Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Charlie & Me & Michigan State

I don't want this blog to turn into "all Twitter, all the time" but I was pretty irritated with Coach Weis this morning. I woke up to seven text messages from Charlie, and I have to vent a bit about them. The subject is Michigan State, and I am a little disappointed in Coach Weis' apparent attempts to both (1) lower, and (2) raise expectations at the same time. Here are Coach Weis' Twitters from this morning, followed by my own muddled thoughts as I was still wiping the sleep out of my eyes.

Good morning. Day 3 of Michigan State. A beautiful day in South Bend, sunny and warm.

I won’t be surprised to see people in the pool when I go home today. Everyone is in good spirits as summer approaches.
Hey, I'm glad it's a nice day in South Bend. They had a long Winter and a lot of crappy weather this Spring. I am also always glad to read that Coach is hunkered down in the Gug watching opponents' game film. Nothing prepares you like preparation, or something like that.
Having watched multiple games on Michigan State, I was very disappointed in last year’s game. The defense held us in the game…

... but offensive production, including critical turnovers, cost us a chance at a big win on the road.

Yeah, Chuck, we were all pretty darned disappointed in last year's Michigan State game. Thanks for reminding me about how I felt that day. Here's an excerpt of my thoughts following the loss:
You can parse those numbers all you want, but the bottom line is the Irish offense was mostly unable to control the ball and move the chains, which meant the Irish defense spent too much time on the field trying to stop MSU's very effective running game, and eventually was worn down by Javon Ringer & Co. Just like I knew they would if the Irish "O" couldn't keep the MSU "O" off the field. Mix in some turnovers, missed field goal attempts, and Red Zone futility, and you have the perfect recipe for a very unsatisfying defeat.


But I don't get, I don't get, I don't get, I don't get, I don't get, I don't get, I don't get WHY THE FIGHTING IRISH OF THE UNIVERSITY OF NOTRE DAME STILL CAN'T RUN THE FOOTBALL!!!!!?????? I just don't understand it. I'm not going to analyze match-ups and videotape and break down the X's and O's of why. That shouldn't be necessary because I hold it as an article of faith that NOTRE DAME SHOULD BE ABLE TO RUN THE FOOTBALL!! We should be able to recruit talented, large, smart football players and teach them to consistently push around the smaller, less talented, less smart players from other schools. That our offensive linemen can't consistently win the battle at the point of attack is a FAILURE.
And what was that about "costing us a chance for a big win on the road." I understand that context is important, and that in the context of the post-2007 debacle, the Michigan State game may have looked "Big." But when you are Notre Dame, beating Michigan State, whether at home or on the road, should not be counted as a "Big Win." Beating Sparty should be routine. Ho-hum. Another day at the office. Next! Losing to MSU is Big. Beating them? Not so much.
These are the types of games where one big play can make the difference.

Down 13-7 in the 4th quarter, one big play can turn a loss into a victory.

Each year a few games will come down to this. Who will make that one big play to determine the outcome?
This is the group of messages that really got under my skin. Michigan State should NOT be the type of game where one big play can make a big difference. It's Michigan Freaking State! These are the types of games that shouldn't be close in the fourth quarter. It absolutely should not be 13-7 in the 4th quarter. It should be 24-3 or 28-7 in the 4th quarter, and Notre Dame should be running the ball, moving the chains, and grinding down the opponent as the clock continues to run. There should be no doubt, and no suspense. No big play will make a difference because by that time the game is OVER.

Yes, Coach, every year a few games will come down to that one big play. But those games should NOT include the Spartans. They should include Michigan (once they get their act back together), USC, and the BCS Bowl game. The Notre Dame faithful ought not to be sitting on the edge of their seats praying the Rosary that Jimmy Clausen can find Golden Tate in the corner of the end zone to pull out a "Big Win" against Sparty.
These are the games you need to win if you want to compete for a National Championship.
No, Coach. Games against Michigan State are the games you need to win if you are Notre Dame. They are the games you need to win if you want to keep your job as NDHFC. If you want to compete for a national Championship, these games need to be satisfying, boring showcases of Fighting Irish dominance. If you want to compete for a National Championship, these games have to become gimmes, and the games against USC and other elite programs are the games that will define your place in Notre Dame history, for better or for worse.

6 comments: said...

Heh. I guess I wasn't the only one that was bugged by that.

OC Domer said...

Glad it wasn't just me either. I guess great minds think alike!

Doug said...

Great post. I completely agree. If anything, his comments show how far our program has fallen in recent years. We now look at Michigan State like it's one of our big games instead of some also-ran that we pound into the ground.

Imagine if Weis was regularly playing against the schedules that Holtz played against. Weis has been playing with schedules where MSU is one of our "big games." If we were playing Miami (FL) and Penn State and Alabama on a regular basis, I think he'd realize in a hurry that MSU is not a "big win" for Notre Dame.

That's probably the saddest thing about our performance in 2008. It would be one thing if we had gone 7-6 against a slew of heavyweights, but we did it against a bunch of mediocre/bad teams like MSU and Pitt and Syracuse. How many of our opponents finished in the final top 25?? I'd guess one, maybe two.

valpodoc said...

I'm suspecting MSU will be a bell weather next year. Lose and all expectations/BCS ambitions will begin to fade

Demosthenes said...

You guys need to stop thinking as if its still 20 years ago. ND is not USC and MSU is not UCLA, where a USC loss is considered anathema.
ND of 2009 is not the ND of the Holtz era and MSU is clearly an above verage team.
In order to start talking trash about above average teams as if we will trounce them on a yearly basis we first need to get to the level of trouncing them consistently, something that ND has not done to MSU in a while.
Also don't forget: powerhouses that win the big games, can be held out of the NC game by a lesser opponent (see USC, Penn State, and almost Florida last year that had a great season after an early Ole Miss loss).

Anonymous said...

I agree we should have high aspirations, and beating teams that haven't even won their own conference title since 1990 should be something Notre Dame does, not aspires to.

However, MSU hasn't been awful lately and they play us tough every year. Back when ND was in the middle of its last dominating run beating Sparty was a routine thing - and MSU had better teams than Michigan and Ohio State, too. So it was no small feat.

Getting back to present day ND football, we've been anything but dominant. So every win is important for our confidence. We appear to have some serious talent, but unless they play well together and have the confidence they can man-handle Big Ten teams, etc., we're not going to have the "luxury" of looking down on teams.

At this point, people are looking down on US. 2009 is a good time to change all that.

Good post.