Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Notre Dame Football 2008
Issue 13: Hawaii

As an experiment, I crowdsourced my bowl preview, and two brave souls responsed. My own thoughts are at the end.

In the interest of time, and because they just flow better that way, I'm leaving everyone's previews intact.


Now, I don't study depth charts or stats to the degree that Kanka does, so don't expect in-depth position-by-position reviews out of me. I'm just a fired-up guy who enjoys a good game of football. And if I hadn't just read the most recent crowdsourced article on this site, I'd be tempted to accuse Kanka of being lazy, but I like being involved, I have some free time this weekend, and look: names in bold, integrated links -- I'm turning into a regular blogger!

I don't know anything about Hawaii's team, and I'm too lazy to look it up (see what happens when you crowdsource your articles to a group of equally lazy people?). I also don't have much to say about ND's team at this point that hasn't already been said. I just hope that Charlie isn't so focused on recruiting that he doesn't take the game seriously. Sure, the long-term health of the program is more important than a single bowl game, but I'm sick of hearing about how ND hasn't won a bowl game in 15 years, so it would be nice to get a postseason win.

Since I don't have anything intelligent to say, I'm going to do what all good football commentators do and start rambling on about intangibles and personal experience anecdotes.

This is going to be a tough environment for ND to play in. I stop short of calling it a "hostile" environment, because I'm not sure how hostile any place that has pretty girls handing out floral leis to everyone coming off an airplane can be. But seriously, this is far from a neutral location. It's essentially a home game for Hawaii, so expect to see a lot of whatever their colors are in the stands (again, too lazy to even look it up). It reminds me of the 2003 Gator Bowl in Jacksonville. ND played NC State, and the stadium was full of Wolfpack fans not only because of the location, but also because NC State secured their spot in the game far earlier than ND did, giving their fans a jump on buying tickets. I expect to see more of the same here.

They're also not bringing the band. From a dollars-and-cents point of view, I can see why, but if I were still in the band, I'd be pretty upset. The bowl trip is just as much a reward for the band as it is for the team. And as an ND fan, it's great to hear "the greatest of all university fight songs" at ND football games (even though we don't call it that outside of ND Stadium). The band provides (to quote someone from some movie) what the French call a certain... I don't know what.

If any of you are lucky enough to get to attend the game, here are some useful Hawaiian phrases:
Mele Kalikimaka: "Merry Christmas"
Mahalo: I thought this meant "Trash" because that's what's printed on the trash cans at this little Hawaiian place we go to lunch sometimes, but it actually means "Thanks"
Ho'opa i lalo: "Touchdown". Actually, I don't know if that's really true. I just looked up the words "touch" and "down" and stuck the resulting translations together. Use at your own risk.
Joi'aga: That doesn't really mean anything. I just accidentally set my coffee cup down on my keyboard. By the way, they supposedly have good coffee in Hawaii.
Aloha: Both "Hello" and "Goodbye". Who invented this silly language?

Kanka: if you can turn any bit of this into a semi-coherent article, I'll be downright amazed.

Go Irish, and Merry Christmas!


ND can absolutely win this game, but since it's a bowl game, who the hell knows if we'll show up. Hawaii definitely will, but they're not that good this year. Can we control the clock and avoid stupid turnovers? That will decide the game.

With nothing left to say, I'll just include the rant I emailed Kanka a short time ago:

"I hate the game on Christmas Eve. Absolutely hate it. I can't believe the university put its alumni and fans in such a weird spot. "Go to church, spend time with family, or watch the bowl game" is pretty much the message. So odd. I'm going to Michigan with Colleen and her family tomorrow morning, and her dad's big family get-together is tomorrow night. Clearly I must watch the game, but I'd rather not come off like a totally anti-social d-bag in front of many people I've not met and who will be traveling a far distance for our wedding. Absolutely horrendous decision."


This has the potential to be a sloppy game, as both teams have struggled with turnovers. Hawaii has thrown over 16 interceptions, but most of those have come from Inoke Funaki (INDEED). Funaki was replaced by Greg Alexander, who has a stellar 12 to 4 touchdown-to-interception ratio.

Hawaii uses a four receiver look almost exclusively, and Notre Dame has said will counter with the nickel for most of the game. While Sergio Brown and Harrison Smith have improved their pass coverage over the course of the year, I'd like to see Robert Blanton and/or Gary Gray play nickel/dime back, so all of Notre Dame's most talented corners can be on the field at the same time. Terrail Lambert is back for this one, so that will be a big help. (Lost in the shuffle of the 38-3 loss to USC was the fact that ND was playing without its two "starting" corners, Lambert and Darrin Walls.)

Hawaii distributes the ball pretty evenly, so everyone in the Irish pass defense will have to be on their toes at all times. But they have the talent to do it, and they also have the talent to blitz early and often against a team that is worst in the nation at allowing sacks. But ND also has to be alert for the occasional draw, something they struggled with against San Diego State in the opener.

The Warriors defense gets in the backfield a lot, led by end David Veikune. Hopefully, the Irish will keep extra blockers back to protect Jimmy Clausen. This essentially means taking the tight end and/or running back out of the passing game. But fortunately Michael Floyd will be back, so Hawaii's secondary won't be able to concentrate all their efforts on Golden Tate. Hopefully that extra protection and the dual threat of Floyd and Tate will help Clausen keep the ball away from Hawaii's ball-hawking safeties.

Look for a big game from everyone. Go Irish, beat Warriors.