Saturday, September 22, 2007

Well, our long national nightmare is dragging on and on and on some more. For the first time in the illustrious 120 year history of the Notre Dame Fighting Irish football program, the team has started a season 0-4. In my experience, when the Notre Dame football team makes history of late, it is not a good thing.

The first first I remember in the last few years was in Bob Davie's final season when Notre Dame started 0-3 for the first time ever. Ty Willingham's last season when Notre Dame allowed Tyler Palko of Pittsburgh to throw 5 TD passes, the first time an opposing QB had accomplished that feat against Notre Dame. And now, the school is 0-4 to start a season. But I'm not convinced that this should be Charlie Weis' last season.

For the first time after having watched a Notre Dame game this year, I am not utterly depressed. After losing 31-14 to Michigan State this week, I'm certainly not sitting here with a big smile on my face wearing my happy hat. It would be very difficult for me to wear a happy hat under an circumstance, since I do not own, nor do I have a desire to purchase such a garment. But I'm not moping the way I did last week.

Among the encouraging aspects of today's game...not only did Notre Dame score it's first offensive touchdown of the season at the 10:01 mark of the first quarter, but they also scored the second offensive touchdown of the season not too long after the fact. They played a very good first half, for a change. If the game only lasted two quarters, the team would have very nearly been in business. But even that mathematical impossibility couldn't have saved the Irish today.

The team also had a 100 yard rusher for the first time, but that ray of sunshine only served to illuminate another glaring weakness. Thanks to Irish announcer Pat Hayden for pointing it out, as I hadn't noticed (I'm not being sarcastic for a change). But the Notre Dame wide receivers are not very good. In my defense, the offensive line and running game have been so bad up until today that no one could stand in the pocket long enough to contemplate throwing the ball to the wide receivers.

Another problem that was very nearly rectified was the pass rush. When the two freshman outside linebackers (#56, Kerry Neal and #58, who hasn't played quite well enough for me to learn his name but he does have three years and a bit to go) were in the game, the Irish were able to bring heat on the QB for the first time all year. Unfortunately, when they were in the game, the Irish were more vulnerable against the run, particularly against the monstrous tailback Michigan State had.

I thought Maurice Crum Jr. held up better against the run, for the most part, in his new position in the Irish linebacking corps when they played in base defense. Unfortunately, their secondary let them down when they tried to play base defense. But at least there were some signs of life and more importantly some signs of fight in the Fighting Irish.

I was not too happy with the way the team came out in the second half. It's hard to evaluate the defense's performance when the offense was terrible and the punter looked like he just might have had the rent money on Michigan State. I don't mean to insinuate that he was corrupt. But he did have a pretty damn bad day. And he killed the team with short kicks that died in Notre Dame territory, even if his first kick did set up the poor field position which led to the turnover and the first touchdown of the season.

I realize that it's a sad day for fans of the Irish to have me grasping at straws to find small bright spots like this to try to redeem yet another brutal loss. I was right, though it's not much consolation, about James Aldridge being the answer at tailback (number 34, from last week's post), he was the 100 yard rusher today. And I guess I owe Travis Thomas an apology as he scored the first TD, so that makes only 10 or 12 negative plays for which he must make restitution.

I apologize for the coherence, or lack thereof, of this post. But you have to bear with me. It's been a bad day. And I have to live and die with Larry Johnson and Cedric Benson and their inability to get in the end zone as my fantasy team girds itself for what Fox Sports predicts will be a slaughter this week. Unfortunately, with Herman Edwards and Ron Turner involved, I think I might have to agree.

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