September 06, 2008
The Good, The Bad, The Ugly - Week 1 (San Diego St.)
That had to have been one of the more depressing victories I've ever witnessed. Walking out of the stadium, we all discussed the fact that it felt much more like a loss than a victory. Regardless, its a W, and I guess (hope, pray) the style points will have to come down the road.
Let's take a look at the three areas of the game - offense, defense and special teams - along with the coaching and go over a few of the high and low points.
Clausen was effective, and had a few nice drives in the 4th quarter. Showed off the arm on a few missiles across the middle, and some darts to the sideline. Also showed a really nice deep ball. The receivers (save Kamara, discussed further below) were pretty solid, and Golden Tate appears to be on the verge of becoming a superstar. Rudolph and Floyd played quite a bit, each had a reception, and Floyd had his first TD. Floyd also showed the ability to beat his man off the line consistently, a trait some of his comrades have struggled with in the recent past. The line didn't give up a sack and generally kept Clausen off his butt. Allen and Hughes both ran hard, and although there wasn't much in the way of running room, they generally managed to avoid the negative plays behind the line.
Quite a bit was expected of Duval Kamara coming into this year after a solid freshman season last year. A few drops and mental mistakes in the spring game, and an appearance to training camp several pounds over his playing weight led to some speculation about whether the young'uns would jump up and snatch some PT away from him this year. He did have a nice reception for 28 yards, but a bad drop off his shoulder pad led to an interception, and a jump ball in the end zone that Kamara appeared to give up on led to the other interception and took away some momentum from the Irish after a big turnover (blocked punt?). In his defense, he did have to leave the field with what looked to be cramps, or perhaps some other leg injury. He didn't play much during the comeback in the 4th quarter, but did return for run blocking late to ice it. Simply put, he's going to need to step it up if he wants to stay on the field. He's the best blocking WR, and the best red zone target at the moment. I'm confident he'll do so, but ND is really going to need him to succeed.
This should be no surprise to anyone - the offensive line was simply putrid in run blocking. Weis has repeatedly said this year that he'd love to have a team that chews up big chunks of yardage on the ground and burns lots of clock. The Irish were facing a SDSU defensive line that was thinned by injury and graduation, severely undersized (playing several converted LB's as DE's) and had been gashed for 250+ yards rushing by Cal Poly the week prior. Running for 111 yards and averaging 3.3 a rush is atrocious considering the competition. This was incredibly disappointing and certainly doesn't bode well for the future.
SDSU attempted 59 passes and totaled 274 yards through the air. That's an average of just over 4.5 an attempt. Not bad against a team with a penchant for throwing it all over the yard. The supposed weak link, the rush defense, gave up only 71 yards, but only on 17 attempts. Small sample size to be sure. The constant blitzing by Cor-Nuta seemed to have a definite effect on SDSU's flow and appeared to take Lindley out of his comfort zone at times. Solid, but unspectacular I suppose. Will learn more in the very near future.
Missed tackles, a few bad penalties (especially the late hit, giving SDSU new life) and various other mental mistakes were irritating. I'm too lazy to look up info on "big plays" but feel like the Aztecs hit on a few too many gains over 20 yards. Granted, when a team throws it 60 times a game, they're bound to have a few. Frustrating to see SDSU march it down the field 80+ yards a few times, including a bunch of 3rd down conversions. Still, too early to be horribly picky.
I like seeing Cor-Nuta bringing the pressure, adopting the Buddy Ryan method of bringing more guys than they have to block with, but it certainly seemed that on several occasions, we weren't able to get there when bringing 6 or even 7 guys. SDSU's quick throwing probably had something to do with it, but the pash rush is definitely going to need to create more havoc down the road. Might be a bit harsh here.
Blocked punt by Sergio. Anello doing Anello things. Nice punt return from Armando.
Kickoffs still not getting past the 10 yard line. Amazing that a major Div. I programs such as ND can't find a guy that can kick the ball into the end zone. Or even to the end zone.
Missed FG from Walker (albeit from 48 yards). Muffed snap on another attempt. The very definition of ugly.
Umm. Nice...shirts? The blitzing helped at times, but as above, sometimes didn't get there. Nice playcalling in the 4th quarter, but everything before was so lousy it puts a bit of a damper on it all.
With time running down , up 8 and in chip shot range, Weis chose to run on 4th and short instead of kicking the FG to ice the W. What does it say about Weis' confidence in his kicker and special teams crew that he's not willing to kick the FG at that point? Maybe he preferred to give the offensive line another chance to prove themselves, but that certainly seemed like the perfect opportunity to show your kicker you still believe in him.
By the way, where was James Aldridge? Don't get me wrong, I like seeing Hughes getting the majority of the carries at this point, but is Alridge effectively done? I suppose that remains to be seen,
I suppose I can't question the playcalling too much since the running game wasn't exactly working well, but the fact that we weren't able to do anything against such a lousy run defense does not bode well for the future of the ND running game. If we couldn't run against the Aztecs, who the hell are we going to be able to run against?
Offense - GOLDEN TATE. Clausen could go here as well. But Tate's emergence as not only a big play threat but an every-down receiver is one heck of a boon to the offense.
DEFENSE - SERGIO BROWN. This could probably be any number of guys. McCarthy played well. Bruton forced the big fumble. But I feel like Sergio's blitzes tended to be the most effective. The blocked punt helps too.
SPECIAL TEAMS - MIKE ANELLO. This one doesn't really need too much explanation. The guy's a monster. I'm sure Weis would love to use a line from "Rudy" and tell Anello that he wished he could put his heart into some of his offensive linemen's bodies.
FINALLY, a few predictions for the future...
SHORT TERM - The Irish rush for fewer than 100 yards against Michigan and have to resort to slinging it all over the yard to move the ball.
LONG TERM - Mike Floyd and Golden Tate supplant Grimes and Kamara as Clausen's favorite targets and total 20 TD receptions between them at the end of the year.