And to be Fair… Some Causes for Concern from MSU

Anytime you have a 23-7 loss to a team you most likely have more pure talent than, there are going to be a lot of negatives from the game.  Last night I posted my positives from the game, but held off on the negatives till I had a chance to digest the game a little more and rewatch parts of it.

  • Emotion. The Irish had last week.  They didn’t this week.  The Irish won last week.  They didn’t this week.  It’s not a coincidence.
  • The Offensive Line. To be fair to the offensive line, play calling had a lot to do with our inability to run the football, but the line did not have the same fire that it had last week against Michigan.  Michigan State’s defensive line manhandled the ND offensive line at times.  Pass protection was actually better than I thought it was when I first watched it, but the MSU defensive front was a lot more physical than the Irish offensive line.  The Michigan game was a step forward for the offensive line, but this MSU game is definitely a step back.
  • Play calling. Not sure what Haywood and Weis were trying to accomplish on the first two drives.  So far this year this offense has only been successful when they have aired it out so why come out and run it six straight times on two drives and get 0 first downs?   Was also not impressed with the passing plays that were called.  How many times are we going to run fade routes each week?  How about some patterns over the middle to get Golden Tate and Michael Floyd the ball in space where they can get some yards after the catch?
  • Turnovers. Turnovers are inevitable but could any of the turnovers we had this week have happened at a worse time?  An interception in the end zone thrown into double coverage, a fumble inside the 20 on a completed pass, and another interception at our own 20 on a really bad route.  None of those should ever happen.  The turnovers in the red zone were killers and were very avoidable.  Clausen shouldn’t have thrown into double coverage and Kamara at 6’5″ has to at least make sure that its at worst an incomplete pass if he can’t come down with it.  Not sure what is the deal with Kamara, but he’s taken a step back this year and is likely going to find himself below Tate and Floyd on the depth chart pretty soon.
  • Offensive Gameplan. Golden Tate is our best playmaker so I loved getting the ball in his hands on the end around early, but why not try other ways to get him the ball?  He has done something everytime he has gotten his hands on the ball on this year so get him the ball as often as possibe.  Weis has to learn that he doesn’t have an offense that can do it all.  He seems to think that despite the obvious strengths and weaknesses of his offense, that he can just scheme around them.  It’s obvious that we are a passing offense.  Fine.  Make passing the identity of this offense and stop trying to out scheme everyone.  It’s time Notre Dame comes out with its strengths and forces people to stop them.
  • Red Zone Offense and Defense. Notre Dame was 0 for 2 in the red zone while Michigan State was 4 for 4.  That right there was the difference in the game.  You have to score when you are given the opportunity to do so.  We did it last week against Michigan, but didn’t against Michigan State.  Again, that’s not a coincidence.
  • Place Kicking. It’s not just Brandon Walker, its the whole unit.  The snaps have been pretty bad this year with a new long snapper.  We are missing JJ Jansen a lot more than any of us thought.  Still, even with the bad snap, you have to be able to hit a 41 yard field goal down 9 points with less than 7 minutes left if the holder gets the ball down.
  • Kick return blocking. There hasn’t been one time this year I’ve seen a whole open up that even the best kick returners could have exploded through.  Armando Allen did a nice job on his last return but that was more so because of him, not the blocking.
  • Pressure, or lack there of.  For all of the blitzing 75% of the time talk, we didn’t see a whole lot of it Saturday.  When we blitzed we were effective at times, but through three games the Irish defense has recorded just 1 sack – that’s not going to get it done.

Ok, so now the good news.  A lot of these problems are correctable and we will face a team this weekend that should give us a chance to work on a lot of them.

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  1. Chris,
    Joe Moore’s teaching lives in Aaron Taylor. You are right. We shouldn’t lower our expectations. Weis get’s paid $4 million a year. Season ticket holders have to pay with fees, $200 per ticket.
    I’d root for ND if they were a D-III team with a field and a few bleachers. In fact I’d feel better about them right now, than knowing all that money is going into this result.
    Hopefully it won’t happen, but if the experts are right about another depression, all that money is going away. Hopefully the program has more character than just being a money machine.
    ND and NBC, quit selling to us. ND, drop NBC and go back to those old values. With Weis or with someone else, start inspiring us again. That’s what ND is about. It’s not the wins, it’s the inspiration that comes with overachieving. Inspire us again, ND!

  2. amazing – most of these posts show the average ND fan can coach better than Weis – a lot of these observatons are spot on! Clausen does have a ton of talent and a rocket arm with great accuracy – he simply needs to be able to better look off defenders – exactly what most fans were saying last year! This is where I agree it is time to toss Chuck. This patience – wait for the friggin talent to develope is old already – this is the 4th yr here and what a lot of the positive folks want us to believe is the turn around is just around the corner. It aint coming folks and the reason fans dont want to wait anymore is because this IS ND not just any other Div I team. Dont lower expectations just to be politically correct. Never stop expecting excellence – “when you get em on the run you go go go!” oh Joe Moore, God rest your soul, where are you?

    The Notre Dame team is young!!
    It will get better. It will!
    Clausen is throwing very well.
    What about the receivers?
    What about a REAL Kicking Game? Yes–even a 51 yarder!
    The running game MUST be established to mix it up.
    ( Where was recruiting when Ringer was being called by Michigan State! That boy can run!!!)
    I expected a loss. However, we shot ourselves in the foot many times. Turnovers will do it every time.
    Don’t jump ship everybody!
    2 wins is ALL we had lat November last year and then #3 over the left coast of the iniquity of Palo Alto!
    Purdue has a running game and if we can stop that–come up fired up to a HOME crowd and improve on the running game –and please LORD-just ONE good field goal along with the other points!
    It is not over folks!
    7-8 wins is hopeful with a young team!
    Don’t give up!
    NEVER give up!
    What about the last two lines of the fight song?

  4. One more thing to Ponder: Only one gimme in the schedule — Syracuse.
    While ND should beat several others, given the current state of things, nothing is certain.

  5. I’m with Frankie V. Why does everyone pick on Clausen? The QB gets too much credit and too much blame. Maybe it’s because too many of the reporters haven’t played football. You gotta wonder if the sideline beauty queens just read some cliff notes 5 minutes before the game.

    No, folks, when you really look at the problems, it’s not in any of the skill players themselves. Yeah, Kumara needs to get a little more mentally tough. You’d like to see an extra burst of quickness into, through or around the line by the backs. But until that offensive line starts blowing holes and playing physical, the team is going to struggle to have a .500 season.

    So I say first of all the O-Line is not progressing fast enough. That is coaching.

    The defense is fine and will improve both this year and as new talent enters the program.

    Special teams needs help in snapping and looks like now, kicking and punting. Coverage is great.

    So back to the O-Line. These guys just aren’t learning fast enough. When many other teams develop solid O-lines, there can be no excuse. ND has until Bob Davie, always had a dominant O-Line. Always! Until that returns everything else is moot.

    I will always cheer for ND. But I don’t expect an National Championship unless the coaching staff makes serious changes to how they collectively do things. Holtz would have replaced Latina by now. I just feel that you would have seen more progress by now if they were serious about getting back near the top with a serious shot at the title.

  6. go back to the end of the 2007 season. When you took a look at the 2008 schedule, how many games did you expect to win? Unless you are Lou Holtz, you probably hoped for a modest 7 or 8 win season. that means that you’re going to have to lose 4 or 5. MSU just happens to be one of those losses.
    Right now the important thing for the irish to do is to start improving on those problems that were so well put by Frankie V.

    and to all the Weis haters, a real fan would be behind their coach through it all, Good and Bad. Give charlie some faith, he’ll pull through.

  7. Someone mentioned the 6 runs plays the first 2 ND offensive series with no gain to speak of. Worse yet, how about the 3rd series where Allen runs short side, then Allen runs again short side, then Allen drops ball on pass on the short side of the field. 3 identicals plays for no gain. Why? Why would Weis bascially throw away a whole series of downs? I was truly puzzled. With all the talented players on our great team, let’s use them!

    Also ND fans, I understand we were not great on the offensive line yesterday but isn’t football much like wrestling where there is a “counter” for every offensive play, a counter for every defensive play a counter for every good player on the other side of the ball (like Ringer)? Put a guy on Ringer and have that guy “track him where ever he goes, I have seen this done before.

    What I am getting at regarding a counter is how the play calling seems so boring on the run plays? Pagana says where is the misdirection. Right now we know exactly who is getting the ball on a run play when there is only ONE running back in the backfield. Let’s put 2 RB’s back there, and have 1 RB as a disguise if not a blocker? I saw speedy George West score on a reverse 2 yrs ago and have never seen the play again, why?

    I think Jimmy will be just fine. He needs to use his TE more though!

    Question: when is Jimmy going to learn or be taught, and practice the move both physically and mentally that he can avoid the blitz by simply side-stepping them? I mean if a guy is coming up the middle, why run staright backwards? Don’t you avoid a rusher by running off to the left or right? Why isn’t he being taught to avoid the sack and a 10-15 yd loss? Of course if the man is coming from his left or right, he can come forward and wil lose less yds. I make this sound easy but it can be taught and learned. I very seldom see good QB’s run backwards when chased from the middle of the line of scrimage.

    I am being critical because I love the Irish and we have to get better.

    The offensive play calls seem questionable to me. Why are we always going for the bomb on 3rd and 5 or 6 insraed of just tryng to get the darn first down? I realize there is a surprise factor for us there but when we do it everytime and often fail, I say just get the first down to maintain possession for goodness sakes.

  8. It may be a good idea to give Jonas Gray a shot to see if a different running style breaks the line.

    It’s time to rotate kickers until someone hits 30-50 yards out. 1 for 10 at this range is a bad case of FUBAR.
    Not sure what to do about the short kick-off’s. If the leg is not there.. it’s not there.

    We need more of TATE, he is getting it done. I like his can’t be stopped attitude. I also like Clausen’s attitude….so do not throw the baby out with the bath water.

    Tate needs to be on punt returns…reminds me of Tim Brown. Floyd is also getting it done, far less mistakes.

    The Defense is much improved over last year. Did anyone bother to count the freshman on the field?

    I was not happy with the loss, however, we are way better than last year. Eliminate the turnovers and make a few adjustments, we will be fine. Did we not atleast spot them 10 points?

  9. I have no problem with Clausen’s competitiveness or skill, but it’s no coincidence that he can only find success on the outside or deep-middle. He can help himself out by stepping up in a collapsing pocket instead of running backwards away from it.

  10. Clausen is definetly progressing. I agree that it is laughable to be saying this stuff about him. The team is flat, JC is doing his part to bring energy and poise. His decision making will come (3 interceptions this year are on Duval and his poor route running and not being aggressive).

    There is hope in the passing game for sure, the talent is there, each week the team will take a step forward (so we hope) and this will ultimately give them confidence.

  11. I really find it laughable that people are ready to give up on Clausen already. He’s one of about 5 or 6 players who actually come out fired up yesterday and have the kind of attitude that championship teams need. He has also made some damn nice throws this year.

    If Kamara can get his game together Clausen will have a lot of weapons at his disposal for the rest of the year and will only get better each week.

  12. Jimmy isn’t tall enough to see/throw intermediate distances over our line.

    Armando’s supposed speed doesn’t matter because he needs 20 yards to realize it.

    Golden Tate would be our best running back right now.

    The offensive line wasn’t just putting on muscle in the offseason.

    ND will always get pushed around by 2 and 3 star athletes until the NCAA actually wants to catch players for doping (they seem to get caught for everything except doping).

  13. Clausen is not the guy. Stronger arm but the same fundamental problems continue – only looks at his primary receiver, stares down his primary receiver giving even slow safeties time to help and rarely hits the tight end even when covered by linebackers.

  14. I know exactly what Haywood and Weis were trying to do. Open up the passing game by way of the run, and it would have worked well, but it didn’t. So I agree, we need to go spread offense and just air the ball out. Unlike Frank seems to think, Jimmy has some of the best skill you’ll find in college, and our recievers have talent.

    Our running game will open up once we have teams scared of our passing game, and only then. But there is risk in this route (pardon my pun), because you open yourself up to mistakes by throwing more than you run.

    No excuses though. They have to block better. Everyone on the offense and special teams. I sound like an idiot typing all this as long as they don’t. But if they figure out how to do that, we’ve got enough talent that we can really lay teams out. We need that nasty Domer talked about in his other post.

  15. The countdown started for Charlie. He has not delivered what he promised, and actually worked better with Ty’s personnel.

  16. Frankie V: You read my post! Just kidding, but I have to give you an Amen for the points about the play calling, Kamara, the blitz ineffectiveness, etc. Spot on, unfortunately.

  17. This is the beginning of the end for Coach Weis. Progress is not happening and the team at times looks lethargic. Jimmy Clausen is not the one for this job. The only difference between him this year and last year is his arm is stronger because he has had more time to heal. He is just throwing the ball up in the air and his receivers are going up to get it. It’s not anything special Claussen is doing except heaving it. This team has more talent then any other school, yet they fail miserably. Why? Weis. Weis is beginning to fail miserably. We are headed for more of the same with him, despair, confusion, lethargic and downright drpressing. This is the beginning of the end for Weis. i can only hope that the end will come soon.

  18. Amen…..Don’t think the OL or special teams will improve until the respective coaches are coaching elsewhere. Expect more mediocre play as the coaching is unable to elevate it higher.

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