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Monday, May 14, 2012

Week 4 (2009): Psssssssstttttttt

That’s the sound of Terry’s optimism and frankly, energy leaking away. 

"I'm glad one of us is having fun..."
Midway through the 4th Quarter, sitting in crap end zone seats next to a wife who was too polite to ask me ‘why the f*** are we here?!’, I found myself thinking I can’t do this any more… yet another clearly inferior – albeit spirited – opponent which we seem to always play down to.  A game closer than it ought to be.  I absolutely agree that last year, we lose this game so that does represent progress but still… I keep expecting a greater step change in improvement than we’re seeing. It’s become the proverbial “if its not one thing, its another…”  last night a reasonably stalwart defensive effort almost goes for naught because a) the offense cannot impose their will and b) the defense just can’t quite keep it together. Oh and let’s not forget punt coverage for their conscientious efforts to keep Purdue in the game.

 It felt like an existential nightmare. 

Bergman meets Ground Hog's Day.

So I found myself asking, what cosmic deity did ND aggreive that would lead to this level of bad karma? Why do I keep subjecting myself to this? And why do I think anything’s going to change? If you got the answers to these, let me know…

And so…

The Good – more than the score might suggest.
ü  Charlie. Props to Big Chuck for trying to manage a game without a Floyd / Allen / a hurting Clausen (he’s clearly in far worse shape than they’re letting on).
ü  Jimmy.  As you all know, I don’t think he has a lot to prove any more but that last drive might’ve saved a season and a whole bunch of coaching jobs.  He’s a much, much tougher kid than his infamous SoCal image belies. It’s my impression that his bad toe affects his maneuverability more than his passing. He’s not fast but when healthy he’s fast enough to buy more time – and he’s clearly not able to do that right now.
ü  Golden. Stepped up and his wildcat performance was something of a revelation – it almost makes you wonder what’s his best position?
ü  Dayne.  For his first significant playing time, in pressure situations, I’d give him a solid C+ (but a B when one factors him having to play w Kumara). He missed a long TD throw but he probably won’t the next time. You’d like to think this will play dividends later on, either later this season – probably next week – or if Jimmy bails for the NFL after this year.
ü  Nick Tausch.  Like a lineman where ‘no news is good news’, this kid has quietly become pretty solid.  And his consistent kickoffs into the left-hand corner are an under-rated skill. I would’ve liked to see him have a FG chance at the end of the 1st Half.
ü  Todd Blackledge.  TV commentators are often easy targets for perceived anti-ND sentiment but I thought he was pretty balanced and pretty insightful – especially his pointing out how Jimmy requiring the shotgun affected play calling.

The Bad – ‘death by a thousand cuts’.
ü  The middle ‘D’. We’re just flat out weak. I could be wrong but it seems to me that Brian Smith is a better OLB than inside.  And I’d stick T’eo in tomorrow and never take him out. At least when he hits people they go down. If I’m Steve Sarkesian, I’m planning a steady diet of short crossing patterns next week.
ü  Special teams. How can we not have a better punter? Maust seems to have gotten progressively worse! And as for the lack of awareness on punt coverage… of course if one never knows how far the punt is actually going to travel, that may be a contributing factor.
ü  The long snap. Jimmy was constantly having to scoop snaps up – and I kept noticing that while in the wildcat formation, whenever the snap got floated it seemed to throw off the whole timing. At any rate, this ‘small’ thing needs to get corrected.
ü  2nd / 3rd WR. Still waiting for someone to identify themselves – and the entire offense just seems lost without that one extra ‘go to’ guy. Perhaps this had to do with playing on the road with a lot of ‘new parts’ in the offense.
ü  Darren Walls.  You’re supposed to be a wisened senior – so why intercept a 4th down pass that puts your offense at least 15-20 yds deeper in its own terrible. Symptomatic of how out of sorts our pass coverage is… here’s a thought:  play tight.  And I say that not sarcastically.  The worst rule in college football is the 15 yard pass interference penalty no matter how far down the field the infraction occurs – so if that’s the case, how bad can the downside be?  If they blow by you, just tackle ‘em.
ü  Sam Young.  The predictability of him a) blowing a snap count or b) holding at crucial time has become almost laughable – if it wasn’t really something to laugh about. Honestly if he is even drafted next Spring it’ll be shocking to me.

The Ugly – ‘it doesn’t take many of these to ruin a season’.

ü  Olé. We are the worst tackling team in the country. That is, when we even touch the opponent.  Did our defense think we it was flag football? Maybe you can try to blame this on Tenuta but if his players tackle that game shouldn’t even be close.
ü  Duval Kumara.  Pop quiz!  In an obscure African language, his name means which of the following:
§  “Drive Killer.”
§  “Shit for Brains.”
§  “Waste of a Scholarship.”
§  All of the Above.

Schadenfruede winner of the week.  With so many ranked teams losing, it was a tough call but I have to go with my heart, Penn State.  Ranked ridiculously high for reasons I can’t fathom, anything that upsets that fossil Paterno makes me happy.

The Rolodex. Whether it’s fair or not, I’m guessing Jack Swarbrick’s coaching rolodex gets pulled out of the drawer on Monday; not sure it gets opened but it’s in arm’s reach.

In closing, I call on the 19th Century political thinker and historian Alexis de Tocqueville (in his optimistic phase) to give us a kernel to hang our hat on. He said, “…the greatness of America lies not in being more enlightened than any other nation but rather in her ability to repair her faults."

Now granted, he was French and never had to deal with turf toe or unrealistic alumni – but could anything sound more apropos for ND football?  Let’s hope the team can follow that sage insight.

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