Trojans Break

Thanksgiving weekend traditions. Where do we start? Turkey is a given. Then of course, insert your favorite source of carbs a la potatoes, sweet potatoes, stuffing. There’s family, and those interesting conversations. Then of course, the shopping extravaganza that is Black Friday, the commercial arena for the best of gladitorial shoppers out there.

But of course, my favorite tradition of this weekend is of course… watching Notre dame get pummelled at USC every other year.

When was the last time we won against the most vile of arch nemesises? I don’t even know. I don’t even want to look it up. It would only be appropriate for the season to end with a wimper. Or perhaps a wailing scream asking for mercy.

Toss me a basketball. The gates of Breytopia are wide open. Come and find refuge in the JACC, where the home field mystique lives on on the hardwood. Brey and the boys are ready to make a run come March.

And turn those 4th quarter W’s to J’s for Jackson. My dream come true. We are a hockey school. Currently number 2 in the nation… and gaining on the mighty and historic Golden Gophers of Minnesota.

Go Irish, Beat the Spread. Charlie gets one more year. Jimmy needs to step it up.

Hopefully we can make a respectable showing in our bowl game, and perhaps even break that monkey of a streak.

smallheap.jpg image by jmooser

Some Thoughts: Purdue @ Notre Dame

I’ve been having a hard time finding pictures from the game online. Usually ESPN has a nice gallery of pictures from the game. Today I only found one: you know, your typical Jimmy Clausen picture, basking in pass protection glory, where he is about to throw the ball. I guess we’ll have to put it up.


Notice the lack of luscious locks. I’m torn. But I have to admit, that buzz cut gets the job done.

And Clausen certainly got the job done this week against a challenging defense, going 20/35 for 275 yards and throwing 3 TDs. That’s over that crucial 50% mark we talked about in the preview, especially f the running game proved to be ineffective. Clausen’s success is also the offensive line’s success, surrendering only 1 sack, and giving Clausen plenty of time to throw.

As opposed to the Michigan State game, the o-line provided an effective and dominant running attack this week! Could the Purdue game be considered Armando Allen’s coming out party? The boys pounded 201 yards on the ground… the most since who knows when… and 134 of those belonging to Allen on 17 attempts- a punishing average of almost 8 a carry. We’ll need continued success on the ground to post expected victories against Stanford and the Washington Willinghams.

While after the first quarter the offense was firing on all cylinders, the defense also played a phenomenal game. Countering that Purdue spread, the boys used the nickel defense for most of the afternoon, which came armed with a vast array of confusing blitzes and coverage packages. While the D didn’t register a sack, they had Purdue QB Curtis Painter on the ground most of the game. The pressure certainly affected his overall effectiveness. It was bend but don’t break, as we surrendered 360 passing yards, but the D made the stops when they had to be made.

The return game was good again, as Allen almost broke a few kickoff returns for TDs. Nevertheless, Notre Dame often had excellent starting field position. Maust only had to punt twice, but he averaged 46.5. That’s excellent. One of the punts pinned Purdue inside the 20. Walker was perfect on extra points, but he did miss one close FG. Good thing it didn’t matter. He made one of 41 yards. Keep it goin’ Irish. We’ve matched the win total from last year. We can only continue to go up! Half way to bowl eligibility!


Some Thoughts: Michigan @ Notre Dame


The Irish came out as the victors in the game between Notre Dame and the University of Michigan, predominantly played in a monsoon for much of the second half, 35-17. But even with such a win, all of the skeptics out there, the media, and perhaps even some of us fans are still asking, Is Notre Dame really back?

Finishing was the prevalent theme in Saturday’s rain-soaked event. The team was able to finish on given opportunities. Many already are attributing Notre Dame’s win to the plethora of Michigan miscues (and there were MANY) as the true, all encompassing reason for the result. I guess six turnovers can do that, as well as 79 yards in penalties. As can Notre Dame’s 28 points off those turnovers. But this is the thing. Last year’s team would not have scored 28 points off of turnovers. I’m sure I wasn’t alone in thinking that we wouldn’t be able to capitalize on the opportunities given by the Michigan offense and special teams. But we did. How many times did gifts like this result in a field goal, or even more commonly, a missed FG or a turnover of our own?

There was a visible difference in our defensive scheme, as typically the instituted 3-4 doesn’t provide a favorable match up against Michigan’s spread offense. We went to a 4-2-5 arrangement, and it definitely helped neutralize the attack. We saw a zone defense for most of the game, and UM QB’s Steven Threet and Nick Sheridan were able to complete 19 passes out of 28 for 229 yards. That’s pretty good I would say against this style of offense, which tries to capitalize by running routes into anticipated holes in the zone coverage. But of course by spreading out the DB’s and LB’s, the run defense can be compromised. Here, ND did an ok job, not giving up the big play that could have ultimately changed the momentum of the game in UM’s favor. I was impressed by freshman running back Sam McGuffie, and his elusiveness, power and speed. If he manages to stay healthy, he could prove to be in a class of his own in not only the Big Ten, but perhaps all of D1. He has the makings of someone special, as he ran for 131 yards on 25 attempts. He is also a receiving threat out of the backfield as he caught 4 for 47 yards, including Michigan’s lone TD pass, a quick 40 yard pass in the middle where McGuffie managed to elude a good 5 ND tackle attempts while bouncing off his own lineman and into the endzone.


The offense continues to gel, and you can just feel a strong sense of oozing confidence from this group. Clausen is maturing quickly and becoming a vocal, and most importantly, a respected leader. Though the first two drives weren’t exactly 80 yarders, an extremely short field can be just as challenging, because of the obvious emotional spark, which can be hard to quell. Their ability to calm down and FINISH lead to a quick 14-0 lead. That Clausen-Tate connection is starting to raise some eyebrows. Off a Michigan turnover on downs, Clausen threw a bomb to Tate and a quick 48 yard score. Oh, and did we mention Clausen was sacked 0 times again. Last season at the big house? Clausen was sacked 8 times. Kudos, O-Line. But we were able to pound it on the ground as well. Though ND only rushed for 120 yards, the backs secured the ball, fumbling 0 times, and controlling the time of possession. Robert Hughes was the leading rusher with 79 yards on 19 carries with 2 rushing TD’s.


The special teams were great once again, the kick and punt coverage was spectacular. Maust had 6 punts. 2 were downed inside the 20 and he had an average of 43.8, providing a valuable advantage in field position, especially with the way the weather was. Overall, I felt we played a solid game, and ANY win against Michigan is worth extolling. What scares me is the rushing defense. They really haven’t been tested and Michigan State’s running back Javon Ringer as well as their athletic offensive line pose a sizable threat. I’m sure Charlie and Co. will be ready for their tough road opener in East Lansing.


And if you haven’t heard, head coach Charlie Weis tore his ACL and MCL. He would probably be out for the season if he were a player. He definitely was on some good stuff in the second half as he looked glazed over. I’m sure he needed it after insisting on staying on the field coaching with a full leg brace and on crutches. What a coach. Talk about FINISHING. We’re 2-0, and on a streak of 4. Let’s keep it going, and let’s get some respect by beating MSU!


Some Comments: SDSU @ ND


That was close. Too close. Definitely not anywhere close to the quite comfortable margin of 21 the spread had us at, but a win is a win. Especially for a team that was the unexpected doormat of D1 last season, winning a tough game like this I feel can begin the cohesion process of the group.It will definitely be needed against a hungry Michigan team next week, looking to appease the maize and blue faithful after two shaky performances at The Big House. An away win at ND would be a potent remedy for skepticism.

Based on how we played for most of the game, we would probably get schooled by most teams. But that was yesterday, and there were many good things that happen too. The [winning] streak is alive with the sound of BLOCKING. Clausen was sacked 0, ZERO times. That’s about 9 fewer times than last seasons opener. He had to scramble at times, but for the most part, he had TONS of time to throw. While this could be attributed to SDSU’s depleted defensive line, college athletes, no matter who they play for, are usually pretty athletic. SDSU clearly had an athletic team, and they brought their best game to the hostile confines of historic Notre Dame Stadium (which hosted its 400th game!).

It’s not a secret that Charlie wants to pound it. I think if you were (un)lucky enough to watch the NBC broadcast, you were probably reminded of this numerous times. We seemed to be effective, but really, stats-wise, it wouldn’t seem it, with Allen and Hughes running for 59 and 54 yards respectively, and their averages at 3.5 and 3.4. We’d like to see that number over 4 at the very least. But in general not a bad showing.


Passing was a huge question mark coming into the season, especially with Clausen having surgery, and well, not being too impressive or effective last season. He certainly came out firing, showing improved touch, accuracy and arm strength. Don’t forget about confidence. His body language, his look of determination and control of the huddle all oozed of a new confidence level, so that was nice to see. Perhaps it has to do with his “Sampson-like” locks he has now. Don’t cut your hair Jimmy. The receivers came up big for the most part, though there were a few drops. While we may not have utilized our tight end play, I was thoroughly impressed with freshman Kyle Rudolph, who wears that #9 we all came to love. Golden “is thy” Tate had a great game as well, with a TD and 93 yards receiving. His catches always have a knack for being timely.

Clearly, the offense needed some improvement, but our defensive and special teams play was not stellar either. The most notable difference is the change in defensive scheme to a 3-4. It’s tough to play, but it allows for confusing blitzes to be run. LB play is vital, and NT penetration is of the utmost importance. The line really didn’t get too much overpowering penetration. They did record a sack or two, and even an interception by DE Kerry Neal. The line and the LB’s NEED to get into the backfield. This will be important next week against the newly implemented spread offense of UM.

Special teams was sub par. the return game was fine, but again, the kicking is going to make or break games. Punting was good, as Eric Maust had an average close to 40 yards, and had 2 kicks downed inside the 20. But the FG kicking… we missed another one, not to mention a botched hold. We’ll need improvement there.

Overall, it was a bit disappointing to see such a close game, but certainly not as disappointing if we had lost. It was clear that this year’s team has underlying glimmers of explosive potential that hopefully begin to emerge more strongly as the season goes on (and as the ability is needed!). Last year, the experience just wasn’t there, and you could feel the lack of a competitive bite even in the stands as we watched. A bowl big is certainly possible with the schedule and the increasing maturity of the team, but we have to improve next week against Michigan to have a chance.


Game Day: San Diego State @ Notre Dame


After waiting for a long nine months (or 12, if you knew the season was over after Georgia Tech AND Michigan), Notre Dame’s 2008 Football campaign kicks off today against none other than San Diego State, member of the juggernaut Mountain West conference. Couldn’t we at least have gotten BYU? Regardless, our proverbial Christmas has arrived, and hopefully Charlie, Clausen and Co. come bearing gifts. We definitely know they are bringing a cupcake to the party. My question is: Are YOU pumped yet? Kick off is only 3 hours away! If you aren’t, then watch our ND propaganda.

Are you not entertained!?! Hehe. Coverage kicks off at 3:30 on your local NBC station, home of all Irish home games. It’s genuinely tough not envisioning myself getting ready to be heading out to the stadium right now. For the past four years, no matter what, opening weekend was always spectacular. I guess this would be the four year anniversary of the epic Michigan upset where we got to rush the field in our first game as freshman! We never got to again.

What to look for today? well, hopefully, lots of points. SDSU has lost half of their defense due to injury. Hopefully the revamped offensive line can capitalize on this and just pound the rock up their throats. Success in the running game not only today, but this year will be the key to rebounding from the tough year last year. SDSU can definitely get the confidence going (as can beating a weakened Michigan next week, well, beating Michigan at ANY time). We’ll also see if the defense can rebound from getting pummeled last year as well. There often was no penetration, and blitzes were often ineffective. The coverage? Well that hasn’t been a strong point for a couple of years, but we’re hoping that our young DB’s can develop (quickly), though we saw flashes of brilliance last year with Walls.

Today should be a relatively easy game for the Irish. I’m jealous not to be there, as many fellow ’08 grads, not to mention, my best friends, are at the game! Hope you guys enjoy! Look for the Irish to win comfortably 34-13 and continue their winning streak from last year.