Friday, September 16, 2005

Tailgate Primer | by Pat

If you're hanging out at a tailgater tomorrow morning, it's pretty obvious that ND football is going to be the dominant topic of conversation. Whether it be discussing how awesome Notre Dame football is, or how Coach Weis is so awesome, you're going to want to appear up to date on the Irish. Feeding off of today's news, here are some facts, tidbits, and general points of Irish interest you can mix into your mid-morning debates.

Shining Star

Tom Zbikowski emerged as the hero of the Michigan game with his timely interception and now is garnering plenty of press for his intense play.

He is wired a little bit different," specials team coach Brian Polian said. "When he comes out of a big collision, he's got a smile on his face. Tommy never hits somebody and has to shake the cobwebs out."

"Just look at the way he looks. He looks like a kamikaze pilot on a death mission," defensive coordinator Rick Minter said.
Zibby also underwent the 20 questions treatment which produced these gems.

Willett: What is your hardest class and why?

Zbikowski: Spanish is my hardest class because it is a different language and I don't understand it most of the time.

Willett: If you were stranded on an island and could only eat one meal, only listen to one song, and spend your time with only one person; what would you eat, what would you listen to and who would you pick?

Zbikowski: I would eat pizza. I would be with my girlfriend for obvious reasons. The song would be something by Earth, Wind, and Fire so I could dance to it.

¿Cómo se dice "funk band" en español?

We Must Protect This House!

Weis reminds us all of the painful fact that Notre Dame Stadium has ceased being a place of pressure, fear, and intimidation for visiting teams.
"It used to be that people were a little bit in awe when they came here," Weis said. "I don't think that exists anymore, especially the team we're playing this week. I don't think they're in awe at all."
What used to be noisy and energetic is now a bit more subdued and reserved. Of course, the marathon NBC commercial breaks and lackluster coaching the past few years are probably the primary culprits. However, it's nothing that can't be fixed with winning football. Some encouragement from the head coach and perhaps a few extra snowcones out in the parking lot before the game can't hurt either. Bonus points if you can stir up a debate on this issue involving current students and some of the older glory days alumni who attended Notre Dame when Walsh and Zahm were still male dorms. "Back in my day......."

Out of Options

Expect to see some offensive fireworks, especially if Sparty starts to fall behind and needs a spark to get things going.
"There's always something you haven't seen in this offense," Stanton said. "Those guys in there (the offensive coaches), all they do is think of crazy plays."
Sure, it could be argued that the offensive coaches of a team that is 15-12 under their tenure might find more productive use of their time than thinking up "crazy plays", but have fun debating with your tailgating partners what sandlot trick play Coach Smith will call. Fumblerooski? Statue of Liberty? Hook and Lateral? Flea Flicker? The Fisher King Special?

A bit more mundane offensive switchup could be more option plays from State's QB, "Crazy Legs" Stanton. Coach Weis of course offered these words of wisdom to the Spartan coaches.
''The way he throws the ball, I'd do all I could not to get him hurt.''
Brandon Hoyte and Corey Mays on line one.

The best thing about freshman...

It's been quite awhile since ND fans have seen freshman see the field as much as this year. I'm sure I wasn't the only one who did a double take when he saw #41 fly across the field and tackle Steve Breaston in the Michigan game. Coach Weis warns that fans should get used to it and look out for more.
"We knew this year a lot of these guys, if they played well, were going to get themselves into the mix," Notre Dame coach Charlie Weis said. "It would not surprise me if more end up seeing time."
Expect to hear plenty of questions in the Stadium tomorrow. "Wait, #11 just caught that punt. Who is he again?" "That Bruton kid, what number is he?" "It's pronounced Koontz, right?"

Brush up your numbers beforehand or stash a roster cheat sheet to be your section's Irish Oracle when the freshman start getting into the game.

Psst...need a ticket?

Just a heads up if you get a great deal on a ticket in Section 135.

Well isn't that special?

As most ND fans discuss Drew Stanton or if SirDarean counts as one name or two, prove your tailgating football prowess by bring up the dichotomy that is Michigan State's special teams unit.

Their punter, Brandon Fields, is one of the very best in college football. Expect booming punts and coffin corner kicks that pin the Irish deep during the game.

On the flip side, none of the Spartans kickers have ever attempted a field goal in live D-1 game action. That last fact is rather important given that most of the talking heads are predicting a close, offensive shootout. A few early shanked field goals could rattle the Spartan confidence and have a big impact on the outcome of the game.

Stat Boy

In the South Bend Tribune's pre-game roundup they mentioned a stat that really is surprising (and sad).

The stat of the week comes courtesy of Irish radio play-by-play man Tony Roberts of Westwood One.

The Irish have gone seven games without a rushing TD in the fourth quarter. The last time ND did so was Oct. 9, 2004, when Ryan Grant and Brady Quinn each scored on fourth-quarter runs in a 23-15 victory over Stanford.


Stat Boy Redux

Notre Dame v. Michigan State. By the numbers.

Ok, that's it for me. Someone lock up behind me. I'm headed to South Bend.