September 22, 2011

Notre Dame vs. Pittsburgh - Building Momentum

Dan: Notre Dame
Just when I’ve given up on the team, they come back and dominate a game. Last Saturday was a blast. Tailgating weather was perfect, grill was fired up, sun was shining, and Aaron Lynch was dominating Spartan O-Linemen. The offense did not have its best game, and turnovers continued to plague the Irish (CATCH A PUNT!), but it did not matter. The defense was incredible. Michigan State’s longest rushing play was eight yards. Eight! 

Pittsburgh is in a rough spot. They almost lost to Maine 2 weeks ago, and gave up a 24-3 lead in the second half last week. Notre Dame’s offense should bounce back against a weak Pittsburgh secondary, and the defense should continue to dominate, particularly if it can contain crossing routes and TE Hubie Graham over the middle. 
Notre Dame 28 Pittsburgh 13
Jeremy: Notre Dame
Even though there were still some frightening moments (I'm looking at you, John Goodman), the Irish dominated the Spartans last Saturday, never relinquishing the double digit lead they built before the half.  The defense appears to be finding its footing, and its fantastic to see ND rolling multiple defensive lines without any drop in production whatsoever.  
Seems like Irish fans are just going to have to get used to the fact that Tommy Rees' maturation is going to include a goodly amount of turnovers, some more soul-crushing than others.  ND will be going up against another stout defensive line, so it could be slow going on the ground for the Irish.  Brian Kelly has done a great job with ND's opening offensive series in each of their first three games, so it would be a surprise if ND got off to a slow start on Saturday.  Opponents have found quite a bit of success through the air against the Panthers, and I would expect Eifert and Floyd to have big days.  The Irish jump out to another lead, and rely on their defense to close out the game strong.
ND 27  Pitt 10
Jimmy: Notre Dame
Can’t remember ever feeling better about a 1-2 team.  The turnover machine that is 2011 ND football didn’t thwart every opportunity for victory, and the defense created some TOs of their own, none bigger than Robert Blanton's nail in the coffin pick.  At least one CB is up to the task of guarding someone.  Aaron Lynch announced his presence in a BIG way.  He and Tuitt will continue to get valuable minutes in the D-line rotation, a luxury that ND hasn't had in a while.  Speaking of impact freshman, how about George Atkinson following his blockers perfectly and running untouched to pay dirt.  Time will tell if BK unearthed a diamond-in-the-rough returner for the next 4 years, but some production is better than nothing at all in the return game.  The unit should be brimming with confidence now that they CAN help the team.  

Absolutely love how Cierre Wood attacks the seams created by the big uglies.  He's the complete package, with Jonas Gray as the bigger load mix-up back nobody wants to see.  From a mental and emotional standpoint, last week's win was ginormous.  BK and the team could finally exhale and breathe normally with win #1 under their belt.  The boys should play quite loose.  It comes down to execution.  If they play close to error-free ball, this won't be close.  But with this year's track record, that won't happen at the snap of a finger.  I expect a couple more maddening turnovers/brain farts before the Irish pull away in the end.

ND 33  Pitt 17
Mike: Notre Dame  
Despite last week’s win, the turnover issues persist for the Irish.  Some observers have commented that Notre Dame could be a top tier team if it can correct this problem, but it is becoming increasingly clear that the turnovers are a trend, not a fluke.  Tommy Rees continues to make his share of good decisions and impressive throws (the touchdown pass to TJ Jones was a thing of beauty), but his propensity to turn the ball over persists.  Accordingly, I expect several more turnovers this week at Pittsburgh.
Having said that, the Irish are clearly more talented than the Panthers at almost every position.  Like Rees, Pitt’s QB, Tino Sunseri, is turnover prone, so the Panthers tend to rely heavily on their standout running back, Ray Graham.  Iowa’s defense held Graham in check last week, however, and the Irish defensive front should be able to repeat their dominating performance against Michigan State against an overmatched Pitt offensive line.  On the other side of the ball, Cierre Wood and Michael Floyd will likely encounter little resistance from the Panther defense, which melted down last week in Iowa City.  I expect another game with plenty of frustrating moments, but, ultimately, an Irish win is in store. 
Notre Dame 30 Pittsburgh 23
Phil: Notre Dame
What a difference a week makes! It was so nice to see us run, block, tackle, and for the most part, hold on to the football. Rees looked pretty sharp and Cierre Wood has really impressed me this year. The defense has been good all year, save for 1 disasterous quarter against Michigan (still waiting for Gary Gray to tackle that receiver in the end zone), but they were especially nasty against Sparty.
Enough with the accolades. How frustrating was that win!?! Just a tantalizing tease of our talent if we don't play boneheads. Now, we have seen what a good squad we have, only to realize that the season is practically lost (at least for our expectations) and we again find ourselves looking at next year. It sickens me, and I am hopeful that BK will learn from this problem, and 1)never play Crist again 2) erase all the entitled feelings in our locker-room and bring a focused football team ready to compete week in and week out. This week, the brunt of our focus belongs to Pitt.
ND 38 Pitt 16

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