If this football team plans to compete among the nation's elite in the near future, the real question should've been, when is this team going to establish its own identity, and not worry so much about what the opposition's going to do.
Who is Notre Dame?
Apparently that changes from week to week depending on the schedule. And with the talent the Irish have on their roster, that will work against the Navys and Dukes, but in cases like Saturday, when you‘re playing a talented foe, you better have something you can fall back on that's yours. Something you can always count on. There is no way that USC, LSU and Florida change up what they do on a weekly basis offensively and defensively, to counteract what an opposing team does. There is tweaks, but never wholesale changes.
"Well, now, you know, it's open season, okay, from the head coach right on down," Irish head coach Charlie Weis said after the game. "Take your pick what story you want to write tomorrow. You name it, you've got it."
Lets go with identity.
A team's identity normally begins with its quarterback. Weis made it sound like the guy under center could change each week based on who they're playing. Sophomore Demetrius Jones, and his ability to beat teams with his legs, was supposed to be the guy to offset Georgia Tech's constant blitzing attack. Obviously it didn't work as the Irish only gained 122 yards of total offense, most of it coming after Jones left the game for good late in the second quarter. But what's worse than that is, Weis came across in the post game press conference that Jones was the guy against Georgia Tech, and that could be subject to change the next week against Penn State.
"No, we were just trying to beat Georgia Tech," Weis said. "And we've been practicing this for multiple weeks. We established our mentality, what we were going to do weeks ago, and when I said to everyone that all of these guys were involved; they are all involved, because, you know, we only worry about winning that one game and obviously that didn't play out too well."
So the Irish spent all that time during fall camp trying to beat Georgia Tech, instead of forming an idea of who they are. There are only 10 returning starters in the program, so a lot of questions needed to be answered. That is still the case.
The number one question, who is going to replace quarterback Brady Quinn as the face of the program. Weis said he'll have a quicker answer of who is going to start this coming Saturday at Penn State, than he did against the Yellow Jackets. But will that guy be the guy who he feels can lead them past Michigan in week three?
How about this. Find your guy. Evaluate your pieces on offense. Decide how you want to feature players, and make it happen. For instance Armando Allen looked like the best running back out there on Saturday (3 attempts for 25 yards), yet he was in the Jones package, but wasn't in the Evan Sharpley package when he entered the game. On game day, there might be a new package based on something the Irish can exploit, but will it ever become, this is who we are and try and stop it?
Speaking of stop it, the Notre Dame defense knew Georgia Tech was going to run Tashard Choice, yet they couldn't stop him. No tweaks, no this is what Notre Dame is going to do, so this is what we're going to do. Everyone in the stadium knew Choice was running when the ball was directly snapped to him, but the Irish couldn't slow him down. For a school record eighth straight time, Choice ran for over 100 yards, gaining 196 yards on 26 carries (7.5 avg.) with two touchdowns.
The Irish offensive line, with three new starters, were no match for Georgia Tech's cleverly designed blitzes. Which again, Notre Dame knew Georgia Tech was going to bring all this pressure, yet they had no answer. Irish quarterbacks were sacked nine times, and pressured on nearly all of the 24 pass attempts.
Choice and blitzing are Georgia Tech's identity.
New Irish defensive coordinator Corwin Brown's defense looked good at times. They bent, but did not break on three field goals the Yellow Jackets got in the first half. They had great field position on all three possessions, but the Irish were able to avoid going down 21-0. They kept things a manageable 9-0. In the first half, Georgia Tech was 0-for-6 on third down conversions, a credit to the defense, but finished the game 5-of-13 after Choice and his offensive line wore the unit down.
So the jury still remains out on the Irish defense, and offense, as they try and pick up the shattered pieces from Saturday, and move forward in making the 2007 season successful.