Notre Dame Crushes Nevada: Turns Sights on Wolverines
I deliberately waited a couple of days so that the euphoria of a near-perfect Notre Dame win over Nevada wouldn't tempt me to write things I might regret later. But all in all, my opinion of Saturday's blowout victory over Nevada hasn't really changed much.
It had everything: balanced offense, swarming defense, good special teams, and best of all, the opportunity to watch the critics who predicted a Nevada win (especially those here on B/R), eat a cold plate of their own words.
Don't get me wrong. I'm not overestimating the victory. The Irish still have many games to play, and their schedule is bound to look more difficult as the season goes on. Even miserable Michigan and Purdue looked like champions in their patsy openers.
But let's also not underestimate the victory. Notre Dame shut out last year's No. 5 ranked offense.
Shut them out.
I knew something special was brewing. It began at the midnight Drum Circle Friday night, and by Saturday morning there was a definite energy in the air that had been missing for a long, long time. While waiting for the band to step off and march to the stadium, I spoke to a visiting couple from Nevada.
"We are honored to be invited to play here," they said. "We know what Notre Dame means, and what this place stands for."
Wow. The Wolfpack fans were great. It was a pleasure to meet so many of them.
But then it was gametime, and mutual respect notwithstanding, it was time to face off on the field. So here's my thoughts on the game:
1.) Jimmy Clausen Is The Man
If he maintains this level of play, only a conspiracy will keep him out of the Heisman race. He has come of age, and the two-year baptism of fire has made him not only an outstanding quarterback, but a team leader as well.
He was nearly perfect, completing 15 of 18 passes for 315 yards and four touchdowns. He set his own record for longest career touchdown pass (70 yards), and then broke it in the same game (88 yards), both to Michael Floyd.
The raw, true freshman who was sacked 57 times in his first year and threw almost as many interceptions as he did touchdowns is history. Like I said, he's the man.
2.) Just Try and Beat ND's Receivers
Golden Tate. Kyle Rudolph. And the freak, Michael Floyd. Go on, double-team one or more of them. You are going to have to.
And it will come at a big cost somewhere else. If you don't, it's bombs away.
They will eat you alive. I've been attending ND games since I was 10 years old (that's almost 40 years). I've seen great players, and I've seen incredible receivers. But I'm not sure I've ever seen this many that are this good on one team. And I mean anywhere.
3.) Dear O-Line, Welcome to Notre Dame
Finally the offensive line showed up, and with it came an impressive running game. If they are here to stay, the Irish will pass it on you, or run it on you. You pick.
4.) Jon Tenuta Delivers a Defense
Nevada averaged 38 points a game last year. This year, against an amazing, aggressive, constantly blitzing Notre Dame defense, they converted only two of 12 third down chances.
The heralded Wolfpack quarterback that ran for 1,000 yards last year did nothing but run for his life. Every snap brought immediate pressure, and I was amazed at the significant increase in the Irish's team speed.
And now comes Michigan. To give credit where credit is due, they looked far better than expected against Western Michigan, but then, lots of extra practice can do that to a team. Given where both teams are, the Irish should handle the Wolverines. But suddenly, the Michigan-Notre Dame game is starting to feel like old times.
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