This week’s questions are posed by the master of ceremonies himself Subway Domer. At his request all answers will be prefaced with a headline in the spirit of all the headlines regarding the Irish that are flying around this week. As always the host will have links to the responses from all contributors to the IBG linked at the bottom of his post. With that let's get to his questions.
1. After weeks and weeks of living on the edge, Notre Dame finally fell off of that edge into a pile of shit. Please describe your mental state since the Navy game. Are you hopeless or hopeful? Why?
Ain’t Found A Way To Kill Me Yet….
It’s a headline borrowed from Alice in Chains "Rooster" but for this question it applies in more ways than one. I started watching the Fighting Irish with my Dad as a kid in the mid eighties. I got spoiled on Holtz and I have been rolling through the struggle that has been the post Holtz era like all other ND fans ever since. The old man was a Texas High School Football coach and he taught me many things, but first and foremost in those lessons was to always compete and never quit under any circumstances. Those lessons coupled with a dash of personal experience lend themselves to me taking that approach with everything to this day. As a result I always bounce back from the losses and this week is no exception. I am well aware that the Navy loss was the absolute last thing that this team and this coaching staff needed. The firestorm of criticism that is flying this week is well documented and unfortunately well deserved. But it happened. So now what? Regardless of what may or may not transpire in regards to Coach Weis in the coming weeks, he and this team are currently alive and have an opportunity to fight another day. There are three regular season games left and Pittsburgh presents this team with a huge opportunity. For some reason I have a feeling they are going to make the most of it this Saturday night at Heinz Field. So call me hopeful.
2. Given the sorry state of the Fighting Irish defense, are they capable of slowing down Pitt's offense, or will Stull, Baldwin, and Lewis have career days?
Are You Gonna Do Something or Just Stand There and Bleed?
On paper the Irish defense is in for a long day, but they don’t play the games on paper. The requirements are straightforward and familiar at this point. You have to shut down the run and force Stull to try and beat you. Thus far this season Stull has been very good against a schedule currently ranked at #70. Baldwin is a solid receiver with a big frame but TE Dorin Dickerson will also pose a threat. The Irish defense will have to play their best game of the season to stay in it. Prior to Navy who does nothing but run the option, the run defense was actually coming along pretty well. I think the Irish will be able to slow Lewis down and force Stull’s hand. If the front four can get some pressure on Stull the secondary will have the opportunity to make some plays and keep the Irish in the game.
3. Notre Dame has had serious Red-Zone issues this year. They can't score... why is that? What needs to be corrected and how can they do this?
Red Zone Blues
I discussed this at length with my Dad and a couple of well versed buddies while in attendance at the Boston College game. Here is a basic explanation of my opinion. The Weis passing game is most effective in space. The route combinations tend to spread the defense out vertically and horizontally to create space. As the Irish enter the red zone and that physical space starts to shrink the options become more limited. This is compounded by the fact that the running plays tend to develop slowly, and with Clausen under center less due to his turf toe those options have been limited even further. The fullback package with Aldridge has all but disappeared. ND is almost more likely to score from the 15 than they are from the 5. It can be maddening but it is what it is. On days that Hughes decides he’s going to run downhill it works out. When he doesn’t it is a roll of the dice. The Wildcat has also been moderately effective. I would love to see a standard I set with a fullback that can either take a quick dive or lead the tailback on a quick hitting Iso. Allen and Riddick have done a great job running through tackles this year, I’d love to see them following Aldridge, Burger or even Hughes through the hole.
4. Charlie Weis and Dave Wannstache started coaching their alma maters at the same time. They have both coached on crutches. They both seem to recruit fairly well. They are both considered disappointing in their respective 5 year campaigns. After reviewing their total body of work, who would you rather have coaching ND in 2010? Explain.
Clever Subway Domer, throwing chum in the water. I won’t take the bait! Charlie Weis any day of the week and twice on Sunday. I realize that there is a large contingent of the fan base ready to strap Charlie Weis to a rocket and launch him to the moon. I won’t go there and I have already explained why. I’m a Notre Dame fan and he’s still the head coach. Until that changes I’ll be pulling for him and the team to succeed. If and when the powers that be decide to replace Charlie I’ll write up a post with all of my thoughts on that slippery slope.
5. Prediction time. How does this game play out. Please include a score, an offensive MVP, a defensive MVP, and a sleeper.
Fighting Irish- Still Swinging
My personal impression of this team all season has been that they are actually very close knit. They genuinely seem to care about each other, staff included. There is a lot of speculation out there that in the wake of the Navy loss the team is fractured. Between the comments from the Captains this week, and Corwin Brown’s outburst, I actually took away something quite different than most. I see a little fire and some resolve. I’m sure that any mental health professional would tell me that one’s preconceived notions generally tend to affect interpretations of such things in times like these and that may very well be true. But I expect this team to come out Saturday night with an "us against the world" mentality and put forth one of their best efforts of the season. It will be evident right away if I am correct in that assessment or not, and I will be there in person to witness it.
Notre Dame 31, Pitt 27
Offensive MVP- Jimmy Clausen. He was born to play big in games like this.
Defensive MVP- Kerry Neal & Darius Fleming. I think we’ll see some key pressure off the edge that results in some big plays for the defense.
Sleeper- Mike Ragone. I have to jump on the Subway Domer bandwagon here. The kid is talented, and he’s been waiting for this opportunity for three years. With all the attention Tate and Floyd are going to get he should have a big game if Young and Duncan can do their jobs so that he doesn’t have to stay in to protect.