Was it a Good Weekend for the Irish?

It was a gorgeous day in South Bend, and the Irish dominated Penn State, showing tremendous improvement on offense and continuing improved play on defense and special teams. To make things even better, several blue-chip recruits witnessed Notre Dame's dismantling of last year's Big-Ten champion in front of a raucous Irish crowd. Things couldn't be better, right? Not so fast.

Since Irish fans tend to be complacent and easily satisfied, I haven't seen many ND fans express concerns this week. I, on the other hand, have some grave ones, namely the following:

Recall that star receiver Arrelious Benn visited Notre Dame and saw Brady Quinn dissect Penn State's defense by completing 70 percent of his passes to a couple of first-round draft picks at wide receiver, an emerging star at tight end, and an excellent pass-catching tailback. Despite this, Benn still intends to take an official visit to Illinois later in the month.

Most Irish fans don't seem concerned by this visit, but consider the result of the Rutgers-Illinois game before you pencil in Benn in Notre Dame's 2007 lineup. The Illini were blanked by Rutgers and held to 126 yards of total offense. This would appear to be good for ND, right? Wrong. Do you think Benn doesn't see how much help the Illini need on offense? At Notre Dame, the Washington D.C. star would be immediately taking over for two likely future NFL starters and helping the Irish compete for a National Championship. At Illinois, Benn would be able to do something truly charitable and remarkable – help the Illini cross the 50-yard line. Do you not think Benn is charitable at heart? A very reliable source on an Illinois message board insists that, even after the disheartening loss to Rutgers, the Illini still lead for not only Benn, but also Chicago Public League stars Robert Hughes and Martez Wilson. Although it is truly heartening to see so many talented young men show such magnanimity at an early age, it will be tough to see Notre Dame lose so many talented players to a coach, Ron Zook, who, in my opinion may not be quite as proven a commodity as Coach Weis.*

Lost in the easy victory over the Nittany Lions was the fact that Notre Dame struggled a bit running the football. Although Darius Walker was highly productive in the passing game (seven catches for 72 yards), it's hard not to lament the one that got away: Lorenzo Booker, the FSU star who spurned the Irish on signing day several years ago.

As the Irish struggled to eek out yardage against a tough PSU linebacking corps, Booker ran over, around and through a truly front-line defense, the Trojans (of Troy), showing himself to be the homerun threat at tailback (six carries for 18 yards) that the Irish have lacked since Julius Jones was drafted by the Cowboys. As if his performance against the Trojans wasn't impressive enough, what Booker did against a stout Miami run defense (six carries, -3 yards) is enough to make an Irish fan weep over what happened on that fateful signing day four years ago.

To make matters worse, watching a replay of the Notre Dame-Penn State game raises serious questions about the legitimacy of the win. Penn State moved the ball well on the Irish in the first half, and if it weren't for a terrible clipping penalty called against PSU in Notre Dame territory, PSU fans will quickly point out that the Lions likely would have gone into the half with the lead.

Brady Quinn distributed the ball well when the Irish spread the field, but reading the comments of the Penn State linebackers, it becomes obvious that the only reason the Irish moved the ball in this way is because their silly field-spreading antics made the Penn State defenders too exhausted to play well. This little trick may have worked when an opponent wasn't expecting it, but what will the Irish do when they aren't able to make the opposing defense really tired with all sorts of goofy "forward passing" tricks? Don't expect Weis's shenanigans to work against a Michigan defense that will be expecting Weis to run all sorts of duplicitous "pass routes" with his tight ends and running backs.

And I haven't even mentioned the critical play of the game: the early third quarter Anthony Morelli fumble that Tom Zbikowski returned for a touchdown to give the Irish a comfortable lead. Coach Joe Paterno, speaking through a Oujia board via his terrestrial spokesman Galen Hall, noted that Morelli could have gained the first down without attempting to pitch the ball, despite the fact that Travis Thomas and Maurice Crum were busy sandwiching the junior quarterback several yards shy of the first down line.

This may seem to be a specious claim on Paterno's part, but if one puts any stock paranormal phenomena, it seems clear that Paterno could have willed Morelli through the two Notre Dame defenders for the first down. If that had happened, the game would have turned out much differently (41-10 instead of 41-17, because the Irish would not have surrendered any garbage time points).
,br> There were some other problems evident in the Notre Dame game. Anyone who watched the game on television or had a seat near the Irish sideline can see the development of a serious problem: Brady Quinn's hair. Sure, the QB tossed for nearly 300 yards and threw two of the best passes of his career. But he was also sacked on consecutive plays, and the reason for those sacks seems obvious: his increasingly shaggy hair got in his eyes and did not allow him to see the onrushing defenders or his open receivers.

Making matters even worse, it seems Coach Weis is not even concerned about this obvious problem. If Quinn is allowed to grow his hair this long to the detriment of his ability to play the game, what will Weis allow next? A Mohawk? Tattoos? Growing the ND stadium grass long to slow down an opponent? ND has standards, and I am concerned they are being compromised here. By the way, does Coach Weis look bigger this year to anyone else?

The Irish have a huge match-up this weekend against Michigan that many people are excited about. But until Ron Zook starts winning, someone shows me we deserved to beat Penn State, Lorenzo Booker stops dominating, and Brady Quinn cuts his hair, I'm simply not going to feel good about the direction of this program. * Zook is the new Buddy Teevans and objectively the worst head football coach in Division I-A.

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