After rewatching the game on my DVR, here are my final thoughts on the debacle in Ann Arbor.
- Offensive line still can’t block anyone. This one goes without saying. Michigan owned the line of scrimmage and even when they sent four, they over powered the Notre Dame line. Because Michigan was able to get consistent pressure on Clausen without blitzing, there was no where to go with the ball. Weis played a lot of young guys – Matt Romine, Eric Olsen, Thomas Bemenderfer, and Matt Careful on top of the normal five starters and I think we’ll see some more of these guys this weekend. Romine was inserted at left tackle at first, but moved over to right with Sam Young switching to the left side – this tackle pairing is the future of the offensive line and while Romine will struggle as a freshman, he could see a lot of time this year. Thomas Bemenderfer is also becoming an internet legend on Notre Dame sites for showing some tenacity in there even though the same was long decided when he got in there.
- Weis needs to stick to what he knows best – his pro-style offense. Trying to run the spread and any other kind of offense each week is contributing as much to the sputtering offense as the play of the line. Weis needs to stick with what he knows best and what the players who have been in this system have practiced in the past. Until this happens, the line will continue to look lost and the offense will continue to sputter.
- Clausen held onto the ball too long at times. Even when the line gave Clausen enough time in the pocket, he wasn’t comfortable back and held onto the ball too long. Getting the sacked repeatedly will do that to a young quarterback though. Weis needs to find a way to keep Clausen on his feet or he won’t have much of a chance to improve this year.
- Aldridge needs to start. No other running back on the roster runs with as much authority as Aldridge and none go down as tough has he does either. Aldridge bounces off first contact more often than not and he never quit on Saturday. Giving a work horse back like Aldridge 20-25 carries could help jump start the Irish ground game.
- Allen doesn’t have the leg strength to run through arm tackles. Armando Allen is going to be a big time star for the Irish, but right now he isn’t strong enough to be the every down back. There have been a number of times that it looks like Allen has a huge play only to get tripped up just a bit. In time he’ll have the leg strength to run through those tackles and bust some big plays. For now, Allen could be best used on third downs and in passing situations and definitely on kick returns.
- George West needs the ball more. I realize West hasn’t gotten the ball much, but every time I’ve seen him get the ball I’ve liked what I’ve seen. He can take those quick hitters and turn them into nice gains more so than the other Notre Dame wide receivers.
- Weis needs to get Robby Parris on the field more. Parris might be the most complete receiver on the team right now and has shown some sure hands.
- Carlson is still having problems with his blocking. Notre Dame’s poor offensive line play has kept Carlson in as a blocker and this has drawn some attention to his problems blocking.
- It’s really hard to tell what exactly we have on the defensive side of the ball right now because Corwin Brown’s unit has been placed in some really bad situations. The South Bend Tribune posted a stat the other day that 42 of the 102 points the Irish have surrendered have come on drives of 38 yards or less. While the defense needs to do a better job keeping people out of the end zone, any young defense is going to fail when placed in situations like that on a repeated basis.
- Trevor Laws might be the only 5th year senior helping his draft stock by coming back this year. Laws has been a beast playing defensive end in this new defense and has been all over the field.
- Pat Kuntz might be the hardest worker on the field for the Irish. He’s played the nose tackle position much better than I thought and he fought from the beginning till the end Saturday.
- Notre Dame’s tackling was atrocious – Mike Hart bounced off of Notre Dame defenders like a pinball. Too many times Irish defenders try to strip the ball instead of making the tackle and the end result is usually an extra three or four yards, not a turnover. Notre Dame needs some serious work on tackling fundamentals for this defense to improve.
- Ambrose Wooden keeps getting costly pass interference penalties and it might be a matter of time until Raeshon McNeil passes him on the depth chart. McNeil saw some extensive action in the second half and has looked good in limited duties this fall.
- Kerry Neal’s playing time seems to be increasing week to week.
- Corwin Brown didn’t dial up too many blitzes for Michigan’s freshman quarterback and when he did the Wolverines picked them up and Mallet had wide open receivers. Brown is going to have to find a way to get more pressure on opposing quarterbacks – using Morrice Richardson and Kerry Neal would be a good start.
- Not sure what happened on Manningham’s last touchdown where Walls looked like he was expecting there to be a safety back there, but other than that, Michigan targeting Lambert and not Walls.
- Bottom line is yes, the defense needs to improve, but until there is a competent offense in place, we really won’t know what this defense has to offer.
- Golden Tate looked great as a kick returner. Tate is going to break one loose very soon and I wouldn’t be surprised if that came this weekend. Should Notre Dame get the ball first against Michigan State this weekend, a huge return from Tate would be huge.
- Zibby is looked great returning punts as well and like Tate, it’s just a matter of time until he breaks one.
- The coverage units prevented Michigan from making a big play in the return game after letting Derrick Williams bust a punt return for a touchdown last week.
- Geoff Price is looking better, but he hasn’t really taken that next step after being one of the best punters in the country last year.
- Who knows what the place kicking situation is like right now? Walker has nailed both of his field goals, but both were chip shots.