Monday, September 28, 2009

What does beating Purdue mean?

Alright, so there has been much moaning, wailing, and gnashing of teeth on the Notre Dame message boards. The fan base has splintered into two groups:

1. Weis is a horrible coach, and [example of poor performance from most recent game] is why he'll never win a championship at Notre Dame. Hire [Stoops, Meyer, Saban, Gruden, etc.].

2. Weis has rebuilt this program and has us playing well, and [example of good performance from most recent game] is why we'll get to the national championship next year. Besides, we could never get [Stoops, Meyer, Saban, Gruden, etc.].

I've been working on an analysis of Coach Weis' career thus far, and I'll post that over the bye week. But in the interim, we have one of the clearest arguments for both sides in this week's game.

Side 1:

Weis is a horrible coach, and the complete lack of tackling fundamentals in this game show that we'll never have a defense capable of winning a championship at Notre Dame. Hire Stoops.

Side 2:

Weis has rebuilt this program and has us playing well, and going into an opposing stadium against a Big Ten team that hung around with Oregon and coming away with a win without our top receiver, top running back, and only half of our Heisman candidate quarterback is a testament to the depth we've developed and is why we'll win the championship next year. Besides, we could never get Stoops.


And I'm really stuck on the fence here. As I watched the game with my buddy Ian (a Purdue guy), it was kind of hilarious to watch. At one point we seriously got into an argument about whose team is more capable of choking a game away.

I think that everything you need to know about this team is summed up in this quote by Weis:

"You know, they (Purdue) had a couple of carries where they got yards, and then the rest of the carries I mean, they gained 56 yards on three carries, and they gained 11 yards on the other 14 carries. They had a 26 yard run, a 15 yard run and a 15 yard run, and they were really the only runs that were over ten yards, and the rest of it averaged less than a yard a carry."

So to sum up, if we wouldn't screw up a few times a game, we could be really good.

Every coach I know has stressed that the team that makes the fewest mistakes will win the game.

And we still make too many mistakes.

We've got the talent, and (finally) the depth. We have the motivation and the belief.

But I'm tired of watching us shoot ourselves in the foot over and over again.

If I were Coach Weis, I would spend no time trying to put in a gameplan this week. We'll run our base offense and defense against Washington.

I'd spend every second of practice time available drilling fundamentals. Fundamental tackling. Rip/swim/spin drills. Fundamental blocking. Catching drills. Passing drills. Kicking drills. Ball running drills.

I want some Oklahoma drills, baby. Learn to hit someone one-on-one and put them in the ground.

If this team started playing solid fundamental football, they could run my pee-wee team's offense and defense and beat everyone on their schedule. We're relying too heavily on athleticism and not enough on crisp, clean fundamental football.

And that's on the coaching. Watch it, coach - I may be falling off the fence here pretty soon if you don't clean things up.


Clay said...

I love a post that begins with a biblical reference as quality as "wailing and gnashing of teeth."

The team got a quality W this weekend, and I am truly happy for the players and coaches. I am pretty happy with the season overall thus far, save for the screw job at Michigan (sucks).

But you are correct--this team badly needs to improve upon--nay, develop--fundamentals. To say that this team needs to improve on its fundamentals is too complimentary. As is evidenced by (as you point out) poor tackling, and (which you don't discuss as much) stupid penalties. In addition to working on its blocking, tackling, and to a lesser extent its catching, this team needs to avoid penalties. I hate to call a guy out, but Sam Young, a four year starter, is the most penalized guy on the team. Holding and personal foul calls are drive killers on Offense. If we are as deep on the O Line as Weis says, guys that get consistently penalized should sit--for a while at least.

Anyway, great win. Give the rock to Hughes up the middle more often--he definitely entered Ross-Ade with his "loins girt, sandals on his feet and his staff in hand."

Anonymous said...

I agree with Clay. I was shocked at the lousy tackling. Also, if you're calling guys out, has Harrison Smith made a play all year! He looks lost and takes dumb penalties time and again.

Unfortunately, Weis sounds like the frustrated golfer who rewinds his game and takes strokes off for the shots he "should" have made.

With that defence, its going to be a "B" level bowl.

roland said...

Think for just a minute if Notre Dame football were a business. Out there competing. You have a five year track record on your manager. Your product marketability has shrunk. You consider yourself lucky to out sell brands just a few years ago were far your inferior. At what point does the company move in a new direction? At what point do you become Adidas?

Jim said...

Hey, they won without 2 of their 3 top impact players. The most important one could only play less than a full half of football and he still took them in for a win.
What would Texas, Oklahoma, Alabama and Florida look like without those top 3 players? Without Sam Bradford, Oklahoma lost. Yes they are not a pro team, and their defense needs work but that was a great win under the injury conditions.

The last 2 years, nothing but complaining about the offense and how that was Weis's best skill but they were under-performing. Now it's defense. Conveniently that offensive improvement has been forgotten. To take this team down in a 2 minute drill without Allen and Floyd and still get 6 was really, really good.

Agree with Clay...Sam Youg's mental errors are getting old. I expect a lot more out of a 4-year starter.

Clay said...

An admittedly late response to Roland:

Roland, I think your metaphor is a good one, but the questions you pose are not accurate in regards to the ND football program. Has our product marketability shrunk? It took a dip in '07 and '08 when the program was essentially suffering from a Willingham-imposed death penalty. To continue the analogy, our manager's predecessor had recruited 3 offensive lineman in 3 years. He had brought in 3 executives when we needed closer to 9 or 10. So of course our marketability shrunk in '07 and '08. With the Irish sitting at 3-1, it remains to be seen whether Weis will increase our marketability long term--i.e. whether 9-3 and 10-3 seasons in '05 and '06 are the norm for Weis coached teams, with '07 and '08 aberrations or vice versa.

Do we consider ourself lucky to outsell brands that just a few years ago were far our inferior? Prior to '05 and '06, Purdue and Michigan State were not inferior teams or brands, much less far inferior. As Irish fans, we know that ND is better in every way than Purdue and Michigan State, but prior to '05 and '06 we certainly weren't showing our superiority on the football field. In '05 and '06, Weis produced brands superior to Purdue and Michigan State (even though we lost to state in '05, we had a better record and thus were a superior product, I'll posit). In '08, Weis produced a brand superior to Purdue. In '09, Weis at this point appears to have produced a brand superior to Purdue and MSU--in addition to beating both head to head, this ND team appears to have a higher ceiling, though we have to wait until the end of the season to confirm which brand is superior this year.

Does the company, ND, need to move in a new direction? Possibly, but I'll wait until the end of the season to see what Weis does with this year's squad. Adidas didn't become Adidas overnight, and Notre Dame--though it pains me to say it--wasn't Adidas when Weis took over. As the dearth of talent in the lower classes at the time of Weis' arrival shows, ND was more like a company on the verge of filing for Bankruptcy (the '07 season).