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.  

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8 Responses

  1. I feel the frustration in this post. Four OTs against Pitt? Should never have even got to the first overtime, I agree. Sad, Sad, Sad. Wow – is Charlie’s job (or his staff’s) in jeopardy or does he get one more chance with this class? At least Michigan will have a losing season and will not see a Bowl Game this year.

    Watched the Texas showdown. Hopefully this is no skin off of the Longhorn’s back – they’re easily a top 5 team still. But Texas Tech has a pretty good defense and most importantly they have an even better running game. Their two backs are a great complement to Graham Harrell. Texas really doesn’t have that – their best rusher is their QB!

    I agree with Alabama-Penn St. being 1-2 in either order. TT should be 3 in my opinion. What concerns me is Alabama wasting their time with Arkansas State this weekend. What seemed like big wins at the time against Clemson and Georgia are now being exposed as a bit of a mirage. We’ll see what they’re made out of when they meet up with Florida in the SEC championship. That could/should propel Florida should Texas Tech slip up against one of the Oklahomas.

    Heisman Watch:

    1. Big XII quarterback
    2. Big XII quarterback
    3. Big XII quarterback
    4. Tim Tebow FLA (he should start getting some recognition, right?)

  2. Oh yeah, Casey – Are we going to have the second annual Clipboard College Football playoff championship???

  3. Charlie will not be fired this year … whether they’re 8-4 or 7-5 … it doesn’t matter. Or even 6-6. (Although you’ve really got to wonder what kind of coaches these guys are if you can’t go at least 7-5 given the remaining schedule). ND is now 5-3 with games at BC, Navy and USC plus a home game vs Syracuse. A blind caveman could coach this team to at least a 2-2 record in that stretch to finish 7-5. (Although a blind caveman should’ve been able to outsmart Dave Wannstedt on Saturday).

    Anyway, Charlie is safe for one more season after this one … 2009 looks like a season where his vast amount of accumulated talent will finally be able to overcome and possibly hide poor technical coaching. Charlie and gang sure can recruit, but I don’t yet see any evidence that they excel at the other half of leading a major college program. PLEASE… CHARLIE … PROVE ME WRONG!

  4. After watching a 14-point-halftime lead slip away the frustration is understandable.

    Not trying to make excuses – and maybe this is too simple of an observation but most, if not all, of ND’s play makers are freshmen or sophomores – kids who can easily lose focus. After pounding Washington last week, I can’t help but think those pups thought everything would fall into place against Pitt. Yeah – that probably means Charlie and crew should do a better job of motivating. It is also easier to teach after a loss than a win.

    Charlie’s job should be secure. He can recruit well and will continue to do that. He also graduates his kids. Wally – you have talked before about how the team under Charlie has improved their GPA.

    Big XII football – ‘The last team with the ball, wins.’
    That was as entertaining a game as I can remember in recent history.

    Rey – glad you mentioned the Clipboard National Chan’ship. We’ll get that rolling in the coming weeks.

  5. I often talk to Casey at work about Charlie learning to become a college coach. Saturday was just one more example of the room left still to develop in that area. Often the conversation goes toward talking about how the players are young and with time they’ll get better. True, but until Charlie learns what skills have to be taught at the college level, and what motivating has to be done, and what strategies work effectively at college compared to pros, then ND will not be better than mediocre. The players are coming along, but I also see Charlie as evolving. This year alone I saw what appeared to be a minor change to some signal a big step in development; deferring when winning the coin toss. He is a good football mind, with no real clue about success at the college level – he had NO experience at that level before coming to ND. I think it’s coming, but he certainly does try my patience.

    BTW, I told Casey that next season we have to put together a trip to ND for the site regulars. I have a place 10 miles from ND, so accommodations are the easy part. GO IRISH!

  6. A clipboard retreat to South Bend for a game? Best idea in Clipboard history.

  7. I’d certainly say Charlie deserves a couple more years. I just didn’t know how impatient Notre Dame alumni and fans were getting.

    In college, You HAVE to have a running game and a back who can carry the load when asked of him. I don’t think Allen or hughes is that guy for the Irish. Notre Dame hopefully is making that the focus of their recruiting.

  8. ND has several very good, if not great , H.S. running backs on the roster. Allen, Hughes, and Aldridge were all 4 or 5 star HS backs. One freshman who saw his first action vs Washington, Jonas Gray, was a back everyone wanted last year. He could be the horse next year if the older guys don’t step up soon.

    As opposed to lacking talent at the RB position, I think the inconsistent (medicore) running game is more likely due to two things: 1) the O-line is still pretty young … these positions need more years of experience to be truly productive. (They need more years than the RBs). They’ve got to add weight, strength and the maturity/experience to play a thinking position. 2) the coaching staff is not doing a good job in terms of coaching both the RBs and the O-Linemen … whether it be technique or strategy or philosophy. Also, I think our QBs and RBs need to be coached on how to NOT telegraph the running plays.

    Bottom line: It’s extremely frustrating continually losing home games to teams that don’t have as much talent as ND does. A very well-written article by John Vannie in NDNation was posted a few hours ago: http://www.ndnation.com/articles/2008/11/pitt-boots-irish-in-ot.html

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