With the first game of the college football season there are always alot of unanswered questions.
For the Irish there were several.
Granted they did open up with the Nevada Wolfpack, but let's not count out the WAC as a completely inept conference a la Boise St against Oregon. I won't be as presumptuous and say that the Irish are going to win the National Title this year (thanks Lou). But I am encouraged to see the Irish have turned the corner in one aspect, and that is putting away teams they should put away.
The Irish had a problem finishing games and opponents. Nevada had a dangerous offense but not much of a defense to speak of. So to see the Irish hold them to a shut out was definitely a positive aspect to this game.
The offensive line showed emotion and passion in the trenches. The tackles had their hands full with Nevada's speed rushers from the outside but Coach Weis took advantage of that speed and dialed up some screens and draw plays to effectively negate the solid pass rush from the Wolfpack. Sam Young had a solid performance as well as Paul Duncan.
I saw an attitude from the Irish offensive line I haven't seen in a while. I think the hiring of Coach Verducci is going to pay off in big ways this season and into next year.
Jimmy Clausen, Michael Floyd, and Armando Allen all looked to be stronger and faster than last year. Jimmy made good decisions and looked great throwing the deep ball. I would like to see Jimmy get the offense in a faster rhythm or tempo. At times they seem to be just taking their time and being almost to methodical in their approach.
I think with the weapons and experience on this team and uptempo offense would be a nice change of pace to keep the opponents on their heels. Michael Floyd showed the break away and homerun speed the Irish have been craving for years. I have to also give props to Golden Tate who threw two great blocks on the quick pass to Floyd that went for 70+ yards and a touch.
Armando Allen's big goal this year was to not go down on first contact. Well I can say from watching the game that Allen did just that. He looked tougher to bring down and kept his legs churning the whole time. I think Jonas Gray is going to be a special player as a change of pace back for the Irish.
But I have to say the X Factor to the Irish offense this year is going to be Kyle Rudolph. The 6-6 260 pound TE from Ohio looked like an upper class man yesterday. He is going to be a match up problem for every team because of his size and ability to run the middle of the field. Linebackers are going to be to slow to cover him at times and DB's are going to be to small to bring him down with just one man. The only exception to this rule would be Taylor Mays from USC.
The defense had me worried for a little bit because I thought they looked to aggressive at times and missed some tackles when they should have had some of the Wolfpack players dead to rites. Colin Kaepernick did a good job of getting out of the pocket and scrambling against the Irish. Against the Wolverines, the Irish are going to have to stay disciplined and wrap up.
I was impressed that the defense got better and continued to pour on the pressure as the game went on. I did like the fact they looked in better condition physically than last year. I still have concerns on the Irish defensive line on whether or not they are going to be able to apply enough pressure without the blitz.
One thing to keep your eye on is how the Irish handle the inside zone play from the Wolverines next week. I think the Irish have some work ahead of them on plugging up the middle of that defensive line. I liked the hustle but there is some room for improvement.
Overall the Irish had a great day. The offense was clicking on all cylinders and the defense played with excitement and passion. This is a victory the Irish were expected to have and they pulled through.
The Irish need to keep things in perspective and push back any talk of National Championships and focus solely on their next opponent. I like what I see so far. Leadership, Passion, and most importantly the Irish looked like they were having fun.