Well … that’s not the game most of us expected from the Irish in the opener vs San Diego State. Sure, ND won 21-13, but the fact that SD St came within a whisker of going up by 13 points early in the 4th quarter was unnerving to say the least. Thoughts of last season’s nightmares quickly came back … until Clausen hit Golden Tate with the go-ahead TD a few minutes after the miraculous fumble recovery on the goal line.
Before throwing the Irish under the bus after one game, putting this weekend into the proper context for the overall analysis is appropriate. Don’t get me wrong … I’m still worried about this team … and specifically about this team’s ability to finish over .500 this year. BUT, let’s take a look around the country: Ohio State struggled mightily with Ohio U, Michigan did the same with Miami of Ohio, Alabama looked like crap vs Tulane, Pitt was in danger vs Buffalo, plus others in this category. Each of these big favorites were at home playing their 2nd game of the young season. ND was playing its opening game against SD State, a team that suffered a very disappointing loss in its opener the week before. If you believe the axiom that a team makes its greatest improvement between game one and game two, then maybe ND fans shouldn’t panic too much at this point. Having said that, here’s what this “analyst” summarizes as the positives and negatives from this first game:
• A win … ND had only 3 W’s last season!
• Did not give up any sacks … last season, ND set a dubious team record for sacks allowed last season
• Dominated the 4th qtr and came back to win
• Clausen looked pretty good, showing a stronger arm than last season. One of the two INTs was not his fault and he threw 3 TD passes.
• Defense showed some mettle … really played tough and kept ND in the game while the offense struggled. The secondary is vastly improved.
• Much better overall special teams play.
• Did not display a dominant running game, averaged only 3 yards per carry, the OL was supposed to run over the weak SD St line. This didn’t happen.
• Given the amount of blitzing by the Irish D, very few sacks of the SD St QB. He got off 60 passes. Why does it always seem our blitzers run smack into the blockers. It’s almost like we don’t know how to blitz.
• ND’s place-kicker missed his first kick and continues to be a head case. This weakness figures to bite ‘em in one of the games coming up.
• More stupid penalties … especially by veteran players – Maurice Crum’s late hit in the first half was really a momentum killer.
• Critical turnovers in the red zone kept the game closer than it should’ve been. And ND was only 1 for 5 on red zone scoring conversions. This cannot continue.
The Michigan Skunkbears visit the Irish next Saturday for the annual early season tussle between the two rivals. UM is struggling to find its identity under new coach Rich Rodriguez and the players to run his scheme. They do have talent, though, so we should expect a very tough game … likely a defensive battle. I am less confident of an Irish victory in this game than I was before Sat’s struggle vs SD State. ND really needs to beat Michigan if they’re gonna get the 7-9 wins everyone “expects” this season. I’m starting to think 5-7 wins is more likely … until I see improved OL play, especially for the running game. Let’s hope the Irish live the axiom and actually improve a great deal between now and the UM game. They better if they hope to win !!
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