Before Everyone Overreacts… Some Positives from MSU

Alright, before everyone goes all doom and gloom on me, there were plenty of positives to take away from Saturday’s loss to Michigan State.  Like I said on the board, there are no such things as good losses, but there certainly are bad losses; and I just don’t see this as a “bad” loss.  To quote one of our favorite ex-coaches, it is what it is.

  • First off, I don’t think Michigan State is nearly as bad as people seem to think they are.  Mike Dantonio has done a pretty good job since arriving at MSU and has that program in the right direction.  They aren’t a great team but they are a very disciplined, smash mouth football team.  In looking at their schedule, I wouldn’t be surprised if the Spartans won 8 or 9 games.
  • Golden Tate is legit.  His play on the 3rd and 17 in the fourth quarter was fantastic and showed he doesn’t have an ounce of quit in him.  Loved seeing him get the ball in his hands on the end around.  The more ways the staff gets the ball in his hands the better – like maybe throwing the quick flare outs to him instead of Robby Parris.
  • Michael Floyd looks legit too.  HIs fumble aside, he turned in a great game and might just be the best route runner on the team.  I will be disappointed if he isn’t starting next week.  In the two games that have been close int he fourth quarter, Weis has had Floyd in the game extensively so why not just start him?
  • Kyle Rudolph was getting open down the middle of the field.  Clausen nearly connected on a touchdown to Rudolph before the Floyd fumble on a seam route to Rudolph and later in the game it looked like he was open again on third down before the missed 41 yard FG attempt.  With Floyd and Tate starting to make plays, the middle of the field could be wide open for him in the coming weeks.
  • The defense played about as well as we could have hoped.  Javon Ringer ran the ball 39 times so he was obviously going to get his yards.  I wish they could have contained the 63 yarder at the end better, but it was clear the MSU offense had them worn down by that point.  The important thing to take away here is that the defense kept the Irish in the game while the offense sputtered.
  • Ringer had 6 runs that resulted in 0 or negative yards.
  • Harrison Smith took a nice step forward today.  When he got squared up with a blocker he lost the battle (as expected), but he also showed the ability to knife through blockers and make some plays in the backfield.  He still looks a little lost at times in coverage, but overall this was his best game of the year.
  • Ethan Johnson was credited with 2 pass deflections at the line and is starting to establish himself.
  • Brian Smith was all over the field again and made a big stop on Ringer on 3rd and goal from the one to force a field goal in the fourth quarter and caused the only MSU turnover by stripping Ringer in the first quarter.
  • Both Maurice Crum and Justin Brown were pretty solid.  Both made some nice stops and were solid throughout the game.
  • Raeshon McNeil looked great in coverage and broke up a potential touchdown in the endzone on a fake reverse in the first quarter.  McNeil has been very solid so far this year.
  • Armando Allen had his first nice kickoff return of the year.  In the game day chat people were complaining that he looks slow on kickoffs.  Well, when the wedge isn’t creating a lane for him to run, there isn’t anywhere for him to go.  Allen also had a decent punt return in the third quarter but does still move east and west too much on punts.
  • Punt coverage was VERY solid again this week and doesn’t look like it will be a problem at all this season.
  • Third down offense.  Notre Dame converted 6 of 13 third downs this week which is a hell of a lot better than the previous two weeks.
  • Despite all of the errors, we still had a chance in this one in the fourth quarter and a lot of the errors are correctable.  Like I said in my game preview, I really wish this game was 3 or 4 weeks down the road once this team gets a couple more games under its belt.
  • I figured we would lose this game back in May when I looked at the schedule and at the end of the day I see this game as a young team losing game by making the type of mistakes young players make.
  • We moved the ball reasonably well between the 20’s.  If we came out and couldn’t do anything offensively I would be much more concerned, but we did have success moving the ball through the air.  We just kept making bad plays at the worst times and to Michigan State’s credit, they capitalized on those mistakes.

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  1. Absolutely right C-Dog. I still remember taking a photo of the TV screen in 1988 when it showed the final score of the Natl. Championship. (Sounds funny now in this age of technology.)

    We all want Weis to succeed more than anything. He is a good man who knows football inside and out. He runs his mouth too much at times, but when you WIN, this is pretty much excusable by everyone. When your leadership is in question and you lose, the big mouth is nothing but a liability. Put up or shut up.

    If you read about and understand what makes GREAT coaches, they have 1 thing in common. THEY ARE LEADERS OF MEN. They have different styles, different personalities, different methods. (i.e. Krzyzewski vs. a Knight) but THAT is the common denominator. Hell, that is Krzyzewski’s motto. He says “I am not a basketball coach. I’m a leader of men.”

    Weis needs to understand this philosophy.

    Irish fan forever….Go Irish

  2. To all,
    I’ll never jump off the ND bandwagon. I’m 3rd gen Domer. Have family that still wroks there. Grandfather was there when Rockne was there. Dad was there when Leahy was there. I saw both Faust and then Holtz’s national championship. ND teams were inspiring. After Leahy and before Parsigian, they were bad becuase Father Ted did de-emphasize football. But they still inspired. Paul Hornung won a Heisman in that era. And I’m optimistic to the bitter end, like you all. I wanted Ty to succeed. Only when you heard Ty and his assistents tell folks in the South Bend area that they couldn’t win and weren’t going to recruit did you realize it needed to be over. but JDH’s comments on Weis are what’s on my mind too. I want Weis to succeed. Because even though he can sound arrogant at times, I think he is sincere and has his heart in the right place. Too bad the faculty don’t like him. But he has made many proclamations about what they are going to do and each one has been refudiated. Holtz, Leahy, Rockne, or Parsegian would have been a thorn in Pete Carroll’s side without talking about it. Somehow they would have brought the Trojans down in the last 4 years. We still seem too NFL corporate and not traditional ND inspiring. And let’s remember while those other coaches were inspiring leaders, they took care of practical things, like coaching and preparing a dominant offensive line.

    I’ll always root for my alma mater, but I want ND to be different and to inspire.

  3. 91DOMER:
    It’s as if you are reading my mind. You are dead on target in all of your comments.

    Remember folks: Constructive criticism is not jumping off the band wagon or being fickle. This is what true fans are supposed to do. Unbridled, non-constructive criticism and defeatist negativity is a different story. I rarely see that type of thing on these boards.

    Optimisic about: Alot of promise and talent at the skilled spots. And most of the mistakes are totally correctable with good coaching (I’ll get to that) and time.

    Concerned about: The coaching staff. Not at all convinced that the week to week development and progress is being made as it should. And the first half calls were baffling beyond belief.

    “I have been keeping an open mind on Weis, an his recruiting is excellent, no doubt, but I’m sorry to say I don’t have confidence in him. I can’t put a finger on it, but something is missing with him. ”

    Man I know exactly how you feel- what is it exactly? We know that Weis knows his football. But, it’s like he just doesn’t, uh LEAD. I just don’t feel like he knows how to set the tone. Physical mistakes on the field aside, I just don’t see a squared-away program.

    Fingers still crossed on Weis & Coaching Co.


    Negatives: No kick game what so ever. No Robert Hughes? Allen runs right toward the tackler! Pathetic coaching! Duval is still a slug. Again, no Robert Hughes??? He’s clearly the best back we have!

    Positives: Tate and Floyd are going to be awesome once we get an O-line. Clausen will be awesome once we get an O-line. (see a trend?)

    TWO questions:
    1.) Why can’t we recruit a kicker. Community college kickers are better than NDs talent last 10 years. Try outs tomorrow!

    2.) No Robert Hughes? REALLY?

  5. I posted on the downside, but saw some good ones here.

    ABC’s overall coverage was better than NBC’s but Bob Griese, made one point that even though the Irish fans were banished to the upper outer corner of Spartan stadium, that ND does that as well. Not true. ND makes great pains to give the visiting team an area from the endzone to the 30 yard line and down in front too. Bob, come to ND once, and bring the crew to replace Hammond and Co.

    O-Line been -been saying it – will keep saying it. Not well coached or prepared.

    Defense – could be great next year.

    Overall – These guys will struggle to stay above .500 at year’s end. Weis is not liked by faculty. Talks way too much, especially as poor as he is at it. Amazing that Lou with that mush mouth voice, still carries a crowd, because his thoughts are sound. Weis better win at least 8 games, or the watch is on, especially if Skip Holtz continues to succeed and if he gets happy feet. Something’s gotta give.

  6. I agree with you on nasty. I feel like we’ve stepped up from last year, but when it comes to tenacity, I don’t think a team can have too much, and we definitely don’t have enough, not compared to USC and the SEC.

    But I don’t agree that we got humiliated (at least I don’t feel humiliated). I thought we played very well against a more experienced team, and lost in the last few possesions of a game we kept close by playing hard defense. We lack the will on the offensive side of the ball, and there only on the line. But this is a line that has shown incredible improvement. Protecting the QB is the first step, and they’ve done that. Now they have to show they can push the line to give the RBs room. It’s a process.

    And I love Charlie. I have a man crush on him. Think he’s the best coach out there, but he is still learning. How many years of head coaching experience did Lou have before he came to us? Charlie is one of the smartest football minds out there, and all he lacks is what he’s getting right now. Experience.

  7. D played well. Clausen is gonna be great – Kamara not so great. Allen is the most over rated players on the team. I firmly believe he would shine more at flanker but absolutely does not belong in the backfield. Overall the sad sad so very sad play calling to start the game set the entire tone for the game and allowed the MSU defense to tee off. Unfortunately the offensive line still had their heads in the clouds after Clausen commended them last week and were a no show for that game. Poor poor play – still no run attack. Sorry there arent more “positives” in my thoughts here but that was a shameful game and a loss that belongs more on the coaches than the players as they were simply not ready to play. Weis hasn’t been, isn’t and wont be the answer for ND football. Thats the deal.

  8. Justin: It’s not about losing, or being 0-3 or 3-0. I wasn’t excited about our being 2-0 because there was still not a significant change you could sense watching the team. I wouldn’t be half as down about the team and program even if we were 0-3 if I just had the sense we were going to play tough, play smart, and respond with renewed focus and energy when beaten on a play. We don’t do any of these things, not with any consistency at least. I’ve never seen an O-line so damn satisfied with mediocrity. Where’s the nasty we were promised 4 years ago? I was very excited when I heard Weis’ first press conference when he announced what he intended to bring to ND…remember, something about tough, disciplined, nasty football. I think they had T-shirts printed up. Has anyone seen any of that in any consistent manner? That tone is set by the coach…the head coach. And it doesn’t take 5th year seniors to implement. Yes, young players make mistakes, but part of being a tough, smart, discplined, nasty team is you dont make the same mistakes over and over. Yes, you will likely lose to more experienced and talented teams, but you dont get beat down and humiliated. There still has to be a sense of pride and fight in a team. I know I risk sounding like an old geezer pining for the glory days, but one of the games I remember most was Coach Holtz’ first year, first game, a 24-23 DEFEAT at home to Michigan. After 5 years of malaise under Faust, I dont think anyone watching that game didn’t say, “Whoa, something is different here. This program is going to be okay.” It was a palpable feeling of a new attitude. Sorry, but I simply dont get that feeling with Weis.

  9. I hope the bus is going real slow, because if it’s speeding down the road, the fans jumping off are going to be splattered.

    I see some strange, pessimistic comments about Jimmy and Charlie, the talent and coaching staff. I don’t see where they’re coming from. We’re in rebuilding year number 2, and have shown tremendous improvement, and the problems we’re having I think come down to one or two players. Jimmy Clausen is NOT one of those players. The coaching staff isn’t doing a perfect job, but they’re solid.

    To the nay-sayers (sadly as that sounds, talking about Irish fans), I hope you keep in mind that football isn’t only about blowing everyone out. You’ll lose games, and it’s foolish to go back to the games you win to find reasons why we should have lost them. Bad football teams do not win the games we played against SDSU and Michigan. Bad football teams do not keep the MSU game close in the early 4th quarter.

    I hear a lot of comments that I could only understand if we really were 0-3. We could be 0-3, but that’s like saying we could be 3-0. We’re not. We WON those games. Deal with the success and take it easy.

    This MSU game is over. We showed improvement for the third straight game this season, against a team most of us thought we’d lose against, and who ESPN thought would blow us out. What more can you ask for? Let’s focus on Purdue. They’re the team to beat, not MSU, and definitely not the Fighting Irish.

    3-1, here we come! GO IRISH!

  10. I just wanted to make one more point about yesterday that is really bothering me…why can’t we make a field goal..I hate to be really negative..but walker is getting a free education at a top notch school..and he barely makes extra points…I think I could find a dozen better kickers in pop warner than him…and 91DOMER…NO ONE plays as many young kids as we do..last year i think we started 11 true freshman…no way Alabama or Miami has that many on the field…they still had some talent Ty didn’t leave us any fuel in the tank to carry over from Quinn’s class till now..Weis is building..all we can do is wait..I have seen a huge improvement from last year to this year…hell even from last week to this week on defense I think we performed better…I thought coming into the MSU game that Ringer was going to rack up 200+ yards and a 3 or 4 td game…our defense looks good…it was the offense that sputtered..and it’s because they are all still true sophs and true fresh out there at the skill positions..give them some freaking time to develop..sorry…i kinda went on a rant there..Go Irish!

  11. Let’s start with a positive: 1) The game was on ESPN/ABC…no Tom Hammond/Pat Haden, but the commmercials seemed as agonizingly long.
    (That was half positive, I guess)
    Now, on to the ugly..
    2) The play calling is atrocious. Is there an unwritten rule that as soon as we get to the opponent’s 25 we have to throw the one-man-in-the-pattern fade play? Its not a high percentage play at this level, especially when you throw it every time. Also, either we have the most vanilla playbook or they only can remember three or four plays. How about a counter? Maybe a crossing pattern or seam pattern to a tight end?
    3) Allen and Kamara are not getting it done. For all of this supposed speed, Allen sure doesn’t outrun anyone. And although he breaks some tackels this year (as opposed to none last year) he still runs scared. Kamara has at least one or two zone out plays a game. How was it he did not see his man blitz right in front of his face yet he still ran down the sideline, allowing the MSU safety to look like a hero on that interception at our 20? Floyd made the read properly later on.
    4) Still baffled how every other team that uses the Tenuta-like blitz scheme seems to actually get pressure on the QB, yet we can’t. Blitzing is more than just running in free of responsibility.
    5) I don’t even want to get started on the kicking or tackling, so I’ll conclude on a positive: Clausen did make some excellent quick reads in the spread look, even with pressure in his face, and we seemed to pick up the blitz a bit better least to give him just enough time. But as soon as we got close to the endzone, yep, you guessed it, call (or audible into) the jump ball play. Enough already!

    Overall, tremendously frustrating. Not the level of last year, but still close. I see other rebuilding programs (Alabama, Miami) starting to turn the corner with the same amount of young guys. One can only conclude ours are not getting the same level of coaching. I have been keeping an open mind on Weis, an his recruiting is excellent, no doubt, but I’m sorry to say I don’t have confidence in him. I can’t put a finger on it, but something is missing with him.

  12. Clausen is over-rated……you better hope TENUTA does the same @notre dame as he did with GT………because under clausen….you will not score more than 2 td`s against a top tier defense…….

  13. My only negative takeaway from the game is Kamara, as I posted in “The Fourth Quarter.”

    The positives are many, and I can’t even see the play calling as a mistake though in hindsight it would have been better to go deep to Tate over and over and over. The coaches wanted to do one thing with running the ball early. They wanted to open up the field for Jimmy to pass, and if you CAN run the ball, that’s exactly what you SHOULD do as a team, but we just couldn’t run the ball. And we weren’t down enough points to really go away from the run.

  14. Two obvious things that we fans need to realize.

    1. We should have lost to SDSU

    2. Michigan helped out a lot with that win.

    ND could very easy be 0-3.

    I hate coming here and hearing “MSU had beasts for their D-line”. Or, I think Georgia Tech is better than people think. These teams are not better. We are worse.

    The excuses for Weis need to stop. You can see the talent getting better, but the O-line is still BAD.

    ND should be able to run. Period.

    I am confident in saying Weis is not the answer.

  15. @Chris,

    I agree on the run blocking from Rudolph and Floyd, but they are true freshmen – that much should be expected. As they get stronger they will get better in this department. That said, I was somewhat impressed by Floyd’s blocking for a freshman WR.

  16. 3 Things I took away from the game.

    #1 — We are A LOT better than last year.

    #2 — The Irish look immature at vital positions and lack cohesiveness at times in the running game, both on defense and offense.

    #3 — The playmaking ability of our wide receivers will dramatically increase when Jimmy Clausen learns to look off the safety, and anticipate certain throws based on his pre-snap read. Bottom line he’s holding the ball. See #2 for a big reason why.

    Overall this team is vastly improved and thank god for it. In future years — games such as the one on Saturday –will be over at half-time. If we are to make a legitimate transition into the pinnacle of college football, ie. beat USC, we need to make improvements on a weekly basis. Based on what I saw this Saturday, I genuinely believe improvements were indeed made from week 2 to week 3, however, as an immature team, that often doesn’t translate into results.

  17. Will someone please fire Polian. He couldn’t handle the special teams two years ago, leading to the multiple coach afffair of last year. He still can’t coach. Fire him now! While your giving useless baggage the heave, throw Latina on the pile. The offensive line is terrible. I know high school teams with more complex blocking schemes. This is worse than Jerry Faust!

  18. Sure there were some positives, but the negatives are overwhelming. Like Jules ’65 said, this was a coaching travesty. Coaching not to lose is the worst and attempting to establish an identity is something done in practice. Good coaches work with the talet on hand and modify their schemes (a la Holtz) to get positive results. Weis may be a great offensive mind a NFL coach, but he is nothing different than Davie or Willingham and I dare say that Faust was better – at least he had passion and understood the college game. Weis has alienated himself from the local community and I can’t understand why coaches like Urban Meyer can win with young teams. I’m sick and tired of “learning” experiences from losses. We may not have SC or Florida talent, but we are not far off and Weis’ ship has sailed. Time to move on.

  19. Floyd looked good, but it seemed like his run blocking could use some work.

    That could *definitely* be said for Kyle Rudolph and all the young TEs. They’re really not getting the job done at the line of scrimmage.

  20. This wan was due to some growing pains. I think it is a well balanced post.
    I agree with Mat, Kamara does not seem to be progressing as well as Tate and Floyd. If you look at improvement, it is not as rapid. I raelly think, if you look at game production and want to put the best eleven on the field, Kamara is not there.
    Also, one disagreement with the post: If you look at the film, you will see Crum getting sucked in on the run often. He had a lot of miscues in run support (no different than anyone else).

  21. Frankie,

    Good points on the game. The Irish have some play making ability that they haven’t had since (possibly) the early 90’s. I think Tate, Floyd, and Rudolph will have more big play ability than the Brady Quinn offenses under Weis.

    The only aspect of this team that is not improving is run blocking. I do not understand that, put a hat on a hat will ya team? pass blocking is still much better, Clausen got pressure, but it really wasn’t bad for as one dimensional as ND was.

    The D played good enough to win, but the defensive front is not strong enough to stop a running game. The defensive strength is in the back 7. Need to keep recruiting d-lineman.

  22. I agree with Matt’s comments on Kumara. I think that at least 3 or 4 interceptions this year, between the San Diego St game and the MSU game, can be attributed to his failure to run the correct route, or his ability come down with or break up those fades. He’s 6’5″…a well thrown jump ball should be a GIMME for him. I loved what Kumara was showing last year, although he still did some of the same things, but other sophomores have improved their games, while I really think Kumara has not.

    Secondly, I was at the game and I really didn’t see much excitement from the ND fans. Even down in the ND corner, there just wasn’t much excitement. I was sort of disappointed in that. I think MSU may be getting the best of this series, partially because it seems like MSU sees this as a bigger game, year after year, than ND does!

    Finally, I was REALLY impressed with MSU’s defensive line. I don’t think it was as much a failure of the running backs and o-line as it was their defensive line playing like beasts. They moved off their blocks to make the tackles time after time. Very impressive. Again, i think they brought more for ND than they had before.

    Much closer game that the score would suggest. ND, minus the turnovers, may have won this hard-fought game!

    Regardless, its a step forward for the Irish, and Purdue may be in for it next week!

  23. I just have to say that Duvall is killing us on offense…his route running is awful and he needs to be more physical on jump balls…there was no reason that one in the endzone should have been picked off…and secondly it wasnt picked was a bad call Kumara has two hands on the ball and one foot on the ground…and then the ball gets ripped away…its an ND touchdown..the play is over…bad call by the officials…it set the tone for the rest of the game…oh well..

  24. Excellent post Frankie. While we are disappointed with the loss, your comments focus on the positives. Contrary to what others think, there were a number of legitimate things to like.

    To those who see nothing but gloom and doom, get your heads out of the sand and remember that this is still a team that is finding itself.

    The Irish are much better than last year, and we will still see a 7 or 8 game win season.

    I also agree that MSU is a much better team than some posters give them credit for being. What ND needs is a running back performance like that of Ringer to combine with JC’s passing ability…the time will come.

  25. From a long time alum:
    Charlie Weis and the offensive coaches play calling was terrible, just like last year.
    They need to teach our quarterbacks to not to be so obvious in telegraphing where they are throwing, and have multiple receiver choices. I am sorry for our players. Weis, stop talking so much and start coaching.

  26. Horribly coached game – absolutely pathetic play calling which took the Irish out of the game early and set the tone for the game! The Irish were not prepared – showed no emotion nor ambition for a win. What a disgrace. Allen does not belong in the backfield nor on special teams. A flanker perhaps but get him out of the backfield. What was Haywood thinking OMG!

  27. Its hard not to be excited about the talent we have on this team. We looked really good at times, and young at times, which is expected on the rad. I think that we are on the verge of being feared. Experience comes with this loss. Jimmy needs to learn to be a little more conservative, Duval, well, to put it nicely, needs to break up balls that aren’t going to be his, just like Golden did in the 4th.

    This team is loaded with playmakers and we are on the vegre of breaking a lot of plays, patience is going to be key. Lets hope we can keep up the steady play, minus the turnovers, and get some confidence going and roll hard to the future.

    Purdue will be a tough match, we need to run the ball better or run a strait spread and get the ball to our play makers.

    Could have been way worse. Keep smiling Irish Eyes, we are on the cusp. We Are ND for a reason.

  28. Its hard not to be excited about the talent we have on this team. We looked really good at times, and young at times, which is expected on the road. I think that we are on the verge of being feared. Experience comes with this loss. Jimmy needs to learn to be a little more conservative, Duval, well, to put it nicely, needs to break up balls that aren’t going to be his, just like Golden did in the 4th.

    This team is loaded with playmakers and we are on the vegre of breaking a lot of plays, patience is going to be key. Lets hope we can keep up the steady play, minus the turnovers, and get some confidence going and roll hard to the future.

    Purdue will be a tough match, we need to run the ball better or run a strait spread and get the ball to our play makers.

    Could have been way worse. Keep smiling Irish Eyes, we are on the cusp. We Are ND for a reason.

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