You can look at this game two ways. You can look at it in the light that the Irish just barley squeaked out a 4-point win against an unranked opponent, which is what most people are doing. Or, you can look at it like this: Notre Dame is one of the few teams that refused to be slain by the Giant Killer Yellow Jackets – that is more than Miami or Auburn could say last year. Did Notre Dame play with the talent of the #2 team in the country? No. I think everybody will tell you that. But, did they play with the heart of a champion, coming back from two scores in a stadium which it was hard to think? You bet they did. Here are some random thoughts, notes, and opinions on the game.
– I will start with the offensive line. Regarded as one of the best college football has to offer, it wasn’t up to par in this game. Props to the Tech defensive coordinator, Jon Tenuta, for really mixing things up and confusing an offensive line that is very experienced, and having Quinn on his back for most of the 1st half. Sam Young struggled at times in this game, failing to pick up certain blitzes and even getting taken out of the game for a few plays. To his credit though, he did a fine job in the 2nd half and really picked up his game which can also be said for the entire Irish offensive line. The lines that played in the 1st and 2nd half were completely different, and thank goodness. Because had the protection not improved, Notre Dame would be 0-1 right now.
– Moving on to another freshmen that received a ton of playing time – Darrin Walls. He certainly found out what college football was all about in this game, and hopefully he can take a game in which he really got pounded and use it as a tool for improvement. Walls was pancaked on a couple of plays, driven about 10 yards off the ball on a Calvin Johnson screen pass that led to the Tech touchdown, and was beaten for 45 yards when he had to take on Calvin one on one in the 2nd quarter. However, I think all of this is just growing pains for Walls. As he continues to get more experienced and stronger he will become an elite corner, but let’s hope he does it fast, he is expected to start next season.
– Darius Walker is an unbelievable weapon for this offense, and didn’t get the ball nearly enough during the 1st half. He finished the game with 99 yards rushing and a touchdown, but I honestly don’t believe the game would have been as close as it was if Charlie Weis would have pounded the ball as much in the 1st half as he did in the 2nd half. He also showed a surprise burst of speed on his touchdown run, when he turned the corner and beat the defender to the outside and flew into the end zone for 6. On a play that was called back late in the game he showed a nice burst as well, dragging some tacklers for a run that would have netted the Irish about 30 yards, however Ryan Harris was flagged for obvious holding. Case in point; maybe D-Walk is starting to get a little edge, and maybe he will break a few long runs this year.
– Brady Quinn did not play with the talent of a heisman trophy candidate, but he certainly showed the poise of one. When things were down for Notre Dame and they were up against the wall, Quinn never unraveled, never forced a ball, and never panicked. He kept his composure and played the game of football, which really helped cool the rest of the team’s jets as well. Along with the offensive line, Quinn improved in the 2nd half, finishing the game 23-38 for 246 yards and a rushing touchdown.
– Rhema McKnight looks good, although a little rusty as well. He dropped a deep ball early in the game, and while it was a tough catch, it was one he would have admitted he should have made. You can argue that there was pass interference on the play, but the officials were letting that go for both sides all night, so they were just being consistent. He also dropped a no excuser late in the ball game deep in GT territory. This came on 3rd down and would have netted the Irish a first down. Because he dropped the ball, the Irish attempted a field goal…leading me to my next topic…
– The kicking game is brutal and it better improve or this team is going to lose a game because of it. Carl Gioia was 0-2 on his kicks, both of which were in make able range. The difference between 14-10 and 20-10 is obviously a lot different, and would have made a lot of Irish fans a bit more calm during the game’s final minutes, so this kicking game must improve in a hurry. The problem wasn’t Carl’s leg, he had plenty on the ball, but both balls he kicked sailed and missed wide. I wish there was a way that the Irish could go sign a free agent kicker, but obviously they can’t, so the kickers here must step their game up and do their part in the Notre Dame title run.
– Morrice Richardson, the freshmen, got in as a pass rusher on some 3rd downs and did a nice job of applying pressure.
– Pressure however, was hard to come by most of the game. Notre Dame didn’t sack Reggie Ball until the 4th quarter. A match up I thought really favored the Irish, Abiamiri vs. Wrotto, turned out to favor Tech, as Wrotto did an unbelievably good job for a first time starter at tackle. Nobody on the defensive line really handled their man, but there is a reason as to why this Tech offensive line is one of the best in college football, and they showed why in this game. Notre Dame did come out with sacks when they mattered though. Two sacks in the game; two sacks on the last drive. The first came on a botched snap to Ball and as he bent down to pick the ball up; Travis Thomas drilled him. The other came on a 3rd down play when Maurice Crum sacked Ball for a huge loss. This was Tech’s last play of the game on offense.
– Charlie Weis is gutsy. Running the ball with no timeouts with 11 seconds to play on the 5-yard line, which was successful, and going for it on 4th and 1 to prevent Tech from getting the ball back, which was successful. The man’s got guts, and I’m happy to have him as our head coach, not many coaches would have done what he did on that 4th down play, but I thought it was a good call. Along with Charlie, I did not want to see Calvin Johnson on the field with a chance to win the ball game, that could have turned out horrific.
Got to love Brett Musburger. Here are some of his memorable quotes from the game.
Score tied 0-0 in 1st quarter, and ND out to punt:
“You can see Notre Dame really self destructing here.”
After 2 nice plays by Georgia Tech in the 1st quarter…still tied 0-0:
“ Wow, the glaring holes in this Notre Dame defense are being exposed.”
Tech down 14-10 in 3rd:
“Tech really needs a huge play here and a big spark to get them going,” Calvin Johnson catches an 8-yard pass…in a very excited voice: “ And there it is folks!!!”
Also, this game was the 2nd strait game in which Brady Quinn did not throw a touchdown pass, dating back to last year’s Fiesta Bowl.