Tuesday, October 27, 2009

IBG: Halloween at the Alamo Edition

This week's Irish Blogger Gathering is hosted by Whiskey over at One foot Down.

1. The 7-4-1 scheduling model has been the subject of much heated debate amongst Irish fans since it was first announced back in 2006. This week the Fighting Irish will play the first neutral site “barnstorming game” in said model so now is as good of a time as any to weigh in on the controversial subject. What do you think about a) 7-4-1 as a whole, b) the neutral site/ barnstorming game in general and c) specifically playing Washington State in San Antonio.

(a) I hate the 7-4-1, not as a concept, but as a limitation. I like having 7-4-1 as a goal, but if sticking to the 7-4-1 is going to cost us a series against Miami or Alabama, scrap it to get those games done. The biggest problem with the 7-4-1 is that it creates too many "buy" games, where we cannot offer an opponent a return trip.
(b) I feel very similar about the barntorming game. I love the idea, its the implementation that I would like to fix. The idea of playing a quality opponent at a neutral site as a sort of mid-season bowl game is great! The only problem is, scheduling a marquis opponent has been a problem. Apparently, the big conferences are thumbing their noses at the idea of playing a neutral site game in their "conference footprint," leaving us to play, for example, a Pac-10 team in Big-12 country. I could deal with that, but the other issue is that we are insisting on treating this as a "home" game for revenue purposes, leaving the marquis opponents feeling slighted. Forget the money - there's plenty to go around. Let's split the revenues down the middle and find a way to play Alabama in the Orange Bowl. Texas in the Rose Bowl. Ohio State in the Cotton Bowl. Florida State in the Superdome. Wisconsin at FedEx Field in DC.
(c) I was concerned about this game at first. I thought nobody would go. But then, I remembered that this fan base is positively obsessed with their Irish. Hell, if I had the money and the time, I'd sure as hell be there. I know Sarah over at Bad Trade is going. Heck, half of the people I invited to my big Halloween Party are going. Of course, I wish the opponent were somewhat better than Washington State, but who knew that the Cougars would be one of the absolute worst teams in all of college football when they got here? If I recall, they do play in a major conference (Pac-10) and have been in the Rose Bowl as recently as 2002.

2. I have personally had this game circled on the schedule for quite some time as the one “sure thing.” After the last few games I have really been looking forward to a drama free victory. As luck would have it I started looking at the Cougars more closely this morning and it appears that freshman quarterback Jeff Tuel went 28 of 42 for 354 yards and 2 TD’s in a losing effort against Cal over the weekend. With the Irish secondary still struggling to get it together what are the chances that yet another freshman signal caller makes this one way more interesting than it should be on Saturday night in San Antonio?


I'm sorry, but the deficiencies in our pass defense may be bad, but this Washington State team is simply not equipped (as our past several opponents have) to handle the pressure up front. We'll actually see these blitzes get to the quarterback, and everyone will think our problems are solved, when they are in fact just masked by a weak offensive line.

If this game becomes a nailbiter, the heat on Coach Weis will turn up immensely. This team is ranked 119th in Sagarin's computer ratings, and 125th by his predictor (we're 20th and 22nd, respectively, in those categories).

We should walk out onto that field and quite smiply manhandle these kids. This should get ugly by early in the second half, and we should get plenty of time to watch Dayne Crist work.

If that is not the case, then this team is far further away then I thought.

We've had some nailbiters, but they came against a Michigan team that still thought they were pretty good (and in the Big House), a Michigan State team that has had our number at home the previous 6 times, a Purdue team that is young but talented and growing (oh, and who beat a top 5 Ohio State team as well), a USC team that has owned us for the better part of a decade, and Boston College, who always treats the Notre Dame game as their biggest game of the year (and who was 5-2 coming in, in case you forgot). Their Sagarin rankings? 46/48, 43/36, 75/62, 5/5, and 38/31 respectively. Only Purdue was ranked out of the top 50.

This Washington State team is not in that category. 119/125.

3. Assuming that the Fighting Irish are able to take care of business and put this one away early what non-starters would you most like to see get some reps this week? Why?

Obviously, Dayne Crist. With Jimmy Clausen facing a big decision about whether to come back next season, this is a golden opportunity to get some meaningful snaps for the heir apparent. Indeed, I want to see us give him the chance to throw the ball around the field a little bit in a live game.

Next in line would be the offensive line backups. I know we rotate them in right now, but I'd like to give next year's starting 5 quite a bit of time to play together and develop their chemistry.

4. With the game being played on Halloween Night chances are that if you are not traveling to San Antonio you most likely have a scheduling conflict. Whether you are supposed to be at a party dressed as Fat Elvis, taking your kids trick-or-treating or just dealing with your doorbell ringing nonstop how do you plan to watch the game? If you are going what are you most looking forward to?

As stated earlier, I am throwing a massive party at my house. Of course, said massive party will also involve a very large and very raucous game-watch. There will be around 100 other people capable of answering the door and handing out candy. My butt will be front and center watching the football game. I'll mingle with guests while I celebrate the blowout.

5. Trick or Treat? Predictions please.

Treat! Or is it Tate? The Irish should fire out of the gate here, looking to put this whole "Cardiac Catholics" thing they've got going on away for at least one week. Of course, knowing Coach Weis, he'll let off the gas up 28 points.

Notre Dame 42
Washington State 3

By the way, I still need a costume for Halloween. Please post your ideas in the comments section.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

This is a process

So, our pass defense is bad. Like, really, really, really bad. Just awful.

But, even though they spent much of the day making the nation's 106th ranked pass offense look like the next coming of the Greatest Show on Turf, the pass defense did get some turnovers, and ultimately did enough to bail out our offense and get that ugly BC monkey off our back.

And while I was watching that game and pining for the return of Michael Floyd, I kept reminding myself that we are ALMOST there. We're clearly not ACTUALLY there, but we're getting close. I had to remind myself that this is a team that is still growing, and that once we get healthy, we should be a great team.

But after watching that game, the other thing I couldn't help thinking was that Corwin Brown is not a good coach. I like Corwin, and I've heard him speak a few times. He's a GREAT recruiter, and he can motivate as well as anyone I've ever seen. But, it just doesn't seem like he's doing a very good job of teaching these kids the fundamental skills necessary to defend against the pass.

Yes, it's hard to defend against the pass when we aren't getting any pressure on the quarterback. And for that reason, I'm done with this Jon Tenuta experiment as well. If this is what's going to happen when we blitz 80% of the time, I don't want it.

And what's really frustrating about this abysmal pass defense is that, on paper, the defensive secondary was supposed to be the strength of this defense.

Indeed, if this defense were well coached and playing up to the level of their talent, we would easily be undefeated and clearly in the middle of the National Championship conversation.

And we SHOULD be in the thick of the conversation next year - especially if Jimmy comes back.

So, I'm now advocating for a change. I don't want to get rid of Coach Weis - he has rebuilt the foundation of this football program, and his offense is clearly not the problem (although, I'm sick of settling for field goals). What I'm advocating for is a wholesale change on the defensive side of the ball.

Swarbrick should work with Coach Weis to identify the best defensive coordinator in the country, and do whatever it takes to lure them to South Bend. I would essentially make him a co-head coach, and let him handle the defense. Let Coach Weis handle the offense. And if we can teach the kids on this defense the fundamentals of defense, we can win a title.

We don't need any more players - the talent is there. It's not a talent issue. Indeed, I don't even think it's a scheme issue. I think this team is lacking in someone who is teaching the fundamentals of sound defensive football.

I watched the practice video from last week, and although it's just a snippet, I was frustrated by the lack of direction being given to the secondary in a tackling drill. They were basically being told to do "whatever it takes" to make the tackle. They weren't being corrected on form and technique.

Maybe that happens in some other drill, I don't know. But I do know that, as a long-time swim teacher, you need to take every opportunity that presents itself as a teaching moment to help correct mistakes and errors.

So, lets make a change. Get someone in here capable of developing the skill sets necessary to be successful.

Because from my seats, this is unacceptable.