An all too familiar scene at Notre Dame Stadium
After Saturday's 28-27 loss to unheralded Tulsa, the Irish continue their free fall down what apparently is a bottomless chasm of failure. The fleeting signs of progress against Boston College and Western Michigan were a mirage that quickly evaporated in a desert of incompetence.
Notre Dame sits at 4-5 entering their bye week, but there is little hope that the respite will do anything more than delay the inevitable 5-7 or even 4-8 record. Instead, there are eight compelling reasons why the rest of 2010 will be a train wreck from which no one can look away.
Despite his ill-advised final throw, Rees showed promising flashes against Tulsa. However, with little running game to speak of, defenses will now game plan to throw the kitchen sink at Rees and wait for him to make a mistake.
Given his inexperience, it's unlikely he will be able to compensate enough to be the difference against either Utah or USC.
Opposing defenses will key on Rees because they have no need to respect the run. The Irish have added some plays from the pistol formation, but their run game remains on a treadmill - spending energy but going nowhere.
This has the additional adverse side effect of allowing opponents to control time of possession which creates...
The no-huddle spread offense works great when it is clicking; the opponent's defense is back on its heels and gasps for air. But when the offense stalls, the reverse is true.
Notre Dame's offense has operated like a teenager driving a stick shift, surging forward and then stalling, stranding its defense on the field for long stretches at a time. The Irish defense doesn't have the depth to spell the starters, and November is the time such exhaustion manifests itself.
The ongoing investigation will continue to be a distraction for head coach Brian Kelly. He admitted that the decision to hold practice outdoors was his.
Even if the investigation closes and Kelly is not found culpable, the haunting guilt he almost certainly suffers will likely stay with him for years and may never fade.
It would be difficult for anyone to focus under those circumstances during a good season, much less one in which some Irish message boards are already flooded with votes of no confidence.
The list of wounded is long and distinguished:
- Dayne Crist
- Kyle Rudolph
- Theo Riddick
- Armando Allen
- Ian Williams
- Carlo Calabrese
Even with an extra week to heal, the only ones that might return are Riddick and Allen. No one else has shown any sign of emerging, especially at wide receiver.
Opponents will focus on Michael Floyd and Manti Te'o and wait for the rest of the team to flounder.
Even if the injured players were still healthy, Notre Dame still suffers from a complete lack of player leadership. This issue has flown under the radar for most of the season, but it is now becoming painfully apparent that not one player has stepped up in a leadership role.
Taking the coaches out of the equation, the players still need to execute and one of the most powerful ways to achieve that accountability is for the players to police themselves. This requires someone willing to step up and lead.
That platform on this Irish team is still empty.
Remaining foes Utah, USC and even Army can sense that Notre Dame is a wounded opponent, and they are lining up their boots to kick the Irish while they're still down. There is little evidence of any fight left in this Irish team, and without any play makers to at least cross a talent divide, even a loss to lowly Army isn't out of the question.
Albert Einstein said the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result.
Under this definition, it's pretty clear that Kelly has gone insane. In his post game press conference Kelly was asked about why he decided to take a shot at the end zone at the end of the game rather than play for the field goal. In response, he told UND.com, "You better get used to it, because that's the way we're playing. If we can get a one on one match up, and we think we can get that accomplished, we're going to call that play again and again."
Thus far, Kelly's unconventional play calls have yielded a losing record, and sticking with this attitude will earn him an unexpectedly short stay in South Bend.