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Why I can't write the easy story

Oct 18, 2009, 3:00 PM EDT

I stayed up too late last night. Working on three hours of sleep, I didn’t leave the stadium until 10:00pm, trying to get some work down and slugging through the Five Things We Learned. Even after trying to wrap this game up with the Good, Bad, and Ugly, I’m still struggling with the defeat.

But that really isn’t it. Last night, as I tried to rally and meet some old friends out in South Bend for a final night on the town (Friday should’ve been enough, trust me…), everyone I talked to felt the same way: absolutely spent. So instead of Corby’s or the Linebacker, or a trip down memory lane to Finnegan’s or Coaches (or whatever they are called now) it was a restless night watching extra inning baseball and 2:00 a.m. MSNBC investigations from the year 2000. (Lester Holt did some fine work on his Hollywood Vice episode.)

So I fired up the laptop last night and did some reading. And man, I really wish I didn’t.

There is nothing worse than reading the post-game blatherings of some people. Message boards, chat rooms, blogs, national columnists, it doesn’t matter the size of your audience if you’ve already framed your thesis and simply want to jam your opinion down people’s throats.

Yesterday’s game only had two true outcomes: Notre Dame wins or Notre Dame loses. Yet you’d think that this Notre Dame team and coaching staff lost a 32 quarter football game to the Trojans after reading some people’s opinions.

Whether it’s the rantings and ravings over in the morbidly negative Rock’s House, or the lowest hanging fruit bash job by a guy who spent more time hobnobbing during the game than actually watching it, it doesn’t matter if you hide behind a moniker or spend an hour a day on national television, it’s utterly disappointing when people make up their mind before the team ever steps foot on the field.

That’s why I can’t write the easy story today. That’s why I’m not throwing around stats and facts that make Notre Dame’s recent averageness look even more mediocre than it really is. Make no mistake, the Irish have not been an elite team for much of the past 15 years, but I struggle to place the blame of others on  a group of athletes and coaches that haven’t had much to do with that.

For those who pine for the days of Rockne and Leahy, or even Ara and Lou, I’ve got a message for you: Those days are over. In today’s college landscape, it’s just not possible to monopolize the football world and win them all. Notre Dame isn’t the only mecca, it isn’t the only favorite son. (Especially with its own sons lobbing the largest hand grenades.) And while you’ll point to USC or Florida, I’ll give you a tip of the cap and say you have a fair point. Then I’ll also point out the mind-bending losses to Stanford, Oregon State, and Washington for a recklessly arrogant group, or ask you how Florida will be without a transcendent player like Tim Tebow, or if you’d be happy with a rap sheet than involves over two dozen players that have been on your roster.

There are people that want Charlie Weis to fail so badly that they’ve given up on being objective and simply want to find ways for him to get him out. (I’ve seen arguments spring up already about the hypothetical two-point play Weis would’ve surely managled.) And while those people will point back to Weis’ own words (9-3 just isn’t good enough), or his inability to get past big opponents, they are largely ignore the facts that this football team is improved.

Last year, I wrote something similar, but the gist of it is still the same. Firing a coach is serious business, and a move that wipes out momentum in recruiting, player development, and team confidence. And when you’ve got players like Robby Parris, Golden Tate, Jimmy Clausen, and a defense that was shredded for much of the day all stepping up during crunch time to rally the team, you’ve learned enough about the Irish that even in defeat that they will give their all for their head coach.

It’s easy to look at this as a black and white issue. Win or go home. A loss is a loss. Eight straight just isn’t good enough.

I just can’t seem to do it.

  1. Sharkey - Oct 18, 2009 at 3:33 PM

    I said it in an earlier post. Charlie WILL get the program there if he can last past the haters. When he does, we will all be unveiling a statue of him made from all the stones we threw at him.

  2. Sharkey - Oct 18, 2009 at 3:40 PM

    Everyone needs to concentrate on going to BCS bowl and winning it this year

  3. Ryan - Oct 18, 2009 at 3:51 PM

    Take comfort in the computer rankings… they are the only impartial review of Notre Dame anymore. ND isn’t a bad team. 10-20th in the country is probably realistic for the end of season expectations. They are just waiting for the coming out party (and I would love for that to be against Pittsburgh just to shut Mark May up),

  4. Steve - Oct 18, 2009 at 3:52 PM

    Great story, Keith. I’m starting to believe this is the day-in-day-out most lucid Notre Dame site on the web. To be sure, no one is going be fired for losing at the 4-yard line to the No. 6 team in the country. The day may come when Charlie either leaves or is fired, but it won’t be because of this game. And honestly, who among us can’t say that this is the best Notre Dame offense since 1993? Here’s hoping John Tenuta starts disguising some blitzes sooner than later.

  5. Zach - Oct 18, 2009 at 3:56 PM

    Bottom line is we lost in the last second to SC, and UM, and you know if this team wins the rest in the regular season which is much more likely if Floyd returns in november. Then 10-2 with more 10+ win seasons on the horizon is something I’m definately ok with. Also we graduate our kids and they stay out of trouble. I think stupid streaks (8 in a row), stats, etc. can be decieving, because each season is its own identity. This is similar to 2005 but different in that Weis now has his cupboard full for the future. And if Tenuta (who I feel is as much to blame as anyone for the losses) will stop blitzing 7+ guys so much we CAN win the rest and a BCS game, USC is as good as anyone and our 4th quarter domination/rally was no fluke, SC doesn’t simply fall apart for entire quarters against anyone, especially a top 25 ND team.
    If they don’t finish with a huge end to the season you can all stone me.

  6. Zach - Oct 18, 2009 at 3:59 PM

    Great point on Tenuta.

  7. liamg19 - Oct 18, 2009 at 9:41 PM

    here, here.
    You’re best line:
    “In today’s college landscape, it’s just not possible to monopolize the football world and win them all. Notre Dame isn’t the only mecca, it isn’t the only favorite son. (Especially with its own sons lobbing the largest hand grenades.)”
    I’m all for winning. I’m hate losing. But you hit the nail on the head w/ ND Nation. The negativity and bullying group think is beyond unreadable.
    Thank you for bringing some rationality, clarity and hope on this dark day.

  8. Ryan - Oct 18, 2009 at 10:12 PM

    I agree 100% on Tenuta. I have been saying it the last 3 or so weeks, hes the guy that needs to be feeling the heat, not Charlie. I know Charlie by title is the “head coach” but it seems like Charlie is “head offensive coach” and Tenuta is “head defensive coach”, with Charlie just monitering how the defense goes. If this is in fact how it is, you cant really fault Charlie, since the offense is performing at a high level. I just dont know what is wrong with the defense. The players are there, and Tenuta has been successful at other places, with arguably less talent then he has now. I dont know how to explain it.

  9. SDI - Oct 18, 2009 at 11:20 PM

    Nice job Keith. The rational ND voices must be heard. And it’s not just unrealistic ND fans that are spouting this nonsense. There are plenty of “journalists” who wrote columns today with titles like “ND Nowhere Near Ready to Compete with Big Boys”. Huh? Did they write those stories in the 3rd quarter to meet a deadline? ND was four yards away from beating a top five team, and they didn’t even play anywhere near their potential. I’m not suggesting we should be happy with moral victories, but give credit where is due–ND was the better team on the field yesterday for significant stretches of that game, and given the stockpile of talent and coaching acumen on the Trojan sideline, that’s no small compliment. Weis still has a ways to go to get over the hump, but this program is light years ahead of where it was in 07 and not far from competing for a national title.

  10. JT - Oct 19, 2009 at 12:34 AM

    Good point. except a loss is a loss. We’ll get them next year. Hope Clausen doesn’t turn pro and we have Floyd and Tate. SC will be sorrry. ha ha ha..

  11. CF - Oct 19, 2009 at 12:54 AM

    I’ll start by saying that I agree with all of the above. The only thing that concerns me, to a degree, is a question that none of us can possibly know, and that is “How much has Weis committed to Tenuta, and what goes on behind closed doors?” Someone made the remark that Tenuta has done more with less, at previous stops. However, he was there longer and recruited his ‘type’ of defenders. At this moment, my armchair analyst opinion is that he is trying to force a scheme onto a group that it doesn’t fit. The fact that Te’o is the fastest LB (in a blitzing defense) and he’s a freshman, is problematic. Maybe the squad will be built for this type of defense 2 or 3 years from now, but it will take time. Presently, the CBs are accustomed to getting help across the middle, because of previous defensive philosophies. You can’t expect a corner that is accustomed to covering over the top to instantly be comfortable or effective with isolation coverage. It’s not reasonable and it’s not realistic. Furthermore, at this moment, there is nobody on the DL that draws the attention of the OL. As a result, every time ND blitzes, there are plenty of offensive linemen or RBs to pick up those players, because they aren’t doubling anyone on the line and the line isn’t getting any consistent penetration. Finally, maybe the tackling fundamentals have been lacking for a while at ND, but it wasn’t as obvious because there were fewer instances where someone was required to make a one-on-one, open-field tackle – with more blitzing LBs come fewer assisted tackles.
    All that being opined, my only concern is related to how Weis handles the situation with the defense. If he’s willing to ride out the next 2 or 3 years, putting his faith in Tenuta to turn around the defense, counting on the offense to win the games in the meantime – great. I’m all for it. I’m sure Weis has a vision. I just have to hope that the higher-ups are on the same page and are willing to give that flexibility, and that Tenuta can recruit the type of athlete he needs to ND.

  12. Jack - Oct 19, 2009 at 2:09 AM

    How come noone is talking about the OL not handling a 3-4 man rush that had Jimmy running for his life most of the game>

  13. Peter - Oct 19, 2009 at 10:24 AM

    What a great read Keith. After a game like that the true colors of the press and the chat boards becomes so obvious. Reading that ass Mariotti makes me want to gag. Its amazing that he is considered a sports writer; he’s all hack.
    I think you really captured the range of emotions around that game. I’ve never been so disappointed and so elated during a game. That 4th quarter was amazing.
    But its time to start calling out Tenuta. That game was on him. How many times this year have we seen the Irish burned by trips, TE’s and catches by RB. The supposed defensive strength this year with our DB’s and safeties is a glaring liability (obviously excluding #28). I think Hart and Verducci are getting it done, I can’t say the same thing about Brown and Tenuta. ND needs coaching changes, but not at HC.

  14. Mario - Oct 19, 2009 at 11:16 AM

    Why didn’t Cahrlie Weis kick a FG on the opening drive? Three pts are better than ZERO. He always does the stupid thing. THe three pts would have been a good morale booster and it allowed USC to gain the momentum. He is a terrible coach.

  15. Sharkey - Oct 19, 2009 at 9:02 PM

    I agree, CF. Someone once defined insanity as doing the samething over and over and expecting different results. If this defense cannot pressure the QB with all those blitzes, then for the love of God, DO SOMETHING ELSE!!

  16. Ed - Oct 20, 2009 at 11:05 AM

    Our guys don’t show up on police blotters, graduate at a level above most of the country and they play hard for their coach.
    The 4th quarter comeback was inspirational and exciting. Duval Kamara doesn’t slip on his cut and ND scores on the final play of regulation. Who knows how the game would have ended then?
    The athletes keep coming to ND despite the rantings of the Weis haters and ND keeps improving. Stay the course and the future is indeed bright.

  17. alice spicer - Nov 7, 2009 at 6:55 PM

    i am a 67 year old woman and the fighting irish give me a reason tpwatch tv,hear the fight song. win or lose i love NOTRE DAME,CHARLIE WEIS, AND THE ENTIRE TEAM.

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