It’s been hard to figure out exactly where to start with this game and just how in depth that I should go with this post. Obviously the hot topic on Twitter was the QB choice for ND, but I want to be clear, I will not even touch on that topic in this post. I need to re-watch the game (sober), and take another look at just how each QB did because stats alone will not to the comparison any kind of real justice.
I will check out the online replay tomorrow and enjoy other football games for today. Expect to end your labor day weekend with that breakdown. For now though, it’s time to discuss the more obvious aspects of how everything feel apart on us and give some props where they are due.
The best news to come out of yesterday’s game is that ND left the game with a top-25 defense as giving up only 254 yards places them 25th in the nation. Considering that damn near every team above them played either an FCS or non-BCS team, you have to be damned happy with how the Irish defense held it together despite everything falling apart around them.
They didn’t make too many mistakes, and only gave up one TD drive to USF all game long. While that drive was 80 yards, the longest play was 18 yards. The drive was aided by two ND penalties by Gray more than anything else, with the first one being a personal foul near the start of the drive and the second being an pass interference call on a pass that could have very well ended the USF drive and force them to settle for yet another FG. If you check out the play again, Gray had great position on the play and, had he turned around, would have easily made the play with no flag.
Make no mistake, our defense is a weapon and the hype on them is real. I can’t wait to see them take on Michigan next week for some much needed redemption after falling apart at the end last year.
As I said before, I’ll go in depth on QB performance tomorrow, but considering that we had three INTs in the game, we have a silver lining that we do, in fact, have a passing game and a damned good one at that.
The star of the day on offense though for me was Cierre Wood. While Floyd was heavily targeted at the end of the game to catch up, Wood started the game on fire and USF simply could not stop him. His 104 yard performance lands him 31th in the nation and he did this on only 21 carries, giving him 4.95 yards/carry.
Yes, we had a RB that damn near had 5 yards/carry. Normally, this would have people doing cartwheels; however, Wood’s performance was beyond sullied by all the mistakes and turnovers that plagued yesterday’s game.
Granted, USF does have an inexperienced D-line (as I mentioned in the preview post), so it will be interesting to see if Wood can keep the momentum going. Personally, I think he showed that he is ready and is the real deal this season. He flat out ran people over all game long and it’s a shame we had to go into passing-panic mode towards the end.
Turnovers and Other Mistakes
The story yesterday is of course all of the turnovers. The Irish coughed up the ball 5 times, starting with just a simply awful fumble by Jonas Gray on the first drive (bad day for Grays yesterday) that was immediately returned for a touchdown. That’s a 14 point swing right off the bat.
Then Crist threw an INT that should’ve been a TD. The resulting USF drive was a field goal attempt that missed. Thankfully there were no points off of turnovers there, but the INT should’ve been a ND TD, making this mistake a 7 point swing. Combined with the last turnover, you are looking at a 21 point swing in the game and we aren’t even out of the first quarter yet.
If you will remember that, before that INT, Wood had a TD run that was brought back because of a Floyd holding penalty, adding insult to injury for that whole drive.
Riddick, who had a simply awful day attempting to field punts, started his messy return day off by muffing a punt and swatting the ball behind him. Thankfully, the defense held USF to only a FG on the resulting drive. That’s 3 more points off turnovers, totaling 10 in the first half (and the point swing 24). Riddick also had trouble with punts all day long and, in all honesty, didn’t really field one cleanly all day long. With as much hype as we had for him coming into yesterday, this was very depressing to say the least.
The final two turnovers came by means of Rees interceptions: one off of T.J. Jones’ helmet and the second on an awful pass to start ND’s comeback after the second weather delay ended. Obviously, the first INT is on Jones. The pass was perfect and T.J. was just simply not looking. The second INT appeared to be all on Rees (again, I’ll re-watch tomorrow).
While neither turnover resulted in USF points, the first one did cut what should’ve been an Irish scoring drive short. That’s at least 3 or 7 points gone right there, making the point swing either 24-31 in USF’s favor.
Add on Ruffer missing a FG and takes another 3 points the Irish left on the table. USF had another missed FG to match, so that doesn’t affect the point swing at all; however, the missed FG stings hard considering that the Irish only lost by 3.
To add insult to injury, the Irish were penalized 8 times for 73 yards. And as stated before, one of those penalties kept a USF drive alive, allowing them to tack on a TD instead of a FG. In my mind, that’s 4 more points given up by the Irish right there.
If we add that final number to the point swing range, we are looking at a 28-35 point swing in USF’s favor. That’s 14 USF points off turnovers/Irish penalties and 14-21 points that ND failed to score for the same reason.
Despite all this, the Irish still had a shot at the onside kick, and to be honest, they had it. Floyd, however, sat back on the ball instead of attacking and fighting for it, allowing USF to scoop up the kick to put in the final dagger with the Irish’s last mistake of the game.
What to Take from This Game
Obviously, digging yourself that big of a hole on a point swing isn’t going to be giving any team many victories against anyone. The fact that the Irish came so close to actually pulling a win our of their collective ass is pretty damned amazing. The Irish didn’t roll over and quit, fighting all the way, even if they continued to shoot themselves in the foot during the entire journey.
Beyond that, you can also see that we have a damned good defense with the potential to be one of the best in the nation. Keep in mind they had such an incredible performance while being placed back out onto the field in awful situations and short rest. Imagine what they can do when their offensive counterparts actually start clicking. Further imagine what they can do when they start causing some turnovers as well.
The defense is damned good and we should be very excited about it.
If the offense can iron out their mistakes, they will be a force to be reckoned with. We aren’t just a passing team anymore and any defense that approaches us as such will see Cierre Wood making them look like fools.
I know yesterday sucked. I’m still pissed off about it even today and I’m sure watching this cluster again tomorrow will make me rage again. However, this game is not the end of the world. This game was the definition of “beating yourself” and, if the Irish execute, they will put on quite a show.
I know that doesn’t make the loss any better and I hate silver linings myself. But it’ll be ok…(please, please let it be ok…)