To be fair to my dear readers, I'm going to answer these questions slightly out of order, as the last question has a clear impact on the first. Sorry, Sarah.
5. I, for one, was very optimistic at the beginning of the season. Now, at 6-4, I am nearly disgusted with this team, and I admit to some actions regarding Notre Dame football that I never thought I would engage in. I can't imagine I am alone. Have you done anything this season - turn off games at halftime, leave early, not watch at all, etc. - that smack of desperation and disgust with this team?
I, too, was absolutely brimming over with optimism at the beginning of the season. And, like Sarah, I have engaged in actions that I would not normally engage in. There are two things I'm somewhat ashamed of.
First, I was hosting a party during the Pitt game. I had explained to my guests that they were welcome to join me in watching the game, but that I would be glued to the television.
At halftime, however, I was frustrated by the team, and agreed to play a drinking game. A particularly brutal one. I honestly don't remember much of the second half, except that it got worse before it got better, as I was wandering in and out.
The second thing I'm ashamed of is that although I will be done with work with no other plans on Saturday afternoon, I'm not going to the game. I normally make an effort to watch the game at Notre Dame stadium every time that I can. But this week, I just don't want to. I fear the Husky, and don't think my poor heart can take another heartbreaking loss at home. I'll watch it at home on my television.
1. The Pitt loss: give me something good about it, something bad about it, and something ugly about it.
Good: Ummm.... Golden Tate? He's always good. Oh, and Rivals.com current bowl projections put us in the Gator Bowl versus (wait for it...) Miami!
Bad: Where do I start? Running game, tackling fundamentals, flat and uninspired play at the beginning of the game. I could go on and on, but they are all of the same problems that have plagued the Irish since Weis arrived.
Ugly: When was the last time Notre Dame beat a highly ranked opponent? The Irish used to get themselves up for games against the big boys. They used to relish coming out and punching the likes of top-ranked Army, Oklahoma, Michigan, Miami, and USC in the mouth. Now, we can't even eke out a win against a decent but overrated top 10 Pitt team.
Most frustrating for me is that all season Notre Dame looks like the more talented team on the field. Even against USC. But their lack of discipline, absence of commitment to fundamentals, and inability to play smart football keep putting us in position to lose games. The fact that this team is not in national title contention is a disgrace.
2. UConn this week. Does the sellout streak end? Do you care if it does end? And if it does, does this have any meaning beyond it being the end of yet another ND streak during the Charlie Weis era?
It's not just apathy that's keeping me out of the stadium this week. I kind of want the sellout streak to end. I want to send a message to the administration that we do not approve of the mediocrity that has been churned out by every level of administration of this program. From the play of the players on the field, through their preparation and coaching, the scheduling, the Disneyfication of the gameday experience, the Draconian enforcement of alcohol consumption rules, the down-in-front mentality, the handling of coaching searches. Everything. I'm sick of it, and although I love this University, this one week, I'm making my stand.
I'm mad as hell, and I'm not going to take it anymore.
"There has been a surrender at Notre Dame, but it is a surrender to excellence on all fronts, and in this we hope to rise above ourselves with the help of God."
3. UConn is coming off of a bye week, with three losses just before that, including close losses to West Virginia and Cincinnati. The last time they won was just before cornerback Jaspar Howard was killed. These factors - along with ND's sorry performances recently - suggest to me that UConn is a dangerous team for a Notre Dame team that could really use a win going into Stanford. Should I be worried about this game? And what should I be worried about?
As I said before, I fear the Husky. This team is, in a nearly literal sense, a wounded animal. They are fighting through grief and pain, and each heartbreaking loss feels like they've let their fallen comrade down.
Now they are walking into Notre Dame Stadium and facing history's team on hallowed ground. UConn is the definition of nouveau riche in college football, having joined Division I-A (FBS, whatever) in 2000. And now they have a chance to make a statement in the first ever meeting of these two teams.
This Husky team dropped over 40 against Cincinatti, coming within 3 of pulling the upset. And they've had as much experience in close games than we have.
One more intangible to throw into the mix is Zach Frazier's personal desire to show up the coach and team that told him he wasn't good enough, leading to his transfer.
Notre Dame is clearly on the cusp of another coaching change, reduced to playing spoiler and trying to scratch their way into the Gator Bowl. Coach Weis keeps talking about this team's heart. These are the games where you show it.
4. Notre Dame will be seeing a familiar face in UConn quarterback Zach Frazer. Is there anyone who transferred out of Notre Dame, or who the Irish nearly got in the recruiting process, that you think would have made a significant difference on this year's team?
There are so many I could point to, but I think the biggest loss the Irish have suffered was the numerous misses the Irish suffered on the defensive line in Weis' first few recruiting classes. In particular, Gerald McCoy would have been a huge help on this defense.