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Five things we learned: Notre Dame vs. USC

Nov 28, 2010, 2:26 AM EDT

HughesWin

LOS ANGELES — In the end, the skies opened up and the streak finally ended.

Rain swept through Los Angeles and washed the slate clean, as Notre Dame turned the tide on a woefully one-sided rivalry of late, holding on to beat Southern Cal 20-16 in rainy Los Angeles. After nearly a decade of lopsided losses and heart-breaking finishes, the Irish ended up on the on the flip side of the coin, rallying to score on their final drive of the game and getting a much needed break when Mitch Mustain’s pass slipped through the arms of a streaking Ronald Johnson and fell to the ground.

“I think everybody thought it was over,” Trojan running back Marc Tyler said before wryly smiling. “In these conditions, anything can happen.”

That anything finally turned out to be a stroke of luck for the Irish, a team snake-bit for much of the season, especially in crunch time. Four plays after dropping an almost certain touchdown pass, Mustain’s throw sailed high and was intercepted by Harrison Smith at the goal line, and Notre Dame took three knees for a hard-fought 20-16 victory. Notre Dame, the collective, exhaled and finally celebrated.

“Looking at the faces of so many Notre Dame fans that have been waiting for this moment, just to see the look on their face, it’s satisfying,” head coach Brian Kelly said after the game. “Just to get that out of the way.”

That first very big check on a list that many fans have for the first-year head coach.

Here’s what we learned Saturday night during Notre Dame’s 20-16 victory, the Irish’s first victory over the Trojans since 2001.

1. Irish fans, some of you owe Bob Diaco a very big apology.

It wasn’t too long ago that many Irish fans were calling for the head of their young defensive coordinator. But Bob Diaco has responded from his worst day at the office to turn the Irish defense into one of their most fearsome units in the post-Holtz era.

“Unbelievable effort,” Kelly said of his defense. “We put them in some bad situations and they just continued to battle, and they’ve done that all year. This is not a one-time occurrence. This is a defense that has played really well in the month of November.”

Really well is an understatement. The Irish held the Trojans to 80 yards rushing, limited Mustain to less than five yards a pass attempt, and shutdown an offense with plenty of skill and incredibly advantageous field position. While many snickered when the Irish defense coined the rallying cry “B.I.A.” (Best in America) this preseason, the unit has silently morphed into one of the best in the country in the season’s final month, giving up only one touchdown, and that was only after the Irish spotted the Trojans the ball on their own two-yard line, and gave USC four tries to run it in.

Looking at the drive chart, it’s hard not to marvel at the work the Irish did. The Trojans didn’t mount a single drive over 46 yards. More impressively, the Irish handed the ball over to the Trojans four times in their own territory, and USC only managed 16 points. There’s playing “really well,” and then there’s playing dominant.

Diaco’s defense was dominant today.

2. This spread offense was far from finesse today.

The Irish won another game in the trenches, this time behind the running of redshirt freshman Cierre Wood and senior Robert Hughes. The duo combined for 158 yards on 26 carries, just over six yards a crack on a Trojan defense that’s played well against the run. Wood, who Irish fans hoped would break big plays did his part — exploding on two counters for huge gains, including one that sprung a touchdown drive in the final minute of the first half. And Hughes did what many have waited four years to see, bulldozed his way through a Trojan defense that moved backwards on impact with the bruising 250-pound back.

Kelly explained why he put the game in his senior running back’s hands, turning to Hughes on four of the final five plays on the Irish’s game winning drive.

“We felt like we needed to get north and south and down hill,” Kelly said. “He’s starting to run the way I think Robert Hughes should run. That’s low pads, running people over. He’s not a finesse back. He took to that the last month of November and we felt that we needed to get North and South.”

The Irish dictated terms on that drive when it was clear to everybody in the stadium that Tommy Rees wasn’t going to be able to throw the ball. But after a quick Rees completion, the Irish ran it for 26, 6, 12, 13, and finally 5 yards — a dozen yards a carry to win a football game in the fourth quarter. That’s certainly not finesse offense, and Ed Warinner’s troops deserved the In-N-Out Burgers they got on their way to the airport tonight.

Notre Dame has now out-rushed six of their opponents this season (Purdue, Boston College, Western Michigan, Utah, Army and USC). The Irish are 6-0 on the season in those games, and own a 26-game winning streak when they outrush the opposition. That’s more than a data-point.

3. All of a sudden, the Irish own November.

If you’re looking for a reason to believe in Brian Kelly, he’s given you the evidence you need this month. Closing October with a heart-breaking 28-27 loss to Tulsa, the Irish reeled off an undefeated November, the first time they’ve done that since 2005.

“All the work we’ve done during the year, points towards where you want to play your best football, and that’s November,” Kelly said. “It validates the plan that’s been in place since day one. Yes, a victory helps in some on those other perceptual issues that are out there, but for us we knew we were on the right track.”

November games at the Coliseum usually are marked with memories of an out-classed Irish team getting run off the field by the better athletes in Cardinal and Gold. But the Irish held their own all evening, limiting the Trojans to only 12 first downs, and just 16 points, the stingiest effort by the Irish defense since 1998, when No. 9 Notre Dame lost to the Paul Hackett-led Trojans 10-0 at the Coliseum.

It’s hard not to see a transformed roster when watching Notre Dame play this month, and the work of Kelly, his staff, and Paul Longo is paying dividends.

4. Redemption is sweet for senior Smiths.

Funny how the Harrison Smith narrative changed before our eyes this evening. Even the veteran safety noticed.

“It was close,” Smith said. “I’m glad I said my prayers.”

Ronald Johnson’s drop gave the Irish new life and Smith snatched the Trojans away with the game-clinching interception. It’s the culmination of an outstanding regular season for Smith, a year that shouldn’t take a backseat to any defender on the roster. Harrison had six tackles, a pass break-up, and the game-clinching interception, once again clocking heavy minutes for a defensive backfield that relies on the Tennessee native’s leadership, especially one down to just three healthy safeties this trip.

In the linebacking corp, senior Brian Smith was putting together another outstanding football game. Smith’s five tackles, and two critical pass break-ups gave a satisfying finish to the senior’s career.

“It just puts an exclamation point on a career that’s had some ups and downs,” Smith said. “I’m just so happy that we got this win against a great USC team in the Coliseum.”

Smith continued to take on a leadership role, rallying the team in the games closing minutes.

“I told the team, ‘Look, we’ve been in these situations before, and came out on the bottom. This is our time right now, what a better time to do it. It’s time for us to put a stamp on this Notre Dame football squad.'”

Thanks to some luck of the Irish, and two great games by some embattled leaders, the senior class is the first to walk out of the Coliseum a winner since 2000, a team that was led by guys like Joey Getherall and Anthony Denman.

5. Seven wins unlocks some intriguing bowl scenarios.

A 7-5 Notre Dame football team is far more attractive than the 6-6 version that could’ve exited Los Angeles. Without a game on the horizon, expect all the focus to turn to the Irish’s postseason plans.

While both Kelly and athletic director Jack Swarbrick were mum after the game, expect the seventh win to punch Notre Dame’s ticket to Orlando for the Champs Sports Bowl, with a potential opponent being one of the top three teams in the ACC.

The win allows the Champs Bowl to select a seven-win Notre Dame team over a Big East team with more wins once during a three-year window, and there may not be a better year to avoid a Big East school as a bowl chairman than this season.

A “prestige bowl” with a late December date is far from what many Irish fans suspected after losing to Tulsa that dreary late October day, and gives the Irish the opportunity to win eight games during season one of the Kelly era — a more than acceptable number considering the turmoil of the season. More important than the win total is the very important ‘W’ that went the Irish’s way this Saturday night.

As the Irish football players filed out of their locker room, smiles on their faces and iPods connected to their ears, it dawned on me that it’s been a long time since an Irish football team has felt this way. How long? Well, consider the last time the Irish beat USC, the iPod hadn’t even been released yet.

Sweet music for Irish fans, indeed.

  1. 9irish - Nov 28, 2010 at 2:44 AM

    Well, happy to say, they have finally “jelled”, but the damn season is over…still a very good thing though. I wish we could play some of those other games over again.

    Most important thing, however, even though they shot themselves in the foot several times, they just flat out BEAT them….they were a better team. Other times this year they were better and they let themselves get beat…they have learned a lot. I loved every minute of it!

    Go Irish

    • domer77blowsgoats - Nov 28, 2010 at 10:37 AM

      Here Domer77, here boy. My God this one is ripe for the picking. It is a shame the season is over as this young relationship is just beginning to blossom…

      oh 9Irish, Urban Meyer doesn’t look so “yummy” now after getting crushed yesterday

      On the brightside for you, there were plenty of wet and slippery players on the field last night, “Loved every minute”

  2. ndfootballfan4life - Nov 28, 2010 at 3:55 AM

    the past few seasons, in a situation like we were in tonight, I would have said to myself, “how will they lose this game?” Tonight, somehow I knew we were going to stop USC. We finally got some plays to go our way. What a way to end the regular season.

    • joewyoming - Nov 28, 2010 at 11:38 AM

      Agreed. Go Irish!

  3. fightinmad35 - Nov 28, 2010 at 9:35 AM

    I am very happy for the players. I’m even more impressed with the coaching staff keeping this team together after so many tough losses. I never imagined beating Utah and SC after that Tulsa loss. With the regular season being over I hope this win does 2 things. 1. Keep MMF and Kyle interested in coming back to make a run at BCS next year. Threat of NFL lockout is gonna really help us there. This team doesn’t lose much as far as players go. The backups have played huge minutes. I think adding Louis Nix in the middle will add some serious beef to this defense minimizing loss of Ian. We lose DWalls but Blanton is more than ready to step in. This is a 5 loss team that really shouldacould have been a 2 loss team with virtually whole team coming back. 2. I hope this stops the bleeding as far as recruiting goes. We have the 2 fastest players in Cali verbally committed, bringing some much needed speed to defense or maybe even return game. We have a prototype NFL defensive end verbally committed with a couple more seriously considering. If Savon and Miles sign on then this team will be a track team on the field next year. I think this win legitimizes BK, his staff and the team going forward. The schedule next year is brutal but this team is equipped to do some major damage. Enough looking forward though, I wanna see another Irish win in a bowl game against a good team. Go Irish!

  4. tlndma - Nov 28, 2010 at 9:45 AM

    A grown man should not be this happy about a football game:) Way to GO IRISH!!!

  5. flandersst1 - Nov 28, 2010 at 9:53 AM

    Great game! When was the last time ND lost the turnover battle 4-1 and STILL won the game?

    All the credit in the world to Bob Diaco. Next year ND will have a top ten defense and at this point, the rest of the country ought to be very concerned.

    Finally, if you are a Man of Troy, there is nothing encouraging about this year. They are headed for several bad years in a row.

  6. jajensen23 - Nov 28, 2010 at 10:10 AM

    Keith,

    Bottom line, you need to work harder. Triple check all of your facts, re-read the media guide, do more research.

    For writers such as you who don’t have the cursory baseline knowledge of Notre Dame football history that most writers covering the team do (i.e. Lou, Prister, Walters, etc.), even of the post Lou Holtz era, you simply need to work harder.

    Writing that we won that 10-0 game back in 1998 shows that you lack that baseline understanding. Most Notre Dame fans remember that game as the one that followed the final home game vs. LSU in which Jarious Jackson was hurt on the game’s final play after getting blind-sided trying to take a safety.

    With Jackson out and Chappell in, Irish offense struggled mightily and did not score, losing 10-0.

    It’s an understandable mistake for someone like you, who as stated does not have the baseline knowledge that most alumni and fans have.

    But what that means is you must work harder than you have been, to avoid mistakes like that. I hope you take this to heart, because you obviously care about what you do, and the responsibilities you have as a writer for the school’s television rightsholder.

    • borromini - Nov 28, 2010 at 12:33 PM

      Yeah that 1998 10-0 Irish victory remark in the article threw me off…For a minute there I thought I was losing my memory because I could have sworn it was us that lost that game… :-)

    • Keith Arnold - Nov 28, 2010 at 12:42 PM

      Okay, JA — I’ll bite.

      I corrected the mistake, which I misinterpreted off the ND fact sheet distributed after the game. I even re-checked my facts last night, and still messed it up. My fault.

      But my “cursory baseline knowledge of Notre Dame football” is just fine. I was a ND student during that game — watched it with my own eyes — and complained about Eric Chappell and coordinator Jim Coletto’s game plan just like you did. Just messed it up writing on deadline trying to get a story out.

      But the “work harder” blast is really getting to me. I’m glad you can point to the one sentence I messed up and not the roughly 10,000 words that I wrote yesterday, including the 5,000 or so I wrote during a live blog that about 3,000 people enjoyed. The guys you mentioned are great writers, but no one writes more or “works harder” on game day than I do.

      I hope you could enjoy the Irish victory as much as you enjoyed telling me how to do my job.

      • whatever82 - Nov 28, 2010 at 1:13 PM

        KA,

        Ignore the haters …. er hater.

      • ndgoldandblue - Nov 28, 2010 at 1:40 PM

        For what it’s worth, Keith, I think that you have the absolute best blog on the Internet that is devoted to Fighting Irish football. In fact, dare I say that it’s one of the best blogs on the Internet, period. Nearly everyday, you post a new and insightful entry about our favorite football team, and, often times, you have two to three posts in one day. Moreover, your information is incredibly timely. I have often seen “5 Things Learned” and “Pre-game Twelve Packs” that have been posted at the “convenient” hours of 3 or 4 a.m. That’s work that you do at times of the day when you, most likely, aren’t obligated to work. You do a fantastic job with this blog, so don’t let one negative evaluation get you down. As a college professor, I pride myself on being tough, but fair. At the end of each semester, even the students who don’t get A’s and B’s tell me how much they appreciated my course. However, there’s always one student who hates it and hates me, and it’s always that one dissatisfied student who gets to me.

      • flandersst1 - Nov 28, 2010 at 5:19 PM

        Keith,

        Your articles are brilliant and definitely the best insights about ND on the web. For jensen to suggest, nay assert, that you don’t work hard enough is absurd.

        You game day blogs have dramatically increased the viewing experience. Thanks,
        Steve

      • tlndma - Nov 28, 2010 at 9:10 PM

        Keith, just got the JA thing, clever.

    • socalgold - Nov 28, 2010 at 1:25 PM

      Get over yourself. Care to post what you do for a living and where? Keep up the good work Keith.

    • danno27 - Nov 28, 2010 at 5:46 PM

      Wow jensen, what a tremendous ass you are. Go Keith! Go Irish!

    • florihole - Nov 29, 2010 at 3:13 AM

      a ‘holier than thou’ ND fan, who’d have thought…… lol

  7. ndgoldandblue - Nov 28, 2010 at 11:10 AM

    All right. Keith. I have a very important question. I was just checking out the bowl probabilities on ESPN.com, and ESPN, like everyone else, has projected that the Irish will go to the Champs Sports Bowl. Here’s the thing: this is the only bowl that doesn’t have a television listing. Every other bowl appears to be on TV, somewhere. Don’t tell me that this game won’t be on television. Also, if this game is on ESPN3, like the USC game, I won’t be able to watch it. I was able to watch last night’s game because I’m at home, where I have a cable internet connection. I’m spending Christmas and New Year’s at my wife’s parents’ house in South Dakota where they think that a slow, dial-up connection is considered new-age technology. They have a dish with all the ESPN channels available but an internet connection that is slower than…well, I can’t think of an analogy, but it’s really slow. Tell me that I’ll be able to watch this game.

    • tedlinko - Nov 28, 2010 at 11:26 AM

      Multiple different online outlets have it listed as on the main ESPN channel, for what that’s worth.

      http://msn.foxsports.com/collegefootball/story/BCS-Bowl-Games-Schedule-2010-2011

      http://www.collegefootballpoll.com/bowl_games_bowl_schedule.html

      http://www.fanblogs.com/bowl_games/008372.php

    • borromini - Nov 28, 2010 at 12:35 PM

      Don’t worry…there won’t be a bowl game that goes untelevised…not happening. The whole purpose of the bowl games…these days…is to make money and not having a bowl game televised would be financial suicide for that bowl.

    • danno27 - Nov 28, 2010 at 5:49 PM

      Dude. I’m from South Dakota, lay off. Actually, you’re right. I was in South Dakota for thanksgiving and didn’t get to watch the USC game because ABC thought people here would be more interested in watching Okies battle it out, argh.

      • ndgoldandblue - Nov 28, 2010 at 9:08 PM

        Really? What part of the state are you from? My wife’s from the Watertown area, just by the Minnesota border. I’ve got nothing against SoDak. It’s just that every time I go there, all we do is sit around, watch TV, eat a bunch of food and drink until we’re trashed. By the end of a long visit, I can’t even fit into the clothes I brought with me.

  8. c4evr - Nov 28, 2010 at 11:26 AM

    2 things:
    A. Great defensive showing in the coliseum. The line of scrimmage is where games are won and lost and the O line and D line are making real strides. If nothing else this year, that is the most encouraging sign of the past decade. But I have to ask one question for all you guys – H Smith back for a 5th year? Yes or no?? the interception did little in my mind to overshadow the slip and fall a few plays before that almost handed the game back to SC. If he comes back next year, we’re almost assured giving up one big play every game. It would have made the stellar defensive job by the rest of the team an historical footnote had the Irish lost… Just venting a little. Perhaps it’s the last bit of Charlie-itis he had to get out of his system.

    B. Rees displayed his greatest talent, in my opinion, by staying on target despite his 4 turnovers. Someone that young should not be able to stay that composed in that place in a game this big.

  9. jerseyshorendfan1 - Nov 28, 2010 at 12:13 PM

    5 Things I learned:

    1) We beat USC despite 4 offensive turnovers in our own territory. The D really stepped up big tonight.

    2) I forgot how good Robert Hughes is and how punishing his running style can be. Too bad he is a senior.

    3) A little bit of luck never hurts….example: the drop by Ronald Johnson at the ND 15 yard line with under two minutes left to play and nobody within 10 yards of him.

    4) Kelly beat USC on his first attempt just like, wait for it…………….Lou Holtz. Omen? Perhaps.

    5) We are a better team in November than we were in September. Just what BK was looking for….everybody buying in. I already can’t wait for next year. I had the Irish pegged for either an 8-4 or 7-5 campaign this season but never thought the win column would include USC or Utah, nor did I think losses would include Tulsa and Navy.

    Consider this:

    We are 1 fake FG away in OT from being 8-4 (Michigan State)
    We are 1 missed chance for a FG away from 9-3 (Tulsa)
    Better days are definitely ahead.

    • tedlinko - Nov 28, 2010 at 2:26 PM

      Well along those lines we were one Dayne Crist injury from likely beating MIchigan – we nearly did it even with Crist missing virtually the entire first half.

      The only two teams who really beat us this year are Stanford (who’s about top 5 in the country) and…well…Navy. That one still sticks with me – although the Middies are a tough team.

      As to the Lou/USC omen comment, the same thought sure crossed my mind last night. That game was also won with a late comeback — albeit a much bigger comeback –to cap a season full of close near misses. We finished that season 5-6, but 5 of the losses were by a total of 14 points. The only team that dominated us was Bama. The SC comeback set the stage for the next season and the National Championship two years later.

    • papadec - Nov 28, 2010 at 3:57 PM

      You could stretch that a little more – going for, and making, a short field goal at the end of the 1st 1/2 vs Michigan. That would have put the Irish a field goal away from winning the game and a 10-2 season. But, the bottom line is that – it is, what it is. The Irish have built the foundation that Kelly was designing and building all season. I owe Coach Kelly an apology for my rant (several weeks ago). I humbly offer that apology. A win over Miami in the CHAMPS Bowl would be icing on a Holiday cake. The 28th would be my parents 69th Wedding Anniversary (if Dad were still alive).

    • kidmarc - Nov 30, 2010 at 12:03 PM

      You are one-dropped-pass-by-a-wide-open-receiver from being 6-6. :-) (the door swings both ways)

      Peace

      • jerseyshorendfan1 - Dec 3, 2010 at 11:24 PM

        I heard you swing both ways.

  10. oldhighs - Nov 28, 2010 at 1:09 PM

    I remember when I asked in a chat why Brian Smith wasn’t on the field more, and the jagoff blogger gave me some smartass answer.

    • 1notredamefan - Nov 28, 2010 at 1:37 PM

      If you have paid attention to what has transpired throughout the year “puppy” was not very good last year or the beginning of this…..and Kelly was the first to acknowledge the fact! It is great he has turned things around and started playing great sound fundamental football! Now for you to not know that is a testament of your lack of knowledge surrounding the situation….NOT an answer that was merited for the time! Jag-on commenter GO IRISH!!!

      • oldhighs - Nov 28, 2010 at 2:11 PM

        Who on the Irish defense played well last year? Even Te’o was missing easy tackles, there was no pass rush and the secondary was awful.

        Early this year, how would we have known? Brian Smith wasn’t on the field.

        Sorry, I don’t exactly trust Kelly’s judgment. From the looks of this season, Kelly had problems figuring out what this team’s strengths are. Hopefully the recruits he brings in are better at playing Kelly’s kind of football.

      • 1notredamefan - Nov 28, 2010 at 2:27 PM

        It’s buying into the “Idea” that is the whole Idea! It’s Team before I and Brian Smith along with a lot of other players were “I” players…. The guys you didn’t see on the field were more than likely not there because of self-centered reasons! This team has become a “TEAM” as a whole and we have all been privy to it as the season has progressed. Harrison Smith is 1 example, Teo was a true freshmen? Did you really expect senior leadership from him last year?

        I would like to just agree to disagree on the matter, I am obviously not going to make you understand my point…. No need to argue after the fact opinions and a fore-mentioned realities… GO IRISH!!! GREAT win and I am proud of every one of you!

      • kidmarc - Nov 30, 2010 at 11:59 AM

        People should not buy into everything BK says without a thorough investigation. The “I vs Team” aka “entitlements” (as BK put it) was not there for these players. Previous coaches also supported the “team player” mentality. BK used this marketing shpeel to explain away what the team has been suffering from without thoroughly understanding what the problem(s) is(are). Maybe he did so because he felt pressure to answer a question as to why… In any case, it was stupid to travel down that road.

        Also, people should stop using the “entitlement” mentality and statement. You sound ignorant using it.

        Peace

      • 1notredamefan - Nov 30, 2010 at 3:49 PM

        really? So who gave you the right to let people know how everyone feels about one another?

  11. ndsloth - Nov 28, 2010 at 2:00 PM

    I think we should be careful in our praise of Cierre Wood, as he’s still a work in progress. On that final drive he fumbled at the end of a very nice run, which could have ended the game for us. He was also directly responsible for the Rees fumble, after he completely whiffed on his block that would have kept that LB from nailing Tommy from the blindside. If you notice, Wood didn’t play the series after that fumble. It wasn’t until the very last ND drive that Kelly put him back in, only to take him out again after he fumbled.

    Don’t misread this post — I love where Cierre Wood is going, it’s just that he’s a young player who I think has a lot of work to do before we can heap too much praise on him. (I’m also in part reacting to the irony of the missed block, given the SBTribune’s article touting how much he had improved in that area yesterday morning.)

    Go Irish, and keep up the hard work, Cierre!

    • fightinmad35 - Nov 28, 2010 at 4:15 PM

      I’m pretty sure that was Hughes in the game and missed that block that led to fumble.

      • ndsloth - Nov 29, 2010 at 11:56 AM

        Oh my…you’re absolutely correct! My complete apologies to Cierre Wood. Wow; Hughes has a lot of work to do then!! ;)

  12. jajensen23 - Nov 28, 2010 at 2:40 PM

    Keith,

    Thanks for responding to my comment. You’re right, I went a bit overboard there.

    I just couldn’t conceive how someone who followed the program during that era could have made a mistake like that. The decision to take the safety vs. LSU and the shutout at SC cost us a BCS-level bowl bid, relegated us to the Gator and partially doomed Davie’s tenure.

    But I should not have made the leap that the mistake was more than just that and was due to a lack of knowledge of the program’s history.

    Keep up the hard work in the spirit of Notre Dame

    • Keith Arnold - Nov 28, 2010 at 3:47 PM

      All good. Didn’t mean to bite back quite that hard either. That safety decision was one of the all-time blunders in the recent history of ND football. If that happened today, Davie wouldn’t have lasted the season with the internet revolt.

      Now let’s get back to talking about ND’s first win against USC in ages.

      • jerseyshorendfan1 - Nov 28, 2010 at 6:21 PM

        I’m glad to see you two guys buried the hatchet. Truth be told, Keith would have had every right to retaliate and go to ja’s place of employment and knock the corn dog out of his hand. KA, we love the site, love the live blog and can’t wait to be online for the Champs Sports Bowl. Thanks for a great season, your hard work is much appreciated.

        Your Pal,
        Art Vandelay

      • jajensen23 - Nov 28, 2010 at 6:23 PM

        Can you delete my comment? I feel bad about it.

      • jerseyshorendfan1 - Nov 28, 2010 at 6:34 PM

        Additionally, I forgot to mention the nice imagery you used with the rain finally washing the slate clean with USC. It is rare to find a good sportswriter who can get all the facts in while still producing an engaging read full of literary devices the way you do.

      • 9irish - Nov 28, 2010 at 11:01 PM

        Art Vandelay? the architect? you did a fine job on the new ND stadium

  13. 1notredamefan - Nov 28, 2010 at 6:09 PM

    1 thing that is starting to eat at me: Why is it when we couldn’t wipe our own ass with our play we had countless comments streaming in about how bad we were from supposed “TRUE” Irish fans? Why is it that when we are winning and actually looking like a real contender at any level those fans aren’t on here voicing their happiness and utter content (also apologies) for our beloved football team? Now I’m not one to count my chickens before they hatch but I personally believe we may be on to something here and I’m in heaven for our men in the Gold and Blue! Keep it up guys although some of us don’t deserve what you are about to give us! GO IRISH!!!

  14. ndfootballfan4life - Nov 28, 2010 at 7:36 PM

    to whomever asked about harrison smith returning for a fifth year, bite your tongue!! yes he has made some key plays this year (including that pick to seal the game). but his mistakes and poor coverage ability definitely overshadow the plays he has made. I think he leads the Irish in picks this year, but i think he has also dropped about four or five interceptions. including one in the first quarter

  15. papadec - Nov 28, 2010 at 11:16 PM

    OK – all you historians, my son asked me a question toward the end of the usc game. I don’t know the answer. When was the last time a ND Freshman QB beat usc @ usc? My question is – has it ever happened before? I like the idea of playing Miami in the CHAMPS Bowl (for Florida recruiting) – unless we can get a Bowl game in January.

    • terryb101 - Nov 29, 2010 at 11:53 AM

      its really hard to say, for the longest time, freshman couldnt play varsity sports in college,thats why the redshirt rule came out(so players wouldnt lose a year of eligibility ),,and not too many teams play freshmen qbs at all, unless they fail to recruit properly, and the starter gets hurt..the 51 to 0 beating laid on usc in 1966 at usc,had a sophomore named Coley O’Brien making his first and only start that day..thats as close as i can get fer ya

      • 9lirish - Nov 29, 2010 at 12:15 PM

        Matt LoVecchio in 2000. He actually won his first 7 starts before being punked so bad in a cab one night by a bunch of “green clad gents” from Knott Hall on the way back from Boat Club that he lost his will to play the game…

      • terryb101 - Nov 29, 2010 at 12:18 PM

        found it Matt LoVecchio nov 25 2000

      • jerseyshorendfan1 - Nov 29, 2010 at 12:30 PM

        You guys beat me to the punch…..Lovecchio (A NJ boy) went 9-14 passing for 142 yards and ran for his first 2 rushing TD’s being named Independent Football Player of the Week by collegefootballnews.com. Ultimately gave up the QB job to Carlyle Holiday and then transferred to Indiana.

      • jerseyshorendfan1 - Nov 29, 2010 at 12:56 PM

        Also, Powlus started as a freshman in 1994 but game ended in a 17-17 tie.

      • papadec - Nov 29, 2010 at 11:05 PM

        Thank you all for the responses & information.

  16. kidmarc - Nov 29, 2010 at 12:05 PM

    1. Irish fans, some of you owe Bob Diaco a very big apology.

    Nobody owes Diaco an apology; at least not yet. Give him another series of games and see if it is genuine or just circumstantial.

    Peace

    • tedlinko - Nov 29, 2010 at 12:28 PM

      Actually, much of the criticism of Diaco is based on one game – the admittedly horrible loss to Navy where Diaco’s defense failed to show up. (of course so did the rest of the team.) But in the 4 games since, I believe that the Irish defense has given up a total of 2 touchdowns, and on one of those the offense gave the other team the ball on the 2 yard line and it still took 4 tries. Seems like a pretty good series of games to me.

      Remember, as painful as the loss to Tulsa was, the defense didn’t lose that game. In fact the defense almost won it despite the mistakes by the offense and special teams — and of course Kelly passing up the field goal.

      Whether or not anyone should apologize for anything isn’t mine to say. But all in all, I’d argue that the defense is the main reason the Irish are going bowling this year.

  17. tommytd - Nov 30, 2010 at 6:16 AM

    They were one lousy play call by the head coach away from beating Tulsa as well. Kick the field goal and you would have had 8 wins!

    • c4evr - Nov 30, 2010 at 5:32 PM

      Well, if we’re going down this road… kick the ball at the end of the first half against Michigan and win with another kick in the game’s final seconds for win #9. And, oh yeah, don’t ‘fall’ for the fake kick against MSU and you are up to 10 W’s. And don’t forget Navy and Stanford… on second thought, do forget them.

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