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Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Week 9 (2012): Reality Check

"There is a fifth dimension beyond that which is known to man. It is a dimension as vast as space and as timeless as infinity. It is the middle ground between light and shadow, between science and superstition, and it lies between the pit of man's fears and the summit of his knowledge. This is the dimension of imagination. It's an area which we call the 'A' Lot... " 

Please, call me 'mom'... 
This week started so promising - I was finally able to get my hands on the summer's cult movie hit, "The Cabin In The Woods",  a film that follows on last week's provocation ("can one get zombies to do household chores?") with an even greater vision:  can one turn a Zombie Apocalypse into a gambling opportunity?  (Spoiler Alert:  you betcha!)   Plus, the movie is virtually a PSA for such handy reminders as:

    1.  If, en route to your rustic vacation home, you stop and a creepy, old dude tells you he knows the place you're going and oh, you're gonna die, adjust your plans accordingly.
    2.  While at said rustic cabin and a trap door to a heretofore unknown cellar flies open, DO NOT GO DOWN THERE.
    3.  However, if you do, make sure you take a slutty blonde with you so she can die first.
    4.  Being ridiculously high is, in actual fact, a viable defense strategy in zombie warfare!
    "I don't care what Vegas says, take the points."
    5.  If ever given the chance to lay down a wager on Healthy, Young College kids v. Redneck, Torture Lovin' Zombies, take the Undead and give the points - no matter what the spread is.
    6.  If you're a proponent of reducing government's responsibilities in your life, see this movie before finalizing your position.
    "We're here to help..."

    At any rate, an incredibly clever, unique movie and a fitting reminder that no matter how well you think you know something - a genre, an opponent, your government - there is always the potential to be surprised.  

    Which brings us to this week's Pitt game...

    Song of the Week
    Lou Holtz once said this about being head coach of Notre Dame and the one-way expectations that come with it:  "When I first started, everybody said they just wanted us to be competitive. That first season in 1986 we went 5-6 and lost five games by a total of 14 points. But people said, 'No, when we said competitive, we meant we want you to win.' So the next year we went 8-4 and played in a New Year's Day bowl. But they said, 'No, when we said we want you to win, we meant win them all.' So the next year we went 12-0 and won the national championship. But they said, 'No, you don't understand, we meant we want you to win big.'"

    Suffice to say, the relationship between ND Nation and their football coach is, even in the best of times, complicated.  Picture then this song as a conversation between Coach Kelly and ND Nation..

    You only know what I want you to
    I know everything you don't want me to
    Oh your mouth is poison, your mouth is wine
    Oh you think your dreams are the same as mine
    Oh I don't love you but I always will

    I guess it's a good thing that Kelly has started to deliver on expectations with this surprisingly successful season.  But we are a distressingly high maintenance bunch, with a patience of a child and at times, even less sense of perspective. 

    The Civil Wars.  Hope you like it.

    Word of the Week
    PERTINACIOUS  per·ti·na·cious adjective \ˌpər-tə-ˈnā-shəs\

    1a  adhering resolutely to an opinion, purpose, or design
      b  perversely persistent

    2   stubbornly tenacious
    — per·ti·na·cious·ly adverb
    — per·ti·na·cious·ness noun
    — per·ti·nac·i·ty  noun

    • Latin pertinac-, pertinax, from per- thoroughly + tenac-, tenax tenacious, from tenēre
    • First Known Use: 1626
    Synonyms:  dogged, insistent, patient, persevering, persistent, tenacious
    Antonyms:  acquiescent, agreeable, amenable, compliant, complying, flexible, pliable, pliant, relenting, yielding

    Used in a sentence... By the time the 4th quarter came, the pertinacious Notre Dame team simply refused to accept defeat despite all their prior poor play.

    Random Observations Of The Game


    Final 2012 'A' Lot appearance for this kid and whereas I forgot the court photographer to record this important occasion, a big thanks to all the gang for another championship season.  

    Come to think of it, wouldn't a national tailgate playoff be just beyond awesome?!  The mind reels.  Bloody Mary's, prime rib, Martin's chicken, the inevitable beer-shooting competition (I'm reasonably certain we'd win the women's division hands down...)

    At any rate... Jerry / Jay / Bob / Peter / Jim, once again you do your university degrees proud, however suspect the manner in which you actually obtained them.  And behalf of all of us who took advantage of your extraordinary generosity and good taste, THANK YOU!!!

    1st Quarter

    *  The good news:  first couple series, ND offense moves like a hot knife through butter.
    *  The bad news:  Everett misses a seemingly obvious reads and we settle for FG.
    *  Ray Graham is fast.  KeiVarare Russell is faster.
    *  Shaky PI call on ND - is it gonna be one of those days?
    *  Do we even practice any kick returns any more?
    *  63 yd. run by Wood called back on another borderline holding call.
    *  Mayock talks Golson footwork and technique - sure enough, EG proves him correct.
         * end of Q1, he's 8-11 with really only one poor pass.
      2nd Quarter

      *  1st and goal for ND on the 2... and we're stoned 3x.  
          *  Two very long drives and only 6 pts.  Not good.
      *  9:40 left and Louis Nix III makes his first appearance.
      *  Pitt loves the screen pass. I wish we did too.
      *  Farley simply can't tackle with the cast on his hand.  TD,  6-10, Pitt
      *  EG's helmet comes off, Tommy comes in and immediately throws it to Tyler, incomplete.  It's almost comical how predictable that latter action has become.
      *  Pitt, stopped on both 3rd/4th and 1... Tuitt and Carlo but probably not a coincidence that Louis was in.
      *  You know its not your day when TJ drops a pass that hits him in the hands.
      *  Brindza from 43 yds.  Or not.  I am no longer amused by your unpredictability, Kyle.

        3rd Quarter
        *  Interesting:  Golson, 9-15 and 88 yds in the 1st half.  Yet he gets benched and its not even controversial.
        *  Davonte Neal misjudges punt, lets it roll another 15+ yds.  Last year's fair catch strategy is looking pretty good right now.
        *  Davaris Daniels is quietly having a pretty good game.
        *  And... Rees gifts an INT to Pitt.  Ouch.
        *  Awesome TE middle screen for Pitt.  Very clever. Where can we get one of those?
        *  TD, 6-17 Pitt.  And they're making it look easy.  
        *  "Our special teams are wretched!", watching Pitt break off yet another long PR.
        *  Ray Graham pretty darn good.
        *  1st and goal on ND's 2. 
        *  But no!  Stopped w just a FG!  Still, not looking good.  6-20, Pitt.

        4th Quarter
        *  4th and 1, ND QB draw, gain of 7.
        *  Vertical passing game just not there; me thinks we're just a little too impatient.
        *  4th and 4.  Completely phantom PI call for Eifert.  I'll take it!
        *  TD on way cool bubble screen and... Brinza misses the PAT. Unbelievable.  As perhaps thing I might have a modicum of insight for, that is not easy to do.  12-20, Pitt. 
        *  Okay, Mike, we get it.  You didn't like the PI call.  Move on.
        *  Mom calling. She and a neighbor just cracked a bottle of wine.  Don't even be thinking of drunk dialing me later...
        *  Irish Chocolate, playing all the time now. 
        *  Ball on our own 2.  One play later, Golson goes for 27.  Poor man's Denard! 
        *  2nd and goal.  Baaaadddd INT.  "You take the good with the bad."  True dat.
        *  50 yd. drive in :58 and basically all of it Golson-manufactured, incl. the 2 pt. conversion
        *  2:11 left - this is where we typically go passive and lose the game...
        *  Sack by Te'o and Diaco says, "I got your passive right here, bub!"
        *  Shembo is a pass rushing machine.
        *  1:44 left and Golic trips Golson on the 1st play.  Will there ever be ONE GAME where we don't hear Mike Golic, Jr. making an impact play?!


        "Your mother was a hamster
        and your father smelled of elderberries!"
             Yet another weird penalty called, something about us verbally confusing Pitt's signals, huh? What's next... we get penalized for calling them names?

              *  Cierre, YES YES NOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!!

        "Missed it by that much..."

        *  I'm glad Mayock thinks this is fun.     

        *   Wide right!                      

        *  Golson, TD!  How fitting.   

        Summary Thoughts

        My ever evolving perceptions on the season... 
        1. We're not playing for the National Championship.  Not this year.  When you're excellent in only one (defense) out the three phases of football - and the other two, you're wildly inconsistent (offense) or marginal at best (special teams), it's just ain't happening.  Sorry.
        2. ND football is like watching the NBA - why bother paying attention until halfway through the 4th Quarter.
        3. Two words for Brian Kelly (no, not those two):  flu shots.
        4. A working hypthesis re the O-line:  they aren't dominant but they are well conditioned. Which  leads to great disappointment when they try and impose their will early - but impressive results late in the game.
        5. Golson and the Denard analogy:  Not always a good thing but (increasingly) when we seem to need it most, a great thing. As Mayock said, you take the good with the bad.
        6. That said, his decision making has got to improve. And for that reason, it would not surprise me if Gunner seriously challenges for starting QB in the Spring.
        7. About Mayock.  First, he's from Philadelphia -'nuff said. Second, he wasn't hired to be an 'ND homer'. He's supposed to be objective.  He may have been a bit off his game Saturday, analysis-wise, but ND Nation needs to relax about him openly rooting for Pitt... that's rubbish.  He was loving the drama of a possible upset and ND responding to the challenge. It was pretty cool. Next to Tom Hammond's increasingly bold choices of eye liner, I think he's the best thing to ever happen to NBC's coverage.
        8. How's this for Notre Dame QB irony:  one seems to commit his passes too quickly because of poor arm strength; the other waits too long for the opposite reason
        9. After nine games, here's the team 'glue', those guys you can always depend on:
          • offense:  Eifert, Riddick, Jones
          • defense:  Te'o, Motta, Nix
        10. "You never notice a refrigerator running until it stops."  That's Irish Chocolate. 
        11. Why are we so mediocre at home?  The lads aren't breaking parietals are they?!

        If This Week's Game Were A Movie Poster, It'd Be... Straw Dogs

        "Everyone Has A Breaking Point...""

        Okay, the original Sam Peckinpah / Dustin Hoffman vehicle was waaay better but it had a different tagline... at any rate, this is a film about passivity moving into shockingly sudden action.  Violent action. 

        And while perhaps not perfect language to describe this game, it's close enough:  one got the feeling that by the 4th quarter, ND's defense finally said, "We're done fooling around, being gracious hosts. And we're certainly NOT gonna lose to someone named Tino..."

        And maybe, at the same time, Everett had the same epiphany.

        Buddy's buddy

        I don't think we've had a back-to-back winner before but given the overall mediocre play of most of the team for most of the game, I can see only one legitimate candidate:  Everett Golson.  The 4th quarter / OT's were practically all him.  And obscured within the frustration of his inexplicable INT, is that he drove the team 90+ yds. from their own 2.  

        Kelly doesn't lie when he says Golson's got a lot to improve on... but boy, he's a tough kid and ND simply does not win that game without him.

        Tool Time
        Portrait Of The Artist
        As A Young Tool
        It's been pointed out to me - correctly - that perhaps The Joker isn't the best poster boy for the Tools R Us section of the blog. First of all, he's smart (even if its criminal genius); second, he's really competent and third, truth-be-told, he's extremely likeable!  And none of those attributes fit our prototypical tool.  Like these guys:

         1.   Bobby Hebert.  I would imagine it's not easy to get yourself kicked out of a Louisiana press box for inappropriate behavior but former NFL QB and full-time Cajun managed it Saturday night.  He had a son on LSU's team last year (and with a name like T-Bob, that alone merits recognition in this section) and he must've gotten over-excited. Or over-served.  Or both.

        2.  Les Miles.  There's a rumor going 'round that Les's only regret from Saturday night's painful loss to 'Bama is that he didn't attempt an on-sides kick after LSU's 2nd touchdown. On the PAT.  In trying every conceivable dumb ass thing to give away that game, you proved you're the smartest guy in the room.  Too bad that room isn't located anywhere in this particular country. 

        "It's not easy being really,really ridiculously...stupid."
        3.  Lane Kiffin.  The Zoolander ("3% Body Fat, 1% Brain Activity") of College Coaching, Lane's clever "let's try and match Oregon's offense" strategy resulted in impressive, nay record breaking, achievements. For Oregon.  Coach, I think I love you.

        4.  Tino Sunseri.  Nothing screams "leadership!" like throwing your kicker under the bus as the single reason you lost the game... What a man.  I guess you kinda forgot your senior WR dropping four passes... or your inability to score from 1st and goal at the 2 yd. line... or the two snaps that hit you in the chest while you were looking elsewhere.  

        5.  Notre Dame Recruiting Know-It-All's.  As many of you know, this was an important week for one of our more highly rated recruits to reaffirm his commitment to ND.  It happens.  His dad was a Florida alum, there was some interest in checking them out, he did and he was no longer so sure about ND. Again, it happens.  He's 18.  But that didn't stop the ND internet cognoscenti from dropping him like a stone, attacking his talent, his character and his family*.  The fact that we chase kids who are committed elsewhere seems utterly lost on many of them.  The kid worked the process, came up to campus, got clarification and re-upped.  Now, of course, he's once again McDreamy in their eyes.  I find you all an embarrassment. 
             *The best part of the story:  it was his father, the Gator alum, who encouraged the boy to get back up to ND and get his concerns answered face-to-face.

        Schadenfreude Winner.

        Week 9 - quality over quantity:
        1. USC.   I've never had a morphine drip but I bet this is what it feels like with them losing every week.
        2. LSU.   Frankly, if 'Bama had lost they'd be here. But they didn't. And when you're coached by a World Class Tool, it's guilt by association.  Plus there's that whole Honey Badger thing which I simply don't understand. 

        Recruiting Carousel
        Most of you certainly already know this but what the hey...  where we stand with three months to Signing Day:  22 commitments (~Top 5 class) with likely 24-25 being the end result.  Who's left and probable?  The guys they seem to be focusing on, all studs, are as follows:

        1. Max Redfield, S:  a recent USC de-commitment who LOVED his campus visit.  He's taking a couple more visits (Washington, Oregon) and pulling him off the west coast may be daunting but it looks really good for him.  Extremely highly ranked, would be a huge get at a position of need.
        2. Alquaddin Muhammad, DE:  Out of the Don Bosco Prep (NJ) football factory, allegedly a silent commit even though he hasn't even visited.  Apparently the coach / team has a policy about no recruiting visits until after the season so it's a little tough to say really what the deal is.  He's got a good friend / ex-teammate Elijah Shumate who's getting early playing time so that has to count for something.  I cannot WAIT to have fun with his name.
        3. Tarean Folston, RB:  Florida stud and we never seem to get the top RB's but we are running the ball a ton and he (apparently) liked his recent campus visit. Supposedly going to take his time in deciding and with the paucity of spots left, tough to say whether they'd hold a spot or not.  May depend on whether Cierre wants to return   
        4. Demarcus Robinson, WR: a near 5 star guy and current Clemson commit, came up to campus last week and loved it. But who knows if he / his position is a priority any more.
        5. Mackenzie Alexander, CB:  Luther Bradley-esque in his shutdown abilities; spent a week on campus during the summer so he definitely got his ND immersion.  Loved the visit but it was a long time ago so maybe 'the thrill is gone'... doesn't talk to any of the recruiting services so everyone just speculates.  The guess is that if he waits til February 1st and wants in, ND would find a place for him. 
        Bottom line,  ND is sitting better than it has in years - winning will do that - and short of a catastrophic collapse, next year's class is gonna be the best - on paper - in a really long time.
        2012 Schedule.
        1    @Navy (Dublin)            W
        8    PURDUE                       W
        15  @MSU                          W
        22  MICHIGAN                  W
        6    MIAMI (Soldier Field)*          W
        13  STANFORD                           W
        20  BYU                                       W
        27 @Oklahoma                            W
        3      PITT                        W
        10    @BC
        17   WAKE FOREST
        24    @USC
        *Linipalooza III

        Wager 2012.

        Another one bites the dust... technically, another seven.

        If I told you before the season, that no one will win the pool, you probably wouldn't have been entirely surprised. Manically depressed perhaps - the assumption being we'd all lose on the low end - but not surprised.  

        While the Niner's are on the clock, what would everyone think of donating the funds to a Hurricane Sandy-related charity?


        ND-Scorsese connection 

        Contestant’s prediction



        Sweet, compelling mystery that shows the virtues of faith and resilience. Everyone walks away happy and pleasantly surprised.




        Awesome film about fulfilling one’s potential and realizing your dreams… even if it is becoming a gangster.  (Q.  Does ending in Witness Protection qualify as a happy ending?)
        BryanTedRayTim S, Bob S

        Jay, John, Peter, Raz, Kevin M, Tim C, Mark

        Jerry C, Matt, Jerry W, Jim B, Tom, Mike C, Jim T, Mike G
        Garrett R

        The Departed

        A terrific story about two Boston Irishmen’s different destinies set from childhood. So very close to a happy ending. And yet, so far.
        Terry, Jim S, Jerry P, Brian, Blair 

        Kevin C, Alvin, Randy



        Taxi Driver

        Mentally unstable Viet Nam vet w. wildly unrealistic delusions of heroism.  He’s a total loser, albeit an incredibly   dangerous one. Sadly everybody knows it (incl. Rick Reilly) but him.




        Final Thought - I

        This being election night, how 'bout a laugh at the end of an electoral season which had precious few of them. 

        Friendly fascism.  A pony-based economy and zombie-powered energy sourcing.  Where has this guy been?

        Thanks, Raz.

        Final Thought - II 

        Sully has already shared but given this week's opponent it's just too perfect not to reprise...

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