The big screen must have felt peace finally for at least one more week. He was rejoicing along with me when Shane Walton stepped in front of that pass. He danced with me during the Courtney Watson theft. Gladly displaying these beautiful pictures on his bigger than life screen. He can thank the Notre Dame defense (once again) for sparing his life for another week.
I am sure he was worried. My big screen became 4 inches big after the "roughing the center" call. He cowered in fear as I raised my voice to the screen with every stupid penalty or mistake. He looked for any corner to hide during the first half but he was going to have to tough it out with me just as he has done many weeks in the past. Like the good old family dog, my big screen and I are bonded for life, at least until he disappoints me again.
This game, like the previous games was about defense. The defense once again made the big plays to carry this offense to victory. This is the best defense that I have ever seen at Notre Dame. They might not give up the least amount of yards or points but they play with a passion that I cannot remember in any Notre Dame defense of the past. This defense has not had the luxury of a high scoring offense and that is what makes this defense special.
People wonder why this defense is so good. They don't appear to have one or two major stars on defense. They have leaders and players who make plays but they don't have a clear first round pick on this unit. What this defense does have is all of its starters making big plays. Every single starter made a big play in the game yesterday.
Kyle Budinscak gets a sack. Darrell Campbell makes a big sack. Justin Tuck gets a sack and gets held on every other pass play. Cedric Hilliard makes a tackle for loss. Shane Walton intercepts a pass. Courtney Watson makes play after play.
Mike Goolsby gets the pressure that forces Lewis to throw the interception. Derek Curry gets a sack. Ryan Roberts makes a tackle for loss. Gerome Sapp gets a pick. Vontez Duff covers Teyo Johnson and all receivers like a blanket. Glenn Earl chips in with 7 tackles. Brandon Hoyte adds 5 while not starting. Every starter or part time starter contributes to this win. That is why this is a great defense.
The biggest change in this defense has been players that are playing aggressive yet they are still in a position to make the play. Every tackle had 5-6 blue jerseys around the ball. I can't tell you how many times I saw Justin Tuck lean inside to trip a Stanford ball carrier. He was credited with 5 total tackles; he made at least twice as many as that.
Younger players like Greg Pauly, Preston Jackson, Garron Bible and Quentin Burrell are stepping up and making plays. They are getting valuable minutes and they are starting to make plays as well. Notre Dame is going to need depth and they are starting to develop depth in most positions on the defensive side of the ball.
Shane Walton is challenging former great Chris Zorrich for my all time favorite player. His story is as good as Zorro's and he has played with just as much heart as Zorro ever did. Zorro remains my favorite but Shane is a close second.
I wondered after the Purdue game how Notre Dame could sit Brandon Hoyte after his fine play. Courtney Watson might be the best linebacker Notre Dame has had in the last 15 years. Brandon Hoyte might be the second best linebacker the Irish have had in the last 15 years. The athleticism, the instinct and the fire these two possess have made these two some of the best I have ever seen at Notre Dame. The good news is Mike Goolsby can be about as good as these two.
On the offensive side of the ball, I was not as pleased but it was not from an effort stand point. I was not a big fan of the play calling in the first half and my big screen will tell you that. Notre Dame was pounding Stanford while running the football. Why they didn't run the entire game is lost on me. Pat Dillingham played as well as we can expect any first time starter to play. He doesn't have a cannon for an arm but he is a smart player that can make plays if given the time. He doesn't make many mistakes and that is all anyone could ask of him.
Ryan Grant is a horse. He runs very hard but you can tell he is still hurting. Grant has incredible heart because I still don't think he should be playing. He got up gingerly after every carry he had. Grant is the epitome of everything this Notre Dame team stands for, never quit. As I said in the fall, Rashon Powers-Neal is a player. Wait until they throw him the football. Marcus Wilson is showing he is a quick back who can make some things happen. Wait until they throw him the football as well. All backs need to block better. The Notre Dame offense will not be potent until their backs learn how to pick up the blitz and chip block a rusher as they release into the flat of the middle.
The best news is the offensive line is starting to come together. This was the best game the offensive line has played all year. They were opening holes larger than the previous games and they pass protected much better. The guards are pulling and trapping and getting much more push. Sean Mahan had his best game ever. Jordan Black played his best game of the year. If this unit can continue to improve, so will the Notre Dame offense.
This is a good football team. They are not quite there on offense but this team will be better on offense in the near future. Will the return of Carlyle Holiday help this team? I know that better pass blocking will help Carlyle Holiday. If he gets a little more faith in his backs and offensive line, you will see a much more effective Carlyle Holiday.
My big screen knows there is the bigger and better HDTV waiting in the wings. Just as I know there is a much better offense waiting in the wings. The HDTV version has been calling my name but like this Notre Dame football team, I am sticking with my big screen. I don't need a flashy offense; I just need this defense. A HDTV would be nice but it would also make those images of mistakes and miscues much more clear and memorable. I would hate to think what a loss would look like. Nope, my big screen and I have been through the wars. He has hung in there with me and I with him. I want this offense to look like the HDTV version of high-powered offenses. My big screen has come this far with me so I will wait for the Irish offense to develop. No pointing fingers or placing blame, I will patiently wait until the HDTV offense arrives and I can finally put my analog buddy out to pasture. He has earned it.