Same sh*t, different day. You had to know that today was going to be special when you woke up to the news that Notre Dame's back-up quarterback, Demetrius Jones, decided to transfer to Northern Illinois University and the coaches didn't know anything about it until Jones failed to show up for the bus trip to Ann Arbor. Normally this is where I wish the departing player good luck in the future. I'm not sure I can do that in this case. Coach Weis and the rest of the team spent valuable practice time this week putting in a package of plays especially for Demetrius to run against Michigan. Do you think the team could have made better use of that valuable practice times if Demetrius had bothered to clue the coach in to the fact that he had one foot out the door? His departure was a slap in the face to his coaches and his teammates and I expected more from him.
As for the 38-0 whipping the Wolverines put on the Irish today, I only have a few initial thoughts.
I feel like an idiot for failing to factor into my pre-game analysis the fact that 5th year senior and co-captain John Sullivan would begin the game by snapping the ball over the heads of Armando Allen and Jimmy Clausen on the opening series. If I had foreseen that bit of suckitude I certainly would not have expected an Irish victory.
Same old story with the offensive line. Total freakin' ineptitude. I'm sure everyone was sick of listening to the broadcasting crew harp on the horrible blocking - but what else could they do? Talk about the marching bands? Once again we had multiple blockers on single defenders, leaving free runners to chase the quarterback. We had cut blocks that the defenders simply jumped over to chase down the football. We had the O-line getting shoved into the backfield on short yardage plays. They did improve in having fewer penalties than last week, but there is no way they were going to have MORE than last week. Most interesting development was that Mike Turkovich finally got yanked and replaced by Eric Olsen, while the offensive tackles were flipped in the second half, with Sam Young moving to left tackle and Paul Duncan going to right tackle. It seemed to me that after these personnel moves the O-line played perceptibly better. Not great, or even good, but maybe just a little better. This certainly bears watching.
Jimmy Clausen is tough to grade. He was 11 of 17 for 74 yards and 1 INT. He was sacked 8 times. Because he was harassed so much in the pocket and had very little time to get the ball away I still don't think we have been able to evaluate what he can do. One thing he has to do if he's being chased around so much is take care of the football. Fumbling the ball away deep in your own end does nothing to help the team. I will say that he kept his poise and continued to battle under very adverse conditions. When he had a chance, he threw a few very nice balls. With the departure of D. Jones, we now have all our eggs in the Clausen basket. Evan Sharpley came in late and threw a bad interception. He isn't going to be the solution.
I heard Travis Thomas' name called twice. The first time was when he was called for clipping, which brought back a decent Zbikowski punt return. That's two costly personal foul calls against our team captain in two weeks. The second time his name was called was when he made a nice 13-yard run on the gutsy fake-punt call on a 4th and 11. Good run, but as far as I'm concerned he's still a net negative on the field this year.
The defense took a step backwards today. Mike Hart got his yards (as we knew he would, 35 carries, 187 yards, 2 TDs). He averaged 5.3 yards per carry, just above his season average of 5.1 yards per carry. But he would have been held down much more if the Irish defenders could tackle. On numerous plays we had Hart trapped and hit behind the line of scrimmage and failed to bring him down. Even when he wasn't hit in the backfield, Hart was gaining huge chunks of yards by running through the arms of Notre Dame "tacklers." The secondary was really tested for the first time today, and they weren't up to it for the most part. Freshman quarterback Ryan Mallet only threw the ball 15 times, but 3 of his 7 completions went for touchdowns over defenders who were in no position to make plays on the ball. I still think the defense will be okay once the pressure of playing every down in our own end of the field gets lifted off them.
The youngsters continued to make their presence felt. James Aldridge came in late and carried the ball 10 times for 51 yards. Golden Tate looked very good on kick return, with 5 returns totaling a gutty 133 yards. Freshman Brian Smith is making a move to overtake Anthony Vernaglia as starting outside linebacker. Vernaglia assisted on only one tackle today. Smith had one solo tackle, one assist, and caused a fumble.
I wish I had something clever to say. All I can think about is that Coach Weis and John Latina have been coaching Duncan and Turkovich and Sullivan for three years. They've had Young and Dan Wenger for two years. And none of them can block. Who do we blame for that?