Monday, September 30, 2013
Over the years, I have been proud of my Notre Dame allegiances through the 3-9 season to the magic of last season. Through the good times and bad, I have never been embarrassed to call myself a Domer. That is until I saw these tweets from other Irish fans.This is just uncalled for and really shows a lack of understanding of what Notre Dame and football are all about. Another fan petitioned Obama to bench Rees. Why anybody would want to involve that communist garbage is beyond me.
Here is a young man who has sacrificed so much and done way more for Notre Dame than any of those tweeters combined. He was a huge part of last year's run. Is he the best quarterback in the country? No, but he is the best we have and really the only option at this point. Andrew Hendrix has proven to be nothing more than a gimmick package guy and wasting a year of eligibility on Malik Zaire would be crazy.
He may not be great and maybe he is a backup. But he is the best backup we have with starter Everett Golson suspended.
The fact is that to blame one guy for a loss is just wrong. He did throw 3 interceptions. The first was not on him as a fierce rush and hit knocked the ball into a defenders hands for a pick six. The second one can be debated as to whose fault it was. It was a tipped pass but thrown into traffic. The third was on him as he threw into triple coverage.
But with all that, the defense can still go out there and shut it down like they did last year on several occasions when Golson made a mistake. If you watch the game film, you will see that Rees was under pressure all day.
Football is about blocking and tackling. They did both well last year but have struggled this year. Blaming Rees just shows a lack of knowledge of this.
Sunday, September 29, 2013
Saturday's game featuring Oklahoma and Notre Dame was a big one for both teams. One team would set itself up for a BCS run and the other would be relegated to hoping to get a second tier bowl. Unfortunately for Irish fans, Oklahoma played a great game. Of course Notre Dame didn't help by spotting them 14 points in the first minute off two interceptions. Those 14 points proved to be the difference.
Of course it is easy to blame Tommy Rees for throwing 3 interceptions while completing less than 50% of his passes and barely cracking 100 yards. However, at the end of the day they did score 21 points and the defense did give up 28. So just blaming one player is really not the answer.
Everett Golson threw picks last year but the defense still went out and turned the other team away. Rees has not been so fortunate and this defense has given him no support.
Having said that, this is two straight weeks of poor performances by Rees after opening the year with strong performances in 3 straight games. While Rees haters are very vocal about pulling him, the reality is that there really is not another option. Andrew Hendrix is nothing more than a package guy. He does not throw well enough to be the starter. I think the coaches and I agree would prefer not to waste a year of eligibility on Malik Zaire. He needs to be prepared to compete with Golson for the starting job and will likely back him up for two years before taking over.
So Rees is our guy this year. He is holding it for Golson, but he is the guy this year. We do need to start seeing more of these young freshmen though. Since BCS is likely out, we might as well play the youth.
Meanwhile, Oklahoma appears to be the class of the Big 12. Their win over the Irish puts them in prime position as they prepare for their conference play. I wish them well. I would like to see them win it.
Friday, September 27, 2013
Thinking about this game with Notre Dame and Oklahoma, it is amazing how similar the situation is for both teams. And no, I am not talking about how they both touch a sign that says Play Like a Champion Today. They are similar because this is the first of a series of 3 straight tough games. After this game, the Fighting Irish have their Shamrock Series game in Arlington, Texas against a very good Arizona State team while the Sooners begin the heart of their Big 12 schedule against TCU who is always tough.
That is followed by both teams playing their arch-rivals. Notre Dame will host USC while Oklahoma hosts Texas. While both the Trojans and Longhorns appear to be a bit down, you can never take for granted a big rivalry like Notre Dame-USC and Oklahoma-Texas.
Then both teams face some winnable opponents before ending the season with two tough games. For the Irish, they have Air Force, Navy, and Pittsburgh, while the Sooners will have Kansas, Texas Tech, Baylor, and Iowa State. No disrespect to any of those programs because they are all good but the Irish and Sooners should have comfortable victories in them.
To end the year Notre Dame has BYU and Stanford while Oklahoma will have Kansas State and in-state rival Oklahoma State. Those are two really tough opponents for both teams.
Based on that, it makes this game very important for both teams. Momentum is such a big deal in college football and both teams want to grab it with what is in front of them. I don't think the team that loses is done but the winning team will get a huge boost.
Wednesday, September 25, 2013
I find it funny watching ESPNU this morning how nobody is giving Notre Dame a chance this Saturday against Oklahoma. One of them actually said that Oklahoma was superior to Notre Dame. I will be the first to admit that this is not the same Notre Dame team as last year. I was pleased with the defensive effort last week.
But the problem I have with that statement that Oklahoma is superior to Notre Dame is this. They may or may not be superior to the Irish. However, the Sooners have done nothing to show that so far this year. They opened the year by beating up on Louisiana Monroe. WOOPIE!!
Then they scored one offensive touchdown to a West Virginia team that got blown out by Maryland. That is nothing to write home about either.
The Sooners then dominated Tulsa. This is not the same Tulsa team that traveled to South Bend and shocked the Irish 3 years ago. They have struggled. They got blown out to Bowling Green and barely beat Colorado State.
The fact is that Notre Dame is in the exact same situation it was in last week with Michigan State. They face a team that is unbeaten but has faced inferior opponents and have had uncertainty on who the quarterback is. Blake Bell will get the start this week after he threw for over 400 yards and 4 touchdowns against Tulsa for the injured Trevor Knight.
That is not to say that Oklahoma won't be a tough opponent. They have two tailbacks in Brennan Clay and Damien Williams who have rushed for a combined 423 yards. But again, it was against inferior competition. Their defense has also been good but I don't believe they are as good as Michigan State's defense.
Oklahoma has had two weeks to prepare and I am sure revenge is on their mind. There is no doubt they will come ready and will give the Irish all they can handle. And maybe they will prove to be "Superior," but make them prove it on the field before you declare that.
Tuesday, September 24, 2013
I know the other teams are stacking the box and forcing Tommy Rees to beat them. But for the leading rusher to be Cam McDaniel with 165 yards. That is bad because McDaniel was never meant to be the featured runner. He is the tough white boy from Texas who provides the muscle in short yardage and goal line situations. That is an important role but that is not who should be your leading runner.
For Amir Carlisle to only have 157 yards and no touchdowns and George Atkinson to only have 121 with just one touchdown. The fact that the other team is stacking the box only works to a point. Do teams not stack the box against Adrian Peterson? Didn't that happen to Barry Sanders his whole career? The point is that the good runners find a way to run any way. Some of that does fall on the offensive coordinator getting creative in the play calling, but at the end of the day the runners still need to produce.
Otherwise, they are putting way to much on Tommy Rees. The long ball is a low percentage play regardless of arm strength and speed of receivers.
Sunday, September 22, 2013
Notre Dame is 3-1after a physical battle with Michigan State. While I will admit it was stressful to watch, I don't think it was as ugly as Irish faithful are making it out to be. First off, the defense played the best game it played all year. They started to somewhat resemble the dominating defense of a year ago. Particularly Louis Nix and Stephon Tuitt started to look like the All-American defensive line that was advertised and got to the quarterback. They did not give up any touchdowns in the second half. That was huge.
Now offensively, it was better than the stats indicate. First off, this is the number one ranked defense in the nation and have thrived on turnovers for touchdowns. The fact that the Fighting Irish did not turn it over once is something to be positive about. 17 points against this defense is pretty good too. The running game was disappointing with the exception of Cam McDaniel who is earning his letter with his toughness.Amir Carlisle has been disappointing these past two weeks after a nice start.
Now for Tommy Rees, anytime a starting quarterback throws under 200 yards, that is disappointing. It is also disappointing to see him miss consistently on the deep ball. Having said that, Rees was better than his stats. A pass interference penalty may not show up on the stat sheet but the result is the same as a long completion. Rees and Irish receivers were able to draw 4 penalties. Both of their touchdown drives had long interference penalties set them up. Those plays alone would have boosted Rees's numbers by at least 100 yards. That is not even including the ones Michigan State got away with which there were a few.
On another positive note, I really liked what I saw from Corey Robinson. So don't be too hard on the Irish offense. This might be the best defense we see all year.
Friday, September 20, 2013
While Notre Dame's defense has had it's struggles this season, the offense for the most part has been impressive. But Tommy Rees and company could have their toughest challenge this week. That is because although Michigan State's offense has struggled, their defense has been dominant through three games. Not only have they only given up 4 touchdowns but they have also scored 4 on turnovers. Three of those returns came from Shilique Calhoun.
But before we start comparing this defense to last year's Irish defense, let's just think about if they are really that good. They have been dominant but against who. Western Michigan is a MAC team that is currently winless. South Florida is an AAC formerly Big East team but they also haven't won. On top of that, the Bulls got blown out to both FCS McNeese State and Florida Atlantic from Conference USA. Youngstown State is a pretty good team but it is against FCS competition.
So as dominant as they have been on defense, the Spartans have played nobody. Therefore, it is really hard to say how good the defense is or if they are overrated. I would say that they are probably about like Michigan's defense a couple weeks ago. They haven't faced an offense any where near as good as ours yet. I think Rees will tear them up with TJ Jones and Daviras Daniels if the Spartans play their typical over aggressive style.
Thursday, September 19, 2013
As disappointing as Notre Dame's defense has been this season, Michigan State's offense has been equally disappointing. I don't care that they put up 55 points last week against Youngstown State. That is not an FBS team so it is not the same level of competition. Against FBS teams Western Michigan and South Florida, they were only to manage one offensive touchdown in each of those games. Defensive Tackle Shilique Calhoun had three touchdowns in those games which is more than any offensive player.
The Spartans have been back and forth on quarterbacks Andrew Maxwell, Connor Cook, and even Tyler O'Connor. It appears as though they have settled on Cook.
That seems like it would be a chance for Notre Dame to get well. The pass rush has been there but they haven't got the sacks they had last year. Not having Manti Te'o and Danny Spond in the middle to intercept or knock down the ball is huge. But the lack of an offensive threat should make a difference this week. Having said that, Purdue struggled offensively in it's first two games and they still gave the defense all it could handle.
However, this offense really lacks speed and our defensive line should dominate their offensive line which has had a tough time protecting the quarterbacks. The Irish defense has a chance to get well again this week. They better because if they can't stop this offense, I am not sure who they can stop.
Monday, September 16, 2013
Sunday, September 15, 2013
Let me just break it down. Purdue got blown out to Cincinnati. They barely beat Indiana State. In those games, Rob Henry barely had 300 yards combined and failed to throw a touchdown. He also had two interceptions. So allowing him to throw for 256 yards and 3 touchdowns is absolutely unacceptable. The Boilermakers didn't even belong on the same field as the Irish.
The defense did play better in spots in the second half but still let a couple sloppy plays result in big gains. Their inability to stop on third and long just gets on my nerves. The offense took awhile to get going but they did have a great second half. Tommy Rees once again was phenominal with another 300+ yard passing game and two more touchdowns. Most importantly he did not throw an interception. DaVaris Daniels was his favorite target tonight with 8 catches for 167 yards and two touchdowns.
The one offensive concern was the the running game. It was non-existant until that last drive when Cam McDaniel stepped up and ran the clock out with tough running. McDaniel also had the only rushing touchdown. Amir Carlisle had a really bad night with only 16 yards and a fumble that could have been a disaster.
What is really concerning is the schedule ahead. Our next opponent is Michigan State who seemed to break out of an offensive funk by putting up 55. Granted it was Youngstown State, but Purdue did nothing against that level of talent. Michigan State will also be the toughest defense Rees and the offense have seen so far.
It won't get any easier after that. Oklahoma put up 51 against Tulsa with Blake Bell throwing over 400 yards and 4 touchdowns. If that isn't scary enough, they now have two weeks two prepare while Notre Dame is dealing with the Spartans.
Arizona State also put up 32 against Wisconsin and USC broke out of it's funk and put up 35 against Boston College. Even Pittsburgh who we play later score 49. Honestly, I am not sure how this defense will stop any of them. Can Rees and company keep pace with them? The defenses will get tougher.
I am glad the team got it together in the second half but I am not optimistic at this point about making a BCS Bowl. I hope I am wrong.
Saturday, September 14, 2013
Going into tonight's game against Purdue, I would be very disappointed if this game is not a blow out. Purdue has not looked good. They got blown out to Cincinnati and barely beat Indiana State an FCS team. Their quarterback Rob Henry only has 311 yards passing. Tommy Rees has more than that in both of his games. Henry has no touchdowns and two interceptions. He is averaging a low 5.3 yards per pass.
Notre Dame's defense took their lumps last week against Devin Gardner and Michigan. But I watched the replay several times on Big Ten Network. Each time I watch it, I think more and more that the defense was actually better than the numbers indicate. The pass rush was there most of the night, but Gardener was amazing with his escapibility. He was forced to scramble and make plays, but he did. Kevare Russell had a rough night covering Jeremy Gallon. But to be fair, you can only cover a guy for so long.
But it is clear that Rob Henry is not Gardner and the defense should eat him alive with the pass rush. With Kewan Short now in the NFL, there is no reason why the Irish offense shouldn't light up that scoreboard. This should not be close and with more tough games ahead, the Fighting Irish should settle for nothing less than making Purdue sorry they were ever born.
Wednesday, September 11, 2013
I just love the picture up top. Here is a guy that used to play for USC but realized what their program was becoming so he left and came to Notre Dame. Amir Carlisle had to sit out last year when the Irish had that magical year. However, the good thing was that he was able to learn the system and work with guys like Theo Riddick and Cierre Wood. During last Saturday's tough defeat to Michigan, Kirk Herbstreit said that Carlisle reminded him of Riddick. I totally agree with that except that I do believe that he has potential to be a better runner but not quite as good of receiver.
Through two games, he has 19 carries for 132 yards with a 6.9 yards per carry average. That is an indication that we need to give him the ball even more. He should have at least 15 carries a game.
I understand that the first couple weeks Coach Kelly wanted to kind of feel it out to see who was the best back. To me, that is clear that it is Carlisle. The next highest runner is George Atkinson with 13 carries for 71 yards and 5.5 yards per carry average and one touchdown. That is not too shabby either so I certainly do not want to discount Atkinson. However, I think his role should really move to more of a third down specialist. He seems to be more of an open space guy than a pure runner. I think he would excel in that role. He is also explosive on kickoff returns.
Cam McDaniel has also looked good with 13 carries for 69 yards and a 5.3 average. He is the muscle of the group so his role should be for short yardage and goal line situations. He can also be used as a change of pace every now and then. When the defense is tired of chasing Carlisle, then bring in the truck. McDaniel can also be used for additional pass protection when the situation calls for it.
Yes, the Irish needed to assess the position the first couple of weeks to see who the featured runner would be. It seems clear to me Carlisle is the man while Atkinson and McDaniel have their roles. As good as Carlisle looks above I think he looks better below.
Tuesday, September 10, 2013
Tommy Rees haters have reached a new low. I see many of them still hating on the kid regardless of the fact that he has thrown for almost 700 yards and 5 touchdowns in two games. All they seem to focus on is the interception that led to a Michigan touchdown. They make it sound as though that was the difference in the game.
They seem to forget that a year ago Everett Golson did the same thing twice. The difference was that the defense rose up and turned them back. This year was different. All quarterbacks have bad interceptions sometimes. It is a matter of limiting them and having more good plays that outweigh them. Anybody who doesn't believe Rees has done that this year is just ignorant.
Rees is not the reason Michigan scored 41 points. The defense is accountable. I am tired of the nonsense I hear from Rees haters. He has so far been the team MVP. It is embarrassing to call them Notre Dame fans.
Monday, September 9, 2013
Manti Te'o was a great player, but on paper the Fighting Irish have the linebackers to replace him. The problem is that as great as he was, the defense is not missing the player but the leader. Comparing the performance against Michigan this year compared to last. Te'o had the game of his life with 3 interceptions and he raised the game of all the players around him. The players all tackled well last year and now this year this same group is missing those tackles. That can't be a coincidence.
It reminds me of what happened about 8 years ago when Brady Quinn graduated. He was the heartbeat of that team that had a great offense that went to two straight BCS bowls. When he left, the offense was so inept that they took about 4 games before they scored a touchdown. The team went 3-9 that year.
Now I don't think Notre Dame goes 3-9 this year as there are some differences. All of Quinn's weapons such as Jeff Samarjidza and Darius Walker all left too. This time there is still a lot of veteran players on that defense such as Louis Nix, Stephen Tuitt, Dan Fox, and Carlo Calabrese. One of them needs to become that leader. Being a leader is not something you can just do though. It has to be in your personality. I am hoping one of those guys takes that roll like now.
Another guy that might have to take on more of that role is Tommy Rees. I know he is not on defense but the quarterback is generally the leader of the whole team. Tom Brady, Peyton Manning, Ray Lewis, and even Te'o last year have been known to inspire the whole team.
Getting back to the question, it made a difference when Quinn left and the Indianapolis Colts won two games the year Manning was hurt. Look at the Baltimore Ravens also. They went from Super Bowl champs to getting demolished on opening night without Lewis.
Notre Dame's defense is clearly not the same without Te'o. They got manhandled against Michigan and they honestly didn't even play that great against Temple despite only giving up six points. The bottom line is that somebody needs to step up and be the face of this team. If it is not from the defense, then Rees or possibly TJ Jones needs to step up and be that face.
Sunday, September 8, 2013
A year ago, Notre Dame's defense held the Michigan Wolverines to just six points and forced five turnovers. But this year, Devin Gardner and company hung 41 against the Fighting Irish. They scored on 5 of 6 possessions in the first half to put up 27 points. Michigan kept it going despite one mistake in the endzone by Gardner in the second half.
When it was all over, Gardner threw for 294 yards and 4 touchdowns. He also added 82 yards rushing with a touchdown. His favorite receiver was Jeremy Gallon who caught 8 passes for 184 yards and 3 touchdowns.
That makes you wonder, how does a defense go from being so dominant to so dominated. I think the answer is a couple of factors. One, Michigan has a really good team this year. They will probably sore through the Big Ten Legends Division and play Ohio State for the title. I will give the Wolverines their due. They are really good.
Two, Notre Dame is really missing some key players. Manti Te'o, Kapron Lewis-Moore, and Zeke Motta all graduated while Danny Spond had to retire early for health reasons. But Brian Kelly and Bob Diaco have a next man in philosophy. Based on that, the talent to replace those guys is there on paper. However, when you have a leader like Te'o, his presence raises the performance of everyone around him. So far nobody has assumed that responsibility. I am still waiting for Louis Nix to fill that role and so far he hasn't.
Giving credit where it is due, Notre Dame's offense has really played well. Yes Tommy Rees did have two interceptions, but through two games he has thrown for 660 yards and five touchdowns. TJ Jones appears to be on pace for a Michael Floyd type year. So far he has caught 15 passes for 232 yards. I also like what I see from USC transfer Amir Carlisle. He looks to be capable of being a Theo Riddick type back.
As disappointing as this loss was, Notre Dame needs to regroup quick because all is not lost and this can still be a great year. The offense is looking real good and the talent is there on defense, they just need a leader.
Saturday, September 7, 2013
The thing I have always loved and will miss about the Michigan-Notre Dame rivalry is that you generally have two powers both with National Championship aspirations. The result is a huge boost for the winner and a big early setback for the loser. This year is no exception.
Going into this game, I always have an idea who I think will win. But this year it is really a hard one to call. Both teams handled their week one opponents quite easily, but it is hard to say who is better between Central Michigan and Temple. Overall, Michigan was more impressive but Notre Dame looked like they were experimenting more with different players, especially at tailback.
Looking at the Quarterbacks, Tommy Rees was sharper and unlike Devin Gardner, he did not turn the ball over. However, we all know that Gardner adds a running dimension that Rees cannot.
Defensively, Michigan was more impressive. However, there is not a Notre Dame fan who believes that the Irish defense played anywhere near a level they are capable of. The Wolverine defense is also younger and less experienced.
Both teams had their share of mistakes. Michigan had lots of penalties and turnovers while Notre Dame had many special team errors including missed field goals.
So at the end of the day, there really is not enough information after one game to make a good prediction. I guess we just have to watch.
Thursday, September 5, 2013
As Notre Dame and Michigan prepare for their last meeting at the Big House, much of the talk has been about comments made by the two head coaches. I am not sure how much of a difference it really makes and perhaps the media overplays it a bit, but there is definitely bulletin board material in both locker rooms thanks to Brian Kelly and Brady Hoke.
First Hoke made a comment last summer in Grand Rapids that Notre Dame was chickening out on the rivalry. That was obviously a ridiculous comment because we know why Notre Dame is withdrawing from the series. They have an agreement with the ACC to play 5 games with them starting in two years. There are only 12 games in a schedule and they have to get rid of some games. They won't cancel USC, Stanford, or Navy. So what are they supposed to do.
Then Kelly made the statement that you don't take 35 years off a series and call it a great rivalry. There are two problems with that. First, tell any Notre Dame fan that Notre Dame and Miami are not still big rivals. These two haven't played regularly in 20 years but in two recent meetings, it definitely felt like a big rival.
Second, to suggest that this isn't a huge rivalry is just absurd. The two schools are linked by history as it was Michigan who taught Notre Dame the game of football. But more importantly these two teams both generally have national title hopes each year. The win is a huge boost for the winner and definitely a setback for the loser. This year is no different from that.
Kelly did recant later and said it is a great rivalry, but it doesn't matter. I am not sure how much it will matter on Saturday but Hoke and Kelly both provided bulletin board material for their opponents.
Tuesday, September 3, 2013
Although Notre Dame defeated the Temple Owls quite easily, I think every Notre Dame fan agrees that the Fighting Irish need to play better against Michigan. The defense was particularly frustrating to watch at times. After being so dominant a year ago, it was frustrating watching Temple move right down the field. Probably the most disappointing part was the fact that the defensive line did not just dominate the Owls line. Louis Nix did not record a single tackle. That was due in large part to the fact that he was double teamed. That will continue to happen every week. The good thing about that though is that it opens up the other defensive linemen. Stephen Tuitt was in on 3 tackles and did have a sack. But the other defensive tackle Sheldon Day only had one tackle.
Yes it was his first start replacing Kapron Lewis-Moore, so I won't rush to judgement on the sophomore. Having said that, he needs to do something this week against Michigan. He needs to make more of an impact to take some of the attention off of Nix. There is a lot of hype around this young man. Now he needs to live up to it.
Another young man with a lot of hype is freshman linebacker Jaylon Smith. Smith is replacing Danny Spond and only recorded one tackle. He needs to improve on that to help veteran linebackers Dan Fox who led the team with 10 tackles, Carlo Calabrese who had 9, and Prince Shembo who had 4. We can expect that Michigan might see unproven Smith as a weakness that they will want to exploit. He better be up to the challenge.
I don't want to come across as all negative because they did only surrender six points. However, we all know that Temple did leave some off the board with missed field goals and a questionable decision to go for it on 4th and goal on the first drive of the second half. After that the defense did play better and allowed no more long drives. But still, they still were not as dominant as they should be.
Manti Te'o's leadership was sorely missed and somebody needs to step up and take that role on now. Heading into Michigan, Smith and Day are definitely two players under the microscope and they both need to step up their game.