Monday, September 21, 2009

Notre Dame 33, Michigan State 30

This week it's all about Saturday's ND game. An abbreviated W3R/W4P appears below.

This had to be the worst win I've ever experienced. I just felt nervous and pessimistic the entire second half, and did not enjoy the victory at all (okay, a tiny bit). I was so negative the second half because Weis teams don't have a record of comebacks, or winning the fourth quarter. I didn't have any faith that we could outscore them with a gimpy QB (it was evident that Clausen was hurt, plus he sat out the last play of the first half) and without our best receiver (the Floyd rumors were rumbling through the stands at that point). I'll do an analysis if I get the time, but basically: not good at halftime adjustments, not good at comebacks.

The scene: Saturday started great, with a fun tailgate hosted by my friend Steve and his family. Although it was 50-50 ND and MSU fans at the tailgate, the mood was lively and congenial. But once inside the stadium, I found myself seated next to a loud meathead MSU fan. Normally I have nothing against Spartans, but this guy was obnoxious and swinging his elbows and screaming at the smallest things. It put a damper on my experience. Moving on the game.

The game: In 2005 TM and I got tickets to ND vs. Brigham Young, which featured a 3-3-5 defense (means fewer guys up close to the line of scrimmage.) Offensive Genius and Head Coach-in-Training Charlie Weis had a great gameplan for taking advantage of that: the Irish lined up in 4-and-5-wide sets, and Brady Quinn chucked short, lateral passes all over the field. It got boring after a while, but it picked up six or seven yards per play, and you do that often enough, you get in the end zone.

I made a reference to that game at Steve's tailgate. But I didn't realize that offense was exactly what the Irish would come out in against MSU.

It started out great. On ND's second play from scrimmage, Clausen stepped up in the pocket and threw to Kyle Rudolph standing along on the left sideline. "Oh he's a little bit wide open!" I cried with understatement, as Rudolph rambled 52 yards. Two plays later, Armando Allen took a direct snap and went up the gut for a TD. After an MSU field goal, we marched down the field again ending with a TD pass to Michael Floyd. It was looking like an easy afternoon. (Clausen ended that quarter 9-for-9, with the other plays being the Allen Wildcat TD and two QB scrambles out of the 4-or-5-wide set. We never needed third down the whole quarter.)

The second quarter got ugly. After going for it on 4th-and-1 (with Allen getting a generous spot), ND went like this:
Tate rush out of the Wildcat, minus-1.
2nd-11: False start on Sam Young.
2nd-16: Holding penalty on Trevor Robinson.
2nd-25: Clausen sacked, injured, walks off.
3rd-35: Crist dump off to Hughes.
4th-way too far: punt. It appeared the punt touched an MSU player, so Kyle McCarthy picked it up and tried to run with it, but officials ruled it had not.

Then: the bullshitiest* drive of the season. From's play-by-play:

1-10 V20 MICHIGAN STATE drive start at 10:42.
1-10 V20 Nichol, Keith rush for 5 yards to the MSU25, out-of-bounds (BLANTON), total bullshit personal foul late hit PENALTY ND (BLANTON) when Nichol tripped out of bounds. 15 yards to the MSU40, 1ST DOWN MSU.
1-10 V40 1st and 10.
1-10 V40 Caper, Larry rush for 6 yards to the MSU46 (SMITH, H.). No penalty called when an MSU guy (hard to tell which one) shoved and crawled over a helmetless ND defender nowhere near the play.
2-4 V46 Nichol, Keith rush for 9 yards to the ND45, 1ST DOWN MSU (BROWN), another total bullshit late hit personal foul PENALTY ND (SMITH, H.) even though it was no different from any other defender running to the pile at the end of a play. 15 yards to the ND30, 1ST DOWN MSU.
1-10 H30 Timeout Notre Dame, clock 10:11.
1-10 H30 1st and 10.
1-10 H30 Martin, Keshawn pass complete to White, Blair on a halfback pass for 30 yards to the ND0, TOUCHDOWN, clock 09:30.
Swenson, Brett kick attempt good.
(At this, the meathead fan next to me was cheering like he won the game. Two bullshit penalties and a trick play does not mean your team has accomplished anything, sir.)

Oh, but we weren't done yet, cause triple-first-named coach Mark Dan Tony'O called an onside kick, which MSU recovered. That drive was shortened by an MSU fumble, but on first down, Mike Ragone dropped a pass.

The rest of the way was a lot of back and forth, with neither team dominating. Golden Tate caught the go-ahead TD pass with about 5 minutes left in the game.

Maybe it's been a long day, I dunno, but I thought this was funny.

Ultimately, it took MSU dropping a similar pass that would have won the game, followed by a Kyle McCarthy INT to ice it.

McCarthy celebrates the game-saver with Brian Smith.

Things I noticed watching a second time: The kickoff coverage is bad. On the first two kicks, MSU picked up 34 and 25 yards, giving them field position on the 45 and 32. Luckily they went three-and out-and then held to a field goal, but that will hurt us later in the season.

That said, our return game is pretty good. Theo Riddick made a guy miss and returned a kickoff 38 yards.

The hard running of Armando Allen. He bounces off defenders and forces the second guy to tackle him. He can see the hole and got the first-down conversion at least 7 times on Saturday by my count (on a 4th-and-1, 3rd-and-2, 3rd-and 3, 3rd-and-2, plus a couple 2nd down conversions). I feel like we finally have that dependable guy at running back we haven't had since Darius Walker went pro. Jonas Gray looked good too.

Things I picked up on live: Our defense is not good. We are still quite a ways away from shutting down quality or even average offenses. I predicted a 45-28 WAC-style shootout, on the assumption that they couldn't stop our offense and we would hold their "O" in check. But the reality is we stopped ourselves often enough, and did not do a good enough job getting MSU's "O" off the field after the first quarter success.

Worst play of the game/season: Michael Floyd makes a great grab on a fade route and lands hard on his left side. Even though replays showed he had two feet in, plus possession, Dave Witvoet's Big 10 field official rule "no catch" and Big East replay officials back him up. Watch him catch it at the 1:34 mark here. Bafflingly, Witvoet says "it was a catch" and signals 'catch' when he explains to the stadium that the "no catch" stands. Can you see why I hate this guy at my games?

Best defensive series: After ND's go-ahead touchdown, MSU passed three times. Two were well-defended (we got lucky on third down when Cunningham dropped it).

Remember how I said I had no faith in our defense to make the stop, no playmakers to save the day? On MSU's final drive, Cousins had five straight completions to move them from their 20 to our 30 (nearly field goal range). And then, and then: watch the three-play sequence starting at the 9:49 mark here. (Thanks to NBC for the video.)

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Week 3 Review: See above.

Location: Section 18, Notre Dame Stadium.

Games watched, at least partially: ND-MSU. Fresno-Boise on Friday. The Geo. Tech beatdown on Thursday. W. Virginia-Auburn (on the radio then on TV).

Iowa: beat Arizona, goes to 3-0.

ND: see above.

Pick 6: Wow did I take a hit. Ohio State won in a shutout... and dropped. Georgia Tech got killed by Ghost of 1980's Miami and dropped out. BYU got killed by Ghost of 1980's Florida State and dropped out. Nebraska lost to Virginia Tech and barely stayed in the poll. At least Texas held steady after an unimpressive win and UCLA keeps winning. My 32-point drop may be a single-week record. Quigley was hurt by Nebraska and UCLA losses; Tina had no change. Scores: Quigley 66, Tina 58, MPF 45.

National Roundup: eh. Florida didn't kill Tennessee. Southern Cal lost. Other than that, I dunno.

Week 4 Preview: Rocky Top

GameDay, featuring Fowler, Herky-Head and Herbstreit, will be in State College for the Iowa game. We'll be elsewhere.

This weekend we're going to Knoxville, Tennessee, and legendary Neyland Stadium. This is one of the biggest stadiums in the country and a place I've always wanted to visit. This will be my first SEC stadium and should be a great experience. You may be familar with the opponent.

Enjoy the games, and see you next week with another on-campus report!

* -- my new favorite word. Invented for the purpose of describing that series of plays.


Scott Mortimer said...

[meathead fan]

That usually does put a damper on the fun meter...even if the fanatic is rooting for your team.

Would that be "bullshitiest" or "bullshittiest"? Should be used within the same paragraph as "jackassery."

Don said...

Games like that make me wish you were tweeting your thoughts... would have been fun to recap though your ups and downs... and the interesting language that must have been used.