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.