Confidence is Key

Confidence is a very important factor in the game of college football. Confident teams capture momentum and usually win a lot of football games. The Notre Dame football team found some confidence in the second half of their 38-21 win over Purdue on Saturday, but can the keep that confidence for the rest of the season?

Confidence usually leads to execution in most things in life. Being confident you can do something is usually the first step to getting it done. The Irish did get it done on Saturday, but what does that mean in this up and down world of Notre Dame football?

I believe Notre Dame's success the rest of the season will rest squarely on the shoulders of the Notre Dame offensive line.

While I hate to do that, and single out any one particular unit, I do believe that is true and here is why.

The Irish defense plays with a lot of passion and aggression each and every week. I can't remember the last time I saw the Irish defense not play with a great deal of emotion. That doesn't mean they always execute well, but they always play hard, and they almost always play well enough to win.

However, this unit is what it is. They're not a unit that is good enough to win you games, but they are a defense good enough to keep you in games to win, and they do that almost every time out on the field. The Irish defense has flaws, but they play very hard and will keep Notre Dame in almost any game with the chance to win… long as the offense shows up and does their job.

The San Diego State game is a prime example. The Notre Dame defense played very well and kept the game close until the Irish offense finally took their game out of park and put the Aztecs away. The same can be said for the Michigan State game. As bad as the Irish offense looked in that game, the Irish defense kept Notre Dame in the game with a chance to win it, but the Irish offense couldn't produce and the tired ND defense finally broke at the end.

Saturday's victory over Purdue was another good example. The Irish defense held serve for most of the first half, even scoring for the Irish, to give the ND offense a chance to get it going in the second half, and that's just what they did. The Irish offense exploded in the second half, scoring 24 points while the ND defense held Purdue to just seven.

And that will be the way it will go for the Irish the rest of the season…..the Notre Dame defense will keep the Irish in games, but the Irish offense will ultimately have to win the game. More importantly, the Irish offensive line will most likely be the reason Notre Dame wins a game or loses….in almost every game.

The Irish have a budding superstar in Irish quarterback Jimmy Clausen. They have two more in wide receivers Golden Tate and Michael Floyd. They appear to have another in tight end Kyle Rudolph, and Saturday's game was a coming out for sophomore running back Armando Allen. The Irish have plenty of playmakers and firepower on offense, but they've also proven that none of these great athletes can win a game without solid play from Notre Dame's front five.

On Saturday, they did the job, and they deserve the game ball. They dominated the Purdue front in the second half, and the Irish offense exploded while all these superstar athletes shined on the field. As pretty as Michael Floyd's over-the-shoulder catch was, even prettier was watching Eric Olsen and Michael Turkovich road-grade the Purdue front four on a critical fourth-and-one to continue a drive to put the Irish up 28-14 and the game squarely in Notre Dame's hands.

That's the way it's going to have to go for the Irish to win games. The Irish offensive line will have to play like they did in the second half to win most of the games left on their schedule. If they do, they can beat almost anyone left on their schedule. If they don't, they're in jeopardy of losing to any team left on their schedule.

Clausen has proven time and time again that if you give him time he'll be a deadly quarterback. Tate and Floyd have proven that if you get them the ball they'll make good things happen. The Irish running backs have proven if you give them a hole they'll make good things happen. I hate to say it but it's all on the offensive line at this point.

Since I'm singling them out, when they play well they should get the most credit, and they will from me. They won the game for Notre Dame, and they'll most likely be a major reason the Irish win any games left on their schedule in the future.

What I did see out of the Irish offense line on Saturday was confidence. They came out confident in the second half and that led to execution. The next step is swagger, and I saw some of that from this unit as well. Confidence can lead to execution. Execution can lead to swagger. And once the Irish offensive line starts to play with some swagger, look out!

Tip of the Hat: Irish kicker Brandon Walker has struggled with field goals all season. Walker's 41-yard field goal in the fourth quarter was something to celebrate as the sophomore has really had a tough go the past few weeks. Did Walker finally find some confidence? We know what confidence can lead to….execution. The Irish are going to need Brandon Walker to win them a game sometime in the near future. Hopefully Saturday's field goal was the first step in Walker regaining his confidence as well.

Another Tip of the Hat: The Irish are a much better team when David Grimes is in the game. Grimes does everything well. The Irish run the ball well because he blocks on the outside well. He makes plays in the passing game, and he helps his young receivers get in the right spots. Welcome back David Grimes. The Irish missed you.

Keep an Eye on: Two more freshmen are starting to emerge into what should be great careers for Notre Dame. Offensive guard Trevor Robinson has played many meaningful minutes recently and he's making the most out of his minutes. Robinson is a nasty player. Watch the replay of the game and see what I mean. Also, good news on the defensive line as well. Ethan Johnson is starting to play with some gitty up as well. Johnson could be the pass rusher Irish fans have been hoping to see. Saturday's showing confirms "want to" won't be a problem. Top Stories