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Oh No! Not Again!
By Tom Beck
For The IrishEyes.Com NewsService
This is getting redundant.
How much lower can ND fall before bouncing back even to respectability let alone excellence?
Will they bounce back before the stock market does?
Not only the offense, but also the defense and special teams were all out-played by an aggressive well-executing Texas A&M football team.
Being at the bottom of Division I football in all offensive categories is simply difficult to believe. Notre Dame is loaded with returning senior lettermen, lettermen returning at every single position, a load of former high school All-Americans as well as players ranked in the top 50 or 100 after their senior year of high school.
Bob Davie admits to long hours watching game videotape. He has stated that he has "tremendous confidence in my abilities and I'm pretty perceptive when it comes to things".
What's wrong with the Irish?
First of all, the first three games this season as well as the Fiesta Bowl were against good opponents. But shouldn't a team with the talent of ND not only win some of these games but also perform much better than they have demonstrated?
Long hours by the Head Coach and his staff in preparation is not the key to victory. The key is, intelligent use of the hours. Davie states that he is "perceptive". Does this include delegating responsibility, seeing that the responsibility is carried out, formulating solid game philosophy and game plans?
It is necessary for the Head Coach to be a strong motivator or have enough staff members that are strong motivators. Football is a tremendously emotional game. Football players need to have a "destroy the opponent" mentality. The quarterback needs to have a calm but confident persona, the other players need to "grit their teeth" and get after their opponent.
Has ND really been emotional in these crucial games? Most good teams will win against inferior teams. The real challenge is when you are competing against similar talent. How often do you win against solid and equally talented teams? This is the challenge for a staff. Excuses don't do it if you keep losing against teams with no more or less talent than yours.
We don't know what is going on at the ND practices. They are closed to the media. They used to be open under Lou Holtz, whose Gamecocks, by the way, went to 4-0 with a thrilling win over Alabama. We base opinions by the team's performance and results of what happens in the games.
Coaches say that if "so and so" wouldn't have thrown an interception, missed the snap count, missed the tackle, missed his assignment, fumbled, etc...we could have, should have, would have. All of these things are emphasized during the pre-season, season, and game week. Different coaches have different strengths and weaknesses.
What is the ND brain trust and staff lacking? Most coaches put in enough time at the job (some too much time). Time and hours spent working are not the issue. A lack of a good game plan or not getting good athletes to execute your game plan is the same thing. Getting the players to believe that your philosophy and game plan are effective is crucial. The players must believe you know what you are talking about.
The head coach is the leader. He needs to be believable. He needs to be the one responsible for motivation.
The offense as it stands today for the Irish lacks creativity, execution and confidence. It is too predictable against quality opponents.
The option as the Irish use it lacks an inside threat to hold inside pursuit from the inside linebackers. We're talking about a fullback threat here, folks. The QB still gets too deep as he approaches the pitch key. The QB needs to attack the upfield shoulder of the pitch key as quickly as possible.
Carlyle Holiday, in his first start at quarterback, was not sure of himself in the pocket. He held the ball much too long. The QB needs a "time clock in his head". He needs to know how long the protection can keep the defense blocked before he has to release the ball, throw it away or scramble.
The worst thing that a QB can do is throw an interception. A sack, although not good, is better than an interception except at the end of a half or game. Protection needs to be sound to either pick up a blitz' or throw "hot". Twice in the second half LoVecchio was sacked when a back failed to execute a block. The first time was on a blitz between center and guard and the fullback failed to see the blitz. The other time was on a quick pass where the back took a bad angle and missed the block enabling the defensive end to hit LoVecchio from the blind side.
There were a number of times that the ND quarterback threw into coverage or threw behind the receiver. A number of times there was obvious miscommunication by the QB and receiver as to length of patterns that ended up incomplete. You assume these items are practiced; however is enough time devoted to them?
The results in a game come down to talent, coaching or a combination of the two. Screens, delays, draws,"gadget" plays can be an effective part of a comprehensive passing game.Davie says that he is going to get more involved with the offense. Is this the answer?
Will there be more imagination in the offense, better execution? If a base play is stopped does ND have the complementary play to take advantage of the defense?
Run or pass? Defenses have strengths, they have weaknesses!Give credit to A&M. They had ND well-scouted and their team well prepared.
ND was stuffed twice on short yardage situations when they went to the bone. ND needs to try the unexpected more often. It was easy to know their tendencies based upon previous games. Is there a foundation to the offense? Teams self-scout themselves to counteract tendencies they have. Is ND paying enough attention to their own play-calling tendencies?
The next four games are certainly games that the Irish should win. The talent level on the field will be obvious. A team with the talent of Notre Dame should be expected to go over 400 yards of total offense in all of these games.
In these winnable type games execution is the key. Will it happen?(
(Tom Beck is a former assistant offensive coach for Notre Dame. He is a regular contributor to IrishEyes.)