I figure it would be wise to breakdown the Irish’s home opener sometime before they travel to the Big House to take on the over-practicing Wolverines. Somewhere in there I may want to preview the Dallas Cowboys season too before they kick off against Tampa this Sunday…
Anyways, I digress, back to the Irish and their 35-0 shutout of Nevada, and now their subsequent ranking as the #18 team in the nation. While a win is a win and the fact I’m definitely happy with their performance, what exactly have we learned about the Irish?
Obviously Nevada isn’t exactly one of the stronger teams in the nation, nor one of the strongest teams in the schedule. I’m sure every Irish fan attempted to have a ND basher remind us that “it was just Nevada” despite the fact that there were definitely quite a few people around the nation thinking an upset wasn’t out of the question. However, Nevada isn’t exactly a 1-AA pushover. They still boasted quite a potent offense as they ranked #3 in rushing offense last season — and I don’t care who you play, that is damned impressive (and they managed to rip off 153 yards against ND).
Point is, they were the type of team I saw that could most definitely score on the Irish. In fact, it was something I was expecting. I figured this would be a game in which the Irish would simply prove to be too hard for Nevada’s 119th ranked pass defense to defend in a potential shootout. I’m not sure what the over/under was for this game, but I would’ve definitely been quite confident somewhere between 50-60 points would’ve been put up by both teams. To say I was shocked by the defense pitching a shutout is an understatement.
And that’s probably the first thing I can say we learned about the Irish: the defense looks good.
The Irish simply gave up no big plays, and put good pressure on Nevada in the backfield. The Irish were able to rack up two sacks, and hopefully seeing blitzes hit home more often like this will be the norm this season. The Irish also caused three turnovers…well really, I’ll say the two INTs were their doing, the one fumble was one of the worst option pitches I’ve ever seen, but kudos to the defense for hopping all over the ball.
On the other side of the ball, things are a little bit more cloudy. I really don’t know how ready I am to say the offense will be consistently good for us. Oh sure, Clausen had an outstanding game going 15-18 for and having that translate into video game numbers of 315 yards, 4 TDs, 0 INT (again, that’s on just 15 completions!) and the Irish had 178 yards on the ground, but this happened against one of the worst defenses we will likely see all season.
Don’t get me wrong, I don’t want to take away what the Irish did on the offensive side of the ball at all. My main point here is that I’m not exactly sure how these numbers and performances will translate over to some of our tougher defensive opponents. What I will say though is this: the Irish did what was expected, taking care of business and blowing out an inferior opponent and for that you have to give them all the credit in the world.
Clausen looked much improved. His three incompletions were never in danger of being picks. His passes were only where his receivers could get them as well, and not only that, he often had them in spots where they could continue running.
The offensive line made me very happy. Clausen had all day in the pocket and they opened up some fairly decent holes for the running game. When every run seems to be about 4-6 yards, it is hard to complain and that is something I’ve been dying to see. If you are the superior line, you have to throw your weight around and let the other team know it. Failing to run the ball and relying on the pass against sub-par teams is just asking for trouble more often than not.
To close on the offensive side of the ball, I just have to say Michael Floyd is simply the man. When you can win a jump ball, take a hit, stay in bounds, and then torch everyone on your way to the endzone, you are simply on another level than the rest of the field. I can’t believe this kid is only a sophomore.
On the note of young players, Mantei T’eo seemed to be ever so anxious to play. I have not seen a ND player hit someone so hard in a long time. His biggest hit may have been on a failed screen play late in the game, but it sent a message to everyone, fans included. The second string defense in at the time fed off of it the rest of the game, the fans were buzzing about it, and Nevada’s poor running back was probably wondering were he was. If Weis wants a “nasty” football team still (and I hope he does), T’eo should be the poster child with the intensity he brought to the field.
All around it was a great open to the season and I cannot wait for the Irish to face off against Michigan this weekend.
So to close this little recap off: Go Irish, Michigan Sucks.