So where does one fall, at this point, on the state of Notre Dame football? Does one agree with Thoreau that seeing is believing? (And after three straight dominant defensive efforts, it’s a compelling point of view.) Or does one take a more… considered, Gumpian approach – that we still don’t know what you’re going to get?
But I digress – and begin this missive by appropriately blaming Castellini for the delay in this review.
|"Dude, I don't care how skinny you are now,|
leave a brother some overhead space..."
I had my thoughts outlined last Sunday until Jerry’s permission slip to ‘take my time’ came out… then I noticed an ant in my home office – curious this time of year I thought – and in my increasingly ADD state, that was all she wrote. The next thing I know it was Thursday and I'm flying back from NYC, sitting next to Al Roker, who did bogart all of the overhead compartment space. (But the last laugh was actually on the citizenry of Winnetka – where Al was going for a mystery book signing. Huh? Apparently he (and a presumably well compensated ghost writer) cranks out novels for the legion of Today Show lovers. God help us all. But at least I now have my Christmas present for Lini…
So here I am, reflecting on an important streak-breaking win, a 7-5 season and a team that really truly did show up in November – and hung tough when a little adversity struck. When is the last time we saw that?!
Word of the Week.
re•sil•ient / / [ri-zil-yuh nt, -zil-ee-uh nt]
1. springing back; rebounding.
2. returning to the original form or position after being bent, compressed, or stretched.
3. recovering readily from illness, depression, adversity, or the like; buoyant.
1635–45; < L resilient- (s. of resiliēns ), prp. of resilīre to spring back, equiv. to re- re- + -sil-, comb. form of salīre to leap, jump + -ent- -ent); see salient
1. elastic, flexible, springy.
Stream of conscious observations…
Pre-game... TV pans to a shot of Lane Kiffin, his face devoid of the burden of original thought or moral consequences. And I just want to smack the bejesus out of him.
“What me worry? I’ve got a credentialed dad, a hot wife and the sleaziest recruiting director in all the land… Life is good.”
· > 1st USC play: pass hits Harrison Smith in the hands. And he drops it. Yeesh.
o He is nothing if not consistent.
· > 3 and out.
· > How can John Goodman possibly be the very best option we have at punt returner?
· > Manti plants RoJo – man, do USC’s WR’s look huge.
· > Rees INT #1 – no doubt he probably telegraphed it but it was still a really athletic play by the USC LB.
o Defense plays very tough, 0-3 USC.
o It is not lost on me that in past years (or even earlier in the season) SC scores a TD.
· > Epiphany #1: The Defense is going to have to win this game.
· > Give Kelly this: he has shown remarkable patience on Offense – Weis never would've stayed with the run this long.
· > Michael Floyd, possession receiver. Not that there’s anything wrong with that.
· > Tommy Rees just throws an “I’ve got your 99 luft-balloons right here, Terry” fastball to Michael Floyd. Touchdown. ND 7, USC 3.
· > When’s the last time we were ever ahead in a game against these guys?
o Magically, the TV tells me: the 4th quarter of the ‘Bush Push’ game.
· > Unbelievably heads up play by Kumara, reaching back with the ball to cross the plane of the goal line. ND 14, USC 3.
· > I like Todd Blackledge’s commentary, generally. But for as much as he (accurately) pointed out the officials putting time back on the clock, he didn’t mention how the local time keeper continually tried to screw ND’s time management in that entire final hurry up drive.
· > 1st possession: INT #2. And a really bad one – not only was it a poor pass but the player he was targeting was triple covered.
· > Defense holds. All props to ND but this is clearly not the dominant Trojan team we’re used to seeing.
· > Maybe it’s the weather tonight but Turk the Punter has been a disappointment this whole year. Sometimes a major one.
· > One wonders what would happen if Rees could ever advance his passes past the line of scrimmage.
· > 2nd turnover of the half. The defense deserves better.
· > Offensively, USC is… not good.
· > Tommy advances his throw past the line of scrimmage. INT #3 (and 4th turnover of the night) – all in our own territory! It’s a wonder we’re even in this game.
· > Season defining drive begins. Robert Hughes, you are THE MAN.
· > Maybe if USC stopped trying to do the NFL strip the ball and actually try and tackle the opposition, they’d be a little better at defense.
· > Bummer, RoJo. God may be your co-pilot but apparently He’s our Free Safety.
· > As an aside, Terry screams like a little girl on that particular play – resulting in a) freaking out the already skittish cat and b) getting an immediate scolding from Lisa for freaking out the cat.
· > Game over. Karma’s a bitch, Lane.
Now time for quiet reflection, with Mr. Single Malt:
Ch Ch Changes…
|"Just gonna have to be a different man"|
Let’s hear it for Brian Kelly and his ability to adapt – not only to the circumstances dictated by all of the significant injuries he had to work around but the profound adjustment to dealing with The Notre Dame Machine. In years past, there were always questions about the caliber of the coach we’ve hired – Davie, Willingham, Weis – but with Kelly, that didn’t seem to be the case. I don’t think many thought he wasn’t a quality hire. And even while he was making some questionable on-field decisions, it was clear to me that he was dealing with a lot of other forces at work… not the least of which is the fan base’s expectations that, at times, are the program’s own worst enemy.
Bravo, coach. And while many are conflicted about going to a bowl, I for one, am pretty excited about seeing whether they can keep the momentum going. The one thing I most remember about coach Holtz was his ability, when given a bye week or more, to prepare the team and beat anybody. Kelly showed a little of that with the Utah game, let’s see if he can keep that going…
Brian & Silent Bob Strike Back
|"WTF, Bob - Harrison actually held onto that ball..."|
Okay, I totally stole this reference from a journalist but it was too perfect not too use. Coach Diaco no longer speaks to the media after the whole post-Navy “uh, my bad. We actually never had a back-up plan” admission. (Send that man for additional media training.) but who cares if he doesn’t speak? His defense is (now) fundamentally sound and assignment sure. Plus he’s got the same (presumed) under achievers from last year playing with confidence – and competence. Gee, maybe coaching does matter.
Song of the Week.
Tough call as I ponder what song to share with the brethren… do I go syrupy literal (Graham Parker’s “The Sun Is Gonna Shine Again”) – not for this is a bunch of hard core cynics. How about metaphorical (The Doors’ ‘Land Ho!’)? I think not – only the Arts & Letters majors (and Raz) will understand it. Having just gone to the John Mellencamp concert at the Chicago Theatre the night before the game, Indiana’s First Son gets the call. “Serious Business”, this song goes out to you, coach Kelly.
You ain’t goin’ nowhere -
Gonna sit by this pool until you fall in.
Didn’t know what you were getting into
When you walked into this room, did you kid?
This is serious business,
Sex and violence and rock ‘n roll.
Take my heart and take my soul.
Put me on the cross for all to see…
Put my name around my neck,
Let those people throw stones at me.
Serious Business, indeed. If Kelly didn’t know it before he took the job, he does now. And it’s a song that should belong on everyone’s i-Pod…
Terry’s Tool Time.
v Lane Kiffin. Throwing basically everyone under the bus – except yourself – in your post-game commentary. While you're pondering ‘what happened”, consider this: your team is as good as it’s going to get for you. And your Dad’s defense was supposed to be your saving grace. Uh oh. If you see Year 4 of your contract, I’ll be shocked.
v Teague Egan. In the entitled “don’t hate me because I’m rich, hate me because I’m a tool” category, requiring no explanation after reading the article Jay forwarded last week: http://www.latimes.com/sports/college/usc/la-sp-simers-20101130,0,1870836,full.column
v Donna Shalala. I can't help but notice that Miami fired a coach (a lauded ex-player, at that) because he cleaned up the program - got rid of the thugs, started graduating his players but didn’t win sufficiently enough. Way to lead from the top, Ms. President.
Schadenfreude Winner of the Week.
This week the theme was “Return to Tradition:
Ø USC. Thank you, Jay, for sharing the meltdown of the USC message boards.
Ø Florida. Spanked by in-state rival FSU. Never in the game. How’s that post-Tebow era working out for you, Urbie? Expect coach Meyer to take his recruiting machine to a new (low) level of Machiavellian desperation.
Ø Michigan. Thumped by Ohio State (ugh). RichRod really on the hot seat. Want him fired? You and the rest of Wolverine Nation. But ND fans, be careful what you wish for…
Ø Miami. Hey Seantrel, care to re-think that college choice? Maybe rappin’ was your true calling… and apparently, see you in El Paso in three weeks.
|"Coach, I know Stevie wears some |
odd stuff but she can really recruit..."
That particular Fleetwood Mac album was Album of the Year in 1977 (incidentally the same year Peter discovered women, had his first adult beverage and abandoned a lifelong dream of the priesthood), stayed on top of the Billboard 200 for 31 consecutive weeks and sold over 10 million copies worldwide in its first year…
It’s also the best part of this time of year, provided you're a school not in desperate need of a new coach. Sit back and enjoy the ‘sturm und drang’ of what coach is going where. Or not.
· Who gets the Miami job?
· When does Michigan pull the trigger on Rodriguez?
· Where does Harbaugh end up?
It’s nice to not be a part of that conversation, for once.
The Theory of Relativity
Our ending up 7-5 reminds me a common golfing phenomenon, for me at least: walking off the course happier than a colleague despite shooting significantly worse.
|"Rage, rage rage... do not go |
gentle into that good clubhouse..."
The theory goes something like this: Golfer “A”, we’ll call him Lars, shoots an 83 but because he’s a 7 handicap, acts like a total dick in the bar afterward, obsessing about all the shots he left on the course. Golfer “B”, Lance, plays so infrequently he doesn’t even have a legitimate handicap. But he shoots a 95 and is over the moon ecstatic. His Amex card is behind the bar lightning fast, buying everything for everybody, even his self-absorbed pal Lars, who orders something appropriately dark and pretentious (“what would Dylan Thomas drink?”)
|"Ergo, a 7-5 ND team is ≥ a Michigan or |
Miami program with the exact same record..."
Such is the interesting case of Notre Dame’s performance this year. Objectively, 7-5 is not particularly stellar – heck, it’s only one game better than last year. Other programs with similar records are firing their coaches! And yet, in the absence of a greater set of data points, it feels better. A lot better. Optimistic. And how can it not be, with all of the injuries the team endured… an 18 yr old QB that wouldn’t have started for Northwestern. At any rate, that’s the story we’ll stick to – and more importantly, what the coaches will sell during the rest of recruiting and the off season.
All (relatively) quiet on the western front. For now. We picked up a highly touted black QB, skilled in the spread (and a talented enough point guard to be invited to walk on at UNC).
Which is nice.
The lad is an early enrollee so we may see him on the basketball court before the football field. Suffice it to say, if Tommy Rees was feeling terribly comfortable (highly doubtful anyway), he probably won't be by March.
At any rate, there’s likely to be a few more decisions pre-Christmas… then the flurry of announcements at the All Star games in early January and finally, the final decisions that final week of the recruiting period in early Feb. Again, if we win the bowl, one would think this could end very well for ND.
But coaches must just hate this.
Winner winner, chicken dinner!!! In the spirit of ‘they don’t ask how, they ask how many’, this year’s monetary “Oracle of du Lac” award for prescience goes to Gerard Wills, Dennis Ryan and Michael Gordon. And I think I speak on behalf of (most) everyone in saying we’re delighted you won, given where we were four weeks ago.
Now everyone below needs to start ponying up their $25 if they haven’t already.
A Non Sequiter to leave you with…
|Greatest. Magazine Cover. Ever.|
Happy holidays everyone!