Is 9-3 Good Enough?

As 3:30 pm approached on the first day of September, Fighting Irish fans sat anxiously awaiting a season filled with an excitement for the unexpected. But even the unexpected comes with expectations.

Heading into the opening game, thoughts of a 10-win season were filling the heads of some Irish fans, even if that number was considerably less than was to be found in the previous two campaigns. Still, until midway through the first game, preseason optimism held strong and anything seemed to be possible. Then reality set in.

The offense was completely rebuilt, the defense made over, and the final result was undesirable. The offense went from a Brady Quinn-driven Ferrari to a Chinese fire drill ran around a Fiat. The defense, which fought admirably through the first three quarters, was left defeated at the hands of Tashard Choice as another Heisman campaign kicked off against the Irish. A 30-3 beat to an improving Georgia Tech team left players, coaches and fans re-evaluating expectations for the rest of the season. The preseason had come and gone, and with it went the optimism.

As Coach Weis laid it out in his post-game press conference, the opposite of almost every goal he set out for the team occurred. Weis wanted to get Tom Zbikowski going on punt returns, yet on the first return opportunity Zibby was leveled. Weis wanted the team to take care of the football but fumbles became a fad. Weis wanted the team to avoid stupid penalties, players were ejected. Nothing worked as the coach expected.

However, despite his requests, Weis cannot be saddled with all of the blame. One would hope that while blasting Syracuse in the Carrier Dome, Washington Coach Tyrone Willingham wasn’t guilt free. The cupboards are being restocked, but Weis is left with little to help out right away. A mathematician can’t evaluate statistics without the proper information, a scientist can’t perform an experiment without the proper materials, and an offensive genius can’t run a system without the proper players. Apparently it takes more than a two-day workshop with West Virginia Coach Rich Rodriguez to implement a read offense.

The running game never started because the offensive line was a sieve. Young and inexperienced, the front five were blown away by the freight train that was Philip Wheeler.
“I think we confused their offensive line throughout the game and that’s what we wanted to do,” said the All-American linebacker. “I don’t think their offensive line was ready for us.” No, Philip, they weren’t. Once again, a John Latina-coached offensive line performed like a cracked dam; first there was a tiny leak, then a regular stream, and in the 4th quarter the flood gates opened.

So the blue and gold faithful are left with the following as they head to Happy Valley: An inexperienced, yet talented quarterback, a blazing fast running back who needs more carries, an offensive line that needs more time to gel (if not more), a front seven on defense that needs 15 more pounds, and an 0-1 record.

In 2007, 9-3 might just be good enough.

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