We’re almost 36 hours after the dust has settled in South Bend, and the Irish walk away from the game with a 2-1 record. It’s certainly not what people hoped for, but not a doomsday scenario.
While the 33-30 victory was too close for comfort, and the see-saw performance once again calls into question the legitimacy of this Irish squad, a win against Michigan State is always a good thing.
Let’s take a quick look back at the good, the bad, and the ugly.
Offensively, the Irish once again showed their ability to put up points. Jimmy Clausen has ascended into an elite quarterback, showing great touch, good decision making, and world-class accuracy. His toughness was also put on display, as he battled a foot injury for much of the second half while leading the Irish to victory. Armando Allen also continued to assert himself, proving that the faith the coaching staff had in him was warranted. While the sackless streak for the offensive line is over, the line of scrimmage was once again won by the Irish interior lineman, and the offense was incredibly effective in short-yardage situations. More importantly, the Irish showed they could win playing fundamentally balanced offensive football, even without Michael Floyd, who now looks to be lost for the remainder of the regular season.
Also lumped in the good category was the late game interception of Kyle McCarthy. Psychologically, this could be the best thing to come from this game. Notre Dame desperately needed someone to make a play and win the game and the fifth-year senior did it. Time will tell if this was the break the Irish needed, but it sure felt like a defining moment for the Irish defense, and on Saturday, the Irish came out on the right side of it.
The defense once again looked shaky, giving up over 30 points for the 2nd consecutive week. Playcaller Jon Tenuta dialed up plenty of blitzes, but struggled to apply any real pressure on the Spartan quarterbacking combination. The past two games are the first time in Notre Dame football history with both teams scoring 30 (or more) points in both games. That’s a good thing for the Irish offense and a really bad thing for the defense. While Kyle McCarthy stopped Armageddon from happening with his late game interception, the defense needs to find an identity quickly.
Another equally bad — almost ugly — situation is the penalties. In his post-game comments Coach Weis mentioned he was disappointed “not only at the volume of penalties but the type of penalties we had in a couple cases.” He should have been pointing directly at senior Sam Young, whose dead ball penalty late in the 4th quarter almost cost the Irish dearly. Other than the crisp and efficient play of the Irish against Nevada, the team has been plagued by inopportune penalties by the handful, something that will cripple the Irish if the trend continues.
The injury to Michael Floyd was a punch to the stomach to Irish fans everywhere, and a gigantic blow to Charlie Weis’ offensive arsenal. In Floyd’s two seasons with the Irish, injuries could prevent him from playing in 12 of Notre Dame’s possible 26 games. Yet his production in those games, and his eye-popping potential, have made him Notre Dame’s best skill position player since the Lou Holtz era.
Rumors also were flying over the last 24 hours of a broken bone in quarterback Jimmy Clausen’s foot. Weis stayed light-hearted when dealing with his star quarterback’s injury, but admitted that the team would be having an MRI done on Clausen’s toe and arch area of his foot to identify what the problem is.
Losing the two best skill position players from the Irish offense for any amount of time is a crushing blow, especially to an Irish team with very little margin for error.