ND Is Toast … Wildcats Boast

notre20dame20fightin20irish1To say that Notre Dame fans across the country are disgusted, embarrassed, disappointed, angry, ticked off, agitated and/or sickened would cover approximately 80% of the emotional spectrum.   For the other 20%, insert some expletives in front of those adjectives and we’ll have everyone covered.   On the morning after ND’s 24-23 defeat to the lowly Syracuse Orange, one thing I cannot say is that I’m surprised.   We’ve seen this same script time after time this season and last season.   The Irish struggle to mount a double digit lead in the 4th quarter to an opponent with a mere fraction of their talent base … and then they just quit playing hard … or with inspiration … or with character … or with intensity … or whatever essential ingredient this team most certainly lacks.   I’m not surprised … I knew they would eventually cough up this game as they ALWAYS do.   And again, we’re left wondering how this team … how this coaching staff … can be so incompetent … so uninspired … when all other teams under the same circumstances would be busting their butts to win the last home game, to clinch a winning season, to clinch a decent bowl game, to keep some positive momentum going.   Nope, these types of things one might expect from a college football team playing under the Golden Dome do not exist in any images61detectable quantities in South Bend.    Other than admitting that ND’s come-from-ahead defeat, again at home, to a sinking Syracuse team everyone thought should be beaten by at least 3 touchdowns is about the most humiliating event a ND fan could imagine, I really just don’t know what else to say.   I guess it’s pretty obvious that something very drastic must change under the Dome.   Why can’t Weis and his staff inspire these kids to play hard and smart for 60 minutes?!?!?   This staff has simply lost the players.   And I’m too disgusted to be very prescriptive about it … would just prefer not to even think about ND football right now.   Let’s just leave it up to the new AD, Mr. Swarbrick, to figure out what’s wrong and fix it … that’s his job.  Now, if they want to hire ol’ Wally as a consultant, I think I can make myself available … for a slight fee … just enough to offset money wasted on ND tickets these last few seasons  :)    

images62Now, on a positive note, how about the nice season by the Northwestern Wildcats?   (I used to call them the Northworsten Mildcats … but no more!)   The ‘Cats just beat their “close-to-home” rival Fighting Illini to finish 4th in the Big 10 with an overall record of 9-3.   Pretty damned good for one of those “premier academic images63institutions”.   Maybe ND should try to recruit NU head coach Pat Fitzgerald away from Evanston, just like they did with Ara Parseghian back in the early ’60s.  

images64Boise State remained undefeated with a hard fought road win at Nevada and they are now 10-0.  However, still undefeated Utah beat BYU convincingly and is better perched in the BCS standings to claim a spot in one of the “big games”. 

Nice to see Michigan get crushed again to worsen their worst season ever.    Speaking of getting crushed, how did Texas Tech give up 42 points in the first half to Oklahoma and just not show up for their day in the sun?   What a disappointment that was, as I’m sure college football fans everywhere were hoping to see a true showdown in the primetime game of the day. 

Looks like Oregon State may just as well nudge USC away from the Rose Bowl.   The Beavers just need to beat the Ducks next week in Corvaillis. 

Well, the BCS rankings will be released in a few hours.  I expect we’ll see it set up so that the SEC champ (Bama or Florida) will end up playing the Big 12 champ (as long as it’s Oklahoma or Texas) in the title game.   Can’t complain about this type of match-up, but I would like to see both Utah and Boise State get invites to one of the 5 big games. 

images65Happy Thanksgiving to all!   Oh … there’s only one NFL game on Turkey day cuz the Detroit Lions are playing in the other one.   :)

Wally’s World Just Got a Little Smaller

After getting squashed by a mediocre Boston College squad, Notre Dame football is absolutely lifeless.   There’s really not much to write about, let alone care about.   They may beat Syracuse, but I think  they will lose again to Navy and get absolutely crushed by USC.   A once-promising season will be relegated to a 6-6 record.   This ND program is a huge contradiction.   We lose a very winnable, immensely frustrating game to Pitt, then we get good news about a highly ranked WR recruit from SoCal committing to the Irish, then we go and lay a big fat goose egg to BC.  Colin Cowherd is right … South Bend is the Bermuda Triangle of college football … where talented recruits just disappear.  The current Weis coaching staff … just like its two predecessors … appears to be incompetent.   Yes, they can recruit, which is an improvement over the previous post-Holtz regimes, but these guys cannot teach, motivate or effectively scheme a gameplan that works.   Whether it’s the seemingly constant holding penalties killing drives … or the kickers & punters kicking footballs with no air in them … this ND team just does not inspire me in any way.   They are lifeless … all you have to do is watch a game to see that.

This will be the last post dedicated to ND football …. until they make it worth my while to care again.   Not sure when that will be … maybe 2017 or somewhere around there. 

In the meantime, GO BOISE STATE!!!

ND Gags Away Another One

At some point, after foregoing about 10 distinct chances to win the game by making just one more play, you gotta concede that you just flat out dropped the ball and failed.   You just didn’t get ‘er done when you should have … you just lacked that winning quality … you underachieved in a major way.  Well … that was definitely Notre Dame on Saturday vs Pitt.   I’ll come out and say it right now … the 4 OT loss to the Panthers is simply infuriating for ND fans … it is simply the sickening type of loss we have seen within ND Stadium 2-3 times per year over the past  12 years or so … and it is absolutely nauseating.   Now, why would I say that?   Well … maybe it’s because ND has more talent than Pitt, we were playing at home, Pitt was playing without their starting QB and their center … and Rutgers scored 54 points on them in Pittsburgh the week before.    Shall I continue?  ND had a 14 point halftime lead and led by 7 with about 4 mins remaining in regulation … at home.    Nobody … I repeat … nobody … gets less out of more than the ND coaching staff. 

Starting in the second half, Notre Dame had about 10 distinct chances to essentially win this ball game.  They then proceeded to whiff 10 times in a row in clutch situations … also known as the “gagfest”.  The first such chance was Harrison Smith’s freakin’ senseless personal foul very early in the second half.  If Smith can somehow avoid being a butthead (e.g. avoid smacking the Pitt player in the back away from the play and 3 seconds after the 3rd down play was over), then Pitt starts the half by having to punt from their 30 yard line and down by 14 points.  Instead, they are awarded a first down at their 45 and go on to score a TD to cut the deficit to 7.  That changed the entire complexion of the game and  ND’s offense became tighter than a drum … they simply went into a shell … afraid to use their talent.   I think the Irish had 7 yards of total offense in the 3rd quarter, which was one of the worst single quarters I can remember in a long time. 

So Smith’s mindless personal foul started the whole mess … for Cubs fans, you could say it was  Bartmanesque.   From that point on, ND had several opportunities to make just one more play to seal the win.  There were several  4th downs on defense where the Irish could’ve simply made the stop and won the game.   The most obvious opportunity was with ~2 mins left in regulation with ND winning by 7 and Pitt facing a 4th and 6 from the Irish 10 yard line.   Whiff.  ND’s defense whiffed on about four other 4th downs along the way during the second half.  How in the world does ND get only 1 sack on Pitt’s back-up QBs the entire game????  

Offensively, ND had a 2nd and goal from the 3 yard line in the first OT.  If they score a TD, they win the game.  But nooooo … jamming it in from there is too much to ask.    There was also the 4th and one from the 50 with about 1 minute left in regulation.  If we can sneak a just a yard on this one play, we can get another 20 during the next 45 seconds and kick a FG to win in regulation.  Yeah … right!  Forget it.  

The truth is … there is no way this game should’ve even been close to reaching over time.    ND should’ve won by 15+ points.   We have more talent, we’re at home, Pitt has key injuries, Pitt has Dave Wannstedt as head coach.  I mean, how many advantages do you want????   So I’m really ticked off and disgusted today … just like most ND fans across the country.  The Irish should’ve won this game easily and instead coughed it up.   The reasons?    ND’s coaching staff can sure recruit, but they can’t coach X’s and O’s leading up to game day, they can’t motivate consistently, and they don’t adequately develop players.   ND’s coaching staff is close to inept.   They are good recruiters, but not good at much else … except screwing up a good thing.    This could’ve been a really nice 9-3 springboard season.  Instead, we’ll be lucky to be 7-5 when all is said and done.    Charlie … I don’t know if it’s you, the members of your coaching staff, or both.  But collectively, you’re just not getting the job done.   Saturday’s loss to Pitt is a real low point of your tenure at ND. 

In other CFB news, Wally’s next favorite teams both won … Boise State trounced New Mexico State 49-0 to stay undefeated, and Northwestern beat Minnesota  with a late pick six.  (That’s why they’re the Gophers).     Did everyone see Texas Tech beat Texas in an instant classic? Will they now become #1?   Nope … probably #3 … behind Alabama and Penn State.  If TT keeps winning though, they will crack the Top 2, likely at Penn State’s expense.    Meanwhile, Georgia did not disappoint as the most underachieving team in America … they got trounced by Florida.   Last but not least, one good thing has continued to happen the past few weeks:  Michigan lost again!!!!!!    Quite cool.  

Notre Dame Trounces Hapless Huskies

Saturday evening, Notre Dame moved to 5-2 after dominating the Washington Huskies by a final score of 33-7. The game was not as close as the score may have indicated. Okay, the Huskies are one of the weaker teams on the schedule to date, but the Irish played their most complete wire-to-wire game of the season thus far and we’re clearly the superior team, although far from the friendly confines of South Bend. Here’s what was most impressive about the Irish win:

– A defense that allowed zero points, only 56 yards of offense and no UW penetrations past midfield until all the scrubs were playing late in the 4th quarter.

– A balanced offense that racked up nearly 450 yards with more than half of it via the running game. Yes … THE RUNNING GAME.

Although his stat line was decent, this was not one of Jimmy Clausen’s better games from an accuracy standpoint, but he and his WRs were very effective early … setting the table with two first quarter scores on short passes turned into long runs. Even Brandon Walker was clicking Saturday as he made a couple field goals. But the story was clearly ND’s defense (or UW’s terrible offense) and the Irish ground game. Lastly, your scribe and portions of his family witnessed the game in person in Seattle. Very impressed with the UW campus, scenery, and athletic facilities. A good time was had by all. A visit to Husky Stadium is recommended if you’re ever presented with the opportunity.

Now the Irish move on to host the Pitt Panthers next week. Pitt was ranked #17 going into Saturday, but were stung at home by Rutgers 54-34. Too early for point spreads, but the Irish should be favored to win this home game. We are not yet ranked but clearly have some good vibes and momentum heading into next week.

Lastly, did I see that Michigan lost again??? Yes, this time the rival MSU Spartans got ‘em. Just breaks my heart . Oh, and happy to see Penn State squeak by Ohio State. Just not crazy about seeing the Buckeyes possibly back into the big game again.

Oh yeah … almost forgot … UW’s beleaguered head coach, none other than Ty Willingham is clearly on the hottest of hot seats. He may not last the season, but is definitely going to be unemployed soon. Not that he cares … he’ll be collecting more settlement dollars from UW to add to his ND settlement. All I can say is … he’s a terrible coach and he did it to them too. UW will take years to recover from Ty’s ineptitude, especially on the recruiting end.

OK … gotta catch a plan back to Anchorage. Have a great week!

Wally

Odd & Ends

Observations from the weekend … thru Saturday:

1) I’m in love with Boise, Idaho. Very quaint city … EXTREMELY CLEAN … well thought out … scenic … “outdoorsy” … nice people. The only problem is the blue smurf turf. The BSU Broncos are definitely a thinking-man’s team. They play no-huddle quickball and rely, to some degree, on trickeration. Their defense is surprisingly physical. Chris Peterson is one heckuva coach. Broncos will apppear in a BCS Bowl … again.

2) Texas is for real. Mizzou doesn’t know what hit ‘em.

3) Love the fact that Penn State beat the crap out of the Michigan Skunkbears. Have I ever stated that I LOVE IT WHEN MICHIGAN LOSES?!?!?!?!

4) Steve Spurrier isn’t a very good coach. South Carolina could not score a point at home vs LSU in the second half … if they did, they probably would’ve won. Their offense is wound tighter than Cubs players in the playoffs.

5) Not much defense being played in the Big 12 this year. The over/under in every game is like 80.

6) Alabama is ready to be beaten. It will happen soon. The offense isn’t good enough to go undefeated.

7) Red Sox have tied the series!!! I told you (Casey) before Friday that they were still in it. Never count this crew out. They have “it”. Tampa started clutching their esophagi sometime during the 6th inning tonight and it will continue through Sunday. You can count on a few more errors by Rays fielders to assist your cause in game 7. TB knows they are in severe trouble.

8) I’ve finally figured out why ALL Red Sox games last at least 3 1/2 hours and usually go past 4 hours. Each Boston batter will step out of the box after EVERY pitch. They will then unstrap EACH batting glove and refasten it … as if the very act of watching a pitch go buy loosens the velcro. Then they spit on their hands and get back in the box very slowly … one foot at a time. If this takes too long … they will step out again for fear that the velcro has loosened even before they have watched another pitch go by. Human rain delay … even Mike Hargrove wasn’t this bad.

9) Youkilis is the most INTENSE player I have ever seen. There’s smoke coming out of his ears just before the pitcher delivers the ball. (He’s probably pissed that his velcro is coming loose).

10) The Michigan State Spartans proved again WHY THEY SUCK. As usual, they’re on the precipice of proving they BELONG in the Top 15 … only to prove that THEY DON’T. To play that poorly at home vs a so-so Ohio State team is shameful. Don’t be surprised if they now lose 3 in a row … in keeping with true MSU tradition. When does hoops start?

Wally

NFL’s Worst Coaching Staff? Chicago Bears

Lovie Smith and the entire Bears coaching staff should be fired immediately!!! I cannot believe the incompetence I just saw. Did anyone else see this???? In the NFL, you just cannot give games away … all three of the Bears losses this year were gift-wrapped for the opposition … but today’s loss at Atlanta was the most egregious screw-up I can remember in a long time.

The Bears had just taken a 20-19 lead with 11 seconds left in the game after a stirring rally led by Kyle Orton. So … on the ensuing kick-off, you’re gonna blast it as deep as possible right down the middle, RIGHT? Obviously, even a moderately long run back to, say, midfield from the endzone will take about 7-8 seconds leaving only a last gasp hail mary pass to the endzone as the final play. It’s easy right? Just do the math … kick as deep as possible to the middle of the field … let ‘em use up lots of time running it back … but hopefully you tackle ‘em back behind the 25 or so. Either way, Atlanta has time for only one offensive play from scrimmage after the kick return. WE JUST DON’T WANT THEM TO HAVE TIME FOR 2 PLAYS WITH ONE OF THEM BEING A FIELD GOAL!!!!!!

So what does Lovie Smith and the coaching staff with the lowest IQ in all of sports do on the kick-off? They kick a grounder down the middle … it’s fielded cleanly at the 35 and run back to about the Bears 43. THAT ONLY TOOK 4 SECONDS, so there’s 7 seconds left and the Falcons are essentially at midfield. Crap. Now you want to keep them inbounds regardless of how much they get on the NEXT pass or at least play 7 deep and be able to bat everything down, right? Nope. Not in Lovie’s World. They basically let Matt Ryan throw the incredibly predictable 25 yard sideline out pattern and the WR goEs out of bounds with 1 second left. Elam comes in for the FG and of course the Bears lose AGAIN by giving the game away.

The Bears ownership are made up of idiots (after Papa Bear Halas died, the family gene pool wasn’t the best), so apparently they’ve hired people like themselves to coach the team. But if I’m the owner of this team, I call Lovie Smith on his cell phone right now and say “Don’t bother coming home … YOU’RE FIRED AND SO IS YOUR ENTIRE STAFF … we will mail you your final paychecks”. I just cannot believe an NFL coach could make so many STUPID decisions in succession to essentially cost his players a much needed W. If it wasn’t obvious earlier, it sure is now … THE BEARS WILL GO NOWHERE WITH LOVIE SMITH AS HEAD COACH. He should be fired immediately.

Wally

Coulda, Woulda, Shoulda — ND gives it away

Dadgumitt … ya know that ND fans, players, coaches, etc are gonna look back at this 29-24 loss to North Carolina and point to it as THE ONE THAT GOT AWAY … The very “winnable loss” that mucked up what coulda-shoulda-woulda been a fantastic season. So instead of being possibly 10-2 or 9-3 on Dec 1 and considered for a New Years Day Bowl (you know … one of those played real early in the day), the Irish are probably now bound for 8-4 or 7-5 and the Who Knows What Bowl. More on this later.

Unlike the Michigan State loss, this game was ours … we had it in our grasp … things were going well … and then we essentially snatched defeat from the jaws of victory in a span of game time that was only about 5-7 minutes out of the 60. These were the key snafus in chronological order:

1) After scoring a late 1st half TD to lead 17-6 with about 50 seconds left, the ND defense let up, stopped playing and allowed UNC to march down the field at ease for a late FG to close it to 17-9. Boy, would we have liked to have these 3 points back … coulda possibly kicked a FG to win it late in the 4th but instead needed a TD. (ND’s defense is like a light switch … somebody turns it off, it’s dark and by the time anyone can locate it to flip it back on, it’s too late. These guys are momentum killers).
2) The worst play of the day was obviously Clausen’s INT returned for a TD to start the second half. Just a huge gift of 7 points to the offensively challenged Tar Heels and it gave everyone in their program hope that they could win the game. Score is now 17-16 Irish. To Clausen and ND’s credit, they marched right back down the field and scored at the 10:43 mark of the 3rd quarter. This was really good to see, BUT remember … someone turned off ND’s defense.
3) The “next worst play of the day” was yet another fumble by the Irish midway through the 3rd qtr which set up UNC nicely at about mid-field. They of course marched through our “butter defense” like we were standing still and tacked on another TD. So, two disappointing things here: the lost fumble and a defense that just can’t seem to stop anyone when it’s a critical juncture in the game. Still, ND is up 24-22. We can still win!!!

NOT! The Irish just made too many costly mistakes that handed at least 10 points to UNC. ND lost 3 fumbles and 2 INTs, one of which was returned for a TD. Meanwhile, ND did not force any UNC turnovers … Zero … nada … NONE. You’re not gonna win many games with a minus 5 turnover margin, especially on the road against a quality opponent. But that brings us to the next point: When are we gonna see consistent HIGH INTENSITY and results from ND’s defense and special teams????? The Irish special teams are anything but special … we shall refer to them as the “ordinary teams” from here on out. They just don’t make anything happen … whether returning kicks or covering kicks. Now, on to the defense. The Irish will not be a legit Top 20 team until the defense starts pulling its weight. On most good teams, when the offense scores to go ahead, it spurs the defense on and they start smelling blood … they really turn it on and seal the deal. Not our guys. Our guys are momentum killers. Instead of turning it up, our D dials it down. What … ARE YOU TIRED?!?! Too exhausted from watching your own offense pile up 27 first downs and almost 500 yards?!?!?!?! The ND defense played soft enough to let a very mediocre QB for North Carolina look good. One sack all day. One lousy sack. ND’s defense just quit playing late in the first half after the Irish went up 17-6 and that’s a huge reason why ND is now 4-2 instead of 5-1 and not feeling all that great.

This brings us to next week. No game! The Irish have a week to rest and take mid-terms exams. I hope they also look at game film and understand how ridiculously winnable this game vs Carolina was. They will also see how terribly soft we are when it comes to blocking and tackling.
OK … let’s rise above this for a minute. Given last year’s train wreck of a 3-9 season, how do we all feel about 4-2 at the midway point? I’ll take it. Could it easily be 5-1? Sure. But when looking at the schedule before the season started, I thought ND could be/should be 4-2. 5-1 was a possible upside scenario in my opinion. To put things in perspective, WE COULD BE MICHIGAN. (Boy, did it feel good to say that!!! )

Here are the remaining 6 games for ND: At Washington, Pitt, At Boston College, at Navy, Syracuse, at Southern Cal. To me, it looks like 4-2. I mean, given what we now know after the first six games, the Irish SHOULD beat Washington (1), either Pitt or BC (2), Navy (3) and Syracuse (4). I said “should”. And I’ll also say that anything worse than 8-4 for this regular season will be very disappointing. Still, it beats the heck out of 3-9. ND is improving which is great … but there’s still quite a ways to go! We’ve lost to 2 ranked teams on the road, and we gave away the UNC game.
There’s hope :)

Other college football notes:
1) Nice win by Texas and happy to see it. (Just not crazy about that Stoops guy).
2) Very surprised that LSU got pummeled by Florida
3) Did I mention how delighted I was to see Michigan get beat at home by Toledo? Hah! :)
4) What a surprising Big 10 this year. Penn State, Michigan State and Ohio State are clearly the front-runners. What happened to Illinois and Wisconsin??? At 5-1, Northwestern makes me proud in a humble sort of way.
5) Boise State is undefeated and I’m going there next week for Parents Weekend. I’m pumped to get my first glance at the smurf turf. They play Hawaii.
6) Going to Seattle in 2 weeks to see ND play Washington. The big Q is: Will Ty Losingham still be employed by the Huskies by then???
7) Watch out for USC … they are down, but not out of it. Wouldn’t it be nice if ND could spoil their BCS hopes in late November??? We can always dream!

I’m signing off until after the Washington game. Have a great couple of weeks!

Wally

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