Saturday, November 29, 2008

Is it over yet?


Those are the margins of loss for the Fighting Irish against USC over the past four seasons. Those numbers are not trending in the right direction. USC is a very good team. Losing to the Trojans is not a reason for despair. But getting embarrassed on national television year after year is a situation which calls for correction. And it has become clear to me that Charlie Weis cannot be relied upon to make that correction.

I just got back from the game. Beautiful evening. Found a nice parking spot that only cost $30. Went to the IrishFest event put on by the Notre Dame Club of Los Angeles, and was totally stoked that the Band of the Fighting Irish made the trip to L.A. and put on a great show.

But the game stunk. Again. I have been to the last three Notre Dame games against USC, and have been disappointed almost to the point of humiliation the past two years. Who would have thought in 2005 that in 2008 I'd be wistfully remembering the days when we only lost to USC by 20?

Just a few quick thoughts on tonight's game.

1. The defense played a great game. They really did. Only a few breakdowns, usually after the offense left them in very untenable positions. If the offense had shown any competence at all, the defense played well enough to compete for a win tonight. Unfortunately for Charlie Weis, he has almost nothing to do with the defense.

2. The team actually played with some pride tonight. Starting with a pre-game near-brawl, it was clear that the Irish were not going to be intimidated and were not going to back down from anyone. You don't want to encourage fighting or thuggery, but I was actually very glad to see the Irish players giving every bit as good as they got all night. Where the hell has that kind of confidence been?

3. The offense was pathetic. No first downs in the first half. No first downs until the very end of the third quarter. It was so fun to sit in the Coliseum surrounded by USC fans who cheered and mocked the Irish when they finally got a first down. Good times. Too bad Notre Dame doesn't have an offensive guru for a head coach. Oh, wait a minute ... we do! Or do we? USC was begging Notre Dame to run the ball all night, dropping guys back in coverage and playing with 7 or fewer in the box. Why did it take the offensive brain trust 3 1/2 quarters to test the middle of the defense with James Aldridge?

4. Jimmy Clausen is killing us. Normally this is the part of the post where I criticize the offensive line. But I'm giving them a break this week. Clausen badly hurt the team again tonight by throwing the ball to guys who were blanketed in coverage. Do I have to explain this? INTs cost the team the chance to score points or, at the very least, to manage the field position battle. They put the defense in a nearly impossible spot, practically gift-wrapping scoring chances for a USC offense that doesn't need any more encouragement. Memo to Jimmy: Kyle Rudolph is still NOT open. Duval Kamara is open, but he isn't 8-feet tall.

The only question in my mind is whether Charlie should coach the team in whatever lame bowl game actually invites us.

Classy moment of the evening in the Coliseum: The USC fans chanting "Ten more years! Ten more years!" when Charlie Weis came out of the tunnel and onto the field before the game.

Top two rumors in the Coliseum men's room at half-time:

1. John Gruden to Notre Dame.
2. Pete Carroll to the San Francisco 49ers.


Threehills said...

I don't know if I agree with blaming Clausen...I still think its the O lines fault more than his. USC was able to drop seven and eight guys into coverage, making life hard for Clausen, because they were able to get great pressure without having to blitz, which is the O lines fault. Clausen made a few bad decisions, but I wouldn't put all the blame on him.

tednict said...

Perhaps Threehills is correct...I am not certain. The only reason I would take issue with what was said is that JC hasn't been the QB we saw early in the season. This has been the case for 3-5 games. If the O-Line is the reason, then changes in coaching must be made immediately.

Anonymous said...

I agree the defense played above their performance against Syracuse. The offense has been...well offensive since the second half of the UNC game. Downhill. USC defense was laughing at us. Swatting at our pathetic attempts to gain yards. They really didn't even have to try. B ottom line we were not competitive in that game. Question is, how do you fix that?

Anonymous said...

Art Kehoe is available for OLine coach

Anonymous said...

I think Threehills has a point. I do have to blame CLausen at this point in his career now but with no protection you cannot throw to a 10 foot man.
Question-If O line is to blame and D line allows holes bigger than Cloisseum tunnel. Where's the NASTY on the team?
I'm still hung over (and didn't have lick to drink)!!!

Dekom said...

Grab a mop, a broom, and one of these guys:

Urban Meyer, UF. It was love once...and a repeat customer is your easiest sale. And if there is a promotion from a top tier program like UF, it's ND.

Brian Kelley, Cincy. Good record and won't put nearly so much stress on an office chair.

Mike Leach, TTech. ND is stocked w WR's but has trouble getting yards on a treadmill. So let's use the best offensive scheme for what we got.

Jeff Jagdssdcbcjdcvy, BC. Seems to enjoy beating ND.

Paul Johnson, GTech. Just turned water into wine at Tech, after walking on same at Navy.

Jimmy said...

I think Clausen is part to blame. He has consistently thrown into double and triple coverage. His fundamnetals in checkdowns are poor.
The o-line: We need someone who can develop this talent and teach fundamentals. Someone who is a disciplinarian and will not tolerate mental lapses.

Craig said...

I think USC has to get some of the credit. Their pass efficiency defense is sick, 84.4 in games not involving ND. The next best we had seen was BC's at 107.7. Granted, Jimmy's been scuffling since the UNC game, but part of that is that teams haven't had to work hard to stop the run against us since the UW game, Navy excepted.

Craig said...

BTW, Southern Cal's pass efficiency defense is best in the NCAA by a ridiculous margin. The distance from them to #2 is the same as the distance from #2 to #16, or from #2 to #14 if you take out the ND game.

OC Domer said...

Craig - Thanks for the comments. yes, USC is very good. But we have an "offensive genius" for a coach, and the top QB recruit in the country from two years ago at QB. Surely we ought to be able to generate some first downs.

Frankly, when Michael Floyd went down I knew we were in trouble against USC. With Floyd out, it's easy to double Tate and dare the others to beat you. With Tate & Floyd you can create some favorable match ups.

My biggest beef about the offense against USC was the failure to run with power early. USC was daring ND to run. They were dropping everyone back and played with just 7 in the box all night. Early in the game we were trying to get Armando Allen to the edge. Stupid plan. Nobody gets to the edge against USC. Ever.

The way to beat USC is to run right at them, like Oregon State did. Yet we didn't try that until AA got hurt and Aldridge was going full time at RB. Run #34 and #33 straight at USC, force them to respect the run and commit more defenders, then pass the ball.