At last! Exerting total domination from the opening whistle, the Irish efficiently built a 31-0 halftime lead enroute to the 38-0 final tally against Wake Forest. The maturing offense, a far worthier and more cohesive unit since the September off week, was cold-blooded in its first five drives. The Irish, in a mere 31 plays, racked up 366 yards and 28 points, with the one annoyance the interception in the Deacon end zone.
The defense pitched its first shutout. but for the 6th time did not allow a touchdown to the opposition offense. The string of quarters not allowing an opponent to score a touchdown is now at 9, relating back to the 4th quarter against Pitt. They suffer the delicious curse of the excellent: we now take our defense for granted! Per omnia saecula saeculorum.
Two notes on the Irish pass offense. First, we saw the coaching staff’s approach to problem-soving in the multi-pronged manner they filled the Daniels gap. More Goodman, more Daniel Smith as a passing target, more diverse roles and patterns for Chris Brown, with a dash of Atkinson split wide. The passing game continues to stretch more deeply into the opposing secondary (this offense is really improving!), with Golson averagain a nifty 17 yards per completion.
Just like in the Navy and Miami games, the second and third stringers got serious work in. This boost motivation and practice focus.
A word about Te’o, the Moses of this three year journey back to the top. Young men are human beings before, during, and after they are football players. Don’t be deceived by the X or the O. Te’o’s introduction was iconic, but when he was taken out of the game, his passion shone through ever more brightly. He could not get enough of the moment, and did not want it to end. He will be a vibrant part of Notre Dame for years to come.
A word about Kelly. His whistle is sometime too high for the fans and the web-blog-knucklehead-osphere. Many were puzzled by his refusal to give traction to the ratings or the BCS. Even Swarbrick missed the point. Kelly, as all great men do, learns from his scar tissue as well as his brain tissue. He avoids energy vampires and their issues. Kelly kept his eye on the prize and those things within his sphere of control. Simple, but rare. Kelly focused, and fools rushed in, blindly and everywhere. Kelly knows.
Apparently, there were some other games played after the Irish ended their festivities. Yipee-Ki-Yay!
The rest of this weeks Digest will focus on Southern Cal.
The historical background
Since Ara revived the Irish in ’64, starting from that glorious February night on Sorin’s steps, the Irish have traveled West as an unbeaten 5 times: ’64, ’66’, ’70, ’80, ’88. They were amazing years, and they were amazing games. We beat Southern Cal twice, in ’66 and ’88, and then won the national championship. In 1966, it was a week after the epic tie against Michigan State, in which Hanratty had been injured. Coleman Carroll O’Brien stepped in and it was Notre Dame 51-SC 0. The game was not as close as the final score indicated!
In ’88, the congnoscenti predicted that Rodney Peete and SC would “expose the overrated Notre Dame team.” Well, Rice went deep to Ismail, Rice ran left a long way for a TD, Smagala intercepted, and Stams knocked Rodney Peete into the cold hard reality of what it’s like to face a better team. Notre Dame 27-Southern Cal 10. They beat us three times. In ’64, it prompted Father Hesburgh, noting the sad ending to the comeback season, to pen a poignant letter to the student body talking about the emotional vacuum from the loss. In ’64 SC was 6-3 when they played us.
In ’70, the Theisman team had looked like a national champion through October, but the offense suddenly dissolved in tight home wins over Georgia Tech and LSU, and Irish hopes dissolved in a torrential downpour in the Coliseum against a 5-4-1 SC team. But that Irish team found its offense in a memorable Cotton Bowl win over #1 Texas.
In ’80, Devine had announced his swan song, and parlayed a great defense and a jumpy freshman qb named Blair Kiel to an amazing home win over Michigan and a defensive epic, 7-0, over Bryant and the Tide in the belly of the beast, Birmingham’s Legion Field. But there was not enough Irish offense in the Coliseum and a 7-2-1 USC won, 20-3.
And then of course there were ’72 and ’74. Folks conflate the two, but the first was the Davis 6 touchdown game, while the second was the complete collapse in the third quarter, the most surreal, soul-numbing game in modern Notre Dame history. If you did not experience it in real time, words fail in communicating the meaning and the feeling. The Horror! THE HORROR!
We said earlier that Michigan was a “must win” game. We said Oklahoma was a “big” game.
This game? Mortal prose is inadequate.
But the game’s essence was captured in a little book written by John the Divine. Some call it “Revelation” and the forthcoming contest in the Coliseum was treated thus by the Apocalypst in the 16th Chapter, verses 16-17: “And they gathered them together to the place called in Hebrew, Armageddon. Then the seventh angel poured out his bowl into the air, and a loud voice came out of the temple of heaven, from the throne, saying “It is done.”
The case for Southern Cal
(1) Southern Cal has the best offensive skilled players in America. Barkley is in his fourth year as starter. Marquise Lee has entered the arena of discussion for the greatest college receiver of all time. He has eclipsed Robert Woods who has over 230 receptions and over 30 touchdowns in his career. And beware Nelson Agholor, who is coming. The have a vevy of TES and three dangerous tailbacks.
(2) Curtis McNeal had 121 yards rushing against Notre Dame last year. Most of his offensive line returns.
(3) Defensively, USC was able to shut down Michael Floyd last year. This year, the Irish wide receivers are limited in ability to separate from DB’s of the caliber of SC’s.
(4) The Trojans are not big, but very quick at linebacker, and will challenge Golson’s scrambles and called runs.
(5) last year, Troy was able to run 79 plays to Notre Dame’s paltry 57, and USC won the time of possession battle by 19 minutes.
The case for Notre Dame
(1) Notre Dame’s front seven is unlike anything Southern Cal has encountered this year. The closest resemblance is Stanford, and they manhandled SC on both sides of the ball.
(2) Mobile quarterbacks like Nunes (a little, 3 carries, 33 yards, Arizona’s Matt Scott(15 carries, 100 yards) Marcus Mariota (15 carries, 96 yards) were, well, productive against the great Monty Kiffin.
(3) Notre Dame’s offensive line is not as physical as the Irish DL, but they can mouth-hit the SC DL, which is not of Carroll caliber. In 2010 we ran the ball down their throats in the fourth quarter against a superior DL array.
(4) For the first time since Miami, the schedule sequence favors Notre Dame. SC will have played Arizona, Oregon, ASU and UCLA in the four games preceding our tilt.
(5) ND’s road game advantage: getting away from South Bend, the parasites and back slappers, the Irish team will rebond more strongly from Thanksgiving Day through the game. More than in any game in recent memory, this team will not want to have Te’o’s last regular season game be a loss.
(6) Lane Kiffin coaches USC
(7) Chris Galippo’s big mouth. ’nuff said.
What will be the article in the LA Times on Sunday, November 25th?
“A game band of Trojans demolished Notre Dame’s national championship hopes in a thrilling 31-20 USC victory. Flipping the script of Notre Dame’s iconic fight song, it was the Men of Troy who “woke up the echoes” of 1964, Fertig and Sherman, 1970 and 1980 ending an unbeaten Irish season in the Coliseum.
“Marquise Lee returned the opening kickoff for a touchdown, silencing the blue and gold and green flecks in the Coliseum stands. While Bob Diaco bumped and then double teamed Lee in his pass defense, a liberated Robert Woods had another 10 reception performance. With the Irish committing extra players to cover SC’s receivers, Curtis McNeal gashed the Irish for 121 yards rushing.
“SC’s defense combined a clever menu of blitzes with a ferocious pass rush to keep Notre Dame’s Everett Golson off balance……..”
Or THIS version?
“Notre Dame climbed to a perfect 12-0 in a brutal, physical win over outmanned and outmuscled USC, 30-17. SC had the most beautiful player on the field, Marquise Lee, but it was the beasts of Notre Dame who mauled the SC offensive line.
Matt Barkley received more physical punishment than he ever had in his four years in Cardinal and Gold under duress from Stephon Tuitt, Prince Shembo and Louis Nix. Barkley threw two interceptions into the hands of Notre Dame’s captain, Manti Te’o.
“The Irish OL got the best of the SC DL and a clever blend of power running, intermediate range passes, and quarterback scampers from Everett Golson kept the Irish in control of the ball, matching three touchdowns with three field goals.
“Awakening echoes of 1966 and 1988, an unbeaten Irish team arrived in the Coliseum and finished business. They came, they saw, they conquered, and as Kiffin and his minions walked off the field, they were shaken, beaten men and a beaten team…..
Which version will it be?
Well, that’s why we play the games!!