As a long time ND fan I have to say that was one of the toughest and most frustrating games to watch. Triple Option football is not a hard concept to defend. It's one of the oldest offenses in college football. It capitalizes on inconsistent and sloppy play on the defense.
I want to make sure everyone understands this first and foremost, Navy played a great football game and capitalized on every chance ND gave them. They played disciplined assignment football and their defense bent but never broke. Since I played defense throughout my football playing days I tend to focus more on that side of the ball.
What I saw against Navy had to be some of the worst three technique and middle linebacker play in a long time against an option team.
To disrupt a option team you need one thing and that is penetration from your three techniques to get at least one yard deep in the offensive backfield. This takes the pullers, and the QBs off their track causing them to bubble out and gives the defense more time to rally to the football and GANG TACKLE (I will address that shortly).
It's no secret the Navy offensive line is going to chop, chop, and chop some more. With that in mind you have to your hands up and center of gravity underneath you to defeat the chop block. By waiting for the chop block you play right into what Navy wants you to do not take them off their timing or their lanes for the QB and any pullers coming down the line.
When you wait a catch everything the offense is now attacking you on your side of the ball. The three techniques from ND did not consistently get this done play in and play out.
A middle linebacker is the QB of the defense and for ND they need one. Manti Teo is young and will be an effective linebacker for the Irish for years to come. But I want to focus on the player who played in the middle this game and his name is Brian Smith. The middle linebacker has the fullback to QB to Pitch.
I saw Brian overrun the fullback several times and this lapse in assignment cost the ND defense huge chunks of yardage. Brian is a great motivator but as a pure player I have to question his ability or attention to detail. In addition to the missed assignments there were several instances of poor tackling.
I was amazed at how many times the Irish defense had the Navy Midshipmen stopped at the line of scrimmage and could not seem to bring them down. However for Navy they seemed to be able to bring down the Irish ball carriers through GANG TACKLING. Where was the swarming defense from the Wazzou game? I will tell you they were lying on the ground because they were not athletic enough to defeat the chop block.
So now begins the talk of firing Coach Weis. I just want to make sure that Coach Weis doesn't shoulder the burden for all the blame. I know he should have run the ball more early on to establish a tempo and wear down the Navy defense, but I want to make sure the ND fans understand that the players really let ND nation down.
There isn't a single athlete on Navy's team that compares athletically to ND's team. But Navy has two things ND didn't on this saturday and that is discipline and sound assignment football. Robby Paris fumbles the ball, Jimmy Clausen fumbles the ball, ND offensive line cannot punch it in with first and goal at the five, two missed field goals, and a defense that couldn't make a play to save their life.
I know this loss probably spelled the doom for Charlie Weis but maybe there is light at the end of the tunnel. If, and I say a big if, Coach Weis can lead his team to a 9-3 record and go to either the Gator or Cotton Bowl and come out with a victory then he will have saved his job. If he drops another one in the next month I will almost bet that ND will shopping for his replacement.
So I am going to out on limb and say, don't fire Coach Weis. I know that sounds crazy after what just happened but let's take a moment to remove emotion from the equation. Coach Weis can recruit, and he has proved that over his tenure here at ND.
Second, he is willing to make changes on his staff so the football team can excel. He did it last year with the offense and they have produced (minus the Navy game) in a big way this year. The next step in this process is to keep recruiting and developing the other side of the ball (defense).
They need to land some better athletes on that side of the ball and continue to get faster. I would not be against a coaching change for the linebackers or relegate Tenuta to just the DC role. I know Weis' record against top 25 opponents stinks and he hasn't won the major BCS bowl, but if we are looking to establish a new tradition do we really think wide sweeping changes are in order or just continue to make the tweaks here and there?