Thursday, September 30, 2004

ND Football 2004

Issue 5: Purdue

Purdue Rush Offense vs. ND Rush Defense

Ty's philosophy on defense is to first worry about shutting down the run, then worry about shutting down the pass. I'm not sure if he does this to keep his D from overlooking the run, or if it's to keep his front 7 aggressive. Either way, the defense has been alright this year.
Everyone looks at Purdue's passing offense, but their rushing game isn't too shabby either, putting up 205.7 yards per game. Granted, that's against Syracuse, the Ball State Fighting Football Fighting Cardinal Fighting Football Cardinals (aka the Hoosieroons), and Illinois. As in the passing game, Purdue likes to share the wealth on the ground. Jerod Void and Brandon Jones are the big 2, with 71 and 50 yards per game, respectively. Backup QB Brandon Kirsch is used on occassion for gimmick plays, and he's averaging 40.5 per. Return specialist Jerome Brooks is averaging 33.5 yards per on the ground. The last two have only played two games each, so I'm guessing those stats came in their blowouts. Rounding out the rushing attack are QB Kyle Orton at 17 per, and fullback/Big Ten Best Special Teams Kamikaze Jon Goldsberry. Wow, the Sporting News actually gives a "fired up white guy on special teams" award. Impressive.
Speaking of impressive, Notre Dame is giving up 88.8 rushing yards per game. The Chain Gang leads the way - they're 1, 2, and 3 on the team in tackles. BHoyte and Derek Curry have cominged for 7.5 tackles for loss. Not to be outdone, the moving parts on the D-Line have also been solid. I'd name names, but the stats are too close to point out any leaders. This is the toughest defense Purdue has faced this year, and they won't be getting

ND Rush Offense vs. Purdue Rush Defense

Purdue's stats page only lists their top 5 tacklers. The top five consist of the three starting linebackers and the two starting safeties. Strong safety Kyle Smith is #1 and free safety Bernard Pollard is #4. (If you're curious, behind the linebackers for ND are Quentin Burrell, Dwight Ellick, and Tom Zbikwoski. Having a strong safety as your top tackler tells me two things: 1) you're blowing out the opposition, causing them to pass more, and 2) the oppositions running backs can get into the secondary every once in a while. In case you're wondering about 3) a strong safety that blitzes a lot - Smith has 2 TFL and no sacks.
I haven't seen an injury report at all, so I can't tell you about Ryan Grant. I can tell you this though: Darius Walker is still averaging 98 yards per game. Marcus Wilson can actually get positive yardage when used effectively. Rashon Powers Neal has shown he can be a powerful inside runner. And finally, Justin Hoskins is ready to get some carries. If they keep punishing Purdue's front 7, ND will have a good day.

Purdue Pass Offense vs. ND Pass Defense

I'm told Kyle Orton is a Heisman candidate. Good for him. Orton has completed 70% of his passes, averages 327 yards per game, and is 13-0 TDs to interceptions. Hey, I guess that is pretty good, but Orton's toughest test so far has been not getting blinded by Syracuse and Illinois' bright orange uniforms. There's no doubt who his #1 guy is - Taylor Stubblefield has twice as many catches as anyone else on the team. He also is averaging 108 yards per game, and has 18 of the team's 14 touchdown receptions. If Ken Baer can work the bracket coverage on Stubblefield like he did against Larry Fitzgerald last year, it will be a good start, but that won't solve everything. Orton likes to use everyone; Purdue's #2 and #3 receivers are the tight end Charles Davis and running back Brandon Jones. These three are among the eight receivers who average 20+ receiving yards per game. Also of note is 6'9" receiver Kyle Ingraham, who should under no circumstances be lined up against Preston Jackson. He should, however, take a picture with Chris Scovil after the game, just because something like that would amuse me.
Notre Dame is giving up 225.5 passing yards per game, and they'll have their hands full. Purdue has only given up one sack this year, but look for that number to go up, starting with Justin Tuck. The secondary has been a very pleasant surprise this year, and has played with a definite ferocity. This will have to be a team effort, turnovers included, for Notre Dame to shut down this Purdue passing attack.

ND Pass Offense vs. Purdue Pass Defense

Purdue gives up 166 passing yards per game, with 8 sacks and 2 interceptions. If the O-Line blocks well, there shouldn't be anything to worry about.
Orton has hit 12 different receivers. So what, Brady Quinn has hit 14, including himself! Quinn has been showing that he can make stuff happen with this offense - short pass, long pass, first down. Third and long is no longer a snack break with this team. Heck with this team, there's rarely a third and long to begin with. Matt Shelton has been a breakout star, and is becoming a favorite of Quinn's. He's proven he can be a go-to guy for first downs, as well as a guy who can just go get the ball on a long pass. Rhema McKnight is quietly the leading receiver of this this team, and Maurice Stovall, if he's healthy, has finally pulled himself together. Throw in Jeff Samardzija, the deep tight end corps, and X factor Carlyle Holiday, and Quinn has a lot of options. If Anthony Fasano can channel the spirit of Gary Godsey, this will be a win.

Special Teams

Kickoff specialist Aaron Levin has a boot, but is inconsistent. He has 3 touchbacks and 3 kicks out of bounds. Place kicker Ben Jones seems average - he is 3-4 in field goals, with a long of 45 and a miss in the 30-39 range. He's also 19-20 in extra points. Punter Dave Brytus is average at best, with a 39.3 average, a long of 51, and 4 inside the 20. The kick coverage team is average. The punt coverage team has held opponents to 5 yards per return, but they've only forced 1 fair catch.
The main punt returner is Stubblefield, but his 2.3 return average isn't too impressive. On kick returns, Jerome Brooks is the man to look for. His long is only 34, but he has an average of 23 per. Also be on the lookout for Dorien Bryant, who has one return for 53 yards.
DJ (Ellen loves him) has been solid in double duty this year. His punting average is 41.8 per, and his field goal numbers are the exact same as Ben Jones's. ND is yielding 21.1 yards per kick return and 6.8 yards per punt return.
Carlyle Holiday will again be returning punts this week, and at home he's excitement waiting to happen. On kick returns, Justin Hoskins showed a flash of excitement on his one return late in the game. I'm expecting Hoskins to return at least one between the 45s, and for either Hoskins or Holiday to set up a 30 to 35 yard easy touchdown drive.

Look for a big game from

Quinn, Shelton, Fasano, Holiday, the defense as a unit.

ND 31, Purdue 24: Shelton, Fasano twice, Walker, and one by DJ.


Wednesday, September 29, 2004


Special Edition

Nick Schumacher, Class of '04

  • Beating Purdue and shutting down Drew Brees freshmen year with our back-up QB later turned tight end Godsey with a game-winning field goal.

  • My freshmen year when Pete McCall would shout "Beat. Purdue." instead of "Go. Irish." whenever called to attention.

  • The women's basketball "Beat Purdue" shirts...and then the trombone section shirt version.

  • Having some bones come watch me at my first fencing meet when we were up against Purdue. They made sure to wear their Beat Purdue shirts. That made it even more fun when I beat a Purdue guy 5-0!

  • Meeting the bones at the Beat Purdue Statue and then going to watch women's bball go win the 2001 national title by Beating Purdue

  • Maybe I should figure out how to use my scanner
  • Somehow getting "Beat Purdue State" instead of "Beat Purdue Statue" as one of the signatures on the back of the 2001 Beat Purdue bone shirts.

  • Even at the very end of the "Bob Davie Farewell Tour" we could Beat Purdue at Purdue!

  • The 2002 home opener we Beat Purdue, and correct me if I'm wrong, didn't we accomplish it without an offensive touchdown?

  • Beating Purdue in basketball last year in the first round of the NIT...kinda made up for not going to the NCAA Tournament

  • And in less than a week we'll have a new Beat Purdue memory when we exposed an overrated Purdue team and ruined Orton's Heismann hopes!

Dave Schmitt, Class of '03

  • The 2002 game was crazy... after Duff, I think, returned a pick for a TD, Purdue fumbled the kickoff right into Bolen's hands and he took it in for another score. 14 points in about 8 seconds of game time.

Ellen Fitzgerald, Class of '03

    Ok so I'm not a bone with all this Beat Purdue memories, but I thought you all would like to hear some from your favorite man crush himself, Gary Godsey.

    In (God)sey, The Irish Trust In 2002
    Senior making a smooth transition from quarterback to tight end.

    Oct. 4, 2002

    By Lisa Mushett

    Senior tight end Gary Godsey entered the media room after practice in late August surprised to see a hoard of reporters wanting to talk to him.

    Almost on cue, he coyly said, "You know I don't play quarterback anymore?"

    How things have changed for the 6-6, 250-pound tight end.

    It is almost two years to the day when quarterback Gary Godsey was summoned to direct the Irish offense after a wrist injury sidelined then-starter Arnaz Battle for the season.

    His first career start came against these same Purdue Boilermakers at Notre Dame Stadium. After the Irish blocked a Purdue punt on the first possession of the game, Godsey scrambled nine yards for a touchdown, giving the Irish an early 7-0 lead. Notre Dame and Purdue battled back and forth for the entire game, and with the Boilers leading 21-20 with 3:39 to go in the contest, Godsey embarked on what he claims was his best moment thus far with the Irish football program. Remaining calm and collected with 80,000 screaming fans, many of them wearing t-shirts which claimed "In Godsey We Trust," hanging on every cadence he barked, Godsey led the Irish 59 yards in setting up kicker Nicholas Setta's game-winning field goal and giving the Irish a 23-21 victory.

    "I remember (tight end) Jabari Holloway telling me he had confidence in me and that I could do this," Godsey said.

    "I had all the confidence in the world. I had everyone behind me. I had good coaches and good quarterbacks ahead of me who prepared me for that situation. I went out there and six or seven plays later, Nick was kicking the field goal to win the game."

    Godsey finished his first start at quarterback going 14-of-25 for 158 yards passing and a rushing touchdown. He finished with more completions and attempts than Heisman Trophy candidate and current San Diego Chargers starting quarterback Drew Brees.

    "Looking back on that game, it seems like a flash in time," Godsey says.

    "All I remember is being out there and having the jitters coming out of tunnel. The next thing I remember is seeing all of the bodies storming the field after Nick hit the field goal. I remember being around my teammates and classmates, having a great time."

The Backer

  • I remember waiting into the wee hours of the morning to meet the girls return from the Championship, and some guy had made a "purdue choked on Siemon" sign

Pictures for which Mike Hatton '03 Gets Credit

    Beat Purdue Statue

    Beat Purdue Bowl 2001

Finally, what I remember

  • We'll start at the end of the '00 ND-Purdue game (the Gary Godsey Game I). Pete McCall and I are standing behind the Purdue bench as the Irish are driving for the winning field goal. We're not 15 feet from Drew Brees. All the time, Pete is outlining a plan where he and several other band kids distract the Purdue players as I "head for Brees. Hey, Febreze!" Just about then, Setta hit the field goal and Brees pulls the Peyton Manning face. Of course, Pete and I didn't make the cover of Black & Gold Illustrated like Mothball, but it was still good times.

  • Every pep rally marchout, no matter who the opponent was, you could always hear the bones shouting "Beat Purduuuue!"

  • I can still remember the men's basketball game we were at when I spotted a dejected flyer on the floor. "Come to the ND-Purdue womens' game and get a free BEAT PURDUE shirt!" Hey guys, we have to do it! It became one of the best bone events of that semester.

  • Of course, we next wore those shirts was for the womens' championship. We all sat around in Morrissey, as other Manorites came and went. Not caring much about womens' basketball, the other Manorites just kind of stood up and walked off as teh game ended, but they seemed very confused by the loud "BEAT PURDUE!" cries from the bones. I'm still glad I was able to skip work for that one... much happier than when I skipped work to watch the Ravens win the Super Bowl that year.

  • Next year brought our own Beat Purdue shirts. Highlights:

  • Already at band camp, many people wanted to buy the shirts from us.

  • That guy who had class with Klondike and me - he was good at getting a decent GPA, but otherwise was a moron. "Why did you get shirts that are game specific?" It's an inside joke, genius.

  • How many times did someone wear the shirt in the presence of someone who had "signed" the shirt without them noticing? I was in line in front of Cappy at the Huddle for what seemed like forever. His signature is right on top of the shirt, and he never said a thing.

  • The Beat Purdue Bowl was great. Bob storming onto the field. The inappropriate South Park clips. The pregame announcement: "Here we have representatives from the such and such bowl! (mild applause) The so and bowl! (mild applause) ...and the Sun Bowl! (hooray!)" The postgame announcement: "Ladies and gentlemen, the official bowl announcement has been cancelled."

  • Of course, on return to campus, we were able to put the Beat Purdue Shirt on the Beat Purdue statue. We took pictures with it, but apparently my sackbut playing drew a little too much attention. We were able to take the shirt off and casually walk away just as the cop car pulled up.

  • Of course, in 2002, Gary Godsey beat Purdue again, causing this conversation to happen many many times:
    Someone: "something something Gary Godsey."
    Dave: "He Beat Purdue!"
    Me: "Twice!"

  • Finally, I still have the emails Mike, Dave, Ellen, and I sent around to each other (in the pre-Kanka's Sports Page days) exhibiting our complete sense of doom when we learned Gary wouldn't be making the trip to Purdue last year.

  • Well, we don't have Gary this year, but I still have a good feeling about this one. Maybe he'll be on the sidlines for no apparent reason, looking Shockey-esque and being famous for doing nothing, just like Snoop.

Tuesday, September 28, 2004

The Weekend in Review


Well, after a day where I got home late from work, a quick power dip decided to reboot my computer. So, I apologize in advance if this rewrite is a little terse.

NCAA Football

Boise State 28, BYU 27: If last week was the Week of the Missed Extra Point, this was the Week of the Missed Field Goal. In case you're wondering: the story about birds confusing the blue turf for water and nosediving to their deaths? Pure urban legend.

USC 31, Stanford 28: What a first half. After falling behind 10-0, Stanford put up 3 straight sustained TD drives. With less than two minutes before the half, USC scores a touchdown to cut the lead to 21-17, and most of the upset talk started to fade. But, as Stanford went to run out the clock, their back broke it right up the middle (boy, did the USC safeties look stupid on that one) to make it 28-17 at the half. Of course, come the second half, the Trojan D went into upset-crushing shutdown mode (making it look like Stanford shouldn't have been able to put up 3 total yards all day), and 2 USC touchdowns gives us a final of 31-28.

West Virginia 45, James Madison 10: What, wasn't the Big East schedule easy enough for you this year?

Tennessee 42, Lousiana Tech 17: LaTech this year is taking the Troy State approach: play an insanely hard schedule, get hopelessly blown out every time, but get in the BCS rankings anyways due to schedule strength. Hasn't quite worked yet, but the TV time has done some good things for Troy lately.

Purdue 38, Illinois 30: Hey, Purdue has no defense! I hope the ND coaches were taking notes. Or, maybe Purdue was just blinded by those monochrome orange uniforms.

UConn 40, Army 3: Do you get to a point where you feel guilty about blowing out a service academy during wartime? Or was Gino Auriemma coaching?

South Florida 45, TCU 44.: After USF scored a TD in the second overtime to go up 45-38, it was TCU's turn. This game ended, however, when the TCU kicker missed the tying extra point. Ten bucks says he got distracted by Cronk's Sister. Dah.

South Carolina 17, Troy 7: I'll tell you what: 39-year-old South Carolina receiver "Pops" Frisby sure makes me feel like a fat mess.

Utah State Fighting Lane Weavers 31, UNLV Running FromTheLaws 21


Giants 27, Browns 10: Ugh. Either one side of the ball was working, or the other. But never both at the same time. Moving on.

Vikings 27, Bears 22: The stats page for this game was reporting Dante Culpepper had 465 passing yards in this game. Great, I thought, my whole fantasy team hasn't scored that many points yet. It was a typo, but of course, Pete still beat me.

Colts 45, Packers 31: I'm now convinced that Peyton Manning is just mailing it in in any game where less than 3 of his receivers have 100 receiving yards. There had to be a point where Brett Favre was saying, "A running play? What's the point? They're not using them."

Raiders 30, Bucs 20: I watched this game, and I still don't know how these teams combined for 50 points. Of course, I have been watching the Browns these past two weeks, so I probably should just keep my mouth shut.

Cowboys 21, Redskins 18: Don't be "Dat Guy."

Transaction Wire

  • Mets activate Jose Reyes and Kaz Matsui from the 15 day DL. Art Howe thinks, "what's the point? They'll just be back there in 3 days anyways."

  • Bears sign Chad Hutchinson. The Bears probably had the same reaction I did - "Holy crap, Grossman's hurt and the only options are Craig Krenzel and some guy named Quinn that I've never heard of before. The Hutchinson signing is a bit of a slap in the face to Tim Couch, who is still very available. I guess it's also a slap in the face to Akili Smith, too, but....

  • Cavs sign some random center named Scott Williams, who had been with Dallas. Hopefully, he was their token "guy who can can play center and actually rebound competently."

Miscellaneous Ramblings

  • If you get a chance, please check out The Surreal Life on VH1. This year's cast is testing the limits of the UCR scale. There's Dave Coulier, Uncle Joey from "Full House." Flava Flav is at least a 97 on the UCR, especially since his wardrobe consists of a clock around his neck (occasionally digital!) and Siegfried horns. Former New Kid on the Block Jordan Knight is being "that guy" - when not being antisocial, he's making some inappropriate comments about a girl, including one about the Olsen twins right to Dave's face. Charo is easily an 80+ on the UCR, especially when she sits down in front of the camera to recap something. Former Sylvester Stallone wife/Arnold Schwarzenegger movie leading lady Brigitte Nielsen is just... well... odd. Rounding out the cast is Ryan Starr, who is apparently a former American Idol contestant, but in reality she's the token hot young girl of the show.

  • Ichiro watch: Six games to go, six hits to beat the record. By the way, Ichiro has raised his average to .372 whilst in pursuit of the streak. For those of you who would like to get nit-picky about Ichiro playing more games than George Sisler (the current record holder), I'll offer this: at the moment, Ichiro has 46 more at bats than Sisler did in his record setting year.

  • Senators III? In case you haven't heard yet, the Expos will more than likely be in Washington DC this year. That's good news for Washington fans - after losing the first two versions of the Senators - first to Texas, then to Minnesota, they decided to steal someone else's team for a change.

  • Speaking of stealing teams, maybe we should start calling the AFC North the AFC Art Modell. After all, he's responsible for the creation of three of the four teams. Paul Brown created the Bengals after Modell unceremoniously dumped him as Cleveland's head coach. The Ravens were formed when... well, I still can't talk about it. And the Browns, of course, were re-created a few years after that incident.

  • So, we have the digital cable at home (ooh, look at me!), and as a part of that, we're able to pull up a quick blurb about every show that's on at the current time. The writeup for White Men Can't Jump: "Two basketball hustlers, white and black, count on a racial myth to win street games." You can't make this up.

  • If you haven't noticed, NDNation's regulars are apparently giving out refunds for the proposed "Save ND Football" t-shirts. Dah.

OK, yeah, that's all I've got. See you Thursday night/Friday morning with a Beat Purdue preview.

Sunday, September 26, 2004

ND 38, Washington 3


Courtesy AP/Michael Conroy

Never mind the third quarter. Brady Quinn had an excellent game. When you throw 3 TD's in the first quarter, and 4 by halftime, you're just going to be running clock for the entire second half. Once again, Pat Hayden is an idiot. Also to Quinn's credit, he was able to distribute the ball very well. Four receivers combined for 12 catches. Anthony Fasano's 3 catches were the first by any ND tight end since BYU. Finally, there were two catches out of the backfield, including 1 by Quinn himself. In case you're wondering why Ty would waste a year of freshman David Wolke's eligibility: there is currently a rule in discussion for the NCAA that will automatically give everyone 5 years of eligibility. Many football coaches this fall are counting on this rule to pass, and therefore playing freshmen that they would otherwise redshirt. If you (and by "you" I mean Ellen and maybe Jessi) were wondering why Ty would let someone take Nicholas Setta's number: well, I don't have an answer to that one. After Wolke and Pat Dillingham, I would have liked to have seen Yale transfer (and former Morrissey interhall MVP) Marty Mooney, but that's not my decision to make.

Running Back: Many people expected Darius Walker to repeat the 322 yard rushing performance given up by Washington last week. Washington is a Division 1 football team though, and they know Notre Dame runs well, so of course they're going to make run defense the focus of their preparation. That considered, 81 yards on 23 carries doesn't look too bad. Marcus Wilson showed flashes of competence this week (5 carries for 20 yards), but a small guy like him can do that against a smaller PAC 10 defense. Jeff Jenkins and Justin Hoskins put up similar numbers to Wilson; not bad considering Washington was looking run that late in the game. Only Travis Thomas struggled; the way the other backs are playing, it will be a long uphill battle for Thomas to get playing time.

Fullback: Hey, did I call the RPN/Josh Schmidt formation or what? Notre Dame may have found the inside power runner they need in Powers-Neal, but will they continue to use him in that function? Schmidt also had a catch out of the backfield for a first down; I believe it was his first catch of the year.

Receiver: Four wide receivers got to share in the fun in this one. Matt Shelton is continuing to have a breakout year; in addition to his two long TD catches, he also had 2 catches for first down. The more reliable first down targets Brady Quinn has, the better. Speaking of reliable targets, Jeff Samardzija had 3 more catches on Saturday, and Rhema McKnight showed up again, also with 3 catches. Carlyle Holiday also got to be a part of the offense with 2 catches. I liked the idea of running an end-around to Shelton to start the game, but I think he's more built to create separation downfield than he is to break tackles on a run.

Tight End: Anthony Fasano had a big game: 3 catches and 2 TDs. Fasano hasn't been heard from in a while, but it's not entirely his fault. With so many options for Quinn, the 6 tight ends get lost in the shuffle. As it is, Jared Clark only plays on special teams any more. Jerome Collins, in my opinion, would have been more helpful adding depth as a backup linebacker. Billy Palmer also would have been a decent idea as a tackle. But hey, whatever works.

O-Line: 146 rushing yards and no sacks.

D-Line: There were no sacks for the line (or for anyone), but they were still able to make some noise. Greg Pauly had five tackles. Justin Tuck and Victor Abiamiri combined for 2 tackles-for-loss. Kyle Budinscak had two pass knockdowns at the line. In addition, the Irish d-line stepped it up in the turnover game. The line alone forced two fumbles (Budinscak and Trevor Laws) and recovered two (Laws and Travis Leitko).

Linebacker: More big numbers for the chain gang. Mike Goolsby tied for the team lead with 7 tackles, and Brandon Hoyte and Derek Curry were right behind with 6 each. BHoyte also had a forced fumble, Curry had a recovery, and they each had a pass breakup.

Safety: Freddie Parish IV expected to see more playing time this year. With a chance this week, he made the most of it. Parrish also tied for the team lead with 7 tackles.


Courtesy AP/Michael Conroy

In one of my favorite categories - "quietly having a great year" - you will find Dwight Ellick. Ellick also had 7 tackles, an interception, and a forced fumble. Chinendum Ndukwe forced and recovered a fumble in some of his first action as a DB.

Kicker: Eight points for DJ (Ellen loves him), including a 45 yarder. I've just learned that Carl Gioia's last name is pronounced "joy-a." I've also learned he can kick off 7 times without having his leg fall off.

Punter: DJ as a punter is getting better and better. With all the scoring, it's amazing he still had to punt 7 times. He did punt 7 times, and he punted very well. He averaged 46 yards per (I'm happy with 40 per from any college punter, and 35 from a former walk-on) with a long of 54. He also put 4 inside the 20. In his debut, Geoffery Price had one punt of 36 yards, but he was able to put that one inside the 20.

Kick Returner: Well, there was only 1 kick return in this game. Justin Hoskins only got 17 yards, but he showed hurdle skills that probably has the track coach salivating. Hoskins will be one to watch.

Punt Returner: Not much for Carlyle Holiday in this one: 2 returns for 20 yards.

Special Teams: Not much for ND's return teams, but the coverage teams did very well. Washington was only able to muster 10 yards on 4 punt returns. On kickoffs, the Huskies averaged under 18 per with a long of 24.

Thursday, September 23, 2004

ND Football 2004

Issue 4: Washington

Washinton Rush Offense vs. ND Rush Defense

Washington, believe it or not, is averaging 194.5 yards per game on the ground. That is against Fresno State and UCLA, but it still shouldn't be taken lightly. The Husky rushing attack is lead by Kenny James with 104 yards per game. Backup Shelton Sampson is nothing to sneeze at, with 40.5 yards per game and a 7.4 per carry average.
The Irish rush defense is giving up 81 yards per game, and they just need to keep doing what they've been doing. The entire starting linebacker corps has been solid all year. Helped by a competent game from the line, and a few key backfield pops from the secondary, this team should be able to contain the Washington run game. Trevor Laws had a good chance at a big game, with Greg Pauly and Brian Beidatsch on the shelf.

ND Rush Offense vs. Washington Rush Defense

Ryan Grant is most likely out for this game, so Darius Walker will be in charge. Travis Thomas will back up, and this is his big chance to break out of the doghouse. Fumble problems may keep Thomas from being the "inside" to Walker's "outside," but Walker can prove that he can pound it up the middle just like the big boys. I'd be interested to see RPN line up behind Josh Schmidt on short-yardage situations, but I doubt that will happen.
As much as the Huskies gain on the ground, they give up even more (you will find out that this is a theme for Washington as a team - big offense, but a defense that gives up much more). Thanks to a 322-yard performance from UCLA's Maurice Drew, Washington is giving up 280.5 yards per game. In case you think those numbers are skewed by the UCLA game, realize this: 280.5 YPG still means Washington gave up more than 230 rushing yards to Fresno State. Once again, Notre Dame needs to establish the run early, keep it on the ground if and when it works, and hold onto the football.

Washinton Pass Offense vs. ND Pass Defense

Washington's 195 yards per game in the air isn't very impressive for the PAC 10. The inexperienced Casey Paus has found a favorite receiver in Charles Frederick, who pulls in 104 receiving yards per game. Ty may be obligated to line up Preston Jackson against Frederick, just to see who weighs less or has the better hair. Other than Frederick, there isn't much. Corey Williams and fullback Zach Tuiasosopo (are PAC 10 teams required to have a Tuiasosopo on their roster at some point?) both average 20+ yards per game receiving.
Again, if the Irish pass defense continues to do what its doing, they should be able to contain Washington. The Huskies have only surrendered 2 sacks this season, but Justin Tuck et al. should be able to change that. Jackson, Dwight Ellick, Tom Zbikowski, and even Quentin Burrell and Carlos Campbell have put all worries about the Irish secondary to rest so far. There's no reason why this game should be different.

ND Pass Offense vs. Washington Pass Defense

Once again, the Irish shouldn't need to rely on their passing game at all. Washington is only giving up 123.5 passing yards per game, but that should only serve as a hint to Bill Diedrick - it's so easy to run on Washington, you don't need to pass on them. All three Washington sacks, and both of its interceptions, have come from linebackers. That means Notre Dame will have to control the blitz. With the lack of game experience for Walker and Thomas, this may be where the loss of Grant hurts ND the most. Of course, it could just mean more playing time for RPN.
After a good start to the season, Maurice Stovall will be out for this game. ND can't hide Matt Shelton forever, so Rhema McKnight and Jeff Samardzija will have to step up when needed. Finding the tight ends once again would be nice as well. Opening the playbook up for Carlyle Holliday would be nice, but we can always save those plays for a team like Purdue. Of course, if Shelton can still just outrun everybody, my points are moot.

Special Teams

Washington appears to actually have a placekicker controversy. After incumbent Evan Knudson missed his first two field goals, redshirt freshman Mike Braunstein came in and went 2 for 2. Washington is giving up an average 21 yards per on kickoffs. Punter Sean Douglas is averaging 33.5 yards per, which is very helpful to ND in the battle for field position. Douglas also handles the kickoffs, and is yet to get a touchback.
Charles Frederick is also the primary kick returner for Washington. With a long of 62, he's a threat. Presumably, he's also their punt returner, but who knows? No one has had to punt to Washington yet. I kid you not.
DJ (Ellen loves him!) has continued to do a solid job kicking (2-3 field goals) and punting (40.5 average). Coverage teams have been decent so far.
Carlyle Holliday is the main return threat for this team as a punt returner. John Vannie reports that their may be changes on the kickoff return and coverage teams. (Vannie also reports that a 330 pound freshman named Jordan White-Frisbee may start on the D-Line. I'm not making that up.)

Look for a big game from

The two-headed threat of Walker and Thomas, Anthony Fasano, Samardzija, BHoyte (he loves his mamma), Tuck, and Zbikowski.

ND 31, Washington 16: Walker, Shelton, Holliday, [insert your favorite defensive player here], and 1 by DJ.

Wednesday, September 22, 2004

Weekend in Review

"I'd better write this before next weekend starts" Edition

NCAA Football

Auburn/LSU: Quote from one of the TV announcers: "If Carnell Williams is 'Cadillac,' Ronnie Brown is the Escalade." An Escalade is a Cadillac, genius. What an ending to this one, too. LSU got an early TD but missed the extra point. Late in the fourth quarter, they lead 9-3 when Auburn drove for a touchdown. Is it all over for LSU? No! Auburn missed the extra point, too. But wait... it's not over yet. An LSU player had lined up five yards behind the line of scrimmage, then took a flying leap onto the lineman. That's a penalty. Auburn retries the extra point and makes it. Final score: Auburn 10, LSU 9.

Miami/LaTech: 48-0. Good, good. Everyone should be proud of themselves, especially the two ADs who arranged this one.

WVU/Maryland: This one was a fight to the finish. If West Virginia can get by Virginia Tech in a few weeks, they should have an undefeated season. Then, everyone at ESPN can praise them for putting together such a weak schedule.

Tennessee/Florida: Is the Ainge family talented or what? First, Danny leaves the Blue Jays to play point guard in the NBA. Now, newphew Erik is the Volunteer QB (how many times will we see Danny's buzzer beater over ND the week of the Tennessee game?). Proving once again that the extra point isn't a gimme, the Tennessee kicker missed a tying extra point late in the game. Unable to run out the clock, though, Florida had to give the ball back with enough time left for the Volunteer goat to turn into a hero with a 50-yard FG.

Michigan/San Diego State: The Wolverines win 24-21 a year after the Aztecs took tOSU to the wire. Wow, are the Big 10 teams playing their non-conference opponents close on purpose, just to make it look like they aren't scheduling crappy teams?

Texas Tech/TCU: Final score: Red Raiders 70, Horned Frogs 35. Cronk's Sister's University took an early lead, then they just kind of lost it. Tech had graduated their 500 YPG passer from a few years ago, but apparently they have replaced him with a 440 YPG passer. Not a bad offensive system.

UCLA/Washington: The UCLA back put up 322 yards on the Huskies. Taking notes, Mr. Diedrick?


Cowboys/Browns: Ugh. The Browns offense looked like me in the early days of playing football video games. Too many runs that go nowhere, then long bombs into triple coverage. Jeff Garcia was 8-27. With the Cowboys 17-12, Vinny Testaverde gave the Browns many chances to take the lead, as Vinny threw 3 picks over the course of 5 straight snaps. But, the Browns kept finding a way to give the ball right back. Holding in the end zone put the Cowboys up 19-12 with just under a minute left. If Bill Bellichick were still coaching, I would have said the safety was on purpose - instead of trying to drive from the 4, an onside free kick recovery gave the Browns the ball at the 35. But I don't think Butch Davis was planning that. The last play of the game saw two subs come in - Keyshawn Johnson as the extreme free safety standing on the 5, and strongarmed rookie QB Luke McCown. McCown's Hail Mary went right to MeShawn, and I was just waiting for him to do something and tip it right to a Brown. But, he knocked it down like a champion as time expired.

Bears/Packers: Am I cursing the fact that the Bears looked overmatched at the beginning of the game, then just dominated on defense and on the ground? No. Am I cursing the fact that my top back got 1 yard this week, while Mike's late round pick got 152? Yep.

Ravens/Steelers: And the Ben Roethlisberger era has begun, thanks to an injury to Tommy Maddox. Favorite moment of the game: Deion makes a decent punt return, then rips off his helmet to do a stupid dance. Fifteen yard penalty! To quote the TV announcer, "This isn't the 1980s any more, Deion."

Giants/Redskins: Check the message board for a discussion of people Ellen loves.

Eagles/Vikings: Are Terrell Ownens and Randy Moss jerks or what? Normally, when you do a "who's better?" TV segment, you sit both guys down toghether, they joke around, and keep telling the interviewer that the other is much better. Not the case with Randy and TO. Owens stated that "no matter if we win or lose, I'm better than him." Great team spirit there, Terrell. Way to go. Randy, on the other hand, went on and on how he's so much better than Owens. I agree with Moss, but he could at least try to be humble. John Madden must be reading TMQ. After the Vikings ran an end around, he made a point of explaining that the play was in fact an end around, and not a revese, because the ball didn't change direction. But what was with the Michael Jackson complex the Eagles had? First, a linebacker dances after a sack, then Donovan McNabb moonwalks after a TD. I was waiting for Andy Reid to come out after halftime and tell Michelle Tafoya that her question was "ignorant - that's ignorant."

Cuts and Bruises

Not many transactions this week, but there were a few players released, and quite a few injuries.

  • Ravens cut Gerome Sapp to make room for a new running back. So what we're saying here is that Sapp should be the one getting punished because Jamal Lewis tried to get his friend coke? Well, Mr. Billick, what happens when Ray Lewis's safety friend Ed Reed gets convicted of a felony?

  • After cutting Shane Walton earlier this year, the Colts sign Vontez Duff to the practice squad. To each their own.

  • Indian Jody Gerut is out for the season after tearing his right ACL chasing a foul ball near the wall. The rehab will take 6-8 months, which Gerut is actually happy about. Why? Rehab for his left ACL took him 18 months.

  • Browns rookie Kellen Winslow will be out 6-8 weeks with a broken leg. The injury occurred on the onside kick mentioned above. Wondering why everyone is coming after you, Kellen? Maybe it's because you come after them first, with words and actions. Despite the fact that his agents wanted his contract to be nearly all guaranteed money (why should he need to play well to get $40mil anyways?), Winslow could loose a bonus that states he needs to play 35% of the Browns' offensive snaps this year to get an extra $3.5mil. Hmmm, I wonder if the Postons will be breathing down Butch Davis's neck for playing time once Kellen comes back (which would be funny if it lead to another injury).

  • Julius Jones has broken his collarbone, and will be out for 2 months. This is not a good start for Julius, who missed week 1 due to a preseason rib cage injury. No word on whether the injury happened before, during, or after (yes, he stayed in the game by his own choice) his one fumble against the Browns.

  • Knicks sign Vin Baker. Good luck.

Miscellaneous Ramblings

  • Back by popular demand - the Postons/Kellen Winslow negotiations cartoon.

  • Congrats to ND women's soccer, #1 in the NCSAA coaches poll and the Soccer America poll. The #1 light has returned to Grace Hall, and the #1 flag to the Joyce center.

  • Speaking of women in the rankings, Irish women's basketball are being ranked quite favorably in the preseason magazines: #10 by SLAM Magazine, and #14 by Liddy's College Basketball Annual and Athlon Sports. After a post-championship falloff, the "Lady Irish" finally appeared to get it together at the end of last year, and I'm expecting big things from them this winter.

  • Can BC be bigger ND ripoffs? They're worse than the Saxes ripping off the Bones in the late 90's. Not only do the BC "SuperFan" t-shirts given out every year have an eagle posing just like the leprechaun, but this year's slogan is "Soaring to Glory." Hmm, "glory," where have I seen that word on a shirt before?

  • Browns defensive end Kenard Lang wins the "Most Likely to Give the Queer Eye Guys a Heart Attack" award, especially when you consider his hair, beard, and unibrow are much bushier now than they are in the picture. Now, before you ask yourself, "wait, does Kanka watch Queer Eye?" first ask yourself, "does it look like Kanka watches Queer Eye?"

  • The "Hu$tle" commercials (and there have been enough of them) feature Pete Rose saying, "I'm Number 14, baby!" Should Dave Chappelle's writers be pissed about this blatant ripoff of their Rick James line?

  • Is it really necessary to put a large picture of Tony Siragusa's head on the screen every time he talks during a Fox game? Then again, it may not be physically possible to put up a small picture of his head.

  • More reasons why I love NCAA 2005: 1) Did you realize the "SI" polls keep track of "also receiving votes" and "dropped out"? I didn't until just recently. 2) I was scrambling to the left with my QB, while my left slot receiver was running a slant from left to right (basically running along in front of me). Sensing trouble, the receiver comes to a hole in the zone, stops, and starts waving his hand above his head. Now that's attention to detail.

  • Ichiro update: With 11 games to go, Ichiro needs 14 base knocks to tie George Sisler's 84-year old record for hits in a season. Ichiro had been in a bit of a slump lately, but he came back Tuesday night with a 5-for-5 night. The chase is on.

  • In case you're wondering why Gameday was in East Lansing last weekend: the "official" reason is that they were planning on visiting LSU, but ESPN decided to move it due to hurricane activity.

  • Jerry Rice ended his consecutive games with a catch streak at 274. For the record, that's 274 more games with a catch than anyone reading this has combined.

  • How's this for a good guy: On a visit to ND by Darius Walker, the football team lost. However, the team still walked over to the students and raised their helmets, and the students still cheered. Fans that are behind you win or lose were one of the big reasons Walker chose ND.

See you again tomorrow with an ND-Washington preview.

Tuesday, September 21, 2004

Sunday, September 19, 2004

ND 31, MSU 24

You say ND didn't have that killer instinct when they went up 28-7? I say Michigan State wasn't going to roll over just because Corso and Herbstreit said that the fourth Irish touchdown was the knockout blow. That's the way this rivalry has been as of late, and hopefully that's how it will continue to be.

Quarterback: scene: Brady Quinn and Rhema McKnight are in the film room. They have hooked up an XBox to the projector, and are playing NCAA Football 2005. Offensive Coordinator Bill Diedrick enters.
Diedrick [oblivious to the fact that this is a video game, as is every 50+ person who sees NCAA for the first time]: "I see you're studying some film, boys."
Quinn: "Uh, yeah coach. That's it." [Quinn calls for and connects on a long bomb in the game."
Diedrick: "Whoa, what was that?!"
McKnight: "It was a deep pass, coach."
Diedrick: "You can do that?!"
And thus a few pages are added to the ND playbook. Quinn didn't throw too much, as I had hoped he wouldn't, but when he did he was effective. 215 yards and one touchdown in the air is a perfect complement to 173 yards on the ground. If you ask me, the offense is starting to look very compitent. I know that doesn't sound like much of a compliment, but it is when you look at the BYU game and much of the 2003 season.

Running back: It was good to see Travis Thomas back in there, but the timing perhaps wasn't the best. Of course, it is possible that he was just in there because Darius Walker needed a breather and the team was being overly cautious about Ryan Grant's injuries. Unfortunately, though, Thomas is likely back in the doghouse for a few more games, and it's not entirely his fault. Walker and Grant, on the other hand, are turning into a formidable 1-2 punch. For a team that needs to establish the run game, it's great to have two backs who can spell each other so we always have a fresh back in key situations. I also enjoy seeing Grant finally learning that he can power it between the tackles instead of just dancing into the sidlines. Walker is surprisingly powerful for his size, but in the end it's a good idea to use your bigger back (Grant) on inside handoffs.

Fullback: The fullbacks have been quiet, except to block. RPN had one carry for zero yards.


Courtesy AP/Bob Brodbeck

Is it just me, or are we all of a sudden incredibly deep at the receiver position? I mean, Rhema McKnight hasn't even been heard from this season, other than his punt return misadventures against BYU, and the onside recovery at the end of this game. Matt Shelton continues to impress, with 123 yards and 1 TD of three catches, despite his unassuming appearance. Even Rocket Ismail loves the guy (although Rocket does seem to get fired up about a lot of people). Let's put it this way: imagine Steve Cronk taking on the best corners and safeties in 1-A football, consistently beating them deep, and then making an athletic catch to pull the ball down. Heck, Cronk may even be taller and fatter than Shelton. And get this, Shelton is actually learning routes now! For the firt time, he ran a skinny post, instead of just a go route (aka "run as fast as you can that way and we'll throw it to you").
In addition to Shelton, Jeff Samardzija came up big late in the game by feeding off of MSU's too loose zone. You want to talk deep? Samardzija had 4 catches for 565 yards, while Maurice Stovall, Rhema McKnight, and Carlyle Holliday combined for 2 catches and 17 yards (and both those catches were by Stovall). Also, freshman Chris Vaughn, now wearing Omar Jenkins's #80, got in on the fun with a catch for 7 yards.

Tight End: Speaking of deep, the Irish are also deep at TE, but they were only used for blocking against the Spartans. It's nice to have them as a security blanket, but it's also nice when you don't need them to catch passes because the running game is working and the receivers are getting open.

O-Line: The Irish ground game had 194 yards in the positive direction, and 21 yards in the negative direction. That includes 2 sacks for -11 yards. Are the running backs doing well because of the line, or is the line doing well because of the running backs?

D-Line: Justin Tuck didn't have a single tackle last Saturday, but it didn't matter. It was Derek Landri's turn to step up this week, leading the linemen with 5 tackles and a pass breakup. Kyle Budinscak made noise for the first time this year with the team's only sack and a fumble recovery.

Linebacker: I should point out that the Irish front 7 didn't have a good day defending the run against MSU, giving up 165 yards. Mike Goolsby had 6 tackles and two breakups, while Derrek Curry contributed with an interception, but this unit will have to step it up the next time a big ground game comes to town.


Courtesy AP/Al Goldis

Ty wanted his best two guys out there at safety, and I think he made the right two decisions. In fact, I haven't even seen Lionel Bolen at all this year. Tom Zbikowski received Walter Camp Division 1-A Defensive Player of the Week honors for his performance that included 9 tackles (leading the team), 1 interception, and two forced fumble, including that great strip and dash for a 75 yard touchdown. Following that play, Kirk Herbstreit for the first time said something that made sense: "When you teach that [being aggressive and looking for turnovers on defense], it's not being lucky." Quentin Burrell also had a good game with five tackles and a fumble recovery.

Cornerback: Dwight Ellick and Preston Jackson continued to play competent ball, amassing 4 tackles each.

Kicker: Too often, Carl Gioia is the first man to make contact of a kickoff. The only problem: he isn't nearly the tackler Nicholas Setta or DJ are. (ooh ooh ooh - Ellen loves both of them! Love overload!) DJ was 1-2 on field goals, making from 23 and missing from 37. The 37 yarder had the distance but was wide.

Punter: I won't complain about a 40 yard average and a long of 51. Two punts inside the 20 are also nice.

Kick Returner: Stovall and Chase Anastacio are getting playing time, but they still haven't shown that the have the ability to make something big happen.

Punt Returner: Despite facing a good punter, Carlyle was able to have a long return of 21 yards.

Special Teams: The blocked punt - Jared Clark has been in that position for years - he should have known better, either to block the inside man, or to adjust the coverage accordingly. As for the kickoff return for the touchdown - that's going to happen, but it did seem that returner DeAndra Cobb was in the clear a little too quickly, as if the ND coverage team got down the field too fast and let Cobb run right by them the other way. Other than that return, the kick coverage team was decent (giving up just under 20 yards per). The punt coverage team did well, giving up just under 10 yards per return.

Well, there you have it. Maybe we can make "Return to Competence" t-shirts for this season, as that appears to be the theme. Please, let the be blue, though. A note on my ND reviews: I've decided to stick with this position-by-position breakdown format mostly because everyone who reads this watches the games, and because John Vannie offers a good review on NDNation. If you would like to see me do a game recap, please let me know.

Weekend in Review Wednesday morning; ND-Washington preview Friday.

Thursday, September 16, 2004

ND Football 2004

Issue 3: MSU

MSU Rush Offense vs. ND Rush Defense

Michigan State is averaging 150 yards per game on the ground. That came against Rutgers and Central Michigan, but that's nothing to be laughed at. Last year, the Spartans put up numbers against ND that were very similar to the numbers they put up against the cupcakes they had played before that game. MSU appears to be employing a running back by committee system. Junior Tina Turner look-alike Jason Teague appears to be the man, but last week he shared the carries with freshman Jehuu Caulcrick. Teague is averaging 76 yards per game and Caulcrick 67, which, when put together, is something to pay attention to.
On the other side of the ball, the ND rush defense has been great. OK, so BYU doesn't run all that often, and Chris Perry's replacements in Michigan apparently suck, but 39.0 yards per game given up on the ground is almost as good as what I do at varsity level on NCAA 2005 with 5 minute quarters. The linebacking crew - the "chain gang" came up huge against Michigan. Brandon Hoyte (he loves his mamma) and Mike Goolsby should come up big, and Derrek Curry should have another decent game. The rotating pieces on the D-Line should play just well enough against the run, and I'll pick Trevor Laws to have another decent game.

ND Rush Offense vs. MSU Rush Defense

Darius Walker should be enough for the Irish, but I would like to see Travis Thomas again. Thomas is the unfortunate victim of the ND coaching staff's philosophy of not teaching people to protect the ball, then punishing them severly when they fumble. With MSU giving up 205 yards per game on the ground, I'd pick Walker to have a huge game, except for two things: 1) just because they don't need to pass at all, ND will probably pass too much. 2) this game is against MSU in East Lansing, which means it won't be easy.
As for Ryan Grant - you have to love the senior leadership, but the injury troubles from Don Bosco prep must have finally caught up to him. His legs right now are the football equivalent of a young pitcher's dead arm.

MSU Pass Offense vs. ND Pass Defense

The QB controversy this year for MSU was supposed to be between Drew Stanton and Damon Dowdell. Stanton's had fluid on the knee all year, and Dowdell completed 56% of his passes for 270 yards against Rutgers, so of course the starter will be... redshirt freshman Stephen Reaves (no, that's not Jeff Smoker wearing #9 in his 12th year of eligibility), who completed 47% of his passes for 183 yards vs. Central Michigan. I don't get it. Michigan State's pass-friendly offense (231 ypg... so maybe it's not working too well) has spread the ball to 9 receivers so far. The main targets are Kyle Brown and Eric Knott, each with 60+ ypg. Matt Trannon is the #3 receiver, and Teague is averaging 24.5 yards per game receiving out of the backfield (which combines for 100 total ypg, so he's the guy to watch).
After facing two pass-happy teams, ND is giving up "only" 251.5 yards per game in the air. MSU's receivers have always given ND fits, and just because there's no Charles Rogers doesn't mean there won't be problems. Dwight Ellick and Preston Jackson will have to continue to play out of their minds and tackle well. Tom Zbikowski and the linebackers will have to help shut down the short passes. Quentin Burrell will have to do his best to defend the deep passes on the fast grass. If the defense is up for this game like they were last week (please tell me they will be), they can shut down this offense. But, as I said, this game is in East Lansing, so who knows.

ND Pass Offense vs. MSU Pass Defense

MSU is only giving up 167 passing yards per game. Of course, when you can pick up 205 rushing yards against a team in a game, you shouldn't need to go to the pass. The low passing totals on defense aren't due to a great pass rush (2 sacks) or interceptions (1), but Michigan State does do a good job of breaking up passes and batting down the ball. MSU has 11 "break ups" this year, while ND only has 6. Of course, MSU's opponents have 8 breakups, compared to 4 for ND opponents, so this could just be a case of how each team's official scorer interprets an official "pass broken up."
Once again, Notre Dame had better let their running game do the work. There's no reason why they shouldn't just ride Walker. If you're going to pass, pleas use the same parts of the playbook you used last week - no telegraphing your screens, and no jump-balls to Stovall. Maurice Stovall is a great weapon when used correctly. Rhema McKnight has been quiet so far this year (for example, you didn't hear him calling "fair catch!" when returning that one punt in the BYU game), and the ND tight ends were nowhere to be found in the passing game last week. Look for Bill Diedrick to expand the playbook a little to get his tight ends back in the game, and look for Rhema to have an "Arnaz Battle in 2002" kind of game. Also, let's see if we can get that Carlyle Holliday kid some work.

Special Teams

MSU's punt return team isn't all that impressive (6.9 yards per return), but in the kick return category, third string running back DeAndra Cobb is averaging a decent 24 yards per return. That average includes a 52-yarder. OK, on the other hand, that one 52 yard return does account for half his return yards over 4 returns. So, this is a guy to look out for, but if you play him right, you can shut him down. If that last paragraph made sense to anyone, please explain it to me, because I have no idea what I just wrote.
Notre Dame faces another great punter in Brandon Fields, who is averaging 50.3 yards per punt with a long of 62. Of course, he also has 4 touchbacks and a block, so there are ways to not let this guy beat you. As for a kicker, Dave Rayner is 1-3 on the year in field goals, but one of those misses was from 50+. Return coverage for the Spartans is so-so, giving up just over 25 yards per kick return, and close to 13 yards per punt return. So, the right guy can break one.
Nd is averaging almost exactly 20 yards per kick return and 10 per punt return. I still don't get the feeling that Chase Anastacio or Maurice Stovall can break one on a kick, but I really like Holliday on punt returns. He will break one at (or two or three) at some point this year. Stovall can run over DB's with his size, but sooner or later he'll run into someone bigger than him on the kickoff coverage team.
DJ (Ellen loves him) is averaging 40.6 yards per punt with a long of 56 and 4 inside the 20. He also has a 21-yard field goal. Carl Gioia doesn't have a booming leg on kickoffs, but I'm starting to see that Ty picked him for his ability to pin a kick returner in the corner. Sure, you'll have a few go out of bounds, but you'll also have more than a few returners who won't even make it to the 20.

Look for a big game from

The Chain Gang, the corners (they'll have their ups and down, but they'll make the big plays), Justin Tuck, Darius Walker, and Carlyle Holliday

ND 20, MSU 14 Walker, 2 by DJ, and the obligatory last-minute slant that turns into a 60-yard game winning TD by Rhema (or maybe Matt Shelton?)

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.



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.

Monday, September 13, 2004

No column today as I needed to work on KankaMatic instead. With only 2 stat updates to go (and one being only 8 days), I will try to email everyone a copy of their roster.

The Weekend in Review will come way late - Tuesday night, which means you'll read it Wednesday morning. I plan on changing things up in the future weeks, though. My thought right now is to do an ND game review on Sunday night (or Monday night if I need an extra day to blow off steam), a complete Weekend in Review/Transaction wire on Tuesday night (to include MNF), and an ND preview on Thursday night. It's just tentative, but that's the plan.

PS Great fantasy football start - Trent Green with a QB rating of 53, and Quentin Griffin on the bench while he picks up 99 more yards than Deuce McAllister. Oh, and I picked the Pats D vs. the Colts. Good, good.

Thursday, September 09, 2004

ND Football 2004

Issue 2: Michigan

Michigan Rush Offense vs. ND Rush Defense

Despite the 43-10 win, Michigan only put up 115 yards on the ground, on 40 carries. Chris Perry replacement David Underwood put up an Eddie George/Duce Staley-esque 2.9 yards per carry - 64 yards on 22 carries. In addition to the loss of Perry, remember that Michigan also had a very veteran O-Line last year. Judging by the lack of stars (indicating letters won) next to the O-Linemen's names on the roster, most of the experience on the line has moved on. Brandon Hoyte, Mike Goolsby, and the rest of the front 7, now that they have a game under their belts, should be able to hold Michigan to a respectible total on the ground.

ND Rush Offense vs. Michigan Rush Defense

Well, for starters, we need to have a rush offense this week. Miami had some decent runs early against Michigan, but they were completely shut down after that. Ryan Grant (if he's back) and Travis Thomas need to step up and say "give me the football," and then they need to hold onto it. Otherwise, it's going to be a long day.

Michigan Pass Offense vs. ND Pass Defense

Chad Henne, who will most likely be starting this Saturday, has shown he can throw the deep ball. ND has shown that they have trouble defending the deep pass. However, it appears that this is one of the few holes in this year's D. Henne is playing his first road game in a place that should be tough for him. The student section will have to get loud, stay loud, and rally behind their defense. Every time the home fans boo ND's defense, they're only encouraging Henne, Lloyd Carr, and the Wolverine offense. Braylon Edwards and Steve Breaston will get their catches, and will probably even pull down a few deep ones. The key is for the line to get in the backfield and the safeties have to limit yards-after-catch on the deep balls. Then, the rest of the secondary can handle the short passing game. Of course, one big hit by BHoyte on Chad Henne will really help this Irish D. Here's a goal for the Irish secondary: 159. That's how many yards Miami's pass defense game up. Motivate yourselves to meet or top that.

ND Pass Offense vs. Michigan Pass Defense

Michigan had 5 picks last week, but that was against an untested QB. I'm also guessing it happened once Miami got behind and needed to go pass-heavy to stay in the ballgame. So, don't expect to see 5 picks again. If the Irish can start by establishing the run game, they won't have to panic and leave the game in the hands of the Wolverine secondary. The key here is to effectively use each receiver's skill set, throw the ball downfield, and rely on Marcus Freeman and Anthony Fasano in key situations. Preferrably, those key situations should involve them being past the first down marker when they catch the ball. Michigan only got 2 sacks last week, so Brady Quinn should have time to throw the ball. He just needs to sit back and wait for his receivers to get open down the field.

Special Teams

Michigan didn't have a punt or kick return longer than 20 yards, but that doesn't mean they won't be a threat. Kicker Garrett Rivas had a 31-yard field goal, but missed the last two of his 6 extra point attempts. Punter Adam Finley had a 45.2 yard average in his first game, but that may actually be a sigh of relief for the Irish. Also of note: Miami had a 70-yard punt return during the game, and also had a punt return TD called back.
For the Irish, DJ Fitzpatrick is continuing to handle both kicking duties to the best of his ability. Special teams coverage and returing has been competent, except for a few decisions on punt returns. Breaking one, either on a kickoff or punt, would do a great deal of good for the home team.

Look for a big game from

Thomas, Fasano, and the defense as a whole.

ND 24, Michigan 17 Yeah, I said it. Thomas, Freeman, McKnight, and DJ.

Wednesday, September 08, 2004

Transaction Wire

"55, 54, and... 53" Edition

  • Rockets trade Eric Piatkowski, Mike Wilks, and Adrian Griffin to the Bulls for Dikembe Mutombo. Well, the Bulls get a little younger in Piatkowski (although only by 4 years), and some almost-potential in Wilks, a '99 co-rookie of the month once. The Rockets get a decent defensive backup for Yao and perhaps the greatest dunk contest spectator of all time.

  • Bears release Vontez Duff. The reasons why were covered in last week's Transaction Wire.

  • Jets release Ken-Yon Rambo and Little John Flowers. Is it even legal to release guys named Rambo and Little John on the same day?

  • Ravens release Javin Hunter. "MyBoyfriendJavinHunter," as he is known to Niele Ivey, Javin played in 12 games for the Ravens, making five catches and returning 4 kickoffs. He missed the 2003 season due to injury, and apparently was switched to cornerback some time between this year and last. Well, the experiment at corner obviously didn't work, and now it looks like Hunter will have to live off of Niele's WNBA money.

  • Texans release tight eng Jabari Holloway. Holloway, who started his career with the Patriots but did not play for them, had 16 starts and 15 catches in 26 games for Houston. Unless Jabari is picked up by somone soon, Notre Dame's Computer Science and Engineering Department will have to change all of their "Where Do Notre Dame CSE graduates end up? 1% - NFL" pie charts. That's unfortunate, because that was one of the few jokes they used in the department graduation ceremony.

  • Eagles cut Dorsey Levens. If only ND were that deep at running back again....

  • Cardinals release Cedric Hilliard. If Mike wasn't married already, he'd definitely be upset that he wouldn't be able to use "I got blocked by an NFL player in a Bookstore Basketball game once" as a pickup line after this.

  • Seahawks sign Sigmund Jalapeno favorite Taco Wallace to their practice squad.

  • Packers waive Tyreo Harrison. Harrison spent 2002 and 2003 with the Philadelphia Eagles, making 3 tackles in 14 games. I'm assuming that those were mostly in a special teams role.

Even with these cuts, there are still more than a few Irish making it in the NFL, including some recent ones (Arnaz Battle and Rocky Boiman were thrust into starting roles this year, and David Givens is starting to get some attention as a Super Bowl-winning receiver). Tomorrow: my "trying to stay positive" ND-Michigan preview.

Monday, September 06, 2004

The Weekend in Review


I'll avoid any emotional rants, and instead just go with a position-by-position breakdown.

Quarterback: 26-47 for 265 yards doesn't seem too bad, but it was. Brady Quinn didn't throw downfield until he absolutely had too. Last year, Quinn got a visit from Joe Montana, who told him not to be afraid to dump it off to his safety valve when necessary. Well, either BYU's secondary was in our receiver's back pockets all day, or Quinn was afraid to take a chance. Or maybe it was just playcalling. I for one don't even want to guess.

Running Back: Eleven yards. George Gipp's career per-carry average was 9. Gary Godsey can get 11 yards by falling down. Travis Thomas and Jeff Jenkins had more receiving yards than rushing yards (28 and 10, respectively). I know we were behind, but we still should have been able to run on that team. Somebody, anybody, please step up and hold onto the football.

Fullback: Rashon Powers-Neal had 4 catches for 24 yards. The sure-handed Josh Schmidt had no catches. RPN had 1 carry for 0 yards, but that was when he lined up as the only back. The fact we had only 11 yards on the ground implies the fullbacks weren't blocking too well, and the fact that we constantly had to pass on 3rd and 4th and 2 also doesn't speak well for our fullbacks.

Receiver: Ty was free with his substitutions at wide receiver, but that only seemed to lead to a lack of consistency. Rhema McKnight was quiet for much of the game (of course, you can only run that screen so many times successfully). Matt Shelton was only used on an ill-advised go pattern from deep in ND territory, then never seen again. Carlyle was nowhere, and Jeff S also didn't have a catch - although Jeff did have one or two forced his way. On a positive note (perhaps the only one), we may finally have found a use for Maurice Stovall. He has trouble going downfield and outjumping someone for the ball, but give him a screen pass and some open field, and he'll use his large frame to break tackles and make something happen. Let's just hope they continue to use Stovall in this role.

Tight End: Another small bright spot, as Marcus Freeman and Anthony Fasano combined for 7 catches and 88 yards.

O-Line: Read my last sentence under Fullbacks, and remember that BYU only has a front 6 instead of a front 7. OK, so the confusing blitzes are difficult, but the Irish line should have been able to out-muscle the Cougars on the ground.

D-Line: Weaver, Cambell, Hilliard, and Roberts these guys aren't. Justin Tuck showed up, and Trevor Laws helped out (they combined for 10 tackles and 3 sacks), but that was about it. You didn't hear Budinscak or Abiamiri's names called all night, and there was a reason - Kyle had 2 tackles and VA none.

Linebacker: As was the case with most of the team, you could tell this was the first game of the season for these linebackers. Goolsby looked silly on an early TD run, but later settled down for 11 tackles (and the team's only pass breakup). BHoyte played hard, got in the backfield, and was at least near every play when it finished. Derrek Curry played a decent game as well, but I still hate watching this group in pass coverage.

Safety: Well, unless BYU picked the exact perfect times to throw deep (in other words, blitzes when 0 or 1 safeties were assigned to play deep), the safeties flat out were not doing there jobs. Quentin Burrell was supposed to be a bright spot for this secondary, but he looked out of place on those deep routes. Maybe it was just playcalling - I have no clue.

Cornerback: Michigan's offensive coordinator must be licking his chops right now, knowing that he can throw deep on the Irish all day long. Judging by quarterback Chad Henne's performance on Saturday, they have someone who can easily do it, too. Carlos Campbell played extrememly well as a tackler, but he was exposed on the deep routes. Preston Jackson secured a spot on the Packers with his TD pick, or at least he proved he's a little better than Clifford Jefferson. Other than those two, ugh.

Kickers: DJ (Ellen LOOVES him) did what he needed to do. For some reason, I can only remember seeing Carl Gioia kick off once. When his only job is to kick off, though, he probably should be doing better than kicking it to the 12 in a high-altitude stadium.

Punter: You can't really blame DJ too much for anything he does, since this is supposed to be Geoff Price's job. DJ did shank 1 or 2, but he also had a clutch 51-yard punt late in the game and ended with a 40.8 average.

Kick Returners: Chase Anastasio, this week's winner of the "Guy You'd Least Expect was a Wide Receiver/Kick Returner if You Saw Him in the Streets" award, had 1 return for 40 yards. He's no Julius, but that's pretty good.

Punt Returner: Ugh. Moving on.

Special Teams: Blocking Matt Payne would have been the only way to stop one of his punts. The Irish gave up just under 10 yards per on punt returns, and just over 10 yards per on kick returns, so I'd say they did a decent job. Plus, there was the 40 yard Anastasio return.

Other Ramblings

  • Last week, I quoted The Backer about Vontez Duff being cut by the Bears. I was preparing to retract this, as it was not the case at the time. However, Duff was a victim of the final roster cuts this weekend.

  • How bad have things gotten for the Yankees? Well, not very bad, comparatively, but besides that 22-0 drubbing by the Indians the other day (yahoo), the Yankees also tried to ask for a win by forfeit after Tampa Bay was late to their game on Monday. You have the best record in the AL, Tampa Bay is in last place, they're late because of a friggin' hurricane, and you're whining about a forfeit? This kind of stuff makes me want to punch a wall with my non-pitching hand.

  • Speaking of non pitching hands, at least Kevin Brown heeded the advice of Bull Durham when he didn't use his pitching hand to punch a clubhouse wall the other day. Great job, moron.

  • The 22-0 game is easily one of the top moments in the Cleveland YHC Chapter's existence. Others include the 1948, '54, '95, and '97 teams breaking consecutive World Series streaks of the Yankees, and Billy Traber being a John Flaherty blooper away from a perfect game against the Yanks.

  • Schedule strength in college football. I was going to go into a huge rant today about this - why, when Notre Dame is the only team playing a tough schedule, is it ND's fault for doing this, instead of everyone else's fault for playing pansies? And how can small-school athletic departments sleep at night letting their kids get beat 62-0 just to make a few thousand off a national power with a packed 90,000 seat stadium? As I said, this rant would have been longer, until I read an article this morning by the man himself, Jason Lloyd. In a rare non-tOSU column, Lloyd explained that Kevin White is looking to drastically reduce the quality of teams scheduled beginning with the 2009 season, assumedly the first season that isn't completely booked as of right now. (Insert your own NDNation-esque "that's if he still has a job in 2009!" quote here - I won't do it.)

  • Random football thought: Notre Dame has way too many tight ends. Their O-Line is young and inexperienced. Billy Palmer is known for his run blocking and not his receiving. Why not have Palmer pull an Andy Heck (former ND footballer, not the 14 year old brother of Dominic's former roommate) and move to tackle? Then again, I'm paid to make databases, not coach a D1 program.

  • The Indians have lost in Cliff Lee's last 8 starts after a great start with him on the rubber. Most people are calling his rookie season a failure, but that's not the case. Lee is in uncharted waters in Innings Pitched. Since the team is still rebuilding, and the playoffs are out of the question anyways, why not keep marching Lee out there, so he can build up his stamina for future years, when we'll need him in September and October? Sure, he suffers this year, but it should (hopefully) pay off for him and the team in the future.

  • Cheers to Dave for noticing this one, because I didn't think there was a chance. Ichiro is quickly closing in on the record for hits in a season. The record, 257 by George Sisler has stood since 1920, which was the very nativity of the live ball era. I never paid much attention to ESPN's hype of this, because for a while, I didn't think it was possible. "He needs at least 2 hits a game for the rest of the season - there's no way that happens," I thought. But, here we are with 26 games left for Seattle, and Ichiro only needs another 33 hits to tie the record. That's completely doable. And, when it happens, I hope Ichiro gets all the respect and attention he deserves for topping an 84 year old mark. So what if Seattle is in last place? So what if it's not a glory power stat like home runs or strikeouts? This guy knew his role, did his job well all season, and didn't give up when things started to go poorly. Go for it Ichiro, and make your country and the Sisler family proud.

  • Congrats to WVU running back Kay-Jay Harris for setting a Big East record (go figure) with 337 rushing yards against ECU.

  • I didn't watch much college football this weekend, as it usually makes me sick to my stomach following a loss by my team, but I did catch a great non-call by a referee. "There is no flag for a block in the back, as the player missed the block." Good, good.

  • This story I already told Dave and Ellen, and they loved it. My cousin (not the infamous one) was given a two-stroke penalty for using his cell phone during a high school golf match.
  • Finally, we have our own reluctant TV star in our midst, as Mike's picture is featured in a new spot for Notre Dame. Mike, I'm just glad it's you and not that Elvis guy.

Great Quotes and Moments from Ellen and Dave's Visit to Ohio

  • "I'm lauging because he reminds me of me when I'm excited." - Ellen, while Kanka's dog Harry was howling at her

  • For my money, Dave and mini-Kanka are the greatest Bocce combination around.

  • "I now know more about Zelda than I ever wanted to." - Dave, after mini-Kanka rambled for 20 minutes about Zelda for Nintendo 64. You're right, Dave, my brother probably should have a weekly guest column as our video game correspondent.

  • "They weren't 'he's an idiot' stories, they were 'he's crazy and I'd never try that myself' stories." - Kanka, after Dave finally met my Infamous Cousin and explained that I've told Dave many stories about him.

  • "You would have loved Kanka's church, there were so many cute old people there." - Dave to Ellen

  • Dave had quite an experience meeting my 86 year old grandma (who told him WAAY to much about my grandpa's health problems), but unfortunately he was never willing to try my mom's cheese ball, made of many varieties of cheese and intended to be spread on crackers. Maybe next time.

  • Ellen, I do appreciate the brownies, but unfortunately my sister decided to take a full plate back to school with her, leaving the remaining 5 members of my family with the plate that was already half finished. Dah.

  • Just think - Ellen will get to see me again this Friday! I know I can't wait, but I do have two columns to keep me busy in the meantime.