This Halloween edition of the Irish Bloggers Gathering is hosted by the crew at Charlie's Nasties, A blog for the Weis Guys helping to put the Nasty back in Dynasty. Click on the link to see the post that kicked off this week's IBG, as well as to find links to the posts of all the other Notre Dame bloggers partaking in the Gathering this week. Let the Trick-or-Treating begin!
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?
Well, the game itself was not very exciting, having been pretty clearly decided about 30 seconds into the first quarter, so the enjoyment had to come from some of the small things. It was fun, but kind of creepy, to listen to Boob Davie on the broadcast talking about what a great job Charlie Weis is doing at Notre Dame, as well as about how the Washington program has eroded under Coach Willingham. I have been annoyed by Boob Davie for so long, that it was weird to hear him heaping praise on Coach Weis and the Fighting irish like that. I felt like I was in the Twilight Zone, or maybe on Candid Camera.
It also got a big kick out of watching Sam Young pulling to his right and perfectly executing the kick-out blocks on Notre Dame's first two touchdowns. We haven't seen that in a while, and I don't think I've seen Big #75 so mobile before. Michael Floyd's opening TD was also the first time this year, that I can recall, where an Irish receiver gained significant yardage on that quit-hit horizontal pass down the line of scrimmage that Coach Weis used so effectively with Brady Quinn and the Shark.
But my favorite moment came late in the game , during Washington's last drive. Notre Dame was emptying the bench and playing third-teamers in the secondary, including acclaimed former-walk-on-gunner-extraordinaire Mike Anello. There was a play on that drive near the sideline where Anello came flying into the play and just destroyed a Washington ball carrier. I can't remember if it was on a running play, or after a pass reception. But Anello absolutely crushed the guy. Not only was it a great hit, but I remember thinking to myself at the time "Damn, our third string walk-on players are beating up on Washington's starters."
2. Charlie's Nasties does a Duds and Studs segment to reflect on every game. Name one player/coach that could have done better against the Huskies and one player/coach that stepped it up.
Dud. The beat-down that the Irish put on the Huskies was a pretty comprehensive effort, so it's hard to really find a lot of fault. The one area that concerned me, and it's because I've seen this issue surface before, was Jimmy Clausen's accuracy. Once it was clear how the game was going to go I didn't expect Charlie to really pile it on so that Clausen would have huge numbers, but it looked to me like JC got sloppy about setting his feet and delivering a firm, accurate throw. He threw one interception, and had another one called back because of a questionable pass-interference call. He also missed badly on some wide open throws, and forced a few balls into coverage when he had other less risky options available. With an extra week to prepare, and playing against a woeful defense, I expected Clausen to look much sharper. Hopefully he will this week against Pitt.
Stud. I was awfully pleased to see James Aldridge assert himself at the running back position. #34 ran for 84 yards on 13 carries (6.5 ypc) with two really nice, powerful touchdown runs. It has been a long road back from the injuries that plagued him early in his Irish career, but he looked a very studly 100% against the Huskies, and may have moved past Robert Hughes on the depth chart to the 1A position behind Armando Allen. I really think all the competition at that position has caused that entire group to elevate its level of play. Honorable mention studs on the day were freshman running back Jonas Gray who had the first carries of his career and looked very promising with 61 yards on 9 attempts (6.8 ypc), and the entire offensive line who opened up all the holes for Aldridge & Gray.
3. Halloween involves people abandoning reality for awhile to dress up and imitate something that they are not. Pick one Halloween costume with traits you would like to see from the Notre Dame football team the rest of the season.
I would like to see the Irish shows us a little more of their "Conan the Barbarian" side. One of my all time favorite movie quotes:
Mongol General asks Conan: "What is best in life?"
Conan replies: "To crush your enemies, to see them driven before you, and to hear the lamentations of their women."
Of course, some Irish players already have their "Conan" on. Offensive guard Eric Olsen is well known for playing with intensity and a little bit of nasty, and it is those traits which have given us the greatest image from from the 2008 season so far. I swear in the image below that Eric looks like a conquering Viking marauder, driving his enemies before him and listening to the lamentations of the Wolverine women. I'm guessing that Mr. Olsen likely has some Norwegian blood in him and therefore might really be a viking!
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)?
Well, it would be easy to say that I'm disappointed in the Irish power running game, at our inability to "pound it." But numerous other members of the IBG have already chewed that apple, and besides, the running game looked great against UW so I'm going to be charitable and go another direction.
Notre Dame has had 36 kick-offs in their 7 games so far this season. Take a guess how many of them resulted in touchbacks? If you guessed "zero" you win the apple! Notre Dame kick coverage has been very, very good this year, but I am still befuddled that Notre Dame doesn't have a player on the roster who can consistently kick the ball into the end zone for touchbacks. It won't hurt us against the Purdues and Pitts of the world. But against teams like USC or LSU I would sure like the automatic option of having the opposing offense start at the 20 rather than risking a big return that leads to much better field position and possibly a touchdown. If you've ever seen USC play and watched their kicker blast kicks beyond the end line over and over again you understand my frustration. Why can't Notre Dame find some reasonably bright kid with a big leg somewhere in the country to handle this duty?
5. This year, October 31st is coincidentally also the opener for ND's Mens 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, this is a no-brainer. I'm going with the big 2-0, #20, junior guard Jonathan Tremaine Peoples. He will be the spark the Irish need coming off the bench to inject some urgency and some energy when the front line guys are having an off night, or when injuries force Coach Brey to rely on his depth. You just keep an eye on #20.