Pittsburgh, PA (UHND) — After a deer destroyed the interior of David Spade’s character’s car, Chris Farley’s Tommy Callahan character looked on in amazement and just said, “That… was… AWESOME!” Those of you who have seen Tommy Boy know what I’m talking about and anyone who watched Charlie Weis dissect Dave Wannstedt and the Pitt Panthers know what I’m talking about when I said the same thing Tommy Boy said on Saturday night.
Charlie Weis lived up to his billing as a master play caller in his Notre Dame debut completely confusing Dave Wannstedt’s new defense by calling the single best offensive game I have seen from a Notre Dame team since a guy by the name of Lou roamed the sidelines.
Notre Dame’s 35 points were the more than Notre Dame scored in 10 of 11 games last year and the 42 total points where more than Notre Dame scored in 34 of 36 games under Tyrone Willingham. The two games in which the Irish did score 42 or more were against unranked teams Stanford and Rutgers — not teams tanked in the top 25 who were playing their home opener.
The offense wasn’t the only impressive aspect for the Irish Saturday night however. Notre Dame came out and played inspired and with attitude. When they made plays the Irish acted like the expected to make them and when they were given the opportunity to deliver the knockout blow — they did.
After getting scored on on the game’s opening possession, Notre Dame regrouped and went on the outscore Pitt 42-14 throughout the rest of the game. The Irish used a combination of run and pass that had Pitt scratching their heads unable to stop the onslaught.
In the second quarter, after the Irish took a 21-10 lead, Marcus Furman fumbled the ensuing kickoff. Within two plays the Irish were in the end zone. They then went on to add another touchdown before half time for a 35-10 half time lead.
The opening drive of the 2nd half was a carbon copy of every Patriots playoff game from the past few years. The Notre Dame offense controlled the ball for over 7 minutes while marching down the field during a 20 play, 80 yard drive that ended with Rashon Powers-Neal’s 3rd touchdown of the game.
The drive was a microcosm of the game for Notre Dame. The Irish moved the ball down the field, controlling the line of scrimmage, mixing in the run with the pass, and ending the drive with a touchdown.
The drive also showed the vast change in offensive philosophy from the previous regime to the current. Notre Dame had no real offensive identity the past three years, they ran and passed the ball equally as bad. Against Pitt however, the Irish racked up over 500 yards of offense with 275 yards coming on the ground.
The Irish also spread the ball around the field getting everyone involved. Rashon Powers-Neal had 3 career rushing touchdowns before running for an additional 3 touchdowns in 3 quarters in Charlie Weis’ new offense. Powers-Neal also ran the ball a mere 14 times a season ago, against the Panthers he ran 8 times for 41 yards.
All along Weis has said that the confidence and attitude of the coach rubs off on the players. This was more than evident than Saturday as the Irish played with an attitude and swagger reminiscent of the early 90’s and yes even the 2002 Irish team led by Shane Walton (no more 2002 references in this article… more to come later however).
The defense was flying around the ball and the attitude was intense for the Irish defense. There were lapses in the defense and Pitt did move the ball well at times, but the defense picked itself up and dusted themselves off and kept bringing it.
For a defense that consists of 8 new starters, holding a Heisman hopeful quarterback that lit them up for over 300 yards and 5 touchdowns a year ago is impressive. The defensive effort was far from perfect which gives Weis plenty to work on this week, but the effort was at least encouraging.
The Irish secondary got burned by Greg Lee early, but for the most part the new corners, Mike Richardson and Ambrose Wooden played well. Their play has received mixed reviews amongst the Notre Dame message boards, but what people are forgetting is that Tyler Palko, Eric Gill, and Greg Lee are among the best players at their positions in the country.
Wooden lead the team with 12 tackles (10 solo) and showed a lot of improvement from last year despite missing a tackle in the first half that many are harping on. Yeah, Wooden can use some work on his tackling, but his coverage was good and displayed some speed the Irish secondary hasn’t seen for a while.
Overall the defensive effort was very encouraging. Notre Dame had 8 guys making their first career starts last night with four of them (Chris Frome, Chinendum N’Dukwe, Ambrose Wooden, and Maurice Crum) having seen the field very little last year.
I’ll have more on this game, but I’ll sum this article by saying that this game went about as well as anyone can be expected. The offense looked dominant. The Irish controlled the line of scrimmage. The secondary definitely looked improved. And Notre Dame played like the expected to win, and expected to win big.
Just as the deer destroyed Richard’s (David Spade’s) car in Tommy Boy, as did the Irish detroy the Panthers. Now I wasn’t on the field to hear what Weis said to Wannstedt at the end of the game, but I’d imagine it echoes what Tommy said to Richard… “Sorry about your car (team) man, that sux.”