Thursday, October 04, 2007

Rose Bowl Bound | by Brian

"In dramatic lore they are known as Ole,
Ric, Tully, and Arn. These are only aliases."

When Notre Dame exercises Manifest Destiny to take on UCLA this Saturday, it will mark their first appearance in the Rose Bowl since January 1, 1925, when the Irish, led by head footbawl coach Knute Rockne, beat a bunch of Pop Warner players from Stanford, 27-10, winning their first national championship. It was the final game in the careers of Notre Dame's famed Four Horsemen, one of whom in particular would play a major role in the outcome.

The Indians, as they were then known---following the change of mascot to the Pine Tree Red Singular Birds, the Stanford marching band proudly stepped up the plate in the Deliberate Insensitivity Department---were led by the legendary Ernie Nevers. Nevers recently came in at #25 on ESPN/ ESPN2/ ESPN Classic/ ESPNU/ ESPNews/ ESPN360/ ESPN Deportes/ ESPN The Magazine/ ESPN Mobile/ ESPN on ABC's list of the 25 Greatest College Football Players of All Time, a list which, once revealed in its entirety, is sure to be the definitive word on the matter, in no way overrating company employees (Right this way, Desmond Howard) or disproportionately favoring recent players (Welcome, Vince Young....Nice to see you, Matt Leinart).

Nevers would factor heavily in the game's key moments, but the star of the game, to put it mildly, was Four Horsemen member, and future Notre Dame head footbawl coach, Elmer Layden. Layden scored ND's only offensive touchdown, a three-yard run, and intercepted two Nevers passes, returning them 78 and 70 yards for touchdowns. He also handled the Notre Dame punting duties, and one of his punts was fumbled by Stanford, and returned 20 yards for a touchdown by Ed Hunsinger. Nevers never saw it coming.

The 1925 Rose Bowl was Notre Dame's first bowl appearance, and its last until 1970, due to the university's ban on postseason play and the NCAA's reluctance to sell its sanctity to Since all previous meetings with UCLA have occurred at Notre Dame Stadium, this Saturday's matchup will be ND's first trip to Pasadena since that day.

Purdue Redux

Before we preview the UCLA matchup, let's take a look back at last Saturday's loss to Purdue. It's a little segment I like to call Reflections.

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"No thanks, Urrrrban"
--- Certain lingering problems reared their ugly heads. The Irish once again struggled in running for first downs in short yardage situations, as the offensive line has been as explosive as a box of soggy Snappers. They finally converted a fourth and short in the 4th quarter, when Evan Sharpley successfully executed the "Damn it all, I'm just gonna sneak it" play, which had been one of the bread-and-butter plays in QB Browns's repertoire for the past two seasons. Also, there was continued ineptitude on special teams, including failure to fair catch a punt leading to poor field position, two missed extra points, and a blocked field goal. Though Charlie Weis can't comment publicly until Signing Day, help is on the way, as the Irish have received a verbal commitment from stud recruit Gus the Field Goal-Kicking Mule. In a press conference, Gus tapped twice for Notre Dame, having narrowed his choices down to Michigan, Florida, and the Irish. He ultimately said neigh to the Wolverines, citing their abysmal 0% ungulate graduation rate, and claimed of a rift between himself and Gator head coach Urban Meyer. According to Gus, "He's an ass."

With these problems still endemic to the program, as well as a failure to recapture the previous week's success in the running game, the tough, physical practices of the last couple of weeks will likely continue. Get ready to run Currahee, team.

--- On the plus side, the game featured breakout performances from a pair of freshman wide receivers, Duval Kamara and future Rocky villain Golden Tate, aka Thunder and Lightning. Unfortunately, Saturday was also the coming out party for former Notre Dame commit and reneger Arrelious Benn, who had a 90 yard kickoff return for a touchdown, as well as six catches for 84 yards and a touchdown, in Illinois' 27-20 upset of Joepa Terno's Penn St. Nittany Lions. According to the folks "back in the studio" who handled the highlights, Benn apparently goes by the nickname Rejus, which is a bit too close to Regis, if you ask me. I think he's stickin' it to us. Stickin'!

--- The undisputed highlight of the game was the chance to see 1989 Heisman's Trophy winner Andre Ware pump iron, question Weis's playcalling, instigate a quarterback controversy, and express righteous indignation at a highly questionable late hit by Brian Smith. It made me yearn to hear Todd Blackledge wax nostalgic about sticky buns and ice cream, or hear Keith Jackson during the 2006 Rose Bowl attempt to promote the new hotshot young guy, John STAH-mos . . . STAY-mos. "Whoa, Nellie, I am a living generation gap."

It's Fun to Play at the U...C...L A!

"You lost to 22 Utes?
What the hell is a UTE?"

UCLA enters the game with a record of 4-1, with the most impressive win, such as it is, being a 13-point victory over the enigmatic, but vicious, Washington Huskies. Their lone loss was a 44-6 depantsing at the hands of the Utah Utes, in that program's most significant victory since The Delicate Genius left Salt Lake City to take the Florida job.

The Bruins are led by quarterback Ben Olson, who almost unbelievably still has one more year of eligibility remaining despite being born when the Colts still played in Baltimore and T.J. Hooker patrolled the streets with Adrian Zmed. The 24 year old Olson was the #1 player overall in the high school class of 2002. He originally attended BYU, with his eventual transfer to UCLA partially explaining his Weinkesque longevity in the college ranks. The main reason why he is still in college, though, is the two years he spent on a Mormon mission. I don't know exactly what happens on one of those, but in my mind, I picture it like the Peace Corps scenes in Airplane!, full of tupperware parties and makeshift pickup basketball games. Also, Olson no doubt spread the story of Joseph Smith.

On the ground, the Bruins employ the two-headed running attack of Kahlil "Saved by the" Bell and Chris "Biz" Markey (aka Thunder and Lightning), while the leading receiver is Brandon Breazell, with 22 receptions and three touchdowns on the season.

The defense looks to dominate for four quarters, after giving a talented Notre Dame offense all they could handle last year for year for, oh, about 59 minutes and 5 seconds.

The leading tackler is safety Dennis "Alan" Keyes, but the guy to really keep an eye on is All-American defensive end Bruce "Al" Davis, or as I like to call him, the Ambassador of Pain. While the Irish offensive line showed significant improvement in their pass protection against Purdue, they will have their hands full with Davis and the rest of the Bruin

Pizza & Football!
It's what the Big East Does Best


While they are not Big Ten Tough, and playing them is not a Gut Check like in the SEC, and they don't make you crave pizza like in the Big East, UCLA does possess a little thing known throughout the land as Pac 10 Speed (a freakish blend of Jesse Owens, Michael Phelps, Industrial Light & Magic, and Secretariat) and one wonders if Notre Dame has the horses to keep up. I'm just throwing this out there, but The Blind Oracle at Bristol may have something to say about the matter later in this preview.

This One Is For Mike Coffey

Since Pat's Fieldhouse blog didn't exactly take the world by storm, please forgive me for adding some basketball talk to the proceedings here on BGS.

On January 19, 1974, Notre Dame's men's basketball team, led by coach Digger Phelps, beat John Wooden's UCLA squad, the 7-time defending national champions, by a score of 71-70, ending the Bruins' record 88-game winning streak, and sending the Joyce Center crowd into a frenzy of sideburns and plaid.

"That's right, am dangerous."
Interestingly, UCLA's previous loss had also been to the Irish, who had beaten the Bruins three years earlier behind 46 points from Austin Carr. It did not look like history would repeat itself, however, as the Irish trailed 70-59 with 3:30 left in the game, before going on an improbable 12-0 run the rest of the way. The go-ahead basket came from the right corner, as Dwight "Iceman" Clay gave the Irish the lead with 29 seconds left. The Notre Dame defense then faced a furious flurry by the Bruins in the waning moments, but none of their shots fell, and the Irish had what remains as arguably their biggest victory in school history.

The loss had a devastating effect on UCLA center Bill Walton, and it haunts him to this day. Occasionally, on a trip to the Joyce Center, one may spot Walton lurking outside of the arena, smelling of patchouli and Michael Jordan cologne, and with a glazed look in his eyes which belies his inner torment.


"What started out as a joke has turned into a disaster."-- Warner Wolf, Rocky IV

Incredibly, five weeks into the season, the Blind Oracle at Bristol is still making predictions which, while hackneyed and repetitive, are nonetheless stunningly and distressingly accurate. Let's see what he has to say this week, as the Irish try to keep up with some Pac 10 Speed.

"Trouble is brewin' out west. A powder blue menace aims to extend a lingering misery. An aging general leads his troops through a field of roses. Their defense stout, their lines impregnable, there is nothing the invading force can do. Bottom line, the Irish lack the team speed to keep up with the Bruins. UCLA beats Notre Dame 35-10."