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IBG: Purdon't Even Go There

The Mouth of the South form tackles this week's Irish Blogger Gathering questions, which come courtesy of Irish Roundtable and their devoted twitter followers.  The Mouth stirs up a hornet's nest of controversy on Jumbotrons, what's missing from this year's incarnation of Irish football, and various and sundry Notre- Dame-football-related topics.  Come in and set for a spell. 

1) Excluding Aaron Lynch, who is your top newcomer of the year thus far (freshman or player that hadn't seen much playing time in prior seasons)?

Engine Engine Number 9.  BIG.  LOUIS.  NIX.  The Gaelic Delight has given opposing offensive linemen anything but visions of sugar plums dancing through their heads.  Big Lou is a big reason why we've given up only one, fluky rushing touchdown.  He's also had a large hand in preventing every running back we've faced from hitting even the 90-yard.  If you are an opposing defensive coordinator, you can pretty much forget about running it up the middle against the Big Mac that consists of two 300-lb buns and one 350-lb, all-beef Louis Nix patty.  No offense to Kap or EJ-they're clearly fresh-baked, handmade artisan buns, but the nose guard will always be the meat.  If BIG LOUIS NIX was a Mississippi Blues Man, he'd be Jellyroll T-Bone McPorkchop, ‘cuz he's all meat, with just a little bit of sweet. 


Runner Up: Chris Watt.  Any time you break in a new offensive lineman with no drop-off in productivity, and the entire fan base doesn't know that linemen's name after the first quarter, he's doing something well.  Here we are after game 4, and instead of lamenting Chris Watt's existence, we're lauding the entire offensive line's performance.

2) We asked our Twitter followers for questions to use in this week's IBG. Here's a sampling of what we got. Choose ONE and answer:

I'll take a stab at a few. 

@PerrasW01: Why has the #NDFB program gone to hell since Holtz left?

Lack of physical and mental toughness, lack of desire to be consistently excellent, and the mistaken beliefs (a) that we will roll through teams because we are Notre Dame, and (b) that a 14-point second-quarter lead means that it's time to call it a day.

@rpleary: You know that sign that says "Play Like a Champion Today"? What does our offense have against the sign?

Nothing personal, really.  The Offense and the sign just haven't gotten along for the better part of 20 years.  The Offense didn't like when mom (The University of Our Lady) got rid of Dad (Holtz) after Dad lost his job at the mill and started drinking heavily (stopped fielding competitive teams and pulling in top recruiting classes). There were signs of trouble before Mom kicked Dad out.  The Offense had already started neglecting its school work (playing poorly) and hanging out under the bleachers with the wrong element (completely disappearing for long periods).  So the relationship has been strained for a long time, but Mom found a new guy (Coach Kelly).  He's asking the offense to play catch (coaching them how to play actual football with actual success) and imposing discipline that the Offense hasn't seen for a long time (yelling at people for actual reasons to help them actually learn actual fundamentals of football).  It will take some time for the new disciplinary system to take hold, but with consistency and commitment--which I believe are there--it will happen. 

@chadros: Based on our offense's performance to date, is the current play calling mix(run vs. pass) the right one? Should we be running the ball more?

I'll leave deciding the actual ratio to the people who know what they're talking about--Kelly, Molnar, Warrinner, and company.  But if Coach Kelly were sitting here, I'd say "Coach, Eric Murtaugh said that this team has only run for 15 yards in the fourth quarter THIS SEASON.  A. That doesn't ‘cut the mustard,' as the kids say, does it?  B. What are you going to do about it?"  Kelly would probably respond "Murtaugh didn't say that because there's no double negative in that sentence.  But assuming he did say that, A. 15 fourth-quarter rushing yards in four games is not where we want to be right now, frankly.  It is not a championship level of fourth quarter offense; and B. we will get more creative in the rushing game.  We'll also get more creative in finding high-percentage passes to help open up the run in the fourth quarter.  We'll also line up with both Cierre and Jonas in the backfield and make defenses decide which one to guard.  And of course, we'll use more of those short crossing routes that give you such glee, Mouth."                            

@yetiisready: Will this be the week we see the "change-up package" AKA "the Leprecat?"

I would like to be the first to say, "to hell with the Leprecat."  Using gimmicks to trick the other guy rather than just using your superior players to whip the other guy reeks of Weis.  We have our bread and butter plays.  We have some "core competencies," so to speak.  We only need to expand those and find more fundamentally sound ways to create favorable matchups. 

Leave your answers in the comments. 

3) If you could have 1 play back this season, what play would you want a do-over? How would that have changed a game's outcome? Are you sure your do-over would work in ND's favor?

How about Gray's fumble vs. USF?  Or that roughing the punter penalty after putting up a three-and-out o start the second half?  I think we're fooling ourselves if we start thinking that the whole season could have turned out differently if we changed the outcome of one play.  "You are what you are and right now we're a 2-2 football team."  Kelly thought that this team was focused and primed to make a run.  I thought he was right.  We were both wrong.  These guys weren't ready for prime time.  If you need any evidence of this, look at what happened last week.  You could maybe attribute Pitt to a letdown on the road after three tough games.  But it's not like Michigan State was all that tough.  We mostly whipped them for four quarters, though it was a bit of an emotional roller coaster there at the end.  Still, Pitt was coming off of a tough road loss to a BCS foe.  We should have rolled through Pitt.  There is just no comparing our talent levels, and we did not play up to ours.

It's just going to take a lot longer than we thought to teach this group how to stop losing, then how to start wining, and, finally, how to start winning big. 

Or maybe I'm wrong.  Maybe it's like Urban Meyer said during the Pitt game.  Bad quarterback play is making a VERY talented Notre Dame team look VERY average.

4) In 140 characters or less "tweet" a summary of the season so far. Bonus points for hashtags or mentions.

 I'll use a John McKay quote that speaks both to what I want our team to do and how I feel when they do not do it:

     "How do [I] feel about [my] team's execution? I'm in favor of it."

5) Lou Holtz asked 3 basic questions of every player and coach, "Can I trust you? Are you committed? Do you care about me?" In your opinion, which player would every other player give a resounding "Yes" to each of these questions and why?

Manti Te'o.  He's just a beast.  In life as in football.  I always thought that the Te'o's response to the Sullivan tragedy said a lot about him.  As soon as it happens, he runs over to the scene and jumps the fence to see what help he could give.  To hell with injuries, draft status, or coaches telling him to stay put.  Someone needed help and Te'o was going to do what he could.  If you've watched any of his interviews, further, you can see that he's a special guy.  He sounds more like a coach than a 21-year-old kid.  Manti Te'o can be trusted, is committed, and cares about his teammates.  He is the consummate Foxhole Guy.

6) Jumbotron. Good idea or terrible idea. What would you do to make it a great idea?

Good idea.  Notre Dame Stadium is and is not Augusta.  It is Augusta in the sense that we need to protect and preserve what we are about.  It is not Augusta in that it is a football stadium.  It must be loud.  It must be fun.  For long stretches in recent history, the stadium has been neither.  Returning to consistently winning will do more than anything to once again make Notre Dame Stadium a fun place to watch a game, and an imposing place for other teams play.  But going back to Knute Rockne, Notre Dame football has always been about innovation, about being ahead of the curve, about barnstorming the country, about being the first to put numbers on our jerseys, about coming out with a passing attack that no one expected.  Notre Dame is not about a bunch of reactionary fools harkening back to the good ol' days of yore, exclaiming, "Endzone stripes? Nuts!," "Jumbotron, Schmumbotron," and, a personal favorite, "Harumph. Fullbacks!" (Hat tip to Publius for that one).  The Irish fanbase has wrongfully adopted some traditions to the exclusion of our two most cherished traditions: winning the right way and innovating.

There's also the issue of keeping the crowd apprised of what's happening on the field.  If you have been cursed with an end zone seat, it's extremely difficult to see anything in the opposing endzone.  There's nothing quintessentially Notre Dame about keeping the crowd from being involved in the action.  You might think that real fans should be able to figure it out.  That's a quaint idea; last time I checked, women, children, and almost-legally-blind people like me also attend football games and would enjoy the games a lot more if they could SEE THE WHOLE THING. 

I am not advocating The Coke Jumbotron at PSI Net Field sponsored by Invesco Stadium, home of the Adidas Fighting Irish of Notre Gatorade.  For god's sake, remove the portion of the stadium addition that covers up Touchdown Jesus and put a tasteful Jumbotron at the other endzone, or four tasteful Jumbotrons in each corner.  Acceptable uses would include, but would not necessarily be limited to: showing game action, replays, and pump-up videos; explaining the rules of football and their application to the game at hand to the crowd; and possibly to amplifying the band, thought I don't know if that's feasible. 

7) Every week we try to fire up the masses with a "Fire It Up" video. Sometimes these videos are inspirational ballads of kick-ass Notre Dame football. Sometimes they are of a Japanese game show with dudes getting hit in the junk. Submit a video to Fire Up the Irish faithful for the Purdue game.

Very little about Notre Dame's performance over the last 15 years has been highlight-worthy.  The videos I've seen use an alarming number of clips from losses, which just baffles me.  So I'll use one of my favorite motivational clips:

Conan, what is best in life? (via meathook3000)