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Irish Blogger Gathering: I'll Take The Stache For .500

Welcome to another edition of the Irish Blogger Gathering. This week’s round of questioning was put forth by Irish Round Table.

Let’s get right to it.

1)Grade Brian Kelly's performance to date. We're not interested in how you think he will perform going forward. How has he done through the first five games? Grade scale is A+ to F-.

B+. We’re 2-3. We’ve lost to three ranked teams with a grand total of one loss among them. Coach Kelly has gotten our boys ready to play. He has instilled a new attitude in this program. He has been painfully and refreshingly honest about the culture of complacency and entitlement that has plagued the Fighting Irish. He has decisively silenced anyone who doubted that he could recruit blue-chip athletes. I would grade Coach Kelly out at an "A," except for (a) his decision to go for it on via the option on fourth down with 6 minutes left and the game tied against Michigan State, (b) his offense’s proclivity for posting three-and-outs at critical junctures, and (c) his team’s turnover problem.

On Defense:

We’re not fielding a statistically great defense, but we’re light years ahead of last year. Last year we fielded what was undoubtedly the worst defense in school history. Last week, however, we held BC to 5 yards rushing. We kept Michigan State from stuffing the ball down our throats when the game was on the line. Stanford had their way with us but they are a very good offensive football team, and our own offense simply disappeared. We stifled Denard Robinson and the vaunted Michigan offense for long stretches. We held Purdue to 10 offensive points. Our defense plays with "Pop." Our linebackers—not our safeties—are leading the team in tackles for the first time in a long time.

Yes, Gary Gray bit on a double move, we gave it up on third and long all day against Stanford, we lost on a fake field goal in overtime to State, and we gave up 700 yards of offense to Denard Robinson alone. But this is a different defense. My only complaint is that we seem to have a lot of trouble sealing the edge, and we’ve seen nothing to lead us to believe that that will change.

On Offense:

Our offense has looked explosive at times. We’ve also disappeared at critical junctures. Like the entire day of September 25. When Coach Kelly said that he doesn’t care about time of possession, I doubt he contemplated his offense going three-and-out and running a grand total of 17 seconds of clock. We turn the ball over entirely too much. We should expect Dayne Crist to throw a few questionable interceptions. We should expect the occasional bobbled exchanges between a first-year quarterback and running backs with whom he’s never played. We should also expect some fumbles from our young wide receivers. But Michael Floyd should not fumble. Our running backs should not fumble.

I also think that we’ve relied too heavily on the passing game for a team that is breaking in a first-year quarterback. We may be relying on the pass because our young offensive line is better at pass protection. Or it may be because we don’t have any powerhouse, run-blocking tight-ends or fullbacks. Again, Coach Kelly probably knows a little more than I.

I think we should be pleased with the overall progress of our offense. We’re starting three new offensive linemen and a new quarterback. How many teams start three new offensive linemen and have this few offensive line penalties?

Going forward, I’ll look for and expect the Kelly to correct the turnover problem. Like this week. There simply is no excuse for being one of the ten most turnover-prone teams in the country. Look for the Irish to avoid putting the ball on the ground against Pitt. We need to be more consistent on offense. We should be able to get our offense clicking during the soft portion of our schedule. Pitt is down Romeus and Mason, two of their best defenders. We should be able to put up thirty without breaking a sweat this Saturday.

We’re probably the only team in the country that opens up with 5 STRAIGHT BCS CONFERENCE OPPONENTS. So we should expect our statistics and record to look slightly worse than those of ‘Bama and Florida. Let’s focus more on how we play. Do we play with intensity? Do we play fundamentally sound football? Do we finish games? Do we beat the teams that we should beat? Do we shrug off adversity?

2)Much has been made of Brian Kelly's sideline rants. Some fans like the excitement and energy others are worried that they are excessive and will wear thin on the players. Where do you stand?

Are people serious about this? Are we this concerned with political correctness? The people that are worried about Kelly chewing out our players are the same people that think that keeping score in little league games damages kids’ delicate little psyches.

I heard the announcers saying that Kelly wasn’t keeping a poker face against BC. That would most likely be because he is not a poker coach. He is a football coach. Having (very badly) played interhall for the mighty Morrissey Manor, I must admit that I racked up more false starts than a few because I could not grasp the concept of a snap count of "two"? "Hut, hut, then move? Mind-boggling." "Negative deinforcement," if I may coin a term, is the quickest possible way to correct repeated errors.

Think about when my wife—er, I mean your wife, or, better yet, a hypothetical wife—yells at you for leaving the dryer door open. It may not be a proportionate punishment, but you sure do remember to close that door the next time. Where was I? Oh right, yelling. I just thought about the way Kelly got neck deep in Ruffer’s… shall we say "business," and to quote Peyton Manning "a little bit of pee came out." My wife and father-in-law were terrified by that particular reaming and we were just watching it on TV.

I don’t love that Kelly yells at his players. Weis yelled and look where that got him. I love that Kelly reams everyone when they screw up. A wise man once said that "good understandings make for good friends." Kelly is consistent. The players know what to expect. Everyone gets it when they mess up. No one escapes. No one is coddled, which I think distinguishes Kelly from his predecessor. If you don’t have the mental toughness and testicular fortitude to take your medicine when you are in the wrong, you probably can’t play for Kelly. So be it.

If our players indeed think that they’re above being yelled at because they are smart, then I now understand why we’ve been getting our hindquarters kicked in for the better part of twenty years. I also think that Coach Kelly has the right idea with this RKG talk. If a player can’t take a verbal tongue-lashing, how is he going to close in the fourth quarter? How is he going to handle adversity? Is he going to cry and quit, or is he going to bite his lip and persevere?

You need mentally and physically tough football players if you want to win football games. And a football coach is not doing the players any favors by coddling them. If you make a mistake at work, in your dorm, or in school, does someone hold your hand, wipe your little tooshie, and tell you everything’s going to be okay? No. If you’re lucky, you only get yelled at. If you can’t take being yelled at when you have legitimately screwed up, you will have a long road to hoe. Am I still writing about this?

Consider also that Kelly knows when to lay up. When his players screw up, they’re going to hear about it. We’ve all seen Kelly yelling at Dayne Crist. But I know that I’ve seen Kelly using a more nuanced teaching style on other occasions. Kelly clearly knows that he sometimes needs to lay up a little. I seriously doubt that the players are considering tuning him out.

I really can’t say it any better than it has already been said by Keith Arnold of NBC, so check out what he had to say.

3)What is the best storyline for Notre Dame football this year? The best storyline in college football?

Best Notre Dame Storyline: Manti Te'o Takes The Reins of Notre Dame's Defense And Leads The Team In Tackles

Runner up: Dayne Crist Takes Over the Notre Dame Offense Less Than One Year After a Career-Threatening Knee Injury

Best College Football Storyline: Notre Dame Football Is Truly Resurrected (A work in progress)

4)We are going to test your prognostication skills with a little IBG prediction contest. Predict the following for this week's Pitt game:

Kyle Rudolph receptions

5 for 60 yards and two touchdowns. The sleeping giant awakens on Saturday.

Points scored by Notre Dame's defense

7. We’re due.

Carries by Robert Hughes

5. In mop-up time with the game decided. I know that Hughes is 5’11", 245. But he has been at Notre Dame for four years. If he was going to blow up, he would have done it already. I don’t think he’s too slow. In fact I think that he has more than enough speed for a 245 lb. bruiser. It’s that he is not a bruising tailback. We haven’t yet seen him display the tenacity, the hunger to inflict punishment, that a 245 lb. tailback should make readily apparent every time he gets near a defender. I hope that he proves me wrong on Saturday.

Armando Allen is by far our best running back. He’s running decisively. He’s seeing the holes and lanes. He’s hitting them with speed and with more power than I’ve ever seen out of a 195 lb. tailback. Allen should have no trouble getting above 100 yards with Pitt’s secondary keying in on Floyd and Rudolph.

Points Notre Dame wins by

21. The Irish continue to improve. The result? The Wannstache gets stashed.

Tackles Manti T'eo registers

17. Pitt will try to rely on their running game to set up the pass, but they won’t be able to provide adequate pass protection and will therefore become one-dimensional.

Pass attempts by Tommy Rees

10, I hope. Why do we stop running our offense whenever we get up by 15+ points? Florida and Alabama might put in their second string punter after they get up by forty. Otherwise, they’re not letting up until they’re up by sixty.

Taylor Swift in Attendance(for 2 points at 5:1 odds; a correct "Yes" equals 10 points a correct "No" equals two)

How about d., who cares?

Winner will receive a prominent post on the Irish Round Table extolling their website and awesomeness.

I require no such extolment. I, like Tupac, "get around," though not in the promiscuous sense. I mean to say that the interwebs are replete with tales of my awesomeness.

5)What would you like to see in place of the yellow mums on the Notre Dame sidelines?

I just googled "yellow mums." You mean flowers. For all I care you can plant Stanford Cardinals or Ohio State Buckeye tree-things in the stadium as long as we win a National Championship in Kelly’s first 5 years on the job.