Nine penalties, dropped passes, poor execution and a solid Georgia Tech game plan accumulated into an unexpected output from a very experienced offense considered as one of the nation's best heading into the season. If someone would have said the Yellow Jackets would only score 10 points, it would have been easy to assume the Irish won by a rout.
"I'm disappointed," stated head coach Charlie Weis. "I know that we'll play better. I would be more concerned if the things that I saw on tape were not correctable. That would be a concern. If I say, hey, we didn't know what we were doing. Hey, why did we do that? There are several things in there that I – there's several things that I think you'll see a drastic level of improvement in one week's time."
The Irish need to improve. Fourteen points probably won't be enough against the Nittany Lions. Penn State posted a 34-16 home victory over Akron in its opener.
For just the second time in the 14-game Charlie Weis era, Notre Dame was held scoreless at the end of the first quarter. The other time was against Syracuse , where the Irish went on to post 34 points.
The Irish struggled to get into any kind of rhythm against Georgia Tech's attacking zone blitz. When the star-studded offense did move the ball, they failed to finish the job, leading to two missed field goals and a couple of punts.
"We had way too many mental errors," Weis said. "You had a couple mental errors, about 10 (quarterback) pressures, throw on top of that nine penalties, you want to know why you score 14 points. I could sit there and tell you we had almost 400 yards of offense, 21 first downs, you can go right down the line. The bottom line is when you do things like that, you're not going to score a lot of points. It's fortunate in this game that the defense came through."
The Irish only generated 53 yards through its first 12:16 of possession time. Quarterback Brady Quinn had to continuously pick himself up off the grass.
Like in golf where every hole is a chance to get back on track and make par, it felt like before every possesion, this was going to be the drive that gets the ND offense jump started. That feeling never held true.
Once Weis deviated from the original offensive plan a bit, the Irish started to move the football. Quinn directed two straight 14-play scoring drives to erase a 10-0 deficit. It seemed like the machine was well oiled and ready to score every time. That wasn't the case, as the Irish failed to put more points on the board.
With that being said, there is still evidence that can be taken from the Georgia Tech game that keeps one believing this is still a great offense, one that ranked in the nation's top 10 a year ago.
The big thing is that the Irish didn't turn the ball over. Then there was the 11-play drive that ate up the game's final 5:29 . The offense calmly picked up three first downs, including a 19-yard pass from Brady Quinn to Rhema McKnight on 3rd-and-9, to help prevent one-final chance for the Yellow Jackets to score. Quinn's two-yard dive on 4th-and-one iced the game with a minute remaining.
Quinn stayed poised despite the constant pressure to complete 23-of-38 passes for 246 yards and no interceptions. If some of his passes weren't dropped, his numbers would have been better, drives would have continued and more points would have been scored.
Penn State won't be so lucky. Weis will have his offense clicking on all cylinders at Notre Dame on Saturday.