As always with Frank Commentary, it's time to look at the good, the bad, and the ugly.
Special teams: Or should I say the outstanding? Special teams coach Brian Polian gets my first game ball. In a little over a year Polian has turned what was a considerable big weakness for the Irish into a real threat. The Irish played outstanding in every facet of special teams this week. Polian deserves a big tip of the hat because this could be the difference in a number of games this season.
Carl Gioia: Many Irish fans, myself included, were very worried about the kicking game after the Georgia Tech performance, but Gioia didn't go into the tank and fixed whatever problems he was having. Hats off to Gioia and Weis and Polian for sticking with Gioia and rebuilding his confidence. Hopefully the success will continue.
The Secondary : I firmly believed heading into this season that the secondary would be vastly improved over last season. Why? Notre Dame had the athletes to be successful, and Irish secondary coach Bill Lewis is a fantastic teacher and football coach. This unit has played two impressive games back-to-back, and the problems we saw last year appear to have disappeared. Tom Zbikowski is playing like a true first-team All-American, and the play of Chinedum Ndukwe has been terrific in these first two games. We can't forget Notre Dame's corners as well as Mike Richardson and Ambrose Wooden played excellent an excellent game. This Penn State team has some very fast wide receivers and Notre Dame virtually eliminated their threat most of the game. A job well done!
John Carlson: Not only was Carlson a better player this week than last, he also blocked better on Saturday. Carlson's legs can open up the Irish offense and put considerable threat on defenses. Defensive coordinators will have to think twice about leaving the middle of the field open by blitzing linebackers and safeties if Carlson continues his impressive play.
Brady Quinn: Quinn didn't have his best game, but he had a damn good one. I think the bar is so high for Quinn that we take the poor guy for granted. He engineered another outstanding late first-half drive this week that most won't truly appreciate. This guy is clutch and plays his best when the Irish really need him the most. To go into to half time with a 20-0 lead versus a 13-0 lead means so much to a team. You really put the pressure on the other team by doing that and "Mr. Heisman" delivered on Saturday.
The Irish coaching staff: We all know how blessed we are to have such a hard-working coaching staff and the two previous regimes. But this group put together, and more importantly, executed a fantastic game plan against a pretty good Penn State team. Weis just has a gift for calling plays and he really gouged Penn State all day. "Linebacker U" ended up being "Linebacker Who?" on Saturday, and the Irish coaching staff had a lot to do with that. We also have to give Rick Minter his props. The Irish defense has played very well and very efficiently for two straight games. Let's hope that continues.
Running game: I shouldn't say bad. You can never say bad when your team whips another team 41-3 before the subs are sent in. The Irish offense line just hasn't been getting a good push up front in the first two games and they'll need to play better next week against Michigan. I'm not sure why they've struggled running the ball but a veteran offensive line should have more success than they've had, even against the two stout rush defenses they've played against. The good news is they usually step it up in the big games and I think you'll see that next weekend.
Joe Paterno: I understand trying to give your kids some confidence, but his decisions to call time outs at the end of the game reeked of desperation. The man simply cannot stand the Irish and losing to Notre Dame. It showed what I think a lot of Irish fans already knew about the guy.
Final Thoughts: As much as I want to jump for joy about this Irish team, I think we should temper our excitement just a wee bit. At this time last year Irish fans were praising the excellent Irish defense after a stunner in Ann Arbor. While I do believe this Irish defense is a much better defense, I'm not convinced they're the '85 Chicago Bears at this point. And, the Irish will need to rely on the running game at some point in the future. I'm not certain you can count on that at this point in the season.
However, this team sure shows signs of being something special. We'll certainly know how excited we should be after next Saturday's game.
Hold onto your hats Irish fans. The table is set for another Irish moment next weekend.
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