Monday, November 30, 2009

Swarbrick Speaks | by Pat has the transcript of Jack Swarbrick's presser up with audio of Rob Ianello's follow-up comments. It's definitely worth a read. Here's the intro where Jack makes the official news even more official.

Good evening. Thank you all very much for joining us here this evening. As indicated by a press release that we issued earlier today, last night I made a recommendation to Father Jenkins that we take our football program in a different direction by replacing our head coach. Father Jenkins accepted that recommendation, and so effective December 1st, we will move forward in that way. ...

[Charlie] will go on to have great success. He'll add some Super Bowl rings, no doubt, to the ones he already has as a successful coordinator in the NFL, and we will miss him. But for us it's time to move forward. It's time to move forward because it is critical to this program and to its place in this University and college football that we compete at the highest level, that we compete for National Championships.
Jack seemed pretty confident and in control as he talked about ND possibly playing in a bowl game (no decision yet) and the timetable for the coaching search (open-ended, but will "move as expeditiously as we can").

If you're looking for clues about which direction ND is headed, Jack didn't offer much, but this quote seems to frame the ideal candidate rather well.
Q. Can you describe what -- you're a data guy, you've crunched the numbers. What's important to you in the next guy, football philosophy wise?

JACK SWARBRICK: Well, I won't go into the specific criteria. We have developed a list of criteria to help us shape the search. But I think I will say that it is important to us to look first and foremost at people who have demonstrated an ability to build and sustain a Division I college football program.
Jack also noted the need for a strong defense, which may or may not be relevant to who ND ultimately hires. Often coaching searches look for the opposite of the guy they just fired, so this could be a bit of that, but I have to agree with the old saw that defense wins championships.
Q. Given the defensive struggles this year, is there any priority given to a coach that tends to have experience on one side of the ball or the other?

JACK SWARBRICK: I don't think you can afford to be that narrow in your approach to candidates. My personal view is that given where we play and who we play, we need to be able to play good defense. And if you look at the defensive rankings of the leading teams this year, there's a correlation between BCS standings and defensive abilities, and so it's important to us, but it's not a limiter in terms of the background of the coach.

Stoops Speaks | by Pat

You had to figure the reaction to the firing would come out quickly. This one came way too fast for any ND fans liking. There was an incredible amount of smoke surrounding the "Stoops to ND" internet rumors the past few days. And Bob didn't waste any time in stamping them out.

"I intend to be at Oklahoma. Yes, that's what I intend to do," the Sooner coach said when specifically asked about the Notre Dame rumors. "I will never confirm or deny whether I talk or not talk to anybody, and I won't be interviewing for any jobs."

Asked for a little more clarity, Stoops said: "What I'm saying is I'm going to be Oklahoma next year, so I can't be at two places at once."
Now unless you believe Stoops is channeling Utah-era Urban Meyer, that's a pretty definitive statement. The timing is perhaps even more instructive, coming right on the heels of ND's official announcement(update: on second thought, it sounds like a regularly scheduled presser with the media, so maybe the timing isn't quite as instructive). Sure, we'd all love to think like Lloyd Christmas on this one, but for the moment, this feels like it did with Gruden in 2001 and Urban in 2004.

UPDATE: Give a listen to the Stoops presser yourself, here. Sounds a bit different in context. Maybe more than a bit.

Here we go | by Pat

Charlie has officially been fired, per the NY Daily News, Chicago Tribune, and ESPN. There should be a press release coming out shortly and we'll update the post with that text when it comes out.

In the meantime, coaches across the country just lost their "I'm not going to discuss a job that's not even open" rebuttal to queries about coaching at Notre Dame. Whether they are pipe dream candidates, common sense targets, or darkhorse possibilities, any reporter worth their snuff will be probing about the now vacant office in the Gug. And while any replies, dodges, half-truths, and proclamations about not being interested in a job they weren't being considered for should be taken with large grains of salt, there's still going to be a lot of official statements coming out soon. Buckle up. Here we go.


Here's the text of an email sent out to all Notre Dame students, which is also published on the official website.

Nov. 30, 2009
For Immediate Release

Weis will not be retained as Notre Dame football coach

University of Notre Dame head football coach Charlie Weis will not be retained, University director of athletics Jack Swarbrick announced today (Nov. 30).

“We have great expectations for our football program, and we have not been able to meet those expectations,” Swarbrick said. “As an alumnus, Charlie understands those goals and expectations better than most, and he’s as disappointed as anyone that we have not achieved the desired results.”

Swarbrick recommended the dismissal Sunday night to Notre Dame’s president, Rev. John I. Jenkins, C.S.C.

“We have established an evaluation process for all of our athletic programs that, in the end, results in a recommendation from Jack to me,” Father Jenkins said. “I accepted Jack’s decision and look forward to working with him on selecting a new head football coach who is the very best choice possible for the University and especially for our student-athletes.

“I am most appreciative to Coach Weis for his service to Notre Dame and our community. He and his family have my prayers and best wishes.”

Weis spent five seasons as Irish head coach from 2005-09, with his teams achieving consecutive records of 9-3 (Fiesta Bowl appearance) in ’05, 10-3 (Sugar Bowl appearance), 3-9, 7-6 (Hawai’i Bowl victory) and 6-6 in ’09 – for an overall 35-27 mark.

Swarbrick announced that Rob Ianello, the Irish assistant head coach/offense, wide receivers coach and recruiting coordinator, will assume responsibility for football operations until a new coach is hired. Ianello has spent the past five seasons on the Notre Dame staff and previously was part of football staffs at Wisconsin (1990-93, 2003-04), Arizona (1994-2002) and Alabama (1987-89).

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Thank you, Coach Weis | by Jeff

Thank you for giving your blood, sweat, and tears (and your knees) working to get Notre Dame back on top,

Thank you for leaving the program better than you found it,

Thank you for graduating your players and running a clean program,

Thank you for dismissing the media’s consensus that ND can’t recruit at a high level anymore,

Thank you for teaching me to spell Samardzija and Zbikowski,

Thank you for Pitt '05, Michigan '05, Stanford '05, MSU '06, UCLA '06, Michigan '08, Hawaii '08, and some exciting games in '09,

Thank you for “Pass Right”,

Thank you for helping me meet my wife (I met her the night I went out for the Zbikowski fight),

Thank you for making me care about ND football again.

God bless you and your family and I wish you all the best in your next endeavor.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

And so it ends | by Pat

In a game that was a microcosm of the entire season, ND couldn't hold on to a lead once again and a season with such high hopes ends at a miserable 6-6. In the next few days Notre Dame will officially fire Charlie and for the fourth time this decade we will see rumors, gossip, public denials, and media speculation fly until someone steps behind the podium in the Gug as Notre Dame's 15th head coach.

To those running this search, all I can say is good luck, and don't screw it up.

Game Day! | by Pat

Go Irish! Beat Cardinal!

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Happy Thanksgiving | by Pat

Happy Thanksgiving from BGS to all. Thanksgiving really is one of the best holidays of the year. Food, football, and family. That's about it and what more do you need. A special thanks to those who have helped shape and contribute to this blog over the past few years. By far the best part about doing this is the contributions from those who chime in, be it regularly or rarely, and help make up the BGS family. Thanks to you for making this site what it is.

You can't really put today better than Charlie did earlier in the week.

"The way our schedule is set up, it'll give me an opportunity to get home on Thursday afternoon and just be able to hang out with the family for the day, and you want to know something, there's nothing better than that. Nothing. Nothing."

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

the Home Stretch | by Pat

Every year since he's been head coach, Charlie has stayed behind in California after the last regular season game against Southern Cal or Stanford in order to recruit and visit the remaining west coast recruits still considering Notre Dame. Finding out his plan post-Stanford this year would be another big clue as to not only what will happen with him, but also the timeline of when things might go down.

Yesterday, Jack Swarbrick let the cat out of the bag.

Notre Dame athletics director Jack Swarbrick said Tuesday that Weis will return to South Bend, Ind., after the game, and the two will likely meet within a few days to discuss the coach's future and that of the program.
What makes this news notable isn't so much that Charlie and Jack will sit down and discuss future plans. What is an even bigger hint to the outcome we all expect is that Charlie won't be doing any recruiting in the interim. Per NCAA rules, head coaches get one in-home visit per recruit. If Charlie were to use his in-house visits with west coast recruits like Anthony Barr and others after the Stanford game, as he has done in years past, then a potential new head coach would not have an in-home visit available and any interested recruit would be forced to travel to South Bend to meet him. Now, those in-house visits will be kept as an available option.

Assuming ND has been running a search, they've been doing a pretty good job so far of keeping things quiet. Many of the usual news leaks appear to have been plugged. Letting everyone know Charlie is coming back to ND so early in the week might not have been the best idea for keeping things as quiet as possible, but it's not like we all don't know what is coming. In the meantime, the team is prepped to fly out to California for Turkey Day and the final tilt against the one yearly opponent that has yet to beat Notre Dame in the Charlie Weis era.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Tough Stuff | by Jay

There's a must-read by our old friend John Walters on the fanhouse today. Walters caught up with Charlie at the crack of dawn Sunday after the Connecticut loss, and it seems as if our beleaguered coach was ready to unload some pent-up frustrations.

SOUTH BEND, Ind. -- The November darkness is unseasonably warm. Charlie Weis steps out of his black Yukon SUV toting two bagels and two coffees. Clad in gray Notre Dame football sweats and shower sandals, America's most renowned embattled football coach, if not employee, has brought breakfast for his first visitor of the day.

The time is 4:28 AM.

"I bet you thought I wasn't going to show up," Weis says with a rueful smile Sunday morning.

"I wouldn't have blamed you if you'd hit the 'snooze' button," the reporter says.

How could you? Only 10 hours earlier the fifth-year coach had trudged off the field at Notre Dame Stadium, perhaps for the last time as the leader of this program, following a 33-30 double-overtime defeat to Connecticut. The intervening hours have been anything but restful.

"I spent about three hours last night answering text messages from players and coaches saying they're sorry," Weis says. "I'm texting them back telling them it wasn't their fault."

Earlier in the evening, Sergio Brown stood bawling in Weis's second-floor office in the Guglielmino Athletic Complex (a.k.a., the Gug). Brown, the senior safety whose late-hit penalty in the second quarter provided the game's first tidal shift in the Huskies' favor, feels particularly responsible. Weis was having none of it

"The bottom line is, we're 6-5 and somebody is responsible," says Weis. "That somebody is me. And I have to accept responsibility."

Sometimes you just cannot outwork a problem. Notre Dame is flirting with its second .500 regular season in the past two years. And while the past three weeks have seen a litany of inexplicable player errors, from a pass being thrown into Michael Floyd's back at the goal line to Brown's late hit (the pass was already out of bounds when he launched himself into the receiver), ultimately the buck stops at the man who makes the most of them. This Saturday at Stanford, Weis will likely be coaching his alma mater for the final time.
The article goes on, and is worth the full read. Tough stuff. Depending on how much charity you afford him, I suppose your reaction to Charlie's outpourings may vary.

For my part, I'm saddened at how this has all turned out. I could probably do a thousand-word ramble trying to sum up my feelings about everything here, but I'll shake my head, and keep it short.

It's a cryin' shame.

Statistically Speaking: Coaching Search edition | by Pat

Hat tip to Paul at Classic Ground for bringing this one to my attention. Prof. John Soares, who teaches "Sport in American History" at ND, wrote in to the South Bend Tribune with a simple and persuasive plan for getting ND football back on top.

Would you like to know what might be the surest bet in sports — one that may come into play if the men who run the University of Notre Dame throw Charlie Weis under the bus and hire a new football coach? When Notre Dame hires an experienced, successful, major college football head coach, the success rate in turning the Irish into national champions is 100 percent. When Notre Dame hires anybody else, the success rate is 14 percent.

You read that correctly. Since 1940, every single time Notre Dame has hired a college football head coach who has taken multiple teams to major bowls and achieved Top 10 national rankings, he has coached the Irish to at least one national championship and has posted regular Top 10 finishes in the national rankings. Every single time.

Of the other seven coaches, Notre Dame has hired in that time period, only one has turned the Irish into national champions.
That lone exception is Ara, who, quite honestly had a pretty impressive track record of his own as head coach of Miami University and Northwestern, taking the latter to #1 in the nation briefly in 1962. Still, the larger point stands that the surest road to success is to hire a proven coach and leave the fliers and up-and-comers for someone else.
In statistical terms, the disparity between these groups of coaches is astonishing. Even including Parseghian's fabulously successful 11-year run, the coaches who came without big-time college head-coaching bona fides guided Notre Dame for 40 years, won two national championships and posted a winning percentage of .638; those with big-time college head-coaching bona fides coached 28 years, won six national titles and posted a winning percentage near .800.

Without Parseghian, the comparison is even more lopsided: zero national championships compared to six, four Top 10 finishes as opposed to 17, a winning percentage of about .560 compared to a winning percentage near .800.

This is not to say that there are no coaches out there with résumés resembling Parseghian's who are ready to wake up the echoes. But if Notre Dame's leaders decide to make a coaching change and want to play the odds, an experienced, proven, big-time college football head coach is the surest bet to put the Irish on the track to a national championship.

Stage 5: Acceptance | by Pat

Probably one of the toughest things to watch last Saturday wasn't ND's lack of run defense, but the sight of Charlie tearing up as he walked out onto the field, arm in arm with the senior leaders of the team. It seemed to confirm every suspicion that Charlie knows he's gone and was getting emotional over one final walk out of the tunnel. And while that still may be the case, Charlie offered that what got him choked up was the fact the players wanted him to lead them out onto the field.

"You would have to ask them about that. I had no idea they were going to do that. They just told me they wanted to come back after the 33 seniors were introduced. They wanted to come back. I was standing in the back because I hobble out there as I always do. And getting up front for what? And they said we're walking out together, and so be it. That's what you want, that's what we'll do.

I looked at Olsen, had a couple of choice words for him. Because it was probably his idea. But it was nice that they wanted that, they wanted to do that...

I'm pretty emotional. I just try not letting you see it. You know, the fact here's the only thing that got me was the fact that they wanted to do this and they wanted me up there, that meant a lot to me. You know, that's all I can say, you know.

I'm really proud of these kids. I'm really disappointed for them, especially those guys. Those guys up at the front of that list, I really, really truly feel bad for them.
Regardless of if Charlie was thinking about the looming end of his Notre Dame career prior to the game, he certainly had some sobering and honest thoughts about it during his Sunday presser when reminded of the words he spoke at his introductory press conference back in December of 2004.
Q. I'll make it real quick. The comment about 6 and 5 is not good enough.

COACH Charlie Weis: And I still agree with that.

Q. And so my question is, then, do you feel that because that's not good enough, is there a justification on the university's part to call an end to this era?

COACH Charlie Weis: You know something, if they decide to make a change, I'd have to say that I'd have a tough time arguing with that. They decided to make a change. I'd have a tough time arguing with that. Because 6 and 5 isn't good enough. Especially when you've lost five games by a touchdown or less. And several 3 point games and you're right down to the wire. My intent is to be here. But if that were the rationale, it would be tough for me to argue with that point.
And so it goes as we head into the final week of the season and likely the final week of the Charlie Weis era at Notre Dame.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Gameday | by Jay

Go Irish! Beat Huskies!

Friday, November 20, 2009

One Final Appearance | by Pat

Believe it or not, Notre Dame plays a football game tomorrow, and its Senior Day nonetheless. With all the news, rumors, and gossip about the possible coaching search, the game itself seems to have become a bit of an afterthought. Granted, a late November game against UConn with nothing really on the line is hardly a stirring matchup, but it's still the final chance for ND fans to see a number of players in their last ND home game.

In addition to the very real possibility that Jimmy Clausen and Golden Tate could be playing in their final game in Notre Dame Stadium, it will definitely be the final game for players like Kyle McCarthy, Sam Young (setting an ND record for career starts in the process), Eric Olsen, Paul Duncan, Evan Sharpley, Mike Anello, Robby Parris, Ray Herring, Scott Smith, Toryan Smith, John Ryan, James Aldridge, George West, Sergio Brown, Raeshon McNeil, Mo Richardson, and a handful of walk-ons. Fellow seniors Darrin Walls, Chris Stewart, Dan Wenger, Barry Gallup, Paddy Mullen, Ryan Burkhart, Kallen Wade, Eric Maust, and Leonard Gordon have a remaining year of eligibility, but it is still their last chance to run through the tunnel with their classmates (and play against a former one in Zach Frazer).

So even if you aren't happy with the folks that brought them to ND, raise a glass on Saturday to the class that started to hop on board a Notre Dame program over four years ago that was still reeling and was in desperate need of a talent infusion. They saw more than their fair share of attrition the past few years and overall the class didn't pan out like many had expected, but they all helped to pull the program away from the abyss and get it pointed in the general right direction. They won't go down as the class that put things right at ND, but they did help build the foundation that others will hopefully stand on. So to them, Sláinte.

As for the thought that this could be Charlie's final spin through Notre Dame Stadium too, he insisted he isn't going to waste time thinking about that possibility.

"Not one bit. That would be very selfish for me to do it, to start off with," he said. "I'd have to be very, very, very selfish for me to be thinking about anyone other than those fourth- and fifth-year players. I promise as far as I could ever tell I don't think those thoughts would ever enter my mind."

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Prognosis Negative | by Pat

There isn't much to rehash in ND's ugly 27-22 loss to Pitt this past Saturday. It featured many of the same issues that have become all too familiar lately: a running game that disappeared, curious play calling, lackluster defense, questionable interpretations of "indisputable" by the replay officials, some amazing plays from Golden Tate, and ultimately a game that came down to the final drive, this time with ND coming out on the losing side of the ledger. And as the game wound down to the unsatisfying conclusion, Brent Musburger accurately noted that with the loss "the long knives are now out for Charlie Weis".

Out they are as no one in the media (and, to be fair, any ND message board) can resist chiming in on Charlie's future and a possible ND coaching search. From official calls for his job to lists of potential replacements to the always fun and rarely accurate "my sources say" types, it's only the beginning of the media crap storm that will dominate ND-related news the next few weeks, to say nothing of the inevitable brainless op-eds from clueless outsiders on how ND should run the football program and to-be-expected reports of people mentioned as possible candidates suddenly getting contract extensions at their current job. (And as a reminder, when it comes to coaching searches, it ain't over, 'til it's over.)

In the meantime, ND is offering little to no chum to the shark-infested waters begging for an official proclamation.

Q. Charlie, one dreaded big-picture question from me. To your knowledge, has a decision been made with regards to 2010 for your future?

COACH WEIS: Oh, no. I don't think that, you know, that any decision has been made because I probably would know, you know. And I don't know. So with that being said, you know, full speed ahead. That's full speed ahead with UConn, then full speed ahead to Stanford and full speed ahead to going on the road recruiting and that is exactly the way we're approaching it.
And yet, while Swarbrick is offering up generic AD-speak like the following...
"It's not like you don't evaluate during the year; you evaluate all year. But my practice is to make sure I've got the full season's worth of information and then conclude the evaluation."'s hard not to read too much in to quotes like this...
"Let's let it finish out," Swarbrick said Sunday. "We said at the beginning of the season that we wanted to be in contention for and in the discussion of the (Bowl Championship Series) bowls, and for a while we were. But we didn't stay in contention as long as any of us would have liked.
...and this.
"I want to be clear: This has nothing to do with Notre Dame saying, 'Oh, gosh, given our resources it's [Charlie's buyout] not a factor.' That's not why it's not a factor. It's not a factor because there are other things more important relating to our goals for the program and the experience of the student-athletes."
So what does it all mean? It means it is extremely likely that another Notre Dame coach, an alum who clearly loves the University nonetheless, has failed and will be fired. Granted, nothing is official and there are still two regular season games left to be played, but those last two statements from Swarbrick are hard to read any other way. And when you add in the rumors that ND did some cursory looking around at the end of the 2008 season before deciding to bring Charlie back, his chances of returning in 2010 realistically seem slim. If the expected does come to pass, this will be the third straight failed coach for Notre Dame, an unprecendented streak in the long and cyclical history of the program. This current nadir has lasted longer than any previous one and with the '00s coming to a close, for the first time since the AP poll started in 1936, ND football will see a decade come and go without finishing a single season in the AP Top 5. Whatever decisions are made over the next few weeks, there have rarely been more important ones made concerning the future of ND football.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Game Day! | by Pat

Go Irish! Beat Pitt and the 'stache!

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

the Pitt and the pendulum | by Jay

The Pitt game presents an interesting pivot/reflection point on Weis. He cruised into Pittsburgh in 2005 and immediately grabbed the attention of the college football world and the hearts of Notre Dame fans, and now, in 2009, he's returning to Pittsburgh to participate in a contest that, at best, might cast some doubt on whether he can keep his job. Similar thoughts from the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review:

No. 8 Pitt (8-1), with its highest ranking in two decades, will play host to Notre Dame (6-3) on Saturday night in their first meeting at Heinz Field since that memorable 2005 opener, when the Brady Quinn-led Fighting Irish ruined Wannstedt's debut by rolling up more than 500 total yards on the 23rd-ranked Panthers.

"That was a tough game for us," sixth-year middle linebacker Adam Gunn said. "It was a wake-up call."

Back then, Weis was the hot-shot former NFL assistant poised to return his alma mater to national prominence, while Wannstedt was on his way to going 16-19 in his first three years at Pitt.

"We found out real quick that we had work to do," Wannstedt said. "We were probably just a little bit ahead of ourselves."

Both coaches have similar records at their respective schools (Weis 35-24, Wannstedt 33-24), but Weis, coming off a 23-21 loss to Navy, is under fire. Wannstedt is a candidate for numerous national coach of the year awards.
If you had told an ND fan at halftime of the 2005 game that we'd be where we are now upon the return to Heinz Field four years later, they'd never have believed it. Just take a look back at the BGS archives following that game; we Irish fans were positively giddy.

There's also an irony or something in the fact that Weis followed up his heroic debut against Pitt by beating what was supposed to be a very good Michigan team on the road. Meanwhile, this year he managed to lose to probably the second-worst Michigan team in the last three decades.

If you put the two coaches side by side, and set the frame from 2005 onwards, at this point it's pretty tough to consider Charlie the winner. About the only thing that would change that equation is beating the Panthers tomorrow.

Sunday, November 08, 2009

Indefensible | by Jay

(First off, I wanted to say I'm sorry I haven't been able to be more active on the blog this football season, but with work heating up it's harder and harder to find that quiet time you need to pull together something of substance and quality. The morning after last night's debacle I find myself with some of that quietude, so I thought I would spill some ink -- although I make no guarantees for substance or quality. I'm rusty. On a related note, thanks very much to my colleague Pat for keeping things rolling while I've been slumming it for the man.)

Losing to Navy is indefensible, and I'm not here to defend it. But winning a football game is about maximizing your possessions more than the other guy, and there are specific reasons we lost this game. On defense...

1. We were out-schemed on the option, with adjustments coming too little and too late. Our defensive staff assumed Navy would play the same reads and keys that we shut down so successfully last year, and when they didn't, we were caught flat-footed. This led to two touchdowns for Navy on their first two possessions of the game. Put this on Tenuta and Brown (and Weis) for not reacting quickly enough: our players were flailing to cover, alternately, the fullback and the pitchman, and by Navy's second drive we were already down 14.

Want some proof?

COACH NIUMATALOLO: "I think the one thing that helped us, and I really hope this doesn't come across wrong, but I think the thing that helped us this year was last year because we knew that they'd line up the same way. We didn't execute very well last year, and coming into this year they did a great job against us last year defensively, so we had a pretty good clue that they were going to come back and do the same things as they did last year, and we had a few things. We were expecting that same defense that we saw last year.

But it was still a grind. I mean, they're still a great defense, and we thought we had some alignments in some of our formations. But it was a grind to get yardage against them even though we thought we had some numbers advantages in certain formations."

Ian Williams: "They just played harder. They out-schemed us, and they just played harder. I know we played our hearts out, I played my heart out, but I guess they just had a better scheme than we did. They watched film and obviously did the right things and made the right changes [from last year's game]. They spotted a weakness in our defense, they knew what scheme we were going to come out in, and they put a great game plan together."

Greg Jones: "We had a different formation and they were keying on the inside receivers. It was a play we were working on all week and saving it for Notre Dame."
2. The third TD for Navy didn't come until late in the third quarter, after a couple of punts and a missed FG. It was a 3-play scoring drive -- very un-Navy-like -- finishing on a surprise pass to an uncovered receiver for 52 yards. Was it a scheme issue, or a player screw-up? Hard to tell. (Robert Blanton thought the Navy receiver was ineligible, but Charlie disagreed with him in the postgame. Either way, you have to cover a guy running free down the middle of the field, even if you think he's ineligible.)

And that was the sum total of Navy offensive scoring for the day. Yes, they ran for 350 yards. But overall yards for them wasn't much more than they usually gain.

On offense...

3. The Irish had 10 possessions in the game. We drove the field relatively easily on all of them; in fact, Clausen completed 73% of his passes. Astoundingly, we never once punted. Yet we scored only three times. On the other seven possessions:

4. On our first drive Parris fumbles at midfield and Navy scores easily on a short field on their first drive of the game. See #1.

5. Two missed field goals by Tausch. Each was within our kicker's range. Neither appeared to be a bad snap. The guy had made 15 in a row. Shit happens.

6. Turnover on downs inside the five. I questioned the call to go for it at that point, even though we were down 14 already. Furthermore, I don't know about the playcalling once we reached first and goal at the two; although we pounded Hughes twice, he had a net -1 loss for both runs. Regardless, Charlie should have found something that worked.

7. Jimmy fumbles on the one-foot line trying to score.

8. Jimmy bounces a pass off Floyd's back inside the 10 that pinballs right to a Navy defender.

9. Finally, there's the safety, a product of poor field position (13 yard line to start), a drop by Floyd, a sack, and then another sack.

In summary, I look at all this and I see serious issues with coaching on the defensive side of the ball. I also see squandered opportunities on offense mostly due not to scheme or playcalling, but player mistakes at critical junctures that were frankly quite surprising given the players involved. Jimmy has a career day; Jimmy fumbles on the one. Floyd had a career day; Floyd screws up a play in the redzone that leads to a TO. Tausch hits 15 straight; Tausch misses his next two badly. How did I put it up above? Oh, yeah: shit happens.

Now that we know how we lost, let the wild Charlie employment debate rumpus start-- err, continue.

Saturday, November 07, 2009

Unanimity | by Dylan

Game Day! | by Pat

Go Irish! Beat Navy!

Friday, November 06, 2009

Statistically Speaking: Washington State | by Pat

It Came From the Game Notes

• Sophomore LB Darius Fleming's 1.64 tackles for loss per game is tied for 8th in the nation.

• Based on the cumulative record of future opposition, only two schools (Ohio State and Pittsburgh) ranked in this week’s BCS top 25 face a tougher schedule the rest of the regular season.

• Golden Tate is 2nd in the nation in receiving touchdowns, 4th in the nation in receiving yards, and 18th in all-purpose yards.

• Nick Tausch is currently tied for 2nd in the nation in field goals made percentage at 93% and is tied with Golden Tate for 23rd in the nation in scoring.

Battle for 1st Down

Updated table here.

When I started this metric, I really didn't know if it would prove useful. It was just a way to track how ND did against one of Tenuta's stated defensive goals. I have to admit that it doesn't appear terribly useful on a game by game basis. Perhaps over the long run it does a decent job showcasing the ability of the defense, but taking a single game doesn't add much insight without the best of context.

The obvious example of this is this past weekend's game. ND's 1st down run defense was the worst it was all season, winning only 18% of all downs. And it was low before ND cleared the bench too. Through the first 3 quarters it was only a 12% win rate. Compare that with the SC game, where ND stopped 70% of the Trojans's first down runs. Perhaps the numbers can't be terribly trusted against a completely outmatched opponent in a blowout game. After all, ND only won 11% of 1st down rushes against Hawaii, another lopsided ND victory.

Against the pass, ND was far better, winning 58% of the passing first downs. Both of ND's interceptions and two of the sacks came on 1st down as ND won 7 of 12 first downs. That grades out to an overall win rate of 39%, the third lowest of the year. Like I wrote earlier, perhaps this metric can point to why a team did better or worse than expected, but isn't terribly useful on a game by game basis. Or maybe I'm missing something. What do you think?


Updated table here.

As you might expect, the ND offense was able to slice through the Cougar defense. Even with a few dumb penalties and red zone mistakes, ND picked up 85% of available yardage in the first half on way to a game long percentage of 62.14%, the third highest number of the year.

Defensively, it was about what you would expect from looking at the final score as well. The Cougars only amassed 19.66% of all possible yardage. Only the hapless Huskies from last season have done worse in the past two seasons.

Gimme M.O.E.

Updated table here.

It says something about either ND's offense or the defense's that they are facing that ND can be the 5th overall offense in the country and still make so many mistakes. For the 6th time out of 8 games, ND was over the 12% goal with a M.O.E. score of 13%. Just imagine what this offense could do if they toned down the penalties. 7 penalties against the Cougars are the main culprit this week as ND has already picked up as many offensive penalties (33) as they did all last season.

Defensively, the Cougars made mistake after mistake including penalties, sacks, and interceptions. Their 23% score is easily the highest of the season for an opposing offense and was topped only last season by Hawaii.

Season Long Running Stats

Updated table here.

With only four games left in the season, it's unlikely that too many numbers will make large leaps. So we can all start to compare where ND has experienced some of the biggest gains and biggest setbacks, statistically, from last season.

Thursday, November 05, 2009

Let your captain regale | by Pat

I'm still wrapping up the Stats post. In the meantime, here's the latest excellent effort from the boys at The House Rock Built as they document the buildup to the Navy game. Good luck getting this song out of your head the rest of the day.

Wednesday, November 04, 2009

Washington State Photo and Video Galleries | by Pat

Time to post some pics from this week's game. As usual the ND Gameday site has some stunning photos of the whole weekend. Make sure to check out, Irish Sports Report, and for more pictures of the game. As for the picture of the week, how can you pick any picture other than Marcus Marter's snapshot of Golden Tate hauling in the halftime hail mary over three Washington State defenders? Matt Cashore has an excellent shot of Tate elevating a second before hauling in the pass as well.

As NBC covered the "home" game, there are replays up on and Hulu. Here's the 1st quarter, 2nd quarter, 3rd quarter, and 4th quarter. You can also watch the game highlights, and the band.

Finally, let's take another look at one of the better catches you'll see this year, courtesy of Paul at Classic Ground.

Tuesday, November 03, 2009

Pick Six Update | by Pat

The Pick Six rankings have been updated. Click on over and try to remember why you picked Ole Miss or Florida State.

Monday, November 02, 2009

Filling up fast | by Pat

ND got some more good recruiting news this past week with two more public commits, bringing the current recruiting class up to 18. First up was Florida running back Giovanni Bernard.

The 5'9" 195 pound Bernard visited Notre Dame for the Southern Cal game and followed that up with a trip to Nebraska. After returning home he made the decision to commit to the Irish.

"Notre Dame is the perfect fit for me,'' Bernard said. "The education, the alumni and the entire college atmosphere. I am excited about the opportunity.''
Bernard goes to St. Thomas Aquinas in Florida, giving ND another player from the alma mater of Sam Young, Dan Wenger, Ben Turk, and Jordan Cowart.

Both Rivals and Scout rank Bernard as a 4-star recruit and the 12th overall running back recruit. Scout also has him as a Top 100 recruit, checking in at #88 while Rivals has him as the #162 recruit in their Top 250. ESPN gave Bernard 4 stars as well and put him as the #16 running back and a 79 overall grade. When it comes to offers, Bernard's list is long and impressive. In addition to finalists Nebraska and Oregon State, where his brother Yvenson was a star running back, Bernard has offers from Florida, Alabama, Oklahoma, Tennessee, Florida State, Miami, and many others.

ND is now likely done at running back with Cameron Roberson and Bernard both on board. Check out some of his highlights in this video interview from earlier in the year and see why Bernard is getting some Autry Denson/Darius Walker comparisons. Here's the depth chart breakdown at running back/fullback for 2010 when Roberson and Bernard show up on campus

Fifth Year
Senior Junior Sophomore Freshman

Armando Allen
Jonas Gray
Theo Riddick
Cameron Roberson

Robert Hughes

Cierre Wood*
Gio Bernard

Steve Paskorz*

The other good news came on Friday when Texas cornerback Toney Hurd, Jr. went public and announced for Notre Dame. Corwin Brown visited Hurd's high school on the same day as ND was making their way to San Antonio for the weekend's game, but due to NCAA rules, Hurd couldn't talk to Brown directly and had to call the staff on the phone to commit.

Rivals has the 5'9" 185 pound Hurd as a 3 star CB and only the 44th overall cornerback recruit, but they also put him as 2nd Team Defense from last January's US Army Bowl Underclassmen Combine. He's a 3 star on Scout and the #26 overall CB. ESPN slots him a bit higher than the other two, giving Hurd 4 stars and labeling him as the #10 corner in the nation. They also have him at #120 in their Top 150 list and give him a grade of 81, tying Tai-ler Jones for highest in the current recruiting class. (In completely unrelated news, both Jones and Hurd are also signed up to play in the ESPN All-American Bowl game in January.)

Like others in this class, Hurd has a strong offer list despite the 3-star recruiting site ranking. Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, Nebraska, Florida State, Oregon, and Texas A&M all offered Hurd.

Adding Hurd gives ND three corners in the current class as Toney joins the Florida duo of Lo Wood and Spencer Boyd. Here's the depth chart at corner for 2010.

Fifth Year
Senior Junior Sophomore Freshman
Darrin Walls*
Gary Gray*
Robert Blanton
E.J. Banks*
Lo Wood

J. Slaughter*

Spencer Boyd

Toney Hurd

With 18 recruits in the class already, there aren't too many spots left with plenty of players still on the board. There is still room for around 7 recruits, give or take a few depending on 5th year decisions and other attrition. Heading into the recruiting homestretch, ND already has a solid class but needs to close out strong with some of the remaining top players still heavily considering ND in order to have the kind of strong class needed to keep up with other top programs.