The last two games have been an eye opener on both sides of the ball. I have to give credit to Carson Palmer and Philip Rivers. Both senior quarterbacks looked like Brett Favre with his A game against this wounded Irish defense. Notre Dame's 10-3 proves that this Irish team is headed in the right direction. The final two games prove that they still have a ways to go.
The Notre Dame offense has looked very inept this year and I don't think anyone can argue with that considering the results. There are many reasons for the lack of success for the offense this year and I can't see a reason to go through the blame game. What is important I believe is to think of where this team could be with an offense like U.S.C. or North Carolina State? The learning curve will be painful but I think a lot of Notre Dame fans will be very excited if we see an offense like the two mentioned.
There is a job to be done and I think Ty and his staff will get it done. As soon as we see a quarterback throwing to all areas of the field using 7 to 8 different receivers, you will have an offense. As of right now, Notre Dame is just not successful on offense and I am sure that will be addressed this winter, spring, summer and fall. We can complain and cry all we want but the problem will still exist after we are done. I have faith in Willingham and his staff to fix the problem.
This has been a wonderful season with many improbable victories and triumphs. Ty Willingham and his staff whipped the Irish faithful into a frenzy that I haven't witnessed since the great Lou days. Optimism was rampant and it was fun to be a Notre Dame fan again. We crawled out of shelter and took some very deep breaths of the prideful air. So many wonderful things happened to Notre Dame football and for Notre Dame itself. I know it seems like a distant memory now but there is plenty to be excited about.
The Irish set the tone against Maryland. They refused to let Maryland score just as North Carolina State refused to let Notre Dame cross the goal line. The Irish wanted that shutout and they got it. That attitude alone is something to get excited about. This Irish team needs to keep this attitude again.
There are plenty of examples throughout the year of that "never say die" attitude. Purdue, Michigan, Michigan State and Pittsburgh would all be examples. That attitude replaced the "here we go again" attitude and this is always the first step in building a team. What was encouraging to me is how well the team played the second half against North Carolina State. Both sides of the ball came out after half and played much better. Notre Dame was minus 7 key starters at that point but both sides of the ball played with pride and never gave up. That is very encouraging to me.
This team lacks depth and I have been saying that all year. Losing 7 key starters is hard for any team to overcome but for this Notre Dame team, it's a death sentence. I am not as upset as many about this game because I didn't think Notre Dame would do well on offense without Black, Curtin and Lopienski. Losing Holiday and Godsey obviously limited the chances of success. We should be excited that a patchwork offensive line and a walk on quarterback were able to move the ball on the ACC's best defense. They just couldn't push it across the goal line and I think that represents how far Notre Dame needs to go to be a championship caliber team. They are near the goal line; they just need to cross it.
That might be easier said than done. Every new coach has to win with the talent given him or her. The Irish are not at the level of talent as Miami, U.S.C. or even Iowa this year. It all becomes cyclical however. Will U.S.C. be this good next year? I can't see that happening but will Notre Dame be this good next year?
Notre Dame needs to land some top talent this year and develop the talent in the previous class to build a foundation for this Willingham team. They already have landed some very talented players but now need to fill in the gaps. You cannot make many mistakes in recruiting because depth problems become a concern as it did at the end of this season. Notre Dame does have a lot to sell this year. The Notre Dame education, alumni support, tradition and most importantly to some, early playing time. All we can hope for is that these recruits will see the opportunity and take advantage of it.
I want to thank some senior players for their efforts this year. Shane Walton has been the pulse of this team all year. His leadership and attitude was infectious to all of the Notre Dame defenders. Gerome Sapp became the player we all knew he was. Arnaz Battle became the impact player, Jeff Faine, the rock. Joey Hildbold was the secret weapon and Nick Setta never hung his head and fought his way back. Tom Lopineksi was the battering ram and the Irish went right behind Sean Mahan on almost every short yardage play they attempted. All players will be missed and I hope they all have great careers in the NFL.
This is going to be a long process and Notre Dame will have to be patient with the offense. The staff will continue to recruit the type of players that will score points in this offense. Just remember that this team is not far off and there is plenty to be excited about. Finishing strong in recruiting will go a long way in fixing the problems on both sides of the ball.