Thursday, January 04, 2007

Complete Domination

I don't know what happened in the locker room at the half, but the team that came out in the second half got worse going into the second half.

Coach Weis' playcalling was completely ineffectual, as the offense completely sputtered.

The defense tried hard at the beginning of the half, but from the moment that the review reversed the fumble recovery by Wooden, this defense was beaten. They got tired, and the offense never gave them any opportunity to catch their breath.

Brady Quinn looked downright average in the second half, which is a tremendous credit to the adjustments that the LSU defense made.

We stopped running the ball, and couldn't complete a pass to save our lives.

LSU totally dominated us in the second half, and my confidence in this coaching staff is shaken. Don't get me wrong, I still think that Weis is the savior of Notre Dame football, but our defensive staff needs a complete overhaul. As we get Weis' recruits in here, which will increase the overall strength and speed of the team, we will get back to Notre Dame football.

The worst part of this whole debacle is the draw that Notre Dame got going into the bowl game. LSU got to play a home game against a lower ranked opponent, and as par for the Irish, they were placed in a bowl game above their achievements. If we weren't Notre Dame, we would have gotten a shot at Wake Forest, Boise State, Louisville, or Oklahoma - all teams that we could have beaten. Instead, we were paired against the hottest team in the country, and much like the USC and Mishigan games, we were overmatched.

I'm beginning to think that to break our bowl streak we will be playing in the National Championship, because otherwise we'll consistently be in over our heads.

Congratulations to LSU - they whooped our ass.

The good news - now I get to focus on recruiting for a while. Any high school football player that watched that game can see that we need the help, and I expect us to sign another top 5 class.

So much for "9-3 is not good enough" - 10-3 in this case is actually far worse, as we got blown out of games 3 times, whereas our 3 losses last year were all in close games to the end.

Back to the drawing board.

Wednesday, January 03, 2007

Ironic as it may be

This team has actually benefited from the games this year in which they fell behind early. You see, this team has the look of someone who has been here before. Someone who got knocked down and has gotten up off the mat before.

This team weathered the early storm of emotion, when LSU looked like they would roll, but Coach Weis made some adjustments, the defense settled down and realized that Ja'Marcus Russell isn't the god the media made him out to be. The offense continued to run their game, and all of a sudden the Irish are tied back up.

they just got beat for another deep pass, but the difference between last year and this year is that we caught him and dragged him down before scoring, forcing LSU to earn their score.

And on 1st down, we stopped 'em. Even if they get a score here, (which they just did on a Russell QB draw) we have shown we can hang with this team. In fact, I expect that in the second half, we'll correct the problems in covering Early Doucet, and I think we just might win this game in the end.

A couple of things we need to stay on top of - we need a linebacker in the middle of the field playing a short zone and spying on Russell. Russell doesn't have the speed to get to the edge, but if he gets his load moving up the field, it's like trying to tackle a fullback.

Second, as stated above, we need to contain Early Doucet and force the LSU team to dink and dunk their way down the field. If they don't continue to get the big plays, we will outscore them.

Third, we need to feed the Tigers a steady diet of Darius Walker, seasoned to perfection with a splash of Aldridge and a pinch of Prince. Walker is already over 100 yards, and he is the lubricant that greases the wheel of our passing game. In fact, the last second drive I'm watching right now is classic Brady Quinn. I think this is great practice for the end of the game, when he's going to pull a glorious win out with one of his majestic last minute touchdown drives.

End of 1st half: Notre Dame 14, LSU 21

After the fake punt, they take advantage

Attack our secondary, which was absolutely effective.

We are in BIG trouble.

Touchdown on the second play.

Absolutely not the start we wanted.

This could be another blowout.

I hate the playcalling by Weis, and we failed to execute coming in on defense.

Both of my keys to this game are blown.

Gonna be a long night.

Be back next quarter.

First Series

Kick return goes for a touchback, and Brady leads the team out for the first series. Now is the time to get off to a quick start.

Good decision, threw it away after trying to run a doble screen. A little cheeky for my taste, but it does keep LSU's defensive line from pinning their ears back.

Come back with a dump off, goes for 9 yards, 3rd and short. Smart use of the pressure, show max protect, Darius peels into the flat, pressuring the middle.

TT in at running back, gets the first down. Nice play call.

No gain in our first run with Walker. We can't attack the middle of their line too much. We need to attack the edge a little.

2nd and 10 - close coverage, nearly interference (probably interference on review).

3rd and long, not what we want for the drive. But, nice pitch and catch from Brady to Jeff. Late flag. Stupid call. A little jawing should not pull a flag this early. Absolutely fucking ridiculous. Still, it's a first down.

On first, end around to Jeff, nice block by Brady, but I don't like the call. A little cheeky again. No call on the facemask. Refs are being influenced by the crowd.

Darius gets a nice run on the draw. I expect this to be fairly effective all day.

Dropped pass on 3rd down by Freeman, forced to punt. Good call, poor execution by Freeman, not making them pay for the blitz.

STUPID STUPID STUPID... Fake punt, totally did not surprise LSU. Give up field position, momentum, everything. Could be a gamechanger.

Coin Toss: LSU

LSU defers - we get the ball.

Just as we wanted it.


There is an insanely partisan crowd in the Dome today, and if we want to win this game, we need to get off to a quick start and quiet the crowd.

Key 1: Score First.
Tim Brown pointed out that we are 7-0 this year when we score first, and all of LSU's strengths can be cancelled by an early score - the home field advantage, their first quarter scoring edge, the swagger or superiority, their running game. We MUST score first.

Key 2: Get a stop on the first defensive series.
If we can keep the Tigers from turning this into a shootout, I think that plays in our favor. We will have a rough time if this game gets a-rockin'. We need a controlled, methodical, paced dismantling of the Tigers, not a street brawl.

Live blogging during the game.

I'm watching at home today, and will be updating periodically throughout the game.

Disclaimer: I do not guarantee that I will refrain from cursing and rampant hyperbole for the next three hours. Please take everything I say with a grain of salt.

Monday, January 01, 2007


The game is a mere 48 hours away, and I have cleared some time in my schedule to give my impressions going into the Sugar Bowl.

The first thing that needs to be mentioned about this LSU team is the dichotomy between the LSU team at home and the LSU team on the road. The scores of their home games are: 45-3, 45-3, 49-7, 48-17, 49-0, 38-6, 28-14, and 23-20 (OT), with the close overtime game coming against Ole Miss, who shut down the LSU run game. On the road, LSU scores looked like this: 3-7 (L) 10-23 (L), 28-24, 31-26. All fairly close games or losses.

We need to make this a road game for the Tigers. The Notre Dame faithful need to travel as well as they ever have, and neutralize the potential for this to be a home game for the Tigers.

The second key, as alluded to above, is that we need to stop their run. Everyone in the media is focusing on the three senior speedster receivers for LSU and the accuracy of Louisiana demi-god JaMarcus Russell (QB). However, the LSU rushing attack is what makes their passing game tick, and LSU usually comes out of the gate trying to establish the run, falling back to the pass only if they fall behind.

If LSU runs well early, Nedu and Zibby will have to cheat up to the line of scrimmage to stop their stable of monster running backs (every one of 'em over 225 lbs.). Once we lose our safety support to the play action fake, it is all but over for the Irish. However, if the D-lineman and linebackers can neutralize the running game LSU will not beat us with the pass.

These receivers are good, but Mannningham, Jarrett, and Johnson they are not. The success of their receiving corps is rooted in their ability to spread the ball around - all 3 receivers have between 50 and 60 catches on the year. We need to be able to stay in a nickel package with 3 corners and 2 safeties behind, and neutralize the rush with 4 down linemen and 2 linebackers.

Much has been made of the LSU defense in this game, but I don't think LSU has seen a team with as many options and which operates at such high efficiency as a Weis offense executed by Brady Quinn. We will not score 50, but I'm confident we can get into the 30s if we don't make too many mistakes and can give Brady any time to throw.

We will probably see a lot of draws and screens to counteract the pressure from LSU's defensive line. LSU doesn't blitz very often, because they get so much pressure from their down linemen. This gives them a couple extra pass defenders, which led to their gaudy pass defense numbers. We need to keep their front four pass rush off of Brady, which would force them into a blitzing scheme which Brady can pick apart.

A healthy John Carlson could make the difference in this game. We missed him sorely in the loss to USC, and his return will give us an edge against the linebackers at LSU, which would also relieve some of the pressure on the O-line.

Essentially, Notre Dame needs to get into a rhythm on offense and defense to beat this LSU team, much like they did against Penn State earlier this season. If we can execute reasonably well on both sides of the ball, we can win this game. However, if we struggle in any aspect of the game, we will get beaten. LSU does not have to play their best game to beat us, but we do need to play our best game to beat them.

We do have one decided advantage in this game - coaching. Les Miles is a very good coach, but he has a bad habit of micromanaging his coordinators, leading to a more conservative game plan and less responsive and effective adjustments. Coach Weis is probably the best in the game at in-game adjustments, and this should lead to some golden opportunities for our players.

Ultimately, I think that this game means more to us than it does to LSU. Brady, Jeff, Rhema, Vic, and Ryan all play their last game in an Irish uniform before starting careers in the NFL (or MLB). Having gotten to know the character of Brady over the past few years, I know he is studying hard for this game, and he will not come out hesitant or emotional. He wants this last opportunity to redeem his career at Notre Dame, having fallen short of his national championship aspirations. Further, Brady has a golden opportunity to cement his position at the front of the NFL draft with a solid performance against such a highly ranked pass defense. Coach Weis wants this, too. He has heard too long about Notre Dame not having a signature victory, and while he could care less about the press, he certainly hears some of the same refrains in recruiting, as other coaches try to knock us down.

With a win against LSU, Notre Dame will simultaneously exorcise the bowl game demon that has been plaguing us over the past decade, and Weis can probably leverage such a win into arguably the best recruiting class in history. Quinn can cement his position as the golden boy savior of Notre Dame football, and the best pro QB prospect coming out of college since Elway. Also, this defense can get some much needed respect by controlling such an efficient passing offense.

With a loss, recruitimg will suffer a little bit (we'll have a top 5 class, but not a consensus #1 class). We'll take sole possession of the longest bowl losing streak in history. And Weis' coaching ability will come into question a little bit if he appears to be outcoached by Les Miles. Weis' last four losses have come to Carroll (2 championships), Carr (1 championship), and Tressel (1 championship, playing for another). But a loss to Miles would bring into question his much proclaimed ability to gameplan effectively.

Ultimately, I think that the intangibles that Coach Weis and Brady Quinn bring to the game will allow us to overcome the challenges that LSU presents. I think we'll struggle a little bit early on, but I expect that at the end of the game, the ball will be in Brady's hands with the game on the line.

And once that happens, it's all over but the celebrating.

Final Prediction:

Notre Dame 31
LSU 28