I've been home sick in bed the past two days (Notre Dame losing is bad for the health), so I haven't had much chance since Saturday night to break down game film.
Today, I've felt a little better, enough to watch the game again and catch Coach Weis' press conference from yesterday.
The press conference was not encouraging. The only positive Coach Weis mentioned on offense was no dropped balls by the receivers. That was it.
Weis will announce the starter for Penn State on Tuesday. However, having read a little bit more post game media clippings, I'm becoming more and more confident that Clausen will start. To balance the fact that Clausen was playing against the second team in garbage time is the fact that that crisp timing and on target play came after Jimmy took NO snaps in practice this week. I can only imagine how much he could improve after developing chemistry with his receivers. Also, Weis as much as admitted to the media that the number of reps in summer ball will not impact the week-by-week decision making going forward. However, Weis is playing it close to the vest until Tuesday. But once he names a starter on Tuesday, expect him to stick with it.
On defense, the positives were our production against their passing game, and against the inside run. Every play that gashed us against Georgia Tech was an outside run (and there were ALOT). However, that is the type of thing that can be fixed. Maybe not all the way by Penn State, but it is something specific to work on, and can go a long way to shore up our defensive problems. That said, Georgia Tech didn't have to attack our secondary or pound the ball inside, so whether those are strengths or unproven commmodities remains to be seen.
The biggest improvement I expect for next Saturday is ball protection. The strength of this offense will be the running game, even if Clausen starts, because we have the talent and size up front to kill people on the ground. (We need to throw some passes to keep the running lanes open, though) Because of this, expect some physical practices this week where the running backs and quarterbacks are pounded on.
My biggest worry going into next week is that the team will be so focused on fixing problems, that we won't spend enough time establishing a new offensive identity. If we pick up every blitz and don't have any fumbles next week, we still lose if we throw 5 picks. Likewise, if we shut down the outside run, but can't stop the deep ball, we lose.
Last week's loss should be placed firmly behind us. Coach Weis needs to name the new starter (Clausen), and focus this offense on it's new identity. An identity that includes throwing the ball to our All-American tight end. A lot. Coach Brown needs to get in the face of this defense and question their manhood - they got abused by Tashard Choice. Going into this Saturday, Brown better have these boys believing that Austin Scott is the lovechild of Jim Brown and O.J. Simpson, and has been training since he was in diapers with Sweetness and Barry Sanders.
This week is where the heart and desire of this football team is tested. Their inexperience was evident throughout the game, and they played flat and without a lot of heart. This week is where these players remember why they came to Notre Dame and learn to wake up the echoes. 'Cause there's over 100,000 people in Happy Valley that have already chalked this week's game up as an easy win. They won't look past us, 'cause they are drooling at the opportunity to make us pay for last year. They'll be ready to go, and will have a sea of blue and white there to back them up. Even die-hard fans like myself will be picking against the Irish this week. Nobody, and I mean nobody, outside that locker room thinks they can pull this one out of their ass.
This week is where we find out if anyone IN that locker room still believes they can.