Passion! That's all I wanted to see. I just wanted to see this team play with some passion in this game and make a game out of it. They showed up and played hard. That was a real bright spot for me.
Normally play calls are not a huge deal to me because every coach is going to make a bad play call now and again--just like I write some real clunkers for articles--but I'm just trying to understand philosophy and why certain calls were made.
Last week during the UCLA game the Irish were given the ball at the UCLA 1-yard line with four chances to score. Head coach Charlie Weis calls a play-action pass on first down that results in a sack. The Irish kicked for three and I was left scratching my head. Does he have so little faith in his offensive line that he doesn't believe they can score from the one in four tries?
Fast forward to this week. The Irish just stuffed Boston College on a fourth-and-nine call to take over on downs at their own 24-yard line. The Irish, down 6-0, just made a huge momentum-shifting play. Jimmy Clausen completed a 6-yard pass to John Carlson on first down and put the Irish in a second-and-four situation—a very good second down situation. What does Weis do on second down? He ran the ball to pick up one yard. On third down, he ran the ball again and came up short. The Irish punted, all positive momentum from the big stop is essentially flushed down the toilet.
If Weis didn't have faith in his offensive line from the one at UCLA with four chances to score, why did he all of the sudden have faith in his O-line to gain four yards in two tries? I really think this series was a big turning point in the game. Notre Dame never recaptured momentum until later in the second half.
Evan Sharpley came in and sparked the stagnant Irish offense with some spectacular plays and throws on Saturday. The kid has done everything any coach could ask, and has accepted his role on this team without showing even the slightest hint of disappointment. Evan Sharpley is a great team player.
One has to wonder though….did Sharpley shine because Weis opened up the offense when he was in the game? We didn't see Clausen (other than once or twice I remember) throwing the ball down field and in the middle of the field all game. Evan did plenty of that on Saturday. Could've Jimmy had the same kind of success running those same types of plays?
Regardless of the answer, the important thing to take from this debate is that Weis will allow Sharpley to throw deep and in the middle of the field. He has no problem letting Sharpley sling the ball all over the field. Why? Because he can currently physically make those throws. I don't think you can say that for Clausen at this point, and that's why I believe Sharpley should start. If Clausen isn't healthy, he won't give you the best chance to win. I'd be surprised if Sharpley didn't start next Saturday.
Next time you're on Notre Dame's campus and you see a behemoth of a man with long dreadlocks and a big smile walking your way, give that guy a big bear hug for me.
Through seven games a defensive end, not a linebacker, leads this team in tackles with 58. He also leads the team in tackles for loss and quarterback hurries. He's second on the team in sacks, fumble recoveries and pass breakups.
Where would this team be without Trevor Laws? I'd hate to think about that. By the way, Laws had 11 tackles in Saturday's game.
Each week I watch the Notre Dame defense and I just feel a whole lot better about the future of Notre Dame football. This unit is not overly talented. They have numerous weak spots and depth issues. Yet, I see a unit playing their hearts out and probably playing as well (or better) than anyone should expect considering the circumstances. I can think of only one time all season where I wondered what the heck ND was doing on defense. Charlie Weis made a heck of a hire in Corwin Brown. I can't wait to see what Brown can do when he has both talent and depth on his side of the ball. The future for the Notre Dame defense looks very bright.
While the scuttlebutt this week will be all about which quarterback is going to start on Saturday, it will not matter which guy is in the game if the Irish can't protect him.
Notre Dame still sits dead last (No. 119) in sacks allowed with 34. Syracuse is actually No. 118 and has five fewer sacks allowed than Notre Dame. They allowed another two sacks in this game and seven quarterback pressures. It won't matter who starts if you can't protect the quarterback.
The best way to do that? How about running the football. Unfortunately the Irish are dead last in rushing amassing just 32 yards per game. Notre Dame has a net total of 225 rushing yards on the season. Yes, in seven games, 225 yards. They actually have far more negative rushing yardage (385 negative yards) than rushing yards.
I realize that Notre Dame has had a game of musical chairs at right guard, but there is no excuse for that. The funny thing is, most of the positive rushing plays came from the right side of the offensive line on Saturday.
You are no longer inexperienced after seven football games, especially against this level of competition. I can see no logical explanation for this magnitude of failure.
Having said all of that, why do I feel the Irish have a chance to beat USC next week? I think they have a much better chance to beat the Trojans than they did against Boston College, and as we saw, they had a chance against the Eagles. This should be a fun week of football.