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Friday, October 23, 2020

Louisville: Cheer up, sleepy Jean


You once thought of me 
As a white knight on a steed...

Dateline:  Winnetka, IL

Last Saturday evening, I found myself participating in a text thread with those erudite cognoscenti of Notre Dame football, Messrs. Corrigan, Flaherty, Sullivan, Behrens, Feifar and Marcel.  At that time, the theme of the thread was my comment earlier in the day that Notre Dame will beat Clemson.  

My comment / belief was based partly on optimism, partly on belief that at some point we have to eventually win a big game and partly on an old Lou Holtz adage.  

Back in the late ‘80s-early 90’s, Holtz proffered (I paraphrase), “Winning close games when you play poorly is the mark of a good team.  A team which wins close games is battle tested.  It has a higher probability of beating a team which has blown everyone else out, IF it is a close game.  Sully’s comment was that my optimism was admirable, but not shared by Tim at that time.  

Our esteemed blog editor’s response was that he was on Sully’s side and stated that I was seeing things that Terry wasn’t.  My first thought was, “C’mon Terry it has been 41 years since we graduated.  It has been a looong time since I have seen eagles or other things.”  

But I digress. 

I had been unable to watch the game.  However, I had taped the game. (Insert rant from Blair, Garrett or both to the effect of, “Dad you don’t tape games, you record the game.”  Whatever,  old habits die hard.)  I asked the group whether I should bother to watch  the game.  The near instantaneous response(s) were a resounding and emphatic NO!  The best response was that our game plan actually quite strategic, even stealthy.  It revolved around beating Clemson rather than Louisville.  The basis for that comment was that we showed nothing of strategic value which Clemson could use to develop a game plan.  Despite being a staunch political conservative (sorry Terry) I chose not to listen to authority and began to watch the game.  My mistake.  I cannot say I wasn’t warned. 

Our performance, more specifically the performance of the offense was worthy of a Wes Craven / John Carpenter / Alfred Hitchcock directed movie.  After watching, I refilled my glass of Springbank and sat back to cogitate on the boldness of my prognostication.  The struggles of the offense could not be blamed on Tommy Rees.  I thought he called a great game plan - as he has all year. 
It was the execution which was lacking.  Lacking in a way similar to the Black Knight in Monty Python and the Holy Grail lacking arms and legs.   

I also now understood some of the vituperative vitriol directed towards Ian Book.  Before I continue, let me say this, “I Like Ian Book.”  He is articulate, seems to be a good guy, he has his degree and is an excellent representative of ND.  All of the annecdotes I have heard revolve around him being a genuinely nice person.  I will also add that I think Ian Book is a very good QB.  Not just average, but very good. (I was tempted to say you cannot be a truly bad QB and be the starter at Notre Dame.  Then the name Demetrius Jones popped into my brain. For those who do not remember Demetrius Jones, he was the starting QB for the opening game against Georgia Tech in 2007.  Jones’ stats for the first half were 12 rushes for 28 yards, 1 of 3 passes for four yards and two fumbles.  The only drives in the first half in which ND did not go three and out were the drives ended by his fumbles.  Jones was benched to start the 2nd half.  He transferred two weeks later to Northern Illinois and then to Cincinnati.  At Cincinnati he played LB.)   Heck, we currently have the longest winning streak in college football and his overall record as Notre Dame’s starting QB is 24-3.  And, that is the problem in a nutshell. 

We beat the teams we are supposed to beat.  We have the second longest winning streak in the nation (behind Alabama) in terms of beating unranked teams.  Before the cynics cry, “You are supposed to beat unranked teams,” let me say the names Faust, Gerry; Davie, Bob; Willingham, Ty.  I might also add UConn, Syracuse, Tulsa, etc. under Kelly, but once again I digress. 

Book’s three losses as a starter are to Clemson, Georgia and Michigan.   Great, not just very good players, rise to the occasion.  Think about Robert Horry, nicknamed “Big Shot Bob.”  Robert Horry was a seven time NBA champ, with three different teams, including back-to-back with two different teams.  His nickname was earned due to his clutch shooting in important games.  Based on past performances, Ian Book is not going to turn into the college football equivalent of Big Shot Bob against Clemson.  I would settle for Book becoming “Steady Eddie” Murray .  (Eddie Murray, a Hall of Fame baseball player for the Baltimore Orioles earned his moniker for the consistency of his performance throughout his career.  He also homered in the second and fourth innings of Game 5 of the 1983 World Series as the Orioles clinched the Series in that game.)  The problem is that Book is not Eddie Murray in big games, it’s that he isn’t even Eddie Gaedel.  The real problem is that in big games, Book becomes Chandra Bahadur Dangi.   

In big games, or under even a slight pass rush, Book’s feet turn into those of Fred Astaire.  Were Fred still alive, he would marvel at the array of moves Book displays under pressure.  He also tends to:  not step up in the pocket; and leave the pocket waaay too early.  However, he does not leave the pocket quickly or decisively.  He tends to turn in a circle before running to the sideline.  He also appears to have a propensity for running out of bounds for a loss rather than throwing the ball away to save the yardage. 

All of this being said, I did not come to bury Book or recant on my prediction. I still truly believe we will beat Clemson.  I believe this because I believe in the power of good and the power of redemption.  As I said previously, from everything I have heard and read, Ian Book is a very good person.  I also believe he is a very good quarterback.  It is Ian Book’s time for redemption.  It is Ian Book’s time to refute people (like me) who cannot begin to fathom the unbelievable pressure that goes with being the starting quarterback at Notre Dame and who are not satisfied with a 24-3 starting record.  To paraphrase Herb Brooks in his speech to the US hockey team prior to playing the Russians in 1980:  “Great moments are born from great opportunity and that’s what Ian Book will have November 7th.  That’s what Ian Book has earned for the night of November 7th.  It’s one game; if ND played Clemson ten times, Clemson might win nine.  But not this game, not November 7th.”  


In this screwed up world, you have to have something in which you can believe.  I believe in Notre Dame.  It is Notre Dame’s time, led by Ian Book, to once again win the big game.

Word of The Week.

Used in a sentence paragraph:  As young Jerrence pondered the thoughtful, well articulated argument which the Op-Ed laid out - bonus points for the super obscure dwarf references, bravo! - he found himself coming back to a single point:  success at Notre Dame was no longer defined as winning just one game (although, Truth Be Told, they hadn't exactly nailed that deliverable for the better part of three decades).

The irony of coach Kelly's bringing the football program back to being, if not elite, at least 'in the conversation' of BCS playoff worthy, is that success for Notre Dame Nation has become binary:  BCS playoff / National Championship or Nothing.   Which likely meant, for 2020, beating Clemson not just once but perhaps as many as three times.  And probably Alabama somewhere along the line as well.  No problem.

 Some people get crazy, some people lazy, some people get hazy...
 I don't wanna be like that.

Quote of the Week.

"What is inevitable must be immediate..."
Bill Belichick

Truth be told, I'm unsure as to what, exactly, Belichick means by this.  

But I bet he said it in his typical deadpan, is-there-any-life-behind-those-eyes monotone voice, to a room of guys whose primary takeaway was "if I don't start getting my shit together, I'm gonna get my ass cut, probably end up on the Redskins Washington Football Club and my wife will tear me a new one for f***ing up one of the best gigs on the planet..."  

I would submit, that after last weekend, Kelly might try to adopt a similar sense of gravitas - and urgency. 

Game Observations.

Not so much a rebuttal to this week's Op-Ed as a source of additional crowd-sourced* context, which may or may not support this week's 'ya gotta believe' attitude:

1.  In the Year of COVID, one needs to get used to more variance than usual.  If coaches crave a routine this year will drive them crazy.  Though precious few will, perhaps we ought to cut Kelly and staff a little slack.

Somebody has a sense of humor... 
2.  For a college QB, Book is good.  Perhaps even very good. But his ceiling is not much higher than what we’ve seen. It doesn’t mean he can’t put it together for one game - and he’ll have to on 11/7 - but he’s not turning into Trevor Lawrence. 

3.  Rees did call a great game. One could argue he will continue to be Book’s best friend.  But when a strong wind is your offense's biggest adversary, something is, um, lacking.

4. They've got to let Kevin Austin off the leash.  Clearly they just don’t have enough difference makers at the skill positions.  

Unless ND starts investing in the development of Austin, Lenzy and Jordan Johnson during the next couple weeks, it’s hard to understand how they will move the ball against Clemson.  

Javon McKinley led the position in snaps again but rated last among the 17 players who got offensive snaps, per Pro Football Focus. At some point, the best attribute of your No. 1 receiver can’t be his blocking. That’s not how college football works in 2020. 

5.  Lost amongst all the Book angst, the defense played really well. Basically gave up one drive.  Just wish our pass rush was better. 

6.   You knew the Kelly haters were gonna come out of the woodwork after this.  (And they did.) But it’s just one game.  It is not necessarily predictive.  (See pt. 1.)

7.  Will we beat Clemson?  Not if they play like they did last Saturday.  But we’ve seen “though the odds be great” performances before.  

We’ll see . They’re gonna have to stay healthy, against both virus and traditional injury.  

And the coaches are gonna have game plan their asses off. 

When the road gets dark...
Have a little faith in me. 

* Thanks, Ungie, for the additional statistical support.

Buddy's Buddy.

Can we agree that Javon McKinley should not be the blog's first back-to-back award winner?  Which probably means mentioning Ian Book is a non-starter as well.

The truth is no one* felt especially noteworthy this past week - perhaps Daelin Hayes.  (While I find him to be an exemplary representative of ND, it's a cold, hard truth that he's been something of a major disappointment relative to the expectations during his recruitment. I suspect he probably won't have a viable candidacy in any other game.)  

So why not.

And while I'm uninspired to re-watch the game for further evidence, both pro or con, it seemed like he had a very good game.  And as the defense would appear to be the only thing to really walk away from feeling good about, why not.

* I'm tempted to throw Jon Doerer in the mix solely after Mike Tirico commented on his horrific pre-game warm up - where he then split the uprights on his first two kicks.  (Big fan of Tirico but it was wonderful irony to watch.)

RE-PETE (a shameless, illegal lift of Pete Sampson's weekly ND mailbag).

A 2-fer!

Source:  The Athletic

Cocktail of the Week.

Were you feeling a little, perhaps, ambivalent after Saturday's game? Should I feel anger?  Disappointment?  Disbelief? Confusion?

All of the above?

A game like that deserves a book / cocktail that'll generate equally ambiguous feelings...

Middlesex (2002)
by Jeffrey Eugenides

This decade-in-the-making follow up to Eugenides debut novel, The Virgin Suicides, found the author researching, writing (and rewriting) the story of an intersex man and a member of three generations of Greek Immigrants.  Nearly uncategorizable in its scope and writing style, the novel started off slow in the sales department (ya think?) before the one-two punch of a Pulitzer Prize and Oprah's Book Club selection helped cement it as anything-but-middle-of-the road.

Serve up a sweet, sour, slightly ambiguous muddled Greek cocktail. 
  • 2 oz. gin
  • 1/2 oz. ouzo
  • 1 oz. lemon juice
  • 1 oz. simple syrup
  • 5 fresh grapes, to muddle
    • additional frozen grapes as garnish
  • 2 figs, to muddle
Pour the gin, ouzo, lemon juice and syrup into a shaker.  Add the fresh grapes and figs and muddle them for :10.  Double-strain into a rocks glass over fresh ice.  Garnish with frozen grapes - and prepare to Greek out.


12                     Duke               W
19                     USF                 W
10                    FSU                W
17                    Louisville       W
24                    @Pitt
31                    @Ga. Tech

7                    CLEMSON                  7.30pm    / NBC
14                  @Boston College
21                    Bye
26 (Friday)  @UNC
5                  SYRACUSE                    TBA    / NBC
12                Wake Forest

The Wager.

...and our first contestant goes off the board.  I know you live in California, Mike, and being a recipient of spiteful Acts of God are kinda your state's thing... but this is the NCAA you're betting against.  So, in hindsight, betting big on the pandemic was probably a little short-sighted. Nothing shall stand in the way of that organization's 'the games must go on' mentality.

That said, the 8 Win Duo who, not to beat the dead horse but... have to be feeling kinda savvy about their number. Before the year's out, they've got both a persistent virus and potentially future mediocre play to bolster their position.  (Let's hope they're wrong on both fronts.)


Archetype (Embodies)



Marcel (Lunacy).


This construct, not officially Jungian... would surely exist had Carl met Dave.  New Jersey meets California with a sneaky, sly madness and a dollop of WTF.  The result?  A "he did not just do that" kind of guy.

Yes, he did do that.  He'll go for 14 wins if you let him.  


Gary (14)

John (14)

Moon (14)

Raz The Elder (13)

Peter (13)

Gutsch (12)

Bob (12)

Jim S (12)

Bryan (12)

Marcel (of course)


The Magician (Power).


 "Dreams really can come true" albeit in somewhat unfathomable ways, defying common belief... the Magician is a true Visionary where one sees ND running the table, at least to the point of making it to the ACC Championship and, likely, beating Clemson at least once.












The Hero (Mastery).


 Primarily motivated by proving their worth through courage and determination, this archetype suggests an ND season where nothing is easy and considerable success is achieved despite daunting, unforeseen obstacles.


Rev. Mark


The Ruler (Control).


 This is all about Dominance through Intimidation.  Confident, in control.

For ND, a solid year where an authoritarian mentality may not get them all the way to the BCS finish line. 





Mike G


The Jester (Enjoyment).

Here, we're all about having fun and seeing the glass half full.  8 wins could mean an undefeated season in a truncated, pandemic affected season.  Or it could just be '8 more wins than any of those Big 10 wussies had...' 

Either way, we had a pretty good time. 




Jim T


The Creator (Innovation)


 With a desire to create something new and exceptional where there previously wasn't, does a 7-win season indicate some unforeseen growing pains w a new OC and several inexperienced skills position players.  

A season where less than a full slate is played could still be a successful one, setting up a great '21 campaign.



The Explorer (Freedom).


Manifesting a palpable inner drive to push themselves outside their comfort zone - it's a "we understand the risks we're taking!" attitude.   Unfortunately ND can't overcome them all, whether they're internally or externally driven.



The Sage (Understanding).


 Seeker of Truth, Knowledge and Wisdom, this archetype may suggest a 'I told you it was a bad idea to play a contact sport during a pandemic'  scenario.  The 2020 season gets cancelled halfway through. "But, still, we were 5-0..."



The Outlaw (Liberation).


This figure digs anarchy, with a "you not the boss of me" disdain for rules. For the ND season that may suggest a 'go for it' mentality where the wheels ultimately come off - either from a team meltdown or a season's premature cancellation.


3 or less

The Innocent (Safety).


 A positive personality that craves safety while wishing for all to be happy.  Honest and with no ill-will... no agendas... they believe everyone has the right to truly be who they are.

Unfortunately, in an ND football context, The Innocent sees virus spikes with students back on campus and by the end of September, feels prudence demands that the plug be pulled on the football season. 


Mike C



For starters it's difficult to celebrate other teams losses when they don't even actually play.

And in the Age of COVID, that seems to be occurring more and more frequently.  

But hey, wait until the Big 10 is confronted with this reality!  (Harbaugh will LOSE HIS MIND!) - proving that I will be able to drink deeply from the schadenfreude chalice - even when the teams don't make it to the field!  Again, it is my superpower. 

  1)  Georgia.  Never mind that I was actually cheering for UGA, since they were ranked higher than ND, they had to go down at some point - now is as good a time as any.  

  Plus it gave me that opportunity to ponder, seeing the Dawgs' QB, Stetson (like the hat) Bennett IV - meant there had to be three other guys named Stetson.  Wow. 

 BTW, where is JT Daniels, the USC ex-pat QB wunderkind that was suppose to lead them the Dawgs to greatness?

  2)  UNC.  I'm still bitter that the concept in Chapel Hill of "faking classes on such a massively, widespread basis isn't actually a sports scandal but merely a quirk in our elite academic system..." 

What's not indisputable:  Mack Brown can recruit his butt off; he just can't coach his way out of a paper bag.  

3)  AuburnEvery time an SEC team loses, an angel gets its wings.  

And if it's a school from Alabama, it's 2-for-1 margarita's at Applebees!

4)  Tennessee.   See pt. #3.

Terry's Tools.

Unfortunately, these days one doesn't need to look far to identify figures who are so self-absorbed, their myopic view of the world - and human behavior - begins and ends with "If I believe it, it must be so."

Whether one be entertainer, sports star, coach or politician, the magnitude of self-delusion can often be breath taking.  And weirdly impressive.

This week's winners are particularly strong poster boys for this sociopathy: 

1) Odell Beckham Jr.   Remember last January when LSU won the BCS championship and OBJ was so inspired that he started raining Benjamins on the team?  

The public reaction was, understandably, "well that can't be legal. At least outside of Louisiana..."  

School response was swift - the money wasn't real... just OBJ inserting himself into spotlight, as he is want to do.

Turns out the money was real, the school self-imposed some sanctions and this week, LSU said, "Hey Odell, that was no bueno and please don't come around campus for awhile.  And by 'awhile' we mean the next two years."   Well done, OBJ.

2). DanMullen.  You remember coach Mike - he of the "we gotta fill our stadium with our fans for the LSU game - pandemic be damned! Take one for the team, Gator Nation!"

As it turns, not only did 19 of his team 'take one', so did he - tested positive for COVID last week. 

And if that isn't the most 'Florida 2020' thing you've heard...

Final Thoughts.

So last week wasn't great but as the philosopher and Antebellum trust fund baby Scarlett O'Hara famously said, "I'll go home and think of some way to improve those offensive schemes.  After all, tomorrow is another day..."

I've been beat up, I've been thrown out
I've been shown up but I've grown up
But I'm not down...

On to Pittsburgh!

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