Tuesday, January 31, 2006

Notre Dame Alumni in the NFL Playoffs


Jerome Bettis, RB - Pittsburgh: 3 games, 42 rush, 37 yds, 3 TD, 1 lost fumble.

Deke Cooper, S - Jacksonville: 1 game, 0 tackles.

Darrell Campbell, DT - Chicago: Practice squad.

David Givens, WR - New England: 2 games, 6 catches, 57 yds, 2 TD.

Ryan Grant, RB - New York Giants: Practice squad.

Jim Jones, OL - Washington: Practice squad.

Sean Mahan, OG - Tampa Bay: Starting RG in 1 game; team rushed for 75 yards and Chris Simms was sacked three times.

Jim Molinaro, OT - Washington: Reserve OL for 1 game; team rushed for 95 yards and Mark Brunell was sacked twice.

Luke Petitgout, OT - New York Giants: Starting LT for one game; team rushed for 41 yards and Eli Manning was sacked four times.

Gerome Sapp, S - Indianapolis: 1 game, 0 tackles.

Hunter Smith, P - Indianapolis: 1 game, 6 punts, 45.3 average, 52 yd long, 1 inside 20.

Justin Tuck, DE - New York Giants: 1 game, 1 tackles.

Kurt Vollers, OT - Indianapolis: Inactive.

Renaldo Wynn, DE - Washington: DNP - broken arm.


Greg Blanche, Defensive Coordinator/Defensive Line - Washington (ND Defensive Assistant 1968-71 (while an undergrad; a leg injury ended his playing career), Asst Jr Varsity 1973-74, Jr Varsity 1975, Offensive Backs 1981, Defensive Line 1982-83): Defense yielded 30 points and 607 yards in two games.

John DeFillipo, Offensive Quality Control - New York Giants (Former ND Graduate Assistant): Team had 154 yards of offense and 0 points in 1 game.

Kirk Doll, Special Teams - Denver (ND Special Teams 1994-97, Linebackers 1994-2001, Kickers 2000, Assistant Head Coach 1997-2001): Denver averaged 21.6 yards per kick return and 10.0 yards per punt return in two games. They gave up 24.0 yards per kick return and 10.0 yards per punt return. Jason Elam converted all three field goal attempts and all five extra point attempts. Todd Sauerbrun averaged 45.2 yards per punt with a long of 58.

Andy Heck, Asst. Offensive Line - Jacksonville (ND TE/OT '85-'88 (player)): Team rushed for 87 yards and was sacked 6 times in one game.

Jay Hayes, Defensive Line - Cincinnati (ND Defensive Ends 1989, Outside Linebackers 1990-91): Line had 8 tackles in one game.

Dean Pees, Linebackers - New England (ND Secondary 1994): Linebackers had 56 tackles and 6.5 sacks in two games. Pees was also named the Patriots defensive coordinator when Eric Mangini became head coach of the Jets.

Bill Sherida, Linebackers, New York Giants (ND Safeties/Special Teams 2001): Linebackers had 28 tackles and 1 sack in 1 game.

Mike Trgovac, Defensive Coordinator - Carolina (ND Defensive Line 1992-94, Assistant Head Coach 1993-94): Team yielded 55 points and 852 total yards in 3 games.

In addition, the following players and coaches are a degree of separation from ND:

Shaun Alexander, RB - Seattle: Older brother was a drummer in the Band of the Fighting Irish.

Russ Grimm, Assistant Head Coach/Offensive Line - Pittsburgh: Younger brother Donn was a linebacker for ND from 1987-90.

Jon (Head Coach - Tampa Bay) and Jay (Offensive Assistant Coach, Tampa Bay) Gruden: Father, Jim, was Offensive Backs/Special Teams coach from 1978-80. Jon was a ball boy for men's basketball.

Sunday, January 29, 2006

The Weekend in Review

Senior All Star Games

East-West Shrine Game

Dan Stevenson put on a very impressive performance. He often had the opposing lineman pushed five yards downfield. The ESPN announcers praised him for being one of the main reasons why Arkansas running bak De'Arrius Howard had three rushing touchdowns on the day. On the last play of the game, Stevenson pushed his man into the end zone, but other defenders flooded the hole he created to stuff Howard for the West win.

Brandon Hoyte participated on defense and special teams and had two tackles.

Hula Bowl

Corey Mays, a team captain for the East, shared the team lead with six tackles.

DJ Fitzpatrick was the East kicker, but also got in on one punt. He scored four of the East's ten points, with a 36 yard field goal and an extra point. His three kickoffs averaged 61.7 yards. It actually looked like he was kicking off farther, if not lower, than he did during the regular season. On his one punt, a defender came in untouched. Non-chalantly, DJ stepped to the side, then stepped up and booted the ball 51 yards. But wait, rushing the punter wasn't allowed in this game. So, DJ got a second chance to kick without any pressure, and that punt went 45 yards.

Senior Bowl

Mo Stovall, coming off of a great week of practice, caught one of two balls thrown to him; the completion went for nine yards. Of course, both teams combined to complete only 25 passes on the day.

Georgetown 82, Notre Dame 82 / Villanova 72, Notre Dame 70

Men's Basketball

Is it even worth separating these games? These games were both typical of the men's losses this year. In the Georgetown game, an ND comeback was capped by a four point play at the buzzer by Colin Falls. The first overtime ended on a missed layup by Chris Quinn. "Oh well," right? Nope. "The Little Team That Almost Could" couldn't hold a lead throughout the 10 minutes of bonus basketball, and in the end Georgetown showed the heart to put the game away. The Villanova game was similar. Notre Dame played the first half even. Villanova built a huge lead only to see the Irish come charging back. Quinn tied the game on a brilliant pass to Torin Francis with 13 seconds left. Following a time out, Nova drove inside and missed a layup. But, no one boxed out Chris Quinn's man, and that guard came flying in from the wing to tip in the winning basket.
It may be too little, too late, but this team may finally be starting to figure things out. Over the past few games, they've played well when they worked the ball inside and took high percentage shots. (Go figure!) However, they haven't done it for 40 minutes yet. In the Georgetown game, they only worked inside after they were down big. In the Villanova game, they played the inside game in the first half. In the second half, they only went back to it after they were down 17. This team needs to learn how to play hard for a full game, build a lead, and keep that lead.

Rutgers 69, Notre Dame 43

Women's Basketball

This wasn't a pretty game by any measure. Notre Dame's first field goal came 11 minutes into the game, at which point the game was 20-1 in favor of Rutgers. Notre Dame then went on a run to cut the lead to 20-14. The closest they got was early in the second half when Rutgers led 28-24. The next thing you know, Rutgers is up 48-26. The Scarlet Knight radio announcers said that Notre Dame looked confused facing Rutgers' physical defense. It sounded like they were flat-out scared as well. This has been the story for the past few years when Notre Dame played Rutgers, but the results have never been this bad. Next up for the Irish is Syracuse. The Orange don't quite have the talent of Rutgers, but they play ND with an equally physical approach. They may in fact be a more physical and, to some, thuggish than Rutgers.

South Florida 68, Notre Dame 64

Women's Basketball

I didn't get a chance to see or listen to this game, and I normally don't like to comment on a game when that is the case. But, it looked to be the same old story. An Irish cold streak allowed South Florida to grow a 15 point lead, before the Irish came all the way back. Notre Dame held a slim margin until USF's Ezria Parson's hit a three with 2 second left to force OT. In the extra period, Megan Duffy had a chance to return the favor, but missed a potential tying three with 3 seconds left.

Breaking Down the Latest Baseball Trades

Phillies Get

Arthur Rhodes: Rhodes is a LOOGY (Lefty One Out GuY) who had a very good 2005 before leaving the Indians to attend to family issues. Oddly enough, for a lefty specialist, he was very good against righties and average against lefties. Of course, many of the righties he faced were switch hitters, and they're facing him because they're worse hitters from the right side. The lefties, meanwhile, would have all been natural lefties. Rhodes joins fellow lefties Rheal Cormier and Aaron Fultz in the Philadelphia pen. The only remaining lefties in Cleveland's bullpen are Scott Sauerbeck and Jason Stanford. Sauerbeck, who had an inconsistent 2005 after a year out of baseball, is more of a long reliever than a shut down guy. Stanford did not play in the majors in 2005.

Red Sox Get

Coco Crisp: Defensively, Crisp appears to be a similar player to the guy he's replacing, Johnny Damon. Crisp has good range and a decent glove, but like Damon has a very below average arm. Crisp actually started as a second baseman in the Cardinals farm system before being moved to the outfield. (Allegedly because he once did an Ozzie Smith backflip on the way out to his position; realistically, it was likely because of his athleticism and speed.) Crisp settled into the second spot in Cleveland's order after struggling in the leadoff spot at the beginning of 2005. It will be interesting to see how he handles a move back to leadoff in the spotlight that is Boston. He was strong enough to line drive 16 home runs last season. He should enjoy lining balls into Boston's short right field corner, peppering balls off the Monster, or finding some grass in center and running for days.

David Riske: Riske had an up and down career in Cleveland. He looked to be the Indians future closer, then struggled in that role. He started 2005 with the best scoreless streak in baseball. Then, it seemed like he gave up a home run every time he went in - for a total of 11 on the year. Still, he is an established and serviceable reliever.

Josh Bard: Bard is young, but he's already an established backup catcher. He broke into the majors a year before Victor Martinez, because Bard was believed to be better defensively and more experienced handling pitching staffs. Bard will compete with John Flaherty to replace Doug Mirabelli as Boston's backup catcher. Mirabelli left for San Diego as a free agent. I would be rather surprised if Bard doesn't beat out Flaherty for the job.

Indians Get

Jason Michaels: Michaels comes over from Philadelphia. He's never played full time, but he looks to be a very similar player to Crisp. Like Crisp, Michaels plays left and center fields, and is said to be decent in both spots. Last year, Michaels hit .304 with a .399 OBP in 289 at bats. Actually, it looks like Michaels is a poor man's Crisp, with slightly less power and speed. That being said, in 2004 Michaels did have 10 HR and 40 RBI in 299 at bats, which is about half a season's work for a full time player.

Andy Marte: Marte was the top prospect in the Braves organziation, until he was traded to Boston for Edgar Renteria, straight up. He immediately became Boston's top prospect. Now, he's the future at third base for Cleveland. Marte is already major league quality defensively, but is perhaps a year away as a hitter. (Of course, the same was true of Brandon Phillips, and he's still trying to figure out his swing.) This was a needed trade for the Indians, who didn't have a major league quality third base prospect anywhere in the organization. Aaron Boone has one year left on his contract. Unless Marte hits really well in spring training and the minors, and/or Boone flounders offensively again, Boone will be Cleveland's 2006 third baseman and Marte their 2007 third baseman.

Guillermo Mota: I have to apologize, as I've been confusing Mota with Yhency Brazoban. It was Brazoban who filled in as LA's closer last year, picking up 21 saves. Mota has 7 saves for his career. Mota also has a career ERA of 3.61. This will be Mota's first season in the American League, so he should benefit from hitters being unfamiliar with him.

Kelly Shoppach: Shoppach, a catcher, is in a similar situation to Marte's. He's not as big of a prospect, but he still has the potential to be a solid player. And, like Marte, he's probably ready for the majors defensively, but needs just a little more work on his hitting. The arrival of Shoppach is a good thing for the Tribe's farm system. Cleveland's previous top catching prospect, Ryan Garko, may be made into a full time first baseman, as he wasn't developing defensively as a catcher. In fact, Garko played first exclusively this past winter. If Shoppach's hitting develops this year, he may see playing time at catcher with Victor Martinez playing some first. Martinez also occassionally played first base in the minors so his bat could be kept in the lineup. On top of that, Martinez is considered a below-average catcher defensively (he is a converted third baseman), so Shoppach's glove and arm would be a good complement. I wouldn't be surprised if non-roster invitee Einar Diaz broke camp as the Tribe's backup catcher, but I also wouldn't be surprised if Shoppach was "in the show" soon thereafter.

A PTBNL (Player to Be Named Later) and $1 million.

Wednesday, January 25, 2006

MLB Preview 1: NL West

San Diego Padres

Dave Roberts LF
Vinny Castilla/Geoff Blum 3B
Brian Giles RF
Mike Cameron CF
Ryan Klesko 1B
Doug Mirabelli C
Khalil Greene SS
Josh Barfield/Mark Bellhorn 2B

Jake Peavy
Woody Williams
Chris Young
Chan Ho Park
Tim Stauffer
Clay Hensley
Shawn Estes
Dewon Brazelton

Yeah, I have Vinny Castilla batting second. Wanna fight about it? Actually, I do. This lineup needs two things. One, Greene, Barfield (Jesse's son), or Bellhorn need to step up and hit well enough to fill the number 2 spot. Two, they need Cameron out of the cleanup spot. I had to go righty/lefty there, but I didn't want to. Maybe someone else can step up into the 3rd spot, bumping Giles down to cleanup. Or maybe Giles can put on a fake mustache and bat twice. Bench players for the Padres include Canadian standout Pete Laforest (C), former super-prospect Adrian Gonzalez (1B), and the unfortunately named Bobby Hill.
The Padres rotation lost some good, young talent in Adam Eaton and Brian Lawrence, but they gain some in 6'10 Chris Young. Woody Williams is a solid 2/3 starter, and Estes and Park are serviceable parts. The person to watch here is Brazelton, the troubled former Tampa Bay prospect. In the bullpen, the return of Trevor Hoffman is the big news. Estes will likely start the season in the bullpen, and he's probably the only other San Diego reliever you've heard of before.

Arizona Diamondbacks

Craig Counsell SS
Chad Tracy 3B
Luis Gonzalez LF
Shawn Green RF
Conor Jackson/Tony Clark 1B
Johnny Estrada C
Eric Byrnes CF
Orlando Hudson 2B

Brandon Webb
Orlando Hernandez
Brad Halsey
Russ Ortiz
Miguel Batista
Claudio Vargas
Mike Gosling
Dustin Nippert
Edgar Gonzalez

I'm starting this lineup with four lefties. Sue me; Tracy had a .358 OBP last year. Green had good numbers last season, can he repeat that performance? Barring a huge breakout from Dioner Navarro, Estrada is the best hitting catcher in this division. He'll greatly help the bottom of this lineup. Byrnes and O-Dog bring speed and hustle behind Estrada. The bench features former rookie star Alex Cintron and the versatile Damion Easley.
The rotation is an interesting mix. Arizona has turned out more than its fair share of good, young starters over the past few years. They'll be joined by the experience of Hernandez and Ortiz. Batista reunites with with his World Champion teammates Counsell and Gonzalez after a few years as Toronto's closer. Due to injuries, Arizona's bullpen is full of players with closer experience. That will help "shorten the game." Jose Valverde is listed as the closer on the depth chart, and he'll be joined by Brandon Lyon, Luis Vizcaino, and Claudio Vargas.

San Francisco Giants

Randy Winn CF
Omar Vizquel SS
Barry Bonds LF
Moises Alou RF
Ray Durham 2B
Lance Niekro 1B
Pedro Feliz 3B
Mike Matheny C

Jason Schmidt
Matt Morris
Noah Lowry
Matt Cain
Brad Hennessey
Kevin Correia
Jeff Fassero

Look at that lineup. If everyone can stay healthy, and I can basically guarantee that won't happen, that is an amazing lineup. I like the idea of batting Ray Durham fifth, as he often did last year. After the #1 hitter, the position in the batting order that leads off the most innings is the #5 hitter. Why not put a leadoff-style hitter in that spot? What makes this lineup great is the bottom half. As you know, there's essentially one less spot in a National League lineup than there is in an AL lineup. Most #7 hitters in the AL are good hitters. But, most #7 hitters in the NL wouldn't be #7 hitters in the AL; they'd be #8 hitters. Pedro Feliz may be one of the few exceptions. Before him is Lance Niekro, who spent most of 2005 batting third. One good judge of a batting order is how good the "heart of the order" is. The normal heart is considered to be the 3-5 spots. For San Diego, it's 3-5. For Arizona, it's 3-4. For the Giants, it's 3-7. That's a good lineup. The Giants have a solid bench as well. Steve Finley will back up all outfield positions (and hopefully not start over Winn in center), and Jose Vizcaino will back up all infield positions. Mark Sweeney and Jason Ellison, who both had solid 2005 seasons, are also on the depth chart.
Morris is a huge pickup for San Fran. He may be the help that Jason Schmidt has needed all these years. Of course, after these two, there's not much. Noah Lowry is decent, but you still need more than three starters. Fortunately, the bullpen is solid... until the playoffs, at least. Armando Benitez will be set up by Steve Kline, Jeff Fassero, and Tim Worrell.

Los Angeles Dodgers

Kenny Lofton CF
Rafael Furcal/Cesar Izturis SS
JD Drew RF
Jeff Kent 2B
Nomar Garciaparra 1B
Jose Cruz, Jr. LF
Bill Mueller 3B
Dioner Navarro C

Derek Lowe
Brad Penny
Odalis Perez
Brett Tomko
DJ Houlton

Nine players for eight positions. That's the kind of problem a manager wants to have... until ego gets in the way. Furcal will start at short and Kent at second until Izturis returns from injury. When he does, he will likely take over at second and move Kent to first. Both Furcal and Izturis have experience at short and second, and Izturis has a Gold Glove there, but that's not my decision to make. Surprisingly, I think Lofton leading off and Furcal second is the right way to go. Lofton had an OBP close to .400 last year. Furcal's was much lower, but he has more pop. Drew and Cruz have decent speed. Put them together with Lofton, Furcal, and Izturis when he comes back, and opposing outfielders will become very familiar with the spacious gaps of Chavez Ravine. Ideally, this lineup's "heart" stretches all the way from 2-8. Realistically, it's probably closer to 3-6. The bench features outfielders Ricky Ledee, Jason Repko, and Jayson Werth, all of whom had the talent to start last year. Hee-Seop Choi, Olmedo Saenz, and Willy Aybar also have starter-level talent. Navarro's backup is Sandy Alomar, who is possibly the best mentor the young catcher could have.
LA's rotation looks set as well. The top five are all proven starters. Eric Gagne will be supported by two former AllStarClosersasterisk. Danys Baez and Lance Carter both made the Mid-Summer Classic as Tampa Bay's obligatory selection, but that should take nothing away from their skills as relievers, especially when they're out of the closer's spotlight.

Colorado Rockies

Clint Barmes SS
Luis A Gonzalez 2B
Matt Holliday LF
Todd Helton 1B
Garrett Adkins 3B
Brad Hawpe RF
Cory Sullivan CF
Yorvit Torrealba/JD Closser/Danny Ardoin C

Jason Jennings
Aaron Cook
Jeff Francis
Byung-Hyun Kim
Zach Day
Sunny Kim
Mike Esposito

Pop quiz: What's type of hitter is best suited for Coors Field? If you answered a power hitter, you may be wrong. Coors has a giant outfield, so it may in fact be better suited for guys who can hit the gaps and run. That's what this team can do. This group of nobodies all got on base at least once in every three plate appearances last year. That being said, who are these guys? Barmes broke out last year before a freak injury. This Luis Gonzalez is doing well for a Rule V draftee (out of Cleveland). Holliday's 2005 numbers remind me of what the young Cleveland stars did right before they broke out. And Helton is Helton. But still, Yorvit Torrealba is the big offseason position player acquisition? If you've never heard of the starters, you surely haven't heard of the bench players. Except, pehaps, for Raphael Desepition "Choo" Freeman.
The rotation features a few bright spots. Cook went 7-2 last year. Francis is the token "young talent who would be great if he ever got out of Colorado." Day is known for having one great pitch: his sinker. Great... except for the fact that the high altitude greatly reduces break on pitches. So, now Day's best pitch is a belt-high BP fastball. Good good. Brian Fuentes, who had 31 saves in 34 opportunities last year, returns as Colorado's closer. He'll be supported by big name free agent acquisitions Ray King and... drumroll please... Jose Mesa. Chiropractors in the Denver area are drooling over the chance to treat Mesa's repeated neck injuries this coming season.

Tuesday, January 24, 2006

Quick Hits

Throwing this out there a few minutes before the start of the ND-Georgetown game.

The only way to bag a classy lady is to give her two tickets to the gun show. (Courtesy Lori Young/ESPN.com)
  • Against Marquette, the men's team looked like they were taking honors classes from the Bob Davie School of Clock Management. Twice under two minutes they came down the court with a two point lead, only to throw up a long jumper with 15 seconds left on the shot clock. Ugh.

  • I didn't get a chance to see the women play Georgetown, but I heard the end wasn't pretty. A win's a win, though. Tuesday night they play at Rutgers, which is never an easy task.

  • Much baseball on this site in the coming weeks. The World Baseball Classic's "provisional rosters" have been announced, and I'll compare those to the lineups I projected a few months back. Also, it's almost time for my yearly game of predict-the-lineups. Always way too much fun for me.

  • Mo Stovall will be wearing his familiar #21 for the North squad in this Saturday's Senior Bowl (4 PM Eastern, ESPN). If you have ESPN Insider, first of all let me ask you why you're paying money for something like that. But, if you are paying for it, you might as well check out all the "inside" information they have on Mo. For those of you sans Insider, be sure to check out Mo's comments from this chat wrap before it ESPN starts charging for it. Mo shows up around the 3:37 mark (hoo hoo!). He sure loves his exclamation marks! And can someone get this guy an XBox 360?

Sunday, January 22, 2006

Transaction Wire - Notre Dame in the NFL Edition

12/13 Cardinals activate WRCarlyle Holiday from the practice squad. Holiday was listed as inactive for the Houston and Philadelphia games on 12/18 and 12/24, respectively. He played on New Year's Day against the Colts, but did not touch the football.

12/18 Rams activate TE Jerome Collins from the practice squad. Collins played in the last three games of St Louis' season, but he did not have a catch.

12/20 Redskins sign OL Jim Jones. Jones had been on the San Francisco pratice squad.

12/28 Browns sign TE John Owens. Owens was signed as an emergency plan after all three of Cleveland's top tight ends were battling injury at the end of the season. Owens did not see game action in the final contest of the season.

12/31 Bears activate DT Darrell Campbell from the practice squad. Campbell was added to the Bears travel roster, but he was inactive for the Bears final regular season game and their lone playoff game.

01/02 Patriots sign OL Brennan Curtin to the practice squad. A week later, Curtin was released.

01/06 Bills fire offensive coordinator Tom Clements. Clements, a finalist for the Notre Dame job last year, started as a quarterbacks coach under Lou Holtz. After a year as Lou's assistant head coach, Clements took a job as Bill Cowher's QB coach in Pittsburgh. He is complex and creative in his playcalling, but Clements could only muster 271.8 yards and 15.2 poinst per game out of Willis McGahee and the two-headed QB monster that was JP Losman and Kelly Holcomb. Both numbers ranked 30th out of 32 teams. I doubt anyone can get much out of Losman and Holcomb. Clements will surely find a job somewhere, even if he has to once again step down to quarterbacks coach.

01/17 Patriots promote linebackers coach Dean Pees to defensive coordinator. Pees was the Notre Dame secondary coach in 1994. 2006 will be Pees' 34th season as a college or pro coach.

01/17 Giants sign CB/PR Vontez Duff. This comes on the heels of the news that the Giants also re-signed Ryan Grant through next season.

01/19 Bills sign K Nick Setta. Originally signed by the Saints, Setta has also spent time in the camps of Chicago, Tampa Bay, and Cleveland. He spent a season in Europe with the Rhein Fire.

01/20 Buccaneers sign CB Dwight Ellick. Earlier this season, Ellick was on the Redskins practice squad.

...and one baseball rumor.

Boston papers report that the Indians and Red Sox have agreed in principle to a deal that would send OF Coco Crisp to Boston for 3B Andy Marte and RP Guillermo Mota. Rumors have it that the trade would be contingent on the Tribe being able to land OF Jason Michaels from the Phillies. Those rumors have Philadelphia asking for RP Rafael Betancourt, Arthur Rhodes, or David Riske.
Marte is a great 3B prospect acquired by Boston from Atlanta in the Edgar Renteria trade. Last June (scroll down a little), I mentioned that I was a fan of Marte's glove but not his bat. But, he's only 22 and has potential written all over him. With no one in the third base cupboard at any level for the Tribe, he's definitely a great pickup. Mota is a solid reliever that is often said to have closer ability. Coco Crisp is a very popular player here in Cleveland, but Marte and Mota are far too much to pass up.
Of course, with Crisp gone, the Indians are left with just Grady Sizemore, Casey Blake, Jason DuBois, and Franklin Gutierrez in the outfield. Blake and DuBois struggled with the Mendoze line last year. Blake is a very unselfish player who will do whatever asked (during the 2004-05 offseason, he was rumored to move from third to second, then to first, then to left, then finally to right). But, he looked very replaceable last year. It's hard to tell if DuBois is a year away or a total bust. Gutierrez has all the physical skills, but you don't want to rush him. What's my point? The Indians need another outfielder. Michaels looks like a natural to replace Crisp. Like Crisp, Michaels can play LF and CF. He doesn't have outstanding power or speed, but he does have a great knack for getting on base. This could make him perfect to take over Crisp's #2 spot in the batting order. If a deal for Michaels doesn't work out, there are other options. Free agent Jeff DaVanon was a fourth outfielder during his time in Anaheim. But, when he did play, it looked like he could start for most teams. Another possibility is young Ryan Langerhans from Atlanta. The name of Texas' Kevin Mench has come across Cleveland's lips many times over the past few years, as their biggest need is a right handed power-hitting corner outfielder.
As mentioned above, the Phillies are asking for a relief pitcher in return for Michaels. This is likely the reason why Mota was "thrown in" the Crisp deal. Arthur Rhodes is a veteran lefty who had an ERA of 2.08 in 2005. He's obviously the best of the three relievers Philadephia is asking for. Righty Rafael Betancourt has been a pleasant surprise for the Indians over the past few years. David Riske has had an inconsistent career. He played well enough to earn the closer's role a few years back, then struggled. In 2005, there were periods when he was unhittable, and then there were periods when everything he threw was a home run. I'd definitely give Riske for Michaels. Considering the quantity of young bullpen talent waiting in the wings for Cleveland, I'd also be willing to give up Betancourt for Michaels, especially knowing it could get me Mota. I'd also be willing to give up Rhodes if only the Indians had another lefty in the bullpen besides the wild Scott Sauerbeck.

Wednesday, January 18, 2006

Notre Dame 78, DePaul 75

Women's Basketball

A while back, I promised to be a better source of Notre Dame women's basketball coverage. Finally, I'm getting around to it.
If you didn't catch tuesday night's game against #10 DePaul, you missed a wild game. As I mentioned in my sports update, the #24 Irish have been struggling as of late. After losing four of their last five, and standing 1-3 in the conference, this was a game that could essentially define the season.
The entire first half was even. The biggest lead by either team was five, when DePaul went up 16-11. At the half, Notre Dame led 37-33.
I picked up the game in the second half, after I got back from our local National Slovak Society's annual dinner (ooh, look at me). Notre Dame scored the first basket of the second period to go up 39-33. Then things went crazy-go-nuts. DePaul went on a 18-0 run, highlighed by three threes from Jenna Rubino. The score now stood at DePaul 51, Notre Dame 39. During this run, I was scrambling to get DePaul's radio feed running on my Linux box. It didn't work out too well. So, I scrambled upstairs to try it on a Windows machine. During that time, Notre Dame went on an 18-0 run of their own to go back up 57-51. The Irish lead got up to seven several times before the Blue Demons started to crawl back.
Before I go on to the end of the game, allow me to enter a tangent on the DePaul radio broadcast. I'm assuming this was an Internet-only broadcast. There was only one person doing the game. Instead of going to commercial during timeouts, the announcer was forced to kill time. My favorite late-game timeout filling monologue went like this:
"And the leprechaun is trying to get the the crowd into it. I... can tell you from experience that this is the backup leprechaun.... The 'real' leprechaun does the men's game. Meanwhile, the band is rocking and rolling all night... and partying every day."
Down 69-68 with 1:34 left, DePaul began to foul. Tulyah Gaines hit both freebies for the Irish, but DePaul came right back with a three to tie the score. Predictably, the Blue Demons... fouled Gaines again. Wait, what? Gaines again converted twice from the charity stripe. A pair of missed shots by DePaul led to two more trips to the free throw line, and Notre Dame converted three of four to go up 76-71. After a basket by DePaul, two free throws by Megan Duffy made the lead 78-73. But, two missed free throws and another basket by DePaul made the game interesting with just 1.5 seconds left.
Leading 78-75, all inbounder Courtney Lavere had to do was get the ball to a teammate and the game would be over. But, it wasn't simple. Blue Demon Allie Quigley stole the inbound pass and put up a half-court shot, but it hit back rim and bounced away. It was a madcap finish to a madcap game.

  • Hampered by poor shooting this season, the Irish shot 47% from the field (28-60), including 50% from 3-point range (5-10). They also converted 17 of 24 free throws, compared to just 6 of 8 for DePaul.
  • Duffy nearly had a triple double Tuesday night. She finished with 23 points, 8 rebounds (not bad for a player eligible for the Frances Wooden Award, given to the best senior 5'8 and under), and 9 assists.
  • After the game, Coach Muffet McGraw took the PA microphone and thanked the crowd for sticking with the team despite their recent struggles.
  • Want a visual representation of that crazy start to the second half? Pull up the Gametracker here and click on the "Game Flow" tab. (WARNING: a VERY LOUD ad for MVP 06 plays when you first open the link.)
  • Box Score

Giants Sign Duff

Per Daddy Fitzgerald, per Ellen on the message board, the Giants have signed free agent Vontez Duff for 2006.

Monday, January 16, 2006

Notre Dame Sports Update

Baseball 22 Collegiate Baseball The team, which is set to begin play on February 23, was predicted by Big East coaches to win the conference this year. (The home opener is March 21.) SP Jeff Samardzija, 3B Brett Lilley, and LF Matt Bransfield made the preseason all-Big East team. ND's out-of-conference schedule features Nebraska, Oklahoma, and Arizona. The team's annual Opening Night Dinner, held on February 6, will be keynoted by Charlie Weis and Aaron Heilman.

Men's Basketball 10-5/1-3 Big East The men have struggled in the new, stronger Big East so far, dropping three straight conference games before blowing out a Providence team whose best player is a poor man's Luke Zeller. The team normally plays well enough to hang in close games, with only one loss by more than six points, but they seem to lack that killer instinct when it matters most. It looks like the men are starting to put together the pieces for something good - hustling, getting rebounds, not always settling for threes. Chris Quinn and Russell Carter have the ability to create their own shots. Colin Falls has broken out of an early season slump. Torin Francis is showing flashes of playing with a purpose. Zeller, Rob Kurz, and Kyle McAlarney have contributed well. But it will be a long year unless the Irish can start playing well in crunch time. For their next game, the Irish travel to Marquette for a 9 PM tipoff on ESPNU.

Women's Basketball 10-5/1-3 Big East/20 AP/19 USA Today It hasn't exactly been a storybook season for the women's cagers. Muffet McGraw picked up her 500th career victory early in the season, but later had to leave the team for medical reasons. She is back now, but the team isn't necessarily playing like it. The Irish have lost four of their last five, with the lone win coming in overtime against a decent Marquette team. At first glance, the problem appears to be shooting percentage - both from the field (42.1%/31.2% 3PT) and the free throw line (65.8%). Other than Megan Duffy, the team lacks an outside threat. Melissa D'Amico and Lindsay Schrader have played well, but they have also shown their inexperience at times. The "Lady Irish" face DePaul at home on Tuesday night.

Men's Cross Country 5 MONDO/5 USCCCA The men finished 3rd overall at the NCAA Championships in November, led by Kurt Benninger's individual 8th place finish. Benninger, Tim Moore, and Kaleb Van Ort were named All-Americans.

Women's Cross Country 4 FinishLynx/4 WICCCA The women finished 7th at the same NCAA Championships, paced by Stephanie Madia's 3rd place showing. Madia and Molly Huddle were named All-Americans.

Fencing Olympic Gold Medalist Mariel Zagunis (how many gold medals do you have?) was named to the US World Championship team and helped her country win the sabre title. The Irish continue to prepare their NCAA championship defense by participating the NYU duals on January 22.

Football 9-3/9 AP/11 USA Today Five seniors will be playing in all-star bowls this month. Brandon Hoyte and Dan Stevenson will play in the East-West Shrine Game, Saturday, January 21, at 4 PM eastern. Hoyte will wear #44 and Stevenson #74 for Houston Nutt's East squad against Dennis Franchione's West. DJ Fitzpatrick and Corey Mays will play in the Hula Bowl, Saturday, January 21, at 7 PM eastern. Both Fitzpatrick and Mays will be in their familiar numbers (19 and 46, respectively) for the Tommy Tuberville's East team against Ty Willingham and the West. Mo Stovall will play in the Senior Bowl, Saturday, January 28, at 4 PM eastern. The complete Senior Bowl roster and coaching staffs will not be announced until next week. Coaches are normally taken from the NFL for this game. The Senior Bowl will be televised by ESPN, and I'm assuming the other two will be as well.

Men's Golf The men golfers finished no higher than 5th and no lower than 8th in eight matches this fall, not counting a DQ from their final match. The spring season starts on February 27 in Naples, FL.

Women's Golf The women golfers started strong, finishing no lower than 4th until they reached the Las Vegas Invitational. At Las Vegas, the finished 9th, 8th, and 10th. The semester ended with the Irish finishing 2nd at the Lady Jaguar Invitational. The spring season starts the weekend of February 19 in Parrish, FL.

Hockey 7-12-3/5-8-3 CCHA The icers have been playing well as of late, posting a 3-1-1 record in a stretch that includes a 2-2 tie and a 3-2 loss against #3 Miami University. The Irish next travel to Northern Michigan for games on Friday and Saturday.

Men's Lacrosse 10 Lacrosse Mag/12 Inside Lacrosse/12 Face-Off Yearbook The men lax-ers begin their spring season on February 26 with a home game against Penn State.

Women's Lacrosse Following a 2005 season that saw only 3 wins, the women begin their 2006 campaign at Cal on February 24. Attacker Crysti Foote returns from the Canadian national team to lead the Irish this spring.

Women's Rowing The women rowers competed in four events this fall. At least one Irish boat finished in the top 5 in all races competed in.

Men's Soccer 12-8-3/6-4-1 Big East In what was perhaps the highlight of the season, the Irish knocked of the defending champs from Indiana 2-0 in the first round of the NCAA tournament. The season ended days later with a 1-0 loss to Clemson. Midfielder/defender Greg Dalby was named a first team All-American by the National Soccer Coaches Association of America, College Soccer News, and SoccerTimes.com.

Women's Soccer 22-3-0/10-1-0 Big East/5 NSCAA/5 Soccer America The women advanced to the NCAA quarterfinals, losing 3-1 to the eventual champions from Portland. Forward Katie Thorlakson was named a finalist for the Hermann Trophy, the player-of-the-year award for women's soccer.

Softball The softball team begins the season on February 18 with a doubleheader against Colorado State and BYU in Las Vegas.

Men's Swimming & Diving 5-1/19 CSCAA Besides their 5-1 record, the Irish have finished 1st in two events and 5th in one. The swimmers and divers next hit the pool this Friday at Northwestern.

Women's Swimming & Diving 2-2/20 CSCAA The women swimmers and divers are only 2-2 this year, but they have finished first or second in all tournaments and invitationals participated in this season. The team swims again versus Michigan State this Saturday.

Men's Tennis 26 ITA The tennis season continues this Saturday at Northwestern.

Women's Tennis 22 ITA The 22nd ranked Irish women's tennis team is led by Catrina and Christian Thompson, the #1 rated doubles team. The team next plays Ohio State on January 28 at the Eck Tennis Pavillion.

Track & Field The Irish began the spring on January 14 in a non-scored meet at Purdue. The Notre Dame Opener starts this Friday at the Loftus Center.

Volleyball 30-4/13-1 Big East/12 AVCA/11 Volleyball The Irish volleyball team fell three games to two against Wisconsin in the NCAA round of 16, a year after the same Wisconsin team ended the Irish season in the second round. MB Lauren Brewster was named a second-team All-American, while OHs Lauren Kelbley and Adrianna Stasiuk were given honorable mentions.

Thursday, January 12, 2006

KankaNation Top 15
How They Voted

1TexasTexas (+1)Texas (+1)
2USCUSC (-1)USC (-1)
3Penn StPenn St (+1)Penn St
4Ohio StOhio St (+1)Ohio St
5Va Tech (+5)WVU (+4)WVU (+7)
6WVU (+5)Georgia (+2)LSU (+3)
7Georgia (+1)LSU (+3)Notre Dame (-2)
8LSU (+6)Notre Dame (-5)Va Tech (+2)
9Notre Dame (-4)Va Tech (+3)Alabama (+5)
10Alabama (+5)Alabama (+3)Georgia (-3)
11TCU (+1)Florida (NR)Oregon (-5)
12Florida (NR)Wisconsin (NR)Florida (NR)
13Wisconsin (NR)Oregon (-6)Wisconsin (NR)
14Auburn (-8)Texas Tech (NR)Auburn (-3)
15Texas Tech (NR)Auburn (NR)TCU

Wednesday, January 11, 2006

Who's Your Daddy?

Congratulations to Mike Hatton, winner of the 2005 KankaNation Championship!

View Complete Results

Tuesday, January 10, 2006

2006 Baseball Hall of Fame Nominees

Here are the players who were on this year's baseball Hall of Fame ballot. Voting results were announced on Tuesday - boy did that sneak up on me. I really wish I had a calendar or something so I could keep track of that. Oh well, you'll just get this a day late.

In italics is each player's number of votes, and the percentage of the 520 total votes they recieve. 75% puts you in the hall, and 5% means you're good enough to come back on next year's ballot.

As you probably know, the NFL has an "inclusive" hall of fame, and the MLB has an "exclusive" Hall of Fame. Which system is better? I'll let you decide.


Bruce Sutter 400/76.9% Sutter retired in 1988, making him first eligible for the hall of fame in 1988. He is the first hall of fame pitcher to never start a single game in his entire Major League career. His 300 saves are 19th all time, and he led the league in saves five times. Not overly impressive numbers, but it wasn't exactly a strong year. Does that mean writers should vote for people they normally wouldn't? No. Does that mean Sutter doesn't deserve this? I don't know. Retiring in 1988 (and not playing for Cleveland), I never really got to see him play. On a positive note, he did average 1 2/3 IP per appearance over his entire career, something you won't see from closers these days.


Jim Rice 337/64.8% The great debate. Is a .298 average, 382 HR, and 1451 RBI in a hitter's park hall worthy? Did Rice only finish so high because this was an off year? Oh yeah, almost forgot: "337! Hoo hoo!"

Rich "Goose" Gossage 336/64.6% Sixteenth all time in saves with 310. Why is Sutter in the HOF and not Gossage? Gossage played for 22 seasons to Sutter's 12, so some argue his numbers are simply a produce of longevity. Gossage was in the top 10 in saves 11 times, but he led the league only three times. I'd still probably vote for him.

Andre Dawson 317/61.0% Another borderline guy. After 21 seasons, he finished with 438 home runs (32nd all time) and 1591 RBI (28th all time). Considering 11 seasons were spent in two hitter-unkind ballparks in Montreal, I would have to consider voting for him.

Bert Blyleven 277/53.3% 287 wins (25th overall). 3701 strikeouts (5th overall). 685 starts (9th overall). 60 shutouts (9th overall). A solid ERA and WHIP year after year. That's the good news. Thirteenth overall in innings pitched: again, is longevity good or bad? Now, the bad news: seventh all time in home runs allowed, 29th in walks allowed, 10th in losses and earned runs allowed. Are those the numbers keeping voters away? I'd sure vote for him.

Lee Smith 234/45.0% Now that it's acceptable to vote for relief pitchers, will the career saves leader (478) become a hall of famer? Smith led the leage in saves four times asnd finished second four times. His career ERA is a hair over 3. He's a seven time all star. He'd also get my vote.

Jack Morris 214/41.2% Dave is convinced that he's a hall of famer. He's got 254 wins and several notable dominating performances. I'll let you decide.

Tommy John 154/29.6% 288 wins, but he was most notably remembered for being the guinea pig on elbow ligament surgery that is now commonplace among young pitchers. Does he deserve to get in as an "innovator" like Roger Bresnahan, a guy who hit only .279 with 682 runs scored, but who did have 202 steals and pioneered the use of protective gear for catchers?

Steve Garvey 135/26.0% A solid player, but not spectacular. Career .294 average. 1308 RBI. A few home runs. Just not the best of the best.

Alan Trammell 92/17.7% Like Garvey, he played very well for very many years. Won Gold Gloves and Silver Slugger awards. But he wasn't particularly spectacular.

Dave Parker 76/14.4% Parker may actually have a resume slightly better than Garvey or Trammell's. He has 2712 hits and is 44th all time with 1493 RBI. The fact he led the league in intentional walks twice and is 23rd overall gives some indication as to how he was viewed as a hitter. Again, I'd put him ahead of Trammell and Garvey based on numbers (not particularly seeing any of them play that much), but still no cigar here.

Dave Concepcion 65/12.5% His offensive numbers look mediocre, but he played shortstop in a time when big numbers weren't expected from that position. He played it well, too, earning five Gold Gloves. He deserves some mention, but maybe not Hall of Fame mention.

Don Mattingly 64/12.3% No. Next. (Yes Ellen, I am kidding. No I'm not.)

Orel Hershiser 58/11.2% Only 58 votes? Wasn't "Bulldog" a dominating pitcher? What about the streak of 59 scoreless innings? Well, I looked at his overall numbers, and they tell a different story: 204-150 with an ERA of 3.48.

Dale Murphy 56/10.8% What Rice is to Red Sox fans, Concepcion is to Reds fans, and Mattingly is to Yankees fans (and Ron Santo is to Cubs fans), Murphy is to Braves fans. Those who watched him play every day think he belongs in the hall. Murphy does have 398 HR, 2 NL MVPs, and a few Gold Gloves and Silver Sluggers. But relatively low numbers in other categories (.267 BA, 1266 RBI, 1197 R) are holding him back.

Albert Belle 40/7.7% Belle, to put it mildly, wasn't a fan of the spotlight. He's battled alcoholism, trick or treaters, Internet posters, and accusations from the don't-put-up-with-any-crap-from-teammates Omar Vizquel. When you look at it, though, while Belle had many "good" seasons, he only had four "great" seasons over a course of five years. In 1994, he hit .357. 1995 was his famous 50/50 year, when he finished with 50 HR and 52 doubles. In 1996 he had 48 HR and 148 RBI. In 1998, it was 49 and 152. But is four seasons good enough for the hall of fame? Definitely not when the voting is done by the writers, a group of people that Belle definitely did not get along with.

No Love

Will Clark 23/4.4% Solid, not spectacular.

Dwight "Doc" Gooden 17/3.3% Hall of fame potential. 44th all time in strikeouts. A ROY, a Cy, and a Silver Slugger. But so much talent gone to waste.

Willie McGee 12/2.3% 2254 hits, .295 average. Good, but not great.

Hal Morris 5/1.0% Predictably, Morris took two steps toward the hall, the swung and missed.

Ozzie Guillen 5/1.0% Ugh. Still not a good time for me to comment on Ozzie Guillen.

Gary Gaetti 4/0.8% Another member of the 2200 hit club. Thanks for playing.

John Wetteland 4/0.8% 330 saves. He was considered dominant for a few years, but obviously not dominant enough.

Rick Aguilera 3/0.6% Wait, Rick Aguilera retired 5 years ago.

Doug Jones 2/0.4% This is why I'm not a HOF voter. Jones was Cleveland's closer when I first started following the Tribe. He does have 303 saves, but never finished higher than 3rd in that category. Good, sure. Dominant, no.

Greg Jefferies 2/0.4% Yeah, sorry, I'm honestly having trouble remembering who Gregg Jefferies is.

Walt Weiss 1/0.2% A decent player, but other than a Rookie of the Year award, he didn't even make it to the stat leaderboard too often.

Gary DiSarcina 0/0.0% Yet another guy who rarely made it to the stat leaderboards.

Alex Fernandez 0/0.0% Sorry, 107 wins and an ERA of 3.74 isn't going to cut it.

Even Less Love

Tim Belcher, Stan Belinda, Lance Johnson, Roberto Kelly, Mickey Morandini, Luis Polonia, Jeff Reed, Heathcliff Slocumb, and Mike Stanley we technically eligible for the first time this year, but were not included on the ballot.

Sunday, January 08, 2006

The Class of 2006

Dick Lynch: (6 votes) Who is Dick Lynch? The Notre Dame standout DB went on to play eight seasons for the New York Giants. He is currently a commentator for WFAN's broadcasts of Giants football. Plus, Ellen LOOOVES him.

Charlie Weis: (5 votes) Um, if you read this site, you may have heard of this guy before.

Hal Lebovitz: Mr. Lebovitz is the first ever Veteran's Committee inductee for the KankaNation Hall of Fame. And by "Veteran's Committee," I mean "this is my site and I can put whomever I want in the Hall of Fame." The legendary Cleveland sportswriter, an inspiration to many, passed away in the fall of 2005.

We had a record 10 people submit ballots this year. Here's how the voting broke down, and some comments provided by the voters:

Dick Lynch6You know, I have no idea who this is. I went for the funny name factor.
Charlie Weis5There is not so much for his coaching as for the man he is. He does amazing work with his daughter's charity, he let a dying boy call a play and followed through even when it seemed a little crazy, he met with kids in Tempe just ahead of the Fiesta Bowl and signed autographs and made his players do that too...he even let a little kid wear his Super Bowl ring and watched the kid throw a few passes. He also made sure those kids knew his players were students too, not just athletes. He's a great man. God Bless him.
Charlie Weis, Jr.3 
Jeff Samardzija3I like the name. Amazing athlete...may go down as one of ND's all-time greats.
Lou Holtz3For verbally kicking Mark May in the nyuts everytime I watch.
Catholic Packer Fan2Because any guy that is Catholic and also roots for the Packers and Irish has to be an OK guy. Plus he reads Kanka faithfully, which should garner a few key votes of support sealing his induction into the Kanka hall of fame. Can't a guy nominate himself?
Dave2Besides Kanka (and maybe Ellen), the most fired up KankaManiac.
Ellen's face2The face of Kankanation. Dah.
Fr. Ted2Do I really have to explain this one?
Jerome Bettis2 
Julius Jones2Hell yeah.
Loyal KankaManiacs2 
Montana Mazurkiewicz2God bless him and his family.
Mo Stovall2 
The Pope2Can't argue with the voice of God on earth.
Rose the cadaver2Click here.
Aflac duck1 
Brady Quinn1 
Bratwurst1what's a football game without one?
Brett Favre1No hall of fame is worth its weight in salt without the grittiest QB this side of the 1960's. A competitor, through and through, and a likable guy from all news reports, too. Plus he plays for the greatest team ever to walk the football fields of the NFL.
Count Chocula1 
Darius Walker1 
Dave Wannstedt1For deciding to coach Pitt, this insures many Irish victories against Pitt in the years to come. Plus any guy that wears a mustache like that for as long as he has deserves to be in a hall of fame somewhere, why not in cyberspace?
The dog from My Dog Skip  
Fr. Joyce1 
Fr. Sorin1He started it all.
Hal Lebovitz1 
Harry Dog1 
John Krasinski as Jim Halpert (The Office)1Um, he pretty much makes the show, plus he's Polish.
Kanka's Infamous Cousin1 
Kanye West1"Golddigger" rocks my world.
Leo Ferrine1 
Lisa Guerrero1For deciding to pose nude in Playboy next month...'old chicks' look good, too.
Niele Ivey1 
Notre Dame women's sports1 
Owners of CJ's1For reopening their bar after having bricks dumped through their roof. I revisited the joint this year after it reopened, it is still essentially the same.
Regis Philbin1 
Ricky Gervais1For bringing The Office to America.
Rugby fan who cut his nuts off1His story is here. Any guy who cuts his 'tackle' off belongs in a hall of fame somewhere, too.
Ruth Riley1 
Sandra Oh as Cristina Yang (Grey's Anatomy)1She's a totally kick-ass chick in medicine--gotta love her.
Stephen Colbert1The Colbert Report is obviously the best new show of 2005.

They Link Me

I've thrown up a few more links in my sidebar. They're all people who were kind enough to link to me, so please check them out.

4INFO Mobile Search: If cell phones weren't entirely evil, I'd definitely use this often. Text a team name to 44636, and this service will return sports scores for you. Or, text a league name, or a search term....

CJ's Happy Hour: No, not that CJ's. Just a girl who likes auto racing and ND football. (And the Stillers....)

The Courtmaster Rules on College Sports: A sports blogger who's also a freelance writer and has made radio appearances. Wait a minute, this guy may actually know what he's talking about!

Heavyweight Football Champs: An interesting new approach to removing the M from "MNC." Go hard or go home.

Thursday, January 05, 2006

Ohio State 34, Notre Dame 20

Quarterback: My how far we've come. Brady Quinn missed on 16 passes, no thanks to several drops. Yet, he still completed 64% of his passes for 286. In the first half, he had a tendency to hold on to the ball for too long, and coupled with good coverage by the Buckeye secondary, Quinn was sacked a season-high five times. This was also the first time Quinn failed to throw a touchdown pass all year.

Running Back:

Courtesy AP/Lenny Ignelzi

Coming into this game, it was likely that Ohio State would be without starting linebacker Bobby Carpenter. In his place, OSU had two options: play their experienced nickelback, or play a freshman linebacker. In either situation, wouldn't it have been favorable for Notre Dame to go with two tight ends and run at Carpenter's replacement? Darius Walker had one of his finest games of the season, finishing with 90 yards and 3 touchdowns on the ground. He had been criticized for not being able to break big runs, but Walker did average 5.6 yards per carry with a long of 20 against one of the better run defenses in the country. If only Notre Dame hadn't gotten behind so early, perhaps Walker could have had an even better day. Walker also finished with 7 receptions (second most on the team) for 37 yards, and several times put a nice block on a blitzing AJ Hawk. Most of those catches came late in the game, as Ohio State shut off all options downfield. Travis Thomas did not see any action in this game.

Fullback: Asaph Schwapp, counterpart of Ohio State's Stan White, Jr., only carred twice for 4 yards.

Receiver: Jeff Samardzija's case of the dropsies carried over from the Syracuse game. He did still finish with 6 catches for 59 yards. Mo Stovall fairly quietly ended up with 9 catches for 126 yards, both tops among Irish receivers. Matt Shelton, benefitting from lack of depth in the Buckeye secondary, had by far his best game of 2005 with 5 catches for 52 yards. For a period in the middle of the game, it seemed like Shelton was Brady Quinn's only reliable option. (There are some who would say that he was also the only one playing with heart in the middle of the game.)

Tight End: If Anthony Fasano's career with the Irish is over, he ended it on a very quiet note. Fasano grabbed two passes for 12 yards.

O-Line: On the plus side, Darius Walker ran for 90 yards against a great rush defense. On the other side, Brady Quinn was sacked a season high five times. But, how many of those can be attributed to Ohio State's secondary?

D-Line: Sadly, it was another quiet day for the Notre Dame defensive line. Derek Landri played hard, as he has all season, and ended with six tackles. Ronald Talley had three tackles and a fumble recovery, Victor Abiamiri had two tackles, and Trevor Laws had one. As much as I've praised this young line's potential, it appears that much of it is still just that - potential.

Linebacker: Corey Mays led the team with 12 tackles. He also had the lone Irish sack, forcing a fumble. Mays and Stovall quite easily could be the MVPs of the second half of the season. Brandon Hoyte added 10 tackles, including one in the backfield. Maurice Crum had 7.

Safety: Tom Zbikowski played hard. He had 9 tackles, and probably should have been credited with a fumble return for a touchdown. (I've only seen one camera angle to this point.) However, my statement that Zbikowski and Chinedum Ndukwe are really both strong safeties held true in this game. Yes, Santonio Holmes and Ted Ginn have tremendous speed. But, you can at least limit speed by keeping ahead of them and taking proper angles. Zbikowski and Ndukwe often failed to do both. The worst moment, though, was when Ndukwe (who finished with 2 tackles) let Holmes get past him, then made a half-hearted swipe at the receiver's shoulder. If that was full speed for Ndukwe, then a position change to linebacker is definitely in order. I don't really see Zbikowski moving to linebacker. Charlie Weis asked Mo Stovall to lose weight to become a better receiver. I don't see Coach Weis asking his All-American punt returner to put on weight to play linebacker. If David Bruton, or someone else perhaps, can play free safety properly, Zbikowski should do well settling in at the strong safety position.

Cornerback: Well, I've been talking about Ambrose Wooden's "let them catch it and then make the sure tackle" approach all season. In the Fiesta Bowl, that approach finally came back to haunt him. Wooden did finish with 7 tackles, but left in single coverage Holmes and Ginn often were able to put the moves on him. Mike Richardson, who had been having a solid season, was very quiet in this game. Leo Ferrine, despite only recording two tackles, played a decent game - especially considering he was often left covering Ted Ginn in the nickel formation.

Kicker: DJ Fitzpatrick appeared to be back in full health. He averaged 61 yards per kickoff. He did not attempt a field goal, but he did miss one of his three extra point attempts.

Punter: Fitzpatrick had a decent game punting, averaging 42.3 yards per kick. Two of his season high 6 punts landed inside the 20.

Kick Returner: Only two of Josh Houston's kickoffs were returnable. The opening kick, on which Houston slipped, was returned by Asaph Schwapp for 10 yards. DJ Hord had a return for 13 yards.

Punt Returner: The only return that counted for Tom Zbikowski wasn't that impressive: 0 yards.

Special Teams: While Chinedum Ndukwe and Trevor Laws had poor days on defense, they made up for it on special teams, each blocking a field goal. The Irish coverage teams did a respectable job against Ohio State's dangerous return men, giving up 17 yards per kick return and 10 yards per punt return.

Wednesday, January 04, 2006

Well, that sucked.

by Dave Schmitt, KankaNation Columnist

Very disappointing game. I guess our incredible offense was hiding a sub-par defense all along. We ran into a great defense that was able to slow us down some, and their balanced offense put it out of reach. The young guys on defense hurt us - Wooden had a brutal game (although he's been better than anticipated all year), Crum had some dumb penalties and looked lost on that crucial 3rd down coversion, and OSU ran at Talley all day long. Hopefully, by next season, the defense will be coached up some more. We really could have used a serious pass-rusher like Tuck, also.

But when you're not generating a pass rush with your front four, why not try blitzing? When I saw we were not blitzing early, I knew it was a mistake - letting Smith find a rhythm was the worst possible scenario. Minter's chicken-shit schemes were beaten like a drum all night long. I understand that when you're going up against tremendous speed at WR, you don't want to blitz because it leaves your corners on an island - but sitting back in coverage clearly was not working anyway! We failed to get to the quaterback in any conceivable fashion, and then we didn't keep contain on him. I'm still trying to understand how our linebackers fit into the gameplan. Minter has a very big year next year, and I have a feeling Charlie will be spending more time on that side of the ball.

Offensively, Quinn did all he could - he was hit a lot and there were many unusual dropped balls. The offensive line was truly awful, which is odd since they've done a nice job of blitz pickup. Really, the only guy who stepped up big on offense was Walker. He was extremely impressive. It reminded me of his debut in the Michigan game last year, where he took it upon himself to be the offense, whether the offensive line was there or not. Walker, and Landri and Zbikowski on defense (who were in on every tackle, no matter where on the field) were the only guys to play really well. That's not gonna beat too many top-5 teams.

Still, a lot of progress was made this year, virtually all of it offensively. If the defense can improve by a decent margin in the offseason (possibly aided by a few key recruits?), with almost the whole offense back, there's no excuse for not being in the the BCS again, if not the national title picture. The schedule really isn't that hard. Let's make Brady's final year a special one.