ND Football, The Reoccurring Nightmare

Under the lights in the Big House, the Irish put together another 500+ yard game, ending a full 60 yards ahead of hated Michigan.  They once again had their improved rushing game flourish, falling just two yards short of 200 total rushing yards.  Rees had another 300+ yard passing day, Wood had another 100+ yard rushing day.

And the Irish turned the ball over 5 times, again.

To add insult to injury, we had a flashback to last year as well.  Once again, Denard Robinson led a last minute comeback drive that spanned 80 yards to put yet another dagger in the Irish.  This time he pulled this drive off with just 30 seconds on the clock, using only 28 of them.  It took only three passes, only one of which feel incomplete.

We can dispel the myth that somehow Tommy Rees somehow magically makes this team play better (that isn’t meant to slam Rees, but, hopefully, I never have to see that argument again).  The number of drops might have gone down from last week, but the same number of turnovers remain, with the most crushing on being a Rees fumble that I can’t even begin to explain.  That fumble stopped a drive that could have put the game away.

In fact, the phrase “failing to put the game away” is the story of this entire game.  Unlike USF, the Irish came out and played to perfection.  They forced two Michigan three and outs and turned each of their resulting offensive possessions into TDs.  Michigan finally got their first first down on their third drive, but immediately followed it up with an INT.  The Irish had a chance to go for the kill, but failed and punted.

That drive was just the first of many missed opportunities for the Irish, but despite all that, the Irish still had a 21 point lead heading into the fourth quarter.  Granted, Michigan scored a TD immediately to start the fourth, so you could argue it was a 14 point lead.

However, that TD was the most mind boggling thing that I’ve ever seen.  The Irish defense did it’s job, stuffed the attempted TD run and forced a fumble…that Robinson immediately ran in the endzone untouched.

Denard was good but not great.  He barely rushed for over 100, but somehow managed over 300 passing yards on just 11 completions.  Damn near every single completion was an underthrown, lame duck, jump-ball that our DBs just couldn’t adjust too.  Robinson made them all look just silly in the most unimpressive fashion, ending with Gary Gray again forgetting to turn his head around to find the ball in the endzone.

I’m not even sure what to say at this point.  During USF, the Irish could never get anything going.  Against Michigan, we failed to close out what could have very well been a blowout win and at worst, should’ve been a single possession victory.  Both times though, turnovers and mental errors allowed two inferior teams to beat us.

Next week, Sparty comes in and is easily the best team that we will face yet.  With this season nearing life support early, we are once again looking to next week for the Irish to put it all together, stop making mistakes and play the football we know they are capable of, putting together the flash they showed in the first quarter and extending it for a full game.

It isn’t a lack of talent.  It isn’t a poor head coach.  I don’t believe the entire team is of the “here we go again mindset”.  I’m sure there are players that have it, but I believe it is a minority and I hope they find their way to the bench soon.

There is still hope, but admittedly, it’s fading fast.  For the Irish to hit their BCS hopes, they will basically need to run the table.  There is no other option.

This next week is going to be one of the most pivotal weeks for the Irish have ever faced and one that may very well define Kelly’s tenure.