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Friday, October 29, 2021

USC: Waiting To Exhale

It's times like these you learn to live again
It's times like these you give and give again...

Dateline:  Flint Lake, IN

The USC home game, every other year, comes at a great time. For one, it's almost always the peak of autumn in the midwest - leaves turning, crisp-but-not-too-chilly weather, post-ND academic mid-terms, with teams (football and tailgating) in mid-season form  (for the last several years, that's been a good thing on both fronts.)  

This year was no exception.  And with life in The Age of Covid still only an arm's length away, allow me to wax appreciative for everything I (we) have got:  great family, great friends, almost all in good health (the Class of '79 world remains in your corner, J Wills) - with the luxury to obsess about something as frivolous as our alma mater's football team - a program that, from where it was when this century started, has come so far, now consistently at / near the threshold of elite.

Think about that. Very cool.  And never did ND's upper class nature appear in sharper relief than watching the dumpster fire that USC has become.  Long may it last.

Quote of the Week

"I'm sure the universe is full of intelligent life. It's just been too intelligent to come here..."
Arthur C. Clarke

And judging by the number of dumb ass penalties that USC committed last Saturday night, intelligent life definitely hasn't been making any house calls to that football program anytime recently.

Word of the Week

Used in a sentence paragraph

As Young Jerrence filed into his seat in the stadium, accompanied by his annual traveling companion, he couldn't help but notice the cross section of  crepuscular creatures joining him, morphing from their day time 'normal' personas into, well, something else.  

There was the young ND couple, out of town'ers, who told us they got engaged at the stadium and asked Cincotta to take their picture. (Just snap the iPhone, Jerry, you're not Francesco Scavullo.)  Very cute.

Meanwhile in Va. Beach, other nocturnal  creatures readied themselves 
There was the ND woman behind them, with the nasally, nails-on-chalkboard voice proclaiming, repeatedly, "F*** Kelly if he keeps Coan in the game..."  

Jerrence turned to confront her (and her potty mouth) until he saw that she outweighed him by, easily, 30 lbs... and thus retreated, living to fight another day. 

And finally, the young, hapless USC fan in front of them, whose constant refrain of "we're so bad!" was both endearing and irritating.   One hoped he didn't travel far for this game.  

In retrospect, only a couple days removed from the arrival of the October "Hunter's moon" - marking the first full moon of the autumn season in the northern hemisphere - it did not surprise Jerrence that he was getting the full mélange of humanity.

But why did they have to all be sitting in his section?

Game 7 Thoughts

Down. Fall by the wayside
No getting out. 
Down. Cry me a river...

Okay, so USC is... not good.  They probably won't be bad forever - they've got to get the head  coaching thing fixed, sooner or later, right?  Whether that's a good thing - for ND or college football in general, that they return to something approximating excellence - that's a conversation for another time.  (Me, I'd personally love for them to remain the college football equivalent of  the Detroit (football) Lions for the rest of my life.)  

But I digress. 

Factually, they're pretty poor right now.  So judging any ND performance probably needs to be grounded in that tiny bit of reality.

Okay, a few more random thoughts...   

Hall Pass.  To say that Jerrence and Madame Defarge have an 'open marriage' would not be correct.  More like the latter partner has a twisted sense of humor.  

So when she gave her husband an annual "you go and be you... be stupid... I don't want to know about it" card to play, she neglected to call out that it came with a  "good only when used with J. Cincotta, Esq. " disclaimer.   

When Life gives you lemons, you have to make, well, something else.  

And 48 hrs. with Mr. Cincotta is definitely something else.

2) Tailgate.  Best Tailgate of the Year, for a variety of reasons - well attended and by people one wanted to see, a beautiful day turning to pleasant (if a tad nippy) evening - with grills going, Bloody Mary's being mass produced, and an IPO-like launch of Tools Beer (which was  AWESOME).

Dr. Mackrell and the Dillonites continue to demonstrate heretofore unimagined skills, most of which are actually socially allowable. 

Overheard at the tailgate...
Yes, I'll have one of your 'heart healthy' brats, Dr. Brooks.  of course, with EVERYTHING on it. 

Fun fact (well, almost certainly, genuinely true):  More 750ml bottles of wine were consumed than 12 oz. bottles of water. 

It would appear that I am not the only one living the 'my body isn't a temple, it's an amusement park' philosophy.

3) QB Planning.  While my date was uneasy - or perhaps just confused (he wasn't alone) - by coach Kelly's QB strategy, by all accounts, there seems to be a relatively coherent plan.  Until there isn't (check in next week).  

  • Coan until the Red Zone
  • Buchner bringing it home
How's that sit with everyone?  Seems reasonable to me, especially if they're gonna let Tyler throw - feels like they're definitely tougher to defend.

4)  O-line. Every week is a referendum on this group, no?  At the risk of sounding like that guy (MikeyDogs, for the Mike Frank crowd), I'm still not terribly impressed with the run blocking (note this week's Buddy's Buddy).  

And you'll never convince me that the Buchner's threat of running doesn't make them 50% better in that area... but give the O-line their due last Saturday, they did give Coan an awfully clean passing pocket for almost the entire night.  

Score one for continuous work-in-progress improvement.

5a)  Kevin Austin.  I don't wish to dump on the young man but it's beginning to be evident that he's just not as good as we hoped.  

Not bad - just not The Saviour:  the bad drops at super inopportune times are one thing but he doesn't appear to fight for balls particularly well, and seems to disappear for stretches... 

Run, Forrest Lorenzo, run!
Is it fair to say we expected too much of a kid who hasn't played much  much football, at all, in the past couple years?

Not to be confused with Lorenzo Styles, who looks like a future stud - and the speedy WR that we all  thought Braden Lenzy was going to be.  


5b) Clarence Lewis.  Question for the group:  Is he that bad or Drake London that good? (Both can be true.)    

5)  Defense.  Evidently, the objective was "points, not yards" from what I read, post-game. 


I guess so.  That's your story and you're sticking to it.

Can't argue much with the results.  

Still not loving the 3 man rush tactic.  

It's probable that things changed significantly with Hamilton's injury - but a strategy of "USC can't possibly hold it on the road for 80 yds. / 10 plays," while ultimately accurate, wasn't that enjoyable from a viewers perspective. 

And isn't that what this is all about, making MY experience as low stress / high enjoyment as possible?  

Very discourteous. 

Preach the gospel, Chase. 

6)  Roll call:   Joe Theismann, Tim Brown, Jerome Bettis, Zach Martin, Tyler Eifert, Jerry Tillery, Chase Claypool, among others, in attendance.  

Not a bad group of NFL show ponies for the season's biggest recruiting weekend.  Nicely played, ND.

Starry, starry night... 

7)  The crowd.  For as much grief as ND has taken over the years for being overly gentile in its ambience, that crowd seemed pretty amped. 

And nice light show, ND! 

Where is the roughing, exactly? 

8) Officiating.  I typically don't like to jump on the referee conspiracy bandwagon, although I sorta did last week as well... 

But man, there was some extremely questionable calls - at key moments - that went against ND where one had to wonder about Pac-12 officiating motivations.

That said, as the 2nd half calls started going ND's way, one also had to consider whether 'familiarity was breeding contempt' between those refs and USC.  Which is to say, do they get tired of seeing the Trojans pulling the same shit every time they see 'em?

Buddy's Buddy

This week's choice wasn't really that difficult.

I walked out of the stadium struck by one thing:  the overall lack of energy I thought I saw on the field.  (The crowd appeared plenty into it.)

But USC, a team that one is used to be filled with high profile, prime time players, looked bereft of almost any of such guys, Drake London notwithstanding. And carried themselves like a team that wanted to punch the clock, put in their time and get the hell out of Dodge. 

ND didn't look a whole lot better, at least not consistently - maybe because of the passive 'bend but don't break' defensive philosophy we saw.  Or maybe that we don't have any hold-your-breath game breakers on offense either.  For this blogger, it looked like we won because we were just more talented, not because we were dramatically more invested.  Maybe that's to be expected when you haven't played a team for two years and so many of your players are underclassmen...

There was one obvious exception:  Kyren Williams.   

Every play looked like it mattered to him, with him manifesting an abject refusal to be stopped.  Ever.

Who knows what his 'yards after contact were' but it had to be most of them.  

One would imagine if you're an opposing fan, you don't like him - he's a mouthy little shit, clearly comfortable talking trash all game long.   And yet, what's the expression, it's not bragging if you can do it.

Very clear why he was made a captain.  And increasingly clear who's gonna be the team's MVP.   That team would be in a world of hurt without him. 

When I see you coming 
I just have to run. 
Baby, you're so vicious...

RE-PETE (A shameless, illegal lift of Pete Sampson's weekly mail-bag)

Normally, I like to cherry pick from Mr. Sampson's columns based on the questions that are on the simple little minds of you, the reader. 

This week, I'm feeling a little more selfish.  As earlier suggested, I walked out of the stadium disappointed in what I'd thought should've been  a dominant defensive performance against a team that had very limited ways to hurt you.

To quote The Princess Bride's Inigo Montoya, I wanted to see humiliations galore.

So this question is to address that.

Keeping USC to 153 yards rushing and 16 points feels like a win defensively on paper, but USC’s miscues took a number of points off the board (Bo Bauer’s pick notwithstanding). Did this defensive effort feel more troublesome for you given what could’ve been, or was this a game plan (bend, almost break, but let USC go all USC on themselves) that worked pretty well?

Jonathon G.

More the latter, although watching the game live I wondered just how well the defense was playing. After watching the game back and charting it, I came away more impressed.

Here’s how I’d look at the performance. Notre Dame went into the game with nickel as its base defense. Of USC’s 69 offensive snaps, Notre Dame had at least five defensive backs on the field for 67 of them. With Kyle Hamilton, that’s no problem. Without him, Marcus Freeman had to roll the dice between scrapping the plan due to Hamilton’s injury and sticking with what the defense practiced all week. He went with Door No. 2.

Full credit to D.J. Brown, Ramon Henderson and Houston Griffith for holding down the safety position without Hamilton, but that group doesn’t match up with most Power 5 opponents. Going nickel and dime did not get Notre Dame’s best 11 on the field at the same time, but against USC’s personnel, there wasn’t much choice. Once you factor in Hamilton’s loss with the personnel choices Freeman made, the performance was relatively solid.

And yes, waiting for USC to do USC things is a strategy. It’s the point of playing bend-but-don’t-break. Most college offenses aren’t efficient enough to put together four or five 10-play scoring drives in a game. USC certainly wasn’t.

There were questions from Daniel I. and Ryan C. about the cornerback position in terms of recruiting and development. Right now Notre Dame is living with the recruiting missteps of previous cycles. The senior class was supposed to be Derrik Allen, Houston Griffith, DJ BrownNoah Boykin and TaRiq Bracy. Allen is a reserve at Georgia Tech. Boykin plays at UMass. Brown has been a career reserve. Griffith entered the transfer portal before reversing course. Kelly joked that Bracy’s career has felt like nine years instead of four. The junior class was Kyle Hamilton (All-America), Isaiah Rutherford (starting at Arizona), Litchfield Ajavon (zero snaps on defense in 2021), KJ Wallace (28 snaps on defense) and Cam Hart (starting as a converted three-star receiver).

That’s two classes, 10 players and two hits. Not good enough.

There’s a reason why Notre Dame took Isaiah Pryor and Nick McCloud as graduate transfers last year. There’s a reason why the Irish went after Akayleb Evans, who chose Missouri after transferring from Tulsa. And there’s a reason you’ll see Notre Dame scour the portal again for defensive back help this offseason. This position has not been developed at College Football Playoff levels.

Source:  The Athletic
October 12, 2021

Cocktail of the Week

Whenever one thinks about USC, what's the (one of) first, knee jerk associations?

Hollywood.  Show Time. 

But not Scorsese 'serious' content. More like flashy, vacuous entertainment, see-it-on-IMAX content, the equivalent of what one of my brothers would call a 'cinematic Twinkie,' tastes good but you're hungry an hour later.

So, a Hollywood drink based on a silly, if engaging, premise.  Seems appropriate for this opponent.

Jurassic Port
Jurassic Park (1993)
Directed by Steven Spielberg

Wait, an overrun theme park that isn't Disney World on Spring break? Jurassic park was the brainchild of bess-selling novelist Michael Chrichton as seen through the wide-lens vision of Steven Spielberg, whose track record for telling humane stories starring inhuman life forms remains unparalleled. 

Here, the director revolutionized just how jaw-droppingly realistic a 40' computerized dinosaur could look (and still looks, decades later), sending theatergoers under their seats - and back for multiple sequels.

Get ready for lines around the block when you make our cracked-egg cocktail.  It's a scream. 

1 1/2 oz.  rye whiskey                                                  

3/4  oz.  lemon juice                                                     

3/4  oz.  simple syrup                                                  

1/2  oz.  port wine

1/2  oz.  egg white

Combine all the ingredients in a shaker and dry shake for 10 seconds.  

Add a handful of ice and shake well.  

Strain over fresh ice in a rocks glass, find a secure location and never forget:  If dinosaurs can open doors, they can certainly steal a drink. 

Source:  Gone With The Gin
Cocktails with a Hollywood Twist
by Tim Federle


 5                     @Florida St.    W
11                    Toledo              W
18                    Purdue             W
24                    Linipalooza X   W
25                   @Wisconsin    W

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

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


So.  6-1.  Looking good, Billy Ray.  Feeling good, Louis

And yet, do you really feel confident quite yet about them running the table?  Talk to me after this coming game.

You know I'm not in the clear
You are not in the clear
Don't you go counting me out...


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.


Schadenfreude of the Week

We're getting to that time of year where the source of one's schadenfreude emotions falls into one of three attitudinal categories:

1)  I've never liked you.  I will never like you. And if you lose every game into perpetuity, I feel certain that I will be a better person for it.

2)  I'm normally not like this but my team's disappointing performance has left me full of self-loathing and I just want to see the world burn

3)  It's not personal, just business.  I just need you to lose in order to advance my team's self-interest.


1)  USC.   Category 1.  Fun with numbers: by the time we play the Trojans again (11/26/22), it'll be 2,190 days - and counting - since the last time they will have beaten the Irish.

2)  Penn State.   Category 1.  18 points after nine OT's.  Now you're just showing off, coach Franklin. (And with Ohio St. on the schedule Saturday, perhaps this wasn't the week to announce a change in agents.)

3)  Oklahoma State.  Category 3.  As little regard as I have for the Big 12, celebrating your spitting the bit against Iowa St. isn't personal, just business.

Terry's Tools

In a moment of recent quiet reflection, I found myself wondering, "What is wrong with me?"  How is that I so aggressively celebrate the Zippy the Pinheads of the world each week over, typically, a singular Buddy's Buddy?

What happened to that dewey-eyed, young Iowa hayseed I used to be - who saw every Solo cup as half-full and ready to be topped up with your finest PBR (or, if one could score some in the mid-to-late '70s, Coors?)   

How had the world hardened him so - was it the steady interaction with the myriad of Long Island tough guys or running with The Pittsburgh Seven, each one weirder than the next and yet strangely magnetic in their own idiosyncratic way. 

Maybe it has to do with falling under the seductive trance of all those Dillonites.   So likable. So deviant.

More likely, the answer lies in this:  Jerrence is just a content whore.  A slave to tawdry click bait. But geez, there's just. so. many. idiots. out. there.

And with a week off since our last game, they came at him fast, furious and from all directions.

1)  Ed Orgeron. 
 Allow me a bit of hyperbole:  never was there a better cultural fit with a college program than coach O and LSU. 

And yet, how could they fall out of love so far, so fast?

It would seem another example of  'behind the fall of a high profile man is a femme fatale'.  

Or in coach O's case, it would seem, several.

2)  Nick Rolovich.  The Washington St. head coach who lost his job for his passionate, if profoundly misguided, stand on anti-vaxxing.  Good for you, I'm sure you're feeling quite the martyr for your principles. You've got a team and coaching staff that depends on you but whatever, make it about yourself.   

What makes you quite the douche, for moi, is your trying to play the religious exemption card in all of this.  

Specifically, the Catholic card.  Wait, what?  You're resisting based on Catholic religion grounds?  You are aware the Pope is pro-vaccination, yes?  Or maybe there's a splinter group you're aligned with - Illuminati?

3)  Cam McDaniels.  This is, frankly, far more sad than funny.  More tragic than mockable.  But honestly, Cam, WTF?  

Read here the fuller story but the headline is this:  McDaniel's younger brother, starting RB at SMU, breaks his foot and his brother talks him into an unproven electronic pulse-based therapy involving equipment from his company, of. which he is CEO.  Guess what?  It didn't work.  And the kid's foot, a year later, is still messed up.  Keep telling yourself, Cam, your brother's bones are making progress - maybe by the time he's in grad school he'll be good to go.

Candace Owens.  Who?  Wikipedia describes her as an author, talk show host, political commentator and activist.  Can we add 'moron'? 

"Hey, I was just kidding about the 'US should attack Australia because of their totalitarian state management of their country's COVID epidemic...'"  

Sure you were. 

  U. of Tennessee fans. Perhaps you read about the Volunteer fanbase raining hellfire onto the field during their game vs.  Ole Miss, a group already agitated over Lane Kiffin's return to Knoxville and further inflamed  over the poor quality of the team's play.

Apparently it got pretty ugly.  And messy.   Who brings their own mustard to a game anyway?  At least it wasn't Grey Poupon - throwing the glass jar would've been both dangerous and wasteful.

And yet, somewhere in Philadelphia there surely are Eagles fans thinking, challenge accepted.


If you'd like another laugh at the SEC's expense, check this out.  I'd imagine it hits a little too close to home for Bulldog Nation...

6)  Le Famiglia Sackler. Jerrence's latest TV Limited Series recommendation, "Dopesick," on Hulu.

Based on a book by the same name, an 8-episode series chronicling the genesis of the OxyContin / opioid epidemic - and the family that masterminded the marketing of the highly addictive drug as good for, basically, any pain management.   


Part of me wants to be impressed with how they did it.  Impressed, if one can put aside, entirely the complete lack or ethics or criminal implications to their marketing plan.

Spoiler alert:  a lot of blame to go around beyond the Sacklers, starting with FDA. 

7) WFT.  Is Dan Snyder the worst person in the world?  Not a rhetorical question. 

The Magic 8 Ball says, "Signs point to Yes."

In any event, one sure hopes someone outside the NFL gets to see those 650,000 emails.  

Congress on Line 1, Commissioner Goodell.  Given he apparently made $128M over the last two years, one can assume he's going to be very motivated to keep his bosses clean, even a total tool like Snyder. 

Understandable. But seeing how the way the NFL is acting like, "nothing to see here," you have to believe whatever is in those emails is gonna make Robert Kraft's indiscretions look like kindergarten.

Where is WikiLeaks when you need 'em?

Final Thoughts