From the first play from scrimmage on Saturday, "bizarro-world" showed it's ugly face again. Fifth-year senior captain John Carlson makes a very nice catch and then fumbles the ball. Notre Dame came out with a big play, something they desperately needed to kick start this team, and then Carlson fumbles. I'm not calling out Carlson, he's hardly been the problem, but that's just the way it's been for the Irish the entire season. It's almost as if you can point to a particular play where you knew the Irish were then going to lose the game.
This week is wasn't the Carlson fumble, it was the fumble after the Irish tied the game 10-10. They finally recapture emotion and then Asaph Schwapp fumbles the ball, which is then picked up by an Air Force defender and ran back for a touchdown.
Last week it was the Evan Sharpley sack and fumble, where the Navy defender picked up the ball and ran it back for a touchdown.
USC? The punt that strangely bounced and hit Munir Prince and gave USC their first big break of the game. The Irish were playing USC very tough up until that point. They stopped the Trojans three straight times and then the floodgates opened.
Against BC? The Irish narrow the lead to 20-14 and then get an unsportmanslike conduct penalty for excessive celebration. Notre Dame then kicks the ball 15 yards further back and a BC defender somehow advances the ball 20 yards to the ND 44 yard line.
I can go on and on and on. If there was a way for the Irish to find a way to lose the game, they have found it.
Blown shotgun snaps, fumbles, dropped passes, missed tackles, poor special teams play, penalties, bad calls, we've seen it all this year….more than our fair share. It really defies all logic. It has to be driving head coach Charlie Weis crazy, but how do you fix it?
I wish I knew the answer to that. I'm sure head coach Charlie Weis does as well. But maybe you can start with accountability.
I've seen veteran player after veteran player make ridiculous mental mistakes and then play the next snap. Two weeks ago a veteran player dropped a key pass as the Irish were driving to kick the game-winning field goal against Navy. This week, when the Irish were rallying, the same player dropped another quick, easy pass where he just lost his concentration. The very next play he dropped a critical third down pass in the middle of the field that would've kept the Irish drive alive and put the Irish in Air Force territory with the game still 24-10 at that time.
I can give you example after example after example throughout the season of the same type of thing happening.
I fully understand that coach Weis is trying to win any game. He wants to win just one game to boost the confidence of this team, but playing so many veteran players isn't winning anything.
I don't know about you, but when Kerry Neal and Brian Smith are in the game at the same time, I get excited. Yes, they're freshmen. Yes, they're going to make mistakes. But ND didn't stop Chad Hall when others were playing. ND didn't win the game, so why aren't these players playing and gaining valuable experience?
Golden Tate has shown to be one player who can make things happen in the passing game, yet we rarely see him play. I understand he's green. I fully understand he has a lot to learn, but he's not going to learn the things he needs to learn while standing on the sideline, and he just might make a play if given the chance. I think there's evidence to suggest he can and will do that given the chance.
I also understand coach Weis' thoughts on personnel groupings and packages. I understand why he does the things he does with these groupings and packages, but often these packages are keeping the playmakers off the field at a key particular time. Yes, these people probably haven't practiced that particular play he wants to run with this personnel grouping, but why is that?
If Armando Allen isn't the best in pass protection, and that's why we don't see him in his two-minute package, when is Allen going to learn to be a good pass blocker? When he's practicing it at ¾ speed in practice? The team isn't winning games, and often times it isn't close, so you might as well let your playmakers gain some valuable experience.
The only real joy I've gotten out of this season is watching No. 98 (as well as a few others). Trevor Laws brings me great happiness on Saturdays. He reminds of a time long ago, and players many years ago, who gave every ounce of effort and energy they had for their fellow teammates and those that played this game before them.
Laws is having an All-American season, but unfortunately nobody outside of the Irish nation knows about it. He deserves better than he's getting, and I'm truly appreciative that I have gotten to see No. 98 play for the Irish. Irish fans get to see him play one more time in Notre Dame Stadium next Saturday. Hopefully his teammates will raise their level of play so the fifth-year senior can close his Irish career on a well deserved high note. Thanks Trevor for never giving up.