College football is about emotion. It's the ebb and flow of the game. It's about momentum. It's about capturing the momentum of the game and hoping the opposition never steals it back. It's riding the wave of intensity as far as the wave will take you. Unfortunately for the Irish, I just don't see enough emotion out of some players to be a consistent winning football team.
I'm not writing to blame anyone in particular or to call anyone out. I'm not suggesting some players or lazy or don't care. I'm merely making an observation that I've seen for awhile now. Each week when I watch the great teams of college football I see them playing with a great deal of emotion on the field……..from the opening whistle. When you watch USC play they play with a fire and passion in every facet of the game and do it from the opening whistle. At times you'll see the Irish play with that intensity, but a lot of times it's too little too late.
Last week the Irish played four quarters of football and crushed Michigan on the field. They showed up with the needed mindset and emotion and looked like they had the potential to be a great football team……they looked the part because they played with emotion.
This week they didn't look the part. This week they didn't play four quarters of football and that cost them the game.
The Irish didn't play four quarters in the opener and that almost cost them the football game.
I'm not suggesting all the Irish players didn't show up with the proper mindset, but some didn't, and this team isn't good enough to overcome lapses in intensity, focus and emotion when they're playing a good team like Michigan State, especially on the road.
I just don't believe you can be a consistent winning football team if you don't show up to play the game with the proper mindset from the opening whistle. I don't believe Notre Dame will be a consistent winning football team until they fix the emotion part. Once they fix that, great things can happen for this football team.
How do you fix it? I don't know the answer, but I'd start by identifying those players who do play with that intensity every snap. Players like Brian Smith, Mike Anello, Jimmy Clausen, Golden Tate, Kyle McCarthy, David Bruton, and a host of others who seem to show up and play an entire game. They might not always make the right decisions, but they do play the game with the needed emotional level to play winning football in my observation. I'd start with them and hope their example sets the tone for the rest of the team.
Offensive identity: I hear this term thrown around a lot and I understand people's thoughts and/or frustrations with the Irish offense. People say "we have no offensive identity." After three games it's obvious the Irish are not a great rushing football team. 16 yards of rushing isn't going to get the job done. Notre Dame is averaging just 78 yards rushing per game.
It seems to me that Notre Dame moves the ball best when in the two-minute, no-huddle offense. Clausen has time to see the field, and the Irish make plays. They've been the most productive all season using this style of offense. At this point ND is not fooling anyone into thinking they might run the football, or they might be successful if they do choose to run, and teams are playing the Irish with eight and nine men in the box to stop the run. You might as well go with what you do best, your quarterback, with your playmaking receivers. My guess is you'll see the Irish build an offense around this. That is what this team does best on offense at this particular point.
The good news: There are positives out of Saturday's game. Playmakers continue to emerge in the passing game, and all of them are freshmen and sophomores. Playmakers continue to emerge a little more each week on defense, again, a number of them underclassmen. The talent from the underclassmen is starting to develop. They just need to be consistent and you'll start to see winning football again.
Most of the problems can be fixed. If the Irish don't turn the ball over three times and miss two field goals I'd likely be writing a completely different column today. That's the bottom line. If Notre Dame can fix these problems, they'll have a chance to win most games they play.
But that's my point. This team isn't good enough yet to overcome a lot of mistakes. This team isn't good enough to show up and play two quarters of football. Notre Dame won't win many games until they get this fixed. And they won't beat Purdue if they don't show and play four quarters of football because you can bet the Boilermakers will show up to play.
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