Q: Did the Irish have an easy path the rest of the way to the national title game?

A: There was still one huge hurdle to clear: the Trojans of Southern Cal, who were ranked #2 in the country. The final game of the season required a trip to the LA Coliseum--a place that had haunted so many Irish teams in the past--and though the Irish were ranked #1 they entered the contest as underdogs. There would be no heartbreak during this trip. The Irish manhandled the Trojans 27-10, landing them a spot in the Fiesta Bowl with a shot at the national title.

The #3 West Virginia Mountaineers possessed a vaunted offense led by do-everything quarterback Major Harris, but on that day they were no match for an Irish team on a mission. Notre Dame handily defeated the Mountaineers 34-21, wrapping up their first national title in 11 years. Holtz--like Rockne, Leahy, Parseghian, and Devine--had taken Notre Dame to the summit in his third season on the job.

Q: Who were some of the key players that led the way?

A: On offense quarterback Tony Rice brilliantly engineered the option attack all season, delivering with both his arm and legs. He was accompanied by playmakers Ricky Watters and arguably the most electrifying player in college football history, The Rocket.

Q: The Rocket?

A: Raghib "Rocket" Ismail was one of the fastest players in the history of college football. He was a jack of all trades for the Irish--returning punts and kicks, taking handoffs and option pitches in the backfield, and splitting out wide as a receiver. Holtz came up with innovative ways to get Rocket the ball each game since every time he touched the ball he could go the distance in the blink of an eye. During that national championship season he averaged almost 28 yards per catch and returned two kicks for touchdowns.

Q: How about on the defensive side of the ball?

A: There were a host of future NFL players like defensive backs Pat Terrell and Todd Lyght, but the most memorable are nose tackle Chris Zorich and "The Three Amigos" that made up the linebacking core: Frank Stams, Wes Pritchett, and Michael Stonebreaker. Zorich was an undersized defensive tackle from Chicago who seemingly willed himself into opposing backfields while wearing his signature cut-off jersey while the trio of linebackers terrorized defenses and set the tone for a revamped toughness that had formed under Holtz's tutelage.

Stams actually was a fullback that Holtz switched to defense. This was something Holtz was well-known for over the course of his time in South Bend. On that '88 squad there were quite a few contributors that were playing a different position than when they arrived as freshman--including Stams, Terrell, and starting offensive tackle and converted tight end Andy Heck.

Q: Wait...there was a linebacker named Michael Stonebreaker?

A: Yes.

Q: Has there ever been a more perfect name for a linebacker?

A: No chance...though I suppose Manti Te'o maybe be an acceptable alternative.


This Week's CliffNotes:

* Lou Holtz had experienced success in three previous stops at major college football programs, taking all three (NC State, Arkansas, Minnesota) to bowl games.
* Holtz was known as a disciplinarian and someone whose teams came up big in high-profile games. He also had grown up admiring Notre Dame and even had a clause in his contract at Minnesota that said he could take the Notre Dame job without penalty should it be offered to him.
* There were some growing pains in the first two seasons, but the Irish showed many signs that they were on the verge of re-entering the elite of college football in '86 and '87.
* Tim Brown became Notre Dame's first Heisman winner in 23 years when he won the award in 1987.
* They used to play night games at Notre Dame Stadium...and they...were...AWESOME.
* Michigan cries about EVERYTHING, including but not limited to: the opposing crowds being too loud, the air being too humid, the lights of the stadium being too bright, the opposing defenses being too mean, and their coach being a complete sleaze who is in over his head. Actually, they don't cry about the last thing. But they should. Long and short of it is they're a bunch of sissies and morons.
* Three years removed from one of the most embarrassing losses in Notre Dame history, the Irish knocked off the trash-talking Miami Hurricanes and their hair-spray addicted hick of a coach Jimmy Johnson 31-30 in the original Catholics vs Convicts game.
* After vanquishing #2 Southern Cal on the road and #3 West Virginia in the Fiesta Bowl, Notre Dame was crowned national champion for the first time in 11 years.
* Some of the stars of the national championship team were quarterback Tony Rice, running back/flanker Ricky Watters, jack of all trades Rocket Ismail, defensive tackle Chris Zorich, and the Three Amigos--linebackers Frank Stams, Wes Pritchett, and Michael Stonebreaker.
* Stonebreaker is probably the front-runner for the coolest name in football history and Rocket might be the best nickname ever. This team had everything.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Lazy Summer Blogging 101

So while Mattare would have you believe that its important to know your school's history and to keep up to date on your team's recruiting, it is, but summer isn't about what's important. It's about not caring that your team only has two commits, one a 2 star tight end that only Bucknell and Delaware would have. It's about making beach plans at work. It's about reading blogs, not writing them.

Despite all this, I want my name to remain under "contributors" because I know that there's a 2010 football season ahead. I want to be here when Notre Dame fans will whip themselves into a frenzy over a new QB 1 and a new coach. I want to be here when excuses start to be made after they lose to a sneaky Michigan team. I want to be here when Tom Bradley's ever-stingy defense wills Penn State to a 9-4 record and I can know that that's as bad as it's going to get for the next 3 years, while Irish beat writers republish all the Charlie Weis articles from 2007 and just switch out the names.

Penn State Offseason Notes:

Recruiting has been terribly slow. As it stands now we only have Kyle Carter (2* TE) and Shawn Oakman (4* DE). Oakman says he wants to play basketball for us too. Standing 6'8" I say do it, but take it from a zero sport athlete: being a two sport athlete AND a student is taxing. He would be someone to get excited about until you realize Pitt snatched Marquise Wright, who was a hard Penn State lean. We continue to struggle locking up PA talent like a state powerhouse should. There was some speculation that Notre Dame commitment Ben Koyack was being recruited by Penn State, this is completely false as he is a goober and we don't recruit those.

Recruits we need to land: CBs Terrell Chestnut and Kyshoen Jarrett

WR Miles Shuler from NJ

OLs Angelo Mangiro and Cyrus Kouandjio

DEs Deion Barnes and and DT Shaun Underwood

Hey, the Big Ten expanded too. I didn't want to add the college football expansion internet saturation so I didn't write anything (nothing to do with anything I said in paragraph #1.) As you know Nebraska joined and we averted potential conference apocalypse. I'm happy about this, the next order of business is breaking down the league into divisions and I have to say that I like ESPN's Adam Rittenberg's take on this:

Go out and buy Big Boi's "Sir Lucious Leftfoot: The Son of Chico Dusty" for some funky southern hip hop to get you through the impossibly hot summer. Stay away from that Purp tho! You don't want to end up like JaMarcus Russell.

Monday, July 5, 2010

Irish Football 101: The Faust Mistake

Irish Football 101 continues this week with a look at one of the darkest times in Notre Dame history, the Gerry Faust Era.

Q: Dan Devine out after the 1980 season, Gerry Faust in. How was this transition perceived within the Notre Dame fan base?

A: The entire Notre Dame Nation came down with a severe case of Faust Fever. Gerry Faust was personable, energetic, and charismatic; he was an easy figure to embrace following six seasons with Devine, a coach people always had a hard time accepting in the shadow of Ara Parseghian.

Faust had droves of Notre Dame fans in his corner before he'd ever coached a game, all swept up by his magnetic personality that generated unparalleled excitement and anticipation. The spring after he took the job, a Sports Illustrated article by Ray Kennedy proclaimed: "If enthusiasm is what it takes to shake down the thunder, then Faust is Thor himself."

Q: You'd previously said that Faust's only experience was as a high school head coach. How did that qualify him to take on the biggest job in college football? Isn't that like electing the mayor of a podunk town with no other experience President of the United States?

A: People right off the bat acknowledged how risky a hire it was, but if there was ever going to be a coach that could make the leap it was Gerry Faust. He was the head coach at Moeller High School in Cincinnati, OH, starting the program in 1960 and overseeing its rise to national power through the 1970's. Over the course of his time at Moeller he ran up a 173-17-2 record, nine undefeated season, five state championships, and at one point pieced together a 53-game win streak.

His offense was described as more complicated and expansive than some NFL teams' offenses. He was ahead of his time when it came to year-long lifting programs and flexibility training. The final ingredient that made people believe he could succeed was that he was a natural recruiter who understood the process well thanks to watching dozens of college coaches court his players at Moeller.

Combine all that with the fact that he was a devout Catholic (his Moeller squad was described as "the prayingest team in football") and it was enough for the powers-that-be in South Bend to roll the dice. If you want to get a feel for just how smitten Notre Dame fans were with Faust and get a feel for the excitement and optimism he generated upon his arrival, its worth reading the Ray Kennedy article in SI from the spring of '81.

Q: How long did the honeymoon last?

A: About two weeks into his first season. The Irish opened the 1981 season with a convincing 27-9 victory over LSU and were voted #1 in the country going into their week two showdown with Michigan. Unfortunately it was all downhill from there. Michigan thumped Notre Dame 25-7 and the Irish spiraled to a 5-6 record, the first losing season since the year before Parseghian arrived ('63).

Q: Did he rebound from the disappointing first year or was it just a disaster from start to finish?

A: By Notre Dame standards it was a catastrophe. He never won more than seven games and posted a winning percentage of .535. By Northwestern standards that would've been good enough to get their football stadium renamed Faust Field.

Q: Were there any noteworthy highlights?

A: Faust had a couple good victories that roped people in to thinking maybe the Irish were about to turn a corner under his command. In 1982 the Irish beat Michigan and then knocked off #1 Pitt--a team led by Dan Marino--on the road. He also beat Southern Cal three straight times, twice busting out the green jerseys at home ('83 and '85) to thump the Trojans (27-6 and 37-3).

On the players' side, the highlight was running back Allen Pinkett setting the all-time rushing record with 4,131 yards (which would stand for 13 years). He was the first player in school history to rush for over 1,000 yards in three consecutive seasons.

Q: So how long did Faust last?

A: He finished out his five year contract. It was obvious from day one that he was just in over his head. His vaunted "NFL-esque" offense flamed out, his player recruiting and development was suspect, and his "rah, rah" positive attitude didn't resonate with kids when the roof was caving in. Half of Faust's 26 losses came when Notre Dame was tied or leading in the second half. He came from behind to win in the second half exactly once in his entire career.

Games where the Irish simply beat themselves with sloppy football and ill-timed mistakes became the norm. Perhaps the most fitting example of the calamity of errors came in his final season, when the Irish were called for a penalty against Navy for having SIXTEEN players on the field. When you read quotes from players that year it's evident that they'd lost all faith and respect in their leader.

Q: What was the low point?

A: Things bottomed out in his final game as Notre Dame coach. The losses and pressure mounted to a point where Faust had no other choice but to step down for the good of the program he so dearly loved. He announced he would resign at the end of the season after a 10-7 loss to LSU dropped the Irish to 5-5 on the season.

His final game as a lame duck head coach would come on national television against the vaunted Miami Hurricanes, led by their brash head coach Jimmy Johnson. The contest highlighted just how far the Irish had fallen from the nation's elite. When the final fun mercifully sounded the Hurricanes had humiliated Notre Dame 58-7, one of the worst defeats in school history.

Despite the fact that the game's outcome had been determined, Johnson continued to run up the score in an attempt to embarrass the Irish. He continued to pass late in the game to pad quarterback Vinny Testaverde's stats and even went so far as to call for a fake punt in the fourth quarter when they were leading 44-7. The Hurricane players danced and taunted the Irish as they piled on the points. This game is what truly planted the seeds for the venomous Catholics vs Convicts showdowns that would take place in the late 80's.

Ironically, legendary Notre Dame coach Ara Parseghian was the color commentator for the game. As Jimmy Johnson kept his foot on the gas late in the game Ara became so enraged that he simply stopped talking. Jim Nantz was doing the play-by-play and before the final whistle attempted to get Ara's take on the events they were watching unfold. "Ara," he said somberly, "I think this may be the end of Notre Dame football...I just don't think they can recover from this." When he finally broke his silence, Parseghian offered this prophetic line:

"From these ashes Notre Dame will rise."

Q: Do people resent Faust when they reflect on his time at ND since the Irish fell so far?

A: Well the Gerry Faust Era is one everyone would like to forget, but Gerry Faust the person is remembered fondly. He absolutely loved Notre Dame with every fiber of his being and gave his best efforts to make things work. He used to interact with students, send them pizzas, and to this day gets emotional when talking about the campus and the people.

Unfortunately the job was just a bit more than he could handle and on the football field he was an abject failure. He was a hardworking and optimistic guy with a great heart, but that wasn't even remotely enough to guarantee any sort of success on the most elite level of college football.

Q: Wow, so who did Notre Dame tap to replace Faust and pick up the pieces?

A: A 5-10 firecracker by the name of Lou Holtz.

Q: Was he able to raise the Irish from the ashes?

A: Let's just say the Mount Rushmore of Notre Dame coaches was about to get a little more crowded...


This week's CliffNotes:

* Everyone was excited when Faust was hired even though everyone agreed it was risky. The main reason was he was incredibly upbeat, optimistic, and enthusiastic while Dan Devine was depicted by most people to be an impersonal curmudgeon.
* Faust had built a juggernaut from the ground up at Moeller High in Cincinnati and was widely regarded to be the best high school coach in the country.
* People had said that Faust's offense was more complex and diverse than some NFL offenses. These people were morons.
* Notre Dame ascended to #1 in the polls just two weeks into Faust's career. Unfortunately, that brief one week stay at the top was the high water mark for his tenure.
* Sports writers quipped that Notre Dame rarely gave teams the opportunity to beat them--they usually beat themselves before the opponent had a chance.
* The highlights were knocking off #1 Pitt and beating Southern Cal three times in a row.
* Allen Pinkett set the school rushing record with 4,131 yards during Faust's tenure. His record stood for 13 seasons.
* The low-point came in the final game of Faust's career. Miami humiliated the Irish on national television, running up the score long after the outcome had been decided.
* Jimmy Johnson is an arrogant jackass that can burn in hell. It's fitting that 25 years later he's hawking ExtenZe (says Jimmy: "Go long with ExtenZe. I do." Gross.) and his hair has the texture of a baseball helmet thanks to years of hairspray abuse.
* Gerry Faust was a great man, just not a good coach. At all. It was an experiment that was doomed from the start--he was unqualified and overwhelmed. ND fans don't hate him, they just acknowledge he was a terrible coach and move on.