Saturday, September 20, 2008

Notes From Hell...

Well, that certainly sucked. Losing to Michigan or USC is gut-wrenching because of the rivalry and what's often at stake. I can stomach those better, because those teams are usually good. Losing to Michigan State is so much worse. They're a second-tier program who's better than average about once a decade. Moreover, ND and MSU have played exactly one meaningul game out of 70-plus...and it ended in a 1966. Why the hell do we even have them on the schedule?! I'm sure purists would say, "you can't just drop every team you struggle against". Agreed. Which is why I would never ask them to drop, say, Michigan or USC. But, what exactly does Notre Dame get out of this game? I can see what Michigan State gets - national prominence, TV exposure, assistance with recruiting a nice payday. If I were the Spartans AD, I would cling to the Irish like grim death. For Notre Dame, though, it's a different story. ND's on TV anyway, doesn't need the gate or the prominence or the help in recruiting. What's more, the week after playing against one of their biggest rivals (Michigan), ND should be playing a game against a lighter opponent, not one who's peaking (take a look at MSU's record the last decade or so, this is almost inevitably their high-water mark for their season).
In any event, on to today's unpleasantness:

  • Michigan State is not a good football team. They will absolutely lose at least six games this year. The offensive line is solid which is why Ringer, a slightly above-average back, looks like he's all-world. Dell is a solid receiver, but Hoyer's remarkably average as a quarterback. As for their defense, a more competent offense who is not throwing stupid picks or fumbling the ball or who, you know, isn't totally one-dimensional, should be able to put up a bunch of points on them (see: Cal). They overpursue way too much and leave themselves susceptible to giving up big stuff and stuff underneath (alas, Notre Dame did not capitalize).
  • Notre Dame was bad. Real bad. Stupid turnovers (see above), inopportune penalties, the lack of a running game, the defenses's inability to stop the run or get to the quarterback...the list goes on. In spite of all this, Notre Dame probably should have won this game. Two stops on defense and one more score (they were in position to do it) and they win.
  • Golden Tate may end up being this team's Tim Brown or Rocket Ismail. He can do it all and he keeps getting better and better.
  • What the hell were the coaches doing on the first couple series? Not throwing the ball at all seemed like what? A good idea? Wow, this too clever by half approach that Charlie and his offensive staff have implemented needs to stop.
  • Defensively, Notre Dame actually played pretty well. They kept the Irish in the game until late in the fourth quarter in spite of being on the field quite a bit. Yeah, Ringer had his big day but, we knew that the Spartans were going to use him like crazy. Look it at this way, Ringer's 39 carries were 57% of MSU's total offensive plays. In addition, his 201 yards rushing were 58% of Sparty's total offensive production! And, for what it's worth, a TON of those yards came late in the game.
  • Can no one kick a field goal at Notre Dame? Didn't the football team used to recruit kids from the soccer team? Can't we still do that? If it were just about missing, I wouldn't be as upset; but, for the love of God, get it somewhere remotely near the uprights.
  • Jimmy Clausen has done a much better job this season of avoiding sacks (though I could do without the constant grounding), but he still throws some bad balls. I don't know if it's his decisions, what the coaches are asking him to do on given plays or a little bit of a both, but it's starting to become a real problem. The first pick came when ND was on MSU's 24-yard line - let's take 3-7 points off the board from that one (that would have been enough to tie the game or take the lead at that point). The second pick happened deep in Irish territory and lead to a Spartan touchdown. That's anywere from a 10-14 point swing on two interceptions.
  • Either John Latina needs to be fired or we need to start a new offensive line. Yes, they've been better with pass blocking (for the most part), but any offensive line incapable of generating more than 16 yards rushing (and, by the way, it's only about 50 yards when you take out sacks) is doing something very, VERY wrong. Keep in mind, this wasn't even a particularly stout defense; what happens against USC?
  • Unrelated to today's game (mercifully), but Terrelle Pryor throws 4-tds against a bad Troy team to help Ohio State sneak past them and he's the All-American of the day?! Exactly how much do the media love the Buckeyes? It's past the point of reason.

So, it comes down to this - are you a glass-half-full or glass-half-empty kind of person? If you're glass-half-empty, you view this game as a regression. All the worst tendencies that were evident in last year's team and during the first three quarters against San Diego State, reared their ugly heads yet again as Notre Dame lost to, at best, an average football team. If you're glass-half-full, you can hang your hat on a young team, going on the road and overcoming adversity to give themselves a chance at the end. At this point, I honestly don't know. Feel free to add your thoughts, lamentations and venom in the comments - vent a little.

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