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  • Wonder, Think & Know: Pesky Puma Edition

    by Mike Coffey

    As the late great Mike Royko once said, some things you wonder, some things you think, and some things you just know. And as the late great Casey Stengel once said, if we pitched as hard to get out of trouble before we got into trouble, we wouldn’t get into trouble. Amen, Casey.

    There was a topic on Rock’s House recently about what national championship teams had the benefit of luck. Well, my interesting Judeo-Christian friends, this Notre Dame team has to be the luckiest bunch of lucks that ever lucked. If you disagree, keep in mind this Irish victory came about because of unfathomable play-calling by Rick Chryst after an end-zone turnover with less than four minutes remaining in regulation, and a sure-footed kicker slicing a 33-yard gimmee. If you still disagree, well, you’re just lucked in the head.

    Everett Golson has testicles of titanium and absolutely no memory or conscience. When the consistent speed of his decision-making catches up with the game, look out.

    The referees probably are not in the top 10 reasons why this game was close. However, the death by a thousand cuts was evident all game in things like spots, whistles blown and not, and plays reviewed and not. I’m not sure how much money the Big East is asking from Notre Dame to facilitate an early departure from the conference, but as far as I’m concerned, it’d be money well spent. Conference game officials have absolutely no incentive to treat us fairly. It didn’t cost us today, but it’s bound to cost us eventually. Pay the man, and let’s all move on.

    Last week I told Brian Kelly I would give him a clean slate. He’s not doing much with it so far. Yesterday was the 2011 season in microcosm. We were sloppy with the ball. We played to the level of our mediocre opposition. Tommy Rees played one play too many. The offensive line looked lost. We completely abandoned the running game in a panic after finding ourselves down 14 points. And nothing said 2011 to me more than a 15-play, 91-yard drive ending in zero points.

    But yesterday also offered glimmers of hope. The aforementioned steel-girded Golson returned to save the day. The defense, who apparently were told it was a 7pm kickoff, rose to the occasion in fourth quarter and beyond. Brian Kelly rediscovered the ground game in overtime and we rode it to victory. The journey of a thousand miles begins with the first step.

    Like it or not, style points count. When the polls come out today and we’ve slipped, it’s because we looked terrible against an unranked Pitt team at home. I’m willing to entertain the notion that Pitt is better than its (non-)ranking, they’ve been playing well lately and Rick Chryst, fourth quarter brain farts aside, seems like he knows how to lead. But in the next two weeks, we’ve got games against probably the two worst teams on our schedule. Both these games need to be Jehova’s-Witness-at-Sturgis curb-stomps if we have any chance of a date in Miami on January 7th.

    48 Responses to “Wonder, Think & Know: Pesky Puma Edition”

    1. Mike Coffey says:

      One other thing to think about in the “luck” department — on the FG that Pitt missed, according to a poster on Rock’s House, Chris Brown and Bennett Jackson both are defending the kick. Both wear #2, and the rules state both cannot be in the game at the same time. It should have been some form of illegal participation, but either way, Pitt ball even closer to the goal line, and I don’t think their kicker would have missed again.

      • Your above comment begs the question, why does ND issue duplicate numbers to their players? Think there’s enough numbers to go around, none are retired, are they?

      • Ah, the ball was hooking late, so moving closer would not have helped. Right.

        • Mike Coffey says:

          You’re assuming he would have kicked it the exact same way given another chance to kick it. The miss would have been wiped out, and Pitt would have had a first down (it was 4th and one at the time).

    2. John Cochtoastin says:

      Two things: John Feinstein just wrote “Does Notre Dame’s win mean we can forget about Hurricane Sandy?” He’s ridiculous. Also Kenjon Barner just scored on USC again.

    3. Just let sleeping dogs lie!!

    4. When is it luck and when is it taking advantage of the breaks? The ND didn’t have its best game, but ND outgained Pitt by over 200 yards, held Pitt to 1-14 on third downs, and should have had a fumble recovery. The punting game continues to hold them back in really close games. Is it luck that ND couldn’t punch it in inside the one, fumbled another time inside the one and had a pick in the endzone?

      • Mike Coffey says:

        No, that’s not luck, that’s lack of focus and poor play. As well as ND played in Norman, they played horribly yesterday.

        • It was poor play. Lack of focus can be a vague concept. There are specific reasons why games like this happen. The poor punting game constantly causes them bad field position, and with uneven QB play, they have a hard time getting big plays under those circumstances. They scored 20 or fewer points in regulation for the 6th time in 9 games. They constantly play close low scoring games no matter who they play and a few mistakes can turn things upside down when you play like that.

    5. I am thrilled with the progress out team had made this year. But Kelly is right: This is a work in progress and the team has to get better in a lot of areas. Frankly, I don’t think we could play with Alabama or Oregon– those teams are on a different plane. And after watching that very entertaining Oregon-USC game, I am worried that we won’t be able to keep up with the Trojans.

      • Remember, Oklahoma was supposed to carve us like a Thanksgiving turkey. It’s our home games that have been an ugly fest. I think we’d hold up to anyone on a neutral field.

    6. Swiss Roger says:

      Hummm maybe Brian…. BUT, other Teams wouldn’t have won this game… that says a lot… this guys have confindence I haven’t seen years a go… I am still thrilled… and believe this team can win against everybody!

      GO Irish!

    7. Kelley Garvey says:

      So, winning for you is not good enough?

      • Mike Coffey says:

        Winning is just fine. But I want to win 13 games this season, and when foolish mistakes are made, the chances of seeing that goes down.

    8. at year three we should not be regressing to year one and two mistakes. yesterday we looked like the last five years but with one difference. we had the resolve to win. that attitude does start with the coaching and I give Kelly full credit for that. I also blame kelly 100% for the bone headed decision to use Rees and kill his starting QBs confidence. I blame him 100% for poor red zone play calling and 100% for the worst special teams play of any team ranked in the top 25 by far. he calls it a works in progress but never does he take any blame himself. He is a works in progress who needs a lot of help with his game management. His arrogance on the side lines with his players is really bush league. This team is much better than we saw yesterday and he needs to accept responsibility for the poor coaching this past week

    9. Kelley Garvey says:

      Also, why do you keep calling him “Rick Chryst”? Is this a humorous reference that I’m ignorant to?

    10. Certainly our worst game of the season. I feel like we are playing with house money now, so this season should just be viewed for what it is…a hell of a fun time.

      A return to “relevancy”, to me, is winning any BCS game or playing in the National Championship regardless of outcome. Maybe neither happens this year, but BK has us going where we need to be. Everett Golson and a phenomenal recruiting class coming in has the program on its most solid footing in who knows how long.

      Finally, anyone else irritated with pundits labeling Oregon “impressive” after yesterdays win? How do you give up 51 points (more if USC doesn’t end the 2nd half with a dumb turnover) and call that impressive, especially when it’s the first time Oregon has had a challenge all year? Haven’t the pundits learned their lesson from West Virginia? At the end of the day, do you want a team that can put up an insane number of points or one that can make the defensive stop when you need it (like ND). K State and ND should remain ahead of Oregon but won’t. Frustrating.

    11. The thing you must remember is that the ‘ball bouces’ for you and against you. Last year it really bounced the other way. Now it’s bouncing for us. Thus is the Karama of Football!

    12. Paul Chryst

    13. A few things:

      1) Most sane posters here commented – 3 years ago – that Kelly would be fairly evaluated AFTER Year # 3. That’s a couple months from now.

      2) It’s interesting how the negative Tommy Rees comments have come back, after the interception yesterday. Before it, Tommy had been heralded as the “Super Sub,” “Clutch Guy,” “Comeback Tommy,” etc. Give the kid a break.

      3) There’s no guarantee that “the consistent speed of his (Golson’s) decision-making catches up with the game . . .”

      4) There may be a starting quarterback competition next season with Gunner Kiel making his way into the lineup.

      5) This current team is fun to watch. And 9-0 for the first time in 19 years is great. (Let’s bring back that 1993 economy, too.) But, it is going to take a truckload of Irish LUCK to win out this season.

    14. Still #4 in both human polls. We’ll probably drop in the BCS poll, but that will have more to do with Alabama finally playing someone and moving up themselves. Same for Oregon. An ugly win, but really…no harm done, or at least FAR less harm than would have been done by a loss. GO Irish.

    15. ElkhartIrish says:

      Mike, that has to be the funniest and truest sports’ piece I’ve ever read!

    16. You have to win games like this if you want to go undefeated. Kelly needs to allow the offense to do more and put more faith in his defense that they can overcome any mistakes Golson might make. Where we would lose to Alabama, Oregon and Kansas St. are our special teams are horrible. Not just one part but all of our special teams. Our kick returns are lousy, punt returns are non-existent, kick coverage is very poor, our punter can never get us field position. These are the worst special teams I have ever seen. Holtz used to say when you go on the road you better take your defense and your special teams. Our defense truly is special because they cover deficiencies in the offense and the special teams.

    17. Boy–some of you old timers need to take a gratitude pill–maybe you forgot how bad a culture ND had become—Rome wasnt built in a day!!!!

      • Mike Coffey says:

        I realize that, and have been more than willing to give the coaches credit for the good things that have been done.

        But multiple players on the field with the same number is a Coaching 101 mistake. Had that penalty been called and we’d lost the game, how would you feel?

    18. Brian in Cleve says:

      Can someone explain what all this “flu” business with Nix was? Had to watch most of the game with the sound down.

    19. Brian in Cleve says:

      Re: the lousy special teams…just thinking out loud here, maybe there wasn’t enough time to work on special teams, i.e., maybe they choose to spend an extra hour on defensive practice instead of special teams – could be a conscious choice…maybe it came down to having the best players on defense instead of on special teams…maybe trying to avoid injuries to great defensive players by taking them out of the collision-based kick coverage teams? Does Teo cover kicks? Someone who has coached football please comment…

    20. not enough time to work on special teams–be real. there has been three years to be average and they are miles from average. For ND to compete with the top five BCS teams special teams need to improve. Its that simple. We have no chance with elite teams when we can’t punt, return or kick.

    21. heard ND had two number 2’s on that missed field goal by Pitt, but it wasn’t called. Didn’t they have two number 5’s penalty earlier? Just have to shake your head.

    22. Mike, good analysis — but you sound like an old Italian alum friend of mine. He is so hard on Coach Kelly that anything short of a NC my friend would call for the coach’s head. Home games can be a real distraction because they (the football team) have to prepare for the game and entertain demanding and relentless alumni with unreasonable expectations.

      With all that said, if they don’t win it all this season, we’ve failed!

      Needless to say, Go Irish!


    23. Wow!!… Am I the only one happy that we are 9-0 and still chugging along? What’s with the nitpicking? It is very rare for an undefeated team to have no blemishes and no “close ones”. Im enjoying every GREAT moment of his run and if it ends I will recollect back to the beginning of the season when we were considered an 8 to 9 win team at best. This team has a ton of guts and Im proud to be an IRISH fan in 12′.

      • Mike Coffey says:

        I don’t think anyone is clamoring for “no blemishes”. The trouble is we’ve got a lot of blemishes and there were a whole bunch of them on Saturday. I’m fine with 9-0, but I get concerned the blemishes are going to prevent 13-0.

        If right after Pitt had missed the kick, the refs had flagged us for that uniform violation, how would you feel?

    24. After listening to the guy behind me spend most of the game talking about how he doesn’t like BK and the weekly barrage on the message board about his ineptitude as a coach, I am curious what he needs to do for a section of the alumni base to “like” him?

      I respect the writers on this site, despite my differences in opinion with a number of their views. I feel that most of their positions are well reasoned and well explained. I do not respect the random alum’s opinion from the game, as it is evident that he just doesn’t like the guy. I state this after listening to 5 hours (THANKS NBC!) of his opinions on play calling, stadium changes, QB status, etc.

      I appreciate the Clean Slate view given a week ago. What will it take for everyone else to give BK a clean slate?

      *full disclosure, I am 100% in the BK camp.

      • Mike Coffey says:

        It’s hard to stick with a clean slate when you hear about things like the multiple-number gaffe. Everyone makes mistakes, but that’s an incredibly basic mistake. If we’d been given a gift with that missed kick and then had to give that gift back because someone on the coaching staff can’t count … well, how would you feel?

        • I agree.. not good. I’m not sure that is entirely on BK though. I could be wrong, and if so, please let me know.

          I am more curious about the aggregate dislike that seems to exist. It seems like he is fighting an uphill battle for recognition as a good coach or to be recognized as the right coach. This is not a request to silence any and all criticism. It is an honest question for those that do not feel or have not felt he is the right coach to ask themselves what it would take for him to prove himself?

          I think the program is in better shape now than when he came in. I feel like he can get more out of players. I feel like he is building for the future.

          I also get that I may be over-perceiving the situation. I think he is 100% the right guy, and this might skew my perception of other individual’s positions.

    25. It is unbelieveable to keep using a “what if and then saying how would you feel”-is. I get your angst and fear but for once look up at the heavens and understand that we are blessed! I had a daughter that just graduated from ND and I also have observed the program in detail although I’m sure I havent been around the multiple decades you have. I have a daughter at Alabama now. TRY to realize that where Bama is-is a goal and you are going to not be perfect in trying to get there. You sound like the same people that don’t think Saban is great because everything is not perfect!! Get some perspective please !!! GO IRISH!!!!!

      • Mike Coffey says:

        Why can’t I do both? Can’t I understand 9-0 is a good place to be and be happy we’re here, and yet still be concerned that our goal of a national championship may be derailed because of self-inflicted wounds?

        It’s not a question of “not being perfect trying to get there”. Bad play calls happen. Players make mental mistakes. That’s all understandable, if not preferred. But this is a question of mistakes being made that, at this point in the “getting there” journey, shouldn’t be made.

    26. Not sure about the kicker and punter, but as for the special teams coverage units, BK said earlier this year that injuries decimated this unit and that a lot of green players are on these units. You can tell because, on punt and kick returns Davonte and GAIII never have a chance to get going….I am VERY happy to be 9 – 0 and enjoying this year. Are we an elite team yet? No, but BK knows this and we are making our way to one very soon. I hope we 13 -0 and I am enjoying this ride right now and hope it is a long run of great teams under BK!!!!

      GO IRISH!!!!

    27. You can do both– and I do understand the desire to get there. I am not trying to change your opinion and I respect the desire and passion for ND!! I also hope we improve. I think I have been scarred by the past years of inepitude and just need a few days to smile! By the way in my opinion there is no way we are ready for Bama this year and don’t even know if we should be going there. I think Kelly is building a program along the lines of Saban and I like what I see–just don’t have raw talent yet. Just my opinion. Thanks

    28. Kevin Doherty says:

      The phrase “I’d rather be lucky than good” comes to mind, and you are also absolutely right that style points matter! BCS = Beauty Contest Series. When they show point differential as one of the critical few stats in comparing the unbeatens on the live BCS unveiling show, it is time for Kelly to unleash the hounds and hang a 70 against BC, Wake, and/or USC (if possible).

    29. John Barwick says:

      What are are the Yankees with half our numbers retired?? We have a 99 numbers to work with. Why are so many doubled up?

      • I detest the doubling up on numbers and they are lucky that didn’t bite them on the missed FG in OT#2. I hope it costs another program soon so this problem will go away. Maybe Emmert will ride his wave of overstepping his authority and ban the practice. Is it really necessary to bow to these recruits with their number preference when that number already is taken? Wait your turn…Lettermen and Seniors get first shot. Starters after that. Incoming freshman, you get what you get.

        • Gmoney321 says:

          Well said. I don’t understand why a number has to be given to recruit a player, talk about self centered and not being a team player.

    30. I am tired of what ifs –what if this had happened and this didnt—-get a reality perspective–what is——- is–take a guess where that puts us–be a fan and expect the BCS Championship but don’t look beyond the fact that we are 9 and 0