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  • No Fate But What We Make

    by Mike Coffey

    I was working at one of my kids’ fundraiser Sunday morning, and a fellow parent who knew I was an ND alumnus came over to chat about the loss Saturday night. He’s a B1G grad, but of a school we never play, and we share a mutual loathing of those in Ann Arbor, so the commiseration was mutual.

    One part of the conversation, however, got me thinking because I’d seen a similar sentiment expressed on Rock’s House in the 24 hours after the game:

    HIM: I still don’t understand why you’re so pissed about this.
    ME: Why would I not be? We lost to !@#$ing Michigan.
    HIM: I understand why you’re pissed in general. But you’re REALLY pissed. Didn’t you say to me a couple weeks ago this probably would be a two-loss ND team without your quarterback? You were already figuring they’d lose two games, so why get so mad when they lose the first one?

    He’s certainly correct about my prediction to him. My general feeling, expressed to many over the summer, was that ND would go 10-2 with both losses being within the “big four” on the schedule — Michigan, Oklahoma, Southern Cal, and Stanford, probably in that order of probability. So technically, yes, I thought Michigan was the game on the schedule ND would most likely lose. By that logic, perhaps I should be more philosophical about the Irish being 1-1.

    But it doesn’t work that way, because we have no fate but what we make. There are no letters in Belshazzar’s palace proclaiming Notre Dame tasting defeat in the Big House or any place else. When foot meets pigskin to start a game, it’s 0-0, and anything can happen. Granted, those things happen with varying assigned probabilities, but nothing with a probability greater than zero should ever be discounted. A second consecutive trip to the BCS title game after this season certainly was unlikely. But it was not impossible, and to cavalierly dismiss the lost chance simply because of the low probability isn’t the way I roll.

    In fact, that’s probably the reason I’m still angry about the loss. Notre Dame had a chance to win their most losable game of the season, and thanks to poor performance on defense and mind-boggling incompetence in game-planning on offense, that chance passed them by. It’s downright foolish to expect ND fans to be sanguine in the loss because Everett Golson isn’t here and we were going to lose games anyway and blah blah blah. We had the chance to win, and due to avoidable errors, we didn’t.

    I refuse to sleepwalk through this season, giving it up as a mulligan simply because the starting quarterback got himself suspended. That’s loser talk. We have a fourth-year player and 20-plus-game starter at the position, and very few true freshmen being asked to go above and beyond. If this staff can’t properly put together game plans to maximize their talents, that’s on the staff, not Golson.

    Losing to Michigan doesn’t preclude Notre Dame from having a great season (although the stats since 2000 may say otherwise). The only thing that will stop the Irish will be themselves. And I certainly won’t be happy about that no matter what I predicted in August.

    18 Responses to “No Fate But What We Make”

    1. I’m mainly depressed because I have seen enough from 6 of our other opponents to think that we could conceivably go 7-5 or even 6-6 this year. Stanford, OU, ASU, USC, MSU, and BYU each have certain standouts that are capable of beating us. While OU, USC, and MSU in particular have pedestrian offenses, I think our defense is bad enough that we could make even those offenses look solid. Meanwhile, Stanford, ASU, and BYU each have dynamic players on offense that will pose problems for us. This season doesn’t feel a lot like 10-2. It might feel like 10-2 if we played Ohio State’s schedule, but we don’t play that schedule.

      • OU, are you kidding me? They barely beat a WVA team that is completely garbage this season. And their big time QB–not the “Belldozer”–is likely to miss the next two weeks. USC is really weak this season too. Stanford is the only other team that I think will get the best of us. Michigan St, did you watch their poor performance Saturday? They couldn’t move the ball against a team they were supposed to be able to beat handily. I think we just got outplayed. Could we have won? I think so. But when you are led by a guy who makes terrible decisions as a QB then you are going to lose tight games. That was Saturday.

        • Mike Coffey says:

          OU’s offense may have issues, but let’s remember this isn’t last year’s defense we’ll be fielding against them.

          Unless our issues on D get resolved PDQ….

        • We could certainly beat OU, USC, and MSU this year. But the proposition that they could beat us is not really an “are you kidding me” proposition. Each of them has a defense that is good enough to keep the game close at a minimum, or even win the game for them by turnovers and defensive scores. I have been extremely impressed by MSU’s and USC’s defenses after watching all of their games thus far.

          And notwithstanding their pedestrian offenses, I would rather have OU, USC and MSU’s offensive lines and skill position players than Temple’s, and Temple managed to put up 350 yards on our defense.

          Also, keep in mind that we struggled on offense at times last year and managed to go 12-0. A team with a very good defense is always a risk. I believe that OU, USC, and MSU each create substantial risk for our team.

    2. While I totally agree that we shouldn’t just sleepwalk thru this year or “take a mulligan” on the season, I think you don’t account for Tommy’s short comings enough. You assume that because he’s a senior with 20 starts that that automatically makes him a “gamer”…and it doesn’t. His limitations are very clear and unfortunately the team’s fate hinges widely on him. Tommy’s demonstrated poor decision-making repeatedly…and I’ll stop everyone who will say, “this is the product of coaching.” Up to a certain point it’s up to the kid to go out there and make good choices (this, I think is why BK goes ape shit). And as far as game planning goes and everyone who’s whining about our lack of running…BK tried to run the ball early and often and that didn’t work (because other teams are going to force TR to beat them with his arm). The result was that he had to take to the air to open the run up…and that happened. We got back into the game, but then Tommy made a poor decision that totally changed the feel of the game at the end of the first half…my overall point to all this is that this team, at a minimum the offense, is limited because of the play at the qb position. Yes, they were in a position to win against the skunkbears and they didn’t. But there’s a difference between writing of the season and just facing and accepting reality. Go Irish, beat boilermakers.

      • Mike Coffey says:

        Then why not act to counterbalance his shortcomings? Run the ball more? Take away his ability to audible out of run plays?

        • Ryan in SD says:

          Because you have to take what the defense gives you. You don’t run into the teeth of an 8 man box with 1-on-1 on the edge. And every DC worth his salt is going to force TR to beat them. This is a tried and true formula to beat ND with TR at QB. And any team with a top 50 defense is going to beat our offense with that strategy.

    3. I guess I am in the minority, and maybe it’s because I don’t pay particular attention to back rooms (quite frankly it is difficult to find the good among the bad in there). However, I don’t think this season is lost. At no time did I feel that ND wasn’t playing to win or resigned to not being able to win in the big house. Nor do I think not having Golson was a significant factor or excuse. It is easy to armchair quarterback after a loss (we didn’t run enough, we blitzed too much, etc.). I don’t think people are giving enough credit to Gardner. I felt we got good pressure from the blitz and pretty much negated their running game outside of the qb. With the exception of the Tuitt touchdown, Gardner made some pretty amazing throws under duress and into pretty good coverage. It wasn’t like he was sitting back there playing pitch and catch. He also kept a lot of plays and drives alive with his feet. If we had stopped just a few of those, it would have been a completely different result, and 30 points would have been more than enough to win. Sure, we have helped a few athletes win the Heisman because of our poor defense, but this one felt a bit different. Of course I am pissed too that we lost, but a lot of that is because I wasn’t resigned that we couldn’t get back to the title game and because it is Michigan (I’ve never understood why their fans seem to act in a manner not indicative of their education level). I didn’t see the same problems I saw in the Davie, Willingham, and Weis days, and I’ll be surprised if Kelly and his staff let this result dictate the season.

    4. It appeared that BK tried running the ball in the beginning and it just wasn’t effective (by the 2 straight 3-and-outs) and before we knew it, UM was up 10. Which brings up a whole new topic of our horrifically porous D…which I won’t even get into becuase that’s a whole other conversation

      Oppposing teams know TR’s throwing limitations and load up the box to stop the run and force the pass. If/When we run into a half way decent offense like saturday and end up behind early, this forces BK’s hand into higher risk (passsing) offensive playcalling…because will you keep sticking with the same ineffective running game that is clearly not working and risk falling behind by more than 2 scores? Additionally, you actually saw TR making some good passes as the presumable reason running lanes started to open up.

      This is the dilemma with TR that I’m not sure BK can coach himself and the team out of…again, no mulligan for the year, but we have to face reality that we as a team are moderately, if not severely limited with TR as qb. It sucks for everyone involved, but GO IRISH still!

      • I must have been watching a different game than most people on here. Our first play from scrimmage was a seven yard run by GA3. Then we had two passes, one a terribly thrown ball to TJ Jones. The next drive we started with a pass that was incomplete and then ran for, I believe, four yards and then another incomplete pass. The 90 yard drive we gashed Mich’s defense with Carlisle. This loss is on the secondary and the QB.

    5. If the Irish had a smothering defense from minute one in this game Michigan loses period. How in the heck… do you go from a smothering defense in 2012 and giving up 6 points to Michigan to this 9/11 WTC tower burning of 41 points. Its called team and coach preparation failure bottom line. Yes this is tough criticism but how can Bama lose to A&M rebound and keep rolling and when we get a shot on the chin in the championship game we decide to regress like a daycare defense needing our damn hand held while we get deconstructed by the great Poo Poo Blue lead by the Governor Chris Christie look a like Head Coach and the ND Traitor Greg Mattison. So now we all have to contend, yet again, with the waves of inevitable disrespect we get every bloody year from the Mark May’s and all the other haters. Damn it Irish….get some respect ND Defense and get your head on straight (holding people to 0 -10 points) that would help Tommy from having to dig us out every week and start smothering offenses with unconscious competence otherwise go back to romper room Please prove me and the millions of the Irish Legion wrong and fast. Believe me if you do win the rest of your games then I will personally Treat the defense to a free steak house dinner…..Remember NBD live it or don’t. Signed Irish Tough Love

    6. For anyone who knows anything about football, we lost to a very good Michigan team. Our players in the secondary, for the most part, were right on their assigned receivers, but Gardner’s passes were perfect – and I mean perfect. We will not run into a quarterback who will throw as accurately again this season. Tommy Rees was the victim of tremendous anticipation on the part of the Michigan defender (he left his assigned receiver wide open). Our defense is better than it showed and that will bear out over the rest of the season. Based on the outcomes of other games so far, I do not think that we should lose to anyone other than Stanford until we play a bowl game. I stated the other day that we will win 10 games (including a bowl game) and I am optimistic that will be the case. I am also not one to be overconfident about the Irish. A 9 or 10 win regular season is something to be extremely proud, given the schedule that we play. This is a very good Notre Dame team. Has everyone forgotten how abysmal we were only two years ago?

      • Good man Muggs. I have said on a couple of blogs the exact same thing. Gardner was damn close to perfect. At least 3-4 of his completions were as he was being hit hard. And he broke our back with his first down run on 3rd and 8.( I can second guess as well as anyone-its harder to make 18 yds in 2 plays than 8 in one.bad decision.)
        But yeah, lets give him his due, and Galeon.
        I predict 10 wins as well, and not necessarily a loss to Stanford.

    7. I am a huge mich fan and got to go to the game as well. The Irish very well could have won but for a couple of breaks that didn’t go their way. I think the Irish still have a good team and the rest of the schedule doesn’t have another team as tough as um so I think y’all are gonna be ok at the end of the year. I will miss the rivalry, good luck nd and go blue

    8. Coffee, your friend made a good point. Most people on this board were in the 10-2,9-3 camps, with a few at 11-1 (I was in 11-1) So one of the most likely losses was to Michigan ( I predicted a solid victory)
      So we are where most people thought we should be. Now, like you, I don’t accept it graciously at all, and am mad we lost. But the new wrinkle in the equation was that Gardner was way better than we thought. The coaches have to make a couple of changes and fine tunings and we will be fine. The running backs are sorting themselves out, Niklaus is morphing into Eiffert and Rudolph.
      If Smith and Grace pick it up a bit faster we can still run the table.

    9. Baldknobber says:

      My takeaway from the game was that there were a lot of dropped passes that were catchable. True, Rees made his usual share of bad throws,but I don’t think it was all his fault that the passing game didn’t catch fire once the defense dared us to pass.

    10. Only an act of God saved Kelly from being in the hot seat this year. It was a miracle they beat Stanford, Pitt, Purdue, USC, and BYU. Michigan was only a win because of turnovers by their QB. If the kid from Miami could have held onto two passes ND would have been down by 14 and that is one big momentum changer. Look for this average team to win 6 or 7 at the most.

    11. This is my 70th season as a Notre Dame fan. And I’m hardly more of an expert than I was at seven. Nevertheless, I’ll be so bold as to contribute the notion that two to four of our victories last year would have been losses if opposition receivers had not dropped so many key passes. If that’s true, it’s really hard to know how good this year’s team is. My view of the Michigan game echoes that of those who think Gardner was superb and overcame what seemed to me a good defense with nearly unbelievable throws and escapes. Given both of my analyses, I conclude that our win-loss record is going to depend on which of these oversized and marvelously talented kids performs to the best of his ability each game, and how many of them wear our uniform or the other. More tritely: “with college kids, you never know from week to week.” The wisdom in that hackneyed remark is tiresome but relentless. As to Kelly’s performance–for me it’s never so important that we win as that we play with determination and grit so as to represent our alma mater honorably. There were games under the previous coaches when the team failed to achieve that goal, but I have never seen that since Brian Kelly took the reins.

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