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  • Wonder, Think and Know: Sinking Their Battleship Edition

    by Mike Coffey

    Mike Royko never said “Some things you wonder, some things you think, and some things you just know”, but I bet he would have played single-safety yesterday.

    I’m a well-known adversary to the “television screen in ND Stadium” movement.  But I did find myself wishing there was a way to tell the crowd yesterday to STOP DOING THE FREAKING WAVE DURING A CLOSE GAME.  If a TV screen can get that done, maybe I’ll bite the bullet.

    How ’bout that Tarean Folston?  As Mayock said during the broadcast, some things can’t be coached, and he’s got those things.

    I know it was just Navy, but I really enjoyed the performance on offense.  ND could have named its score.  No negative-yardage plays, lots of punishing runs.  You could tell in the fourth quarter Navy’s defense was completely demoralized and defeated.  Had the defense stood up to its end of the bargain, my 45-20 OWHF prediction probably would have been closer to the actual result.

    Bob Diaco’s befuddlement when it comes to the option really has to be addressed.  I’m not sure why the same offense that was handled so well two out of the last four years could be such a problem the other two years, particularly when teams with significantly less talent seem to be able to deal with it.  I realize Navy is sky-high every time they play ND, but given the physical advantages ND enjoys, that shouldn’t matter.

    Not the best week to talk about “2010 will never be repeated”, methinks.

    You have to feel bad for Nick Sloan.  For the second time this season, a missed extra point affects the game’s outcome, as I’m sure Navy’s philosophy would have been a bit different in those last couple minutes if they knew they could tie with a field goal rather than needing a touchdown.

    Having said that, it’s a good thing he missed.  Can you imagine what overtime would have looked like?  They’d still be playing.

    Someone said Keenan Reynolds is only a sophomore.  We’d better get him figured out.

    Someone else said Navy had some kind of a run-in with Saturday’s officiating crew earlier in the season and had lodged some kind of complaint against them.  I’m not usually a blame-the-officiating kind of guy, but when a team complains about the refs and suddenly goes an entire game on the road without having one penalty called against them, I scratch my head a little bit.

    Lost in the howling about the poor performance of the defense is more howling about ND’s kickoff coverage.  Navy averaged almost 30 yards a return, and on their last drive, when ND absolutely needed them to have the longest field possible, Marcus Thomas blew through the blue jerseys for 49 yards.  I think it’s time for a full-time special teams coach, don’t you?

    I mentioned Tarean Folston, right?


    46 Responses to “Wonder, Think and Know: Sinking Their Battleship Edition”

    1. GraceHallChapel86 says:

      It’s all my fault. ND does fine whenever I don’t have time to watch the game, but when I do they perform terribly. My schedule was wide open yesterday.

      And no, Budweiser has not contacted me for their #WhatsYourSuperstition ad campaign.

    2. Jim Mazzei says:

      Any chance Nix being gone made that much of a difference. This is the same defense tht saved us against USC. Hard to believe.

      • I think it is more a function of having their legs battered up the week before by AF. Playing teams who make good use of cut blocking back-to-back will take its toll.

    3. Triple option offense and cut blocking should be banned from FBS football. Totally unfair advantage to the service academy teams. Too bad they can’ t compete with conventional offenses that virtually every other FBS team runs (except Georgia Tech, which I can’t believe their alum are really happy with Paul Johnson continuing as coach). Send them down to the FCS leagues, Navy-ND tradition be damned!

      • Avon Domer says:

        Hawk: I couldn’t disagree with you more. I love the triple option offenses run by the service academies. They do a beautiful job of running them and they’re great fun to watch, and even more than that, they’re legal to run with no end in sight. There are ways to stop them, but Notre Dame gave up a little over 600 yards combined rushing to Air Force and Navy, which has to be addressed. Someone once said the triple option is a combination track meet and magic show and I’ll always love watching it, no matter who runs it. BTW: Throughout its history, especailly under Lou, Notre Dame has run lots of triple option. If it’s good enough for us, shouldn’t it be good enough for anyone else who wants to run it?

        • Triple option would be nothing without cut blocking, which should be illegal. The injuries it causes is evidence enough. I would doubt seriously that Lou ran the triple option a lot. It is nice to see how well the service academy teams run that offense, but it’s not real football. Again, virtually every other college team (and most high scholl teams) gave it up long ago. I have to believe that Georgia Tech will can Paul Johnson soon, since he hasn’t brought this brand of football any glory to that school in his tenure.

          • Avon Domer says:

            Hawk: The reason why most teams gave up on the triple option years ago is because it’s tough to come from behind and win because running the ball so much eats up a lot of the clock, and option quarterbacks take a beating from running the ball so much. Not real football, eh? Tell that to the teams from Oklahoma, Texas and Nebraska who a couple decades ago won championships running the Wishbone (or a similar version of triple option), which is another form of the triple option similar to the Flexbone that Navy runs. The triple option offense is the only way for Navy and Air Force to compete these days with more talented teams like ND. If that wasn’t true, why would they run it? That offense is ideal for those teams because their players have less size than other teams, yet their kids are smart, disciplined, gritty competitors and that’s what it takes to be a strong option team. BTW: There are ways of fighting off cut blocks, which have been around since football started and are well within the rules. Notre Dame’s defensive coaches and players need to get better at dealing with that because that technique isn’t going away. BTW: If you ever get the chance to watch highlights of ND’s 1988 national championship team, you’ll notice that Tony Rice was superb at running the option under Lou Holtz. They didn’t always run the option, but it was seen a great deal, particularly in goal line situations when ND would appear in the Wishbone formation.

      • “unfair advantage” and “can’t compete” seem to be notions at odds with each other.

        • No contradiction there since “unfair” means most of the teams the service academies play don’t see the triple option by any of the other teams they play, making just one-week prep for this offense unfair. Obviously, the service academies “can’t compete” against most other schools using a conventional offense with their type of players, so they have to make up one that their opponents rarely see, again, really unfair.

          • That is just whining. Quit it. Complain about the cut blocks, fine, but quit whining about the offense they run, which is what Lou ran all the time.

          • Avon Domer says:

            Hawk: One of the beauties of football, particularly with the college game, is the wide variety of offenses to choose from, and the fact that certain teams rarely have to defend against the triple option doesn’t mean it should be banned. Is it also your opinion that knuckleball pitchers in Major League Baseball should be banned becasue hitters rarely see that pitch? I think when someone utilizes an out-of-the-ordinary way to win within the rules they should be celebrated, not vilified. If your logic would’ve been in vogue back in the day, Rockne and Dorais making the forward pass a real weapon in 1913, and Rockne’s famous “Notre Dame shift” from the 1920s, might never have happened and football would still be in the stone-age.

    4. do you really think ND could name its score. our red zone offense has not improved in the 4 years kelly has been coach. a TD called back, an INT and a field goal show that we can score as we should even on the worst defenses. Plus we have a QB who cant function in the red zone or in a hurry up situation. That is not the QBs fault. he has no talent. the fault is the coaches who have no one else ready to go after four years here. Our special teams are the worst in the FBS without a doubt. Navy returning the ball to midfield with the game on the line in the 4th quarter? really Kelly–is that the best you can come up with in 4 years at this? Our punt return team is a total joke–horrific. One good return is negated by a penalty and then the fair catch with no blocking for the return man–Kelly signature addtion to ND lore, takes over. Our coaching should be heavily criticized–Diaco has failed to demonstrate he is a good coordinator this year. Last year he might have been a hot commodity but this year he is below average. Kelly’s planing and preparation for games against bad teams is pathetic. The development of a running game is sad. Folston is the second best running back on the team and until yesterday he couldnt get in long enough to mean anything. the best running back has been redshirted for the year and next year he will demonstrate that unless Kelly under utilizes him as well.
      yes I am glad we won. I wonder how we can continue to play down to teams. Navy is not a good team and has no business being within 30 points of the Irish. Look at who they have played and how the scores have been. I can only think our coaching is totally at fault. We have top ten or 12 talent and paly as if we are struggling against the most mediocre teams–bad coaching all season.

      • do you really think that coaches get good and bad from one year to another, or could it possibly be the execution and talent of the kids that play for them? The idea that “Diaco has failed to demonstrate he is a good coordinator this year. Last year he might have been a hot commodity but this year he is below average”, is ridiculous. This is a slower and less experienced defense than last years top tier model, due to mostly to graduation and injuries. Also, losing their most important weapon (Nix) against an option attack that essentially played a perfect game, made a huge difference. It gets tiresome and disheartening to read this site when so many just fall back on the idea that “coach X sucks!”

    5. Mike,
      Diaco or Kelley should hire a defensive consultant just for games with the academies…It would be money well spent.

    6. What does OWHF stand for? If you can’t say it don’t use it.There’s a difference between liberty and license. Want it spelled out on a stadium “TV” screen?

      • Mike Coffey says:

        It stands for “OlWhatsHisFace”, the handle of the poster who used to run the prediction contest on Rock’s House 10 years ago until he asked us to take it over.

        • Good. I was thinking the worst. I agree about the wave. Those fans must be there for the ND experience, not rooting for their boys. Defensive coaching was poor. No adjustments and no penetration. Like a prevent defense for the whole game. That conservative approach cost us against FSU when we had a good lead.

    7. special teams is a f@*&ing JOKE

    8. GOOD JOB NAVY!!!!

    9. Being at the game, my belief is that the wave was a statement about the TV timeouts, not the team or the game itself. The NBC contract was designed to enhance the game experience for fans in the stadium and avoid night games, or so we were told. Night games now becoming commonplace and the boredom that sets in over almost 4 hours in a cold, rainy stadium, make people do the wave even in close games. It helpd people stay warm. Money, not the fans comfort, is the controlling factor now.

      • Comfort has obviously never been a priority with the lame seats. They shou;d have put padded seats with armrests and cupholders back when they renovated. I always get stuck in a row with a few fat guys and have zero room. Put up the jumbotron too so people can at least see some replays during the timeouts.

    10. Tom OConnor 63 ND says:

      High schools are now installing jumbotrons, or “televisions in the stadium”. ND needs to join the modern era so that the 80,000 in attendance have at least as good an experience as the millions watching on tv, e.g. when it comes to seeing plays “under further review”, or just seeing replays of great plays. Also, during the tv timeouts, so distracting to those in the stadium, we can see clips of great plays from past games, new things on campus, on and on…ratherresorting to such things as the wave…agree that was a low point of yesterday’s otherwise wonderful experience.. GO IRISH

      • Mike Coffey says:

        If you’re not having a good experience in ND Stadium, you’re not doing it right

        • No, it’s because they have completely disregarded old farts like me and many like me. I don’t want to hear ‘music’ blaring over the P.A. system every few seconds, I don’t care for having the game stopped for no other reason than for commercials, I don’t like the ‘wave’.

          I do realize that these things are part of the current reality of a game at ND stadium and probably lots of other places, but your remark is more than a bit insulting to me, besides being a bit stupid.

          FYI – the last game I saw there was in 1989 when ND beat Pitt.

          • Mike Coffey says:

            I don’t believe I was addressing you in my post. I was pointing out the fact a TV screen isn’t necessary in the stadium to have a good experience there in response to someone else’s post.

          • fenian_32 says:

            The piped-in music has really helped get the place louder, like it used to be when we didnt need ozzy blaring. Speaking of the late 80’s, there is a great clip on YouTube of the 88 Michigan game at ND. The ref had to stop the game three times due to the crowd being too loud. Love it! Of course I’m from Kansas City, where old farts, kids and women alike take great pride in making Arrowhead the most difficult place to play in the NFL

    11. Joe Schaefer ND '59 says:

      Diaco has a mental block regarding the option. He needs to look at film: Ara’s “mirror defense” against Texas and Holtz against a couple of option teams. Mayock told him how to play it: two on the qb, two on the split back and two on the fullback. Another key is more people on the defensive line of scrimmage. They could have destroyed Navy’s offensive line; all of them would have had wet bottoms.

    12. Special teams have been a problem for a couple of years. Couldn’t agree more with your comment. Also have noticed over the past several years, we never attempt to put pressure on the punter.

    13. Brian Kelly, Jr. says:

      My question are two-fold: (1) why has it taken Kelly so long to get Foster involved? Had he done so earlier we might not have two losses right now, particularly had Kelly not been so involved with his high school-caliber signal caller; (2) where in the heck is Greg Bryant? Kelly’s failure to get the kid touches ensures the kid will transfer at the end of the season.

    14. ND Chicago says:

      It’s getting old watching ND’s failure to allow teams they should blow out hang around. Eventually it will catch up to them. Folston looked like a guy who wants that starting RB job and maybe if Kelly ran the ball more in the first half ND could have created some separation, but throwing the ball all over the field resulted in 2 interceptions that changed momentum and kept Navy in the game. Why not take advantage of the physical and athletic superiority on the offensive side of the ball from the start instead of waiting until the second half? Once again, special teams nearly cost ND a game because they can’t cover a simple kick off against an athletically inferior opponent. The second big return was completely inexcusable because Brindza’s kick was great and pinned in the corner, but they still managed a huge return. Its time for the lap dogs who cover ND football to press Kelly about why special teams have regressed every year he’s been at ND. Also, I think Kelly can stop with the constant refrain of “We know every week we’re going to get every team’s best shot and they’re going to play their very best against us”. You could say the same about Alabama, Florida St., Oregon, etc. it’s big time college football, get your team prepared and it shouldn’t matter what your opponent does. Especially the inferior ones.

      • Given the quality & depth of the RBs we have, the quality of the TEs, especially as blockers, the quality and depth of the O line, the limitations of our QB (NO INSULT INTENDED) and the banged up defense – we should be running much more than we are now.

        Bore them to death if we have to – just win the game.

      • The constant refrain “of the best shot bit” has become totally tiresome. Also, Diaco excuses before hand the “nightmare” of defending the triple option. The obvious question, in relation to the latter, is why have inferior teams fared much better against the option. Also, in relation to the former, you make the obvious point that top notch teams always have their opposition gunning for them. Rather than making excuses, which is what these certainly are, both Kelly and Diaco need to recognize their own coaching failures and state that without trying to offset them with these kinds of statements.

    15. mpsND‘72 says:

      You know what I wonder? I wonder why there aren’t as many comments here in response to post-game analysis and commentary this year. My take: disappointment. That is, disappointment in: the team’s performance; our school’s inability to perform at the very top-tier of BCS football; what seems to be acceptance of “rah-rah-cheer-cheer-old-school” Notre Dame tradition, with little, if any, true resolve to consistently perform at a level that supports and maintains that tradition.

      So, what really is Notre Dame Football now? Seriously.

      Notre Dame football tradition is 20th Century. Our last National Championship was 25 years ago. 25 years! Since Lou Holtz was our head coach, the program has deteriorated: Davie, Willingham, Weis – in my opinion, the worst coach in our school’s history – and now Kelly, a guy who has earned the title of “head coach,” but still seems – to me – to be bridled by: the administration?; what is now considered to be “PC” coaching?; his own ability? Who really knows. Whatever the case, I know this . . .

      Last season now seems to be a crazy aberration – something unanticipated and beyond the “new norm.” And as much as we all wanted “IT,” all of you who have been around long enough to remember the passion of Ara’s Era know that it just didn’t have that “feel.” Alabama was a real slap of reality. So . . .

      Rah, Rah. Cheer, Cheer. And all that crap. But this 21st Century Notre Dame Football Program needs to build on its Great Tradition sooner than later – before it turns into mythology or just a modern-day joke.

      • Irish66ND says:

        mpsND‘72, enough with the negative attitude. You are consistently negative on every post I’ve read. We are 7-2, and played a decently tough schedule to date. Over the past 2 years we are 20-3. The running backs, receivers and defensive secondary are all going to be better next year…not to mention the QB.

        Go Irish! Beat Pitt!

    16. Imagine what would have happened had Navy scored on the final drive and won the game. Our players would have gone to stand at attention while the Navy Alma Mater was played. Then, their players would come and return the sign of respect…only to find our players shunned to the locker room. Brian kelly and Jack Swartbrick need to re-think this idea and realize it is utlimately not about the football team. It is a show of honor and unity with the student body and those who faithfully remain in the stadium for that tradition.

      • I see what you are saying about that unique situation, but I don’t understand why people are so hung up over Kelly’s decision on this overall. Swaying to the alma mater after losing a game is not a decades-honored tradition. From everything I have read, it was started during the Weis era, which was a disastrous football era. I don’t blame him for not wanting his players to stand there on national TV in front of the cameras after a loss. Maybe it gives the guys an extra incentive in some small way, so that they can sway to the alma mater after the game if they win. How dare I say that?

    17. In defending this type of option you have to have pressure on the qb via penetrating into backfield to force an early decision or disrupt the pitch. There were several times the defense did this and it resulted in no or negative yardage for Navy each time. We also had some snaps of less than stellar talking

    18. I agree with everyone’s sentiments regarding the defense’s poor performance. Very frustrating because it looked as if the defense was turning the corner. It is clear that they are not the same team without Louis Nix at the point of attack. I doubt the Middies would have had as much success on those fullback dives had Nix been in there, and I can’t help but wonder: could/should Nix have played this game? I hope this wasn’t a case of overconfidence on the coaching staff’s part.

      The injuries to the front seven are alarming. I count four players from the d-line/linebackers roster out for the season so far (Hounsell, Springmann, Grace, Councell) and at least four others banged up and questionable for Pitt (Schwenke, Williams, Day and Nix). Day has really been a non-factor on the field for like the past six or seven games now with lingering ankle issues. This certainly is a test of depth, and many of us worried especially about d-line depth before the season started.

      I loved the old school running game though. Let’s see if we can sustain that attack. I also liked the backside screen plays to the tight ends.

    19. vicen1973 says:

      We are wgat 7-2 and we have had to play our 3rd string quarterback all year with a suspension and a transfere. There are not many teams that could post that record playing their 3rd string qb!

    20. sophistsam says:

      Does anyone realize that going into fall camp, ND’s defensive line consisted of a first string (Tuitt, Nix and Day) and a second string (Springman, Hounshell and Kona S.). For a good part of the game, only one of these players was available. That doesn’t even consider Vanderdoes. Maybe you should take that into consideration when criticizing the defense.

      • Fenian_32 says:

        That does add some perspective. Was Hounshell really considered second string before the season started? I know Springmann was considered next-man in.

    21. atlantadomer says:

      I’m really wondering why all those people who are now condemning the scheduling of two “Service Academies” this year are not looking past this season and our upcoming tie-in with the ACC and facing the Godfather of the Navy Offense, Paul Johnson at Georgia Tech? Better, bigger athletes, running the same offense and cut blocking all day long.

      This kind of football will never go away, you’ve just got to be prepared and not have your stud in the middle (Irish Chocolate) out.

    22. Fearless Flea says:

      To defeat the option at the point of attack: 5-3-3 defense; the 5 are heads up on each offensive lineman, they attack through the offensive line on the snap, stuffing each o-lineman, or driving them into the offensive backfield, thereby neutralizing the cut blocking scheme. MLB takes the fullback, either side backer takes the QB, cornerback rotates up to take the pitchman, safety rotates over to cover the wideout. OLB and DB away from flow protect backside. The defensive line must attack and disrupt the offensive line play. They do not read anything, they just create havoc. The other 6 read. Oh, also have a long conversation with our 90 year old resident genius, a.k.a. Ara Parseghian. Take good notes.

    23. oldSchoolND says:

      The option and confidence in the offense:

      It seems that INJURIES will happen in the option if you don’t get the other team off the field.

      It is imperative to stack the box and limit the option at the line of scrimmage. The excellent quarterback MAY hit big passes. But then our offense needs to retaliate with a score. On the other hand, our D may stop them and prevent a LONG drive with MANY plays involving their offensive linemen with speed (and momentum) and damaging cut-blocks.

      With the way our offense was playing, I would throw the dice and shorten the Navy drives one way or the other. If it is the other (an aerial strike by Navy), our offense has a chance to respond.

      GO IRISH!!!