Friday, September 23, 2005

Departing from football for a moment...

I'd like to personally congratulate Fr. Jenkins, who was officially inaugurated today as the new President of the University of Notre Dame. He nodded and smiled at me this afternoon during the academic procession, and I'll be praying that he serves Our Lady's University with integrity and clear leadership.

Also, I'd like to extend my condolences to a classmate of mine, Brendan Loy, who lost a friend, Sarah, earlier this week. The Notre Dame family will be praying for him and his friend's family and friends as they grieve their loss.

Thursday, September 22, 2005

Week 4 Rankings

1.  Southern California (2-0)     Next: at #18 Oregon     Last week: W 70 – 17 Arkansas
2.  Texas (3-0)       Next: Bye     Last week: W 51 – 10 Rice
3.  Louisiana State (1-0)     Next:  vs. Tennessee     Last week: Bye
4.  Georgia (3-0)     Next: at Mississippi State      Last week: W 44 – 7 Louisiana Monroe
5.  Virginia Tech (3-0)     Next: vs. #10 Georgia Tech      Last week: W 45 – 0 Ohio
6.  Florida (3-0)     Next: at Kentucky      Last week: W 16 – 7 #7 Tennessee
7.  Purdue (2-0)     Next: at Minnesota      Last week: W 31 – 24 Arizona
8.  Louisville (2-0)     Next: at South Florida      Last week: W 63 – 27 Oregon State
9.  California (3-0)     Next: at New Mexico      Last week: W 35 – 20 Illinois
10. Georgia Tech (3-0)     Next: at #5 Virginia Tech      Last week: W 28 – 13 Connecticut
11. Ohio State (2-1)     Next: vs. Iowa      Last week: W 27 – 6 San Diego State
12. Texas Tech (2-0)     Next: vs. Indiana State      Last week: W 80 – 21 Sam Houston St.
13. Virginia (2-0)     Next: vs. Duke      Last week: W 27 – 24 Syracuse
14. Alabama (3-0)     Next: vs. Arkansas      Last week: W 37 – 14 South Carolina
15. Iowa State (2-0)     Next: at Army      Last week: Bye
16. Michigan State (3-0)     Next: at Illinois      Last week: W 44 – 41 #6 Notre Dame
17. Notre Dame (2-1)     Next: at Washington      Last week: L 41 – 44 Michigan State
18. Oregon (3-0)     Next: vs. #1 Southern California      Last week: W 37 – 34 Fresno State
19. Florida State (3-0)     Next: Bye      Last week: W 28 – 17 #14 Boston College
20. UCLA (3-0)     Next: Bye      Last week: W 41 – 24 #24 Oklahoma
21. Miami (1-1)     Next: vs. Colorado      Last week: W 36 – 30 #17 Clemson
22. Tennessee (1-1)     Next: at Louisiana State      Last week: L 7 – 16 #8 Florida
23. Michigan (2-1)     Next: at #24 Wisconsin      Last week: W 55 – 0 Eastern Michigan
24. Wisconsin (3-0)     Next: vs. #23 Michigan      Last week: W 14 – 5 North Carolina
25. Vanderbilt (3-0)     Next: vs. Richmond      Last week: W 31 – 23 Mississippi

Wednesday, September 21, 2005

Notre Dame v. Washington analysis

After a heartbreaking overtime loss to the Spartans at home last week, this team is going to be hungry for revenge, and who better to take out their frustrations on than former head football coach Tyrone Wilingham and his inept Huskies. The Huskies went 1-11 last year, and haven't improved much from last year to this year. For the first time this year, Notre Dame are substantial favorites going into the game, and the Huskies are outmatched at every position. Look for this year to be even uglier than last year's 38-3 blowout win.

Notre Dame Quarterback and Receivers v. Washington Secondary

Edge: Notre Dame

Notre Dame's Starters:

Brady Quinn, QB, Jr., 70-117 854 yards, 9 TD, 2 INT, 19 rushes, 46 yards
Maurice Stovall, WR, Sr., 12 receptions, 220 yards, 1 TD
Jeff Samardzija, WR, Jr., 13 receptions, 182 yards, 5 TD

Matt Shelton, WR, Sr., 7 receptions, 91 yards
David Grimes, WR, Fr., 1 reception, 11 yards
David Wolke, QB, So., 1 rush, 22 yards

Rhema McKnight, WR, Sr., 5 receptions, 69 yards, 1 TD (upgraded to day-to-day, could play)

Washington Starters:

Matt Fountaine, CB, So., 13 tackles, 3 PBU, 1 fumble recovery
Josh Okeobor, CB, Jr., 6 tackles, 1 INT
Darin Harris, S/CB, So., 9 tackles, 1 PBU
Dashon Goldson, S, Sr., 24 tackles, 1.5 TFL, 1 sack, 1 PBU
C.J. Wallace, S, Jr., 17 tackles, 2 TFL, 1 sack, 2 PBU, 1 forced fumble

Clarence Simpson, CB, Jr., 2 tackles
Chris Hemphill, S, So.

Roy Lewis, CB, So. (did not play vs. Idaho last week), 9 tackles

Ty Willlie can't seem to make up his mind who his starters are here, and has been forced to shuffle people around the last coupe of games. This plays right into Notre Dame's hands, as Weis' schemes should bumfuzzle this secondary, leading to a handful of broken coverages as the game progresses. The passing game may become important, as it will be be easier to pass than to run against this defense.

Notre Dame Running Backs and Tight Ends v. Washington Linebackers

Edge: Notre Dame

Notre Dame's Starters:

Darius Walker, RB, So., 72 rushes, 337 yards, 1 TD, 13 receptions, 98 yards, 2 TD
Asaph Schwapp, FB, Fr. 9 rushes, 13 yards
Anthony Fasano, TE, Sr., 15 receptions, 153 yards

Rashon Powers-Neal, FB/RB, 14 rushes, 60 yards, 3 TD, 2 reception, 27 yards
Travis Thomas, RB, 8 rushes, 40 yards
Marcus Freeman, TE
John Carlson, TE, 2 receptions, 3 yards

Washington Starters:

Joe Lobendahn, LB, Sr., 23 tackles, 1 INT
Evan Benjamin, LB, Sr., 24 tackles, 1.5 TFL, 1 sack, 1 PBU
Scott White, LB, Jr., 20 tackles, 2 sacks, 2 PBU, 1 forced fumble

Tahj Bomar, LB, Jr., 2 tackles
Dan Howell, LB, So., 1 tackle

One of the problems with defensive statistics is that a high number of tackles may not necessarily be a good thing. These linebackers have a lot of tackles, but many of them are too little, too late. Cal ran roughshod over the Huskies, and I expect us to do the same. These linebackers will be active, but they can't do everything.

Notre Dame Offensive Line v. Washington Defensive Line

Edge: Notre Dame

Notre Dame's Starters:
Ryan Harris, LT, Jr.
Dan Santucci, LG, Sr.
Bob Morton, C, Jr.
Dan Stevenson, RG, Sr.
Mark LeVoir, RT, Sr.

Scott Raridon, G, Sr.
Brian Mattes, G, Sr.
John Sullivan, C, Jr.
Michael Turkovich, T, Fr.
Paul Duncan, T, Fr.

Washington Starters:

Manase Hopoi, DT, Sr., 13 tackles, 5 TFL, 4 sacks
Mike Mapuolesega, DT, Sr., 3 tackles, 1 blocked kick
Donny Mateaki, DE, Jr., 8 tackles, 2 sacks
Greyson Gunheim, DE, So., 11 tackles, 2 TFL, 1 sack, 1 PBU

Erick Lobos, DT, So., 4 tackles
Wilson Afoa, DT, So., 7 tackles, 2 TFL
Caesar Rayford, DE, So., 1 tackle, 1 sack
Walt Winter, DE, Fr., 2 tackles

Manase Hopoi is a beast on the interior line, but the rest of this group is sub-par. Again, I expect Charlie to run a bunch of off-tackle runs and sweeps to avoid the interior of the ine and square off with the linebackers. Hopoi could throw the occasional wrench into our passing game, as he is an effective pass rusher from the inside, which collapses the pocket. Therefore, expect a few bootlegs and rollouts for Brady to move the pocket. Also, expect Hopoi to get double-teamed much of the game, allowing the other blockers to go one-on-one against the rest of the line.

Washington Quarterback and Receivers v. Notre Dame Secondary

Edge: Notre Dame

Washington Starters:
Isaiah Stanback, QB, Jr., 50-82 688 yards 4 TD 2 INT
Sonny Shackleford, WR, Jr., 12 receptions, 199 yards, 1 TD
Anthony Russo, WR, Jr., 9 receptions, 86 yards

Johnny Durocher, QB, So.
Casey Paus, QB, Sr., 1-2 3 yards
Craig Chambers, WR, So., 5 receptions, 129 yards, 1 TD
Corey Williams, WR, Jr., 3 receptions, 54 yards

Notre Dame's Starters:

Mike Richardson, CB, Sr., 13 tackles, 1 TFL, 2 PBU
Ambrose Wooden, CB, Jr., 20 tackles, 0.5 TFL, 3 PBU
Tom Zbikowski, SS, Jr., 24 tackles, 2 INT, 1 forced fumble
Chinedum Ndukwe, WS, So., 12 tackles, 1 INT, 3 fumble recoveries

LaBrose Hedgemon II, CB, Jr.
Leo Ferrine, CB, So., 2 tackles
Terrail Lambert, CB, So., 3 tackles
David Bruton, S, Fr., 1 tackle
Kyle McCarthy, S, Fr.

Notre Dame struggled with Drew Stanton last week, being unable to get to the quarterback and bring the necessary amount of pressure to disrupt the Spartan passing game. Washington has another tall receiver (6'5" Shackleford) that can give us some matchup problems. However, we'll probably sit back in a zone coverage most of the game, as the Husky rushing attack will be largely non-existent.

Washington Running Backs and Tight Ends v. Notre Dame Linebackers

Edge: Notre Dame

Washington's Starters:

Louis Rankin, RB, So., 55 rushes, 271 yards, 1 TD, 3 receptions, 11 yards
James Sims, FB, Jr., 14 rushes, 31 yards, 2 TD
Robert Lewis, TE, So., 3 receptions, 23 yards

Shelton Sampson, RB, Jr., 4 rushes, 20 yards
Ty Eriks, FB, Sr.
Johnie Kirton, TE, Fr., 8 receptions, 103 yards, 1 TD

Notre Dame Starters:

Brandon Hoyte, WLB, Sr., 29 tackles, 8 TFL, 3 sacks, 1 PBU, 1 forced fumble, 1 PBU
Corey Mays, MLB, Sr., 17 tackles, 3 TFL, 1 sack, 2 PBU, 1 fumble recovery
Maurice Crum, Jr., Apache, Jr., 17 tackles, 1 forced fumble

Joe Brockington, LB, Jr., 1 tackle
Mitchell Thomas, LB, Jr., 1 tackle
Anthony Vernaglia, Apache, So.
Steve Quinn, Apache, Fr.

Hoyte has been having a stellar season thus far, and he and Mays should spend much of the game in the Husky backfield, bumfuzzling the quarterback and running backs. The Huskies don't utilize the Tight Ends enough to keep us from bringing the house up front and sitting in zone coverage in the secondary. I'd be surprised if the Huskies break 50 yards rushing.

Washington Offensive Line v. Notre Dame Defensive Line

Edge: Notre Dame

Washington Starters:

Robin Meadow, T, Jr.
Stanley Daniels, G, Jr.
Brad Vanneman, C, Sr.
Tusi Sa'au, G, Sr.
Chad Macklin, T, Fr.

Tui Alailefeula, T/G, Sr.
Nathan Flowers, T, Fr.
Clay Walker, G/C, Jr.

Notre Dame's Starters:
Victor Abiamiri, DE, Jr., 13 tackles, 3 TFL, 1 sack, 1 PBU
Trevor Laws, DT, Jr., 4 tackles. 1 PBU
Derek Landri, DT, Sr., 7 tackles, 2 TFL, 1 PBU
Chris Frome, DE, Sr., 4 tackles, 1 sack, 2 PBU

Brian Beidatsch, DT, Sr., 6 tackles, 1 sack
Dwight Stephenson, Jr., DT, Jr.
Ronald Talley, DE, So., 4 tackles, 1 PBU
Justin Brown, DE, So., 2 tackles

Another set of big boys up front, but they don't have the discipline and technique to match up with our D-line. Also, there is only so much they can do against 5-7 man blitzes.

Notre Dame Head Coach v. Washington Head Coach

Edge: Notre Dame

Notre Dame's Head Coach: Charlie Weis, 1st year, 2-1

Washington Head Coach: Tyrone Willingham, 1st year, 1-2

This is a no-brainer. If there is anyone out there that thinks that Tyrone Willingham is a better coach than Charlie Weis, I have yet to meet them. Even perenial Notre Dame haters like Lee Corso, John Saunders, and Mark May would concede that point, regardless of whether Notre Dame was right to fire Ty. Also, Coach Weis has the added benefit of having the Huskie's defensive playbook, thanks to Ty's undying loyalty to his assistants. Which leads me to my other point; Ty's assistants are little league coaches compared to CW's assistants. The Irish have former college head coaches, former NFL assistant coaches, a NFL Europe head coach, and numerous other proven coaches from all levels of coaching. On Ty's staff, he has a handful of lifelong assistant college coaches, who haven't really achieved anything. Kent Baer, in particular, is a completely incompetent fool. Just look how he dismantled the Irish secondary in three short years.

Final Prediction:

Notre Dame 63
Washington 7

Blowout. Easiest game of the year for the Irish. We can finally stop talking about the Willingham firing.

Monday, September 19, 2005

Michigan State 44, Notre Dame 41

I had to take a couple of days to seperate myself from the emotions of the game, a heartbreaking loss to say the least, so that I could give my post-game analysis the level of detachment it deserves.

First of all, I'm going to state off the bat that Notre Dame should not have lost that game. They had numerous opportunities to put the game away, and were unable to execute when it mattered. This is also a testament to Michigan State's determination in the face of adversity, as they had coughed up a twenty-one point lead late in the game, and they were able to turn things around and get it done during overtime (with a little help from the officials, but not so much that I'm going to put this on the officials like I would have last year's Pitt game).

SPORTSMANSHIP RANT: I don't want you to confuse the determination of Michigan State with heart, however, as the players on Michigan State have no heart. They, collectively, are classless, arrogant, and a blemish on the integrity of an otherwise decent university. To be excited about a win over a top ten opponent at their field is understandable. Blatant grandstanding and taunting of an opponent and their fans is inexcusable, and looked even worse for them in comparison to the ND students salute of their fellow students after a heartbreaking loss. If I were a member of the Notre Dame administration, I would demand that the Michigan State suspend every player involved in the grandstanding for one game, to make a statement in favor of sportsmanship. Absent Michigan State suspending the players, I would petition the NCAA to do so. However, the NCAA is a spineless yes-man with Myles Brand at the helm, and will never take such a risk. They even backed down on their PC-BS attempt to eliminate "offensive" native american nicknames and mascots from the game. I would also refuse to play MSU again until their coaches, administration, and players provide the University with a public apology. Notre Dame doesn't owe Michigan State anything, and Michigan State would suffer greatly from no longer being able to count on that nationally-televised game each year. I could care less what kind of grandstanding they choose to do in their own stadium, but they should not be permitted to act like such ass-clowns in The House That Rock Built. END RANT

Michigan State's offense blew me away. I didn't expect them to overwhelm our defense the way they did late in the second quarter and early in the second half. They have more talent than I thought they did, and Coach Smith's offensive system is more explosive than Michigan State has seen. I can tell you right now that Michigan State will beat Michigan this year.

Notre Dame's offense was even more impressive, after a relatively slow start. They showed the world that no lead is safe aginst this team, as they overcame a 21-point deficit with only 20 minutes left to play. If a team wants to beat Notre Dame, they cannot let up on the pressure for even a moment, as Michigan State did. Once Notre Dame got their momentum, they were able to completely turn the game aroound. Michigan State benefitted at the end of the game from lazy refs that didn't feel like making the MSU cheaters get up off their butts with 40 seconds left on the clock and force them to run another play from their 1-yard line, a classic Big Ten ref move. If college had a timed overtime, and not a possession-based one, Notre Dame would have won that game. Period. Michigan State hadn't been able to get field position anytime in the fourth quarter, and the Irish had moving the ball at will. I am a fan of college's overtime system, (except that I would have teams start from the 50) and am not going to use that as an excuse as to why we lost - we lost because we couldn't execute when we needed to. However, MSU got lucky in the end.

Hats off to Brady Quinn, who showed his toughness, and threw five touchdown passes (a school record) and the second-most yards in school history. He put this team on his back at a time when the crowd was no longer in the game and the opponent had all of the momentum, and single-handedly dragged his team back into the game. If Notre Dame had won the game, and not lost, this game would have launched Brady into serious Heisman consideration. As it is, he fell short, and will have to wait until next year to make a case for the Heisman.

Ultimately, it was a couple of mistakes by the Irish that led to their undoing. Asaph Schwapp fumbled the ball on the one yard-line in a contrvoersial call by the officials (upon review, I would argue that it wasn't a touchdown, but that forward progress should have been granted at the one-foot line). Brady threw a costly interception touchdown. Late in the game, our confidence in the offense led to a call that in retrospect was wrong, going for it on 4th and 1 instead of taking a field goal, and turning over the ball on downs. The refs granted MSU forward progress to the one-foot line on a play at the end of the game that, had it been called the same way as the Asaph Schwapp fumble, should have been a safety. The refs (in the biggest mistake I have seen by officials) turned a blind eye to a blatant holding penalty on Third Down in overtime where a MSU defender grabbed Fasano by the shoulderpads and threw him to the ground. On that same play, Stovall was interfered with in the end zone, forcing the Irish to kick a field goal. Two big penalties that the refs didn't call on the same play. Any of these situations would have given the Irish a win, whereas MSU had everything go their way, with the lone exception of a missed 50+ yard field goal. (The Irish missed a 38-yarder, too)

In what (for anyone that knows me) is a complete turnaround, I am actuall not pissed off after this loss. I am disappointed, for sure, but I saw a game that was well-coached, hard-fought, and showed a never-say-die attitude. I have nobody to be pissed at (except maybe the refs, but even then, they called a relatively fair game, if an inconsistent one). I spent the bulk of the last 8 years being pissed off at the coaches for the losses, when they made amateurish mistakes that cost us the game. This game, however was different. Where there mistakes? Yes. But they were mistakes that were a result of risks taken in desperate situations in an effort to win the game. Mistakes in the last few years were more to stop the bleeding or not to lose.

The Irish are back.