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Friday, September 24, 2021

Purdue: Mystery Science Theatre '21

Dateline:  Flint Lake, IN

Feeling alright?
I'm not feeling too good myself...

With only three games played - and yes, "a lot of ballgame left" as someone invariably says so take this as a tentative observation - it's come to this:  watching ND football, whether on TV or in-stadium, is akin to watching Mystery Science Theatre 3000 - one of the great, underrated cable shows of the 1990's.

Sadly for Notre Dame, the reason the analogy is so apt is not because of the content being viewed.  In fact, in spite of it.  MST3K's conceit was that of having a trapped audience in space, forced to watch really bad B movies from the 1950's and '60s for, presumably, all of eternity.

The TV viewers' entertainment came not from the films but the commentary of those trapped on their prison spaceship (ironically named The Satellite of Love):  always irreverent, consistently insightful and invariably hilarious.  I loved the show. 

Watching ND football thus far has been something of a similar experience: the 'show' - not often great... frequently cringe-worthy and yet, who among us hasn't found themselves laughing after looking at their phone for a text or a tweet, for a "can you freaking believe what you just saw?" reaction from a kindred spirit.

We find our entertainment wherever we can these days. Because there really wasn't that much last week.

Quote of the Week

"I do not believe in Cinema verité
It is the cinema of accountants..."

Werner Herzog

Ouch.  The 79 year old German auteur added that he felt a really good lie was better than any truth - boy, was he born about 50 years too soon.  

But who among us, after three games, wouldn't go for a really good lie about the ND offensive line?

Word of the Week

Used in a sentence paragraph
:  Young Jerrence watched The Quarterback's demeanor as he was asked the question - he would facing his old team next week and did it flame the fires of revenge? After all, he'd been fairly unceremoniously kicked to the curb, in favor of a younger, more highly recruited guy.

The Quarterback pondered the query, as if he'd been asked "would you like fries or onion rings with your cheeseburger?" - his expression never wavering, never revealing any ulterior emotions.

"No, it's really just another game.  Sure, I still know a lot of fellows on the team but we've both moved on..."  Or something to that effect.

While laudable, Jerrence thought, he wondered whether The Quarterback would be able to maintain such a phlegmatic attitude by the time it got to kickoff.  And perhaps even more revealing would be his post-game disposition. 

Game 2 Thoughts

Pete Sampson likened Saturday's game to the equivalent of the final preseason game... the same could said of the tailgating.  Strong offering with a disappointing turnout.  Not that it kept any of us from having an awesome time.  

We are nothing if not a self-entertaining bunch. Still, let's hope we pick it up in October.

We're faithful
We all believe, we all believe...

Again, not to belabor the point, but September was supposed to be the easy part of the schedule.


1)  Jack Coan.  "Tougher than $2 steak."  Sure, he also has the mobility of that piece of meat and Saturday was not his best game but how can you not like his resolve.

And if his receivers* would actually, you know, catch the ball, we might be talking a little differently about his performance.

* Avery Davis excluded. 

2)  O-line.  You've heard me repeat that old Jay Leno joke, "Why do they call dead people 'late'?  They're not late.  They're not coming."  

I'm not holding my breath for demonstrable performance improvement.

3) Tommy Rees.  Accordingly, I will brook no criticism of his game calling* - certainly not last week - when you have a sieve for an O-line, a statue at QB (with the more mobile back up nursing a hammy) and WR's (outside of Avery Davis) who apparently just weren't feeling it... 

* which, given my criticism of him as a QB, is next-level irony.

"If anyone asks, this is grandpa's Perrier..."
4)  Pro Tip:  did you know that when housed in a Solo cup, a Vodka & Tonic is the perfect walk-thru-the-stadium gates companion to any in-game experience?  

Especially when the O-line decides not to block and the WR's decide not to catch.

5) 3rd and 2.   Now a passing down.

6) Kyle Hamilton.  The INT was nice but the 4th down close-and-tackle for a loss was awesome.  

It'd be hard to over-estimate the value he is bringing to that defense.  And boy, are they gonna need it next month.

6)   Drew Brees.  Once again, getting rave reviews for his analysis and objectivity, calling a game that had to be tough to stay partial.  

(Anybody else getting Mikey from the Life Cereal commercial vibes off of ND Nation's surprising receptivity to him?)

Sadly, everything suggests he'll be a short-timer with the ND telecast, being groomed for bigger (if not better) things at NBC.  Bummer.

7)   Wisconsin.   Personally, I think the Over/Under ought to be about 30.  17-13 Irish, seems about right, given what both teams have showed so far.  Which means it'll probably be a 35-31 shoot out.

Buddy's Buddy

A few of you have experienced my uncanny ability to predict in an almost perfectly reverse correlation (Jim Thompson, remember Oklahoma State's Bryant Reeves who I so blithely nicknamed, "Big Country?  Big Dope!" before he absolutely tore up the March Madness tournament in 1995?)

So it should come as no surprise that when I began to disparage Kyren Williams' performances over the last few weeks - as recently as at the pre-game tailgater to Tim Sullivan, suggesting that he might be a tad overrated, with little capacity to elevate his game beyond what we saw last year - that he might, in fact, show me the folly of my thinking.

Mr. Williams, I stand corrected.  And given the quality (or lack thereof) of the offensive line that you are running behind, I shall heretofore refrain from badmouthing you for the balance of this year.  (Although if you could just lay off the inconvenient fumbling that would be just great.) 

I am not sure Notre Dame wins that game without him.  The 51 yard run alone was singlehandedly him and only him - no O-lineman had better take any credit on that.   

And the kid can run a mean pass route too...

And dare I say it, we are really going to need that kind of effort this coming week.

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

Mr. Sampson didn't have his usual mailbag this week - I suppose one cannot blame one's sub-contractor's non-delivery when one isn't compensating them for their efforts.  Or that they even know you're taking their content. 

What he has done in his latest article is outline what most would consider the three biggest questions confronting ND after two games:
  1.  How will they manage the Coan - Buchner usage?
  2.  Can the defense stop giving up big plays?
  3.  Just how big of a fix is required for the O-line fix?
If this section's set up looks familiar, that's because it is the same one as last week.  This week we address (sorta) Q. 2:

Did the defense take a step forward?

It’s a complicated task to assess Notre Dame’s defense through three games, but last weekend’s results offered a compelling case that defensive coordinator Marcus Freeman has figured something out. Purdue’s longest gain in the first half was 11 yards. The Boilermakers finished 1-for-11 on third down after opening with three conversions in the first quarter. Game-breaking receiver David Bell, who was carted off after a big hit from Kyle Hamilton in the second half, finished with seven catches for 64 yards, with half of that production coming on an acrobatic catch during the third quarter. The Irish went from having no dime package to a fully functional one, calling on reserve defensive backs D.J. Brown and Ramon Henderson.

Notre Dame was dinged for eight missed tackles against Purdue, an improvement on the 14 missed at Florida State but an uptick from the Toledo game when the defense missed just four tackles. Still, it’s the big-play prevention that makes Notre Dame feel like it’s headed in the right direction.

“I think we have a really good defense and we’re capable of a lot,” said linebacker Drew White. “We have not showcased it to its full extent yet, but we’re getting really close.”

Kelly has talked repeatedly about Notre Dame “transitioning” on defense from Clark Lea’s scheme to Freeman’s playbook. The latter was supposed to be uncomplicated and straightforward. That may have overlooked the fact that a new playbook is a new playbook. Even if it may be simple to learn over the course of a season, that doesn’t mean it’s simple to learn in three games.

“We have three down, we have four down, we have different pressures and different alignments,” White said. “When you put all that together, versus a run play your gap used to be the B gap. In this new defense you gotta stay backside because you’ve got the backside C gap and you can’t overrun that fit.

“A lot of older guys on defense that are used to playing a certain way, it can take a second.”

Against Wisconsin and its offense hell-bent on stressing run fits, those seconds will matter. Last week the Badgers opened with 15 consecutive runs — including a 60-yarder by Chez Mellusi but also Mellusi getting stopped for a one-yard gain on fourth-and-2 — and finished with 55 carries for 360 yards. It was vintage Wisconsin, an approach the Badgers can be limited by in bigger games.

This is one of those games where Wisconsin’s rushing attack may determine how the game unfolds.

Cocktail of the Week

With the local weather suddenly turning autumnal...

Tis time to put away the white spirit cocktail references.  Unless you're playing golf - in which case one is almost required to celebrate your inevitable conquering of your course designer's diabolical design with a refreshing Transfusion. (Thank you, Jim Belknap for that recommendation.)

But I digress.  When the evening temp dips below 60F, it's bourbon time.  Or rye.  Or whiskey.

A Midsummer Night Beam
A Midsummer Night's Dream (circa 1600)
By William Shakespeare

Take two parts Ren Faire and one part Greek mythology, add a liberal dash of forest-dwelling nymphs, and you've got Linipalooza Shakespeare's whimsical meditation on love and lunacy.

An amateur might toast this oft-produced play with two melatonin and a gulp of cough syrup, but Lord, only a foolish mortal would try that - this is a dream, not a blackout. 

You'll want to stay upright, if drowsily so, for a light, vegetation-heavy drink that will keep skimming all five acts before a proper fairy-blessed slumber.  

*  8 sprigs of fresh mint, washed
*  1/2 oz. lime juice
*  2 oz. bourbon (e.g., Jim Beam)
*  2 tspns. granulated sugar
*  1 (12 oz.) can, club soda

Muddle the mint, lime juice and sugar in a highball glass.  

Add ice and bourbon, and fill to the top with the club soda.

Sip to your imagination's content - stopping only if your shadow begins to speak.  

SourceTequila Mockingbird
Cocktails With A Literary Twist
by Tim Federle


 5                     @Florida St.    W
11                    Toledo      W
18                    Purdue     W
24                    Linipalooza X - FRIDAY NIGHT!
25                   @Wisconsin (Soldier Field)

 2                    Cincinnati     
 9                    @Va. Tech 
16                    BYE            
23                    USC
30                    UNC

6                    Navy          
13                  @UVA               
20                  Ga. Tech
27                  @Stanford

The Wager 

Wake me up when September ends... 

Much like our own team, no one is entirely sure just how good Wisconsin is - a perennially underrated team but one that looked pretty bad against Penn St., played much better against a MAC team and had last week off... 

Suffice to say, one would think we ought to know a lot more about the make up of this team after Saturday.   Which is good, 'cause October could be a bitch.


Archetype (Embodies)



Miracle On Ice


To be clear, ND running the table wouldn't come remotely close to approximating the USA ice hockey victory over Russia in '80.  

Nothing in my lifetime will beat this.  Nor will anything exceed the guilt I still have for ruining this for Castellini.

Still ND going 12-0 seems similarly tough to envision with the little we know right now.


Brian M.


John P.

Bryan G.

Gary H.

Pat B.

Dave M.


Kerry Strug

One final vault.  Hit it, basically perfectly, and your country wins the gold medal.

No pressure.  Oh and you just tore two ligaments in your ankle on your prior attempt - you can barely walk.

But apparently, you still have one more sprint in you.  Boom!  Done.

ND winning 11 games is not really analogous to this but right now, it's looking just as iffy.


Jay F.

Bill B.

Bob J. 

Dave G.

Peter B.

Jim S.

Jim B.

Daryl M.

Dennis R.

Mike C.


Super Bowl III


In hindsight this probably wasn't nearly the shocker it was at the time - but it sure made the NFL sit up and take notice.

At this point in the Kelly regime, ND winning 10 games is no longer unexpected. 

And yet, they have a similar imperative (as the AFL did) to do this in order to get the football world to really buy in that ND is elite again. 

Sloane B.
Phillip S.
Jerry P.
Kevin M.
Jim T.
Tim S.
The Dim One
Bob S. 
Blair R.
Alex S.
Ted C.
Tom F.
Randy R. 
Mike G. 


NC St over Phi Slamma Jamma


The 'improbable' relevance to ND success gets shakier as the win total gets lower... 

A great game but unless you had money on it (I didn't), it was a fleeting feel good. 

Relevance to 9 wins? None. But on this continuum this is where this sits.


Brian W.

Garrett R. 

Mike B.

John L.

Ward H. 


Villanova over Georgetown

 In terms of improbability, you could probably flip this game w NC State's victory - they were both pretty awesome in a vicarious way.

These rankings all being relative vs. the others, it's feeling 8'ish even if it probably deserves better.  



Albert B.


ND over Miami, 1988 

Was this improbable at the time?  Depends on who you ask - and if they're honest.

Miami owned ND in the '80s.

And yet, Holtz & Co. made everyone believe.  

Impressive, definitely.  But on a scale of 1-10 as unlikely, maybe a 7.



ND over Clemson, 2020

This victory - as necessary as it was for the program - gets somewhat devalued in terms of improbability:

1) ND was genuinely really good last year.   And playing at home.

2) Candidly, no Trevor Lawrence.



ND over Florida St., 1993


After the '88 Miami win, with Holtz still in charge... while never a 'lock', beating FSU was certainly no great surprise.

And ultimately tempered by spitting the bit the next week against BC.



If anyone wishes to play down here... 


3 my guest.



The Lord giveth (last week) and The Lord taketh away.  Or at least teases us (this week).

So many near misses - an almost biblical number of teams 'spitting the bit' as they say.

The thing is, schadenfreude cannot be faked.  So consider this a singular example in "Hello, old (douche-y) friend" revelry. 


1)   Miami.   Unlike other historically elite programs that have fallen on hard times - looking at you, Cornhuskers - I will NEVER not exult in the Hurricanes losing.  

You can take your cheap dime store turnover chain and, well, you know what to do with it...

Terry's Tools.

Tool Power, catch it!

That is, Dillon Hall tool power.  

Now is perhaps a good time to reveal that led by captain Raz (Le Grande Tool), the Notre Dame Ryder Cup team vanquished the Wisconsin contingent, 3-1 yesterday at Chicago's North Shore CC.

And there was much rejoicing.

And much subsequent wine imbibing.  Followed by burgers, brats and tater tots. 

And more wine imbibing.  And maybe some scotch.

And varying degrees of headaches this morning.

But hey, no pain no gain.


1) Notre Dame.    When a smirking Mike Tirico leads off his telecast talking about The Big Drum Controversy, you know you've got a ridiculous why-are-we-even-talking-about-this moment.  

That said, and without knowing any of the back story, the school's stance felt kinda petty.   

Maybe it was a diversion tactic to keep the country's creepiest mascot away. 

2). Nikki Minaj.    First off, it would seem to me that any statement that begins with "my cousin in Trinidad..." is fair grounds to be challenged. But whatever.  And while Dr. Minaj is a noted medical authority, one can't help wonder if something else was the cause of her relative's  cajones grande... 

Final Thought

Good times never seemed so good...

The grandchild train just keeps on rolling... welcome Caroline Castellini, all 7 lbs., 7 oz. of you! 

Congrats, Tim & Ellen and Jerry & Judy!


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