Friday, January 5, 2007

Notre Dame

My entire life I have been a die hard Notre Dame fan. I know the Domers are much like the Yankees of college sports. Most people hate them or love them. I happen to be an Irish-Catholic who was born in Indiana so I never really had a choice. I remember my brother actually playing Knute Rockne in a grade school play and being extremely jealous. Well, except for all the songs he had to learn and sing, that is.

Notre Dame football sure has changed from what I grew up watching. I remember the exciting option teams with Rice and Rocket. There was always a dominant back from either Pinkett, Bettis, Watters, to Denson, etc. (who happens to be the career rushing yard record holder). This was always paired with a smash-you-in the mouth defense. This has been the most dramatic change. The Notre Dame defense of today is less than frightening to be kind. Certainly the college game has changed. Kids are bigger and faster. They want to go to attractive, fun, schools such as Miami, USC, Florida. Who really wants to head to South Bend to get an education? Notre Dame still has very high standards and while they make special circumstances (Julius Jones) they do limit themselves from some top athletes that have no chance of getting in.

The academic standards cannot be an excuse. Jim Tressel's Buckeyes had a team GPA of 2.93 in the fall with 61 players over 3.0. You can become dominant with smarter players not quite as athletically talented. In fact, that has always been the great Bob Knight's motto. He wants smarter players, not the most talented. It is pretty hard to argue with the winningest coach in college basketball history. This should be a benefit, not a roadblock.

It truly disheartens me to witness what this storied program has become. The players do not seem to have that look in their eyes and understand what it means when the smack the " Play Like A Champion Today" sign. Sure, they play hard but it is not the same level of putting intensity and true fear into their competitors eyes. Weis has done a great job of restoring the program to respectability. However, the next few years will be a true test and challenge of making them a dominant national champion threat.

My biggest disappointment was, of course, the Sugar Bowl game. This was not a game the Irish deserved to be in in the first place. Everyone knows they always get a better bowl game than they are qualified for because of their popularity and TV ratings that brings. That being said, they looked like the better team in the first half. They were running the ball and playing solid defense. They would have held the lead at half if it were not for the fake punt on their own 35.

This game was lost solely on coaching. The second half completely went away from the outside running attack that was killing LSU. Walker had 125 yards on 18 carries in the first half! That sure sounds like a formula for success to me. Why would you abandon this attack? (He finished the game with 128 yards on 22 carries). He had 4 carries in the second half and all were up the gut. Instead, they went to cross pass plays that were to receivers that were running poor executed routes and creating little to no separation. A few 3 and outs paired with the LSU offense marching down the field on long drives and the game was over. The defense was exhausted and the offense lost all rhythm and confidence. This game was 100% the fault of the coaches. No questions asked.

It is a shame Brady Quinn had to go out like that. Popular consensus is now that Russell is the better quarterback and will go No.1 to the Raiders. That will be a huge mistake. Quinn will be the better NFL QB. I don't care about his physical stature or one game where he was bombing the ball to wide open receivers like a game of Madden. While impressive, I do not even care that he can throw the ball 40 yards from his butt. I remember similar statistics from Kyle Boller when he came out. Or how about Ryan Leaf being drafted ahead of some guy named Manning because he had such an amazing Bowl game? They have career ratings of 71 and 50, respectively (or not so much). I know Weis helped develop one of the greatest quarterbacks of our time in Tom Brady. He feels Quinn has the same skill and drive to become great. I believe him and some team will be lucky when he falls.

I have high expectations for Weis and the Irish in the next few years. They will have some ups and downs, but they are at least a program that is pleasurable to watch again. They have had some of the top recruiting classes since Charlie came on so there should not be huge drop-offs. I hear they are recruiting loads of speed, which will be fun to watch. Little Claussen can, hopefully, continue the history of talented quarterbacks. I hope to be cheering for a national championship within the next 3 years. Please make it happen Notre Dame.

Cheer, cheer for Old Notre Dame
Wake up the echoes cheering her name,
Send the volley cheer on high,
Shake down the thunder from the sky,
What though the odds be great or small
Old Notre Dame will win over all,
While her loyal sons are marching
Onward to Victory.

10 comments:

Wyatt said...

Russell & Quin will both be good in the NFL....but what about your boy - Jeff Samardzija?..a Cub & a Bear ? or a CubbyBear-get it I know terrible..just terrible...

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