So celebrate Talk Like a Pirate Day. Watch Pirates o' t' Caribbean: The Curse o' t' Black Pearl. Or T' Princess Bride. Or both. Or jus' talk like a pirate. Whatever you do, take advantage o' t' one tide a voyage t' show off your pirattitude.
(Yes, I realize that my Pirate sucks. No, I don't care.)
Notre Dame lost to Michigan State today, in overtime, 44-41. I should really wait until I cool down to post my thoughts, but I'm so upset I need the catharsis. On paper, ND should have won this game. Based on their performance, they definitely should have lost. And I blame Coach Weis as much as the players.
If Charlie Weis is an offensive genius, I didn't see it today. Why did he put the ball in the hands of a freshman in two critical situations? And why would he give it to him on 4th-and-1, when ND is well within FG range with over 8:00 left? What a stupid, ill-conceived, poorly-executed play. I'm starting to understand what Bill Simmons meant when he wrote this a couple weeks ago:
I don't mind that Charlie Weis is gone. If anything, I thought he suffered from a healthy dose of Martzitis -- he wanted to win, but only on his terms, and with as many gimmicks and splashy plays as possible. He overcomplicated things at times.
I'm not an offensive genius or anything, but I would have taken the points. And I definitely wouldn't have given the ball to a freshman, who already fumbled in a critical spot.
Brady Quinn is a wildly inaccurate quarterback. His receivers made him look good today. He constantly throws high and behind his intended targets (witness the MSU touchdown interception return). He missed wide-open guys all day. He can throw the quick slant all day long, and he's pretty good when he's rolling out, but he's out of his depth on anything over 5 yards. He's smart enough and has all of the physical tools to run Weis's offense, but he simply isn't accurate enough to execute it. True, the 50-yard pass to Stovall was perfect, but even a blind squirrel finds an acorn once in a while.
Darius Walker is piss-poor at picking up the blitz. He's nearly always out of position, picks up the wrong man, and gets physically dominated at the point of attack.
Michigan State's defense has too much sideline-to-sideline speed for ND's running game. Yet ND never tried to pound it inside. Instead of letting MSU's linebackers pursue, we should have run right at them. That's how the teams in the Big 10 neutralized Andy Katzenmoyer when he was at tOSU. Where was Powers-Neal?
Notre Dame's front four was a non-factor. Drew Stanton had all day.
Chinedum Ndukwe hits as hard as any safety we've ever had. I think he knocked Kellen Davis unconscious in the first quarter.
Notre Dame had too many dumb penalties. I had to ask more than once, "Who's our coach again?"
Ambrose Wooden played well again, especially in run support. He's a sure tackler and a decent cover corner.
For whatever reason, the defense rarely blitzed on third down. Against Pitt and Michigan, ND blitzed on nearly every third-and-long, to excellent results. I can understand that we were concerned about Stanton's running ability, but we were concerned about Palko's, too. I would rather have Stanton had to beat us with his legs than give him all day to throw on our secondary.
The officiating was poor. They refused to call holding on MSU's offensive line.
Maurice Crum is a football player. He's not the biggest, fastest or most talented, but he's a football player to the core. Holtz stopped winning (as much) when he stopped recruiting football players and started recruiting athletes. Give me a football player over an athlete every time.
MSU's "All-American" punter completely shit the bed, which pretty much kept us in the game. He was truly awful.
What the hell happened to Stovall in the middle of the fourth quarter? He was playing great, then he dropped two passes, got flagged for holding on a Walker TD, then dropped another pass. He just, all of a sudden, shit all over himself.
All Jeff Samardjia does is catch touchdowns.
Darius Walker's rushing success in the second half is an example of the pass setting up the run, instead of vice-versa.
How fitting that the suddenly-unsuspended RB for MSU scored the winning touchdown.
In an act of classlessness nearly rivaling BC's ripping up of our turf a few years ago, MSU player's planted their flag at our 50 yard-line. Every player should be made to hang a picture of that in his locker.
Yes, that is the lamest blog post title EVAR. But I couldn't help it. The Irish take on Michigan State today in their home opener, and if there's any team that has no respect for the House That Rockne Built, it's MSU. Here's what DE Ryan Clifton had to say about Our Lady:
"When we were down there in '03, I went looking for Touchdown Jesus," Clifton said. "Once I seen it, I realized it wasn't all it was cracked up to be. You hear about a place, you hear about how it gets amped up; it just wasn't like I had expected."
Lou Holtz is turning over in his grave, and the friggin' guy isn't even dead. The thing is, Clifton is right. We haven't had a true home field advantage in years (I, of course, heap blame on the NBC contract for that, what with its constant TV timeouts), and we haven't beaten MSU at home since 1993.
Notre Dame marched into Michigan's house and beat them like an ugly red-headed stepchild. Maybe not as bad as the trouncing ND took in 2003 (38-0 -- thanks, Ty!), but I'll take it. I have a few general thoughts on the game. I also kept a diary, a la (Abdul-Nabi) Bill Simmons, which I'll add in the extended entry tonight or tomorrow. (Okay, I basically mimic Simmons. Hey, don't consider it a copy; it's an homage.)
Notre Dame's special teams were, indeed, special. As Weis said before the season, the quickest way to get better is to improve special teams. The Irish's kickoff and punt coverage was superb. And Fitzpatrick punted extremely well, for the most part. Notre Dame won the field position and "hidden yardage" battle, and that's a big reason why they won the game.
Brady Quinn looked terrible throwing any pass over five yards. He missed at least three wide open receivers completely, and was throwing behind guys all day. He made some nice throws (e.g., in the second quarter to Samardzija on 3rd & forever while rolling out), but also some atrocious throws.
The key to Notre Dame's great defense today is they got great pressure on Henne; in fact, they blitzed on nearly every third-and-long. The defensive line also deflected five passes -- gotta love that Scot (no, that's not a typo) Loeffler delivery!
The holes and running lanes closed much quicker for Darius Walker than last week. I don't know if that's a result of ND's offensive line playing worse, or Michigan's defense being bigger and faster than Pitt's. My guess is the latter.
Thank Christ for instant replay. Those inept officials tried to hand the game to Michigan. Twice.
Finally, I didn't like the shell that Notre Dame's offense withdrew into in the second half. It's shades of Lou Holtz's late years. You're not going to win as often as you could with your offense playing defensively. (And, yes, I'm second-guessing a guy with four Super Bowl rings who just beat a top-5 team on the road. That's my God-given right as a fan.)
My next-door neighbor is one of the biggest hillbillies ever. She doesn't have a single bona fide blade of grass on her entire 2-acre lot; it's all clover, dandelions and crabgrass. She has a trampoline, a big wooden swingset, a statue of the Virgin Mary in the front yard, and this poor dog that's tied up out back year 'round.
In the past month, she's made two "improvements" to her property that have dropped the value of my house by about $15,000. First, she's added a pool. Of the above-ground variety. It's lovely, especially where it's all dug up over by the filter. Then, today, she painted her formerly-white house this color. Except brighter by an order of magnitude. I saw it this afternoon and nearly threw up in my mouth.
About twenty minutes to kickoff. I find I'm so excited, I can barely sit still or hold a thought in my head. I think it's the excitement only a Notre Dame fan can feel, at the start of a long season whose conclusion is uncertain. I hope the boys play as a team. I hope Coach Weis is as good a coach as he seems to be. I hope the secondary is not as green as everyone thinks. I hope.