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Five things we learned: Notre Dame vs. Washington

Oct 3, 2009, 8:15 PM EDT

It’s bordering on ridiculous and closing quickly on beyond description.

The Irish once again pull out a miracle football game and win one for the ages. Maybe it’s not for the ages, but merely for the season,  as the Irish are making a case for reserving their own ESPN Classic channel. As Jake Locker’s fourth down heave to the middle of the field rattled out of the hands of D’Andre Goodwin (thanks to a fierce sandwich hit by safeties Kyle McCarthy and Harrison Smith), Notre Dame again escaped improbably, walking away with a 37-30 overtime victory.

During a game where driving rain fell sideways and a sloppy track befuddled Irish defenders and quarterback Jimmy Clausen, the Irish may not have played perfectly, but they certainly had a flair for the dramatic. The Irish defense, battered by the arm of Locker and the running of Chris Polk, stood strong when the going got toughest, pulling out two goal-line stands, the final one a tour-de-force performance that included 8 plays that started after the Huskies got to the Irish one-yard-line, and a mulligan for the Huskies after a bizarre roughing the snapper penalty was called. The Irish forced Steve Sarkisian to attempt a second field goal after running over nine-minutes off the 4th quarter clock, and gave the Irish its chance to win the ballgame by keeping the contest a one-possession game.

It wasn’t perfect, it wasn’t pretty, but it was certainly gutty. The Irish stand 4-1 with a bye week before the Trojans of Southern Cal come to town. Here’s what we learned today:

1) Golden Tate has answered the bell.

Tate’s herculean numbers explode from the stat sheet: 9 catches for 244 yards (27.1 per catch), 1 carry for 31 yards, and a TD. With the absence of Michael Floyd, Tate has stepped up his game, getting the ball in every way possible and wreaking havoc on defenses that struggle to contain him. While the Irish offense is certainly a different beast with Floyd out, Tate has done everything he could to put the Irish passing game on his back and create plays.

2) Jimmy Clausen is ready for his closeup.

In a monsoon, Jimmy Clausen completed 74% of his passes for 422 yards. An incredible feat that’s almost becoming a regular occurrence by the junior quarterback. 31 times Clausen dropped back to pass, and 23 times Irish players came down with the ball. Of his 8 misses, off the top of my head, I can think of two throwaways, two drops (one a TD by Robby Parris, the other an INT through Armando Allen’s hands), and only one truly bad decision — a backwards pass that didn’t technically count against Clausen’s passing numbers. The only thing that stopped Clausen today were his suspect feet, already battered before they had to deal with the sloppy sod of Notre Dame Stadium. We’re running out of things to say about Clausen, who was once again cool under pressure in his final two possessions. With 2:52 remaining in regulation, Clausen marched the Irish offense down the field with remarkable efficiency, 5 plays for 63 yards, in only 104 seconds. Most people wait at stoplights longer. With a bye week, expect Clausen to have his foot on ice for the next 9 days, resting for the biggest challenge of his career.

3) The Irish defense continues to pick itself back up.

Let’s start with the bad: 457 total yards — 176 on the ground, 281 in the air — and countless missed tackles. The Irish looked like a powder puff team trying to tackle 200-pound running back Chris Polk, who carried defenders countless times for 136 tough yards, many after first contact. But the defense stood tall when it mattered the most. Bend but don’t break would be an insult to this unit — the Irish defense looked like Rocky Balboa pulling itself off of the mat and miraculously stopping the Huskies when things were at their bleakest. With the Huskies up 24-19 and time running out in the 3rd quarter, the Irish stuffed Locker three times from inside the three-yard-line, getting a turnover on downs at the one-foot line. Then, in a goal-line stand that has to match up with the greatest in school history, the Irish survived 8 plays of do-or-die football, and forced a field goal by Sarkisian’s Huskies when a touchdown would’ve put the game out of reach. The Irish gave up two field goals in the two-minute drill, but when backed up against it all, somehow came out alive.

4) The red zone offense without Michael Floyd is a question mark.

Five field goals. Five. For those who don’t have Nick Tausch in their college football fantasy league, this is a nightmare. The Irish only punted the ball twice today, but when they drove the ball inside the Husky 20, the offense that was running in overdrive seemed to stall out. It’s clear that Notre Dame missing their jump ball threat in Floyd is forcing the Irish to find different ways to score, and today the Irish couldn’t figure a way into the end zone. The running game got stuffed several times today, and while Tausch’s accuracy today was exemplary, Notre Dame needs to get 6 instead of settling for 3, especially in games like this.

5) There’s a magic in the sound of their name…

Say what you will, but there is something going on here. Another miracle finish and another celebration for the Irish and their fans. The goal line stands, the late game heroics, the two-point conversion, it’s as if Notre Dame actually believes that these games should go this way. Even with Locker and the Huskies miraculously marching 70 yards on 9 plays in the final 1:20, the Irish offense calmly went down the field in overtime and scored in two plays. Two minutes earlier, with a one-point lead and two points needed to make it a field goal game, Notre Dame’s trick shotgun draw was snuffed out, but Robert Hughes and a squadron of offensive lineman willed their way into the end zone. That’s the kind of play that becomes a signature moment. That’s the kind of play that wakes up the echoes.

The Irish once again played a dangerous game with fate, but walked away victorious. After years of feeling like nothing can go right, the Irish have reversed course over the last three games and walk into their bye week knowing that the luck of the Irish may have been restored. 

  1. drgma - Oct 4, 2009 at 2:45 PM

    It was clearly a Washington touchdown. The onfield officials may have been Pac 10, but the Review staff was Big East, and Crooked.

  2. drgma - Oct 4, 2009 at 2:46 PM

    It was clearly a Washington touchdown. The onfield officials may have been Pac 10, but the Review staff was Big East, and Crooked.

  3. J B - Oct 4, 2009 at 3:08 PM

    I was three, and no they didn’t.

  4. YGBSM - Oct 4, 2009 at 3:50 PM

    So called “come from behind” wins vs mediocre opponents now qualifies for shaking the thunder from the sky??
    I’m sorry but I must have missed it, but where is ND in the Top 10?
    Maybe Top 20??
    A weak schedule and unconvincing wins apparently don’t impress the AP or Coaches Poll voters as much as the folks in SB.

  5. TexasFitz - Oct 4, 2009 at 5:53 PM


  6. DocHR - Oct 4, 2009 at 8:10 PM

    Little mentioned in the post game analysis is Kyle McCarthy’s hit of the Washington receiver on 2nd and 6 during the double goal-line stand. McCarthy had been covering one receiver, then left his and tackled the Washington receiver at the 1 yard line. This was an easy touch down until McCarthy’s hit. Take a look at it on the MSNBC 4th quarter replay. It is truly awesome, and one of the great individual game and season-saving plays. Go Irish!

  7. james haas - Oct 4, 2009 at 11:04 PM

    news flash it doesnt matter if his knee was down,its where the ball crossed the plain and it did…go irish

  8. NDBrian - Oct 4, 2009 at 11:14 PM

    It was talked about, EXTENSIVELY DocHR!! Pat Haden was all over it…Anywho, I’m glad the bye week has come upon this team. Let’s let the nation chew on some of the other teams and their problems. ND deserves a little break from the media…GO IREESSH!

  9. Irish Ice - Oct 5, 2009 at 1:49 AM

    Hats off to Locker and the Huskies, they never gave up and played hard. Their coach showed class by respecting the Irish and the outcome after the game. Sarkesian has a good team on his hands and will be a force in the Pac-10. Well done IRISH. Before Stanford, the next two games can make the season. Listen closely, that sound you hear are the Echo’s, and they are awakeing. Always, NOTRE DAME

  10. robertg - Oct 5, 2009 at 4:37 AM

    1. we have never been fans of game officials or tech reviewers and never will be until the old system is out and the new high tech system fully transparent to the public.
    2. however, there are quite a few games that are called honestly and the washington/ notre dame game was one of those.
    3. if you have access to the game film, not the tv feed, the best equipment that money can buy to break down game films, a current copy of the ncaa fotball rules, and the experts on staff with years of running the nfl real time review systems, there is simply no debate about hughes having the ball across the goal line plane well before hughes’ knee went down( it was not even close) and that hughes kept the pile on his own moving with his strength and determination.
    4. both notre dame and washington had tds called back, notre dame’s wass negated by a correct penalty correctly called against notre dame and that the fellow vwho thinks that washington had a legitimate td called back because the washington wr definitely did not get the ball across the goal line plane.
    5. as for big east officiating or tech review crews favoring notre dame, that makes zero sense based on their historical performances.
    6.after all, in many other games, big east refs and tech reviewers have shafted notre dame in football on many occasions since notre dame refuses to join the big east conference in football.
    6. in fact, it was the big east review crew which correctly reversed an nd fumble recovery which was initially called by the pac 10 refs on the field and correctly overturned an interception by kyle mccarthy called by the onsite pac 10 game refs on the field, a pick which would have ended the game without going into overtime in notre dame’s favor.
    7. the conclusions of our experts on the officiating at this washington/notre dame game would have been exactly the same if washington had emerged as the winner of this game, as washington nearly did at this game. they have been breaking down game films of every bcs division football game for us for over 4 years and perfect scores for ref and tech review crews are very rare.
    8. by the way, our techies are pure techies who would otherwise not be following college football or sports at all.
    9. the members of this pac 10 ref crew and big east review crew made a courageous decisions to call an honest game and they did.
    10. washington if a fine team and has a great chance to win the pac 10 championship. we wish them the best of luck since they are already playing well enough to win the pac 10 this season and hold the tiebreaker over usc.
    11. there simply were no dishonest calls by either the pac 10 officials on the field, including the roughing the holder penalty against ian williams. what happened in the game and on the game films as broken down and the ncaa rules governing that subject. ian’s conduct was not intentional, but did merit the penalty that washington got to take another shot at a td 3 more times.

  11. robertg - Oct 5, 2009 at 5:04 AM

    1. yes, this notre dame team needs to improve in many areas, but charlie and his staff and notre dame’s student athletes have been doing just that every day. notre dame has the talent and depth of talent at every position and can beat any team in the us.
    2. we are very likely to see cierre wood on the field much sooner than anyone thinks.
    3. cierre has no blocking problems or any weork ethic problems. he just had to learn the nuances of the system and, according to our information, is fully ready for prime time.
    4. no doubt, many notre dame fans are correctly disturbed by the latest rankings by the ap, the coaches and the harris poll.
    5. well, a win over usc will certainly do the trick(usc will not have a crooked pac 10 crew to save them as they did in 2005 to save them from a loss to notre dame), although a complete overhaul of the current rakings systems really is necessary, along with the current conference and ncaa officiating and rules enforcement systems,along the heisman and other award systems.
    6. these are matters that we, as notre dame fans, should be dealing with while charlie and his staff and notre dame’s student athletes are working to get better every single day and they are doing just that.
    GO IRISH!!!

  12. NDatlien - Oct 5, 2009 at 7:28 AM

    I’m really tired of people calling for Charlie’s head. He recruits like a maniac, usually calls the right plays, and seems genuinely dedicated to his student athletes. Kind of reminds me of Holtz in that way. The 3-9 and 7-6 years Charlie had to field the greatest High School team ever assembled…problem was they were playing D-1 college football. If you want to see bad play calling, I have some tape of Davie (who’s actually a very nice guy, just a really bad coach).
    Yes, we dropped the ball against MI. Yes, I’m starting to wonder if I’m going to have a nervous breakdown watching these games. But let’s remember that these are kids. They’re college athletes. You don’t come up with two straight goal line stands unless the coach has convinced these kids that something like that is possible.
    And a quick aside to the people who’re going nuts about Charlie wondering why we aren’t ranked–THAT’S HIS JOB. He’s supposed to lobby for higher position so that, in the event of a loss, we look better. A team falling in the rankings, or even OUT of the rankings, still looks a lot better than an unranked team losing. Also, when he talks about the top ten, he isn’t suggesting that ND vault from unranked to 3rd in the nation. He’s suggesting that after about the top 5 there are significant flaws with every team. This is pretty much the consensus among everyone who knows anything about/has been watching college football this year. Sure he’s being a little hyperbolic when he notes that NO team in the top ten has had a game without a bit of a struggle, but again; HIS JOB IS TO GO TO BAT FOR HIS TEAM.

  13. geraldr - Oct 5, 2009 at 11:20 AM

    I’m an Irish fan, but lets wait until Pete Carroll’s bunch comes in before we start talking BCS. We’ll find out what kind of team we have in two weeks. You want respect…go earn it and beat SC! That’s why ND isn’t in the top 25. The pollsters are waiting for ND to beat a ranked team.

  14. LT - Oct 5, 2009 at 11:31 AM

    What do you want us to do cheer, i was there. Home fans boo, when was the last time a home crowed cheered or politley clapped when the opposing team came out. What did you want the fans to do, golf clap!?

  15. Karen - Oct 5, 2009 at 12:24 PM

    Good win, but USC will not allow ND to COME back. I love the IRISH, but the “D” isn’t there.

  16. Jake - Oct 5, 2009 at 4:20 PM

    Okay. How about the crap call at Michigan when they said Armando Allen was out. Every analyst disagreed with the call. That would have made a difference in the final score.

  17. kinganthony - Oct 5, 2009 at 5:50 PM

    What Notre Dame Fans should have learn from this game and the Michigan game is, IT DOESN’T TAKE 5 YEARS TO TURN AROUND A PROGRAM IF YOU HAVE A QUALITY COACH.

  18. Teo - Oct 6, 2009 at 2:35 PM

    In CW’s second year, ND went to a BCS game. In his first year, we were undefeated until SC came to town. So, we’ll see where RichRod takes Michigan.
    With respect to the game, it was quite exciting. You-Dub is good. They are tough and their quarterback is a real leader. I think in a year or two, they will be at the top of the Pac-10. At least, it looks that way to me.
    Here are a few things I noticed:
    1.) The players and coaches did well. Yes, we could have won by a touchdown or so more, but that is football. There are always opportunities to perform better. In general, though, Washington brought their a-game and ND held them off.
    2.) Golden is golden. This kid is a great receiver. He’s quick. He’s strong. He’s fun to watch. Let’s hope that he stays healthy and that he continues to get stronger. He’s had some bad games; this one was his best.
    3.) Jimmy is a real quarterback. He is smart, athletic and has a tremendous arm. I am pulling for him. He finds receivers and knows how to feel the trouble.
    4.) Obviously, the defense needs work. The tackling is not where it needs to be right now. Yes, we had the goal line stands but the tackling has to improve.
    5.) This game will prove irrelevant if SC comes in and beats us by 38 points. We need a win against them. Period. No excuses and no moral victories. We need to come out, figure out what they’re running and put a stop to it. Then, we need Clausen to bring the boys down the field for touchdowns.
    We all want Charlie to succeed. He’s getting the recruits. He has the schedule. He should win the big games. It was nice to beat Washington, but it will be amazing to knock off SC.

  19. jake - Oct 6, 2009 at 8:02 PM

    kinganthony, thank god there is someone who speaks the truth along with me. Are you an ND fan? Either way you are right. I love ND, but lack of fundamentals and discipline comes from coaching. The tackling is abysmal. At least, and I am being generous here, 70 or missed tackles in 5 games. Look for a second at Iowa. Does anyone for one second think they have more talent than ND? Not even close. But which coaching staff gets more out of their talent overall? Iowa by a landslide. These next two weeks this is the most important thing the defense needs to work on..tackling. If they don’t tackle the USC receivers and backs, forget about it.

  20. Phil - Oct 7, 2009 at 8:29 AM

    Two words: BETTER DEFENSE!!!!!!!!!!!!

  21. Sean G - Oct 8, 2009 at 4:10 AM

    I’m a huge Irish fan and after reading all of these posts, I want to interject my thoughts.
    The Irish aren’t ranked because they aren’t impressive as a team. Their offense is playing at a top 10 level but there are 3 facets to the game of football. Their D is atrocious. Special teams is ok…average starting field position needs a ton of work. FG % is good…especially considering a true Freshman kicker.
    (quick sidebar…most teams, professional and college, have lost the art of tackling. My father and I both believe that these young men want the big “SportsCenter” hit. Guys do NOT wrap up anymore and it’s making me sick!)
    The Irish have much to overcome when dealing with the college football world. You’re either an Irish fan or you hate them. Most hate them. You have to be MORE impressive than other teams when you have a national tv contract…a national recruiting base…and the history of the University. Frankly, as a fan, we’ve gotten more out of the past then we deserve. We have accomplished nothing of note lately and until we start impressing the haters, I suspect that trend to continue.
    I LOVE the development of Clausen and the passing game…and even give credit to the O line and new coach to a much improved running game. Let’s continue to let that running game develop…especially in the red zone.
    D has speed….FINALLY….work on tackling and being in proper position. It looks to me like the players are often out of position. That’s coaching, not lack of effort or talent.
    ND can re-enter the polls this week with a win over USC. They can also make a legit run at a BCS bowl if they win out…but they must be impressive. Look at the top 5 school’s records and point totals against they “cupcakes” on their schedule. There aren’t any come from behind wins there. (except for USC vs Wash…Wash is proving that they are no longer a cupcake on the schedule though…tough team)
    OK, I think I’ve said enough…thoughts?

  22. g barnhart - Oct 10, 2009 at 9:49 AM

    to all the kind people who are always calling for cw head
    i offer this history lesson.
    when tyronne was let go the stated reason was,
    he did not recruit well,like it or not that was the reason.
    for two seasons charlie done well,and then
    the big hole in the recruiting showed up big time
    there wasn’t eneough talent to even play with the big boys
    let alone winning, please billboard renters
    and other misinformed people get your facts right before you
    take your decietful potshots

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