Friday, September 10, 2010

Irish Blogger Gathering Episode II: Attack of the Skunkbears

For no good reason, I'm feeling a Star Wars themed IBG coming on this week.  Probably because whenever we play Michigan, I feel like we are the Jedi Knights to their evil Sith.  "

You've now seen Notre Dame Football: The Kelly Edition, Volume 1, Episode 1. Was it everything you thought it would be? Were characters missing from this episode that you were expecting to see featured? DiPd it strike you as a carbon-copy of Kelly's Cincinnati teams, or is there something discernible between the 2 programs beyond the colors of the uniforms?

"Great, kid.  Don't get cocky." (Han Solo, Episode IV)

Brian Kelly's Recipe for success at prior stops
Start with one mediocre to poor team. Beat soundly at a very rapid pace until smooth fundamentals appear. Pray for a shot to coach a team which can compete for championships when it wins all of their games.

Brian Kelly's Recipe for success at Notre Dame
Start with one mediocre to poor team. Add a healthy heaping helping of top quality talent. Beat soundly at a very rapid pace until smooth fundamentals appear. Win championships.

Look, you had to know that this team would closely resemble Kelly's Cincinnati team. You don't coach for 20+ years without developing some kind of identity. But there is one major distinction between Kelly's Cincinnati teams and Kelly's Notre Dame teams. That system that managed to eke out an undefeated season at Cincinatti is now playing with some much more high octane fuel. Once this thing is running on all cylinders, look out.

2) Pick one positive play, offense or defense, by the Irish from last Saturday that you feel serves as a bit of metaphorical foreshadowing for the 2010 Irish. Extra points if you can stretch the metaphor to fit Kelly's entire tenure at Notre Dame.

"I think my eyes are getting better.  Instead of a big dark blur, I see a big light blur." (Han Solo, Episode V)

Let's take a look at Armando Allen's touchdown run - 22 yards to paydirt. It was quick, it was flashy, but it was possible because of the solid fundamentals of every player on the field. Also, that play (as the culmination of that entire series) illustrates why I believe Kelly will win at Notre Dame.

Kelly's teams play solid fundamental assignment football across the board, and this play demonstrates it.  Excellent blocking at the point of attack, creating a running seam, then a good downfield block by receiver Michael Floyd, and a fired up Armando Allen runs to paydirt.  Why was Allen so fired up?  Because the three previous plays chewed up half the field behind the excellent runnning of his backup, Cierre Wood.  Next man in?  You better believe Armando can feel the heat from the talented redshirt freshman.  Also, despite all of the concern about Kelly's pass-happy spread offense, it shows that he knows the strength of his team and will coach to the strengths - that drive started at the 16, and consisted of 2 passes for 21 yards and 5 runs for 73 yards.  No square peg in a round hole here.

It also shows the trajectory of Notre Dame football I expect to see under Coach Kelly - while we may not get off to the fastest start (first two drives covered 26 and 21 yards respectively), once the cylinders start clicking, we will be tough to stop (84 yds, TD; 50 yds, FG; 45 yds FG; 30 yds, TD; 53 yds, fumble on the 3, nearly a TD).  Here's hoping, however, that we can continue to find a way to win, despite not hitting on all cylinders just yet.

3) Pick another play, offense or defense, by the Irish from last Saturday again, but this time, make it a negative play. Tell us how that play serves as a bit of metaphorical foreshadowing for the 2010
Irish. And again, bonus points for stretching it over Kelly's tenure. 

"Fear is the path to the Dark Side.  Fear leads to anger, anger leads to hate, hate leads to suffering." (Yoda, Episode I)

Funny thing about this game is that I left without any complaints.  Sure, there were a few things we could do better.  But on the whole, I felt like we played a largely error-free game where we executed just like we wanted to on offense and defense.  Now, we're not exactly top tier material yet, but this coaching staff did an excellent job of putting our kids in the position to win.  And for the first time in a long while, I wasn't afraid of anyone on our schedule.

If you force my hand, though, I'll pick Michael Floyd fumble on the 3-yard line.  For 2010, I think that (similar to 2005), we'll show some serious promise for the future, but find a way to shoot ourselves in the foot with our inexperience, costing us what could potentially be an incredible season.

However, I'm going to pass on the bonus points, as I see truly great things for the future of the Irish program under Kelly.

4) You know us, we're stat geeks. Give us a stat that we should be watching this season that will A) Tell us something enlightening about the 2010 Irish and/or B) Tell us something enlightening about the average Top-5 teams at the end of the 2010 season.

"Do or do not, there is no try." (Yoda, Episode V)

Because I'm worried about the youth of this team, I'm going to look at the stat that Brian Kelly mentioned in his press conference this week - striving to be less than 12% critical mistakes.  This team is talented enough to beat anyone in the country, as long as they do what they are capable of doing.  As long as we can continue to install more and more of the offense, while maintaining our discipline and limiting errors, the sky is the limit.

Because that stat is not readily available, however, I'm going to say take a look at average yards per carry on the ground.  Not number of yards, but average yards per carry.  Good teams run the ball effectively when they choose to do so.

2009  [Notre Dame 3.84 ypc]
1.  Alabama (5.01 ypc)
2.  Texas (4.03 ypc)
3.  Florida (5.59 ypc)
4.  Boise State (5.13 ypc)
5.  Ohio State (4.51 ypc)

2008 [Notre Dame 3.27 ypc]
1.  Florida (5.94 ypc)
2.  Utah (4.08 ypc)
3.  USC (5.04 ypc)
4.  Texas (4.29 ypc)
5.  Oklahoma (4.72 ypc)

Nobody makes it to the elite level without being able to run the ball.  An average ypc of over 4 means that you are effective on the ground, and can count on your running game to keep the defense honest.  Notre Dame's yards per carry against Purdue?  4.25 ypc

5) Notre Dame is currently a 4 point favorite in the coming Michigan game. You get 3 points for being at home. The AP poll actually ranks Michigan higher than ND. ND is 1-4-1 in the last 6 games with Michigan in which the Irish were favored and 9 and 6 in the last 15 games in which Michigan was favored. Does any of this worry you? Why or why not?

"The fear of loss is a path to the Dark Side." (Yoda, Episode III)

Honestly, I haven't been worried about Michigan all week.  I've watched the tape for both teams, and I just think UConn's defense was undisciplined and lacked fundamentals.  The Irish defense I saw on Saturday, assuming they show up and do what they do, will make Michigan's offense look pedestrian.  I saw so many missed tackles and blown assignments by the UConn defense, that I think that Robinson's stats are more about their opponent than his abilities.

That said, Michigan will score some points.  And we'll probably let Robinson slip out of our grasp and gash us a couple of times.  But ultimately, we just won't make that many mistakes.

And on offense, Michigan's secondary is ripe for the picking.  If we can come out and establish any semblance of a running game, this one could get out of hand.  Michigan simply does not have enough bodies in the secondary to cover us if we go 5 wide.

Also, this ain't your Charlie Willingham Irish anymore - we have a new coach in town, one that's actually got experience coaching football.

"I sense something.  A presence I haven't felt since..." (Darth Vader, Episode IV)

6) Last week, Frank at UHND put the Gathering on the spot with our predictions for the season. After week 1, are there any of those predictions that you'd like to alter? Any upon which you'd double down?

"Always in motion is the future." (Yoda, Episode V)

Actually, based upon what I saw this week, I'm even more confident in

7) Describe in no fewer than 30 words why you hate Michigan.

"[Ann Arbor].  You'll never find a more wretched hive of scum and villainy." (Obi-Wan Kenobi, Episode IV)

Michigan sucks.


"YAHOOOO!! You're all clear kid, now let's blow this thing and go home." (Han Solo, Episode IV)


Anonymous said...


Anonymous said...

Darth Vader: He is here.
Governor Tarkin: Denard Robinson? What makes you think so?
Darth Vader: A tremor in the Force. The last time I felt it was in the presence of my old master, Desmond Howard.
Governor Tarkin: Surely he must be dead by now.
Darth Vader: Don't underestimate the Force.
Governor Tarkin: The Jedi are extinct, their fire has gone out of the universe. You, my friend, are all that's left of their religion.
[answering a comm signal]
Governor Tarkin: Yes?
Voice over comm: We have an emergency alert on the defensive side of the ball.
Governor Tarkin: The Princess? Put all sections on alert.
Darth Vader: Denard *is* here. The Force is with him.
Governor Tarkin: If you're right, he must not be allowed to escape.
Darth Vader: Escape is not his plan. I must face him, alone.