The game didn't go how we expected it to go, and that fact was made painfully obvious in the first half. Perhaps our expectations levels for this season need as much adjusting as the team itself?
Probably. Notre Dame's 31-24 win over Purdue has done nothing to embolden the spirits of the Irish faithful, and in many circles it has actually dimmed them another notch following the loss to Michigan the week before.
I get it. This does not look like the team that rose to #1 and played its way to the BCS Championship game. But, if you want to be honest about it, that team didn't look like that for most of the year either. That's not to say that this team has a LOT of issues, but only that perhaps Kelly isn't blowing smoke up our butts about this team being a "work in progress."
We shall see.
The nonsense of crying out for Brian Kelly to bench Tommy Rees needs to come to an abrupt stop. It's easy to put the woes of a team on the quarterback, and even easier to do so when the offense doesn't function as we would hope. The simple truth is the one that most people choose to ignore... Tommy Rees is the best quarterback on the roster, and he is the single best leader on the team. It's time for everyone to accept that and rally behind Tommy.
Everett Golson is not walking out of that tunnel. Instead, Tommy Rees is at the helm and all he has done this season is throw for 969 yards, 7 touchdowns, with only 2 interceptions which puts him on pace for over 3800 yards, 28 touchdowns with only 8 interceptions. That's not too bad. The Irish are 2-1 and if you want to put the loss to Michigan on Tommy, need I remind you of the awful play of the defense which allowed 41 points?
So buckle up and get ready. Tommy Rees is the starter at quarterback in 2013 and I am 100% on board. The other options are too messy to even think about right now. We have now seen that Tommy has the arm strength to stretch the field just enough to keep defenses more honest and with the weapons that ND has on the outside, those defenses better respect it. Well, at least we'll know soon enough.
Regardless, calling for Tommy's head is not only wrong, but stupidly wrong. The sooner we all come to grips with that reality, the sooner we can focus on the real issues at hand and not on a quarterback that has played efficient while LEADING this team.
Follow The Leader
Notre Dame may have assigned 3 players to be captain this season, but I haven't seen anyone with a "C" on their chest lead anyone yet. The absence of emotion and the way that the Irish have looked completely flat early in games this season has been as noticeable as an Amish family walking into a strip club.
The fire that the defense had last year doesn't even have a spark. Count me as one of those that thought the defense wouldn't lose much of a step this year, and you can count me as one of those that were terribly wrong. It is obvious that the emotional center that guys like KLM, Motta, and Te'o created last year has not and will not be making an appearance this season.
That isn't to say that the captains aren't good leaders, but they are certainly not the great leaders from last year. Take for example the catch that TJ Jones made on the sideline that needed reviewing; Jones didn't even plead his case- he just started walking back to the huddle. Maybe that's okay for a guy like Chris Brown, but not for a senior captain. No one is taking the stage as the leader of this team other than- wait for it... Tommy Rees.
This is a huge issue on the team right now as the leaders on the field can help correct and direct guys after they make fundamental mistakes like not breaking down for a tackle, or getting in a guys face and letting him know that he needs to WRAP THAT DUDE UP. Little things like that can go a long way, and they can injure a team severely if they are not done. We are seeing the latter, and the results have been well below a passing grade.
The Running Game
I'm not going to write a bunch of paragraphs complaining about the lack of carries from Folston & Bryant. No, my concern is something far more basic and much more damaging- where are the cutbacks?
Forget the number of carries for a minute. Hell, forget that the line isn't getting the best push up front. You can even forget that the scheme for the running game may be suspect, and basically, not working. The biggest issue is that these backs are not recognizing the cutback lanes and other holes created as they run 2 yards into a wall at 100 miles per hour.
Their vision and patience is left wanting. Until this is corrected, I don't think we will see much more out of the running attack than what we have seen thus far. Sure, there are a lot of factors like scheme, push, and playcalling, but for me, the inability to run with vision has been the single greatest factor with the lack of production.
On To Sparty
It's a good thing the Irish are pretty healthy right now. Michigan State is almost always the most physical game of the year. THE MEGAPHONE TROPHY IS HIGHLY VALUED!
Plugging in the video from Bagpipe Monday in case you might have missed it: