Monday, September 14, 2009

Why we couldn't beat Michigan

1. Coaching

I've been a pretty staunch Weis supporter, right up until the Syracuse debacle of last year. And I still think with his work ethic, we could eventually win a championship if he continues to make the changes needed as he recognizes them. But Saturday's loss can be laid at the feet of the coaching staff first and foremost.

Weis is a gambler, and frequently makes decisions that don't make sense if you step back and look at the big picture. Especially for a coach that comes from the NFL, he sure didn't learn much about winning games.

I have not heard a single rational defense of why we were throwing a pass with the ball and the lead with 2 minutes left in the game. It's just inexcusable. Good teams are able to run the ball on first and second downs, then keep the defense guessing on 3rd and short as we try to move the chains and end the game. The fact that we threw a pass on 2nd down in that crucial situation is flat out the wrong call.

And that wasn't his only mistake. Numerous times we had difficulties getting the play off. As the self-named offensive coordinator, it is Coach Weis' job to make sure that the play gets in to the QB with plenty of time before the snap. The unnecessary timeouts and delay of game penalties came back to haunt us in a game that came down to the wire.

2. The Officiating

I really hate to complain about the refs. Other than the Bush Push, which mostly upset me because of the magnitude of the game, my general position is that you play the game with the calls that are made, and that if you play well enough to win, the officiating won't change that.

Not so on Saturday.

I watch a lot of football, pro and college, and this is the first time I've ever seen a game in which the officials appeared to be actually biased.

There were, by my count, 5 unequivocal pass interference penalties against Michigan that were not called. And they were often in critical situations that changed the game. Especially on the ill-advised 2nd down pass. Call that interference penalty, and the Irish win. Talk all you want about "letting the players play" but these penalties exist for a reason, and you CANNOT allow a team to consistently hold one of the receiver's arms back while the pass is in the air.

I've also rewatched the play where Sam Young was called for holding on Kyle Rudolph's 79-yard catch, and there was no hold. It was a spectacular block that drove the defender into the ground.

There was also the missed call on the Armando Allen TD. I watched that play in HD on a big screen, and the sideline view of that play clearly shows that Allen did not step out. There certainly was nothing resembling indisputable evidence to overturn the call on the field.

And don't even get me started on the 2 seconds run off the clock on the kickoff. And don't give me the BS about how rare it is for a last second Hail Mary to work - I saw the Broncos pull off a stunning win on Sunday, and Green Bay also had a last minute pass play that made the difference in the game. And with a wideout like Golden Tate - we may not have won, but we should have had the chance.

But what really pissed me off - and the reason that I think that the refs were biased - was how the refs blew Coach Weis off at the end of the game and sprinted for the tunnel, not even considering taking a second look at the clock.

Any one or two, or even three, of those problems, and I could deal with it. But what I saw out there was clearly home cooking. Notre Dame was repeatedly and systematically robbed of its advantages in this game by the refs, and it cost the Irish the game.

If this game were reffed by a truly neutral officiating crew (say, from the Big 12?) the Irish win this game handily - by as many as 20 points.

3. Fundamentals

I almost appended this to the coaching segment above, but I saw a clear lack of fundamental breakdowns by Irish players in this game. Poor tackling especially killed us, and it allowed an inferior team to hang around in a game they had no business hanging around in.

Tate Forcier, if he bulks up, will eventually be a very good quarterback for Michigan. But he's not a superstar in the making, and certainly not a phenom. We made him look good by taking poor angles and arm tackling. Forcier slipping from the grasp of ND defenders was not because he's a beast who reads the defense well, it's because the ND players who were put in the right position by the play call didn't have the fundamental skills to make the play.

And that, again, falls on the coaching staff. For all of the talent and experience we trotted out on the field, these players should not be making those kind of bone-headed mistakes.

A classic example was on Forcier's TD run, where the safeties did not shuffle down the line with the ball, and Kapron Lewis-Moore overpursued, did not break down and failed to keep his hips squared to be able to make the tackle, or force Tate back inside to the defense.

4. Michigan

I wanted to put this section in to give Michigan credit. While they got plenty of help from the refs and Notre Dame repeatedly shooting themselves in the foot (much like Michigan did for us last year), ultimately they did what they had to to win the game. With two minutes left in the game, they drove down the field and scored the go ahead touchdown with little time left on the clock. They had a good gameplan, and with a couple of breaks, put themselves in a position to win the game.

And they did.

Final Analysis

No excuses. We were 24 points better than Michigan, but we lost the game because we apparently still don't know how to win.


Anonymous said...

I completely agree with you about the officiating. You can not use it as an excuse if they botched one or two plays, but that crew was horrendous all day and seemed completely biased. It is very hard for a team to win a game when the officials are giving unearned advantages to one team over and over.

It is also very encouraging that we have a big ten crew this Saturday, maybe we will be lucky enough to have the same crew. Plain and simple that was the WORST officiated game I have ever seen and you didn't even mention the taunting call Allen got in the 4th. Why on earth do we not use neutral officials?

I do not agree with you about the play calling though. The 2nd down play was clearly another pathetic non call by the refs, we get that call or if Golden doesn't get tackled and makes a play it's first down and game over. The 3rd down play was wide open and if Shaq turns around a split second sooner its a firstdown and game over. Jimmy had roasted the secondary ALL DAY and I know if Weis would have ran it twice and got stuffed and Michigan still won people would be saying the same shit. "I don't know why he is running when all we need is a first down and Jimmy was on all day".

Coach Weis gives a pretty acceptable explanation for the play calling in my opinion in a presser I saw on Subway Domer check that out if you haven't.

How do you think this game will affect the rest of the season? I honestly think we will bounce back but it is hard to tell.

Great post, GO IRISH!

Anonymous said...

One more section...special teams. Ours were anything but special. runback for a touchdown, missed field goal, 25 yard punt when you need to pin them back. To be honest Michigan looked like a better coached team.
There is a pattern here, 16 times in just over two years. I don't expect further improvement only more excuses

Anonymous said...

good post. Next the coverage.

How about Matt Millen doing the game? He was brutal. Apparently the early-stage dementia he suffered from in Detroit is still there, or he is a Michigan fan.

Matt, the Sam Young hold that pulled back the Rudolph run was NOT a hold. You are a moron.

Also: as an analyst maybe you could provide COLOR as to what was going on as far as coaching tactics. No actual info was delivered other than he wants to have Forcier's baby. Pathetic gasbag.

Anonymous said...

You're sure Armando didn't step out? Sweet, sweet tears.

BigHouse Don said...

You guys kill me. For YEARS you guys got literally every single call in every single game you played. It got to the point where I was sure that Father Flanigan O'Rielly and Sister Mary Margaret were assained to your games respectfully every time you played. Here's what you guys need to deal with and deal with fast:

1. Our "rebuilding" took exactly ONE year to complete. You guys are on year 9 or so with no tangible results. Maybe you NEXT coach will be able to do better than your last three.

2. You are in big, big trouble now with MSU & USC looming on the horizon. Can you say Hawaii Bowl?

3. You're slow...especially on defense. Hey so are we but at least Rich Rod recognized the problem and is taking steps to fix this so we can compete against the elite programs in the near future.

Oh...and one last thing. We'd still love to have you guys in the Big 10 (11?) anytime you're ready. Then at least you couldnt bitch about the officials!

Anonymous said...

If you're going to complain about officials, the plethora of holding calls along the offensive line that Notre Dame got away with (heck, there's one picture I saw that actually looks like the o-lineman is decapitating Graham) don't seem to be mentioned anywhere.

The fact is simple. You got beat. Not by the officials or your own foolish coach, but by a team that nearly has all it's crap together in year two of rebuilding. That's what the tears and gnashing of teeth is really all about in the end. You want what we have. It was the same with the USC game. You wanted what they had and still have.

Save the tears for mommy.

Anonymous said...

Cry, cry, cry!!! When you lose you blame the officials; when you win you credit the Pope. it never ends; the same babies whine endlessly.

Blame Weis on this one; he ran out of timeouts when he needed a few.

Wacko said...;pid=189108;d=all

I didn't blame the entire loss on the officials - in fact, I put the onus of the blame on our own coaching staff.

But after looking at the pictures and video in the above post, please tell me again that the officiating was not a major problem.

I did give Michigan proper credit for their contribution to the Notre Dame loss. But, Michigan's play on the field had far less to do with the outcome than did the officiating.

Wacko said...

BigHouse Don:

We've never gotten every call. One of the frustrating things about being an independent is that, even at home, we have the other team's refs.

We aren't slow. In fact, we were far faster than your team all day long. The only way you were able to stay in it was with hold after hold on our receivers. See the evidence above.

And don't even get me started on you guys "still" wanting us in the Big 10. It was your blackballing of us back in the 20s that made us the national independent team we are today. I would rather see the entire program shut down than to join the conference that, due to blatant prejudice against Catholics, tried to destroy us when we were on the rise.

Anonymous said...

Michigan is not close to being complete with its rebuilding. They are decent at best. Michigan has an extremely easy schedule to overinflate its win total which will make Coach Rod look good but true fans know they are not near the teams of yesteryear. Mich will be 7-0 and the best team they will have played will be a mediocre ND team. Indiana and Iowa are weak...and Delaware State? Eastern Michigan? is this a Div. I football powerhouse schedule????

Coach Rod is pretty much Coach Weiss - pretty good with offense and recruiting, but not the complete package...and each has a monster ego. Michigan will be in a bowl but will get creamed if they play anyone good.

The fact that ND lost to them means that they were overrated or poorly prepared. I think the second - Charlie didn't have the D ready at all. For all the coaching miscues on O and the penalties, they still scored plenty of points to win.