Notre Dame, Ind (UHND) — For a moment it looked like the Irish would pull out the improbable comeback yesterday again Michigan State. After Tommy Zbikowski forced a Kyle Brown fumble which Corey Mays recovered, it looked like the Irish were going to pull off a 21 point comeback. Things did not end how Notre Dame wanted and with Jason Teague’s 19 yard, the storybook ending went out the door and left the Irish with the reality that they still have a long way to go.
Notre Dame’s back to back road wins to start the season had the Irish faithful glowing with the notion that Notre Dame could be undefeated heading into the October 15th showdown with USC in South Bend. A surprising defense with a growing offense vaulted the Irish into the top 10 with an upset over the Wolverines in their house.
Saturday afternoon however showed the weakness that many feared would exist with the 2005 Irish. Costly turnovers, weak pass defense, inconsistent blocking, and the lack of pressure on Drew Stanton lead to the Irish demise and showed that the Irish, while improved, still have much work to do.
Notre Dame’s pass defense had been atrocious at times over the last two seasons but showed marked improvement in the first two games of the season. Michigan State however was able to exploit Notre Dame’s weakness in pass coverage for over 20 yards a completion.
A week after shutting down the high powered Michigan offense, Notre Dame surrendered 327 yards in the air with 3 touchdowns. The difference in these two performances started up front at the point of attack.
Last week the Irish were able to pressure Chad Henne and never let him get completely comfortable in the pocket. This was not the case against Stanton and the Spartans. Stanton was able to stand back and pick apart the Irish secondary.
The play of the defensive line a week ago helped mask the weakness in the secondary for the Irish and without that pressure, they gave up big plays. The defensive line was also unable to block passes as they had a week ago.
On the offensive side of ball, the Irish were also unable to control the line of scrimmage. Notre Dame was unable to establish the running game early on and got confused on some of the Michigan State blitzes. Michigan State disguised some of their blitzes nicely and the Irish failed to pick them up at times.
Brady Quinn showed he still has a lot of room for improvement as well with some inconsistent play throughout the game. At times, Quinn looked great and yet at times he also looked average at best. At times Quinn was indecisive in the pocket and missed wide open receivers. On the first drive Quinn missed two wide open receivers for big gains.
On the flip side, Quinn did an excellent job avoiding the rush to make plays. His record breaking performance showed that he is a much improved quarterback, but he still has much to learn from Charlie Weis.
Better days are ahead for the Irish, but this game showed that the Irish are not quite ready to become an elite team. How they respond to this lose will go a long way in determining just how far they are from becoming that elite team. Will they respond by beating Washington and correcting some of the deficiencies we saw yesterday or will they respond by allowing more of the same?