While I may not have agreed with the conservative game plan, on paper, I agree that it could have and should have worked vs. Pitt on Saturday. The problem is that this team has struggled with execution (especially on the defensive side of the ball) all year long.
The only time the offense looked remotely comfortable was in the no huddle, and I thought we should have seen this from the start of the game to wear down Pitt’s front four. There were way too many dropped passes, and virtually every one of them would have resulted in a first down.
Sadly, this team didn’t display much on Saturday outside Jimmy Clausen and Golden Tate. I realize that most people won’t agree with my assessment of JC, but he wants to win more than anybody on the field every Saturday. Tate continued to make big plays and the punt return was a beautiful thing.
I personally think that Tate will be playing on Sundays next fall, and Clausen will be back because he has too much to prove right now.
This team has been flat ever since the USC game a month ago. Perhaps they are emotionally exhausted. Maybe it has to do with the mounting injuries. Either way, a little motivation would be nice.
3. Offensive Line
...or lack thereof? The injury to Trevor Robinson (who started, but was replaced in the first half by Dan Wenger) had a major impact on this game, IMO. There is no better way to prove this than the chop block call on Wenger during the last series.
This group was showing steady improvement through the first part of the season peppered with an all-too-infrequent propensity for holding/personal foul penalties (poor officiating aside), but has now done a complete 180 and has regressed over the past month.
I think Frank Verducci has done a pretty good job coaching this group, but it’s obvious that it will take longer than a year to undo the poor habits that have developed in this group.
Looking back at 2005, we saw what a Charlie Weis offense did with a good line. Since then, it becomes ever more apparent what they can’t do without one.
Do I really want to go here? Let’s put it this way, the top four teams in total defense (currently) are, in order: Texas, Florida, Alabama, TCU. What do all of these teams have in common? They are all undefeated. The rest of the top 10: Ohio State, Oklahoma, Air Force, North Carolina, Penn State, Nebraska. Average winning percentage: 82.5 percent.
The last few weeks have been pretty simple for the opposing offenses. Put a blocker directly on Te’o in the middle and take your chances everywhere else.
At the beginning of the season, the weakness (on paper) was the line and the strength was the secondary. Well, as the season has progressed, those things have actually shifted. The line continues to improve its play (especially Kapron Lewis-Moore), while the secondary continues to underperform.
Simply put, John Tenuta has to be the most stubborn coach on the staff—and that is saying something.
Let me be clear—I am not using this as an excuse for a loss. If you play in a game that comes down to a single call to determine the outcome, there were likely many opportunities during the course of the game to make a play that would change the outcome.
That being said, can anyone remember such poor officiating across all of college football in a season? There have literally been hundreds of poor calls this season. From a roughing the snapper call (in the Washington game) to the “fumble” on the final possession vs. Pitt and everything in between, I doubt that any team has been more on the short side of the stick than Notre Dame this year when it comes to blown calls.
If Jack Swarbrick is half the AD he should be, he will fire all the Big East officials he has scheduled for next year and replace them with anybody. The only call that has actually gone the way of the Irish was the questionable call on the Taylor Mays late hit on Armando Allen vs. USC.
Also, replays are killing college football. If they want to keep the existing system, then they need to limit what can be reviewed during the game. I think the replay officials have made up rules as they go on more than one occasion.
Having every play reviewed makes no sense whatsoever and is probably at least partially to blame for the sad state of officiating.
A few other thoughts
· I would like to officially start the “I don’t want Brian Kelly as the next coach at Notre Dame” club. Anyone want to join? Please tell me why you think he would be a good choice? He won at D-II and in the MAC, and now has beaten next to no one at Cincinnati with someone else’s recruits. Forgive me for not seeing the logic...
· We are witnessing a few of the best players ever to suit up in the golden helmets on offense right now in Jimmy Clausen and Golden Tate. It will likely be a long time before we see this again, and with both having aspirations of playing on Sundays soon, we should take this chance to enjoy it for at least two more games...
· Is anyone else wondering why ND ran the wildcat at its own 10 yd line? That really only worked vs. Purdue and Washington State...