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  • Wonder, Think and Know: “No Defense” Edition

    by Mike Coffey

    At some point, Mike Royko never saying, “Some things you wonder, some things you think, and some things you just know,” is going to turn into a “Craig James killed five hookers” thing.

    At the beginning of the season, I told multiple people “If you bet the Irish this season, bet the under.” I hereby retract that statement. While neither defensive unit gave their fans much to be proud of tonight, if Bob Diaco was saving space on his mantle for another Broyles award this year, he’d best find another tchotchke to fill the void because I remain puzzled what he spent this week doing. It is so frustrating to watch a defense that won so many games for ND last season completely come apart as it has. Eminem looked more in control of his environment today than our defense did.

    Four seasons in, and we still apparently have not learned when our offense gets out of balance, bad things happen. For example, from the time ND tied the game until the end of the first half, they ran 15 offensive plays. Only two were running plays. That’s not balance, that’s putting pressure on a quarterback who has shown a propensity to throw interceptions the more pass attempts you give him. The first drive in the second half showed the requisite balance, and it was successful to the tune of 90 yards and a touchdown. When we go pass-happy, particularly in the red zone, we bog down or turn it over.

    The PI call against Jackson could have gone either way, but to blame the loss on it truly is foolish. 30 points should be enough to win at Michigan. The fact that it wasn’t should have us all very very concerned.

    Good news for a freshman is you don’t make any mistakes that cost your team. Two games in, I remain happy with Jaylon Smith and how he’s coming along, and look forward to watching his development this season. It’s a shame I can’t say the same about any of his teammates on that side of the ball right now.

    I really have no idea what has happened to our defensive backfield. Setting aside the lack of coverage and propensity for crucial penalties tonight, why do they continually wait for the contact on plays in front of them? Instead of attacking the offensive player and limiting the progress, they wait for the offensive player to initiate the contact, thereby yielding additional yards.

    I’m not sure what the reasoning was behind Nix and Tuitt putting on added weight, but that analysis should be redone more thoroughly. They both seem to have lost a step and are missing the plays they used to make. I understand Tuitt was dinged up, but should that inactivity not have been prepared for?

    When you can’t force a punt or at least prevent a touchdown after a first-and-30 play, you’ve got problems on defense. When you have a strong OL, a quality group of running backs, and a quarterback with known weaknesses, and your game plan results in 51 of your 69 plays on offense being pass plays, you’ve got problems on the sidelines.

    2013 remains a bad year to be a Notre Dame football fan. We can only hope things improve.

    Michigan still sucks.

    20 Responses to “Wonder, Think and Know: “No Defense” Edition”

    1. Coaching tonight and game preparation was pathetic. Rees of course is so limited when there is any pressure. His limitations are legendary and there is not much to say about him. He is a total liability in big game situations but we knew that. What we didnt know is that the defense could be so poorly prepared. 41 points? very disappointing—

    2. yeah, wish diaco would have left last year. terrible defense.. killed program by suspending golson.

    3. Notre Dame was down by 14 pts at one point. The defense was stacking the box, daring ND to beat them with the pass. You don’t run into the teeth of the defense, you take what it gives you.

      There was nothing wrong with the offensive game plan.

      This loss lays squarely on the shoulder of the defense.

      This game reminded me of a Charlie Weis 2009 game. Defense leaking yards everywhere and jimmy clausen and game doing everything in their power to stay close.

      • Mike Coffey says:

        As I pointed out, of the 15 plays ND ran after tying the game, 13 were passes.

        And they had very successful running plays in the first drive of the second half that went 90 yards and scored a touchdown.

        If we spend the season “taking what the defense gives us”, we’re going to be looking at more than a couple more losses. Sometimes you have to be good enough to dictate, and that’s what ND’s OL should allow it to do.

        • When the defense can’t stop the offense and you are down 2 scores, you are not only running into 6/7/8 man fronts, you are also running against the clock.

          Even though the game got close late (after Tuitt’s TD) this was a 2 possession game for most of it. Incomplete pass stops the clock. Blown run plays eat another 20 seconds.

          It’s common monday morning quarterbacking to complain about the run to pass ratio after a game, especially after a loss, but fans don’t consider all of the factors.

          • Mike Coffey says:

            The clock doesn’t become a factor until the final six minutes of the game. Outside of that, you have to be willing to use all of your offense. Take a look at what fifth-ranked Stanford does, it’s quite educational.

        • I don’t think ramming your head into an 8 or 9 man front is very smart. We would all be yelling “pass the damn ball.” ND has some very good backs but no Robert Hughes or Jonas Grey. We lack the 230 lb power back. I know everyone wants to blame Rees but he also made some damn good throws. What I don’t understand is why with an admittedly deep defensive backfield, ND doesn’t put 5 or 6 db’s in the game to confuse Gardner especially on passing downs. Probably because they did not practice with 5 or 6 db’s. I think Diaco is a good game planner when it comes to defensive strategy. But, IMO, he is horrible with in-the-game adjustments.

          • I agree that M was stacking the box. We scored 30 points, only had 14 last year. Defense and officials cost us. You shouldnt have to score 42 points to win, and with Reese, we cant even score 42 against Temple.

          • I was at the game and I didn’t think Mich was stacking the box too much except on 3rd and short.

            I wondered why Carlyle through the A gap worked over and over again. Their lbs were so slow to close it.

    4. It is not a bad year to be a Notre Dame Football fan. There is no such thing, sir. I trust you wrote this in the frustration of last night.

      • Mike Coffey says:

        That’s vapid. One can be a fan of the program while acknowledging a number of bad things have happened since 1/1/2013.

        • I’m not questioning your love of the program. Just an observation that there is never a bad year to be an Notre Dame football fan. I disagree with your assessment of vapidity, but I enjoy the use of vapid.

    5. All the pro folks are talking about hitting the QB on every play with that spread. The QB must be hit or touched every time he does that read no matter what (even if handed off). The only truly aggressive play I saw on Gardner was by Collinswoth on the end zone int. One can’t hesitate with a guy like that. No double teams on Gallon is beyond me. They beat us with 3 players, Gardner gallon and Toussaint. Game plan was poor.

    6. Coaching and Playing Scared says:

      The lack of agression is a result of a head coach who generally coaches scared in all phases of the game. It starts with handing starting jobs to the most-experienced players, not the most talented. It continues with playing a bend-but-don’t-break D that never blitzed last year, so now that they try to do some blitizing, the kids don’t know how to. Our DBS are either not allowed to chuck the WRS hard at the line, or are not allowed to take chances doing that. We simply don’t beat up or intimidate anyone. Same goes for our o-line which couldn’t manage better than a few yards on the first 2 drives, — although the vanilla/gutless playcalling didn’t help their cause.

    7. in spite of the miracle season last year prior to the alabama game, n.d. continues to be plagued by less than stellar coaches and qbs. if they want to play with the really big dogs and we all know who the big dogs are, they have to find a way to bring in coaches from teams other than cincinatti, akron, etc. and find a way to bring in qbs who wont cheat on exams or just not be so good. lets keep an eye on gunner kiel. unless there is a total climate change in fun and cheery south bend all of this probably wont happen. so sad. dg, nd ’67; lsu ’71 and avid nd and lsu fan.

    8. Beating the dead horse. Is there anyone in America that didn’t know Fox and Calabrese would be a liabilty in pass coverage? In the preseason, beef up a couple db’s, practice them in multiple situations where you need up to 6 db’s on the field, and play them in games, like Michigan where you may need more pass coverage. Unfortunately, it’s no longer the preseason, so I don’t know what the hell ND will do moving forward.

    9. I am not too sure what some of you saw Saturday night, but the front seven of the D did their jobs. They got to Gardner multiple times. What was hurting us is our secondary not being able to cover a twin bed with a king sized sheet. Gallon was their only weapon in the passing game and thanks to our secondary, we allowed Mich to get some rather easy TDs. One the other side, Rees made poor decisions when it cost us the most (surprise, surprise, surprise). On a fourth down play he opted to throw it to a double covered target in the endzone when he could have easily checked down to a wide open receiver picking up the first and extending the drive. Then, of course, on 1st and goal he throws it to a single target in the middle of the endzone who had something like four Mich defenders around him. Was the ground game sorely lacking? 96 total yards should tell you all you need to know. Was the BS pass interference call a factor? It was in that it gave them seven points. But the issues Saturday was a QB who should not be under center unless all other options are gone, and a secondary that is just as suspect as they were a year ago just a year older.

    10. Oh and Toussiant did not beat us. He had 71 yards on 22 carries, averaging 3.2 per carry and zero TDs on the ground. Gardner beat us because our guys could not keep contain on his bootlegs. When Gardner was in the pocket though he was being harassed constantly.

    11. Robert is the only one who has summed this game up correctly.

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