Sunday, October 26, 2008

Odds & Sods: Un-Vicious Animals Edition | by Mike

Keep the car running. Jimmy Clausen had a decent line (14-26 for 201 yards with 1 TD and 1 INT), but it was probably Clausen's worst outing of the season. Clausen did not display the pinpoint accuracy Irish fans have come to expect this season, and it was disappointing to see him take two sacks against an anemic Washington defense. However, the Irish ground game, led by James Aldridge, picked up the slack. The running backs ran for 226 yards on 41 carries, or 5.5 yards per carry (Aldridge - 6.5; Allen - 4.1; Gray - 6.8(!); Hughes - 4.8). The Irish running backs only lost yardage on one rush, a 1-yard loss on a Jonas Gray carry when Washington knew Notre Dame would run the ball. The final scoring drive, which began in the third quarter and ended in the fourth, was beautiful. Ten plays, 60 yards, 5:23 of possession - all on the ground. Washington knew what was coming and couldn't stop it. Other highlights were Golden Tate's touchdown and the fact that ND never punted.

Clampdown. The defense provided the most dominating defensive performance of the Weis era. The Irish outgained the Huskies 452-124, forced nine punts, held the Huskies to an average of 1.1 yards per rush and 3.9 yards per attempt. While these stats are impressive, they actually understate the defensive dominance. Before the Irish defense cleared the bench halfway through the fourth quarter (playing two walk-on cornerbacks for the remainder of the game), the Huskies had the following offensive numbers: 0 points, 55 total yards, 26 yards rushing on 23 attempts (1.1 ypc), 29 yards passing on 15 attempts (1.9 ypa) and had failed to cross their own 44-yardline.

Gouge away. One of the few things that was disappointing in Saturday's game was the lack of a killer instinct. Halfway through the first quarter Notre Dame was already up 14-0, but would only score another three points during the first half. After the game, Golden Tate was quoted as follows:

"I feel like we could have scored more, but we never want to embarrass a team," said Irish wide receiver Golden Tate, who ran 21 yards for his first career touchdown on an end around in the opening quarter. "I think we let up once we had them 14-0."
Admittedly, the outcome of the game was never in doubt. However, it's surprising that a team one year removed from a 3-9 season would take their foot off the gas so early. Unless it's late in the fourth quarter, there's no need to worry about not embarrassing the other team until you're up four scores. This may seem like a misplaced concern given Washington's ineptitude, but it's not the attitude I wanted to see one game after letting a 17-6 lead against UNC evaporate almost immediately.

Metronomic underground. If it weren't for the sense of finality imparted by Saturday's game and Monday's events, the twelve-men-on-the-field penalty on Washington's first offensive play of the second half would have brought back some painful memories. There's not much need for Willingham-Weis comparisons at this point, so the only one I'll offer up is their Pac-10 records: Weis - 8-3; Willingham - 6-24.

Over the hills and Fauria. Michael Floyd continues to rewrite the records for freshmen receivers and his early 51-yard touchdown reception set the tone for the game. Other prominent freshmen included Darius Fleming, who made his first start and became the fourth member of his class to start (along with Floyd, Ethan Johnson and Kyle Rudolph), and Jonas Gray, who averaged 6.8 ypc on downs where everyone knew Notre Dame was running. I was surprised to see Joseph Fauria make his first appearance this late in the season. My first reaction was that his appearance was a waste of a redshirt year. Upon further reflection, I realized there were arguments in favor of playing Fauria. With the loss of Ragone, Yeatman and Schmidt, Fauria is the only tight end other than Rudolph. Rudolph could suffer an injury as well, and we know that Weis likes two tight-end sets. If the decision to play Fauria had been made during the game, I would have had serious concerns. However, Weis stated in his recent press conference that during the bye week the staff decided that they didn't want to go through the remainder of the season with just one available tight end.

Not half right. This doesn't relate to the Washington game, but the replay decision awarding Brandon Minor a touchdown in the Michigan State-Michigan game was simply outrageous. Last year, I was appalled at the replay decision taking away a touchdown from David Grimes in the Stanford game. As egregious as that call was, that was a case of a replay official claiming to see something that the tape did not show. That was an error in judgment. The mistake made by the replay official in the Michigan State game was an error in knowledge of the rules. In fact, the official made up a rule that is diametrically opposed to the actual rule. I was further troubled by the fact that head official Dave Witvoet's comments suggest that he knew the replay official was misapplying the rules when the call was made. I understand that the replay official is entrusted with the final decision, but when that replay official offered his explanation to Witvoet, I would think he would be well within his responsibilities to point out such a glaringly wrong application of the rules. I certainly hope that no members of this crew officiate any games involving Notre Dame. Additionally, I have to tip my cap to Mark Dantonio. Under John L. and other Sparty coaches, witnessing the officials literally give points to their opponent - particularly following a blowout loss the previous weekend - would have led to an implosion that lasted the remainder of the season. Dantonio's team kept their composure and won the game. Is this a new Sparty? (Now watch them lose to a terrible Wisconsin team this week and prove me wrong.)