Irish Hopes Dashed As Pitt Wins in 4OT

Nate SummersContributor INovember 5, 2008

I couldn't believe the Irish gave that game away to the Pitt Panthers.  Let's not take anything away from Wanstedt and the boys they fought back in the second half and stole one from the Irish in South Bend.  As I sat on my couch chewing my hat I couldn't help but be amazed at the lack of killer instinct by the Irish to not put Pitt away early in the second half.

These kind of losses are taking a toll on the Irish faithful across this great nation.  Just like the country expressed it's opinion about the next leader of the free world I am going to express my opinion about the leadership on this team.  Leadership is the toughest lesson to learn for some and the most rewarding for others.  I don't see leadership on this team.  No one has stepped up and said that this is my team and we go as I go.  I see a team out there but no leader.  Jimmy Claussen improved dramatically this year and has the capability to be the offensive leader for this team, but he still hasn't perfected the little things and I still have reservations about him being a clutch quarterback, yet.  An example of this was the pass to a wide open Floyd in OT to give the Irish a touchdown lead over the Panthers.  Whether that would have won the game is neither here nor there but if he wants to ascend to the next level he will need to make those plays in his sleep.  Sam Young, the talented offensive lineman who started as a true freshman, has the ability to be a leader on this team.  Although the Irish have improved their pass protection dramatically from last year they have yet to develop a consistent running game.  It all starts with the offensive line, and I believe if the Irish can get stronger and come with a nasty workman like attitude they will be successful.  Until that happens all they will be is highly recruited prospects who didn't live up to their billing.  Golden Tate has brought the deep ball, along with Micheal Floyd, back to Notre Dame.  But when a star player like Tate says they didn't come out and play as hard as they should have in the second half you have to wonder, why?  If there were a leader on the offense that would have never happened.  A leader would have rallied his troops together and went out in the second half and put the Panthers away for good.

I want to address the defensive side of the ball as well.  I want to start off by saying it has been a joy to watch the Notre Dame defense bring a variety of blitz's this year and try to put more heat on opposing offenses.  Just like the offense where are the leaders on the defense?  I could make a case for Pat Kuntz.  He has been arguably the most vocal and emotional player on the Irish defense this year.  Maurice Crum, Jr is also an emotional leader.  A leader on Defense also has to be a game changer.  The leader on a defense has to be the meanest, most fundamentally sound football player on the field.  And to many times this year I have watched Irish defenders blitz opposing offenses and not come with that attitude indictive of an aggressive defense.  I will say against UW they came with some heat and attitude but that was UW.  They are one of the worst football teams in the country right now.  I want to see that same intensity against the Pitt's (to late), BC's, and USC's. 

Coaching is a tricky profession filled with pitfalls, rewards, and down right eleation.  But coaching like leadership is daunting task that takes patience and diligence to stick with the plan and adjust on the fly.  I think Coach Weis is doing a good job.  Although a lot of folks out there would disagree with me whole heartily but I really believe he has the Irish heading in the right direction.  Coach Weis brought in Coach Tenuta to assist Coach Brown with the defense.  As a result the defense has played better but still has a lot of room to grow.  Coach Weis turned over play calling duties to Coach Haywood and Coach Haywood has done a satisfactory job up to this point considering the young talent that is his offense.  I think as the season goes on the Irish will begin to be more aggressive in the passing game and hopefully that will open up the running game some more.  Coach Weis has taken a special interest in special teams, and the there has been a remarkable improvement in that area this year.  I haven't seen gunners hustle and make tackles as consistently as ND's gunners have this year.  Those two guys deserve a medal because they show up every week.  If ND football is going to get back it's tradition and stake in the BCS it will have to get stronger, faster, and find the leadership necessary to lead this team back to the promise land.