Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Upon Further Review - Week 4 | by Dylan

A couple of notes on the MSU game before I span the globe.

First, there’s been a lot of talk about how MSU “gave” the game to Notre Dame, and that that act of charity diminishes the Irish win. You know what? I can live with that. If it makes Sparty Nation feel better to think so, I can’t begrudge them looking for some silver lining on that soul-crushing black cloud of a game. But it’s important to remember how the game was “given” to ND. It was not given as a result of freakish bad luck or random acts of God. It was given by their coach, their quarterback, and their best wide receiver. If John L. Smith had not started playing “not to lose” in the first half, State may have run away with the game. If he had not called for his special teams to execute a panic-induced kickoff non-return, and if he had played a field position game rather than throw on third and 5 from his own 15 (no doubt fearing that punting and giving the ball back to ND would inevitably lead to a score and a loss), he may still have won the game. But he didn’t do those things because he is a bad football coach. So if Sparty wants to say that they lost because their bad football coach gave the game away, I can sympathize. Notre Dame fans know that feeling well, and in the end, it’s still a loss.

Second, not only is John L. a poor coach, he’s a horrible leader, and his team has taken on his personality. He really is a suitable case for study. It seems that every word out of his mouth is a case of psychological projection. The “defend the S” embarrassment is a case in point. John L. assumes that all teams must be as undisciplined as his, therefore the “Block S” on their fifty yard line was certainly in for an Irish flag planting. John L. sent players out to “defend the S.” Think about that. He had a plan for what to do after they lost, and that plan included sending three players out to, presumably, get their asses kicked by an unruly Irish horde bent on flag-planting. Nice. Like his coach, Matt Trannon felt the need to go into the Notre Dame bench to “protect his quarterback.” Protect him from whom? Trannon assumed that Notre Dame’s bench would do to Stanton what his bench, presumably, would have done to Quinn on the other sideline. The resulting penalty nullified an ND personal foul. It was an insane reaction to an everyday play, which made it typical of a John L. Smith team. But enough about Sparty…

Ty Willingham would have lost that game by 5 touchdowns, and I don’t think that’s really debatable. As if to spite the lunatic ravings of the NDNation Game Day message board, Weis (who was called on to fire Rick Minter, Jappy Oliver, and Brian Polian by one bedwetting poster), Rick Minter, and Brady Quinn (who’s benching was being called for by many) proved that they are not prone to quitting or seeking solace in their man-molding abilities. Terrific adjustments led to a 26-6 second half. This team will never quit, and that’s something the previous staff could not say.

The SEC said “to hell with this!” after serving up some good matchups in week 3 and reverted to preseason petit four form. Here’s the non-conference slate from Saturday:

Buffalo (1-3)
Colorado (0-4)
Tulane (1-2)
Marshall (1-3)
UAB (1-3)
Tennessee State (2-2, even Vanderbilt is in on the act)
Florida Atlantic (0-4)

Good God, men. 6-21. That’s embarrassing.

The cupcake universe almost folded in upon itself when Central Michigan kicked off against Eastern Michigan. If football games can have historical analogues, this one was the Korean War. It was a civil war by proxy, with CMU (a UM spankee) and EMU (MSU appetizer) engaging in a cruller cage-match, vying for directional supremacy. Since CMU won, they get the raspberry for scheduling weakness. At least it was in conference (ahem, SEC). It is unknown at this point who will control the UP, or if they'll just give the damned thing to Wisconsin.

Not to be outdone by the SEC, Oklahoma and Nebraska, both recovering from losses, took nice, easy steambaths and let Middle Tennessee State and Troy State (respectively) gently massage their weary hammies and glutes in shutout victories. Baylor, again imitating a Big 12 team, scheduled Army. The Bears lost, proving that they have as much to learn about cupcake scheduling as they do about winning conference games.

Is West Virginia any good? There’s no way to know, really. It appears that some of the Mountaineers are fast, at least in relation to the teams they’ve played (a murderer’s row of Marshall, Eastern Washington, Maryland, and East Carolina). Their languid, banjo-accompanied waltz to The BCS Championship seems to have just one tricky step thrown in when they visit Louisville. One of those teams is going to go undefeated. Unbelievable. BYU ’84 is hoping WVU loses so they can hold on to the title of Worst National Champion Ever, assembling each week hoping to pop champagne with the ’72 Dolphins.

Florida State feasted on Rice. Stragely, an hour later they were hungry again, agitating for their next game against N.C. State, looking forward to the breast meat on the menu.

Of the teams on ND’s remaining schedule, most acquitted themselves well, with the exception of Stanford (ZOK!), UCLA (CRACK!), and North Carolina (OOOOF!). USC lost another key player to injury when last-man-standing fullback Stanley Havili broke his leg against Arizona. Purdue racked up their fourth win against what has to have been the weakest Division 1-A schedule in the country, and the Academies again showed as much grit and whatever else gritty teams have, going 2-1 against teams that scheduled them as gimmes (yeah, I know Air Force was a conference game). I love it when that happens.

Despite a bad loss crushing the dream of an undefeated season, I think getting through these past four games with a 3-1 record is a hell of an accomplishment, particularly now that we know what we (don’t) have at certain critical positions. I fully expect the Irish coaching staff to take a “back to camp” mentality into the soft part of the schedule. Hopefully, we’ll see some players get “coached up” and the Irish will emerge in November with fewer holes, a 10-1 record, a date with Southern Cal, and a BCS (Championship?) game on the line.

Go Irish!