Sunday, October 07, 2007

UCLA Postgame Breakdown

Photo courtesy South Bend Tribune

Injuries are a part of the game, and it doesn't diminish our achievement.
Much will be made in the coming week by Notre Dame haters about us lucking out by playing against a 3rd string walk-on QB. However, I've always felt that injuries are a natural part of the game, and you play with the team you can field.
If you really want to trot out that excuse, how about considering that we were playing without our top receiver and a starting offensive guard. For that matter, we lost a top cornerback recruit for the season during spring ball, and dime back Ferrine was sitting out as well. Every team has to battle through injuries throughout the season, and it is an insult to this Irish team to blame the win on UCLA's injuries. I still contend that the Irish would have won last week if Jimmy had stayed healthy, but you don't hear me blaming the loss on him sitting out the 2nd half. We rolled in Sharpley, and had to suck it up and compete. There are 11 players out on that field for each team every play, and the loss of one is no excuse for losing the entire game.

This defense is quckly becoming a Corwin Brown defense, and forgetting the bad habits from the Minter era.
You can't talk about this game without becoming impressed with the young Irish defense. Led by the upperclassmen Laws, Zibby, Bruton, and especially Crum, the rest of the defense played largely mistake-free bend-don't-break defense, holding the Bruins offense well below their average in all phases of the game.
I loved the heads-up play of the corners, staying with receivers, getting their heads around, and knocking balls down. I felt that we played too soft at the line of scrimmage and should have been in more bump-and-run, but I'm no professional coach and the game plan of Corwin Brown worked in spades.
I think this week was that week where the players finally bought into Brown's system. The reason I think this isn't just the results, but how those results manifested. In a 3-4, the best inside linebacker becomes your gamebreaker, disrupting the opposing offense. Crum's breakout game is a symptom of the rest of the defense doing their jobs. After this week's game, I bet Filer is drooling for the opportunity to play on this defense.

The offense is still 'Under Construction,' as Coach Weis is still searching for an offensive identity
Deion Walker and Michael Floyd, please please PLEASE come to Notre Dame.
Our protection is improving, but we still need breakout receivers to kickstart this offense and take the pressure off of the running game. Too many times I watched Clausen stand in a beautiful pocket, lacking only a receiver to throw to.
As long as Coach Weis is calling the plays, we are going to have to get used to using the pass to set up the run. We have the best freshman QB in the nation, but for some reason the elite receiver recruits haven't followed. With another 5-star QB on his way in next year, I hope our two top receiver targets take notice and come to a team where they can play early and be difference makers and superstars. They'll be the first option, and get plenty of opportunities to get their hands on the ball.
The offensive line still needs to work on their aggressiveness in the running game, but they are starting to come together and look like a decent competitive unit. If they continue to work hard, they will be a very good unit by the end of the year, and will be in a position to dominate starting next year. If we can find a breakout receiver or two.

The Special Teams weren't a liability!
Welcome back, Geoff Price. Nice to have you here, Brandon Walker.
I nominate David Bruton to replace Travis Thomas as Special Teams Captain.
For the first time this season, the special teams play of the Irish contributed to the team's success, rather than digging us into holes. Two for two on field goals (contrary to media reports, the 48 yarder did not hit the crossbar, it hit the center post behind the crossbar, and would have been good from almost 50). A 40+ yard punt average, with most of them pinning the Bruins inside the 20, including one inside the 1. Good coverage (especially by the solid Bruton), and a couple of decent returns. All in all, I was happy with the special team play.

This was a team playing Notre Dame football.
They weren't always successful, especially on offense, but I finally saw 60 minutes of Notre Dame football. This team played together, played hard, and never gave up on themselves or each other. There wasn't any bickering or confusion, and everyone played with a quiet air of confidence, all the more impressive considering their 0-5 record coming in.
At no point while I was watching that game yesterday did I feel like anyone on that field thought they could lose. That kind of attitude could lead to some special moments over the next couple of weeks, as we play highly ranked opponents.


Biggest problem: Offense. Only 140 yards on offense, and no rushing game to speak of. With a +7 turnover ratio, we should have won this game by 40. Instead, the Irish offense couldn't move the ball enough to run clock late in the game, forcing us to sweat out the win. And 1st-and-goal from the 1 should never, ever, EVER, result in something other than a TD.

Player of the game: Maurice Crum. I was tempted to give it to Trevor Laws or David Bruton, but ultimately I couldn't argue with Crum's numbers. Four total turnovers by one guy is DAMN impressive. More importantly, it is what you would expect from this 3-4 scheme - big plays from your best inside linebacker.

Scapegoats of the game: Finally, a win. No need for scapegoats!!!

Positive stat of the game: + 7 turnover margin

Negative stat of the game: Notre Dame: 140 yards of total offense UCLA: 282 yards of total offense.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

"I still contend that the Irish would have won last week if Jimmy had stayed healthy, but you don't hear me blaming the loss on him sitting out the 2nd half."

You... you JUST DID. Right there. In the front half of the sentence! Right before you said you didn't do it!

It's right the hell there!

It's a medical miracle that all the contradictions haven't made your brain explode yet.