Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Irish Blog Gathering: Domer Law enters the fray

1. With our beloved Irish on the bye this weekend, how much college football will you be watching Saturday and what games are you most looking forward to watching?

Well, I have to work that morning, and I have a date that evening, so I'm not sure how much, if any, football I'll be watching this weekend.

That said, I am most looking forward to the Texas-Missouri game. Mizzou is coming off of an extremely disappointing loss which appears to have derailed their national title and Heisman hopes. Texas is coming off a big win over the top team in the land in a huge rivalry game.

This game spells a classic trap game for Texas. Look for Mizzou to pull away in a shootout.

2. Not to look too far ahead… but in looking at the 2009 schedule, do you think the Irish will be set up for a title run if they continue to improve each week as they are doing now?

The Irish will be in the conversation next year, as the talent on this team continues to grow. Most players make their biggest leap from their sophomore to junior seasons, and with all of the talent in our sophomore class, this team looks poised to do special things next year.

The lack of senior leadership next year may cost us the national title, but we'll be right in the mix - sitting in the same place as a Missouri or Ohio State this year.

3. If you could take 1 recruit we missed on from each of the last 4 years (1 from each year), who would they be and how differently would this team look like right now if we had gotten that 1 player each year? (Note, the players should be players the Irish either led for at one time or were at least a finalist for).

I'm a bit of a recruitnik, so it didn't take me long to come up with this list.

2005 - Lawrence Wilson (OSU) - It's hard to argue with Frankie on this one. He was willing to commit to Willingham, and Weis couldn't hold on to him after Willingham's abrupt exit, stage left. This loss laid the seeds for the struggles we are continuing to have on the defensive line.

2006 - Gerald McCoy (Oklahoma) - Again, hard to argue with the second big whiffer on the D-line in the second straight year. McCoy is a beast and the lack of a playmaker on the D-line behind Trevor Laws is becoming more and more apparent.

2007 - Greg Little (North Carolina) - I would have liked to go with one of the Illini recruits that got away, either Martez Wilson (another D-lineman) or WR Arrelious Benn. But the one that really sticks in my craw is Greg Little. Maybe it's the timing of how it went down, or maybe it's my lingering hatred of Butch Davis from his days at Miami, or maybe it's the fact that we lost out to frickin' North Carolina, but I feel like Greg Little's athleticism and size would have been a great addition to this class.

2008 - Etienne Sabino (Ohio State) - The loss of Omar Hunter hurt, but the player I really wanted from this class was Etienne Sabino. He seemed like a solid Irish lean through much of the recruiting process, but ultimately I think wins and losses swayed him to tOSU.

4. If Notre Dame could only land 1 more recruit on each side the ball in this recruiting class, who would you like it to be? (Again, it should be someone we have a reasonable chance with).

Xavier Nixon - we need to continue to load up on the big uglies to build a foundation for the long-term success of the program. Although the word on the street is that we are not going to land him, I'd like to see us step up our recruiting efforts. We all know that nothing is set in stone until signing day.

Manti Te'o - although I like the young kids on the depth chart at linebacker right now, there is nothing like competition to motivate players. Te'o would be ready to play walking in the door, and would (once again) be a solid foundational player for the long term success of the program.

5. If you could take one of Notre Dame’s bowl losses since the 1994 Cotton Bowl win over Texas A&M and turn it into a win, which one would it be? Why? And What if any impact do you think that win would have had on the Irish.

I have to go with the 2005/06 Fiesta Bowl. I was at the game, and we were in a position to be able to win that game late in the fourth quarter. In fact, I felt that the Irish were the more consistent football team out there on that day, and would have won if they could have held OSU's big play ability in check.

The win would have given that team the signature win it needed to propel them into the offseason, thinking about the one that got away against U$C. We had the offseason hype, and I think that the entire 2006 season is different if we win that game.


So there you have it, my first foray into the Irish Blog Gathering.

I should have some time to blog this weekend, as the apartment is almost finished and I don't have any major plans like I have for the past 2 months. Maybe a little midterm report card is in order.

Monday, October 13, 2008

Keys to Victory: Wheels come off on Tobacco Road

Protect the football.

Despite dominating the game on offense, the Irish turned the ball over a whopping 5 times.

Despite that number, we still almost pulled out the victory.

Once again, I was right about the key to victory being our ability to protect the ball. Unfortunately, this young Irish squad wasn't able to protect the ball, and gave away what should have been a big road victory for the Irish.

Be patient.

For the most part, Clausen passed the test on this one, being patient with the ball and taking what the defense gave - to the tune of over 300 yards passing.

However, Jimmy's youth reared it's ugly head coming out of halftime, where Jimmy wanted to respond to the Tarheel's last minute field goal at the end of the first half. On the very first play from scrimmage, Jimmy tried to force in a throw into triple coverage, rather than throwing the ball away and living to play another down.

Result: 6 points going the other way.

It's often those mistahes that come back to haunt you, and in fact it was that score that ended up being the difference in the game, giving the Tarheels momentum and confidence to start the second half.

Win the field position battle.

Another loss in my keys to victory, the Irish gave up an average of 11 yards on field position this week, which is a full first down.

That is how, despite outgaining the opponent and largely holding their offense to field goals, they can be in the position to lose the game at the end.


Despite the pain of the loss, this game was everything I expected it to be.

The loss was a growing pain for a young team, caused not by a lack of talent or because of matchup problems, but instead caused by our own freshman and sophomore mistakes.

Not to take too much from North Carolina's victory, but I don't think anyone out there thought that UNC was the better team on the field for 60 minutes.

They were opportunistic and caused some timely turnovers, which was the difference in the game. And I'm willing to give them full credit for that.

But the Irish moved the ball up and down the field at will, and this would have been a blowout by the Irish if they could have gotten out of their own way, going -5 in the turnover battle.

I can tell you that, of all of the Irish losses in the past decade, this one hurts the least. Nobody expected these Irish to go much better than 9-3 or 8-4, and that is exactly the pace they are on at the halfway point. This young team is fun to watch, and anyone on the sideline has to be sitting around in awe of the youth on this team.

Just imagine for a moment what this team will look like in two years (barring losses due to injury, leaving early for the draft, or getting passed on the depth chart):

QB Jimmy Clausen, Sr. (four year starter)
RB Armando Allen, Sr. (four year starter)
WR Golden Tate, Sr. (four year starter)
WR Michael Floyd, Jr. (three year starter)
WR Duval Kamara, Sr. (four year starter)
TE Kyle Rudolph, Jr. (three year starter)
NT Ian Williams, Sr. (four year starter)
DE Ethan Johnson, Jr. (three year starter)
LB Harrison Smith, Sr. (three year starter)
LB Brian Smith, Sr. (three year starter)
LB Kerry Neal, Sr. (three year starter)
CB Gary Gray, Sr. (three year starter)
CB Robert Blanton, Jr. (three year starter)

That's just sick.