Saturday, September 30, 2006

May I Have Your Attention Please | by Jeff

"Never drive like an animal when it's raining cats and dogs."

- Officer Tim McCarthy

Game On! | by Pat

Friday, September 29, 2006

Purdue Flashback | by Jay

Since our '66 championship team is being honored this week, I thought I'd dig up some stuff on the Purdue game from that year, an exciting matchup between two highly-ranked teams.

The first game of the season for either team, ND was ranked #6 and Purdue #8. The Irish started an untested sophomore quarterback in Terry Hanratty, while the Boilermakers returned veteran Bob Griese, who had led Purdue on a game-winning drive against ND the year before.

In '66, however, it was the upstart Irish who were victorious, 26-14. As the Chicago Tribune gushed:

Under the intermittent brilliance of scattered Indian summer clouds, Terry Hanratty, an 18-year-old finance major, and his 19-year-old sophomore classmate, Jim Seymour, rewrote the record book and the pre-season ratings by trouncing Purdue, 26 to 14, in two of the most spectacular debuts since Red Grange exploded on the intercollegiate football firmament.

The tall, muscular Hanratty, operating behind a line that was almost fanatical in its zeal to protect him, threw touchdown passes of 84, 39, and 7 yards to the [even] taller Seymour, and completed 16 of 24 attempts for 304 yards. Seymour gathered in 13 of those attempts for 276 yards, both records for receiving in the 79-year history of Notre Dame football.
Purdue got close in the fourth quarter. Griese engineered a 4th quarter TD drive (and kicked the extra point himself) to bring the game to 20-14, and the Boilermakers were beginning another drive when Alan Page smashed across the line and into Griese, forcing a fumble that the Irish recovered on the Purdue 12. This set up ND's final touchdown. Purdue never mounted a serious threat through the final 10 minutes, hindered by an interception on one drive, and a devious ND student section on the last.
...the Notre Dame student body beat [Griese] out of a final chance when it chanted off the seconds to end-of-game. Both teams accepted the erroneous count and headed for the locker rooms. Referee R.E. Meyer tried to call back the squads, but no one responded. Meyer finally signalled time in and, surrounded by fans but no ball players, stood over the ball until the final seconds had expired.

The Purdue coach [Jack Mollenkopf] explained the comic sequence at the end of the game when fans poured onto the field with [time] remaining and the players of both teams heading for the tunnel.

"Ara said to me, 'What do you want to do, call them back for one more play?' I said, 'Hell, let's don't bother.'"
Ara was exhilarated by the win.
"I think we just beat a darned good football team, gentlemen. I feel wonderful about it because Purdue is so dangerous...

"Stop Griese. That was our objective today. We tried to zone him most of the time because if he gets you man-for-man he'll kill you. Above all, we just tried like the dickens not to give Griese any cheap touchdowns."

Parseghian was as effervescent as the carbonated beverage in his hand as he discussed the play of Hanratty and his sophomore battery mate, Jim Seymour.

"It's easy to see why I'm not a very good poker player," exclaimed Ara. "I didn't make any secret of the fact that Hanratty is great. I couldn't hide my enthusiasm for him. And Seymour? He can go get 'em, can't he?"
Here are a couple of great videos from the game, care of TJND88 (also linked up in the BGS Video Vault).

First off is Nick Eddy's kickoff return for a touchdown in the first quarter. Keep an eye on the blocking scheme on that return -- one Irish player, at the moment of the kick, fires out and basically chop blocks one of the middle cover guys. Then the two up guys for the Irish on each side cross each other and pick off the gunners. Eddy follows a convoy right up the middle of the field. Old school.

Second is a Hanratty-to-Seymour montage from the game. Check out a fired-up Ara dashing into the end zone to congratulate Seymour on that last TD catch.

And if that's not enough, has an excellent season highlight video of the 1966 National Champs.

Poll Position | by Jeff

As Jay mentioned below, while the Irish schedule to date has been the toughest in the country according to both the computers and opponents records, the next seven Irish opponents grade out just below average, with a combined record of 13-12 (an average schedule would be against teams in the neighborhood of 14-11).

One implication of this is that Southern Cal is the only opponent that would enable the Irish to make a dramatic leap in the polls. Consistent winning, however, should allow the Irish to inch their way up week-by-week as other teams fall.

The absolute number one priority for ND (to state the obvious) is winning out, preferably in a convincing and consistent manner. But, while the Irish still control their own destiny with respect to BCS eligibility (ND is estimated to be 11th in the BCS standings), any shot at the national title will require some serious pratfalls from teams ranked ahead of them.

With eight weeks to go before the showdown in LA, there are plenty of opportunities for the Irish to gain ground. Here are a few other games this weekend (along with the corresponding spread) that could have an immediate impact on the Irish ranking.

#9 Georgia at Ole Miss (UGA by 18)
Expect the Bulldogs to rebound from their poor play vs Colorado.

#10t LSU vs Missippi State (LSU by 32)
This should be a warm-up game for LSU before traveling to Florida next week.

#10t Virginia Tech vs #24 Georgia Tech (VT by 9.5)
A Yellowjacket win is a double-whammy boon for the Irish, not only dropping the Hokies in the polls, but also helping out ND's strength of schedule and putting GT in the drivers seat to win the ACC.

#12 Oregon at Arizona State (Oregon by 1)
Will ASU bounce back from the beat down they took against Cal last week?

#13 Iowa vs #1 Ohio State (OSU by 6.5)
Certainly the best chance for the Irish to move up a single spot with a Hawkeye loss, but this could be a tough one for Ohio State.

the Walkin' Irish | by Jay

It's true: ND's football players actually do go to class, and almost all of them graduate. According to the NCAA's Graduation Success Rate (GSR) results released this week, ND football graduated 95% of its players over the four-year span of entering classes from 96-97 through 99-00. Among Division 1 football schools, this was good for 3rd overall behind Navy (98%) and Boston College (96%).

Some notables for the wall of shame: Southern Cal (55%), Ohio State (55%), Michigan State (45%), Georgia (41%), and the defending national champs, Texas (40%).

Bang a Drum | by Jay

Hurrah! The circus is coming!

The undefeated Boilers thus far:

  1. Killed Indiana State (1-AA), 60-35. It was 26-21 PU at halftime, and then Purdue just turned it on.
  2. Beat Miami of Ohio (MAC), 38-31 in overtime (Miami of Ohio is now 0-4).
  3. Beat Ball State (MAC), 38-28. Score not as close as it would seem; it was 38-13 before the Cardinals scored two late touchdowns.
  4. Beat Minnesota, 27-21 in a pretty hard-fought game.
• Despite the saccharine schedule (154th in the nation by Sagarin), Purdue is only 105th in total defense.

• The gamesmanship on the part of the coaches has been relatively low-key (especially in comparison to last week). Joe (Jazz Hands) Tiller is taking a Holtzian approach to the game against the Irish.
“I want to preface this by saying I could be wrong, but this is most likely the most talented team we play this year,” Purdue coach Joe Tiller said. “Maybe we’ll see a team down the road that’s more talented, but I don’t think so at this time. ... I don’t think we’ll play a more experienced team and I don’t think we’ll play a more talented team. Those two factors right there suggest that this is one of the better Notre Dame teams that I’ve ever competed against.”
I initially scoffed at the idea that ND would be the toughest team on the Boilers' schedule, but then I took a look. No Ohio State. No Michigan. Iowa (#13), Penn State (NR), and Michigan State (NR) are the toughest remaining games. For the last game of the year, they head to Hawaii. Coupling the late-season luau with the cupcakery at the beginning (two MAC teams and a division 1-AA), does Purdue have the weakest out-of-conference schedule among BCS schools? (Well, we're on it, so maybe not.)

• Our preseason roster rundown on the 'makers has shifted a bunch since the beginning of the season. In one big change (so to speak), 6'9 wide receiver Kyle Ingraham was declared academically ineligible and will miss the season.

• The strength of the Purdue offense is its line, with five returning starters averaging over 300 pounds apiece. We had them listed as the best OL we'll see all year, and according to Lafayette reporter Tom Kubat they are living up to their billing.

• Other guys to watch on offense: QB Curtis Painter and WR Dorien Bryant. Painter took over from Kirsch down the stretch last year, and has incrementally improved his performance in each game so far this year. Bryant is a 5'10 lightning bug, very quick with good hands.

• RB Kory Sheets is tied for the lead in scoring in the NCAA with 10 TDs. You could look it up. In addition to carrying the ball, he also returns kicks and punts.

• In the secondary, Purdue lost two starters to injury, one for the season and one for 6-8 weeks. They are now starting two JUCO transfers (CB Terrell Vinson and SS Justin Scott) and two true freshmen (CB Royce Adams and FS Brandon Erwin). The nickel back (David Pender) is also a true freshman. They are giving up a lot of yards so far.

• Brock Spack apparently switched his defense to a 3-4 alignment, to better defend the pass. Results are mixed.

• Both of Purdue's defensive tackles are tall (6-5), but on the lighter side (282 and 275)...the lightest we've faced so far this year.

• Defensive end Anthony Spencer is Purdue's best player on defense. Here's a good piece on him from the FWJG.

• Flann over on NDN had a mini-review of the Boilers-Gophers game last week.

...and Toot a Horn

• While Purdue's schedule is an exercise in stretching, ND has the #1 strength of schedule so far. Our opponents are a combined 9-1, with that single loss coming to Ohio State.

• Someone to keep an eye on is freshman running back James Aldridge, who is recovered from a knee injury and has been practicing at full speed with the team this week. He should probably see his first action tomorrow. Here's a bit from the Observer on his likely debut. Outside of Sam Young, Aldridge was probably the most eagerly-awaited recruit from last year's class.

the Conversation, Week 4 | by Jay

Pop on over to MarkMayBeWrong for the next installment of the Conversation. The guys have done a great job breaking down the records of the teams in contention, and have come up with a sensible snapshot based on what a team has accomplished thus far in 2006.

Thursday, September 28, 2006

Six Pickin' | by Jay

AP Poll here. Notre Dame still sitting at 12.

Pick Six didn't have much of a shakeup this week. Boston College dropped out of #20, but that's about it. In fact, it might be the most boring week-to-week result in some time: the top 8 are exactly the same as last week, and in the top 20, four sets of teams simply switched spots. The most exciting thing that happened are Rutgers (!), Missouri and Georgia Tech (finally) cracking the poll for the first time this year.

Reliant77 takes over the lead with 95 points, while Big Tom Callahan is still in the running with a number of other folks at 93. Wyndycity and Davikowski hit the skids, occupying the basement with 24 points apiece.

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

the Spartan Spectacular | by Jay

Sorry for the late report, but I'm back from the road trip. Physically, I've been back since Sunday, but it's taken me a while to process that night's events. I want to memorialize it as best I can, every little detail, from the feeling of utter hopelessness when Michigan State jumped out to a big lead, to the rivulets of rain that turned into a gale in the third quarter, to the almost indescribably intense euphoria that flooded through us when the game was finally over. I found myself saying, over and over, "I don't believe what I just saw!", and it took me a moment to realize I was quoting Jack Buck and his famous call of Kirk Gibson's homerun. No matter -- the monumentality of the moment seemed apt. It was literally unbelievable. The game had everything: hard-nosed running, long touchdown passes, wild swings in momentum, ballsy fourth-down calls, trick plays, improbable tips, hurricane weather, game-saving interceptions, a heroic comeback, and even a fight. In the end, it was the most exciting, delirious sixty minutes of football I've seen in quite some time.

The day started in Chicago. My old roommate Brian, who was riding shotgun, called in a few hours before we were set to leave to give the weather report. "Looks bad, thunderstorms all night," he said, trailing off, letting the idea of scrapping the trip hang in the air like a tantalizing possibility. I could tell he was on the fence, but no way in hell was I driving to East Lansing by myself. "Yep. Better bring a poncho." He laughed, and a few hours later we were racing up I-94, making it to Lansing in time to scrounge a few beers from a tailgater and head inside. Already stormclouds were rolling across the sky, and as we passed the statue of Sparty the MSU band came rumbling down the road, marching through the darkening twilight towards the garish lights of the stadium.

The stands, the fans. It was derogatory and anti-Irish, most of the day & night. This is par for the course for an Irish road trip to a Big 10 venue, where Notre Dame is less of a curious novelty and more a familiar target of deep-seated scorn. We heard it all. We heard from Spartan observers in various stages of inebriation that Charlie has a slight weight problem, Brady is confused about his sexuality, the Irish can feel free to perform anatomically-impossible acrobatics upon themselves. Occasionally an Irish fan would respond and things would get heated but it didn't seem worth it. We were outnumbered in a hostile environment, and everybody in Spartan green was pretty well-liquored, and bad-tempered. That's what you get with a night game against Notre Dame. We kept a low profile when we got to our seats, but frankly, the Irish gave us nothing to cheer about for a long while.

The game began with an Irish three-and-out, and then MSU got the ball and Stanton hit that wide-open touchdown pass down the middle of the field, with a flailing Maurice Crum trying desperately to get back into coverage. The Spartan guys around us were going nuts (there didn't seem to be many women, except for a stumbling, drunken mother of three of who kept going up and down the aisle.) The seats down low at Spartan Stadium are right on top of each other, the aisles barely wide enough to fit two people side-by-side, and with the spray of the weather the whole effect was like being crammed into a WWII landing craft -- but with the enemy's army, not yours. At one point a fight broke out, and an ND fan was led out by the cops.

A few minutes later Zbikowski fumbles a punt, picks it up, runs for a bit, and fumbles it again. Michigan State ball. We are not off to a good start. The Spartans then hit on a trick play, the double-pass from Stanton to Trannon to a wide-open Ringer, and the stands explode again. Ringer had nobody around him for twenty yards, a disturbing, recurring nightmare a la Manningham (and Ginn) running downfield, unnoticed by Irish defenders. John L. Smith seemed like Patton at this point, knowing exactly what to call against our defense (I pictured him saying, "Minter, you magnificent bastard, I read your book!") By the end of the first quarter it was 17-0, and with the noise roaring around me, I mentally curled up into a ball, wanting to dissolve into thin air. Poof, I'm gone, and an empty poncho floats to the ground.

The worst part about it was the feeling that something was deeply wrong with Brady Quinn. He was missing open receivers and throwing behind guys, just like he had versus Michigan. And that just revved up the derision and jeering even more from the hostile Spartan crowd.

In the second quarter we finally put a drive together, and Brady capped it by hitting Rhema on a beautiful fade to the corner. McKnight, by the way, would have a tremendous game, catching two crucial, razor's edge TDs just on the inside of the end zone, and also blocking superbly, springing the Shark for his two touchdowns later in the game.

With about ten minutes to go in the half Stanton runs left, heads out of bounds, and Ndukwe hits him right on the line. Flag -- late hit. We had a really terrible view of what happened next, but with the power of Tivo I have now cranked the film forwards and backwards about fifteen times, Zapruder-style. In short, it is clear to me that Matt Trannon was the instigator of all the foolishness, John-el's protestations notwithstanding. We might address the fallout of Trannongate in a post later on tonight, but I will need to be about six deep before entering the insanity that is JLS's world. Stay tuned. (Ed. note: followup on this has since been posted below.)

In any case, the offsetting flags ultimately didn't matter, as a minute later Brady Quinn was picked off and MSU returned it to the house, making the score 24-7. In terms of aesthetic awfulness, it was the worst interception for Quinn since SirDarean Adams' pick for a score last year at ND. Actually, maybe it is Quinn's worst. He simply threw it to a defensive end (a defensive end?), Ervin Baldwin, who had dropped into coverage, without even looking, really. Unreal. (Although we didn't know it yet, this was the last boneheaded mistake Brady Quinn would make all game.)

ND got the ball back, got a first down, then stalled out and faced 4th and 1 on our own 37. Timeout Irish. Yep, we're going for it. Ho-lee crap. Travis Thomas checks into the game, and we go I-formation, two tight ends. It's a play-action to the decoy Thomas, the Spartan defenders collapse into the line and-- holy smokes, Carlson is wide open, coming right at us! Come on Brady, find him. Brady makes a terrific fake, hiding the ball on his hip, and tosses a lob to 89 for a twenty-seven yard gain and a huge fourth-down conversion. My gosh. Say what you want about Charlie Weis, but he has brass ones the size of boulders. Quinn finishes the drive with a swing pass to Samardzija in the slot, who scampers into the end zone with some help from Rhema's blocking. It's 24-14. Things are looking a little better.

Well, until the ensuing kickoff, that is. Somebody (Ray Herring?) was offsides, and what should have been MSU ball at the 12 is now a re-kick, with the Spartans returning this one out to about the 40. (Charlie on the sidelines: "Give me a f---ing BREAK!") And what happens? Stanton drives right down and scores, hitting Kerry Reed on a photo negative of the Samardzija swing pass. Every time we try to stand up, Sparty kicks out our legs. It's 31-14 at the half.

Craig James on the ABC halftime show said that "ND was in over its head", and had I heard him say it, I wouldn't have disagreed. "And I'm telling you," crowed James, "we all got fooled by that Irish drinking water that they were really good coming into the season!" My friend Matt called. "Well, there's still a chance," I said, but I didn't really believe it. Quinn had been kooky, and our tacklers seemed to be bouncing off of Ringer and Caulcrick instead of wrapping them up. This would be the first of about a dozen moments during the rest of the game where I simply cashed it in, resigning myself to a loss. "It's over," I would think to myself, and Brian would just shake his head. It was over.

A kernel of truth arrived via text message from my wife.

"We need more points!"
I chuckled. That cut right to the essence of the issue, didn't it? Spoken like a true Theology PhD. A dispassionate statement on its face, but that exclamation point seemed to indicate...hope? No way. It was definitely over. Wasn't it? We stood around in the drizzle, sort of dazed and dejected. I got a Diet Coke. Brian didn't get anything.

We opened up the second half by stopping MSU on a three-and-out, got the ball back, and after a first down, we had 2nd and 7 on our own 38 when Brady hits Carlson over the middle and he goes 62 yards for a score. Quinn read the blitz beautifully, and checked out of whatever he was going to run to exploit the middle of the field, left empty by the blitzing linebacker and the cornerback that Samardzija dragged out to the flat. It's back to a ten-point game, 31-21, and what a great way to start the second half. We follow it up by forcing another MSU three-and-out, and the Spartan punter shanks it, and we get the ball on their 41. Great field position. But then the rain showed up.

Rain? It was a monsoon, actually; a driving, swirling downpour. We had driven through it on the way to Lansing, and when we got into our seats there was a drizzly mist coming down. The folks next to us were ND fans from Fort Wayne. "If this is all we're going to get, hell, it's not so bad," they exclaimed. We chuckled. "Oh, don't worry, it's coming." It finally showed up. I had a pretty good poncho that did the job, but the rain scoffed at Brian's "waterproof" pullover, so he ended up buying one of those five-dollar trashbags, a white plastic thing with green Spartans on it. He turned it inside out. We were in the 12th row behind the ND band, and when the rain came, all the water from the upper rows came rushing down the aisles and under the stands, and everybody down low had to stand on the bleachers. There was a river rushing below us, six or eight inches deep. We could have kayaked onto the field.

The weather and the big MSU lead made for an interesting chess match during the second half. When the rain showed up, Michigan State went heavy and started pounding the ball, running it four times in a row. On the last run, big Jehuu Caulcrick finds a seam inside and goes thirty yards for a touchdown. He killed us all day. State fumbles the slick ball on the extra point, so it's a 16-point lead. I have the hood of my poncho cinched around my face against the wind and the rain, and when Brady fumbles the snap, jumps on it, and two plays later fumbles it again, I can barely see it. The ball is a greased pig, running wild through the mud.

Finally, at the end of the hard-fought third quarter, daylight breaks in the form of a Zibby punt return. Again, he drops the ball on the fly, but picks it up and darts upfield, shaking tackles and veering into the promised land. For the first time all game, the Spartan crowd is getting quiet, and ND fans are finding their voices. We love Tommy Z. And...shit. There's a flag up around the 40. It's coming back. The ref starts walking it off...and walking...and walking...all the way back to the seven? It seems that the call was a block in the back on McNeil, right around where Zibby fielded the punt, and the flag was thrown not by the two linesmen right next to him (who have the best view, and keep their flags in their pockets), but by the head referee, forty yards upfield. If you have the game saved, check it out -- you can actually see Zibby run past the flag laying on the ground, nowhere near the spot of the infraction. Anyway, it's marked on the seven, and our drive stalls out just as the quarter ends. We're showing some grit so far in the second half, but fate seems to be conspiring against a big comeback.

As is the weather. I know it was mentioned on television, but you almost had to be there to believe it: the wind actually shifted 180 degrees against the Irish when they started going the other way in the fourth quarter. It's true. Picture this flag to the right, when the clock hits :00, swinging completely around and pointing the opposite direction. I couldn't believe it. I started yelling and shaking my fist at the hurricanoes, just like Lear. I was mad, in both senses of the word.

A flurry of holding calls on the Spartans backed them up from excellent field position into punting territory, and we took over with about 10 minutes to go in the game on our 20. On first down Quinn fires a bullet to David Grimes, who tips it with both hands like a volleyball setter, sending the ball up and back and into the waiting arms of John Carlson, ten yards down the field. It is Immaculate Deflection II, and it gives us a first down. We are amazed. Three plays later, Quinn hits Samardzija on an inside slant, and the Shark makes a nifty outside move, galloping forty yards for the score. We go for two. Weis calls a sweep left behind three tight ends, but Walker is taken down at the two. It's 37-27 with eight minutes to go. We are feeling it.

The chess match continues. On this next MSU drive, Minter sends in three linebackers (we'd been playing nickel for most of the game), featuring Anthony Vernaglia who will rush and blitz on almost every down. Michigan State is sticking with the run, and on a quarterback keeper Ndukwe rips the ball from Stanton's hands and pounces on it. It's a pure effort play by Nedu, one of two game-changing turnovers in the second half. Outside the south end of the stadium there is a surreal sight: fireworks start going off. It is as if someone hit the switch for the victory celebration too soon, and after a few bursts, they stop.

Quinn takes over and fires the ball downfield, where Samardzija is tackled by two Spartan defenders, and sits up laughing. Pass interference. Amazingly, the Spartan crowd around us boos this call, and for the first time in the game Brian and I start jawing back at them. Quinn hits Samardzija again, and then throws a fade to Rhema, who touches a foot inside the end zone just as he's making the catch. Touchdown. It is 37-33. Just as we're celebrating, Gioia shanks the extra point. Oh, crap. Instead of hitting a field goal to tie it, now we need a touchdown. Nothing is easy in this game.

Okay. 4:40 to play. We are focused. MSU gets the ball, and Stanton tries an option right. More chess: we lined up with three linebackers again, but both the outside guys move up just before the snap, giving us six guys on the line. I don't think Stanton ever saw them (looking at the replay, you can tell he's got his eyes forward, looking downfield.) When Stanton sprints right, Thomas, unblocked, is simply waiting for him, and drops him for a loss.

On the next play it gets crazier. We rush two linebackers up the gut, and drop Laws and Landri into middle coverage. It is a perfect call. Crum zooms up the middle unblocked, right into Stanton's face. Stanton, panicked, tries to complete a pass over the middle to Trannon, who has three guys around him. It is not on target. Terrail Lambert puts a paw on the ball and hauls it in for an interception, darting around the side and cutting back to the middle for an Irish touchdown. Irish fans explode. The band goes nuts. Samardzija, coming onto the field to hold for the extra point, whispers something nasty to Drew Stanton. I am jumping up and down and nearly kill myself falling off the bleachers. It is crazy. It is impossible. It is 40-37, and the Irish have the lead. Spartan Stadium is absolutely stunned.

The final minutes are a terrifying blur. We kick off, and Stanton takes over with about two minutes left and only one timeout (they burned two of them earlier in the game unnecessarily, when there was confusion in the Spartan huddle). On the second play, Abiamiri breaks free on a Stanton rollout and it looks like he's about to take him down, when Stanton launches it and Zbikowski picks it off. Whistle. It's coming back; Abiamiri grabbed his facemask. State converts on third down, on a pass and catch to Trannon, amazingly, his first reception of the game. Given the way this game has gone, Brian and I are convinced we are going to overtime. A couple more plays, and Landri tackles Stanton on a third-and-five keeper. Michigan State takes their last timeout on 4th and one. (We couldn't see it at the time, but it was then that Charlie delivered an impassioned speech to the defense, shown here in all its glory.) Stanton, the warhorse who never quits, converts it on a run left.

Ball is set, clock winds down, Stanton drops back, avoids a sack, and throws downfield to the right. It looked like it was tipped. There is a whistle. There is no call yet. The Irish players are lobbying for an interception, the sideline judge takes a moment...

...and suddenly, miraculously, joyously, he signals...Irish ball. It is the most improbable play in an improbable game, the ball traveling like the magic bullet, going off of Richardson's foot and ricocheting off Lambert and then teetering on the Spartan player's back, whereupon Lambert scooped it up and rolled over, cradling the ball -- and the Irish victory -- in his arms. We did it. We won.

POSTGAME. Euphoria. I have never been in an environment like that. The MSU fans around us cleared out, like water receding after a storm, revealing the Irish faithful standing proudly in the northwest end zone. The band played. The players jaunted over, helmets aloft, jumping up and down. And smiling. They looked so happy, so relieved, like a huge weight had been lifted from their shoulders. (Somewhere across the way, a few Spartans were protecting their 50-yard line from a nonexistent ND flag planting, but nobody really noticed). This was a comeback not just within this game, but a comeback that had been brewing for a good solid week, after the humiliating defeat to Michigan. I said last week that this team could go two ways after the Michigan debacle, and redemption is so much sweeter.

(For a video of the final few minutes of the game, including the postgame celebration, click here.)

After the game we hiked through the muddy fields and parking lots and bellied up to the bar at the Roadhouse Grill on the northwest side of campus. It was late, and the bar was smoky and crowded. Four guys put down about six pitchers and a round of shots, and we stayed to the bitter end, clapping high fives with random Irish fans and commiserating with some dejected, but friendly Spartans (we'd been there last year, after all.) We ended up at an IHOP on Grand River at three-thirty in the morning, still shaking our heads and marvelling at the game. Brian said to me at the end of the night: "I'm glad you didn't let me bail out of going. I would have hated myself."

Lord knows, this team isn't perfect, and there is a time for diagnosis and identifying problems. For the coaches, it started early Sunday morning. For the players, it was at team meetings starting on Sunday afternoon.

Me, I'm still celebrating. It's Wednesday afternoon, and I'm still in Spartan Stadium, the glare of the stadium lights illuminating the fine mist falling onto the field, and the glistening helmets pumping up and down, and the band playing (over and over, even staying past the Spartan band's exit), and players throwing gloves and wristbands into the crowd, and Sam Young doing a jig with the Irish guard, and Charlie doing this, and we few, we happy few, cheering and waving and soaking it all in. I'll be there for a while.

(That's me in the blue, and Brian in the white.)

His Methods Unsound | by Jay

You know something, man, I know something that you don't know. That's right, jack. The man is clear in his mind, but his soul is mad. Oh yeah. He hates all this, he hates it! But the man's...he reads poetry out loud, alright? And a voice! A voice...

I mean, what are they going to say, man, when he's gone, huh? Because he dies, when it dies, man, when it dies, he dies. What are they going to say about him? What, are they going to say, he was a kind man, he was a wise man, he had plans, he had wisdom? Bullshit, man! Am I going to be the one, that's going to set them straight? Look at me: wrong!

-- Dennis Hopper in Apocalypse Now

One final bit of zaniness before we move along to Purdue. On Monday, Coach John L. Smith of the Michigan State Spartans kicked off his press conference with this little ditty:
Michigan State coach John L. Smith's news conference Monday opened with a video presentation to dispute what MSU interpreted as Notre Dame coach Charlie Weis suggesting he had been slapped in the face by a MSU player during a sideline altercation in the second quarter.

Weis went on the field and pleaded with game officials who were trying to sort out the penalties at the time. A replay shows Weis telling the officials he had been struck in the face, and the implication was that it was one of the Spartans who did it.

"I'm not going to contend that anybody is lying, but you take a look at the film," Smith said.

During a post-game news conference, Weis reiterated that he had been struck during the incident, but he then clarified his stand Sunday by adding he wasn't certain it was a Michigan State player.

"Charlie Weis has never said it was anybody from Michigan State," said John Heisler, a senior associate athletic director at Notre Dame.

The video presented by Michigan State showed the incident from various angles.

"That's a very serious allegation," MSU associate athletic director John Lewandowski said, referring to Weis. "Coach Smith demanded a full investigation. That type of behavior by one of our players won't be tolerated.

"… If you look at the complete video from every angle possible, below and above, at no time does he (Weis) come in contact with any player from Michigan State. We're trying to get our players' reputation cleared."

Smith said the video has been sent to the Big Ten. He indicated he thinks it's up to Notre Dame to decide what to do with Klunder and Powlus for their involvement.

"If it was us doing that … the league would probably step in and do something, suspend (someone)," Smith said. "But I don't know, they don't have a league. Who knows what's going to happen?"

Weis' weekly news conference is scheduled for today. Brian Hardin, Notre Dame's sports information director for football, said he hadn't seen the video, but he believes the Notre Dame administrators (Klunder and Powlus) were trying to separate the MSU players from the Irish players so the incident wouldn't escalate.

The incident actually did escalate after Trannon got pulled from behind by Klunder.

As for his players' role, Smith said, "They didn't throw a punch in the whole deal. Their quarterback's head is under the bench. They're over there to help protect him and get him out of there."

Smith said he was angry with the officials, who were from the Big Ten, for calling a personal-foul against Trannon that wiped out the 15-yard penalty against Notre Dame for the original late hit.

"I thought the call (by the officials) was wrong," Smith said. "You listen to a cockin' bull story (from Weis) and you change it and now you make it a no-call after a kid gets hit like that out of bounds, it's wrong."
Yes, this is what most consumes him: not the upcoming game with Illinois, but settling scores and refuting perceived slights from Charlie Weis. If you're courageous, click here for the presser feed to see JLS in all his raving mania.

Look, John-el, here's what happened. Ndukwe hit Stanton and sent him flying. The refs threw the flag for a late hit. Fair enough. And then a sequence of events transpired. (If you have the game on tape, you can clearly see each of these events as they unfold.)

1. After the tackle, Trannon and a few other Spartans run into the ND sideline. Trannon gets in Ndukwe's face in the middle of the bench area. Ndukwe backs off.

2. Trannon remains to stand over Stanton. For what reason? Who the hell knows.

3. Ron Powlus (or someone who looks just like him; the article above indicates it may have been Chad Klunder) is herding MSU players out of the bench area. A smart move, as the longer they are there the more opportunity there is for shenanigans.

4. Powlus grabs Trannon by the jersey and corrals him back towards the field. He is not instigating anything. He is not picking a fight with Trannon. He is clearing the area. He is trying to maintain order in a chippy environment.

5. Trannon reacts by pushing past several people and going after Powlus, shoving him in the back. Trannon is picking a fight (for the second time), this time with a coach without pads who was trying to clear the area. While he did not "throw a punch", as JLS states, he definitely shoves Powlus in the back, who has turned away to clear more players from the area. Trannon is clearly an out-of-control menace at this point and must be controlled.

6. Ryan Harris gets in his face. Polian's (or someone who looks like him) reaction is to grab Trannon's facemask and pull him down. Maybe not the wisest thing to do, but it is in self-defense as much as anything, as Trannon seems willing to fight anyone/everyone at this point.

7. A few players including Chris Frome get in between them and shove Trannon out to the field. Trannon's helmet is pulled off. Trannon grabs Frome's facemask, right in the face of the ref, who throws a flag. This is the penalized incident, not anything to do with Charlie complaining.

8. A moment later you can see CW talking to the ref, and you can clearly read the words "I got hit in the face". This is well after the flag was thrown.

So the flag wasn't a result of Charlie talking to the refs. Bottom line, Trannon is the bad actor here, not the Irish coaches, and ND should do nothing punitive against Powlus, Polian, or any other Irish player or coach as a result. What really galls me is the lack of respect Trannon had towards the opposing coach Powlus; Powlus had removed a couple of Spartan players from the sideline without confrontation, but when Trannon is ushered away, he retaliates and tries to start a fight.

It is unfortunate that Smith chose to play the victim, put all the blame on Notre Dame, and gloss over the fact that without Trannon charging into the bench area, and then shoving Ron Powlus, there would be no controversy. It is especially disturbing that this would the main focus of his press conference, in light of a host of issues that, unlike this event, actually contributed to the Spartan collapse. We maintain that John L. Smith is bad for Michigan State football, and we hope they replace him at their earliest opportunity. The Spartans deserve better, and judging from the discussions we had in East Lansing after the game, many Spartan fans agree.

Odds & Sods - Night of the Living Base Head Edition | by Mike

Still flat. Hopes that the Irish would come out with fire and intensity following the Michigan game were quickly dashed in East Lansing. In the first half, the Irish looked as rattled against the Spartans in all phases of the game as they had against the Wolverines. A fumbled punt return, an interception, an offsides penalty on a kickoff that produced a 28-yard swing in field position - it all felt nauseatingly familiar. Without the luxury of playing the functional equivalent of speed bags in any of the first four games, Weis appeared reluctant to get his team too keyed up for any one of the opening games. It will be interesting if Weis sticks with this strategy during the start of the 2007 season.

This is a call. Michigan State's last touchdown of the first half came when Notre Dame sent Mike Richardson on the familiar corner blitz. I also recall at least one of Michigan's touchdown passes coming against this defense. In fact, I can think of several big plays against the Irish when Richardson blitzes. It's been a long time since an opponent was surprised by this call, and when a team is prepared for it, it's easy to defend. Can anyone recall the last time sending Richardson on the blitz created a big play for Notre Dame? If so, let us know in the comments. Note that this is not meant as a criticism of Richardson, who played an excellent game against the Spartans.

Perfect disguise. Once again, Charlie Weis treated Irish fans to a beautiful bit of misdirection. Last year, a pump fake to the sideline set up a wide open Stovall touchdown against BYU. Against Penn State this year, another pump fake to the sideline set up a 12-yard Walker dash on 4th and 2. Against MSU, with the Irish facing 4th and 1 from their own 37, Weis sent in Travis Thomas and multiple tight ends leaving the MSU defenders convinced Notre Dame would try to grind out the yard on the ground. Instead, Quinn lofted a pass to a lonely John Carlson for a 27-yard gain after the Spartan defense was completely fooled by play action. Beautiful design and beautiful execution.

We made it. After the game, many sought to attribute the comeback solely to a characteristic MSU implosion. Yet the critical plays in the second half were not the product of Spartan mental breakdowns - like only sending ten men out onto the field. None of Michigan State's turnovers could be considered unforced; all resulted from outstanding efforts by one or more Irish defenders. Stanton's fumble didn't simply squirt free in the rain. Ndukwe got both hands on the ball and ripped it free. Three Irish defenders combined to produce Stanton's first interception. With linebacker Maurice Crum quickly closing in, Stanton had to rush to get rid of the ball. Meanwhile, defensive tackle Derek Landri once again demonstrated his fantastic instincts and ability to read plays and dropped in front of Stanton's safety valve. Crum and Landri forced the awkward throw that Terrail Lambert grabbed and deposited in the endzone. Lambert's second interception was also the product of great efforts by three Notre Dame defenders. Stanton was about to get drilled by defensive tackle Trevor Laws and with no timeouts left, the Spartans simply could not afford to take a sack. Thus Stanton's attempt to throw into double coverage. Because Richardson and Lambert had the receiver blanketed the deflection and caroms that resulted in Lambert's pick were possible. The specific bounces the ball took should not distract one from the fact that deflections resulting in interceptions are exactly the sort of thing that happens when the ball is thrown into tight double coverage. The real luck regarding fourth quarter turnovers favored MSU, as Zbikowski had an interception negated by an incidental facemask.

Go ahead in the rain. There's nothing like Bob Davie commentary to put an Irish fan further on edge during a tight game. Following up his declaration during the Georgia Tech broadcast that "As a coach, your worst nightmare is to be tagged as someone with poor clock management," Davie assented to Musberger's bizarre clock management theories. When MSU had the ball with about five minutes left, Musberger wondered why Weis wasn't using his timeouts. Of course, had Weis used his timeouts at that point in time, he would have ended up saving more time for the Spartans on their final drive. One of Weis's less touted strengths is game management - which also explains how Weis has managed a 2-0 record in games where the Irish have scored less than 20 points. However, the comments that really brought back the Davie era occurred at the start of the fourth quarter. After Notre Dame had been fighting a strong wind all third quarter, the wind shifted directions between quarters and the Irish found themselves again going into the wind in the fourth quarter. Davie's attitude toward this phenomenon reminded me of both the weight he ascribed to factors beyond the coach's control and his defeatist belief that "no magic was going to fall out of the sky." Despite their shaken confidence early, by the fourth quarter the Irish were ablt to greet the shift with nonchalance.

Hang on to your ego. After the game ended, that lunatic John L. Smith sent his players out to guard the "S" at the center of Michigan State's field. Since Notre Dame has never and will never plant a flag in East Lansing, you're probably asking yourself why Smith & Co. felt such a step was necessary. The answer can be found here.

Gold Stars | by Pat

Brady Quinn and Terrail Lambert were honored this week with a number of weekly awards for their roles in one of the most thrilling comebacks in recent ND history.

Quinn was named the National Offensive Player of the Week by the Walter Camp Football Foundation for his 5-touchdown, 316-yard performance. Meanwhile, Terrail Lambert was named the Nagurski Defensive Player Of The Week by the Football Writers Association of American and also won the National Defensive Player of the Week by the Master Coaches Survey.

Also of note...

• For those who want to rewatch the game, it will be airing tonight on ESPN Classic at 9pm (EDT).

• The Don Criqui radio call of Lambert's late game heroics can be found on, as well as highlight clips and full-game audio from all of the Irish games this year. It's great to see Westwood One set up such a helpful and useful site.

• Of special interest to Irish fans should be the Station Finder on Westwood One, which lists out which radio stations in which states carry the Irish games. The link has been added to the BGS sidebar on the right for handy reference.

Conference Call | by Jeff

With many teams wrapping up their non-conference schedules last weekend, now is a good time to take a look at the relative performance of each conference.

• The big winner in inter-conference play thus far this season is the surprising Big East. Not only did the Big East schools put up the most wins against other BCS conferences, they also kept their schedules relatively competitive, playing the fewest games against non-BCS and 1-AA opponents. They were also the only confernce who did not lose to a non-BCS conference, and joined the SEC and PAC-10 as the only conference who did not suffer a loss to a 1-AA program.

• Coming in a close second is the PAC-10, who at 6-4 has the highest winning percentage against other BCS conferences, however 3 losses to non-BCS teams hurts their resume a bit.

• The only other conference to post a winning record against the other majors is the Big Ten, who stayed above .500 at 7-6, but padded their schedule with 16 games against non-BCS teams (going 15-1) and 7 games against 1-AA (losing 2 of them).

• The SEC sneaks into 4th place, with a 4-5 record against other BCS conferences, and actually has the highest overall winning percentage against all schools thanks to a 14-1 performance against non-BCS conferences and a four game sweep of 1-AA schools.

• The ACC is tied with the SEC with a 4-5 BCS record, but three losses to non-BCS schools and another loss to 1-AA put them squarely in 5th place. Their overall winning percentage is a dismal 68%, putting them just behind the Big 12 for last place overall.

• The Big 12 has had a rough non conference season. A 3-8 record against other BCS conferences, six losses to non BCS teams, and another 1-AA loss put them squarely at the bottom of the barrel, although Colorado alone accounts for a significant portion of those woes.

vs BCS vs non-BCS vs 1-AA
4-5 12
9-3 7
Big 12 11
3-8 27
21-6 9
Big East 16
9-7 6
6-0 6
Big Ten 13
7-6 16
15-1 7
Notre Dame 4
3-1 0
0-0 0
4-5 15
14-1 4
PAC 10 10
6-4 12
9-3 3

Statistically Speaking - Michigan State | by Pat

3rd Down Breakdown. Much has been said by fans, the media, and Coach Weis about the Irish's lack of production on 3rd down. As noted below, the Irish 3rd down converstion rate is only 27%, after being nearly 50% last year. At first I thought that the reason for this drop in efficiency is that ND has been in 3rd and long (read 3rd and 7 or longer) on 49% of all 3rd downs. Surely this was a high number and would be adversely affecting the conversion rate. But then I looked up the 2005 numbers and saw that ND was in a similar 3rd and long on 50% of all 3rd downs. So that isn't it.

What is hurting the Irish then? Maybe it's the 3rd and short. ND converted 69% of all 3rd and short (read 3rd and 3 or under) attempts last year. So far in this season, ND is only converting 33% of all 3rd and shorts. Breaking the numbers into rushing and passing you get 30% conversion via the run (3 of 10) and 40% via the pass (2 of 5). That compares to 74% via the run in 2005 (29 of 39) and 54% (7 of 13) via the pass.

First Quarter Woes. What's the best way to stop a team defensively? Make them one-dimensional on offense. And what's the best way to do that? Put them in the hole early on and never let them dictate the pace of the game. And that is exactly what has happened to the Irish so far this year. Just look at the lopsided scoring margin in the 1st quarter.

SCORE BY QUARTERS     1st  2nd  3rd  4th    Total
-------------------- --- --- --- --- ---
Notre Dame.......... 10 45 28 33 - 116
Opponents........... 44 31 15 21 - 111
ND has the edge in all other quarters, but not by all that much. If ND wants to keep winning, and preferably win by a more comfortable margin, the differential in the 1st quarter is going to need to change. That 44-10 margin is even more damning when you realize that 7 of those points came gift-wrapped when the ND offense took over on the 4 yard line following Ndukwe's INT return against Michigan.

Year to Year. There has been much discussion about the apparent regression of Brady Quinn from last year to this. Ask any Irish fan and you'll hear that Brady certainly is doing far worse this year than he did last year. Then again, when you actually take a look at the numbers, you see that he's really not too far off of last year's record breaking pace.

YearCmpAttYardsTDsINTsQB rating

There is however one big difference in Quinn's performance between this year and last. Sacks. Last year after 4 games, Quinn had been sacked 6 times for 37 yards. This year, Quinn has been sacked 10 times for 73 yards. I haven't broken down if they are coverage sacks or the result of some matador blocking by the OL, so I'm not looking to assign any blame, but the increase certainly stands out.

Season Long Running Averages

Category GT PSU UM MSU 2006 2005
Yards Per Rush 3.5 3.1
Avg. Yards per PA 6.58.0 8.7
Avg. Yards per PC 10.7 11.5 9.615.911.8 13.5
Pass Completion % 61% 69% 51%56%58% 65%
3rd Down Conv. 7/16 (44%) 5/13 (38%) 2/14 (14%)
1/11 (9%)
15/55 (27%) 90/184 (49%)
Rushing Yd Avg. 138.0
110.0 (108th) 147.08 (55th)
Passing Yd Avg. 246.0
287.0 241.0319.0273.3 (16th) 330.24 (4th)
Quinn Passing Eff. 114.91
163.91 92.2170.3133.9 (43rd) 158.40 (7th)
Total Offense 384.0
397.0 245.0366.0348.0 (55th) 477.33 (10th)
Scoring Offense 14.0
34.0 (39th) 36.67 (8th)
Time of Possession 35:25 33:11 26:0424:2129:45 32:51
Red Zone TDs 2/3 (66%) 4/6 (66%) 2/2 (100%)
2/2 (100%)
10/12 (83%) 38/55 (69%)

Category GT PSU UMMSU 2006 2005
Yards per rush given up 4.2 4.8 3.9
Avg. yards per PA 5.8 5.5 7.7
Avg. yards per PC 11.7 9.4 16.912.712.1 14.6
Pass completion % 50% 59% 59%48%55% 53%
Quarterback sacks 1 2 238 31
Rushing yards against 119.0 158.0 120.0248.0161.3 (92nd) 132.33 (34th)
Passing yards against 140.0 225.0 220.0140.0181.3 (50th) 264.6 (103rd)
Passing Eff. defense 112.75 107.8 186.64124.6134.0 (47th) 121.41 (53rd)
Total yd. against 259.0 383.0 340.0388.0342.5 (63rd) 396.92 (75th)
Scoring Defense 10.0 17.0 (94th) 24.5 (53rd)
Red Zone defense 2/2 (100%) 3/4 (75%) 4/4 (100%)
2/2 (100%)
9/10 (90%) 31/41 (76%)
Red Zone TD defense1/2 (50%)2/4 (50%) 2/4 (50%)
1/2 (50%)
5/10 (50%) 23/41 (56%)

Category GT PSU UM MSU 2006 2005
Interceptions by ND 0
1 1
24 13
Fumbles forced/recovered 0/03/2 0/0
2/15/3 20/11
Turnovers gained 0 3 1
37 24
Had intercepted 0 0 3
14 8
Fumbles/Lost 0 1/0 2/2
3/16/3 17/6
Turnovers lost 0 0 5
27 14
Turnover Margin 0 +3 -4
+10 +10

Special Teams
Category GT PSU UMMSU 2006 2005
Kickoff Return average 39.5 13.0 22.624.824.9 19.0
Kickoff Return avg. allowed 17.5 13.2 14.820.016.1 21.2
Punt Return average 7.5 2.0 14.1
Punt Return avg. allowed 8.0 6.0 6.4
Net Punt avg.
41.6 44.0 39.941.140.7 36.1
Kickoff avg. / Touchbacks
64.7/1 59.1/2 60.0/060.1/260.4/5 59.3/10
Field Goal Att./Made
0/2 2/2 0/00/02/4 12/18

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Upon Further Review - Week 4 | by Dylan

A couple of notes on the MSU game before I span the globe.

First, there’s been a lot of talk about how MSU “gave” the game to Notre Dame, and that that act of charity diminishes the Irish win. You know what? I can live with that. If it makes Sparty Nation feel better to think so, I can’t begrudge them looking for some silver lining on that soul-crushing black cloud of a game. But it’s important to remember how the game was “given” to ND. It was not given as a result of freakish bad luck or random acts of God. It was given by their coach, their quarterback, and their best wide receiver. If John L. Smith had not started playing “not to lose” in the first half, State may have run away with the game. If he had not called for his special teams to execute a panic-induced kickoff non-return, and if he had played a field position game rather than throw on third and 5 from his own 15 (no doubt fearing that punting and giving the ball back to ND would inevitably lead to a score and a loss), he may still have won the game. But he didn’t do those things because he is a bad football coach. So if Sparty wants to say that they lost because their bad football coach gave the game away, I can sympathize. Notre Dame fans know that feeling well, and in the end, it’s still a loss.

Second, not only is John L. a poor coach, he’s a horrible leader, and his team has taken on his personality. He really is a suitable case for study. It seems that every word out of his mouth is a case of psychological projection. The “defend the S” embarrassment is a case in point. John L. assumes that all teams must be as undisciplined as his, therefore the “Block S” on their fifty yard line was certainly in for an Irish flag planting. John L. sent players out to “defend the S.” Think about that. He had a plan for what to do after they lost, and that plan included sending three players out to, presumably, get their asses kicked by an unruly Irish horde bent on flag-planting. Nice. Like his coach, Matt Trannon felt the need to go into the Notre Dame bench to “protect his quarterback.” Protect him from whom? Trannon assumed that Notre Dame’s bench would do to Stanton what his bench, presumably, would have done to Quinn on the other sideline. The resulting penalty nullified an ND personal foul. It was an insane reaction to an everyday play, which made it typical of a John L. Smith team. But enough about Sparty…

Ty Willingham would have lost that game by 5 touchdowns, and I don’t think that’s really debatable. As if to spite the lunatic ravings of the NDNation Game Day message board, Weis (who was called on to fire Rick Minter, Jappy Oliver, and Brian Polian by one bedwetting poster), Rick Minter, and Brady Quinn (who’s benching was being called for by many) proved that they are not prone to quitting or seeking solace in their man-molding abilities. Terrific adjustments led to a 26-6 second half. This team will never quit, and that’s something the previous staff could not say.

The SEC said “to hell with this!” after serving up some good matchups in week 3 and reverted to preseason petit four form. Here’s the non-conference slate from Saturday:

Buffalo (1-3)
Colorado (0-4)
Tulane (1-2)
Marshall (1-3)
UAB (1-3)
Tennessee State (2-2, even Vanderbilt is in on the act)
Florida Atlantic (0-4)

Good God, men. 6-21. That’s embarrassing.

The cupcake universe almost folded in upon itself when Central Michigan kicked off against Eastern Michigan. If football games can have historical analogues, this one was the Korean War. It was a civil war by proxy, with CMU (a UM spankee) and EMU (MSU appetizer) engaging in a cruller cage-match, vying for directional supremacy. Since CMU won, they get the raspberry for scheduling weakness. At least it was in conference (ahem, SEC). It is unknown at this point who will control the UP, or if they'll just give the damned thing to Wisconsin.

Not to be outdone by the SEC, Oklahoma and Nebraska, both recovering from losses, took nice, easy steambaths and let Middle Tennessee State and Troy State (respectively) gently massage their weary hammies and glutes in shutout victories. Baylor, again imitating a Big 12 team, scheduled Army. The Bears lost, proving that they have as much to learn about cupcake scheduling as they do about winning conference games.

Is West Virginia any good? There’s no way to know, really. It appears that some of the Mountaineers are fast, at least in relation to the teams they’ve played (a murderer’s row of Marshall, Eastern Washington, Maryland, and East Carolina). Their languid, banjo-accompanied waltz to The BCS Championship seems to have just one tricky step thrown in when they visit Louisville. One of those teams is going to go undefeated. Unbelievable. BYU ’84 is hoping WVU loses so they can hold on to the title of Worst National Champion Ever, assembling each week hoping to pop champagne with the ’72 Dolphins.

Florida State feasted on Rice. Stragely, an hour later they were hungry again, agitating for their next game against N.C. State, looking forward to the breast meat on the menu.

Of the teams on ND’s remaining schedule, most acquitted themselves well, with the exception of Stanford (ZOK!), UCLA (CRACK!), and North Carolina (OOOOF!). USC lost another key player to injury when last-man-standing fullback Stanley Havili broke his leg against Arizona. Purdue racked up their fourth win against what has to have been the weakest Division 1-A schedule in the country, and the Academies again showed as much grit and whatever else gritty teams have, going 2-1 against teams that scheduled them as gimmes (yeah, I know Air Force was a conference game). I love it when that happens.

Despite a bad loss crushing the dream of an undefeated season, I think getting through these past four games with a 3-1 record is a hell of an accomplishment, particularly now that we know what we (don’t) have at certain critical positions. I fully expect the Irish coaching staff to take a “back to camp” mentality into the soft part of the schedule. Hopefully, we’ll see some players get “coached up” and the Irish will emerge in November with fewer holes, a 10-1 record, a date with Southern Cal, and a BCS (Championship?) game on the line.

Go Irish!

Monday, September 25, 2006

Michigan State game photo galleries | by Pat

This week we have galleries from, Michigan State's official football site, the South Bend Tribune, the Detroit News, Irish Illustrated, Blue and Gold Illustrated, and the AP photo wire.

What an incredible roller coaster of a game. For the photo of the game, I'm leaning towards this shot of Terrail Lambert as he reels in the interception that he would turn into the game-winning touchdown. I do have a feeling though that the photo that will be the most remembered from this game is this one of three lone Spartans, standing stunned at midfield, protecting their turf from a flag attack that never was going to happen.

And while the linked photo galleries give you some great shots from the game, I highly recommend checking out the sideline video shot by that shows the end of the game and the team celebrating with the Irish fans, singing the Victory March and Alma Mater, and throwing their gloves into the stands for the loyal fans who sat through a monsoon to watch old Notre Dame win over all.