Yesterday’s 20-16 win got Notre Dame back into the Top 25, but still left much to be desired. With the offense kept in check by a solid defensive game plan and good field management, the Irish once again had to fight and scratch to win a football game. With Notre Dame’s maligned defense forcing five turnovers, and Golden Tate and Jimmy Clausen leading the offense, the Irish find themselves at 5-2 and a trip to San Antonio next weekend.
Let’s take a look at the good, bad, and ugly of yesterday’s win.
Notre Dame’s rushing defense. By game, here is the averaging rushing attempt against the Irish: 5.3, 5.0, 4.2, 2.8, 4.5, 3.7, 2.4. That’s a trend that’s going in the right direction. Yesterday, facing the reigning national player of the week who just came off a 264 yard day, the Irish shut down Montel Harris, holding him to just 38 yards on 22 carries. More amazing, if you throw out his 14 yard run, the Irish held Harris to 24 yards on 21 carries. That’s some great running stuffing defense. Also a huge plus for the defensive front is the ability to get contributions from a variety of players. In comments today, Weis talked about the ability to roll players through on the defensive line.
“We’ve been trying to get to this point where the more people that we
can count on, I know Cwynar played a bunch, I know Filer played a
bunch, and that was the intent going in. I think that maybe one of the
reasons why we’re getting more production out of the defensive line is
because we’re doing that and keeping some fresh bodies in there and not
being worn out.
The more guys that you can put in that you can count on, the better it is for being fresh down the stretch.”
A lot of credit is due to new defensive line coach Randy Hart, as well as star graduate assistant Bryant Young. What was thought to be a weak spot for the Irish defense has turned into a pleasant surprise.
Bonus coverage in the good category goes to Golden Tate, Jimmy Clausen, and Armando Allen, who had a gritty day on the ground running the ball for the Irish.
Notre Dame’s passing defense. As I mentioned last night, the passing defense didn’t get much better. This isn’t an achilles heel for the Irish, it’s an bleeding ax wound. If the Irish can’t get this figured out, there is a zero percent chance they win out.
10 Ten explosive plays by air for the Boston College offense and once again, the story remains the same: quarterbacks and wide receivers are putting up career days against the Irish secondary, with Dave Shinskie and Rich Gunnell taking their turn yesterday.
While the Irish snatched three interceptions from Shinskie, they left a few more on the field. And while the change to Sergio Brown at free safety paid a few dividends, it certainly wasn’t the fix that some hoped it would be. Notre Dame hasn’t been able to generate a pass rush with their front four, and they haven’t proved they can cover when they bring blitzers from the linebackers or secondary. There was improvement, but it’s hard to call what happened last night in the air a good thing.
The W. It was an ugly win that had people bellyaching across campus, in living rooms, and on the internet. (Especially on the internet.) Yet winning ugly is a good thing, and is a step in the right direction for the Irish. Notre Dame exorcises the Boston College demons after six straight losses to their Catholic rivals, and even though it was too close for comfort yet again, the Irish walked out of the stadium with their fifth win in seven tries.
While the offense was hardly clicking on all cylinders, the Irish had another turnover free game, and have committed only five on the entire season, ranking second in the country in the stat. The Irish also won their fourth 4th quarter comeback victory, which is a school record. A win is a win is a win. If you don’t believe me, just ask Alabama and Iowa, two teams that needed all 60 minutes to escape from inferior opponents.