Saturday, September 09, 2006

Notre Dame 41 Penn State 3 (+14 in garbage time)

There's nothing like Notre Dame on gameday.

What a day. After last week's shaky performance at the unfriendly confines of Bobby Dodd Stadium, the Irish, despite beating a solid Georgia Tech team, dropped three spots in the polls. They were passed by teams that posted blowouts of Mississippi State (who hasn't won more than 3 games in a season since 2000) and Arkansas (coming off back-to-back losing seasons). Notre Dame, however, played a game against an opponent that has gone to 9 straight bowl games. Way to reward a team for scheduling a real opponent, rather than a stat-padding patsy.

This week, Notre Dame will get no credit for blowing out the Nittany Lions, who you will here this week were overrated and rebuilding. Their impressive win will be explained away by the pundits as not that impressive.

The pundits are wrong. Georgia Tech and Penn State are damn fine football teams, and Notre Dame is one of the most complete teams in the country. Just wait until next week, when we knock Michigan out of the national title hunt for the fourth time in the last five years.

Some reflections on the day:

Brady Quinn had better numbers today, tossing 3 touchdowns. However, Brady's value as a player goes far beyond simple statistics. He engineers drives for this team, doing whatever it takes to be successful. He is far more mobile than people expect - I remember one play today where he simply flat outran one of Penn State's vaunted linebackers.

Samardzija is starting to get the hang of beating the double coverage he can expect to face for much of the year.

John Carlson (TE) is good. Real good.

This defense is pretty good. They struggle sometimes against the run, but they are tough, and they never give up on a play. Chinedum Ndukwe, in particular, deserves a lot of credit for the improvements he has made since last year. At least 3 times that I noticed from the stands, Ndukwe got a great read on the quarterback and got to the ball before the receiver (including his interception, which I called the moment Morelli let go of the ball.

Our special teams may not be as bad as I feared. In fact, they may be the strength of this team by year's end. Geoff Price is arguably the best punter in the country. Gioia is still a sub-par kicker, but is not as incompetent as I feared. Our return teams are scary for opponents, and our coverage teams are superb. Oh, and the upgrade in athleticism to this team is starting to rear its head on special teams, where young players are making big plays.

Charlie Weis has big brass balls that clang when he walks. Exhibit 1: the fake punt.

JoePa is a classless tool. When you are losing 41-10 with less than 2 minutes to go, passing the ball, calling timeouts and kicking onsides against the opponent's second team is unsportsmanlike. Take your ass-whuppin' like a man.

Notre Dame is cool again. Exhibit 1: running into uber-cool rock star Scott Weiland (currently the lead singer of Velvet Revolver, formerly lead singer of Stone Temple Pilots) at Rocco's after the game, decked out in Notre Dame regalia. (pictured at right, with guitarist Slash). I'm a bit starstruck - I've never met anyone famous before.


A big thanks to Justin and Jessica Stolte, who (as usual) put together a great tailgate for this weekend. I love you guys!

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