I’m going to be straight with everyone right now, I’m extremely conflicted about this win. Now I really don’t want to be one of those fans that does his damnedest to try to find every single little thing wrong with the team. I’m not trying to be a downer on the whole situation in the least. It is just that I see some glaring issues right now with what has been out on the field week after week.
I don’t want to take anything away from Jimmy, who made an incredible clutch drive of epic proportions, even if it was against a team we were favored to beat by a TD. The team was crippled with injuries and had major weapons simply watching the game. Yet we still won (albeit, with a little aid from an awful timeout call).
We even got a glimpse of some old-school, smashmouth football when Crist first came into the game. We saw Weis throw the kitchen sink at Purdue as well in that stretch, running a spread option, wildcat, lining Tate up at RB, and simply running right at Purdue and they couldn’t handle it.
But there is still something bugging the ever-living hell out of me. It isn’t so much the fact that ND is failing to put teams away, but yet, why we are failing to do so. The fact of the matter is that in these past three weeks, we seem to put together a solid quarter or solid first half and all seems well. Then, our opposition makes adjustments, and we seem to do nothing but stick to the gameplan.
For instance, Crist isn’t exactly some option QB. He was one of the top passing QB prospects in the nation. Yet for some reason, Weis refused to take the training wheels off of him and stuck to his “package” of running plays and short passes. There was one pass Crist got to throw deep and he overthrew it — ok, it happens, let him do it again. Purdue was selling out on the run and Tate easily burned his man downfield.
For some reason, Weis was set in having Clausen be the only QB that would be throwing any passes that involved any risks and it was irritating the hell out of me. We had Purdue hooked for any play action pass we wanted to throw with Crist, yet we only did it once. Everything else was a short dump route or drag pattern for him — or a screen.
Now, let me take a moment on the screen play. I love the screen play. It is the ultimate equalizer for biting an over-aggressive blitz square in the ass if you call it at the right time. However, I am getting absolutely fed up with seeing Weis continue to call screens on third and long. I know to look for it third and long and so does any other team. We dig into that well far, far too often.
But again, there lies the problem of adjustment. Weis has that pretty little play chart, and he will only call plays inside that pretty little play chart for certain situations and it comes back to haunt us week after week.
You want to know why the running attack worked so well? It is because Purdue had no freaking clue what hit them. Clausen goes out, and so does ND’s biggest offensive weapon — one that they practiced for again and again. Then out of nowhere Crist is acting like Tim Tebow, Tate is lined up as a running back, we are making perfect wildcat reads and Purdue didn’t know which way was up. Then Purdue got to the half, took a look at things, and settled down and were able to have success against the run. Finally, they realized that Weis was refusing to open up the field with Crist so they started selling out for the run with no consequence.
A win is a win, but if we continue to fall into these predictable patterns week after week and refuse to adjust, we will be facing several losses to close this season.
One more thing, while I’m airing my issues with ND out. If our defense does not pull their head out and learn how to tackle, I’m going to lose it completely. That effort in the second half was absolutely inexcusable. What made it even more infuriating was that it looked like our defense had finally gotten it together and was causing Purdue all kinds of havoc in the backfield. Although that meant absolutely nothing after a while, as I sat and watched blown up plays in the backfield turn into 10+ yard gains.
This kind of effort will not win us football games with any consistency. Washington is no slouch (ask USC), and then we have USC just around the bend. If we want that three week stretch to be any kind of productive, what I have seen out there for the last three weeks needs to change or we will be in for more heart attacks like this one — except this time they might just turn into heartbreaks.