Man Cave Quarterback: Reviewing Notre Dame’s 15-12 Win over Pittsburgh
Immediately following each game I jot down a quick response before delving into more stats.
Here is Saturday’s Rapid Reaction to the game, which is a little more personal than normal.
Man Cave Quarterback: Pittsburgh
ESPN Game Coverage: The coverage by ESPN/ABC was borderline amateur - it seemed at times that Chris Spielman was unaware of players on each roster. He went through a single sequence where he referred to Tommy Rees as “Hendrix” and later in the same segment referred to Tyler Eifert as “Hendrix”. Andrew Hendrix is our 4th QB who’s never taken a snap in a game. Urban Meyer has jumped into the analysts chair head first, but please develop a few more catchphrases and ways to summarize down and distance.
Poor Throws and Decisions: You want to talk about “Luck of the Irish”? Tommy Rees pressed this to the absolute maximum with some of the worst throws of his career. He could have easily tossed 7-9 interceptions during the game yesterday. He was completely flabbergasted by the Pitt defense and was locking onto one receiver for the first three quarters. It seemed by his body language he knew he shouldn’t throw a pass, but was afraid to look somewhere else. I was legitimately scared for him as the game dragged on and he forced throws to everyone except Michael Floyd.
It was all over Twitter and most game reviews: Rees looked far, far worse in the first three quarters versus Pitt than Dayne Crist has ever looked against anyone.
The final quarter resembled a terrible first date that ended with an unexpected invitation upstairs. Suddenly we’re enjoying a fantastic dessert that makes you forget the previous two and a half hours ever happened. They did happen, but the ending dims the lights on earlier transgressions.
Aggressive Coaching: Many fans will second guess two of the biggest play calls by Brian Kelly in this game: The attempted punt block and going for it on 4th and 1 at the end of the game can be considered controversial.
I will not be on that bandwagon ever. While some personnel decisions continue to irk me (WR, LB), I will never become frustrated by coaches who make attempts to win and challenge their teams to dictate the game. The punt block turned into a major momentum shift for Pitt when it resulted in a personal foul penalty and Pitt turned that into an eight and a half minute touchdown drive. It happens, I still want Notre Dame to move towards an aggressive, feared special teams unit and calls like that help. Later, with the ball and a chance to bury the Panthers on 4th and 1, Kelly gave the offense a chance to thank the defense for a fine afternoon of work. No second guessing here. Thank you Brian Kelly for not being afraid to win a game.
8/8, 76 yards, TD, 2 point conversion – Tommy Rees line for the final drive or the finish to the aforementioned terrible date above. The guy has been stone cold in 4th quarter drives against Michigan and this week’s win. Can he put together a complete game before the season is through? Will he get a chance? We’ll see…
0 as in ZERO – Passes thrown 10 yards down the field or farther to Michael Floyd. This is the best wide receiver in America at winning balls in the air and he gets no chances to showcase this elite talent? I don’t care if he’s got four players matched up on him you have to chuck it up and let him make a play 2-3 times per game.
The fact that Rees was struggling to hit receivers and read defenses makes this even more pertinent. Line up in a double tight, two back set and send him on a route by himself in max pass protection and say “Michael- win this matchup.” The fact that the biggest plays our defense has allowed all season have been heave-ho’s by opponents into our double coverage only makes this seem like something that we need to be doing. Our man is always better than their man.
It’s not Brian Kelly’s job to “forget the past two and a half hours ever happened” following the game winning drive. What is he thinking as he sits in the film room on Saturday night and Sunday breaking down Rees decision-making for the game as a whole? He made multiple throws that could have put the Irish down 21-0, 24-7 before halftime against a questionable defense. Pittsburgh has put a “beat Tommy Rees” game plan together for the remainder of Notre Dame’s opponents. Tommy did more to lose the game on Saturday than win it and that includes the results of the final drive. He remains a product of Notre Dame’s best defense in over a decade.
If you missed the end of the West Virgina-LSU game later in the evening, then you didn’t catch that Urban Meyer had trekked the hour down the road to Morgantown and joined the booth. Commenting on the Irish he stated that it surely seems that Notre Dame is trotting out an elite Division I football team that can’t help stopping itself in every way possible. Kirk Herbstreit’s facial expressions and non-verbal cues were screaming,
“I can’t believe the talent on that Notre Dame team I saw in Michigan two weeks ago! When are they going to pull it together?”
That really echoes what we’re all thinking.
I couldn’t write a column about the 2011 Notre Dame team without giving some serious credit to the Irish defense. I’ve been wondering for some time ”why does Darius Fleming get so much underserved publicity?” and I’ll get off that for now as he piled up two sacks and consistent pressure during the game. This unit continues to play with a confidence and swagger that remains unaffected by offensive struggles.
Gary Gray needs to play 100 balls in the air every day from now until he’s taken his final snap in the blue and gold. Repetition kills fear and bad habits and I still don’t consider him a weak link out there, just a confused one at times.
Freshmen Aaron Lynch and Stephon Tuitt are adding some dynamic dimensions to our defensive looks- if recruits want to know what the future of Notre Dame Football might resemble, they can see it themselves in the defensive trenches right now and it’s pretty encouraging.
Post Pitt Mantra: Winning is always good. Winning ugly will always remain superior to losing pretty. Thank you fellas for bringing a tough battle home.
Big game on my birthday this weekend to get Notre Dame over .500 on the season. Check back in Thursday for my preview of Purdue.
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