I am 31 years old. 31. After Saturday, I feel like I am 81. My body is tired and my mind is shattered. For the last couple of years I have complained of sharp pains in my chest and pains, followed by numbness, shooting down my arm to my doctors. They have all said, "You're only 30," and "Hmm, I don't know. You're only 31."
What they fail to realize, is that I am a Fighting Irish fan. If Notre Dame could get a medical program as outstanding as its business or law programs- than maybe I could find a Notre Dame doctor that would understand all of the things I am going through right now.
I fully understand why ND is still not "there" yet, but I really thought that somehow-some way, Notre Dame would end up victorious over those fucking Trojans.
Here is your hangover. Allow yourself a good hour or two after you read this to reflect a bit more on the game. Then- get over it and fucking move on. You are probably only "insert age here," and shouldn't worry so much about it.
The talent gap is not closed. Every time Notre Dame plays like they have this season, a lot of fans like to think that the talent gap that separates Notre Dame between the rest of the top programs in the country is closed. If you really believe that, than you were not watching the same game as I was on Saturday. For certain, the gap is closing- but the crack is letting in enough light to burn us to a pulp.
Pat Hayden must have said it 212 times on Saturday and he had fancy illustrations to go along with his comments as well. (He already knew before the game started). U$C was able to rush only their 4 defensive lineman- and sometime only 3 while pressuring Jimmy all day. When only the down 4 are rushed, the defense can put 7 back in coverage against 4 receivers and the odds are greatly in the defense's favor.
In contrast, Notre Dame had to rush 5 or 6 to get pressure on Barkley which left them in poor positions to cover 4-5 receivers with only 5 or 6 guys. And to make matters worse, our defensive backs have played poor most of the season- but I'll get to that in a few.
This is what separated the teams on Saturday above ALL else. The battle in the trenches. I actually thought the offensive line did some good things, but definitely not enough. I am trying not to knock on the defensive line of Notre Dame too much here, but ti is clear how far is needed to go in recruiting to shore the D-line up. Think of some of the names that committed elsewhere that ND could have had; McCoy, Trattou, Hunter, etc. There are more but for sanity's sake I will stop there. If a big time defensive lineman can get qualified academically to ND, he should be the number one target every year.
Clausen 4 Heisman. No, I am not bullshitting you. Clausen is 3rd in the country in passing efficiency, behind Steven Sheffield (Texas Tech) and Kellen Moore (Boise State). He is slightly ahead of Tim Tebow. However- have you seen Jimmy play?! Of course you have, but I can't get over how good he really is.
I don't want to hear that Barkley outplayed Clausen, and I haven't heard it directly... yet. Barkley is a very good QB and will only get better, but Clausen is in a different universe right now. Switch jerseys for the two QB's and Clausen would have had 450 yards passing and 5 TD's. For real.
After a slow first half, Jimmy exploded in the second half to finish the game with a stat line of 24-43 260 yards and 2 TD's (plus a rushing TD- TAKE THAT TEBOW!) What Jimmy did a little differently in the second half was that he became more like Brett Favre. The passes were cannon shots that were inches of being batted down or intercepted by at least two defenders. He had to rifle them in- he had nowhere else to go. That's in contrast to Barkley who had options that were open by 15 to 20 yards.
And I would be remiss if i didn't mention the fact hat Jimmy is still playing injured. It's hard to overlook because of his constant limp, but sometimes we do overlook it because of his passing ability. His TD run and his first down runs (called plays) are testaments to his willingness to win at all costs to his body. Jimmy is a fucking warrior.
Golden 4 Biletnikoff. Well that may be a bit of a stretch considering he is not leading any receiving category and probably won't by seasons end either. However, he put up a top notch performance against U$C and had 8 catches for 117 yards and 2 TD's. They were the first passing TD's allowed by U$C this year.
What has been remarkable, has been the complete transformation of Tate into a wide receiver. Yes, he did most of that last year, but this year has been the biggest leap in my eyes because of the little things that he is doing, such as blocking and route running.
The loss of Michael Floyd is huge, but once again it is helping Tate become an even better player, because he has to.
Yes, OnStar... I need some defensive backs. Maybe that is a bit harsh, but then again- so has the play by the Irish secondary. Once again, a first year starter or in this case a freshman starter torched the Irish secondary all day. It's like watching replays of 2005 all over again. How did we get here? I thought the secondary would be the best we have had in almost a decade, so what the hell?
- It could be a case of schemeitits. With such a pressure packed pass rush (in theory) it calls upon the corners to be completely isolated and the safeties as extra linebackers. Long pass plays break out like a bad rash if it isn't perfect.
- I actually saw signs of life from Darrin Walls this week, as he was just about the only one that was breaking towards the ball and trying to make a play. The rest of the corners, and Wall too, have too much cushion on the wideouts. This has been the case all season.
- Harrison Smith is just lost out there at safety. He can't defend the pass and he has been pedestrian against the run.
Is there any solution for this year? Maybe. But, it would mean some serious personnel shifts.
- Harrison Smith needs to be replaced. However, our depth at safety is lacking.
- There are a few other options such as Blanton, or Sergio Brown to FS with McNeil taking over at the Nickel.
- Jamoris Slaughter and Danny McCarthy are other options as well.
This may seem drastic, but something needs to be done. The best thing would be better pressure from the blitz packages, but even then, a decent QB can still find a TE running a seam. Ask Barkley.
The Final Drive. Just a few thoughts on the last drive.
- If we would have won, we could have definitely sent some thank you cards to the Trojan defenders that got flagged for being assholes. I'm not sure about all of the bullshit the media is spewing about homer calls. I honestly thought $C players were douche bags.
- Robby Parris is clutch. If he is in the game for the last few plays, I just know he catches it.
- I don't care what Weis says, they let too much time wind down. Ending the game with one down available inside the 5 yard line is not exactly ideal.
- Kyle Rudolph did not catch the TD in real life. This is a defense mechanism. It was close- real fucking close, but it was the right call.
Floyd Factor. As one of my readers commented in a previous post: Will U$C ever have to cover Michael Floyd? As well covered as our players were on Saturday, they still made some big plays. Think about Floyd playing in that game for a minute. Not stop thinking about it. It hurts the brain and the heart.
I was secretly hoping both Weis and Floyd were just saying, "Fuck it. One play," while seeing Floyd on the sideline with his uniform on. One play to become the greatest legend in IRISH HISTORY. But, I guess his health is a little more important.
You know he would have caught it though.
Some final bulletpoints:
- Weis is getting the job done for the most part. His job is not in jeopardy- for now. This is always a fluid situation, so we will have to wait and see, but i think ND will continue to get better this season, and Weis is a lock for 2010.
- ND still managed 3 sacks and 8 TFL. Those are very decent numbers against what was considered by many- the best offensive line in college football.
- ND edged $C in first downs with a 27-21 tally. ND had 3 in 2008.
- ND held U$C to 3.7 yards average per rush. Pretty good.
- ND had 2.6 yards average per rush. Not so good.
- Seriously. Was the NBC crew ever going to say that the blocked PAT by ND "could be huge!"?