Monday, October 13, 2008

Keys to Victory: Wheels come off on Tobacco Road

Protect the football.

Despite dominating the game on offense, the Irish turned the ball over a whopping 5 times.

Despite that number, we still almost pulled out the victory.

Once again, I was right about the key to victory being our ability to protect the ball. Unfortunately, this young Irish squad wasn't able to protect the ball, and gave away what should have been a big road victory for the Irish.

Be patient.

For the most part, Clausen passed the test on this one, being patient with the ball and taking what the defense gave - to the tune of over 300 yards passing.

However, Jimmy's youth reared it's ugly head coming out of halftime, where Jimmy wanted to respond to the Tarheel's last minute field goal at the end of the first half. On the very first play from scrimmage, Jimmy tried to force in a throw into triple coverage, rather than throwing the ball away and living to play another down.

Result: 6 points going the other way.

It's often those mistahes that come back to haunt you, and in fact it was that score that ended up being the difference in the game, giving the Tarheels momentum and confidence to start the second half.

Win the field position battle.

Another loss in my keys to victory, the Irish gave up an average of 11 yards on field position this week, which is a full first down.

That is how, despite outgaining the opponent and largely holding their offense to field goals, they can be in the position to lose the game at the end.


Despite the pain of the loss, this game was everything I expected it to be.

The loss was a growing pain for a young team, caused not by a lack of talent or because of matchup problems, but instead caused by our own freshman and sophomore mistakes.

Not to take too much from North Carolina's victory, but I don't think anyone out there thought that UNC was the better team on the field for 60 minutes.

They were opportunistic and caused some timely turnovers, which was the difference in the game. And I'm willing to give them full credit for that.

But the Irish moved the ball up and down the field at will, and this would have been a blowout by the Irish if they could have gotten out of their own way, going -5 in the turnover battle.

I can tell you that, of all of the Irish losses in the past decade, this one hurts the least. Nobody expected these Irish to go much better than 9-3 or 8-4, and that is exactly the pace they are on at the halfway point. This young team is fun to watch, and anyone on the sideline has to be sitting around in awe of the youth on this team.

Just imagine for a moment what this team will look like in two years (barring losses due to injury, leaving early for the draft, or getting passed on the depth chart):

QB Jimmy Clausen, Sr. (four year starter)
RB Armando Allen, Sr. (four year starter)
WR Golden Tate, Sr. (four year starter)
WR Michael Floyd, Jr. (three year starter)
WR Duval Kamara, Sr. (four year starter)
TE Kyle Rudolph, Jr. (three year starter)
NT Ian Williams, Sr. (four year starter)
DE Ethan Johnson, Jr. (three year starter)
LB Harrison Smith, Sr. (three year starter)
LB Brian Smith, Sr. (three year starter)
LB Kerry Neal, Sr. (three year starter)
CB Gary Gray, Sr. (three year starter)
CB Robert Blanton, Jr. (three year starter)

That's just sick.


Anonymous said...

While I agree with most of your analysis, ND will not be an elite team until we shore up our Defensive line and Linebacker play..At this point, I think that we will be ok at linebacker with our Freshmen and Sophmores but, Besides Ethan Johnson, what are the reports on the other 4 Freshman D-Lineman? They have been no-shows so far...We will really need them to step up..

Anonymous said...


I think our D-Line will be just fine in the future. Just because the other freshmen D-Linemen have been no shows is not an indication of just how bad it is that they can't beat the upperclassmen. It's an indication of how good Ethan Johnson is. They will show up. Unlike Ethan Johnson, they just need a little more time in the weight and film room (not to mention a little experience on the field)...

btw, this also shows what a beast Ethan Johnson will be in the future.

Wacko said...

D-linemen usually don't develop until their junior year, much like O-linemen.

We have a lot of underclass talent at that position that will develop as we move forward, and the sick amounts of talent we have at other positions (particularly at linebacker, where we are stacked) will make up for any weaknesses there.

And I don't know why you think our linebackers are suspect...