It's been a gradual process, but I've slowly gotten over the debacle we witnessed last Saturday when Stanford exposed the Irish as a team that's not nearly as close to arriving as we'd hoped. By yesterday I'd talked myself into a big Irish victory that would turn this season around.
But then Kirk Herbstreit got on the mic today.
He said that he was ready to pick Notre Dame until he studied the tape of their defense, whose speed he equated to that of a high school team. He said he realized that Boston College was probably going to be starting a true freshman but he was picking the Eagles anyway.
You know, it's one thing when a pinhead like Desmond Howard gets on and says something like that...but when someone who obviously does his homework and thoroughly studies film like Herbstreit blasts our team like that it gives cause for pause.
Is our defense really that bad? I don't think so. The lack of stops on third down were maddening against the Cardinal, but I thought we actually held our own especially in the redzone. Believe me, there was way more bending than anyone would prefer to see in the "Bend, Don't Break" philosophy, but they kept the Irish in the game despite the fact that our sputtering offense (which was the unit resembling a high school squad last week).
Until we got stuffed on that fourth down at midfield in the fourth quarter the defense had only allowed 19 points and forced two turnovers. I would've taken that scenario in a heartbeat if you'd offered it before the game.
So Herbie I love you and like many men wish I lived your life, but I'm going to disagree with you. The Irish defense is nowhere near a finished product but the improvement from last year is clear...and that epically terrible defense held Boston College to 16 points last season.
Still, it's been a long time since Notre Dame travelled to Chestnut Hill and left with a victory. Twelve years to be exact. I was actually in attendance that beautiful fall day. The Irish were clinging to a five point lead late in the fourth quarter when BC drove inside the 10 yard line. After stuffing All-American running back three straight times the Eagles lined up on fourth down with 11 seconds left on the one inch line. Let's relive the final play, shall we?
Deke Cooper. Boom. Glorious.
I was in the corner of the endzone about eight rows up, right in front of that play and the sound of Cooper's hit was so loud you could hear it over the roar of the student section (the morons continued to cheer and make noise even though they were on offense...you'll notice the QB try to quiet them on the last play to no avail). It has to go down as the greatest goal line stand in Irish history.
Let's get back to tonight's contest. Boston College is going to be starting true freshman Chase Rettig at quarterback, probably their highest touted quarterback prospect in...I don't even know...a long, long time. That kind of bums me out because David Shinskie was one of the worst D-I quarterbacks I'd ever seen and the sort of gopher ball our defense sorely needed. Will Retting be the spark that gets the Eagles' offense going? It's a long shot, but his ceiling is certainly higher than Shinskie's (which was somewhere around the floor, possibly lower).
The Boston College defense on the other hand is rock solid. Two years ago it absolutely smothered Jimmy Clausen and Co., shutting them out in a dominating fashion. Even though they don't have anyone like B.J. Raji up front to toss around our interior linemen Spaziani's squad is capable of giving the Irish fits.
I want to believe that this will be a convincing victory. We're more talented and flat-out better on both sides of the ball and combining that with the fact that the Eagles have a freshman making his first start at quarterback heading an offense that's been inept should add up to a comfortable Irish victory.
I don't believe it though.
For how likely it is that Rettig falters there's an equal possibility in my mind that mental mistakes on defense will lead to a couple big plays for the Eagles. Dayne Crist is only making his second career road start so it's not a foregone conclusion that he's going to set the world on fire.
It's going to be an ugly game. Nobody on the Irish offense is going to put up particularly gaudy numbers, though Floyd will take another step forward (posting 6+ catches and over 100 yards). Jimmy had a lot of trouble with BC two years ago and I expect Dayne to as well; the difference will be that Crist won't make the crippling mistakes that would bury the Irish like Jimmy did.
Rettig is going have his moments and make a couple big plays (due in part to the fact that BC is going to throw everything they have at ND...look for a trick play or two), but he's not going to do enough to keep the Irish defense on the field like ND's previous three opponents did. The result will be a fresher Notre Dame defense at the end of the game and (FINALLY) it will make a play late to slam the door...just for you, Herbie.
Notre Dame 24
Boston College 20