Welcome to the Irish Blogger Gathering. Folks, Notre Dame has got some work to do. We might as well break out the wrenches and go to work on the Boilermakers.
This week, I asked Twibby from Her Loyal Sons a few questions. Be sure to check out the rest of the IBG here:
Here we go…
If someone wanted to sit down and put blame on any one thing for last weeks loss to Michigan, they would have a hard time narrowing it down. As bad as it may seem, there were still some bright spots for the Irish. Talk about a couple of them.
"There were NO bright spots for the Irish. This team is terrible and doesn't even know what a 'running' play looks like. We will never reach the title game under this coach." Oh, wait, we did reach the title game last year? And this team actually is extremely talented? I almost forgot what it was like to be an Irish fan on the internet when we lost a regular season game, so Miiiiiiichigan offered quite the rude reminder. This loss was tough – there was no doubt about it. It is always going to be nearly impossible to give up 40 points and still win the game, but there were certainly some positives to take away from the trip to Ann Arbor outside of the Eminem/Musberger gambling discussion.
First – Kyle Brindza. Other than field goal kicking, we have all complained about the quality of ND special teams over the Kelly era, and with a few nasty FG attempts at Temple it seemed like we were officially lacking all phases of special teams. On Saturday, Brindza took over everything and was quite strong in front of the largest crowd in college football history. Not only was Brindza 3/3 on field goals, including a long of 44 yards, but he was also very excellent on his punts and kickoffs. I am not sure how many players have been responsible for punts, kickoffs and field goals at the same time, but I assume Brindza is part of a relatively small crop in the modern era. To put that much responsibility on one player and for him to perform so well in the Big House reflects well not only on his talent but also on his ability to bounce back from a rough outing and speaks volumes for the rest of his career at ND.
How about Hercules? Troy Niklas had 6 grabs for 76 yards and his second touchdown of the season. While he put his athleticism on display with his long touchdown against Temple, what he did in extending his body while balancing on his left hand and thrusting the ball over the goal line all while absolutely trucking a Michigan DB was a play we'd be talking about even more if the Irish had pulled off a victory. His blocking continues to look strong, and the soft hands and speed he is demonstrating may end up making Niklas the next in a string of phenomenal Irish tight ends.
What should be the plan of attack both offensively and defensively this week against Purdue? What will the Irish need to show you for you to move on from the Michigan loss?
I am not going to lie – I can't watch the entirety of a Purdue game without falling asleep, so I can only base my assessment of their team on highlights and box scores. And, well, my assessment is that they suck. They are 116th in the country in points for and 79th in points against when they have only played a Cincinnati team that just got crushed by Illinois and an Indiana State team that gave up 73 to the Hoosiers. Rob Henry still hasn't thrown a touchdown pass, and only one receiver has caught more than 4 passes. On both offense and defense, the Irish need to dominate an inferior line and own the line of scrimmage. Similarly to Temple, I do not think this is a game where the Irish need to do much outside of their base offensive and defensive sets.
While I have seen a lot of complaints about the imbalance of rushing and passing against Michigan, I am generally okay with the play calling. Our defense could not stop Devin Gardner, and running the ball wasn't going to do much for us if we couldn't get the Wolverine offense off the field. That being said, I expect the Irish to be able to run a much more balanced attack against the Boilermakers as ND should be in control from the beginning. Ideally, I'd like to end up with more of a 60/40 run/pass ratio. This is not because I think we are generally better off running the football, but because it is a strategy that makes more sense when you are looking to keep control of an inferior opponent.
For me to move on from the Michigan loss? I am a grown man that cares far too much about 18- to 22-year-olds throwing a ball around, so I need something that I haven't quite yet put my finger on to help me move on from the Michigan loss. I'll be in attendance in West Lafayette on Saturday, so if the Irish can take an early lead and keep me from being stressed at any point past the first quarter I'll consider it a success.
Have you feelings about this season's prospects changed much? Can/will the Irish still be able to make a BCS game? Should we really be worried about it in week 3?
Coming into the season I was predicting a record of 9-3, assuming losses against two of of the Michigan, MSU, Oklahoma, USC and Stanford group plus one random loss against a team in a let down game. Of course I would be more comfortable with that expectation if we had beaten Michigan, but when I look at the rest of ND's schedule versus the quality of play by Irish opponents early on, I think 9-3 is still likely with 10-2 being quite reasonable.
The Irish definitely can make a BCS game, but it is much more difficult when realistically you can only lose one more game to guarantee yourself an entrance. A 9-3 bid is possible but far from a certainty. Will the Irish make a BCS game? I think it is more likely that the Irish lose two of their remaining games than one, but as I just mentioned I would not be surprised at all if they complete the regular season 10-2.
The 2012 season spoiled us and I think it is hard not to worry after a week two loss when we're coming off of an undefeated season. Whether or not we SHOULD be worried is an entirely different question. Michigan may end up being a top 10 team, which would mean playing a relatively close game against them in front of the biggest crowd in stadium history would not be a terrible thing. Of course, Devin Gardner may end up being the reincarnation of 2009 Tate "QB Force" Forcier. If Gardner is Forcier, we should be worried. If Gardner is Vince Young like MGoBlog seems to believe, then we have no reason to be worried at all.
BONUS: For much of the last two games, I have felt tat this team has lacked emotional focus. Give me a YouTube video that would change all of that. Get me excited- not too excited, but ready to whoop some ass and eat some White Castle.
Dear sweet Reesus, it is late into the night and I would love nothing more than some White Castle right now. Hopefully this video does the trick: