1. Notre Dame played perhaps its best game of the year in a win over the Utah Utes two weeks ago. Utah remains ranked at #23 in the Associated Press poll. Notre Dame likewise took Michigan State (AP #11) to overtime before losing on a fake field goal. Therefore the Irish should have no trouble with this unranked Trojan squad. Agree or disagree? Show your work.
Agree. And since you asked me to show my work, I'm going to engage in one of my favorite activities when it comes to Notre Dame football - being a Notre Dame homer and apologetic.
This is a good football team, that is getting better as time passes. Indeed, if we were even remotely healthy, this team would be extremely dangerous right now, and capable of beating damn near anybody. Here's why:
First game of the season, we were still clearly trying to figure out the new systems on offense and defense. Thankfully, we were playing a decidedly mediocre Purdue squad, who will get destroyed this weekend by my Hoosiers. (shameless alma mater plug, sorry)
Second game of the season we outplayed Michigan, but it was asking too much for this offense to be effective for half the game this early in the season with a walk-on or true freshman.
Third game of the season, we appeared to be starting to figure this thing out, and if not for an overtime fake field goal that took place after the play clock expired (and therefore should have been flagged), we win that game.
Fourth game of the season we were outmatched by an excellent Stanford team whose only loss is to an elite Oregon team that is ranked #1 in the country.
We then rolled through BC, Pitt and Western Michigan, with a steadily improving offense and what is starting to look like a very good defense. Against Western Michigan, we lost one of the most dangerous offensive weapons in the country in Kyle Rudolph, widely regarded as the best tight end in the country, for the season. We also lost our #2 wide receiver in Theo Riddick for all but the last game against USE. Oh, and our #1 offensive weapon in Michael Floyd for the week after as well.
Then, what had been an excellent defense had no answer for the nation's #5 rushing offense, who employs a triple option attack that is extremely difficult to prepare for. And early on, we lost Ian Williams, our nose tackle, for the year. And, our #1 running back as well in Armando Allen. Our offense struggled to find it's groove without it's top receiving and rushing targets, and we lose badly. Injuries happen, but when you lose that much firepower all at once, you are going to struggle.
Then, the bottom dropped out. Declan Sullivan's tragic death shook this team, and then while trying to muster the focus needed for Tulsa, we lose our #1 QB for the year in the first quarter. These kids had just watched one of their friends die a grisly death right in front of their eyes only days prior. And then they saw their team leader head to the locker room with a season-ending injury. That we were able to continue the game and keep it close under such adversity speaks volumes about the character of this football team.
And after that game, this team came together, stopped feeling sorry for themselves, and decided to remember that they are called the Fighting Irish for a reason. We fight.
And so, a bruised and battered team welcomed the vaunted Utah Utes, ranked in the top 5 only the week before. Nobody for nobody believed the Irish would win. Except for those guys that put on the gold helmets that morning. The result: a complete dismantling of the Utes.
Follow that up with a workmanlike destruction of Army, and you can see what this team is supposed to be.
And now you ask me whether this team will be able to beat a 7-4 USC team that has nothing to play for, when we are playing for a good bowl game and the chance to end the USC dominance over us for the past decade? You think any of the upperclassmen on this team have forgotten the 38-3 drubbing in 2008? This team is hungry, feeling disrespected, and they've learned to embrace Coach Kelly's vision. Rudolph out? Next man in. Riddick out? Next man in. Floyd out? Next man in. Williams out? Next man in. Allen out? Next man in. Crist out? Next man in.
We live as a team, we die as a team. But one thing has become clear - Kelly has transformed this talented bunch or primadonnas left over from the Weis era into a team. And this team will win on Saturday. Come hell or high water.
2. It is almost time for the OC Domer Player of the Year to be named. This award is intended to recognize the Notre Dame football player or players who played the best when it mattered the most. Suffice it to say that the primary criterion is a consistently high level of play, with significant bonus points awarded for exceeding expectations. Injuries have taken many of the pre-season favorites for this prestigious award out of the running. Who is your nominee for this award, and why?
David Ruffer, and this isn't even close. He's quite literally perfect this season, and his kicks have made the difference between winning and losing multiple games this year. He's set to run away with the Lou Groza Award this year. Oh, and did I mention that this kid is a walk-on?
3. With a delicate flavor similar to beef, though slightly sweeter than other meats, horse meat can be used to replace beef, pork, mutton, and any other meat in virtually any recipe, though most aficionados prefer it in marinated or spicy dishes. Nutritionally, horse meat has around 40 percent fewer calories than the leanest beef, while supplying 50 percent more protein and as much as 30 percent more iron; and horse fat is considered an excellent health-conscious deep-frying alternative, especially for delicately-flavored foods that are easily overpowered by heavier oils. What is your favorite horse meat recipe?
I call this dish "Irish Traveler"
As shown, will serve 6. One mascot will feed approximately 100 people.
21/4 pounds ground horse meat
1 Tbsp. olive oil
2-1/2 ounces ground cured lard (or pancetta)
2 onions, minced
1 glass dry white wine (though some Italian chefs prefer broth)
6 ripe tomatoes, blanched, peeled, seeded, chopped, and drained
2 bell peppers, ribbed and seeded, then diced
2 Tbsp. minced fresh herbs (basil, sage, and rosemary in proportions to taste)
1 clove garlic, minced
salt and freshly ground pepper
Heat the oil, lard, and onion in a skillet. Sauté until the onion has become golden but don’t let it get really brown. Add the horse meat and brown it, stirring frequently. When it has browned, sprinkle in the glass of wine and reduce the heat to a bare simmer. Cover it, and let it cook for at least an hour. Mix in the chopped tomatoes and diced peppers, and continue cooking for another half hour.
Ten minutes before removing the dish from the stove, sprinkle the minced herbs over everything. Serve it hot with salt and pepper to taste.
4. Do you miss Pat Haden, who left the Notre Dame television broadcasts to become athletic director at USC?
No, as his replacement is a far better broadcaster. Also, I have hope that Pat Haden will bring back some modicum of respect to this rivalry. His predecessor let cheating run rampant through the football and basketball programs, which damaged what was once a rivalry based in mutual respect. There isn't much respect for this program right now, who just had to forfeit a championship, return a Heisman trophy, and who is on a multi-year probation.
5. USC is the Notre Dame rival I love to hate. What Notre Dame rival do you most despise, and why?
Michigan. While they are an excellent school, the past and present of the football program consistently demonstrates everything that is wrong with college football. It goes way back to the days of Fielding Yost, and has continued through Bo Schembechler, Llloyd Carr and into the current regime under Rich Rodriguez. Their graduation rate for African-American football players is abysmal, most of their fans are the scum of the earth, and they have an arrogant history of wanting things their way, or else they'll take their ball and go home.
USC is a rival.
Michigan is a nemesis.
6. Reggie Bush got a car, his parents a house. Cam Newton's Dad was looking for $180,000 in straight cash homey. Can Notre Dame compete for athletic recruits in this environment? Or do you believe these incidents are the exceptions to an otherwise clean recruiting landscape?
I think that there are rampant recruiting violations that fly under the radar at programs all across the country. However, at the end of the day the most elite recruits know that the best way to fulfill their dream of the NFL is to go to a program that wins. And Notre Dame's recruiting hasn't exactly suffered since Weis started getting some of the elite athletes to believe. If we can get the program back to its rightful position among the elite by winning football games on Saturdays, the recruits will be kicking down our door.
I have never, and will never, espouse any movement towards reducing the standards of this University for a football player or anyone else. We are who we are because we don't just believe, but we KNOW, we can be the best football program in the land - while still standing as a beacon of all that is right and good in the world of amateur sport.