1. A loss to Washington would have been spooky, but we were able to pull it out. What was your favorite part of the victory?
Yes, yes, I know that, in the name of magnanimity, much of ND Nation has agreed to some type of omerta regarding Ty in the wake of the Irish victory. Sorry, I don't care. Let other bloggers talk about the dominance of the defense or the effectiveness of the running game; my favorite part of winning was pure, unrefined vengeance. When Ty was let go in 2004, large swaths of the sports media establishment got themselves worked into a state of high dudgeon over the decision of the university to do something like that to such an "esteemed" coach. Accusations and invective ranging from racism to immorality to shortsightedness were hurled wildly at Notre Dame for having the temerity to fire someone who wasn't doing their job. For his part, Ty was a royal douche. Instead of standing up, being a man and accepting his fate gracefully, he passive-aggressively validated the worst assumptions of all of the Notre Dame haters (see his 2005 interview with John Saunders). So now, four years later, Notre Dame finally has the greatest of all revenge. Not only have they gone 2-0 against Happy Gilmore since he left; this most recent victory led to Willingham being forced to step down as coach (I don't believe for a second that decision didn't come without a push). On the flip side, had Notre Dame lost, all of the "experts" would have been discussing "Ty's redemption." Not only would it have been a loss to a terrible team, it would have given cover and credence to a no-talent charlatan who deserves to ooze back into obscurity. Suck it, Ty. I hope your handicap never breaks 25.
Not to belabor the point, but Jimmy didn't look great on Saturday. As has been much discussed, it was likely due to a little rust from the off week and, ultimately, it didn't matter. Still, any time your starting quarterback has just north of a 50% completion percentage against a dismal pass defense, a little concern is justified. Conversely, the defensive coaching tandem of Brown and Tenuta (sorry, hard to separate the two), stepped it up in a big way. They designed a defensive gameplan that absolutely stifled the Huskies. Even allowing for how bad Washington's offense is, only giving up 124 total yards (with about 65-70 coming on the last drive against the third-string defense) is remarkable. I have absolutely no idea if this is a harbinger of things to come or an aberration, but it has been years since a Notre Dame defense was able to deliver that level of dominance. If the Irish 'D' can look half as good against Pitt, it's going to be a very long afternoon for the Panthers.
This one was a no-brainer. Last season, the brilliant Every Day Should Be Saturday referred to LSU as being "a werewolf with a chainsaw for a dick." To me, this perfectly epitomizes what Notre Dame should also aspire to be. I can imagine nothing more terror-inducing than a razor-clawed lycanthrope with a Stihl for a johnson. Well, I suppose him finding me to be arousing would be more terrifying, but whatever. The point is, this is what I would like to see Notre Dame morph into as we move into the last five games - a bloodthirsty killing machine capable of intimidation and wanton destruction of all who stand in their path. In other words, a team with, not only the ability, but the unquenchable desire to roll over opponents.
4. When trick-or-treating as a kid, there always seemed to be at least one house that handed out apples. What aspect of the football team this year is the biggest apple in your candy bag (aka biggest disappointment)?
Oh man, apples were the worst. Well, the small box of Sun-Maid raisins were probably the worst, but apples were right up there. In addition to the total suckitude of the apple versus, say, a Snickers Bar or Reeses' Peanut Butter Cup, there was also the potential (if urban legends are to be believed) that some psycho would have stuck a razor or a pin in there. I don't mind taking a pin to the mouth over a good piece of chocolate, but an apple?! Anyway, on to Notre Dame...
For me, the running game has been the proverbial apple in the bag. Notre Dame's inability to generate a consistent running game has been as baffling as it has been upsetting. To begin with, the Irish have a massive offensive line that has improved dramatically in their ability to pass block this season. Unfortunately, they have not made a similar jump in their run blocking aptitude. Then, there's the fact that the Irish have a stable of backs (Allen, Hughes, Aldridge, Gray) that is deeper than 90% of the teams in the country. These guys should be absolutely perplexing opposing defensive coordinators with the different looks they bring. On paper, Notre Dame should be running the ball down people's throats at will, and they just haven't been able to with any kind of regularity. While it hasn't been a huge factor thus far, eventually, in a close game, not having the ability to run the ball will be costly.
5. This year, October 31st is coincidentally also the opener for ND's Men's Basketball team (preseason against Briar Cliff). Say a few words about one player that will make have the biggest impact on the success of the team this season (apologies to non-bball fans, but I couldn't resist).
Well, I have to admit, I am not nearly as into college basketball as football, so this one was a little tricky for me. With that in mind, I went with Luke Harangody. The guy averaged a double-double last season (20.4 points, 10.6 rebounds) and, in conference play, he was even better (23.3 points, 11.3 rebounds). He is an absolute monster who can dominate a game in a number of different ways. Coming off a year in which he was Big East Player of the Year and a second-team All-American, it's hard to think of anyone else being more important to the prospects of the Irish.