The 2009 season is well under way, and with one quarter of the schedule in the record books, I thought I’d share my impressions about the three games so far. As a self-confessed Notre Dame partisan, I’ll work hard to stay objective.
1. Our offense can play with anyone in the country
Having seen the level of play over the last two years, one has to be hesitant in making a statement like this. But the Hawaii Bowl wasn’t a fluke. The Irish are potent, averaging 34 points per game, and around 500 yards total offense over the three games this season.
It took me a few games, but I’m now a believer. We can move the ball on anyone.
2. Our defense is a big problem
The defense was stellar in the opening game with Nevada. But it’s been all down hill since then. While on offense, Notre Dame has been able to go up and down the field at will, but unfortunately, our opponents have been able to as well, making every game a shootout.
So what’s the problem? Is it scheme? Or is it talent? We knew our d-line was going to be the weakest link, but it isn’t just that.
The strength of this unit was supposed to be the secondary. But pass or run, we’ve had issues. Clearly, success or failure now depends on Tenuta and company plugging the holes and gelling. It isn’t impossible that as the season grinds on it will happen. Otherwise we’ll see more shootouts than Dodge City.
3. No more tolerance for critics bashing NDs "easy schedule"
All summer long, every critic of Notre Dame used their supposed easy schedule as a tool to disqualify any success the Irish might have this season. The argument went something like this. “Notre Dame is terrible. They won’t win more than four games. But even if they do win 10 games and make it to a BCS Bowl they still stink because their schedule is so soft.”
While I know this actually passes for critical thinking and thoughtful analysis among the legions of know-nothing Irish Haters, no amount of preseason discussion could shut off this BS.
Well, suddenly our schedule doesn’t look so soft. Michigan? Who knew they’d be this good. As much as I hate to, I’ll be the first one to stand up and eat my words—your QB is the real deal.
Washington? Uh oh…that looked like a gimme…but not anymore. So shut up with the “easy schedule” nonsense.
4. Notre Dame stadium has gotten loud
To those of you who regularly attend games at Notre Dame Stadium, have you noticed the noise? Seriously…this is the loudest I’ve seen this stadium in years (and I’ve been attending games since 1971). Something’s going on…fans are believing again.
5. UM loss was reality check No. 1. MSU win was reality check No. 2
Following the loss to Michigan, despair settled in. We played great against a formidable Nevada offense, and then were just gashed by Michigan. Clearly, we weren’t as good as we thought we were.
Then, following the win over Michigan State, where just as the week before it was coming down to a defensive stop, the Irish found a way to win.
For you kids out there, that kind of heroics used to happen all the time in Notre Dame Stadium…the Irish always seemed to find a way to win. Just like against Michigan State.
Now we don’t seem as bad as we did following Michigan. We’re somewhere in between, and hopefully getting better.
6. Has anyone noticed how great Clausen is?
Seriously, he’s the real deal.
Are you kidding me? Athletic Director Swarbrick, if you are reading this, you simply must do something about this.
8. Michael Floyd.
Gone for the season. That hurts.
9. We do, indeed, have a running game
Hats off to Charlie Weis. The changes he made in his coaching staff are reaping big dividends. Armando Allen has turned into a powerful, explosive running back. The guy is a bruiser, and is never brought down on the first tackle.
The long-overdue change in offensive line coach is making a huge difference as well. Finally runners have running lanes, and Clausen has protection. None of the offensive fireworks would be possible without the o-line stepping up.
10. USC lost
So they’re human after all. Come on, guys…we can get ‘em this year.