Frank Commentary

The Notre Dame football team did what good football teams do on Saturday…..they beat a woeful 0-7 Washington team, and won convincingly. The Huskies were never in the game on Saturday, and the Irish continue to show signs of being a very good football team. Now 5-2, the Irish still have a ways to go until they can truly say they've turned the corner.

The best news about Saturday's game was that this Irish team won the game soundly despite an off night by one of their best players, Jimmy Clausen. Clausen was just 14-of-26 for 201 yards and one touchdown, but his below average game wasn't a factor on Saturday as the Irish offense rolled up 252 yards rushing and three touchdowns on the ground.

More importantly, the Irish defense played their best game of the season allowing Washington to gain just 124 total yards on the night. 70 of those yards came on Washington's last drive while the ND starting defense was watching from the sidelines. If you're doing the math, that's just 54 yards of total offense they allowed—that's outstanding!

The Irish D allowed 26 rushing yards all game, a drastic improvement over the 130 yards per game they were allowing before Saturday's game.

ND's strong showing against the run comes at a good time as their remaining five opponents all rank in the top 60 in rushing in the country….all but Syracuse (1-6) average above the magic number of 150 yards rushing per game. The Notre Dame defense will have a very stiff challenge next week going against one of the nation's best running backs in LeSean McCoy, but this unit continues to improve their weakest area—run defense.

Saturday's victory was important because the Irish haven't played well on the road all season, but they certainly changed that in this game. With three more contests on the road, and all three big challenges for the Irish, it was important for this ND team to play well and find some confidence playing on the road.

The Irish also protected the football well for the most part on Saturday. After eight turnovers in the two previous road games, ND had just the one Clausen interception on Saturday. It's tough to win on the road when you turn the ball over, and the Irish seemed to have learned that lesson.

The path is set for this ND team to finish this season strong and make a statement. There really is only one really good football team (USC) left on the schedule, but there are a few better-than-average teams in Pitt and Boston College. For the Irish to take that next step they need to prove they can beat better-than-average teams, and they'll have to beat them back-to-back. It's certainly not an impossible task, and one that good football teams do every week.

Tip of the Hat

My first tip of the hat goes to James Aldridge. The junior running back hasn't been getting many carries, and continues to be the third running back to enter the game, but he's making the most out of his carries when he gets the chance. The Merrilville, Ind. native rushed for 84 yards, 6.5 yards per carry and two touchdowns. He also had a strong game against North Carolina averaging 5.8 yards per carry. When given the chance Aldridge is running like a man possessed. He could've easily accepted his third string position and pouted, but Aldridge is showing that he can be counted on when given the chance. The Irish need to find him some more carries in the future, and they'll need a strong inside runner down the stretch.

Tip of the Hat II

Kicker Brandon Walker has had quite a ride this season, but his 42-yard field goal and second field goal of the night was the icing on the cake in this game. Walker has taken some abuse from fans, and he certainly knows what pressure is after his disappointing start. "What doesn't kill you will make you stronger," and Walker is gaining confidence. He's always had a strong leg. He's now starting to kick the ball straight and now appears to be a player who can be counted on down the stretch.

Tip of the Hat III

The Irish defense doesn't have near the overall talent of the Irish offense, but they clearly won the game for Notre Dame on Saturday. In the first half the Irish ran 30 of their 42 plays in Washington territory. When you give the Irish offense a short field good things will usually happen. The ND defense didn't play well against North Carolina, but they did play very well in this game. They need to build on this momentum because they'll be playing a much better Pitt team next Saturday. However, nobody can ever question the heart of this defense. While not overly talented, this unit plays hard and has all season long.

The next two weeks will be very important for the future of ND football. Win both weeks and this team will likely exceed most people's expectations heading into this season. There are many encouraging signs to suggest that could very well happen, but the most encouraging sign of all is that one can tell this team wants to be a good team. They continue to improve each and every week, and that's usually a sign of a well coached football team. Isn't it nice to be able to say that?


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