Well, I'm eager to take the credit when I call one right, and today I have to admit that I pretty much whiffed with my worries about how the game against the Huskies might go. In my (relatively clever) Washington pre-game post was worried that those predicting a blow-out needed to factor the Huskies' #1 toughest schedule in the country into their calculations. I concluded:
All I'm saying is - don't be surprised when the Dawgs don't roll over for us and instead put up a fight. They are playing at home, with their backs against the wall and they are used to playing (albeit losing to) quality teams. But it looks like the Irish will have good weather, a vulnerable opposing secondary, and a very fast artificial surface for Golden Tate and Michael Floyd to play on. I expect the Irish to win fairly comfortably. But they haven't really shown the killer instinct yet when it comes to putting teams away, so I won't be surprised if it's close enough to preserve some of Willingham's dignity.Well, the Dawgs pretty much did roll over for the Irish, and they didn't put up a fight. They did not play like a team with their backs against the wall. In fact, they played like a team standing against a wall wearing a blindfold and smoking one last cigarette. The Irish did show some hint of a killer instinct, even though Coach Weis was merciful and took his foot off the gas midway through the second half. Despite Irish efforts to respect their opponent, Ty Willingham did not preserve much of his dignity.
More about Willingham and Washington is a moment, but first the Irish. Much like Pete at BGS who was "Happy to be Miserable" after the North Carolina loss, I am happy that I was pretty thoroughly bored by the game last night. The Irish got their first road win of the season and their biggest margin of victory since the Army game in 2006 (ND 41, Army 9), and it just wasn't very exciting. It was clear very early in the game that Notre Dame was a lot better than UW, and that the Irish would have their way with the Dawgs. After a couple of electric plays very early in the game by Michael Floyd and Golden Tate (and big Sam Young), the Irish offense was pretty much on cruise control. Notre Dame quarterback Jimmy Clausen did not look particularly good. His accuracy was poor all night, but his talented receivers and/or Washington's awful defense bailed him out of bad throws often enough that his stat line ended up looking okay (14 of 26 for 210 yards, 1 TD and 1 INT). The Irish running game was dominant. I'm going to type that again because it was so much fun the first time. The Irish running game was dominant. Notre Dame ran for 252 net yards and 5.1 yards per carry. James Aldridge had 84 yards on 13 strong carries (6.5 ypc) and scored 2 TDs. Highly touted freshman running back Jonas Gray checked into the backfield and looked very good averaging 6.8 yards per carry on 9 rushes. Thoroughly boring, yet thoroughly enjoyable.
Notre Dame's defense absolutely smothered the Huskies. UW managed only 26 net rushing yards for the game (1.1 ypc), 98 net passing yards, for a total of just 124 yards of offense on just 9 first downs. But 69 yards and 5 first downs came in the final Huskies' drive of the game, which began with 6:13 remaining. On that drive, Notre Dame was playing defense with a mix of second and third string players and it was clear that Coach Weis was more interested in rewarding those guys with some playing time than he was in preserving a shut-out. Prior to the point of emptying the bench, the Irish "D" had allowed a total of 55 yards and 4 first downs, and had not allowed the Washington offense beyond it's own 44 yard line. Total domination. One high point of the evening was the fact that Notre Dame had excellent pressure on Washington's QB the whole game and sacked him 4 times. Overall, the defense seemed to be showing a little more of the Tenuta influence against UW.
I have just a couple of things to say about Coach Willingham, and then hopefully never again. Hopefully.
Last night we saw a Ty Willingham team with a full roster of Ty Willingham players competing against a Charlie Weis team with a full roster of Charlie Weis players. And it was not pretty. The talent of the Notre Dame team was clearly an order of magnitude better that the Huskies. There were numerous times last night when a Notre Dame ball carrier simply ran over UW defenders. Ran over them. We had back-ups and and former walk-ons delivering knock-out blows to Washington starters. If it wasn't obvious to the casual observer before last night, it has to be obvious today. Ty Willingham, despite being a good man and a good coach from Sunday through Friday (I am completely serious), was not getting the job done as the head football coach at Notre Dame because he was failing as a recruiter. He was not bringing in the talent that Notre Dame was used to getting, that ND needed to get, to play at the level they aspire to. It was almost sad to listen to Bob Davie last night when he talked about Ty's first recruiting class at Washington. According to Boob, Ty decided to quickly infuse the roster with talent by focusing on juinior college transfers in his first class, an effort which utterly failed and which left Washington with a yawning chasm of talent in this year's senior class. It all sounded so familiar. If you want to be a Division I-A head football coach you can't whiff on recruiting every second or third year. There are no mulligans in recruiting.
As a result of his fatal flaw, Washington is talent-deficient and is playing more freshman than almost anyone in the country. And getting embarrassed week after week. The fans have given up on TW, and last night it looked to me like his players have given up on him as well. It's likely that Ty will be let go at the end of the season, if not sooner, and that may be the last we see of him on the national stage. I don't know who is going to hire him after he has taken two once-proud football programs to their knees. He's clearly too stoic and cryptic for television, so he can't join Boob Davie in the broadcast booth. He has no experience as an offensive or defensive coordinator. But he has a big pile of money that Notre Dame paid him for NOT coaching the team after leaving South Bend. Keep an eye out for him next time you hit the links.
Next up: Pittsburgh. At our place.