Monday, November 28, 2005

Charlie and the Football Factory

Just a few points for fun about Ty vs. Charlie's first season. I dont want to talk about Ty, but after all the 8-0 and no extension talk, the seasons should be compared at the ending point. 8-0 and 5-2 are only about 2/3 of the season, so lets add in the other 1/3.

1. Ty went 10-2 in his first regular season, but lost 2 games by a combined total of 38 pts. He also lost to our archrival by 31 pts in front of a huge television audience, as well as lost 3 of our last 5 games. The bowl game drumming of the Irish by NC State confirmed that the Irish had a lucky streak to begin Ty's career.

2. Charlie Weis went 9-2 in his first season, losing 2 game by a combined total of 6 pts - one in overtime and one to USC. All of our wins were completely legitimate, with most wins not even within a touchdown.

Most importantly under Charlie Weis, the Irish have had a chance to win every single game they took part in. A team that is prepared to win each week makes the season as a whole more fun, as each week you get excited to see how the Irish will adapt. Losses still are painful, but I was much more appeased after our two losses this season. What do I mean by that? Well, we came back against Michigan State despite being in a pretty tough position. We executed a flawless gameplan and had USC beaten. Knowing that our team is very dynamic makes fans feel less vulnerable when facing a team that might be considered a mismatch, due to scheme or talent. In the past I felt all too vulnerable all too many times.

With 4 weeks to prepare for a bowl game, I am already confident that we will have a competitive product on the field come January 2nd or 3rd against whomever we play, any team in the country.

ND vs. USC - 6 weeks later

If you notice below, I havent posted since the week before the USC vs ND game, October 15th, 2005. I am still recovering from that loss by the Irish, and I know that I will always bear the scar of that loss. In the post below this one, you will see my pre-game predictions and blueprint for beating USC. My keys to victory were nothing profound, and every bit of simple common sense. Here below is a post game recap of my keys to victory in the prior post:

1. The IRISH offense must put 35 on the board. - We DIDNT. The Irish score of 31 pts was a missed field goal and/or a missed pass to the fullback from coming to fruition. USC scored 34, so 35 pts would have been enough.

2. Notre Dame must win the Special Teams game. - We DID. The Irish had a punt return, and held Reggie Bush in check on all kickoffs and punt returns. We did miss a key fieldgoal early in the 4th that proved costly, but a short pass completion would have helped this as well.

3. The IRISH must WIN the time of possession. - We DID. By a landslide. The official time of possession numbers were 38 to 22 minutes in favor of the Irish. The ball control running game slowed the Irish offense down at times, but milked that clock like it should, and gave SC fewer touches than usual.

4. The Irish must limit USC's big plays. - We DIDNT. The Irish defense played admirably, but Reggie Bush had 3 or 4 plays for over 30 yards, and the USC tight end Dominique Byrd had a long pass hauled in. Without Reggie Bush, there was no way that USC team would have beaten the Irish that day. Please Houston, draft Reggie Bush.

FINAL PREDICTION - IRISH 38 TROJANS 35 Nope, but close. We did cover the 11 point spread I guess. If we would have scored a TD on that drive I keep mentioning, where Brady sailed a short outlet pass to a wide open Asaph Schwapp, our total would have been 38pts, and USC missed an extra point due to excessive celebration as the game had effectively ended.

The pain and end of the game chaos aside, it was easily the greatest game I've ever been apart of. Ive never have a praised a loss, but that game was damn special.

I will go ahead and give USC 3 points as the spread for the November 2006 meeting between the Trojans and the Irish at the Coliseum. Any takers?

Saturday, October 08, 2005

Notre Dame vs. USC - October 15, 2005

Yes, I have been busy and haven't posted in awhile. But, as you can see from the post prior (below) this one, we are approaching an event that is very important to my confidence and well being - the Irish versus the Trojans. This game has turned into a measuring stick, chance for humiliation, and rivalry game all in one.

I am very excited this year because our team is no longer making mistakes on Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday before the game, as our new coaches are successfully planning games based on our opponents' strengths and weaknesses.

How does one beat USC? A better, more pertinent question is how CAN Notre Dame beat USC. I think the following needs to happen.

1. The IRISH offense must put 35 on the board.

We need to score 5 touchdowns to give ourselves a CHANCE. USC will score 28 in their sleep against most all teams, so we need to give ourselves a chance to be in the game in the 4th quarter.

2. Notre Dame must win the Special Teams game.

This is a huge area in every game that often goes unnoticed until the 4th quarter. Special Teams points are always nice, but more importantly our coverages must be perfect to prevent USC from gaining large chunks of yards. DJ Fitzpatrick must have a great game and we must put USC as far back in the field position battle as possible.

3. The IRISH must WIN the time of possession.

This stat is as important to our defense as any, in my mind. Luckily we have a football coach that has engineered some of the most backbreaking and lengthy drives in recent football memory (i.e., first drive of the second half for the Patriots in last years Super Bowl against the Eagles) We must have great balance and have a few 12 to 15 play drives that eat the clock up. The more time the Irish have the ball, the fewer plays and chances USC's offense will have. 3 and outs for the Irish offense will be very crippling to our chances of winning. Giving USC 3 to 5 fewer possessions a game will be key to supporting our defense.

4. The Irish must limit USC's big plays.

We must make them earn their score with long drives. 50 Yard bombs or runs by Bush could make for a long day for the Irish. The Irish defense has not been blitzing, and has been giving themselves more defenders around the ball, hoping for mistakes by the other team.

Of course a positive turnover battle, and big plays for the Irish will be needed. These are given factors, and the above were things that must occur if both teams play turnover free football.

My prediction. Since I think the Irish offense will work efficiently and eat up the clock, and since I think our defense will slow down the Trojans and wait for a big turnover, the Irish will be in the game late. The game will come down to one final possession for the Irish, needing a touchdown on an 80 plus yard drive with 1:30 and one timeout. Yep, you guessed it. We score late, and its going to be a damn good time. Pete Carroll will be very upset, but who fucking cares.


I just ordered my shirt.

Thursday, June 23, 2005

Notre Dame vs. USC, 11/27/2004 - A Tale of Ty's Tenure


Having answered a few questions lately about why our beloved school fired Tyrone Willingham, I always find myself pointing to this game during my response - Ty's last game - as a perfect microcosm of the Ty Willingham era. I wanted to organize my thoughts and put them in writing, so all of us can combat ignorance with more biased ignorance.

First I want to be clear - my main problem with Tyrone Willingham has nothing related to him as a person, a leader, a mentor, or a representative of our school - who could have a problem with the man there? But, much like a CEO that everyone likes but simply does not produce, he had to go. Many said that his firing translates to winning being more important than integrity at Notre Dame. Since when do you have to have one or the other, with both being impossible? We strive for both, and Ty was great in one and very poor in the other.

The main crux of my anti-Tyrone sentiment were his game plans - or rather, lack thereof. I wanted to dissect this game in particular and point out a few strategies that Ty used that were just plan horrible choices. Honestly, I think you can use Madden 2005 - yes the video game - as the litmus test to determining how good these choices were.


Surprisingly, I enjoyed the first quarter immensely. My pride was apparent to all as I was watching this quarter in front of family and friends. I acted like I expected this to happen, calmly watching what unfolded. We started the game as I would by taking what the defense gave us, and at the same time testing the interior of the vaunted Trojan D Line, both via running the ball. However, anyone that has played Madden football, or even Super Tecmo Bowl, knows that if you continue to run the ball, the opponent can and will call defensive plays that will simply stop the run (except for stopping Bo Jackson in Super Tecmo Bowl, but I digress). So not surprisingly, after scoring both of our first two drives (one a 92 yard drive, the other a 73 yard one), we never only had one drive longer than 6 plays the entire rest of the game, as you can see below.

(plys-yards time )
TOUCHDOWN 13-92 06:24
FIELD GOAL 12-73 04:35
Punt 3-0 02:11
Punt 5-11 01:52
Punt 3-9 00:45
Punt 5-16 02:11
Missed FG 11-58 04:32
Punt 5-14 02:58
Punt 3-9 01:47
Punt 3-3 01:14
Punt 6-15 03:01

We didnt even score a point in the second half. Brady passed for 105 yards, while rushing for 195 yards - pathetic. Looking at the drive chart shows that somebody made adjustments, and it certainly was not us.

After thinking about it some, I began to think how I would play Notre Dame if I were a defensive coordinator. Personally, I would make the Irish pass the ball by ganging up against the run - obvious right? Well, I think Tennessee and Michigan both tried that a decent amount, and a few times they got burnt because of key, rather easy completions on plays where the defense was sold out to the run. USC seemed to employ another strategy - shut down the pass with most all of their secondary devoted to our WRs and TEs, with a linebacker playing man/zone combo, and then take their chances with just their D line and maybe 2 linebackers to stop the run. The result was that we got our running yards - against a very basic more pass oriented defensive look - while our passing game was nonexistent. Thus it took longer to move the ball and drives eventually fizzled out because of the inability to gain more than 5 to 7 yards a play.

If you have to run 12 or more plays to score, and you basically have to run the ball to move it, then its going to be hard to consistently score. The USC strategy of letting us slowly move the ball downfield until they stopped us on a play or two forcing a punt, was a great move. Kudos Pete Carroll. I still hate you and think of you as garbage. And oh yeh, its all Norm Chow.

Did we make adjustments? Of course not. We obviously should have stretched the field more, but thats easier said than done. Our offense was nowhere near innovative, nor was it adaptable week by week, game by game, at any point during the season. The inability to make big gains of 10 yards or more put us in too many third downs to consistently score.

But believe it or not, defense - not offense - was my main problem with Ty Willingham. Because on the defensive side of the ball, he did less with more.


Wow. Thats all I can say after watching the decisions made on the defensive side of the ball for the Irish in this game.
1. Freddie Parish (IV) started his first game at CB ever. Against USC. Silence.
2. Our defense regularly had 8 men in the box against the Trojan offense. Sorry Ty, thats offensive.
3. Goolsby guarded Reggie Bush man to man a few plays, with no support. Uh, can anyone on our team (much less our run stopping middle linebacker) contain Reggie Bush. Not smart Ty. If I was playing Madden I would had Bush on a swing or go route on every play, with a few out and ups.
4. No meaningful adjustments were made. I guess we tried a zone, but linebackers guarding WRs doing crossing routes just didnt cut it.
5. Why not only use two LBs, and put Freddie Parrish as a rover type position just zoning the middle? Bulky LBs might need to sit a little more against a team like the Trojans. Its called a modified Nickel defense. (ALA John Madden Football, '92)

Notice how all my comments center around coaching decisions - not dropped interceptions (1 or 2) or missed tackles (plenty), or even poor play(hah). There is a huge difference between a team being prepared and in position to win mentally, versus a team that didnt have a popsicle's chance in hell due to a lack of coaching.

The game essentially started out slow for Mr. Chow as he was disecting what our defense was presenting to him. As expected under an offensive mastermind, or even someone with common sense, the USC offense adjusted and got better as the game went on. They threw many passes on downs when we were completely sold out to the run (the 3rd and 2 pass to Reggie Bush that went for a 50 yard touchdown, with Mike Goolsby guarding him one on one - fucking brilliant). Throwing the ball downfield became very easy since our defense was often in neanderthal mode (8 in the box, pressing superior WRs). With the Trojans' WRs, many of these "chances" had no "chance" at all - resulting in big gains, 408 yards passing for Leinart, and another Heisman trophy for the Trojans.

While the Irish outgained the Trojans on the ground by 100 yards, that old school statistic can be very misleading. The Trojans, quite simply, did not need to run the ball on offense. As for us, USC quite simply was willing to be a 1/2 men down against our run if it ensured completely stopping our pass and ability to get big chunks of yards.

Old school football people (not me, as Ive never played the game - probably obvious by now) talk about establishing the run before passing. I think Notre Dame needs think the opposite way - establish the pass, then run the ball. If you ask me, the intelligence in the old addage of "establish the run first, then pass" is not centered around the importance of the running game, but rather establishing what will undermine the defense's gameplan the most. Teams playing Notre Dame are already run-conscious in their game plans - and usually (and justifiably so) our opponents assume we cannot pass.

We need to establish what the defense does not expect, what the defense considers our weakness. Enter Charlie Weis, a man priding himself on the ability to gameplan each week, changing everything if needed for each, very different opponent. Charlie plays game theory all week - using psychology as much as any tool for the upcoming game. I am excited to see how he will do for the Irish, but especially against USC on October 15th. I'll be there, and I will be staying at, of course, the Irish Condo.

Saturday, June 18, 2005

Nick Setta

From the Canton (OH) Repository

*Note: The online edition of this paper is free.

Browns claim kicker, defender off waiver wire

Saturday, June 18, 2005

CLEVELAND — The Cleveland Browns have claimed kicker Nick Setta on waivers from the Chicago Bears and defensive lineman Doug Sims on waivers from Green Bay.

The 5-foot-11, 204-pound Setta played this past spring with NFL Europe’s Rhein Fire. Setta began the season with Chicago and spent last year’s training camp with Tampa Bay.

The 6-1, 334-pound Sims began the year with Green Bay before being waived on June 15. He was with San Diego in training camp in 2003 and spent the 2002 season on injured reserve with an ankle injury.

n Ricky Williams will apply for reinstatement with the Miami Dolphins toward the end of next month. The star running back’s agent, Leigh Steinberg, said Friday that Williams would file the application on July 23 or shortly thereafter.

Friday, June 10, 2005

Plan to play? Sign here and don't screw up

a very funny column about JDs in college athletic programs

Thursday, June 09, 2005

College sport: rainbow or racist?

Where is the outcry over the lack of homosexual coaches in NCAA football? Or transgender coaches? That's what I think we all want to know.

Tuesday, June 07, 2005

Q: The most overrated team going into 2005 is...

A: From what I've read in early copies of several preseason publications and from various outside sources I've been talking to, you'd think the 2005 Michigan Wolverines were on the verge of winning the Super Bowl and not just the Rose Bowl.

Oh sure, Michigan will be in the mix for the BCS again. If you want to argue that Michigan might end up winning the Big Ten title with no Purdue on the slate and the season ending showdown with Ohio State in Ann Arbor, fine. But I'm not all that sold that this is the be-all-end-all team that many will be making it out to be over the next few months.

First of all, I'll believe it when I see if from the receiving corps without Braylon Edwards. Jason Avant is fantastic, but he's not Edwards. Steve Breaston could be the next Desmond Howard, but he has been a next-level kick returner so far, not a receiver. Will Chad Henne and Mike Hart be better than last year when they couldn't have possibly done more? No on Henne with no Edwards to throw to, and maybe on Hart. O.K., so both lines are tremendous and should carry the team far, but the defensive back seven should be worse than it was when we last saw Vince Young running through it.

So while I don't believe that this will be one of the five best teams in the nation, it should still win eight games without a problem beating Northern Illinois, Notre Dame, Eastern Michigan, at Wisconsin, Minnesota, Penn State, at Northwestern and Indiana. At Michigan State, at Iowa and Ohio State are the three question marks, but winning two of three isn't asking for much. Can Michigan really be overrated and finish 10-1? Absolutely.