The Notre Dame Opponent Watch: Three New Lessons

Marc HalstedCorrespondent ISeptember 6, 2009

Lesson 1: The New Navy Pilot

Chris Spielman, the legendary Ohio State linebacker and current ESPN color analyst, was heard at the 2:23 mark of Saturdays fourth quarter saying, “A little while ago they (Ohio State) were sitting back just wondering how they were going to run out the rest of the clock, and Navy just never gave up.”

Chris, this is Navy and most of these guys haven’t been scared of anything since the second grade. Your guys didn’t invite some patsy like your big bad Big Ten counterparts did with Akron (Penn State) or Western Michigan (Michigan). When you schedule the Naval Academy you schedule four quarters of hard knock football.

Eventually Navy succumbed, 31-27, but not without a strong offensive showing and a stout defensive effort against the more talented Buckeyes.

For Notre Dame fans, the far-from-shocking realization that Navy played hard isn’t the most important thing gleaned from watching Navy put forth a noble effort against the likes of Boom Herron and Terrell Pryor. 

The most important lesson for the Irish is that Ricky Dobbs proved that he can throw.

Nine for 14 for 159 yards and two touchdowns. Those are first quarter stats for a Big 12 quarterback but not for a modern-day Navy signal caller. 

Dobbs looked very good despite three early misses. After settling in and leading the Midshipmen to a first quarter score, Dobbs watched as OSU sprinted ahead 20-7.

Dobbs countered by hitting Marcus Curry for 16 and 85-yard scoring strikes in the second half before pulling Navy within two points of Ohio State with two minutes left in the game.

It’s long been a luxury to count Navy out when they encountered third and long. Now that may not be the case. Preparing for the diversity of the triple option has a new layer of difficulty.

The fear is that Ricky Dobbs can fake the fullback, pull it away from the end-around, and settle into a makeshift pocket and hit an open receiver. That game-film will keep Charlie Weis and Jon Tenuta up at night.

Oh, and did I mention that Dobbs ran for 100 yards and two touchdowns as well. Anybody getting nervous yet? 

Lesson 2: Hope Belies Reality For Purdue

Purdue could win the MAC. Okay, they could win the MAC West. Alright, alright, they could definitely finish in the upper half of the MAC West if they got a few breaks.

Purdue beat Toledo 45-31, but gave up over 360 yards passing to some guy named Aaron Opelt.

Joey Elliot threw for three touchdowns against Toledo, but he also threw three ugly interceptions.

Ralph Bolden topped the 230-yard mark in rushing, but he did it against the Rockets.

The lesson is that there’s hope for Coach Hope, especially with the external and internal beating Oregon took last Thursday night. With the Ducks next on the docket in week two, and Northern Illinois to follow before the ND game, Purdue could be a very soft and unimpressive 3-0 two weeks from now.

And that’s what they’ll be; soft and unimpressive. 

Don’t believe the hype. Purdue is going to be terrible and beating a below-average MAC team by just three touchdowns actually takes the Boilermakers down a few notches. 

The final lesson from West Lafayette on Saturday? ND should hang half-a-hundred on Purdue and look more and more like one of the most electrifying offenses in the nation.

Lesson 3: Sparty Has Some New Toys

Michigan State set up a schedule that will warm them up for Notre Dame. Montana State and Central Michigan victories will give them the momentum they want heading into South Bend.

The Spartans are a trendy pick to knock off the Irish on September 19th. They’ve done it before, much to the disdain of the ND faithful. But they are trying to replace a good quarterback in Bryan Hoyer and a legendary runner in Javon Ringer.

Opening day taught us that Coach Dantonio has recruited talent and has some impressive horses for the 2009 season. Yes, it was Montana State, but 500 yards of offense is 500 yards of offense. 

MSU has the receiver depth on offense, they have Greg Jones on defense, and they have two quarterbacks (Keith Nichol and Kirk Cousins) who can sling it around the ball yard. They also have a defense that surrendered three points, just 160 total yards, and a mere twelve first downs Saturday.

Central Michigan will tell us more about MSU but there is still a lesson to be learned by Notre Dame fans from opening day at Spartan Stadium. That lesson is that there is a heckuva lot of talent in East Lansing. 

If anybody in gold and blue expects to be 5-0 before USC, they’d better make sure they don’t take Sparty too lightly. If the Irish aren’t careful, there could be another green flag stuck in the fifty-yard line before the night is done.


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