There is probably a strong correlation between Notre Dame's 41-30 loss to Michigan, my inability to watch the replay (which I normally do regardless of outcome), and the fact that this article is the first REAL thing that I have written on the game from Saturday. Hell, I've been a virtual ghost on cyberspace since very late Saturday night.
After the loss was official, I got a phone call from Knute School Fool begging me to fire up a Google Hangout. I was slightly intoxicated and agreed to the proposal. What ensued was an hour's worth of ridiculousness, bitching, and taco searches. I deleted the recorded video. Why? Well, very quickly I realized that I may have made too many conclusions out of a game that I was still digesting (along with all those Mickey's 40's). I needed a redo. I didn't realize it would take this long, but here we go…
(Regardless of all of my thoughts on the game, it's Tuesday and I will keep to the mission of this particular column and keep it to 3 topics. I'm awesome/idiotic like that).
The game really didn't need to go on for the full 60 minutes, if you are an emotional terror. It wasn't just the way Notre Dame got behind 10-0 early, it was also how Notre Dame got behind 17-10, early. Notre Dame's first two offensive drives was some of the most forgettable football I can remember Notre Dame playing in a while (well, maybe not- but it was awful).
Ideally, when you win the toss on the road and elect to receive the ball, you would like to put together a little bit of a drive. Points would be great, but just grabbing a couple of first downs and resetting the field position is well enough. Instead, the Irish get into a 3rd and 3 right away and get stuffed on an inside zone run. They give up a little drive by Michigan and cough up 3 points. ND quickly answers by finding themselves in another 3rd and 3 after 2 plays following the kickoff. The Irish try another un with Carlilse, and although they got positive yards this time, it was only for a two yard gain. After the punt, the Irish defense "helped" the offense out by allowing a 3 play 77 yard touchdown drive to Michigan that highlighted such bad tackling, that I actually screamed for a clipping call, when in fact, the replay showed that it was an Irish defender knocking the shit out of his own teammate from behind.
Notre Dame answers with a touchdown drive. Life is pumping back into the veins of Irish fans. The defense then forces a 3 and out and NOTRE DAME ACTUALLY HAS A PUNT RETURN OF 18 YARDS. Things were looking up. Then after a couple of nice plays, ND ends their 6 play 20 yard drive with a field goal to tie it up. It was the most underwhelming way to tie up a game after going down 2 scores. Michigan then scores a TD on their next drive and on and on.
Notre Dame just didn't have the answer early in the game. Nothing they did was enough. In fact, it felt like no matter what, the Irish were going to keep coming up shorter than Michigan throughout the game. It all started with the first two offensive drives. Maybe Kelly was right in blaming the offense and not the defense giving up 41 points, but the real question is where that blame falls on that side of the ball. Where? Pretty much right where Kelly was standing and wherever Martin was sitting.
Tommy Rees The Patsy
It didn't take long for the critics of Tommy Rees to start dusting off their Tommy Rees Insult/Joke Book. The first interception that Tommy Rees threw during this 2013 season was a boneheaded throw. Running to his left, Tommy fires a pass right into a Michigan defender's hands. The defender was along the sideline and in perfect position. It was what we remember from 2011.
That was rough. It was late in the first half, and the Irish were trailing 20-13 and were trying o tie up the game going into the half with Michigan receiving the kick after halftime. Even rougher, was when Michigan scored a touchdown to make it a 27-13 lead at the half.
Add the interception late in the game on first and goal- a real lesson that the tip drill is one of the most important drills in practice, and we have a picture being painted of Turnover Tommy 2.0. I can not agree with that artistic critique.
Tommy played a fairly solid game. There were a lot of drops in the game and Rees was forced to throw 51 times. 51 times. One of those times was a horrible pass, and two others made Franco Harris smile and cry. Without protection of a sold running game (ND only ran 19 times) Rees helped keep Notre Dame in the game after horrible defensive breakdowns.
Tommy Rees may not be a great quarterback, but he is without a doubt the best option available to help Notre Dame win. End of story. Or maybe not. Maybe it's just the begriming of the story for 2013? At any rate, this loss isn't on Tommy- it took an entire team and its coaching staff to pull that rabbit out of their hat.
Rising To The Occasion
No matter what, this entire season will be compared to 2012. We can't help it. So, without jumping into a bunch of stats and roster moves and coaching decisions, it can all boil down to this… Notre Dame has not and probably won't rise to the occasion as they did in 2012. The 2012 season was full of imperfections for a perfect regular season, yet the Irish went undefeated because whenever some horrible obstacle stood in their way, they smashed it with might and/or luck.
That is not happening this year. The Irish may eventually get to that point, but it will only be after stumbling a couple of times along the way. The Michigan game was one of those stumbles… hopefully there is just one more left.
On To Purdue
If Notre Dame wants to put their bad vacation in Ann Arbor behind them, they need to go balls out for their vacation to West Lafayette. Keg stands, stair diving, and lots and lots of beads are in order. Notre Dame needs to punish Purdue for being the next opponent after the knockdown. "Brutality" should be the thought of the week.