Tuesday, September 14, 2004

The Weekend in Review

Booyah Edition

First, I ramble on about my weekend

Fired Up Friend Todd and I got in to ND around 9:30 South Bend time. No one was around, so we headed for the Stadium, to check if the managers were still painting helmets. Sadly, we made it all the way across campus without me recognizing a single person. When we got to the stadium, there was no one to be seen anyways. In a moment of Frank Leahy-esque preparation, I decided to scout the JACC to see where we needed to be the next morning for the ticket exchange. As I assumed, it was in the northwest corner of the building. Making our way around the stadium, we saw two people already camped out at the normal ticket window. Hard core. Continuing to circle the stadium (as usual, with me not really paying attention to where I'm going), we decide to stop at Legends. Wow, that place is too nice. There's even one of those new building plaques in the foyer, just like in COBA or DeBartolo. Fortunately, we were able to restrain ourselves from randomly wandering around the restaurant area (formally the dance floor side) staring at the coaches' quotes on the wall (mostly because the restaurant area seemed unusually high-scale). So, we headed to the bar area (to the right as you enter). I noticed that the crowd was predominantly Ara-Era Alumni and lost Michigan fans, but the Miami-FSU game was on, so we decided to stay. After regulation, we decided to move on to The Backer, where we first ran into Katie Alpha outside the door. The Backer is still The Backer, and a good night was had by all. We walked back to Fisher via D6 afterwards, and headed to our rooms. Todd got a bit of a rude introduction to Yonto and Scovil - "Hi, this is Nick and Chris. You're staying with them tonight, and I'm staying upstairs (in Andy's room)." Dah, thought I had warned him of this earlier.
Saturday morning, we got up with our bando roommates and headed to the Alumni Ticket Exchange. There were only 7 people ahead of us, and we were able to get two tickets in section 101 for only $55 each. Not bad at all. Walking over to LaFortune for breakfast, we were able to catch the band marching to morning practice. Ah, it's football weekend on campus again! After breakfast, we toured the campus, including a stop in the bookstore to spot Ara himself. We finally ran into Dave, Ellen, et al. before Concert on the Steps. Todd was happy because he got to see the players leaving mass, and I got the honor of plaiding Andy. The rest of the gameday activities went as planned, including the game itself. Our seats were the best I'd ever had at the stadium - north endzone staring straight down the field. The section was mostly NDNation-esque Ara-Era alums, with a few Michigan fans as well. But, by the time it was 28-12, I looked down, and the Michigan "supporters" had vanished. Oh, and if Todd or I haven't already told you 100 times, the blocked punt and the last 3 TDs were all at our end. Afterwards, it was BW3s and a great night/reunion at Corby's.
Sunday morning brought 10am mass and a drive home while listening to the Browns.

ND 28, Michigan 20

Quarterback: 10-2 for 178 yards and 3 picks doesn't do wonders to the ol' QB rating, but I look at it as a sign of good things to come. Bill Diedrick finally woke up and realized the screen passes weren't going to work, so he decided to take risks downfield. Quinn rushed his short passes, and ended up throwing then into the ground before settling down on the TD to Rashon Powers-Neal. I'd blame the kid, but hey, Jeff Garcia did the same thing two plays in a row on Sunday. The TD to Matt Shelton made up for the 3 picks in my book, but only because it was a win.

Running Back: How about this Darius Walker kid? 115 yards in his debut, and 2 TDs. Here's hoping he doesn't turn into a fat mess like Julius did under Davie. Walker earned his #3 for this game. And, as someone in my section pointed out, anyone who can run around the corner on the Michigan D is OK in my book. Honorable mention to Ryan Grant for stepping up as a senior and saying "I want the ball" on 4th and goal at the 1. A fake-FB/HB-toss would have worked much better, but it's the thought that counts.

Fullback: We couldn't get it in from the 1 twice, but that isn't all RPN's fault. Powers-Neal did have a TD catch after Quinn finally settled down and quit throwing worm-burners on short passes into the flat.


Courtesy http://www.wideopenwest.com/~michiganmanphil/nd04a.htm.

What a catch by Shelton. Maurice Stovall had a great game. I don't no if it was a case of finally stepping up, or if it was more of a case of the coaches finally realizing he can't win jump balls, but can do anything else a good receiver can.

Tight End: At our deepest position, we managed 0 catches. Oh well, you can't have everything.

O-Line: They couldn't push by an experienced Michigan front on the goal line, even though they had two chances. But hey, the Michigan defense had 0 sacks, and Darius Walker was only stopped in the backfield a few times, all late in the game while ND was trying to run out the clock. The line stepped up in this one. There were even fumble recoveries by John Sullivan and the long snapper (how's that for hustle?). One complaint, though: Mark LeVoir went for the Jeff Faine routine, continuing to bully his guy after the whistle had been blown. Jeff was awesome, so he could get away with it.

D-Line: It was a quiet day for the line. Trevor Laws led the linemen with 4 tackles, and he has a chance of putting together a quietly good year. Justin Tuck added 3 tackles and a sack.

Linebacker: The "chain gang" is in this together, and this unit continues to impress. BHoyte had another monster performance, racking up 9 tackles this time. Mike Goolsby proved he was back by leading the team with 14 tackles. Derrek Curry added 6 tackles and a sack.

Safety: Zbikowski and Burrell started again and combined for 10 tackles.

Cornerback: I'd like to meet the person who taught these guys to tackle and shake his hand. With the freshman Henne, Michigan tried to be conservative (waaay too conservative if you ask me, but I'm not complaining) by running a Diedrick-style offense. But the secondary, especially the corners, stepped it up by frequently stopping the recievers for little gain or a loss of yardage. Dwight Ellick led the unit with 6 tackles (on TFL), a forced fumble which he recovered, and a "look what I found pick." In my BYU preview, I mentioned that Preston Jackson deserved one more shot to prove he can be a starter. Well, in two games, he definitely hasn't disappointed.

Kickers: Carl Gioia did a good job of pinning the Michigan returners in the corner. Of course, when your plan is to aim for the corner, you're going to have a kick or two go out of bounds. Carl is now the idol of "Carl's Crew," as his friends' t-shirts read. By the way, his nickname apparently is "Booge." I didn't ask. DJ (Ellen loves him) was 4-4 in extra points.

Punter: DJ had 7 punts for a 37.6 average, but only one was returnable, and that was only for 7 yards.

Kick Returners: Chase Anastacio and Maurice Stovall did a decent job, combining for 64 yards on 4 returns. But, I don't really picture either of them breaking one. Stovall can absolutely run over defensive backs on a screen play (almost to a Gary Godsey sense), but on kick returns, he's going to run into somebody big sooner or later. Oh well, at least there were no fumbles.

Punt Returner: It was exciting to see Carlyle Holliday out there. This is a guy who you know can break one. Unfortunately, his best run this week was the result of a few illegal blocks. But, there will be an air of excitement when he's back deep on the return team.

Special Teams: Jerome Collins blocked a punt. The punt team recovered a fumble. Michigan's speedy returners were held in relative check. If the punt return team can keep their blocks legal, special teams will be alright this year.


Browns/Ravens: Listened to this one on the way home from ND. Fortunately, WTAM 1100 out of Cleveland reaches well into Indiana. The Browns D was fired up for this one, and this game had many similarities to ND-Michigan. The Browns held Jamaal Lewis to 57 yards, which is 242 less than in their first game last year. They completely came to play. Also on D, Anthony Henry stole an interception from former Brown Kevin Johnson, who had spoken more than enough trash in the offseason. The Browns gave up less than 300 total yards, and most of those came late in the game as the secondary softened up with the lead. On offense, the Browns had to do without Lee Suggs, but William Green's 65 yards weren't too bad. The offense couldn't do much until Jeff Garcia hit on a few deep passes, one a TD to Quincy Morgan. Now, if Garcia was a jerk, he'd be talking smack to Terrell Owens, who complained that Garcia was too weak to throw it deep. (Translation: "Garcia doesn't throw it deep to me as much as I want him to.") Fortunately, Garcia isn't a jerk. As much as I hate to admit it to, it looks like sending Kellen Winslow up the seam is going to be the key play when the Browns need to pick up yardage.

Colts/Patriots: Another barnburner goes Bill Belichick's way. I was pleased to see the first Peyton Manning Face not even 5 minutes into the season.

Giants/Eagles: I only caught the end of this game, but I turned it on to see Eli Manning learn for the first time that the answer to "I wonder if I can beat these guys to the outside for the first down" is a definite "no." Ouch.

Chiefs/Broncos: The Broncos looked dominant at home, and the Chiefs almost looked like a college team that had lost one too many key weapons to graduation. Kansas City couldn't get anything together, but Quentin Griffin could. Not even a left-handed interception by Jake Plummer could stop Denver.

Packers/Panthers: As much as Mike will hate to read this, it seems at times that Brett Farve can do whatever he wants, and that he just isn't trying most of the time. He'll pull an amazing play out of his butt for 30 yards, then hand off to Ahman Green 6 straight times. I don't get it, and that's why I'm not an NFL offensive coordinator.

Quotes of the Weekend

"You see, I don't know why girls have to wear uncomfortable shoes like that. It's just stupid" - some guys we passed as we were walking behing a group of hoed-out girls walking barefoot and carrying their uncomfortable shoes

"I'm very intox... icated right now." - Mothball. "Drink some beer, it will make you feel better." - Kanka

"Gameday... Gameday... you suck!" - ND Band to the NBC cameras

"Long Islands make me so happy." - Katie Alpha

"Kanka? I've heard a lot about you... I don't know if that's good." - Matt Merten

"And a very special welcome to any Michigan fans still here." - Basilica Rector Peter Rocca at 10am mass

Transaction Wire

  • The South Bend Tribune reports that sophomore DB Isaiah Gardner has officially transferred to Maryland.

  • Gardner
  • In case I missed it before, Omar Jenkins was cut by the Vikings on August 31.

  • Eagles sign Dorsey Levens.

ND News and Other Ramblings

  • The past few days, I've had "Badlands" and "You Don't Have to Call Me Darlin'" stuck in my head. The Backer lives! Well, at least the blog and the "official" website do.

  • Congrats to Rangers relief pitcher Frank Francisco who was arrested for throwing a chair into the stands in Oakland and hitting a woman. Brilliant.

  • Found this on the drive home: AM 960 out of Chicago has to be the best radio station to listen to on a Sunday. The show is basically a continuous news report cycling through each of the NFL games currently in progress. Basically, it sounds like two guys with NFL Sunday Ticket on 12 TVs, watching and reporting on the current situation of each game in order. What an amazing concept.

  • I'm still waiting for the day that the Jeopardy! question panel gets sick of Ken Jennings, and the 6 board categories are "Street Names for Drugs," "Monogamy," and 4 columns of "Potent Potables."

  • OK, so the monogamy crack was a cheap shot. But, I wasn't the first to make that kind of joke this weekend. Stanford AD Ted Lelandhad to issue an apology after Stanford's band poked fun at polygamy by trotting out 5 dancers in wedding veils in their home game against BYU. Gee Mr. Leland, do you still think a student-run band is a good idea. Ah, the Stanford "band." Without them, Alumni Band at ND wouldn't be possible.

  • In case you missed it, Mike's commercial can be seen here (Video 1). Also featured is Danielle Greene, who carried the flag Saturday before the football game. Danielle is a hero. Mike, on the other hand, is visably annoyed that he is in that picture.

  • Congrats to the ND Women's soccer team, named #1 in the Soccer America Poll after a week that included a win over #11 Arizona State.

  • Came across this article about a Holy Cross priest and bone alum who sprinkled grass from George Gipp's grave and holy water into the end zone at halftime of the Michigan game. Fr. Brian Stanley is the new band chaplain, because we apparently need more bones in positions of power in the band. This article includes a very fired up reference to one Mistah (Lane) Weaver! My only question: why weren't we informed of this sooner? Mike, Dave, and I would have made the trip up to Gipp's grave every weekend!

  • Julius Jones was inactive Sunday due to a hip problem, and Glenn Earl got a normal DNP.

  • While on the Non-Football Injury list, Darrell Campbell was assigned uniform number 67. No, I haven't ordered a custom jersey yet.

  • Courtney Watson, starting middle linebacker for the Saints, led the team with 11 tackles in their loss to Seattle.

Well, there you go. As I said, I'm going to be reworking my writing schedule in the coming weeks, so look for that. You'll see the ND-MSU preview on Friday morning.