Monday, October 15, 2007

Boston College Postmortem

"They are who we thought they were!"
Dennis Green's immortal quote has never been more apropos than this week. I felt good about our chances against Boston College, largely because we matched up well with them schematically. Let's review the matchups from my preview, and see how close I was:

ND QB's & WR's vs. BC Secondary:
I gave the edge to: Notre Dame
The edge in the game was: First half - BC, Second half - Notre Dame
Jimmy Clausen was inneffective against the BC defense through the first three fifths of the game, throwing for only 60 yards and 2 interceptions. He never tested the BC secondary, instead continuing the annoying dink-and-dunk offense from the rest of the season.
However, once JC was pulled in favor of Sharpley, we began attacking the BC secondary, and gashed 'em pretty good for the last part of the game, throwing for 147 yards and 2 TDs (although one of the TDs was called back on a phantom holding call).
Sharpley clearly is more comfortable with the intermediate and long passing game, allowing the Irish to stretch the field.
I really like Clausen, but he can't seem to pull the trigger down the field, and he should be benched until that problem is resolved. Sharpley has proven that he deserves the chance to start, as he gives us a better chance of winning now.

ND RB's & TE's vs. BC Linebackers:
I gave the edge to: Boston College
The edge in the game was: Boston College
I knew that we wouldn't be able to run against this front seven, and I didn't think we should have spent a lot of time trying. Instead, we ran the ball 21 times for an atrocious 27 yards (1.3 per rush). This attempt to run the ball cost us drives - look at the drive that started wth 5:36 left in the first quarter:
PASS - 6 yards!
RUSH - 1 yard.
RUSH - 2 yards.
PUNT.
Now compare that to Sharpley's first drive:
PASS - incomplete
PASS - incomplete
PASS - 28 yards!
PASS - incomplete
PASS - 2 yards. ROUGHING THE PASSER - 15 yards!
PASS - 15 yards!
PASS - 19 yards! TOUCHDOWN!
When we started chucking the ball all over the field with Sharpley and abandoned the run, we did have some success. There are a lot of things wrong with our running game, which I'm going to attempt to go over later this week.

ND O-line vs. BC D-lne:
I gave the edge to: Notre Dame
The edge in the game was: Notre Dame
"Fredo's defensive line isn't that scary, compared to the other teams we've played. Indeed, only Purdue's pass rush is weaker than Fredo's. They don't have a lot of sacks or tackles for loss, considering the caliber of opponent they've played. They are good run stuffers, but we don't need to run the ball this week."
Well, they stuffed the run pretty good, but they struggled with creating pressure most of the game. They had trouble getting pressure on the QB all day, getting only 2 sacks. The QB's had enough time to throw, which was what I predicted. I didn't think we'd run the ball as much as we did, but I admitted that they were good run stuffers.

BC QB's & WR's vs. ND Secondary:
I gave the edge to: Notre Dame
The edge in the game was: Draw
Boston College came in averaging 310 yards per game, 2.5 TDs per game, and 0.833 interceptions per game. Boston College finished the game with 291 yards passing, 2 TDs, and 1 intercepton (returned for a TD).
Boston College was just shy of their averages for the game, but the Irish secondary did get points off of one of Ryan's errant passes.
Overall, this matchup was a draw, where many people thought that BC would have a decided edge with their vaunted Heisman contender. Ryan is good, but not Heisman material.

BC RB's & TE's vs. ND Linebackers:
I gave the edge to: Boston College (barely)
The edge in the game went to: Boston College
I said going in that Boston College would be forced to run the ball by our secondary. While that didn't happen, they still managed to gash us in the run game, in particular on the very first drive. They finished the game with 168 total rushing yards (right between the 185 we've been giving up, but more than the 145 they've been averaging). More importantly, our inability to hold Boston College on third down in the first drive, instead giving up a 52 yard romp and setting up their first touchdown, robbed us of momentum early in the game.

BC O-line vs. ND D-lne:
I gave the edge to: Notre Dame
The edge in the game was: Boston College
This is the only matchup where I completely whiffed.
The defensive line played well, but could not get any kind of consistent pressure on the quarterback. Also, this is why I think we lost this game. We couldn't knock Ryan off of his rhythm, and he got his yards through the air, despite a valiant effort by our secondary. Even when we did get pressure, Ryan did an excellent job of getting rid of the ball at the last second, without drawing a single intentional grounding flag (although I felt he deserved a couple).

Coaches vs. Coaches
I gave the edge to: Notre Dame
The edge in the game was: Draw
Jagodznski had an effective game plan that ended up winning the game, but the Eagles looked pretty sloppy all game, and were gift wrapped many of their points off of our miscues. They didn't appear to be a well-coached ball club.
Weis' team had a decent game plan, but have still been plagued by untmely mental and physical breakdowns, which cost us the game. (See Coach Weis' six plays that changed the game) These are coaching errors, and they cost us a chance at victory over a top 5 ranked team.
In the end, both teams looked like they were poorly coached, and therefore I'm calling this one a draw.

My prediction for the game was a 24-21 victory for the Irish. We lost, 27-14.
This young team is still too prone to mistakes to play a complete game, but had we eliminated just two mistakes - take your pick of Clausen's first interception, the phantom holding call, or Price kneeing the ball on the punt, and the final score could just have likely been 21-17, or 28-27 in favor of the Irish. Granted, changing any of those plays may not have changed the result of the game, but the Irish were clearly in the game with only minutes left in the 4th quarter.
I've gotten some flak from commenters about my predictions about winning this game, and been called everything but delusional. However, I wasn't as far off as many people seemed to think.

*****

Biggest problem: Offense. Again. Clausen couldn't move the ball. The running backs couldn't move the ball. If not for Robby Parris, we would have had very little to hang our hats on.

Player of the game: Robby Parris. With no running game, and an ineffective QB for 3/5 of the game, the young receiver still managed to rack up 4 catches for 94 yards and a touchdown, not to mention the 12-yard touchdown he was robbed of by the refs.

Scapegoat of the game: Jimmy Clausen. 60 yards, no touchdowns, and 2 interceptions. Compared to his backup, he looked just awful.

Positive stat of the game: Honestly, the stat line just isn't that good. Even Sharpley's performance was hardly awe inspiring, if effective. Price averaged 42.2 yards per punt, but he also had the miscue, downing the ball on a low snap.

Negative stat of the game: Notre Dame: 27 rushing yards BC: 186 rushing yards

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