Monday, September 17, 2007

Odds & Sods - Going Through The Motions Edition | by Mike

After Saturday's humiliation, these comments feel like the second half - just going through the motions.

On My Block. Three games into the season, and the OL still seem to have problems identifying their responsibilities. I don't know who was more frustrated by the offensive line's struggles - Irish fans or Paul Maguire. After the first quarter, Maguire had burned through his entire store of one-liners about poor OL play and was forced to repeat variations on "They're just not blocking anyone!" and "They did not block anybody!" for the final three quarters. Until the offensive line begins to remotely approach competence, all the other problems with this team are deck chairs on the Titanic. While Duncan and Young saw all the playing time at tackle in the first two games, we saw different combinations against Michigan. Duncan and Young flipped sides at times and "true" freshman Matt Romine saw the field. Unfortunately, these changes proved ineffective.

Can It Be All So Simple. When Weis arrived, he promised that his offense would not have a set gameplan - it would change from week to week to attack opposing defense's weak spots. In the NFL, this is a necessity. And in 2005, with a starting lineup replete with juniors and seniors, Weis was able to do this with a college team. However, with the limited practice time available in college football, I don't know if this is possible with a team as inexperienced as the 2007 Irish. While the paucity of upperclassmen starters is hardly Weis's fault, it is his responsibility to adjust his philosophy to take this reality into account. Without knowing what happens at practice, it may be futile to engage in this sort of speculation, but I think the offense has tried to learn too much before establishing any core competencies. Does anyone know what we do well? Before putting in new opponent-specific packages, I would hope we would be able to answer this question. In addition to the protean gameplans, another key to the success of the 2005 was the high level of execution. One of my favorite plays of the 2005 season was Anthony Fasano's 43-yard touchdown reception against Tennessee. It's rare for a tight end to score from over 40 yards out, but this play was made possible by the offense's ability to execute the play exactly as it was drawn up. Tennessee blitzed, but the Irish OL and Darius Walker expertly picked up the blitz. Quinn then hit Fasano perfectly in stride, allowing Fasano to lose his man. Finally, Maurice Stovall pancaked the cornerback, allowing Fasano to find the endzone. Weis was able to maintain this level of execution while implementing divergent gameplans when he had an offense that started no freshmen and only one sophomore. I suspect it may not be possible to achieve both of these ends when your roster is dominated by underclassmen. While these underclassmen gain experience, I would hope that their responsibilities can be simplified and the amount they are expected to digest reduced.

Atrocity Exhibition. Following the previous two losses, some Irish fans have attempted to diminish the sting of the throttlings by pointing to the quality of Georgia Tech and Penn State. While the quality of these teams may be an open question given their unproven quarterbacks, the quality of the Michigan team that destroyed Notre Dame is not. Michigan lost to a 1-AA team and gave up 624 yards to Oregon. This was a beatdown from a crappy, crappy opponent. To put the loss in perspective, Notre Dame was so bad they made Ron English look good (again!). Notre Dame was so bad, Lloyd Carr was looking forward to the halftime interview. As daunting a task as repairing the offense is, Weis may have an even bigger challenge holding the team's psyche together.