This past weekend was a very difficult one for many Irish fans. The frustration and disbelief I felt at the end of Notre Dame's matchup against Boston College was similar to the disbelief a young man feels when he breaks up with his very first girlfriend.
In one moment, the young man realizes that the faults in his relationship with his girlfriend far outweigh the good feelings he had when he first took interest in her. Ultimately, there is nothing left for the young man to do to salvage his "relationship" with his girlfriend, and he breaks up with her.
While I'm not at the point yet to give up on Notre Dame football or even Charlie Weis, the outcome of Notre Dame's football game with Boston College left me in the same desperation that this young man feels near the end of his relationship. The good feelings that I had about Charlie Weis, Jimmy Clausen, and the rest of the Irish football team at the beginning of the season, and their remarkable start, have since worn off.
I felt that if only this young team could turn the corner and begin to play up to their capabilities, they might be able to make a run for a decent bowl game. As it stands right now, the Irish aren't even bowl eligible.
At Least the Defense Came to Play
Giving up just 10 points all game, the defense was the bright spot in Saturday's match up and for the first time, I enjoyed watching the defense far more than the offense. Even though the secondary leaves a lot to be desired, anytime the defense holds the opposition to just 10 points, it gives any inept offense an opportunity to be the hero of the football game and achieve victory. Additionally, the performance of the Irish defense was especially significant because of the great field position the Irish Special Teams gave to the Boston College Offense at nearly every chance.
Mike Floyd Is a Man Among Boys
As a freshman, Mike Floyd is putting up some very strong numbers to solidify his position not only in the record books for freshman receivers at Notre Dame, but also to solidify his position on the Freshman All-American Team. He is currently one of the country's two best receivers, with Julio Jones of Alabama (although he leads Jones in receptions, yards, and touchdowns). On Saturday, Mike Floyd lead all receivers with 69 yards, and the only time the Notre Dame offense was moving the ball consistently was when Jimmy Clausen was completing passes to Floyd. He remains one of the bright spots of the Irish anemic offense, especially when teams are putting two defenders on Golden Tate.
Hey Look! Jimmy Clausen Is a Freshman Again!
My brother owns an Irish Terrier puppy named Sorin (yes, that Sorin). When I went and visited him this weekend, he was commenting on how he is house training his puppy. He said that usually, when an Irish Terrier puppy gets to a certain age, and for no apparent reason, there is a short time when he forgets all of his training and reverts back to the state of when the training began and he hadn't learned anything yet.
This is the stage that I felt Jimmy Clausen was in this past Saturday. He was forcing balls where they shouldn't have been and for the second time this season, he threw an interception for a touchdown. Clausen had he worst game of his career—throwing four interceptions to zero touchdowns. Furthermore, he was not throwing the ball properly all game. On short screen passes, he was throwing the ball unnecessarily hard which resulted in incomplete passes and stalled drives. Who knows what the problem was on Saturday; either Clausen played that bad, or the Boston College defense was that good. I think it's a combination of both.
When Is The Running Game Going To Arrive?
Probably not this year. Every year, Charlie Weis comes to the press at the end of summer camp and hypes-up one runner more than the others. Last year, it was Munir Prince who ended up moving to the secondary and subsequently transferring. This season, it was Armando Allen who, while marginally better than the other two running backs, still has not broken out as a powerful and intimidating running back. I still have no inclination when he touches the football that he could break off a 60 yard run for a touchdown. So, this begs the question: "Is Charlie Weis just blowing smoke up our rear ends, or is he misguided?"
Notre Dame's offensive line is marginally better at pass blocking, but they haven't gotten any better with run blocking—which is very discouraging. Additionally, the running backs seem very timid when they hit the line of scrimmage. Holes are being made by the offensive line and the running backs are doing a very poor job of finding those holes and accelerating through them.
The Element of Predictability
What was Mike Haywood thinking when he called a draw play on third and 20 on Notre Dame's first drive of the ball game deep in their own territory? Unfortunately, this was only the tip of the iceberg. Time and time again, I was dumbfounded at the possible thought process behind some of the calls that Mike Haywood was sending down to the field. Furthermore, I was dumbfounded that Charlie Weis would have approved such calls.
Fortunately, there may be some help coming for the game against Navy. Unfortunately, Mike Haywood has to attend a funeral which will cause him to miss some practice time. That means that Charlie Weis will be taking back the laminated card for the game against Navy. We will see first hand whether or not Haywood's play calling is a significant factor in Notre Dame's inability to effectively gain and keep a lead in a football game, especially in the second half. I have a feeling that the experiment of giving the play calling duties to Haywood will prove to be a mistake, one which Charlie will rectify this weekend and one that he won't repeat next year.
Currently, the Irish sit at a record of 5-4. Given the season that the Irish had last year, 5-4 is still a monumental turnaround from 3-9. The frustrating thing is that the Irish still could be 8-1 right now, but several things have plagued the Irish this season; things that have plagued them nearly every outing.
So far, this season has been a tough pill to swallow for many Irish fans. After coming off a year like last year's, many fans wanted to see the Irish play up to their potential. However, this team still isn't at the point where they can play a bad game in most statistical categories and still expect to win. But, given Weis' track record as a recruiter, once the Irish get over that hump, they will be able to reload talent and compete to be one of the top teams in the country year after year.
Hopefully, Navy will provide the Irish with a victory to which they can add Syracuse and go into Southern California with some sort of confidence and try to salvage what's left of this disappointing season.