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IBG: Band of Brothers Edition

Well it's happened.  This year's iteration of the Fighting Irish has finally crushed the Mouth's previously-indomitable optimism.  Join round, you few, you less-than happy few, you band of Irish brothers; for he who Saturday shed his proverbial blood with me in the Trojan butchery of our collective spirits-he shall be my brother.  Gather.  Commiserate and search for hope with the Mouth of the South and the other members of the Irish Blogger Gathering as One Foot Down hosts this year's Navy edition of the Gathering. 

Please also enjoy our Brother Bloggers' offerings:


GameDay 40


Inside the Irish

Let's Go Irish

 1.) Coach Kelly refused to fall on the proverbial sword after USC.  He felt that some of the players that needed to play with poise just didn't.  Do you agree or disagree?  Did coaching play a role in our egg-laying against USC?

The list of Irish players that failed to play with the requisite poise is long indeed.  Coach Kelly has belabored this point ad nauseam in his post-game, Sunday, and Tuesday press conferences.  I think it misguided, however, to put this loss solely on the players.  Lane Kiffin said it after the game-SC only worried about preparing for the game.  They didn't have new helmets, a night game, pumped in music, a crisis of stadium atmosphere identity, 3 dozen blue-chip recruits, an ESPN visit, a bye week during fall break, pep rallies, Irish Connection cameos or any number of other disturbances to worry about.  They just prepared, came out, and whooped us.  If we were prepared, then we just weren't focused at all.  Correct me if I'm wrong, but the head coach's job includes keeping his eye on his team's mental state.  If that's not the case, then why did we fire Charlie Weis? Kelly noticed that the team was off during the bye week, but for whatever reason he couldn't get the team back on track and focused.  This happened before the game was played. 

Whether it was in Coach Kelly's power to cure his teams mental woes, he made some strategic mistakes during the game.  We got down 17 points and quickly proceeded to panic.    We didn't try to be us.  We immediately abandoned the run and tried to throw the ball all over the yard.  If you're down early and your defense is getting gashed, isn't it Football 101 that you don't abandon your offensive game plan early into the second quarter?  If you can run it, why don't you?  Instead of trying to be us and doing what got us here, we tried to run the option with Tommy Rees, we shuffled Andrew Hendrix in and out while our other quarterbacks were starting to find their rhythm, and we ran the ball 9 times-"NINE TIMES," to quote Mr. Rooney. 


Still, the coaching staff didn't miss tackles in the backfield, fumble the ball at the goal line, miss a wide-open Michael Floyd several times, and force it to a triple-covered Michael Floyd at another time.  In short Kelly is right to blame the players, but he didn't get his team focused.  And when you're calling plays that you wouldn't normally call, when you're getting away from your bread and butter, you're sending the unspoken message that what got us here is not good enough to beat SC, when it damn well should have been.

2.) In their post-game interviews, Coach Kelly, Jonas Gray, Harrison Smith, and Tyler Eifert all called the atmosphere for USC "electric."  Coincidence?

My initial reaction was "hell no."  The administration/athletic department wants to put in a video board and make pumped-in music part of the gameday atmosphere, and they're using the players and coaching staff as shills.   Not that there's anything wrong with trying to sell the fanbase on taking steps to improve the gameday atmosphere inside the stadium.  I fully support these efforts-the atmosphere is typically not great, so why should we be so fanatically concerned with preserving it?  My only issue is that it seemed pretty obvious that the players and Coach Kelly were being coached to say that the atmosphere was "electric."  Their thoughts on the atmosphere thus seemed less than genuine. 

Then I read part of ESPN's interview with Arik Armstead.  He also described the stadium's atmosphere as "electric."  I realize that this is not an uncommon way to describe a good sports atmosphere, but I still think that Armstead picked this adjective up from the players, who picked it up from the coaching staff and athletic department, who are trying to sell the video board and Oz-fest to the fanbase.  On the one hand I understand that the school wants to get the alumni and fans on board with their plan.  On the other hand I feel my meager intelligence and delicate ego insulted.  I guess it's just message discipline. 

This brings me to another point.  If the athletic department is coaching the players on stadium atmosphere PR, having them model new helmets, and following them around with cameras for the Irish Connection videos, is the spotlight too bright?  I have friends and family that are rabid LSU fans.  LSU has no such reality-show accoutrements to their on-field product.  I suspect that their players go to class only sparingly and have very few obligations but to play football.  I am not suggesting that we become LSU or stop making our players go to class.  I do suggest that we let the players focus on school and football, and leave all of the internet celebrity reality-TV tomfoolery alone-at least until we're good enough to warrant some extra attention.  And I say this as a consumer and aficionado of the Irish Connection videos and all of the excellent on-line content that the puts out there.

3.) Is your faith in this coaching staff shaken after Saturday night's debacle? 

No.  "Kelly went 12-0 at Cincinatti" has been my Serenity Prayer.  In seriousness, I think that the coaching staff made some mistakes during the bye week and game.  No one is perfect.  I try like hell to do the best job possible, but I don't expect to lose my job every time I make a mistake.  Kelly is right-he's building a program.  There will be progress and setbacks.  Ebbs and flows.  In 2009 did we ever think we would come close to rushing for 200 yards per game, give up this few sacks, defend the run this well, or bring in multiple 5 star recruits per class on defense?  No.  We've been losers for about 15 years.  We're not going to excise the cancer that is a losing mindset in 19 games, but I do believe that this coaching staff has made some strides and will continue to do so. 

4.)Should we be satisfied with a mere win over Navy, or does it have to be somewhat convincing?

I'd love for this game to play out just like the Air Force game.  But against Air Force we caught a few good breaks early that we shouldn't necessarily count on catching this week.  Sure, Michael Floyd made a great play on that first touchdown against Air Force, but it could very easily have been ruled not a touchdown, in which case we would have been starting the game with a long field goal attempt.  Then Air Force gashes us on their first play from scrimmage.  Thankfully Jamoris Slaughter made a play, and we got the ball back.  I realize that these plays did in fact happen as they happened, but we could very easily have started that game down 7-0, instead of up 14-0. 

I think that this team is capable of beating Navy like they stole something, but a convincing win won't mean that this team has exorcised its demons.  As we saw Saturday, I think that will take a lot longer.  It will happen, in my most humble opinion, but it is obviously going to take time.  So a win is a win this Saturday. 

5.) Will the Irish shut down the vaunted Navy triple option, or are we in for a shootout?

We're down KLM, and Ethan Johnson will be limited.  We're talking about two defensive ends who have been STOUT against the run.  That said, Navy is without their starting signal-caller, which is a big blow to any offense.  The Irish played respectable defense against Air Force, and Navy's attack-while possibly better executed-is much less diverse.  But until a 21st-century Notre Dame defense shows me that they can cover a pitch man before he gets 20 yards downfield, I can't call a total shutdown of an option offense.  Call me cautiously optimistic for a repeat of Air Force, with slightly fewer offensive fireworks by the Irish.

6) Take us out with a quotation, clip, or photo to summarize your post-USC/pre-Navy state of fandom.

From Shakespeare's Henry V:

And Crispin Crispian shall ne'er go by,
    From this day to the ending of the world,
    But we in it shall be remembered-
    We few, we happy few, we band of brothers;
    For he to-day that sheds his blood with me
    Shall be my brother; be he ne'er so vile,
    This day shall gentle his condition;
    And gentlemen in England now-a-bed
    Shall think themselves accurs'd they were not here,
    And hold their manhoods cheap whiles any speaks
    That fought with us upon Saint Crispin's day.

I'll call upon our commenters to divine the relevance of this passage to our current state of affairs. 

1.) Coach Kelly refused to fall on the proverbial sword after USC.  He felt that some of the players that needed to play with poise just didn't.  Do you agree or disagree?  Did coaching play a role in our egg-laying against USC?