Man Cave Quarterback: Reviewing Notre Dame’s 17-31 Loss to USC
Posted by Steve Herring on October 24, 2011
Here is Saturday’s Rapid Reaction to the game.
Man Cave Quarterback: Southern California
Something Funny - Surely, by the time this hits the presses, Notre Dame fans have watched, talked, and read about the horrors of what transpired in South Bend on Saturday evening. Probably multiple times. So…
Did you know that two of the recruits in attendance at the game are named Taco and Courtney Love? Forgive me if I don’t take a moment and imagine Kirk Herbstreit on College Gameday,
The Taco to Courtney Love connection on the field is the best thing going in college football. You can’t stop the Taco! If you stop the beautiful music that Taco makes, may you be doomed to an evening of the assault that is Courtney Love.
Alas, Taco (Charlton) is a defensive end and Courtney Love is an inside linebacker, meaning that makes even less sense, but typing that sentence made me smile much more than most of what I took in during the dreadful evening we must re-hash in some manner.
Who or What is this 2011 Notre Dame Fighting Irish Football Team? To say the masses are baffled would be an understatement. Saying Dayne Crist’s career has been unlucky would be a massive understatement. To say USC played well on Saturday would be the biggest understatement in college football.
To say Notre Dame appeared ready to go toe-to-toe with anything resembling a quality football team would be a lie requiring about 6 books of matches and 1,000 Hail Marys in the Grotto. Maybe an intervention.
It Was Bad, But In the End Meaningless - The officiating, in the first half especially, was terrible. I’ll reiterate that Notre Dame had no right to victory, but the calls made and missed against the Irish left a lot to be desired. I lost my football player’s composure after the ”helmet to helmet” personal foul on Jamoris Slaughter. That type of hit is being misdiagnosed at every level of the sport and will continue in the interim most likely. Smart coaches may start encouraging offensive players to lower THEIR heads because it results in the loud “POP!” that has referees reaching for their flags instantaneously.
Lack of Desire, Relentlessness - I won’t harp nearly as much on the offensive line as others have – 0 Sacks, 3.1 Yards Per Rush (not awful). The real problems all night were with the Irish front seven. Facing the best offensive line of the season, this unit served up a highlight reel of bad techniques, lack of effort, and loss of self-control. We saw the terrible personal fouls on Calabrese and Lynch (both deserved), but the observations that really irked me were multiple instances giving up completely on plays.
I’ve never seen or thought this of Manti Te’o, but I saw him do something that blew my mind. He misread a play-action pass, followed the pile, looked up and saw QB Matt Barkley dropped back to pass… and he just stopped. His head didn’t whip around to find an eligible receiver, he didn’t drop into coverage, he didn’t sprint after the quarterback. He just stopped and watched. I’m sure he knows it wasn’t his best game, or even close, but that’s something on film we’re just not used to seeing from No. 5.
Same goes with Aaron Lynch. One of our favorite parts of Lynch’s spring game was seeing the 6’6” 260 lb. blue-chip behemoth sprinting downfield after passes and tallying up a few extra tackles. Lynch played at half speed and did what high-paid NFL players do on any pass over 3 yards - he stopped and watched the action. I wrote in my preview of the defense in August that if Lynch and Tuitt were asked to play big minutes in games they trailed I doubted their age and knowledge of the defense would allow them to maintain gaps and intensity at high levels. I was sadly proven correct as the absence of starter Ethan Johnson loomed larger than any expert could have imagined.
Single Play?!? - Why harp on a single offensive play all day? This offense was 20+ plays from executing at an acceptable pace. The fumbles were awful on basic exchanges, the interception “classic Rees”, the play-calling confusing, the defensive assignments poorly designed, and the team came out flat. No point in pretending a single snap determined this game – USC took it to the squad and deserved the win, if not by quite a few more scores.
Favorite Thing - It’s easy to forget that players on the field can’t actually see the yellow 1st Down line we’ve all become accustomed to. Some guys get the ball in their hands and seem to see it anyways. Every time tight end Tyler Eifert makes a catch he appears to instinctively calculate exactly how he will get the football past that line and move the chains. He was fantastic on Saturday.
8.5 - On a day that saw Notre Dame rack up a measly 41 Rushing Yards, Jonas Gray actually INCREASED his Yards Per Carry in 2011 to 8.5 with 38 yards on just four carries. Again, according to this page of the 2011 Notre Dame Media Guide he remains on pace to surpass the immortal George Gipp’s single season record. Tell me how the hell that makes any sense.
72 & 5 - There have been 75 instances of a football team turning the ball over inside their opponents 5 yard line in ALL of Division I-A during 2011. Notre Dame accounts for 5 of those 72. A staggering 14.4% of the entire 120+ teams in the Football Bowl Subdivision!
Are you f*****g kidding me!!! Once, twice, three plus times an embarrassing trend. If you think the fans are seeing Notre Dame in the Red Zone and assuming failure, one can only project the calamity between the players on the field.
3 - Total yards by Notre Dame on punt returns in 7 games. Again, that is the TOTAL, T-O-T-A-L, yards garnered by punt returners. Seems an odd time to bring it up with so few opportunities on Saturday, but I simply don’t want to forget tossing that one out to the wolves. What a statement of futility.
3 & 0- That’s the number of time-outs you get per half in college football. and zero is the number that carry over into the next week. It’s up for debate whether Kelly made the right decision with his time-outs at the end of the game. Relentless attitude reflects leadership and I did not care of the lack of effort there.
9 - AP ranking of a Michigan State team Notre Dame dominated, but has since reeled off wins versus #11 Michigan, Ohio State, and #6 Wisconsin. Please make sense of this.
If there’s something I’m personally familiar with it’s this – playing on a football team in October with all the season’s goals out the window. It’s a cold, dark place the first few mornings after. I certainly didn’t have any seniors entertaining the idea of selling out for draft positioning, but there always exists a degree of “I’m done with this shit” that needs to be tempered. If the Irish couldn’t get all the way up for their past game, we can only hope a month versus inferior competition doesn’t bring out the worst in this team.
What is the team playing for now? A BCS game is out of the picture, and so is a Top 25 ranking without a win versus Stanford in a MONTH.
On the heels of the 2011 team’s most embarrassing performance, do they feel any passion for avenging 2010′s pile of turd in New Jersey versus NAVY? Good God, we hope so. A performance mirroring last season’s against a 2-5 NAVY team on a five game losing streak would power the fan base, myself included, into mass hysteria and anarchy.
Tommy Rees…what next? You won’t hear a Boise State fan complain about Kellen Moore’s athletic ability or arm strength, and haven’t heard it stated in 3+ years. The comparison of their measurables is beyond fair, but hoping the statistics ever match up remains far-fetched dream. Rees struggled all night and unearthed all the questions he attempted to answer while blowing out Purdue and Air Force. His vaunted “4-0 as starter” stat from the offseason now glows in the light of being 4-2 in 2011 with those “2″ being Michigan and USC. The BCS games and Top 10 finishes are wiped off the plate and do we believe Rees without Floyd in 2012 is best case scenario? Do we start preparing for 2012? Do we use an elixir of 2010 and ride seniors through the rough patch?
I can’t answer these things. Maybe I’ll just go eat a taco and watch The People vs. Larry Flynt for no reason whatsoever.
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