Irish are No Longer an Elite Program

IrishEyes offensive guru Tom Beck asks a simple question: How can Notre Dame -- with better athletes, facilities and tradition -- lose to Boston College, or have a 3-4 record in October? Beck, who has been around nothing but winning programs throughout his playing and coaching career, provides fascinating insights as to why the Irish are struggling. For IrishEyes subscribers only.

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October 29, 2001

Analysis – Beck's Beat

Irish Have Too Many Edges;
Can't Accept a Loss to BC

By Tom Beck
For The IrishEyes.Com NewsService

A fine artist would have been pleased with the panorama of fall colors in New England, but on the field the colors were too much for Bob Davie, the players and the Notre Dame faithful.

The Blue and Gold literally saw too much Green wearing the red of Boston College. This made Davie an even darker shade of blue. You might refer to his color as black as in funk.

It's not that the ND game plan was bad on either offense or defense. It was the problem of containing a very quick, strong, explosive, north/south runner in the person of William Green.

Nine out of ten times when a team has a possession ratio of 2:1 and runs almost twice as many plays, it's easy to believe that they will win the ballgame. As you already know, not in this case.

What is the problem?

Both teams have talent, both wanted to win, both knew that the game had tremendous meaning. Many coaches stress to their teams that it doesn't matter if they are playing before a hundred thousand fans or an empty stadium, you play to win. The late Robert F. Kennedy said that "If a game is worth playing it is worth winning".

Why didn't ND win? They certainly had enough opportunities. In fact, more opportunities than did BC. Its offense, defense, kickers, O-line, D-line, LB's, secondary, QB's, WR's, running backs (well, maybe not tailbacks) were as talented as those of Boston College. The practice facilities of ND are better than those of BC. And what about football traditions? Notre Dame wins there also.

What's left? Could it be the intangibles? The coaching philosophies, coaches rapport with each other, with the players, the player-player chemistry or lack thereof, coach-player chemistry? We don't get to see these things behind the scenes, only those things that are manifested on the field on game day.

Is the philosophy to play players that don't practice during the week and then blame their errors on the players?

Many coaches have the philosophy that if you don't practice a certain number of times during the week or by a certain day, so that you can practice all of the handoffs, etc. that you will use during the game - then you don't play on Saturday. By missing out on regular or intricate timing during the week you might foul up on game day.

In his post-game interview O-coordinator Kevin Rogers referred to Julius Jones having missed so much practice. As talented as Jones is, and he is very talented as a tailback, maybe he should not have started. True, he is a usually a solid, tough tailback. He was involved in a number of key third down situations where he picked up the first down and he made an excellent catch of a Carlyle Holiday pass for the first ND touchdown. But in the crucial last quarter with the game on the line he dropped an accurate pitch deep in BC territory. The late Vince Lombardi said "Fatigue makes cowards of us all." He was referring the fact that getting tired causes some to lose concentration, to give in or to give up.

Rogers referred to Jones' conditioning. Is Jones tired at the end of games? If so, it is partially the responsibility of the coach/coaching staff.

I have always maintained that the least in ability on a team can still be the best conditioned and have the best attitude. Theoretically someone has to have the least ability on a team, but he can still be as well-conditioned as the best conditioned player on the other team.

It is up to the staff and, yes, the head coach to instill what he believes to be important (his philosophy on all things related to football performance) to every single player on his team and every member of his coaching and support staff.

What are the players saying to the public? They will always espouse the company line. What are they saying in private?

Notre Dame is among the elite of Universities in the world. Notre Dame stands for excellence, as it should. Currently the ND football program is far from being among the nations' elite.

The playing talent is still at Notre Dame. Top High School student-football players still want to attend ND.  Plain and simple, ND should not have a three and four record at this junction of the schedule.

Offensively, ND "goes to the well" too often on certain play situations. They are still too predictable on short yardage situations with the wishbone formation. The primary play that is run is an off-tackle power play. On third and one late in the game Jones was stuffed for a one yard loss as BC's cornerback anticipated the play (probably from scouting reports and repetition during the game) and sliced through a playside gap to make the important tackle. On the next play ND ran a bootleg that was thrown well, but was also well covered. It was batted away, thus, giving up the ball on downs.

Although Green was a huge factor all night, two plays that embody the ND defensive philosophy hurt them terribly.

The first was a wheel route up the sideline versus the predominant pressure man defense that ND employs a very high percentage of time. Green was pitted against the ND outside linebacker and was open with an easy throw from Brian St. Pierre. The ND free safety was favoring the width of the field on the snap and was a step to late to help out on the perfectly thrown pass.

When playing man-man, the defense is challenging the QB to get rid of the ball on time (especially when a blitz is on) and to make a perfect pass with a defender running stride for stride with the receiver. ND has good man-man defenders. Vontez Duff made a great interception on a poorly throw pass on a deep fade route. A cardinal sin of a QB is to throw the ball inside on a deep fade. The good pass is when the QB throws it to the outside shoulder of the receiver. The defender is on the inside of the wide-receiver and cannot intercept it. Also, on the outside pass the free safety has less of a chance to be involved in the play. Poor pass combined with good defensive position equals an interception.

The other signifi


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