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

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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

Cubs Obituary

Having cleared my head finally and accepted my terrible fate as a Chicago ball fan, here’s the way I see what happened to the Cubs:

First of all, don’t blame it on Pinella. Blame the players. This was a total team meltdown. Let’s count the ways:

Game 1: Dempster, a control pitcher all season (3.3 walks per 9 innings), walked 7 in 4+ innings, including all 3 base runners who scored on the pivotal grand slam in the 5th. How does steady Eddie just lose it all at once. Answer: he gagged.

Game 2: 4 infield errors, including two in the same pivotal inning where the Dodgers scored 5 runs with only 1 being earned. Another choke job.

Game 3: Fell behind early 2-0 when a Dodger was safe at 3rd after A.Ramirez missed an easy tag play and again later that inning when a runner was safe at home after Fukodome’s throw was way up the baseline when only a decent throw somewhere around the plate nails the runner easily. Two runs that shouldn’t have scored in a 3-1 game. You gotta make these plays … they’re not that difficult. Harden didn’t pitch very well either, but the series was lost in Chicago.

All 3 games: Do I even have to list the pathetic batting performances by the top of the order for the whole series? Soriano, Lee, Ramirez, Soto, et al. They were squeezing the bat so hard it turned to sawdust. Most of them were trying to hit 6 run HR’s. That doesn’t work in the playoffs. Ask the White Sox.

This was not Lou’s fault. Again … give the Dodgers credit … and fault the Flubs for playing like crap in one huge gagfest. One has to wonder if the Cubs … regardless of who’s wearing the uniform … can ever not choke from the pressure in Wrigley field during the playoffs. Now 100+ years of hope, frustration, curses turn normally good players into wimps. Derek Lee: Cub killer for the Marlins in ’03 … rally killer as a Cub during last 2 playoffs. 😦

Oh … congrats to Red Sox Nation on advancing. What a terrific ballgame tonight. Fun to watch.

Wally

Clausen Air Attack Grounds Stanford

Opening disclaimer: Youth basketball started here Saturday and my coaching duties prohibited my viewing of the Notre Dame game … other than from my Blackberry. So this post will be a little sketchy on the details and consequently more forward looking. It’ll probably be this way for several upcoming weeks, so please bear with this scribe and feel free to add your own anecdotes and analysis.

Since when does a Notre Dame team throw the ball 40 times while a Stanford team throws it only 28 times? Welcome to the Clausen Era! Jimmy had the best game of his young career, throwing for 347 yards, 3 TDs and no INTs. Not bad, eh? Jimmy was sacked only once, so another great job by the O-line. Meanwhile, Stanford QB Pritchard threw for 2 TDs but had 3 passes picked off and the turnovers were essentially the difference in the ballgame. Credit the Irish D for putting some extreme heat on Pritchard … he was sacked 5 times and when able to get away, he threw a few to our guys. Weis & Co have obviously decided that ND’s offensive identity is to pass the ball and take advantage of the significant, but young talent at the skill positions. With these results, who can blame him?

This ball game was not as close as the 28-21 score indicates. ND jumped out to a big 28-7 lead in the 3rd quarter, but then took their foot off the gas pedal and let Stanford back in it. Brandon Walker came up empty as he went 0-2 in the field goal department. (His batting average this season is actually worse than the Cubs has been vs LA in the playoffs). Walker’s ineptitude combined with ND’s annoying conservative play-calling in the 4th quarter to make the game more interesting than it needed to be for Irish fans. ND again struggled somewhat defending the run, but offset that with a ferocious pass rush resulting in sacks and several poor throws by Stanford.

So the Irish are 4-1 and look forward to what I’ll call a very pivotal game against the North Carolina Tarheels in Chapel Hill. The game should be very revealing and serve as a good barometer for whether ND should be considered a Top 20 team. First of all, it’s a road game. ND was unsuccessful in its only other road game this year (MSU). Secondly, North Carolina is a rapidly improving team with a very nice resume thus far … a 4-1 record including a win at Miami for coach Butch Davis. Third, the Irish have some momentum going. A win vs UNC would make them 5-1 going into an off week before travelling to Seattle at the end of October and unquestionably ranked in the Top 20 … a level most people felt unattainable for ND this year. And 5-1 going into UW also almost assuredly puts ND at the 8 win mark for the season, so this next game against a very tough opponent has a lot riding on it. We’ll see if the Irish are up to the task.

Wally