Anytime you have a 23-7 loss to a team you most likely have more pure talent than, there are going to be a lot of negatives from the game. Last night I posted my positives from the game, but held off on the negatives till I had a chance to digest the game a little more and rewatch parts of it.
- Emotion. The Irish had last week. They didn’t this week. The Irish won last week. They didn’t this week. It’s not a coincidence.
- The Offensive Line. To be fair to the offensive line, play calling had a lot to do with our inability to run the football, but the line did not have the same fire that it had last week against Michigan. Michigan State’s defensive line manhandled the ND offensive line at times. Pass protection was actually better than I thought it was when I first watched it, but the MSU defensive front was a lot more physical than the Irish offensive line. The Michigan game was a step forward for the offensive line, but this MSU game is definitely a step back.
- Play calling. Not sure what Haywood and Weis were trying to accomplish on the first two drives. So far this year this offense has only been successful when they have aired it out so why come out and run it six straight times on two drives and get 0 first downs? Was also not impressed with the passing plays that were called. How many times are we going to run fade routes each week? How about some patterns over the middle to get Golden Tate and Michael Floyd the ball in space where they can get some yards after the catch?
- Turnovers. Turnovers are inevitable but could any of the turnovers we had this week have happened at a worse time? An interception in the end zone thrown into double coverage, a fumble inside the 20 on a completed pass, and another interception at our own 20 on a really bad route. None of those should ever happen. The turnovers in the red zone were killers and were very avoidable. Clausen shouldn’t have thrown into double coverage and Kamara at 6’5″ has to at least make sure that its at worst an incomplete pass if he can’t come down with it. Not sure what is the deal with Kamara, but he’s taken a step back this year and is likely going to find himself below Tate and Floyd on the depth chart pretty soon.
- Offensive Gameplan. Golden Tate is our best playmaker so I loved getting the ball in his hands on the end around early, but why not try other ways to get him the ball? He has done something everytime he has gotten his hands on the ball on this year so get him the ball as often as possibe. Weis has to learn that he doesn’t have an offense that can do it all. He seems to think that despite the obvious strengths and weaknesses of his offense, that he can just scheme around them. It’s obvious that we are a passing offense. Fine. Make passing the identity of this offense and stop trying to out scheme everyone. It’s time Notre Dame comes out with its strengths and forces people to stop them.
- Red Zone Offense and Defense. Notre Dame was 0 for 2 in the red zone while Michigan State was 4 for 4. That right there was the difference in the game. You have to score when you are given the opportunity to do so. We did it last week against Michigan, but didn’t against Michigan State. Again, that’s not a coincidence.
- Place Kicking. It’s not just Brandon Walker, its the whole unit. The snaps have been pretty bad this year with a new long snapper. We are missing JJ Jansen a lot more than any of us thought. Still, even with the bad snap, you have to be able to hit a 41 yard field goal down 9 points with less than 7 minutes left if the holder gets the ball down.
- Kick return blocking. There hasn’t been one time this year I’ve seen a whole open up that even the best kick returners could have exploded through. Armando Allen did a nice job on his last return but that was more so because of him, not the blocking.
- Pressure, or lack there of. For all of the blitzing 75% of the time talk, we didn’t see a whole lot of it Saturday. When we blitzed we were effective at times, but through three games the Irish defense has recorded just 1 sack – that’s not going to get it done.
Ok, so now the good news. A lot of these problems are correctable and we will face a team this weekend that should give us a chance to work on a lot of them.