Irish Beat Up Again

<P>The Notre Dame football team suffered another crushing defeat at the hands of Florida State on Saturday, 37-0. The Irish (2-6) faced their seventh ranked opponent in eight games and the result was much the same as their previous games against ranked opponents. Notre Dame remains in a tailspin trying to find answers to righting the ship. The Seminoles (8-1) look to be marching on to a B.C.S bid. </P>

Florida State got off to a fast start scoring 17 unanswered points in the first quarter. The once proud Irish defense had no answers for Seminole quarterback, Chris Rix, and wide receiver, Craphonso Thorpe. Thorpe had three receptions in the first quarter alone, for 124 yards, and a 35-yard touchdown. The once maligned Rix threw for 187 yards in the first quarter.

Thorpe finished the game setting an all-time opponent record of 217 receiving yards, breaking the record set by Southern Cal's, John Jackson, in 1989 of 200 yards. Thorpe also finished the game with seven catches and two touchdowns.

The Irish defense gave Notre Dame their first opportunity to score. Vontez Duff intercepted a Chris Rix' pass, returning the ball to the Seminole nine yard line. Julius Jones rushed for four yards on first down, and then the Irish shot themselves in the foot, much like they have all season.

The Irish were called for a holding penalty on second down moving the offense back to the 15. Quarterback Brady Quinn completed a 12-yard pass to Rhema Mcknight placing the ball on the Seminole three yard line. Florida State called a timeout and the Irish came out of the timeout with a substitution infraction costing the Irish another five yards. Quinn completed a 1-yard pass on third down, and the Irish were forced to attempt a field goal--which was later blocked by the Seminoles.

That series of downs probably explains the Irish season as well as any.

The Seminoles marched on to score 37 unanswered points. They amassed 425 yards of total offense, and scored all three times they entered the red zone.

As impressive as the Seminoles were on offense, they were even more impressive on defense. The Florida State defense shut the door on every Irish opportunity, and left the Irish empty-handed on the scoreboard.

The Irish had their chances to score entering the red zone four times. But, the Seminoles played with pride, however, turning away every Irish opportunity. They clearly wanted, and got, the shutout, and had their way with the Irish all day.

The loss is the sixth loss of the season for Notre Dame, and the second time they've been shutout. The Irish have allowed opponents to score 109 points in the last three games, while Notre Dame has scored only 39. The most alarming observation is that the Irish don't look like they belong on the same field with the better teams they've played.

Coach Tyrone Willingham said his Irish team couldn't contain the Florida State passing game.

"They consistently kept the pressure on us and didn't allow us to make the plays that we needed to make," said Willingham. "We were concerned coming into the ball game. One, with their vertical passing game, and that, more I think than anything else, hurt us with their ability of receivers to make plays."

"Also the play of their quarterback I thought was excellent," Willingham continued. "I thought there were times we had him sacked and let him out and he made big plays and threw it up and allowed their guys to make the play."

Willingham agreed that the blocked kick might have been the turning point in the game. "There were three things that happened in there if I remember correctly. There was a holding call if I'm correct followed by a time-out that the personnel did not get correctly. That's what cost us an extra 10 or 15 there. And then we had the blocked kick if I'm correct. So when you combine that all together, those are the kind of mistakes you cannot make."

Willingham was pleased with the effort from his team on Saturday. He said the Irish will use that effort as a building block to try to turn around their season. "I think our football team came out with some energy, some fight. I don't think they gave up at any point. I think as the game wore on, even offensively we got better. We found a way to get some yardage in some ways and keep going. I think that's the base that you have to start with and I think this team has that."

Defensive coordinator, Kent Baer, said his defense really struggled in the first half. "We've got to make plays," said Baer. "We got in the right spot--we just didn't make plays in the first half. We missed a lot of tackles, we've got to play the ball better, and I though we did the second half. Those things in the first half hurt us."

Baer said he was concerned with the speed of the Seminole wide receivers, and their vertical passing game all week—a concern validated in the first half. "They put three wide receivers in the game and all three are fast. A lot of speed--the kid's got a strong arm, we charted their deep routes all week, and their all deep. We just didn't do a very good job the first half."

Offensive coordinator, Bill Diedrick, said his offense could not convert on third and fourth down. "It was a real struggle," said Diedrick. "When you look at our inefficiency of our third down completions in the first half, and even in the second half, it carried over on fourth down. When you're not converting, and your not running the football, and getting real positive plays on first down, it makes it real difficult."

Quarterback Brady Quinn had a difficult game completing just 20-of- 52 passes, and throwing three interceptions on the day. Diedrick said his young quarterback got rattled early in the game. "He may have been rattled there, at least one portion of the game. But, we're not doing anything to help him at that point, either. It was real difficult trying to get him settled down. In the second half, I thought he settled down a little bit, and was able to come out and play to his capabilities."

The Irish were constantly in third and long situations, and Quinn kept dumping the ball on short routes. Diedrick said Quinn was making his reads too quickly, before the play had time to develop. "I think that we had an opportunity in a couple of situations to get the ball a little bit deeper. He was probably a little bit antsy and made the first read too quick."

The offensive line has had all kinds of problems all year. Three starters left the field with injuries in the game, and Diedrick said his offensive line is hurting right now. "We probably won't know until tomorrow. I have a pretty good idea, very banged up. I think the turf took it' toll a week ago."

The Irish will now face Navy (6-3). The Midshipmen haven't beaten the Irish in last 39 games. The Irish squeaked out a 30-23 win last year at Ravens Stadium in Baltimore. The Irish scored 15 points in the final 4:28 to pull out the victory last year. The Midshipmen are having their best season is years, the Irish are having one of their worst. Is this the year Navy will break the streak?

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