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Notre Dame Football: W.H.A.T. (Wasting Hours Analyzing THAT) — UNLV Rebels Week

Woof.

WOOF.

I am NOT ready for this call. I can’t believe, after it seemed like we finally turned this project around and were gonna be smooth-sailing until early November, that we’re back at square one. What a complete and utter shit-show.

Welp, no sense in delaying this any longer. Might as well get this over with...

*presses “Join Call” button*

Good morning everyone, how’s everyone doing? I guess I don’t need to ask how your weekends were, considering we all had essentially the same Saturday evening.

Haha yeah, that’s very true, Ryan. At least USC lost too.

Okay, well I appreciate everyone jumping on 30 minutes earlier than normal due to the needed extra time this week, to discuss how we plan to address the most recent setback in Project W.I.N.

Caaaaaaan everybody see my screen?

Okay fantastic! So as you can see from the title slide, we’ve made some tweaks to the typical deck, as we’re officially launching a new project — Project W.H.A.T. — in order to mitigate the new risks and obstacles we’ve encountered in Project W.I.N.

So, here’s the agenda for today — mostly similar to the usual weekly call, but with some small updates.

So really quick, just to fill you in, this is how we’re defining W.H.A.T. this new supporting project is all about...

...and so — ope, sorry, did you have a question, Pete? I see you have your virtual hand up.

Yes, I can understand your confusion and thanks for asking about Project L.O.S.E. I know that was what we originally kicked into gear after the Marshall game in order to get things on-track, and then we kind of let that fade away a bit. We felt it was necessary at the time, but now we’ve been able to partner with a consulting firm to improve those kinds of reactionary projects, and thus we’re employing a number of those new techniques and processes in this new project, Project W.H.A.T.

Did that answer your question — does that make sense?

*It’s very clear that it didn’t, but Pete doesn’t want to press the issue and be annoying, so he internalizes his very reasonable pushback on yet another new project to help with currently-running projects*

Alright awesome, and so if we move to the next slide, here’s just a quick overview of the W.H.A.T. process.

You’ll notice it’s very much in the same vein as W.I.N. and L.O.S.E., but this time around we’ll be wasting hours of our time on analyzing whatever we just saw on Saturday night. So that’s kind of the big difference here and how we plan to proceed to get out of this hole we’ve dug once again.

With all that said, let’s take our weekly look at this past week’s results.

Let’s cover the positives first, because it should be a pretty quick conversation, as you can imagine.

First, let’s start by shouting-out true freshman WR Tobias Merriweather. He’s gotten very little playing time up until this past weekend (and still didn’t get a ton of snaps against Stanford), but he made the most of his PT on Saturday with a massively important and beautiful 41-yard touchdown catch early in the 4th quarter to put the Irish ahead of the Cardinal 14-13.

That had to have been a nice moment for him and for his family, as I’m sure he’s been itching to get out there and contribute considering how nonexistent the Irish wideouts have been so far this year.

It really, truly, was a great f’n route, Tobias.

There wasn’t much else to be super happy with offensively, as you can imagine with Tommy Rees’s group scoring a whopping 14 points — all in the second half — on one of the worst P5 defenses in America. I guess you can look at the offensive line and running backs and say they were pretty solid/efficient in the chances they got to run the ball, as ND averaged 4.4 YPC as a team and both Audric Estime and Logan Diggs ran for 57 yards on 7.1 and 6.3 YPC respectively, and Estime scored the only other touchdown for Notre Dame on the evening, running one in from 10 yards out fairly late in the 3rd quarter.

The only other offensive thing to mention is that Michael Mayer, even in a relatively quiet night for him, still reeled in 5 passes for 60 yards — but MAN is it frustrating that they didn’t find him more to keep drives moving.

Defensively, it’s hard to be too mad at Al Golden’s defense. Yeah, they’re nowhere close to perfect and it would really behoove them to clean up some missed tackles and get a lot more pressure on opposing QBs than they’re managing to get, but when you hold an opponent to 16 total points in a home game, that should be PLENTY good enough for the offense to score 3+ times and win it.

J.D. Bertrand led the team with a ridiculous total of 13 tackles, and guys like Justin Ademilola, D.J. Brown, and Houston Griffith were busy as well, but it was really the younger guys and rotational dudes who made some big plays for the defense. DL Chris Smith and Nana Osafo-Mensah each forced a fumble and made a play or two behind the line of scrimmage, and safety Xavier Watts and DL Gabriel Rubio each chipped in 7 tackles (with Rubio adding 0.5 TFL).

Syndication: South Bend Tribune Michael Caterina / USA TODAY NETWORK

Speaking of younger guys making plays, Prince Kollie blocked a punt in yet another display of his excellent speed and athleticism after managing a sack in the BYU game. I know Marcus Freeman talked last week about how they need Kollie to prove it in practice so they can play him more, but at this point does it really make sense to stick with the guys who do best in practice if they’re not making plays?

The season record is back to .500 — it’s time to stop clinging to guys like Bertrand and give some of these young, fast, athletic linebackers some run, growing pains and freshman/sophomore mistakes be damned. It’s clear they can help make up for that with some momentum-changing plays that these other guys simply aren’t making.

Stanford v Notre Dame Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images

Finally, I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention that Freeman and his staff continue to do great work on the recruiting trail, at least, giving us some small slivers of hope considering the talent they’re assembling in the next couple classes. On Saturday before the game even kicked off, class of 2023 top-100 RB recruit Jeremiyah Love — an absolute BURNER from St. Louis — committed to the Irish. Love has now visited for the Marshall and Stanford games this season, so it’s a wonder he’s committed and may even be a bigger wonder if he stays committed, but for now it’s a fantastic get for a class that already has some ELITE speed committed in CB Micah Bell, RB Dylan Edwards, S Peyton Bowen, CB Christian Gray, etc.

Okey dokey, now let’s dive into the negatives. I’ve got them all listed there on the right, so I’m not going to go into detail on all of them. But I just want to quickly skim through them with you to ensure everyone is aware and on the same page here.

Let’s tackle the biggest and most obvious one first — the Fighting Irish offense and its backslide into ugliness. I think we were all pretty optimistic that the team and its staff had finally figured some things out and were building an offensive identity, as the running game was humming and the passing game was picking its spots and succeeding as Drew Pyne continued to improve and grow into the starting role.

Then, last night happened, and it was like all of us time-traveled back to the first half of the Cal game. The offense was PITIFUL against a Stanford defense that couldn’t stop anyone with a pulse, especially on the ground. Against that kind of defense, Tommy Rees’s offense managed to be shut out in the first half and perform significantly worse than most of Stanford’s other 2022 opponents.

Somehow, no Notre Dame running back managed to get double-digit carries, despite the fact Estime and Diggs were both averaging more than 6 yards per carry when they did get handed the ball. The Irish only running for 150 yards on THAT defensive front is unforgivable. Meanwhile, Drew Pyne had a ROUGH day at the office, completing less than half of his passing attempts (13-of-27) for a measly 151 yards. Besides that 41-yard TD pass to Merriweather, Pyne was pretty much abysmal across the board and wasn’t even making big plays with his arm when he DID connect with receivers, besides that 41-yard TD, as his YPA for the game was 5.6 yards.

He also fumbled, as did Estime, both of them ending drives that could have made the difference in the game. Estime’s fumble came on a 22-yard run inside the Stanford 25-yardline with less than 7 minutes to go in the game and the Irish trailing by 2. Talk about brutal.

At this point, I don’t think there’s even an argument as to whether Tommy Rees should retain his job as offensive coordinator. The offense was looking much better against UNC and BYU, but it’s not like they set the world on fire in Las Vegas (scoring just 28 points), and UNC’s defense is worse than Stanford’s, which is really saying something. Now, Rees’s offense put up a season-low against non-Ohio State teams in a game the Irish were expected to dominate. And all of that makes Marcus Freeman’s postgame quote pretty baffling.

Listen, I obviously don’t expect Freeman to publicly toss Tommy under the bus or say he sucks or anything like that, but I also think it’s a wild move for his offense to score just 14 points at home against a 1-4 football team and then for him to claim the offensive coordinator is doing an “excellent job.” We’re not stupid, Marcus. He is decidedly NOT doing an excellent job.

The other thing I want to mention here before we move on to other negatives — it would be one thing if Rees was still figuring out the offense/play-calling because he was new, and if he was also crushing the recruiting trail and had a history of good QB development. But he’s in his third season as OC and 6th season as QB coach, so he has no excuses for not having a lot of this down now. And besides maybe C.J. Carr panning out in a couple years (QB recruiting is such a crapshoot, we can’t even count on this) and Ian Book being a very winning, but also very limited, QB under his tutelage/development, Rees has proven to be pretty bad at coaching up Irish QBs and bringing in top talent at the most important position in the sport.

Marcus Freeman could still definitely find wild success at Notre Dame. I think anyone writing him off this early is a fool, plain and simple. But he WILL be a fool if he isn’t willing to make changes and use the lessons he’s learning on the job to drive improvement in his program — including getting a better OC in there. This program simply cannot get where it wants to go without a really good offensive mind and QB coach, and Rees — despite how fondly a lot of us feel about him as an overachieving player and supposed wunderkind coach — is not that.

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: OCT 15 Stanford at Notre Dame Photo by Robin Alam/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Okay, so besides the offense being pretty horrible just across the board, the defense struggled to get a pass rush against a patchwork offensive line and allowed the Cardinal to march down the field on the first possession they had and set the tone for the game, as they also did on Stanford’s go-ahead field goal drive in the 4th quarter. The linebackers and DBs still whiff on too many tackles, and it’s just not a crisp effort from that unit, despite that overall they did a good job against the run and in terms of limiting scoring.

Other negatives include Kollie’s punt block leading to precisely 0 points, as Rees decided to run an end-around with a big-bodied, not-quick receiver on 4th down and Jayden Thomas predictably did not make it to the first down marker. Why that wasn’t a hand-off to any running back or Lorenzo Styles Jr. or even Braden “I’m Not Contributing Anything in the Passing Game Anyway” Lenzy is a mystery to all of us, and super frustrating because it made no sense.

I’m also going to stay with offensive decision-making/personnel choices by saying that it’s absolutely nuts that Merriweather finally got his shot and absolutely SHOWED OUT and then the Irish couldn’t find a way to get him the ball even once more after that. He’s the only receiver capable of getting consistent separation and also having the ability to out-jump DBs for passes simultaneously, and yet this offense somehow has no room for him. It’s maddening.

Of course, decisions like that lead to the Irish going 3-for-12 on 3rd downs, which is just so embarrassing (as is only gaining 301 total yards against that defense). It also leads to the Irish losing the Time of Possession battle to the Cardinal by TWELVE MINUTES and somehow managing to lose the turnover battle 2-0 to one of the only teams in the nation who’d proven themselves to be worse at forcing turnovers and winning in turnover margin than the Irish have this season.

All in all, it was just a horribly disappointing effort and performance essentially across the board for Freeman’s team after what had been a nice 3.5-week stretch that had really earned back a lot of goodwill after that Marshall result.

Hopefully we can look at this extremely rough second setback and laugh in the future, but for now it’s just depressing to know the Irish are at their worst since at least 2017 and had no business dropping a game to a team like Stanford, who’d lost 11 straight to P5 opponents entering the match-up.

Woof.

With all the above said, let’s move on in our deck and quickly cover our scorecard for the week.

I’ll let you peruse this in your free time, but just want you all to note how much more red we have now thanks to the opportunities for improvement that popped up last weekend.

However, I do want to give a quick congrats to the defense, Al, the o-line, Audric, Logan, Tobias, Prince, Nana, Chris, and myself for accomplishing some positive things during that disaster, even if they were small or didn’t lead to anything overwhelmingly positive for the team in terms of gaining possession or scoring points. Those kinds of small successes still need to be celebrated on this team and I’m very proud to do so here.

Speaking of celebrating successes...

I want to give a major congrats to Audric, Logan, Michael, Tobias, Prince, Gabriel, Nana, and Chris, as you all have been named Team Members of the Week for your performances on Saturday!

We really appreciated your effort and playmaking during a time when most other team members were not putting forth the same, and I’m so very pleased to let you know that you’ll all have Moe’s Southwest Grill gift cards in your inboxes immediately after this call (the Chipotle next door has been temporarily closed for an e. coli outbreak in their lettuce again, so we figured we should go a similar but ultimately different route for you all here).

Congrats you guys!!!

Okay, really quick before we move forward to look at the coming week, let’s review my live journal from the game to understand some more context to my perspectives I’m sharing here on this call.

I was able to watch the first ~1.5 quarters of action at home, sipping some Four Roses and feeling good after watching those awesome Tennessee/Alabama and TCU/Oklahoma State games. The game got off to a not-great start, but my confidence was still high when my girlfriend and I left for a nice dinner with friends that the Irish would eventually figure it out and win at least fairly comfortably, if not in an outright blowout.

Instead, when we were arriving at the restaurant I checked the score and saw the Irish were still scoreless at halftime, which was NOT a good sign. So, knowing it could be a tough game result for us Irish fans, I threw myself into focusing on dinner, enjoying sharing several pitchers of sangria and lots of paella and other Spanish tapas while catching up with some great people.

Unfortunately, I made the mistake of deciding to pull up the game on YouTube TV on my phone during the 4th quarter, occasionally glancing down to look at the horror while still trying to be present at the table and in the conversations. So, I got to see the Irish pull ahead, then give the lead back, and then fail to retake it, losing with a whimper as the Cardinal celebrated a win they certainly deserved but definitely never should have gotten, on paper.

With that, I put my phone away, enjoyed a couple doppelbocks as we finished up, and then headed home to catch some Z’s and hope that I’d wake up on Saturday morning and it had all been a dream.

*Ron Howard narrator voice* It was not.

Welp, I think we’ve done enough wallowing and blame-gaming for today, don’t you think? Let’s change our perspective and look forward to this coming Saturday, when our weird, inconsistent, surprisingly hapless Fighting Irish host the UNLV Rebels in a game that seemed like a gimme until now.

Let’s start with just a basic overview of the opponent.

I’ll let you study this in-depth on your own, but just a few highlights to note right now:

  • UNLV was 35-89 in the 10 years before head coach Marcus Arroyo showed up, hence his 0-6 start in 2020 and his 2-10 record last year...the fact he already has 4 wins this year and thus is on pace to win more than 4 games at UNLV for the first time since 2017 is actually a pretty decent accomplishment, all things considered
  • In looking up the records above, I noticed that a familiar name was the UNLV coach from 2005 to 2009, going 16-43 in that time: Mike Sanford. That is, Mike Sanford Sr., the father of former Notre Dame OC/QB coach Mike Sanford Jr.
  • Speaking of Sanford Jr., if you weren’t aware, he is currently undefeated (1-0) as interim head coach of Colorado after they beat Cal last weekend 20-13 in OT...as if we needed any more exhibits as to why the Irish have been so embarrassing this season — they nearly lost to a team who lost to a coach-less and horrible Colorado squad
  • UNLV has never beaten West Texas A&M or California Lutheran, which both sound like fictitious schools showing recruiting interest in Smash Williams and Vince Howard in Friday Night Lights
  • UNLV has a truly magnificent group of of notable alumni — probably my favorite I’ve seen in our 1.5 years of doing this: Guy Fieri, Kenny Mayne, the lead singer of Imagine Dragons, the creator of CSI, Jimmy Kimmel, Suge Knight, Tomi Lahren, Ickey Woods, the founder of Caesars Palace and Circus Circus, and several YouTubers that include someone named “RiceGum,” who’s best known for his diss tracks and starting online feuds with other YouTubers. Sign me up for any and all UNLV class reunions, because that crew would be FUN to hang out with for a weekend

Alrighty, as is tradition, let’s get to know this UNLV team a bit better by analyzing it’s best and most fun names on the roster...

Eastern Washington v UNLV Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images

I think I speak for all of us when I say it’s such a relief to see an opponent’s list of top names look so full and fantastic after we saw with Stanford last week a top-heavy list with some elite names and then not that much else.

Instead, UNLV came to play in the name game, with such gems as Tiger Shanks, Charlton Butt, Lacarea Pleasant-Johnson, La’akea Louis, L’Cier Luter, Will Bonkavich, Sebastian McQuigg, Rex Goossen, and Tyson Player lining the top 10-12 but then plenty of fun and interesting ones populating the back two-thirds of the ranking.

Great recovery, UNLV players’ parents — thank you for your service.

Cool cool cool, let’s now talk through this UNLV team itself — what should Irish fans know about them and what players or match-ups could lead to the Rebels being the latest underdog to rock Notre Dame’s world?

Overall, UNLV is 106th in SP+, having beaten Idaho State, North Texas, Utah State, and New Mexico this year while losing to Cal by a touchdown and then being outscored 82-14 in their last two games against San Jose State and Air Force, taking the wind out of their sails a bit after a 4-1 start to the year.

In looking at the different sides of the ball, let’s start with the UNLV offense, which is definitely not good but does have one or two guys who could do some damage if the ND defense continues to have lapses in performance or has to spend too much time on the field again thanks to the offense’s ineptitude.

The Rebels are ranked 101st in the SP+ offensive ratings and are 70th in the country in scoring (29 PPG), 95th in total offense (358 YPG), and 79th in yards per play (5.7).

They don’t run the ball that well as a team, currently sitting at 85th in the nation in yards per game (137 YPG) and 82nd in yards per carry (4.02). However, their starting running back, Aidan Robbins, is one of their best skill players and actually has some decent numbers so far this season. Robbins has run for 519 yards and 8 touchdowns while picking up 4.7 yards per carry this year, and is currently 39th in the country in rushing yards per game, 27th in total rushing yards, tied for 15th in rushing touchdowns, and 20th in carries per game.

NCAA Football: UNLV at California Darren Yamashita-USA TODAY Sports

His backup, Courtney Reese, is a pretty effective runner in his own right, albeit at much less volume. Still, he’s got 217 rushing yards at a 5.9 yards-per-carry clip as RB2, so it will be important for the Irish to continue to lock down the opposing running game and force the Rebels to toss the ball around.

If they’re able to do that, it should really challenge the Rebels and prevent them from being very productive. They’re currently 86th in the country in passing offense (222 YPG) and 64th in yards per attempt (7.7), although they are 48th in QB rating thanks to starter Doug Brumfield, who’s managed to throw for 1,231 yards, 8 touchdowns, and just 2 interceptions while completing a very solid 68% of his passes. That completion rate is 27th-best in the nation and his passer rating is in the top 50, so he’s capable of making some plays with his arm if given the chance.

Unfortunately, his offensive line isn’t very good at giving him that chance. The Rebels are 108th in the country in sacks allowed per game and 112th in total sacks allowed, and they’ve given up plenty of tackles for loss as well, ranked 90th in TFL per game and 102nd in total. Of course, being that bad at protecting the QB didn’t stop Stanford from largely keeping their QB safe from the Irish pass rush, but ND’s defensive front should be able to do some damage in pressuring Brumfield if they actually bring their A-game.

If Brumfield — who’s also a fairly productive runner with 137 yards and 5 touchdowns so far this season — does get some time to try to carve up the Irish linebackers and secondary, he’ll look for a handful of solid targets, the most important of which being WR Ricky White. White leads the team in both catches (33) and yards (444) and is tied for the team lead in receiving touchdowns with 4.

Sharing that touchdown total with White is WR Kyle Williams, who’s caught 18 passes for 235 yards to go with his 4 scores. WR Nick Williams (no relation) has 12 catches for 183 yards on the year, and WRs Jeff Weimer (16 receptions, 180 yards) and Senika McKie (12 receptions, 176 yards, 1 TD) round out the key rotation of wideouts. TE Shelton Zeon III is Brumfield’s main target at that position, with 11 catches for 107 yards so far this year.

The UNLV offense as a whole isn’t very efficient or careful with the ball, though. They’re 81st in the country in fumbles lost (5), and 86th in time of possession, averaging just 28:54 per game. They convert just 36% of their 3rd downs (91st nationally), 50% of their 4th downs (67th), and score just 84% of the time when reaching the red zone, ranking them 62nd in that regard. They also struggle to rack up first downs (96th in the country with just 19 per game) and pick up their fair share of penalties, committing 6 per game for ~61 yards, which is 86th-best in the FBS.

The Rebels defense is ranked even worse by SP+, sitting at 110th right now. They’re 73rd in scoring (27.7 PPG), 68th in total defense (379 YPG), and 61st in yards per play allowed (5.48).

Opponents LOVE to run against them (averaging ~41 rushing attempts against per game), which is probably a direct result of their 91st-ranked rushing defense (165 YPG) and 64th-best yards per carry allowed of 3.99 yards. It also likely explains why the Rebels rate a bit better against the pass, 47th in total passing defense (213.6 YPG) and 69th in passer rating allowed while facing the 19th-least opponent pass attempts on average. They do give up 7.7 yards per pass attempt (92nd nationally), though, so opponents are still finding plenty of nice plays through the air against them. They’re tied for 102nd in the country in number of plays of 30+ yards allowed, having given up 16 of those this season.

NCAA Football: UNLV at California Darren Yamashita-USA TODAY Sports

However, opponents may also be avoiding throwing against the Rebels too much, as their secondary and linebackers are exceptionally opportunistic. UNLV is 5th in the country in interceptions per game, tied for 3rd in total INTs, tied for 5th in interceptions returned for touchdowns (with a pair of those), and 24th in turnovers gained. Add in that they’re top-40 in sacks per game and tied for 28th in total sacks, and it’s certainly a defense that could cause some issues if the Irish can’t rediscover their rhythm from the UNC and BYU games. They’re also 29th in opponent 3rd down conversion % at 32.6%, which could cause some issues for Pyne and co. after they struggled so mightily there against the Cardinal.

The name to know on the Rebels defense is absolutely Austin Ajiake, who’s 3rd in the country in total tackles and 4th in tackles per game, having accumulated 80 tackles already through 7 games. He’s also got 8 TFL (T-28th nationally), 3 sacks, and 2 interceptions on the season, so it will be important for the Irish to know where he is at all times and account for him accordingly.

Idaho State v UNLV Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images

The Rebels actually have 5 guys with at least two interceptions on the year, with the others being DBs Jerrae Williams (35 tackles, 4.5 TFL, 1 sack, 2 INT), Nohl Williams (28 tackles, 4 PBU, 1 FF, 2 INT), Jordyn Morgan (27 tackles, 4 PBU, 2 INT), and Cameron Oliver, who’s the owner of both of UNLV’s pick-sixes and has 25 tackles and 3 total interceptions this season. DB Johnathan Baldwin is another key rotational guy in the secondary with 26 tackles and 3 passes broken up so far this year.

Along with Ajiake, UNLV has some other solid linebackers to know about, like Fred Thompkins (35 tackles), Elijah Shelton (32 tackles, 4 TFL, 2 sacks), and Kyle Beaudry (30 tackles), and the rest of their pass rush and defensive front is led by DLs Adam Plant Jr. (26 tackles, 6.5 TFL, 3 sacks, 1 FF), Darius Johnson (31 tackles, 2 sacks), and Eliel Ehimare (15 tackles, 1 sack).

NCAA Football: UNLV at California Darren Yamashita-USA TODAY Sports

Finally, I want to quickly mention special teams for Marcus Arroyo’s team, as UNLV is rated 12th-best in the country in special teams by SP+. I couldn’t figure out exactly why they’re that high, as they don’t have any exceptionally strong stats in kick or punt return or punting or really much of anything.

However, it’s probably just a matter of them being a pretty busy/productive/error-free unit, as for instance we know that K Daniel Gutierrez is perfect on the year, 25-of-25 on extra points and 6-of-6 on field goals (1/1 from 50+, 2/2 from 40-49 yards).

NCAA Football: UNLV at Arizona State Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports

Overall, this UNLV team is a team the Irish should absolutely trounce, but considering they’ve struggled to do that against basically everyone, it’s hard to say for sure that the Rebels won’t put up a great fight and maybe even have a chance to win it down the stretch on Saturday afternoon.

So, considering that, W.H.A.T. should we prioritize here in analyzing this ND team, their opponent, and how they should try to perform to correct some recent mistakes?

A lot of this is somewhat similar to past weeks, but it’s definitely a bit more direct and blunt in terms of recommendations that we might be used to in the polite, diplomatic business world. But, I think straight talk is an important value for us here at Projects W.I.N. and W.H.A.T., and so here are the 6 things we MUST do going forward, especially starting this week, in order to get back on track.

1. The play-calling needs to be turned over to Gerad Parker from Tommy Rees. I know it probably won’t be, but at this point it’s CLEAR Rees shouldn’t be doing this at all, let alone on his own. Parker has been an OC before and the offense can’t look much worse, so why not see what he can help with?

2. Hopefully his input would be to run the ball, much more. The fact Estime and Diggs didn’t have even 20 combined carries against Stanford is a crime against nature, and Pyne’s limitations were once again evident as he struggled to move the offense on his own. Tommy or whoever is running the offense MUST finally change their mindset toward an extremely run-heavy attack, or otherwise they’re going to lose plenty more games and waste some nice talent at running back (fumbles notwithstanding).

Syndication: South Bend Tribune Michael Caterina / USA TODAY NETWORK

3./4. The next two points are intertwined a bit, as the Irish NEED to take advantage of playing a bad opponent by actually starting fast, building a lead, and putting themselves in a situation where they can get lots of young guys into the game, both early on when it’s still in doubt (Prince Kollie, Tobias Merriweather) and later on in garbage time, for the reps (Steve Angeli, Jaylen Sneed, etc.).

I’m sick of hearing about how good the veteran guys are in practice and that’s why they play. I get that to a point, but if the team stinks when they play in games, does it matter what happens in practice? The games, at the end of the day, are what matter, and thus if someone is more of a “gamer” than Freeman and co. are comfortable with, they need to get over that and play the guys most capable of making winning plays (even if there may be mistakes/growing pains — it’s not like the veteran starters are perfect out there).

Syndication: South Bend Tribune Michael Caterina / USA TODAY NETWORK

5. It seems like this particular Irish team has no issue getting up for bigger opponents on the schedule, considering how they played against Ohio State, UNC, and BYU. But their efforts against Marshall, Cal, and Stanford point to a need for better motivation to get up for “lesser” opponents, and so I think the coaches need to reconsider how they prepare the team for those kinds of match-ups. Of course, if there are guys who simply cannot find the motivation for these games, they need to be benched. But maybe there are some things this staff can do to better hype up the squad to dominate some bad teams?

6. I hope, even if Tommy is allowed to finish out the season and try to prove he’s the guy for the job, that Marcus Freeman is putting feelers out now to some top OC candidates he could bring in after the season. They NEED someone who can recruit and develop QBs, call a competent offense, and just maximize the talent they have, which I don’t think is as bad as it seems to be. Now is the time to gauge interest with top guys and start conversations that ultimately lead to a game-changing hire in 2023.

Syndication: South Bend Tribune Michael Caterina / USA TODAY NETWORK

Folks, I know that was a lot and definitely a longer meeting than we’re used to here.

But I think it was necessary to truly understand W.H.A.T. needs to be done and how we can right this ship and put in place some building blocks for future success, even if not in the short-term.

Do you have any questions before we sign off?

Okay awesome, well as always, I really appreciate your time and engagement in this conversation, and I’ll be sending out this special deck to everyone right after the call so you can reference it as needed.

Hope you all have a great week, and let’s go get this figured out so that we don’t have to keep being sad about this football team forever!!!

Alright thanks everyone, have a good one!

*clicks “End Call” button*

We’re doomed, LOL.