Here are some thoughts on Notre Dame’s destruction of Tennessee State.
Despite the title of this column, I don’t actually have much to say on the broadcast. Everyone already has their potshots that they take at the announcers (specifically Jason Garrett) and the talking points they have prepared, plus the lack of replay when it would be nice to see a replay. I don’t necessarily disagree with those criticisms. But I’m not going to add to the dogpile (at least for now).
I will just attempt to say what I think is the quiet part out loud: I think Notre Dame fans wouldn’t be complaining as much if Mike Tirico was still in the broadcast booth. It’s the steady decline in quality from Doug Flutie to Tony Dungy to Drew Brees, and now Garrett (who may actually be better than Brees???) and no Tirico to offset it that has really lit the fuse on everyone’s frustrations. But I digress.
So That’s What It’s Like Playing an FCS Opponent
It was a new experience for Notre Dame, and now I think we can all say we’ve had enough. (This is no commentary on the ancillary aspects of playing Tennessee State, namely their band’s halftime performance. As a television viewer, I was unable to see it, but I hear good things).
I’m not going to go on a rant about how FBS teams should never play FCS competition, because I understand that many of these schools need the paydays for the sake of their athletic departments. I will simply note, however, that there seemed to be a LOT of Tennessee State players falling to the turf in pain. There was a clear chasm in the level of physicality between these two programs and it is representative of virtually every FBS-FCS matchup. That’s all I have to say on that.
Weekly Reminder To Not Read Too Much Into Hartman’s Dominance
I don’t think I have to be as much of a wet blanket as I was last week, but I will again be the one who advocates for not reading too much into the fact that Sam Hartman’s 12 drives as the Notre Dame quarterback have resulted in 11 touchdowns and one missed field goal. It’s impressive, to be sure. It’s also been against Navy and Tennessee State.
I never got a satisfying answer to my question about how Hartman’s Navy performance could be seen as so much better than what Ian Book, Jack Coan and Drew Pyne (for one half) did to the same team. I get that the eye test made Hartman look better, but is the eye test enough to warrant all this hype? It is? OK, then I guess I’ll just get flamed in the comments again.
But you’ll all be happy to know that I won’t be shouting “caution” if Hartman has a great showing next week, because he’ll have finally done it in a Notre Dame uniform against a quality opponent (NC State).
The Irish Look at Four (Running Backs)
It’s a shame that last week in my post-game column I had to make an homage to the passing of Bob Barker, and now just one week later I make one to the passing of Jimmy Buffet (may he rest in peace). With that said, this Notre Dame running back room is something.
To be clear, I’m not overreacting to a dominant rushing performance against Tennessee State (at least I don’t think I am). My comment is more about the fact that Notre Dame’s coaching staff has been rotating the running backs heavily and pretty equally. Although Devyn Ford was knocked out of the game early and logged only one carry for three yards, the other four scholarship backs each scored either a rushing or receiving touchdown. THAT is depth.
Again, I will take my own advice and recognize that the quality of opponent the last two weeks is part of the reason the carries are getting distributed so liberally. Of course the rotation will get tighter when the Irish play stiffer competition. But the “five-headed monster” (four without Ford) seems to be a real thing. If nothing else, it should provide some evidence to back up Deland McCullough’s pitch to high school recruits.
Oops, I meant to say “trigger warning” first, because I know how controversial targeting calls can be. Well here’s an opinion that I’m sure will be controversial among a certain segment of Notre Dame fans: I don’t think it was targeting when Devyn Ford got hit in the head and fumbled in the first quarter.
Ford was not a defenseless player, and he himself lowered his head. NOW, by that same logic, I think the targeting call against Antonio Carter II right before halftime was a ridiculous. The ball carrier clearly lowered his head into the space where Carter was already propelling himself; there was no way to avoid it, and it doesn’t do anything to disincentivize dangerous conduct by defensive players if you administer the rule like that.
Some other Notre Dame fans on Twitter made the comment that the play where Ford fumbled should have at least been reviewed even if no targeting was called. I also disagree with that. Replay review is the emperor of all maladies infecting college football and basketball. It completely stops a game dead in its tracks, and you can’t confidently tell me that the officials would have been done with their review by the time Ford was off the field and the players could resume play.
As my dad always says (and I’m fleshing out his argument a bit), it’s just a game; we don’t need to treat a botched call on the field like we do a judicial error that led to a wrongful death row conviction.
I’m not quite as extreme in my position on replay review as my dad (he believes it shouldn’t exist), but I will advocate for a “referee shot clock.” If you can’t clearly tell whether or not you got the call on the field right within one minute of initiating replay review, it should stand. And even as I say that, one minute feels like too long a time. Make it 30 seconds and let’s see some referee athleticism as they sprint to the sideline; at least then it’s somewhat entertaining.