Monday, October 18, 2010

Dear Diary: Notre Dame - Western Michigan

Ladies, Gents—

Weeeeelcome to what better be the most boring running diary ever! This week we’re coming to you live from college football headquarters in Arlington, VA. My Clemson roommates have the Tigers’ game on the big screen which means ND will be streamed through the computer to the second TV we’ve hooked up until that’s over.

I’m hoping that we jump on the Broncos early and often so it’s a nice, relaxing afternoon. We should be able to pass the ball at will but I want to see balance and sustained dominance. This is a MAC team, it’s time to lay the smackdown.

Let’s get going!

2:38 After a eight harrowing minutes we have the game up and running on TV #2. We won’t have audio on the ND game until that game is over. It’s not ideal, but we’ll survive.

2:42 Notre Dame is going to get the ball to start…and the Western Michigan kicker booms the opening kickoff almost out the back of the endzone. Holy smoke, that kid has a LEG.

2:43 TOUCHDOOOOOOOOOOWN IRISH!!!!!!!!!!! MICHAEL FLOYD GOES 80 YARDS ON THE FIRST PLAY. This is a perfect and immediate reminder to everyone watching that there isn’t a chance in hell that anyone for Western Michigan can stop him. Talk about jumping on them early, doesn’t get earlier than that! Irish 7, Broncos 0.

2:44 Floyd kind of slowed down the last ten yards and the defensive back almost caught him…if he would’ve had that ball punched out before he scored I would’ve officially thought he was jinxed. Was he pulling up lame or just kind of dogging it since he thought he was alone? I would guess the former unfortunately since he typically books it to the goal line even when it’s a long touchdown when he’s all alone (see: Nevada last year, Washington in ‘08).

2:46 Western Michigan’s first play is in a weird formation that’s swinging gate-esque. What the hell is this? Darius Fleming makes a nice play to knock down the pass.

2:47 Carlo and Manti STUFF a play on 2nd down. Third down is a pass short of the first down and the Broncos are forced to punt.

2:48 They even do a weird formation and shift on punts. As long as we keep effortlessly stuffing them this is going to feel like the sword vs gun scene in Indiana Jones with the Irish playing the role of Indiana. The Irish get the ball back—time to rip apart the defense.

2:51 Dayne delivers a strike to Floyd on 3rd down to convert for a 1st down. He got leveled as he let it go. There’s really no excuse for letting Dayne get hit like that against Western Michigan. I don’t care if they send 12 guys, we should be able to pick up the blitz. Their one defensive end weighs 200lbs!!! FLATTEN THEM!

2:53 Crist gets sacked on the next 3rd down and we’re forced to punt. The offensive line better wake the hell up. They should be giving Dayne enough time that he could do a cross-fit workout before he has to let go of the ball.

2:56 Great contain by Blanton on the first play of the drive leads to nothing for the Broncos. The defense looks really good right out of the gate.

2:57 Ethan Johnson grabs a sack. Good to see him getting in on the action, he’s been a little disappointing this season.

2:58 Back to back first downs from the Broncos…the second pass was a laser threaded through coverage. Great throw by Carder.

3:00 Great stop by RJ in the flat to force a 3rd down. Come on, let’s get a stop here, I want a damn shutout.

3:01 Walls takes a bad angle to the running back in the flat and gets his ankles broken. How frequently do we seem to take these terrible angles? It’s always guys in the secondary too—Harrison taking a bad angle was the reason for the long TD run we gave up to Baker against MSU. First down Broncos at the 20.

3:03 4th and 1 from the 11. They QB sneak it out of another weird formation and pick it up. After the game I’m loading up the Western Michigan playbook on NCAA 2011 and playing with it just for the hell of it. Questionable and generous spot on the play by the way.

3:05 The Broncos get down to the one yard line and try to sneak it in. The ND defensive line says “absolutely not” and stones him. They’re going to go for it on fourth down…come on boys, KEEP THAT SHUTOUT ALIVE!

3:06 Touchdown Western Michigan on an option keeper. Carlo hit him short of the goal line but Carder spun out of the tackle and got into the endzone. Damn. ND 7, Western Michigan 7.

3:08 Steve Paskorz is being credited with a catch right now on instead of Eifert. Hopefully he enjoys his moment on the ND statsheet before it’s wiped away forever.

3:09 Who the HELL is this kicker from Western Michigan?!?!?!?! Another no doubt about it touchback that landed 9 yards deep. He’s like Sebastian Janikowski except this kid doesn’t look like he’s a fat slob and on the verge of being deported.

3:10 My roommate Chuck just got iced. He’s decided he’s going to sip this one instead of chug. Frankly, it’s probably worse than chugging it.

3:14 Eifert makes a nice catch on 3rd down but then fumbles. Somehow Theo emerges from the pile with the ball. If we make this game hard on ourselves with dumb turnovers I’m going to blow a gasket.

3:17 Another punt for Notre Dame as the first quarter comes to a close with the score tied 7-7. A very disappointing first period for the Irish. The offense has been pretty much non-existent except for the big pass and catch on the first play of the game. We need to start flexing some muscle.

3:21 Interception on the first play of the drive by Darius Fleming! Great job dropping back into coverage along the far sideline and stepping in front of the pass! Alright, we’re in business, let’s take it to them boys!


3:23 And the Clemson game just ended so ND is back on the big screen with audio. This was a great three minute stretch.

3:25 Apparently Ruffer has won the kickoff job back from Tausch. For good measure after a good kick he comes up and gets in on the tackle.

3:26 Fleming with a sack on first down. Fleming and Ian Williams basically just bulldozed the offensive linemen into the backfield. Fleming could be on his way to a Vic Abiamiri cupcake stat stuffer game, something Vic was famous for against Stanford.

3:27 Western Michigan completes a pass just before the QB gets lit up by Fleming again. Fleming is OWNING the right tackle, the Broncos are going to need to start sending him help.

3:28 FUUMMMMBLLLLLEEEEE AND THE IRISH RECOVER. Gary Gray popped it loose and Ethan Johnson came up with it. Hell yes baby, let’s step on these guys and remind them there’s no chance.

3:30 Well that was a short-lived moment where I thought we were just going to start rolling them. Three and out for ND. Damnit.

3:31 Well Western Michigan eases the pain of that drive a bit when they botch the punt about as terribly as possible without losing the ball…the returner tried to catch it with his face instead of his hands. Predictably the ball bounded off his helmet backwards toward the goal line. He corralled it before ND could recover but the Broncos are going to have to take over at the one inch line. Can I get a safety up in here?

3:33 The Broncs go three and out after narrowly avoiding disaster when the QB tripped in the endzone, before recovering his balance. A bad punt gives ND the ball at the 36.

3:36 Great catch and run by Theo. He broke a tackle, did a little shaking and baking, and picked up a first down. He’s gaining more and more confidence every week.

3:37 TOUCHDOWN IRISH, DAYNE CRIST TAKES IT ON A QB KEEPER AND GOES UNTOUCHED INTO THE CORNER OF THE ENDZONE…This is the third time he’s basically waltzed into the endzone untouched this season. Enthusiasm is tempered a bit by the fact that David Ruffer’s extra point is blocked. Hammond incorrectly says that it’s the first miss in his career on a field goal or extra point—Ruffer actually shanked the only kick of he attempted in ’08 against Washington.

3:40 Well hello Roger Goodell, what are you doing on the sideline! We’ve got Doc Flanagan down there to grill him.

3:41 Flanagan has launched into a full-blown interview with questions that have absolutely nothing to do with the game or Notre Dame—intense questions about the NFL labor talks and the threat of a lockout. Is she trying to use this as an audition tape for the casting call for the second coming of Up Close? This feels like a Jim Gray reporter assault.

3:42 SHE IS STILL INTERVIEWING HIM AS THE GAME GOES ON. WE DON’T CARE WHAT GOODELL HAS TO SAY IF IT DOESN’T PERTAIN TO THE GAME ALEX, SAY HI, ASK HOW HE LIKES THE GAME ATMOSPHERE AND GET THE HELL OUT OF THERE. Why is she busting out all these intense questions for Goodell now yet when someone relevant to ND Football—like say, Brian Kelly—is the interview subject she comes up with gems like “you guys have ten yards rushing through two quarters…are you happy with the way you’re running the ball?” Unreal.

3:43 She’s finally done. That was three minutes and in the meantime Western Michigan is driving…thanks for your contribution Alex, you’ve filled your talking time quota for the rest of the year. BRING BACK LEWIS JOHNSON!

3:45 Western Michigan is inside the 10. This is just terrible. Come on defense, get a stop.

3:47 Defense holds and forces a field goal. The Western Michigan kicker splits the uprights and it’s 20-10.

3:54 Three and out for Notre Dame with sacks on 1st and 3rd down. Our offensive line just looks terrible—it’s embarrassing. This was a game where we were supposed to get in rhythm in the running game and move it whenever we wanted through the air. We have -3 rushing yards right now. We’ve had the big plays but no real sustained drives. Western Michigan unfortunately still has life.


3:59 Crist throws a duck on first down and then misses a wide open Michael Floyd on second down. He’s 3 for his last 10 passes. Come on Dayne, snap out of it.

4:03 A five yard dump to Cierre Wood brings up a 4th down and BK has decided he’s going to go for it. We need to get moving somehow…let’s hope this is it.

4:06 TOUCHDOOOOOWWWWWWN IIIIRRRRRIIIISSSHHHHHH! TYLER EIFERT DRAGS ACROSS THE MIDDLE, CATCHES THE PASS IN STRIDE, AND RUNS 39 YARDS UNTOUCHED TO THE ENDZONE. Western Michigan engaged eight and the line finally did a great job picking up the blitzers. That was a piece of cake.

4:08 Touchback David Ruffer! Yes, it’s been so long since we had a good kickoff specialist that it’s worthy of a comment and exclamation point whenever theree’s a touchback.

4:10 Western Michigan converts a third down when Carder scrambles and finds a man. Damn.

4:12 A stupid penalty on 3rd down makes it 3rd and short. Brian Kelly is going ballistic.

4:13 The Broncos’ pass falls incomplete but Blanton was flagged for holding which keeps the drive alive. They’re at the 38 with 1:24 left. Are we really going to let them put points on the board?

4:14 Carder scrambles for a 20 yard gain and they’re in the redzone. Jiminy Christmas, COME ON DEFENSE, STEP UP.

4:17 Touchdown Western Michigan, Carder scampers into the endzone to cut the lead to 10 with 15 seconds left. That was our own stupidity that kept that drive alive. Notre Dame 27, Western Michigan 17

4:19 Kelly decides to take a knee and end the half. If I were to grade the first half I’d give ND a C-. The big plays you’d expect are there but there’s still no rhythm on offense and the defense is taking turns shooting itself in the foot and missing opportunities to bury the Broncos. We need to be dominating this second half or else it’s going to be a long week listening to everyone and their mother bitch…and frankly I can’t take another week like that right now.

4:38 We come back from halftime to see HD Gremlin in the booth with Mayock. HDG is kind of awkwardly standing really close to him, almost to the point where it looks like he may lean in for a kiss Joe Namath-Suzy Kolber Style. As if I wasn’t uncomfortable enough when he came on the screen, he goes and takes it up a notch.

4:42 Flanagan says the WM coach said he was surprised they were still in the game. Interesting tidbit of honesty right there. Not at all what I’d EVER want to hear from my coach. The Irish have -4 rushing yards at halftime. Gag.

4:43 Kerry Neal sacks Carder on second down out of the gate. Beautiful start, come on boys.

4:44 Te’o makes a stop short of the first down to force a punt. WM lets loose a 20 yard kick so the Irish start with great field position. My roommate Chuck gives a perfect description of that can of corn punt that hit and backed up about 10 yards in the Irish’s favor: “that was like a diamond-faced pure spin wedge hitting a balata.”

4:45 TOUCHDOOOOOOOWN CIERRE WOOD!!!! Second play from scrimmage he goes 39 yards on a sweep to the right, didn’t even get touched. 34-17 Irish. That’s what I’m talking about!

4:51 The Irish force another three and out. Seems like we’re finally taking over.

4:55 First play of the drive is a great 14-yard run by Cierre Wood where he just shatters a defender’s ankles. He’s got four rushes for 58 yards right now. He still looks a little tentative and as Reno points out he kind of slows down a bit right before contact, but he possesses great shiftiness and a wiggle you can’t teach. He just needs to be more decisive when he does it because tentative will never fly against top-flight competition.

5:00 TJ Jones catches a pass and gets down inside the 10 but it’s coming back due to offensive pass interference. What a bad call there judging by the replay.

5:01 A nice little screen to Cierre Wood and another pass to Michael Floyd picks up the first down and gets ND down to the 7.

5:02 Michael Floyd was interfered with on first down but it went uncalled. Let’s punch it in, no field goals here.

5:06 Fourth down coming up at the 3 and we’re going to go for it. Come on baby, punch this sucker in.

5:07 TOUCHDOWN IRISH, MICHAEL FLOYD’S THIRD TOUCHDOWN OF THE DAY. He just ran a five-yard stop route and the defense totally lost track of him. Wide open, piece of cake. This is night and day from the first half on both sides of the ball.

5:11 Another three and out for Western Michigan. Te’o and Blanton teamed for a pair of tackles. This is the Notre Dame I’ve wanted to see all year—we’re thumping them exactly like we should on both sides of the ball…and no, I don’t care that it’s against Western Michigan. I’m just happy to see us do it.

5:14 ND’s drive stalls at midfield and is forced to punt. Shucks.

5:15 Jimmy Clausen is on the sideline!?! Doc Flanagan has cornered him for an interview as he innocently wandered around in a very questionable outfit. She spares him the Jim Gray treatment, but we do get an answer I was actually interested to hear. His advice to Dayne was to study as much film as possible because that’s what slows the game down for you over time. Interesting that he feels so strongly about that as opposed to game reps.

5:16 A flood of texts are pouring in about Jimmy’s attire. From Brad: “Nice members only jacket…what a jackass.” There are about 5 others expressing the same sentiment.

5:19 The Wave is going around the stadium. I hate The Wave at college football games, I think it’s absolutely terrible…but at least we’re in a game where we can afford to do it. It’s been a long time since that’s been the case.

5:20 ND forces another punt. The third quarter comes to a close and we’re comfortably dominating which is a relief. I never felt like the outcome was in doubt, but it was far too sloppy in that first half. We looked sharp on both sides of the ball—especially defense where they probably have about 20 yards of offense. I’d like to see some Tommy Rees Time in the 4th.

5:26 Crist throws an interception at the 42-yard line after it bounces off of Ragone’s hands. That was a bad throw on Dayne’s part but it’s just another example of how Ragone is snake-bitten.

5:28 FUUUUUUUMMMMMMBBBBLLLLEEEEE AND THE IRISH RECOVER! KLM WITH THE SACK, NEAL WITH THE RECOVERY. Fantastic, the ND line has been in Carder’s grill the entire second half.

5:31 Nate Montana is in the game. Not particularly happy to see him in over Rees because honestly what’s the point? Rees has a chance to maybe contribute one day, Montana does not. Not that it really matters because I highly doubt we’re going to be throwing the ball much if at all this quarter. Cierre Wood rips off a 24 yard run to start the drive; I wouldn’t mind if we ran it 10 straight times.

5:36 Heavy doses of Cierre mixed in with a short throw has the Irish down inside the 20.

5:38 The drive stalls, Ruffer rips a field goal through the uprights and ND goes up 44-17. I hate all the talk of records and streaks for Ruffer—I feel like those things with kickers should be treated like no-hitters in baseball. Just don’t talk about it, let it be.

5:43 The second string is in on defense and the defense is just getting torched. Dan McCarthy got lit up for 48 yards. It’s disconcerting that the subs are so bad. McCarthy wears the cursed #15—John Ifky chimes in with a text: “Why do we continue to give DB’s #15?” I have no logical explanation, it should be assigned to an offensive player after Clifford Jefferson, Preston Jackson, and Leo Ferrine sullied it.

5:48 The defense holds, the Broncos kick a field goal, and everyone who had cheddar on ND giving 24 is angry. ND 44, Western Michigan 20. Can Nate Montana lead a scoring drive to cover? Can’t say I’d be optimistic, but stay tuned…

5:52 Tommy Rees is in the game!

5:55 HUUUUUUUUUUUGGHHHEEESSSSSS! Robert Hughes with a beautiful 28-yard run to get down inside the 30 yard line. Will they take a knee or keep moving?

5:56 They take a knee! It’s another push! Man, Vegas is nailing the ND lines this year.

Overall I have to say I’m pleased with the performance. We played terribly in the first half but responded by busting out of the gate in the second half and putting the game on ice early. Good, relaxing W for the Irish. Not flawless by any stretch, but on the whole people should be happy…though I’m sure they won’t be.

Until next time…


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