12 Things I Learned While Attending RAW

For the first time since I was in high school, I was able to catch WWE RAW as it stopped in Dallas. Today, I had several different thoughts about the show and the WWE in general, leading me to dust this little personal corner of the internet off to put them down.

After all, I don’t think this would fit on Her Loyal Sons at all.

Now, this isn’t going to be a best/worst as Brandon Stroud does that already and does it far better than I could ever do. These are simply the major takeaways that I went home with last night.

So without further ado, here are the 12 things that I learned last night.

1. The PG Era Is Here to Stay

If you are one of those fans that yearn for the WWE to return to the edgier Attitude Era, I suggest you file that dream away indefinitely. While the WWE might sprinkle in a bit of the “good ‘ol days” here and there, the product has changed forever and the WWE would be stupid to kill the current path that it’s on.

The reason for this is simple: money. They are making a killing by being a more family-friendly product.

The last time I attended RAW, the crowd was mostly adults with teenagers sprinkled in. This time around, the kids were everywhere, decked head-to-toe in some cases with WWE merchandise.

As I was standing in line to purchase a single Daniel Bryan t-shirt, families were dropping hundreds of dollars at a time getting things for their kids. One family in front of me got each kid two different things and ran up a total of damn near $300. Another smaller family dropped over $100. Someone with only one kid had a similar $100 total as well.

Now, this may have been thrown off because it could have been Christmas come early for some kids, but I doubt it. Fans like me might grab just one piece, but kids want the fake belts, the fake Daniel Bryan beards, wristbands, replica Santino cobra (yes, that’s a thing), or a Cena foam hand along with the shirts.

It was incredible to watch. I always figured the WWE was making serious cash, but seeing the money fly like crazy last night was beyond what I thought.

As long as that gravy train continues, the PG era will remain.

2. Speaking of Shirts, Buy Them Online

I (wrongly) figured that the shirts would be $25 dollars at the show — basically, with the shipping cost removed. They were $30. I ended up saving only $1.98 by buying my shirt at the show instead of the WWE’s online shop.

The wait, and vastly limited selection, was not worth the meager savings at all. In fact, if I had bought multiple shirts, I would have likely saved money by ordering online.

So if you are going to a show, do yourself a favor and just order shirts well in advance and head straight to the beer line.

3. The Beer Vendor Was a Real Man of Genius

Not allowed to walk up and down the stands to hawk beer? No problem. Just plant yourself in front of the men’s room and watch the money roll in.

Timing bathroom breaks isn’t too hard during the show, especially if you are familiar with how  an episode of RAW plays out, but you do pretty much have to go in and out to make it back in time and not miss anything. Having a beer vendor immediately outside to make my life even easier was just awesome.

I salute you, sir.

4. RAW Is Infinitely More Enjoyable Without These Idiots


Here’s the thing about a wrestling announce team: they have one job and that’s to help promote the talent in the ring and progress their stories. The team of Michael Cole, Jerry “The King” Lawler, and JBL haven’t done this in months.

Week to week they spend more time yukking it up or yelling at each other about things that have zero to do with what is going on in the ring or even the show as a whole. It completely takes away from the product at hand and can ruin otherwise incredible matches.

And that’s doubly so if the Divas are in the ring. They’ll make a series of stupid, sexist jokes or completely dismiss what’s going on in the ring altogether.

The end result is that you get three bumbling idiots that have the exact opposite effect on the product than what they are hired to do.

While I was watching the show live, I could actually focus on the story the talent was telling in the ring. I didn’t have some stupid joke distract me from what was going on in front of me.

It was great. It was fantastic. And if the WWE ever offers me a way to watch RAW without the announcers, I would do it in a heartbeat.

5. The Wrestlers Have More Fun When the Cameras Are Off

The best moment on RAW last night wasn’t televised.

During the Real Americans v Big E/Henry, the Texas crowd let Jack Swagger, OU alumnus, hear an awesome “OU SUCKS!” chant multiple times throughout the match. Henry responded with a “Hook ’em” signal during the match, but Swagger didn’t react at all.

Finally, during the commercial break in the middle of the match. Swagger responded to the chant by signaling O-U with his arms and then throwing down a “saw ’em off” sign.

It was quality heel work. The crowd got pissed and it was beautiful, but no one on TV saw it, sadly.

Likewise, during the Daniel Bryan/Randy Orton main event, Orton did some quality heel work as well. After Bryan took his header out of the ring triggering the commercial break, the referee called for medical attention to Orton who had a small cut over his eye — remember, PG era means limiting blood.

Chants of “Randy’s Fragile” started and then Orton requested water which got the crowd further on his case. As Bryan continued to sell being dead on the outside Randy rolled in the ring and started taking the cockiest water break of all time, posing and taunting the crowd. The crowd stopped the mocking and just booed the living hell out of him.

Again, glorious work, but I’m sad it wasn’t on TV. I know the WWE App now supposedly shows these things, but I can’t help but wonder if they have a bit more freedom to improv when the red light isn’t on.

6. Commercial Breaks in the Middle of Intros Are Super Awkward

C.M. Punk and HBK are having a war of words in the ring and the crowd is getting hot. HBK introduces Punk’s opponent and Sierra, Hotel, India, Echo, Lima, Delta and the crowd just loses their damn minds. The Shield makes their way through the crowd and the ref is having to restrain Punk because he is so pissed and TO HELL WITH IT I’M GOING TO FIGHT ALL THREE AGAIN BY MYSELF.

And then the lights are cut, the music stops, we are in commercial break and the crowd just dies.

If commercial breaks during matches brought me the greatest joy, the commercial breaks during intros were the the balancing act to suck the life out of me. I compare it to being at a ND game, ND getting a huge turnover and then OH HEY NBC TV TIMEOUT.

It sucks and those breaks felt like the longest ever.

However, there is supplemental hilarity of everyone picking right back up where they left off as soon as the lights come back up. It’s like someone flipped a switch in their brains that activates some kind of “activate kayfabe NOW” reaction.

Seeing that all live though is just incredibly awkward. The best wrestling matches in my opinion are accompanied by hot crowds just ready to burst. I’m not sure why the WWE thinks this makes for good TV and I would be happy to see this practice stop forever.

7. C.M. Punk Holds the Crowd in the Palm of His Hand

C.M. Punk may not be dropping the same pipebombs that he did during the Summer of Punk, but he can still definitely claim “Best in the World” especially when it comes to working a crowd. His best work last night was when he didn’t have a mic in his hand.

Punk spent very little time in the ring during his tag match, but while on the apron the guy was doing so many wonderful little things that just made the match awesome. Whether it was acknowledging chants, leading cheers/clapping, or taunting the Shield he was glorious.

Punk wouldn’t allow the crowd to stay completely silent in the match. If he felt the crowd was dead, he’d find a way to get people back into it. From a fan perspective, it made the match far more enjoyable to watch since we were heavily involved the whole time.

I’m sure the majority of this was completely off camera, which is a shame. Much like I would prefer to have a way to watch RAW without the trio of idiots, I want a full ring camera angle that I can watch full-time to enjoy the little things like this.

8. C.M. Punk’s Top Rope Elbow Is Hot Garbage

I’m not sure when this now signature move started sucking, but it looked simply awful live last night. It basically looked like Punk fell down elbow first instead of jumping and really killed some of the buzz I had during the match.

(Bitching about announce team aside: During the TLC PPV on Sunday, after a Punk elbow and two-count, Cole asked “HOW MANY PEOPLE HAS PUNK PUT AWAY WITH THAT ELBOW?” Answer: none. Stop sucking at your job, Cole.)

Perhaps after he botched the ‘Mania elbow he’s a little concerned with going all out with it. That’s fine, retire the move. He does too many other things well than to make a mess out of this over and over again.

9. Sometimes Wrestling Fans Are the Worst

Want to know what’s fun? Explaining to your wonderful non-wrestling fan fiancee what the “we want puppies” chant means during the Divas match. They do this because they never grew up from the Attitude Era that featured King screaming this euphemism for boobies every time a woman came on screen.

Thankfully, the “puppies” chant was isolated to two idiots; however, this kind of goes back to point #4. If the announcing team actually gives a rat’s ass about the Divas while they’re in the ring, perhaps fans get the message that the Divas aren’t there purely for fans to get a potential peep-show.

A fan will realistically get, at best, one shot a year to make their voices heard at an event. So of course, they will do what has been deemed funny/appropriate by not just the talent, but the announcers who are continuously giving feedback to what the wrestlers do and, in reality, are the fans’ best connection to what’s happening.

This isn’t to say a wrestling fan can’t find the Divas sexy (because they most definitely are), but they aren’t out there to strip, they are there to wrestle. If it isn’t your cup of tea, cool, go take a bathroom break. Don’t open your mouth like an idiot and give wrestling fandom a bad name.

10. Runner Up for Worst Fans: “Smarks”

I say “smarks” in quotations because these fans aren’t really a smart mark, but someone that thinks being an aping smartass makes them one. A group of these wannabe-smarks tried to start a “JBL” chant during the Punk/Usos v Shield match. They did this because they watched the post-Wrestlemania RAW crowd do this and it was absolutely hilarious so because LOGIC they did this last night.

The post-Mania crowd is full of legit smarks and what they did worked because they were witnessing a God-awful Orton/Shamus match. The match sucked, neither wrestler looked like they cared, and the crowd noticed they weren’t even paying attention to them so they shat all over the match in very appropriate fashion.

Hilariously enough, that same crowd tried to do something similar to John Cena, a favorite target of any smark (myself included), but Cena played to the chants and got them to laugh. For the rest of the match, they stayed engaged in what was going on in front of them.

Last night, the Punk/Usos v Shield match was quality. I can understand that it might have gone too long for some folks as the pace was a bit slower than other matches (my fiancee in particular got bored a bit), but all the wrestlers were actively playing to the crowd and putting on something that was solid.

Doing smartass chants during legitimately good matches just makes you look stupid. Stop. Save it for something that is truly awful and worthy of your disdain.

Dallas got treated to one of the best RAWs I’ve seen in a while. Outside of Tensai getting smashed in a minute and the Divas match being meh RAW-filler (save for Tamina re-arranging Nikki Bella’s face), we got some simply amazing matches. There was really no place for those stupid chants.

11. Best Wrestling Fans: Kids

Sitting directly behind me was a group of three kids and there were several more around my section. I was slightly worried that they would just be “OMG CENA” all night long, but no, these kids were there to watch the show and enjoy every moment of it.

One of the other highlights of my night was listening to these kids completely lose their minds during the Bryan/Orton main event. When Bryan made a charge back into the match and got a series of near falls, these kids just flipped out on every two count.

It was glorious and another reason why the PG era isn’t going anywhere. Fans like me that have grown up and seen nearly every possible swerve and far too many wrestling matches, knew that there was no way in hell Bryan was winning that match. Sure I got excited into hoping I was wrong, but the reality was always in the back of my mind. The kids though eat every moment up and anything is possible because they haven’t been poisoned by years of crappy story lines and Dusty finishes.

Added bonus, the kids got into arguments on who started “Daniel Bryan” and “YES!” chants first. Spoiler: none of them started any chant.

12. Daniel Bryan Is Stupidly Over Right Now


Here’s the thing, Bryan has always been held in high regard by the smark crowd. He has even turned the corner on winning crowds over regularly as of late. After going to this live show though, he has captured the final demographic that matters the most.

The kids.

As I waited in line to get into the show, I saw a kid, head-to-toe in Cena gear. I’m talking hat, shirt, wristbands, and he wore cargo shorts because CENA. He had a sign: “YES! YES! YES! THE REAL FACE OF WWE DANIEL BRYAN!”

As much as I’ve hated the new WWE shirt designs for Bryan which proudly display a goat, originally used as a Bryan insult, I realized why the WWE did that as soon as I got to the merch booth. The sizes were Adult: Medium and Large and Kids: Medium, Large, and XL — the same sizes as all Cena shirts. The “Respect the Beard” shirt that I got had no kids sizes and also included XL & XXL. The goat bit allows Bryan to be marketed to kids and they are eating it up, along with the fake beards, YES! rally towels, and YES! wristbands.

They were all selling quite well while I was at the booth too. The kids aren’t just chanting “YES!” because it’s fun, but they are actively cheering him on and buying his merchandise.

In short: Bryan is reaching Cena levels, except he’s got the smark like me behind him too.

I am just hoping beyond all hope that this somehow ends in Bryan getting a title shot at Wrestlemania and winning. The guy deserves it and there is no better time than now to pull that trigger.

It’s Not Goodbye…

…it’s see ya later (quick, name that movie!).

Ok, so it isn’t really see ya later either…

As I posted earlier today at Her Loyal Sons, I will now be doing all of my ND and college football blogging over there instead of this little corner of the internet that I have called my home.  Ironically enough, just a couple of weeks after I decided to re-purpose the entire site to be dedicated to said topic!

When DMQ approached me with the idea, I was both a tad shocked and very much honored that he and Biscuit thought I would be a great addition to their site.  HLS easily has a much bigger higher reader volume than my site by far and I am very much looking forward to having a new audience read my work.

To my friends, family, and anyone else that has found my posts from any other source whether it be Twitter, Facebook, NDN, or Google, thanks for reading and spreading my work around.  I sure hope all of you will be following me over to HLS and continue to read my work as well as everyone else that does some fantastic posting over there (yes, even Poot).

And seriously, if you haven’t been reading HLS before, you’ve been missing out and you need to rectify this immediately.

I honestly have no idea what I will be doing with this site and blog in the future, but I will definitely keep it around to archive my posts.  I doubt that I’ll be able to keep up two blogs, but hey, who knows.  For now though, I will for sure be trying to continue to help build the HLS community just like I did for this site (but likely with a lot less tinkering because I don’t think DMQ will let me play with everything!).

I’m very excited and can’t wait to dig in as a member of HLS.  I sure hope DMQ and Biscuit know what they’ve gotten themselves into!

Irish Blogger Gathering: Now with 100% More Twitter

It’s time for another round of questions in the Irish Blogger Gathering.  This week’s edition is hosted by the ND football think tank known as the Irish Round Table.  Make sure to head to their site and check out their host post as well as the rest of the responses from the IBG that will be linked there.

1) Excluding Aaron Lynch, who is your top newcomer of the year thus far (freshman or player that hadn’t seen much playing time in prior seasons)?

Mr. Irish Chocolate himself, Louis Nix.  The 340 pounder has been a large (hey look a pun!) reason why the Irish run defense has improved so much.  The Irish now rank 25th in the country in rushing yards given up per game at 93.  The only rushing TD they’ve given up is the freak fumble scoop by Denard Robinson.

The battle against the run starts up front.  In the 3-4, you need your line to fill in as many gaps as possible, suck up O-line blocks, and let your LBs make plays.  The nose tackle is right at the point of attack for nearly every inside run, making that position absolutely vital to the 3-4’s success.

Without Nix’s contributions, there is no way this defense would be where it is right now.  He’s done a fantastic job and the scary part is that he will get better.

2) We asked our Twitter followers for questions to use in this week’s IBG. Here’s a sampling of what we got. Choose ONE and answer:

Yeah, I’m totally going to cheat here and answer all of them.  Some of these are just begging for a response.

@TheSubwayDomer: If the #NDFB quarterbacks were female super models, who would they be? What would they endorse? #IBG

Ok, I lied, not answering this one. The hell kind of question is this? I expect better, Subway Domer.  Shame on you!

@PerrasW01: Why has the #NDFB program gone to hell since Holtz left?

Bob Davie and Ty Willingham. I’m dead serious. Davie started us on a decline and Ty did so much damage to this team by just failing to recruit (and coach, run a practice, stay away from the golf course…) that we had such gaping holes that Charlie Weis simply could not plug up in time nor could he have hoped to.

Regarding Weis, he just didn’t know how to transition from a pro coordinator to a college head coach.  And, really, you can’t “schematic advantage” your way out of having no offensive or defensive line among other nice talent gaps that Ty left behind.

Now we have been to three BCS bowls since Lou.  Granted, we’ve won zero, but considering we are showing signs of recovery (yes there are signs), I wouldn’t call that completely going to hell.

If you want to talk about going to hell, I’d take a nice look at Miami. It could be a lot worse.

@rpleary: You know that sign that says “Play Like a Champion Today”? What does our offense have against the sign?

Is this a serious question?

Sure the offense isn’t perfect; in fact, we are far from it, but I haven’t seen this team quit.  Despite continuing to shoot themselves in the foot, they come back out and make a game out of it and in the case of Sparty, they won comfortably and in the case of Pitt they won a game they should’ve lost.

Maybe they aren’t playing to perfection, but I don’t believe that’s what the sign asks for.

@chadros: Based on our offense’s performance to date, is the current play calling mix(run vs. pass) the right one? Should we be running the ball more?

126 runs and 155 passes is our current spread.  Considering college football counts sacks as rushing plays, I’ll go ahead and change that to 121/160 run/pass since we’ve given up five sacks total.  That’s a 56.9% pass inclination.

Let’s also remember that the second half of the USF game was pass, pass, pass, and pass some more.  So let’s remove that as a statistical outlier since that’s obviously outside the game plan.

That removes 6 rushes and 35, yes, 35 passes.  We are left with a run/pass of 116/125, resulting in a 51.9% pass inclination.

That sure looks like a balanced offense to me.  Can we finally put this argument to rest? Please? For my sanity?

@yetiisready: Will this be the week we see the “change-up package” AKA “the Leprecat?”

We saw this week one, I believe. I think Kelly is more concerned with Rees getting his act together rather than throwing in additional packages like the wildcat.  Honestly, I wouldn’t expect to see it.

3) If you could have 1 play back this season, what play would you want a do-over? How would that have changed a game’s outcome? Are you sure your do-over would work in ND’s favor?

The Jonas Gray fumble on the first drive of the season. That may not just change the game, that may just change some of the season.  Who knows, the Irish could’ve ended that drive with all the confidence in the world and Crist could be our QB.

I can’t state any of that for certain, but there is no doubt that everyone on the sideline had some thought as most fans did: “Yep, here we go again”.  The Irish have had to rebuild their confidence from drive one and that is no way to get a season going.

4) In 140 characters or less “tweet” a summary of the season so far. Bonus points for hashtags or mentions.

Well this one’s easy: #NDFBIsDeterminedToKillMe

5) Lou Holtz asked 3 basic questions of every player and coach, “Can I trust you? Are you committed? Do you care about me?” In your opinion, which player would every other player give a resounding “Yes” to each of these questions and why?

I would have to go with Manti Te’o.  Just read Eric Hansen’s fantastic piece on him in the South Bend Tribune (and ignore the Creed Lryics).  I honestly couldn’t see any player trying to deny that Te’o doesn’t fit Lou’s questions or that he wouldn’t be the “right kinda guy” that Kelly looks for.

6) Jumbotron. Good idea or terrible idea. What would you do to make it a great idea?

It’s a useless argument that needs to go away.  I am so indifferent on this it’s not even funny.

Sure, it’s great that ND doesn’t have one as far as being super-traditional goes, but in our current days of long NBC timeouts that put the crowd in a lull, I can easily see arguments for it.

Personally, if ND put one up, I wouldn’t be worried about it.  I would have to believe that ND would use it well much like they did in Yankee Stadium.

7) Every week we try to fire up the masses with a “Fire It Up” video. Sometimes these videos are inspirational ballads of kick-ass Notre Dame football. Sometimes they are of a Japanese game show with dudes getting hit in the junk. Submit a video to Fire Up the Irish faithful for the Purdue game.

I’m more or less amusing myself because this is a bit a local sports station does so I expect very few ND fans will get. Oh well, screw it, I’m doing it anyways (along with some bonus inspiration!):

NDtex25: Week 4

With week 4 now in the books, it’s time to take a look at how my little ranking experiment is going.  As always, if you need a refresher on how this works, check out the original post for all formulas.

This week, it appears that everything is starting to stabilize a bit.  There are still some interesting appearances in the NDtex25 this week, but now with many teams having a few games in the books things are starting to look “normal” if you will.  For example, this week, the NDtex25 only has seven teams that are unranked in the AP Poll and eight unranked teams from the Coaches’ Poll.  Only one team from the AP Poll’s top 10 doesn’t appear as well.

My guess would be that next week, my rankings will include nearly all of the teams from the two polls, but in different order.  By the time the first BCS poll comes out, this should definitely be the case.  One thing is for sure though, slowly but surely, the NDtex25 is becoming a bit less of “wtf how did that team make it” and now will be more of a comparison on how my top teams differ from the order that they appear in the polls.

This week’s rankings are below with their AP and Coaches’ Poll ranks also in the table for comparison.

RankTeamFinal ScorePrevious RankAP RankCoaches' Rank
1Oklahoma State114.5156
3Georgia Tech10552121
12Boise State95.251045
15South Carolina90.2530109
16Ohio State89.7582NRNR
17Arizona State89.53925NR
19Michigan State84.7567NRNR
23Mississippi State82.544NRNR
25Virginia Tech81.25131110

Knocked Out (Previous Rank): Ohio (2), Illinois (11), Utah (12), Texas A&M (15), Kansas State (17), San Diego State (18), Texas Tech (20), Wyoming (22), USC (24)

Just Missing the Cut: Illinos, Rutgers, Bowling Green, Kansas State, Missouri

Much like last week, any team that raises eyebrows are still benefiting from blowout wins over middle of the road teams.  Ohio State and Auburn are the best examples.  Michigan State as well rebounded from a multiple possession beating by ND to claw their way back into the top 25.  I believe that much of this is due to the small amount of games that have been played as the blowout wins easily cancel out the majority of the losses and then some.

Once again, the Big XII is king, having five teams in the NDtex25, three of which are in the top five.  The SEC though has the numbers with seven teams appearing the top 25 with LSU cracking the top 5.  The Big Ten also checks in this week with five teams thanks to the crazy additions of Michigan State and Michigan and one team in the top 5.

The worst team in the nation this week: Akron. You’ve made LeBron James proud!

As always, to close things out, it’s time to look at the rankings as they concern Notre Dame:

  • Notre Dame’s Rank: 42 (Previous Rank: 32)
  • Opponent Rankings
    • USF: 5
    • Michigan: 15
    • Michigan State: 20
    • Pitt: 63
    • Purdue: 47
    • Air Force: 84
    • USC: 54
    • Navy: 33
    • Wake Forest: 71
    • Maryland: 98
    • Boston College: 109
    • Stanford: 10

ND/Pitt: Breaking Down Rees

The big story of Notre Dame/Pitt was, once again, the Irish not seeming to be able to get out of their own way, especially on offense.  We’ve all wondered why we seem to cough up the ball so often and against Pitt, Rees was the major culprit.  While other people didn’t help around him, Rees could have prevented each turnover on his own.  The mistakes made are beyond frustrating, but, if Rees is the QB that Kelly believes is the best to lead this team, all of these mistakes can and should be corrected.

I do want to put out a disclaimer that the goal of this post isn’t to bash Rees or suggest that we have a better option.  I don’t watch practices and I only have a single half of video footage of any other QB play.  The purpose of this post is to breakdown the comments I made all game long on Twitter (and the analysts on ESPN made as well) that Rees was “locked in” and “wasn’t seeing the field properly”.  Such statements are easy to throw out, but being able to break down the footage helps to highlight exactly where Rees went wrong and why I damn near pull my hair out on such mistakes.

Let’s start with the opening drive.  Right before the Irish were forced to punt, Rees threw a near INT after a overthrow of Riddick.  This play ends up being a great example of Rees locking on to his target and Pitt selling out in coverage on that fact.

Just after the snap, you can see that Rees has two receivers running down the middle of the field, with only one safety to help.  That safety is watching only one thing: Rees’ eyes.  Once Rees looks to a receiver the safety will then decide which man to cover and which man to leave open.

Rees immediately looks to Riddick and starts his throwing motion.  The safety makes his decision and starts to move Riddick’s direction.  By doing this though, Eifert is now open against single coverage on the right side, which Rees never sees.  Had Rees used his eyes to look the safety off or even did a pump fake, we easily have the potential for a big play.  It wasn’t like Rees had to hurry and make a throw either, just look at the protection around him.

And now we get the eventual result.  The CB on Riddick is actually able to adjust to the route and cuts off the window Rees initially thought he had.  With the safety also coming over the top, this pass just became near impossible to complete.  The throw happens to be overthrown in this instance and would’ve been picked off had Riddick not gotten a piece of the ball.  Rees made a bad decision here and focused far too much on his primary read instead of making the easy adjustment to Eifert’s route.

Next, we take a look at the first turnover of the game, Rees’ fumble.

Before the snap Rees reads a blitz and throws out an audible.  He sees for sure at least two LB blitzing as one is lined up with the D-line and another creeping right behind them.  The final LB circled behind the 30 was also creeping back and forth as well.  Rees sees the potential for six pass rushers to be coming at him at once.

The ball is then snapped and it’s obvious that Rees has misread the blitz package.  Six men are indeed rushing, but the CB circled in red is the blitzer that Rees never saw.  However, missing the pre-snap read isn’t the end of the world.  The CB blitz has left Riddick wide open as the hot route and all Rees has to do is adjust and see it.

We come to our next problem in this play and this time it’s the blocking.  The four offensive linemen toward the bottom are engaged on only three pass rushers, leaving the two blitzers circled in red free to shoot the huge gap created by the initial rush.  Cierre Wood is now stuck in an impossible situation and must at least take care of one blitzer to give Rees enough time to get rid of the ball.  Riddick, circled in yellow, literally has no one around him; however, Rees doesn’t see this as he is locked into the receiver to Riddick’s left.  Rees is still operating off his pre-snap read and believes that the blitz up the middle is going to leave single coverage for his receiver down the sideline.

Wood takes out the closest blitzer and Rees needs to make his decision now on his throw.  He has the entire yellow circled area by Riddick to throw to safely; however, he still doesn’t see it despite looking in that direction down the field.  He is still looking past the correct read and is waiting for the other route he was previously staring down to develop.

The route that Rees was previously staring down didn’t develop to his liking and Rees then makes another critical error that eventually buries him.  He somehow doesn’t see the wide open Riddick and actually turns his vision to the other side of the field towards Floyd, whom, according to his presnap read should have single coverage as well.  Rees has exposed his blindside to the CB he never saw coming presnap, and based on his reactions during this play, never saw at all.  Rees continues to stare down Floyd as he is sacked and stripped of the football.

Now let’s move on to the INT, a play which should have been a touchdown.

This play is called to Eifert and, while ESPN would later criticize Rees for staring him down, I actually don’t have a problem with it.  This is a slow developing route that Rees was waiting on.  As shown above, there are two defenders circled in red.  The defense here is playing a zone and the LB will try and take away the throwing lane below and the saftey, Hendricks (the one that will eventually get the INT) will take away the route above.  Hendricks will again sell out on Rees staring down Eifert, but this time it will work to his advantage.  Eifert will move in the direction of his arrow and Hendricks will completely sell out to the route over the middle.

Eifert then makes his second move and begins to run an out toward the sidelines.  The LB behind him has settled into his zone and is completely unaware of this move.  Hendricks attempting to take away the route over the middle is now dead in the water.

Eifert is now well ahead of Hendricks.  Floyd’s route is run just underneath Eifert so he can clear out his defender in order to leave Eifert wide open.  The trap has been sprung, the perfect play called and all routes run to perfection.  Hendricks desperately tries to catch up to Eifert, but then…

…the ball was thrown to the wrong spot.  Had the ball been thrown to the area in yellow, Rees would hit Eifert in stride with no one in front of him on his way to an easy TD.  However, the ball is thrown to the area in red, forcing Eifert to stop dead in his tracks to readjust to the ball.  Hendricks, who was completely burned on the route and is in full stride attempting to catch up, now has the perfect angle to pick off the errant throw.  While Eifert should have gone forward to ensure the INT never happened, it’s easy to see why he didn’t.  He knew that he absolutely burned his man and had to make a quick adjustment to his route to get into position to catch it.  He still had time to move forward though, but while he could’ve saved the pick, the root cause for the INT is still on all Rees and a very, very poor throw.

After the first half though, Rees did begin to put things back together.  He still had several more moments of not seeing the whole field properly and locking into his primary route, but Kelly and staff actually started to use that to their advantage, trying to open up routes to Eifert all game long.  When Pitt adjusted to that, they would call a play for another receiver, leaving Pitt’s coverage eventually exposed on several plays.  Rees still fit some passes into some tiny windows that are too close for comfort (take a look at the fourth quarter TD), but that plus the above issues can be corrected.

The three plays above were major drive killers and likely took away points (especially the INT, that should’ve been a TD).  To me, it’s starting to become clear that offensive struggles are directly related to Rees not seeing the field and coverages properly along with having some accuracy issues as well.  It isn’t time to go into full panic mode, but I sure hope he can iron out these issues because it will be a long, frustrating season for the offense if he can’t.

Irish Blogger Gathering: Off the Snide

I join the IBG and the Irish start 0-2.  I host the IBG and Notre Dame gets their first win of the season and their first multi-possession win against Michigan State since 1993.

You’re welcome.

This week, our SBNation representatives at One Foot Down have hosting duties for the IBG.  The pressure’s on boys, let’s keep this winning streak going.

The host post is in the link above and my answers to their questions are below.

1. For the first time this season, Notre Dame was outgained in yardage by its opponent.  Some have expressed concern that Notre Dame maybe doesn’t beat State without a kick return for a touchdown and an 82-yard interception return.  Still, Notre Dame won for the first time this season.  What does this win say about this team?  Did we see progress on Saturday? 

Well, it depends on how you wish to look at it.  It’s hard to outgain an opponent when you do get a kickoff return for a TD and get a 82 yard INT return in just offensive yardage.  That stat alone doesn’t exactly tell the whole story.

That’s one of the reasons why I came up with my NTY metric for the NDtex25.  If you’d like to check out the whole formula, you can do so here, but the basic gist is that you take all sides of the ball into account to see the Net Total Yardage for the game (only thing not taken into account is fumble/INT return yards as I have a turnover margin metric as well).  Obviously, you want that number to be positive and if you happen to dip into the negative, you really got your ass handed to you.

However, this stat doesn’t do ND any favors either.  ND’s NTY for the game was 43 and Sparty’s was 222. Even if I include the INT yardage, ND’s number would only be bumped up to 125, still greatly lagging behind Sparty.

So with all that in mind, how do I feel?  Just fine.  Even in my own rankings, I don’t put too much stock in NTY or even TO margin, the big factor is simply: “did you win the game?”.  Every thing else, in my mind, is how I try to separate teams with similar records.  I love stats, but they aren’t everything.

Sure it wasn’t pretty, but we still managed to win the game while not playing our best football and turning the ball over three more times.  Three turnovers are less than five, so there’s improvement there.  The defense didn’t collapse.  And most importantly, there’s a 1 in the win column instead of a 0.

This game says the same thing the last two weeks did.  This is a team that still isn’t playing to it’s potential and has some things that still need fixing.  The turnovers are still too high and the offense needs to step on the throat of our opponent to put games out of reach.

The Irish are still a work in progress, but are no means a bad football team.  I’m still waiting for everything to click because this team will be damned scary when that happens.

2. What three facets of our game do you focus on in practice this week if you’re Brian Kelly? 

1) Ball Security – Obvious facet is obvious.

2) Rees – Unfortunately, Rees threw an INT that was a absolutely horrible mistake, locking in on Floyd and throwing directly into coverage.  Several of us at the IBG have noticed this tendency and it needs to stop.  Yes, Floyd can make amazing plays happen and he should be fed the ball, but even he can’t prevent INTs when awful decisions are made.  Rees is getting better and will continue to do so.  Kelly has mentioned several times that he works with Rees personally, so staying the course there should pay off.

3) Sweep the Leg – The offense needs a killer instinct.  Michigan should have been buried by halftime two weeks ago and Michigan State should have been beaten by much more than they were.  Kelly got aggressive to try and put the game out of reach, but the offense just couldn’t execute.  It’s like some weird mental block that needs to stop and fast.

3. Grade the coaching staff and position groups through three games.

  • Quarterbacks: C
    • Let’s be honest, week 1 was just awful and both of our QBs made some bad decisions.  After taking the reigns full-time, Rees is still far from perfect.  Locking onto receivers and throwing into coverage that should be obvious isn’t helping matters.  There are still flashes of brilliance, but the consistency just isn’t there.  If we compared it to an exam, it’s like Rees will work out the most complicated problem on the test and will immediately get the next gimme question wrong.
  • Running Backs: B
    • This grade would be higher if it weren’t for short yardage failures and fumbles.  Both, however, are showing signs of improvement and the running game is a legitimate weapon for the Irish.
  • Wide Receivers: B-
    • This is a grade that suffers thanks to a very poor week 1 performance by everyone not named Michael Floyd.  Yes, the performance was that bad.  Since then, everyone is starting to click much better and is playing like the weapon we all thought they would be.
  • Tight Ends: C+
    • Again, bad week 1 hurts and Rees is just now getting our TEs back into the game like they should be.  Blocking has been a mixed bag as well.
  • Offensive Line: A-
    • I haven’t had to bitch about the line yet, which means they are doing their job.  Only thing keeping this from an A is the short yardage issues.  Other than that, there isn’t much to complain about at all.
  • Defensive Line: A-
    • It’s been night and day in our defensive trenches compared to last year.  The run defense has been solid all year and the only thing keeping this from an A was the fact that we haven’t gotten great consistent QB pressure…that is, until we actually started Lynch for a change!
  • Linebackers: B
    • Solid play against the run, but struggling a bit in coverage.  I also am slightly sad Te’o hasn’t killed anyone yet.
  • Defensive Backs: C+
    • Thankfully week 3 and Robert Blanton save this grade.  Beyond that, it’s been some awful play to say the least.  Gary Gray is the obvious dog, but no one, Harrison Smith included had stepped up until the matchup with Sparty.
  • Special Teams: D
    • Holy hell has this been awful.  Mr Perfect led the season off by missing a FG and punting is an adventure on both sides of the ball.  Thankfully, Ruffer didn’t let his first miss of the season mess with his head and is back on track.
  • Coaching: C
    • While I have all the confidence in the world that Kelly and our staff is great, they sure haven’t shown it to start the season off.  Turnovers, penalties, mistakes, and everything else in will eventually fall at the feet of the coaching staff.  Much like the rest of the team though, I expect this to get back on track very soon.

4. The season is 25% complete.  If you’re Brian Kelly, what is your mantra for the second quarter of the season?

Forget the second quarter of the season, that’s already looking too far ahead.  The mantra is the same as Kelly has been preaching all season: “one week at a time”.  Kelly has made it a point in every presser to say the previous game is behind them and done.  I expect nothing less.

5. On Pittsburgh.  Did Iowa wrest control of the game from PItt, as was Iowa’s custom last season.  Or did Pitt just implode? 

Let me put it this way, if ND blew a 17 point lead for any reason, how would you react?

Comebacks of that magnitude simply don’t happen without a little bit of help.  Pitt did just that.  Pitt’s three drives in the fourth quarter: Turnover on Downs, three and out, INT.  They allowed Iowa to score on four drives in a row, totaling 261 yards on 26 plays.  Yes, Pitt gave up a little over 10 yards/play.  That’s just awful.

       a. Do any of Pitt’s players or matchups concern you?

Not really.  I mean, sure, if Sunseri gets hot he can put up points, but they’ve played no one impressive.  They beat Buffalo, barely beat freakin’ Maine, and blew a game against an Iowa squad that doesn’t seem so hot themselves this season.  They’ve also allowed 12 sacks.  That’s 4 sacks/game.  They gave up 7 to Maine.

Forget about Sunseri getting hot, if Lynch can replicate last week, Sunseri will be lucky to leave the game in one piece.

Oh and yeah, they kind of completely blew the Iowa game too thanks to a very, very awful defensive effort.

Their TO margin is about as bad as ours as they are ranked 105 in the nation right now with a -1.33 average.

So yeah, not scared.

       b. How does ND vs. Pitt play out this weekend?

Should be a complete blowout for us.  Pitt looks completely overmatched on paper.  However, the Irish love to make things interesting so as usual, the question is: “will we screw ourselves again?”  Getting out of our own way will be key once again and if that happens, it won’t be pretty for Pitt.

Bonus. With three games in the books, this season is one-quarter done.  It’s probably no stretch to assume that football writers also enjoy history, and specifically military history.  Compare Notre Dame’s one-fourth of a season to a one-fourth complete war.  Is it World War I–i.e. are we’re stuck in a war of attrition, with many, many losses still to come?  Is it Grenada–have we already seen the worst, with only relatively smooth sailing to come?  Don’t feel limited to 20th century warfare.  For that matter, no need to limit it to military history–policital, legal, and philosophical warfare is also acceptable.

I’ll take the Civil War.

Kelly is William Tecumseh Sherman and the Irish are the soldiers under his command.  USF was our Bull Run, just simply an awful defeat.  While Kelly put on a strong face, I’m sure he had several thoughts, much like Sherman did about what he got himself into; however, thankfully for the Irish he didn’t take a leave like Sherman did.  Sherman still ran into some issues with his other battles, much like the Irish against Michigan; however, then the battle of Shiloh happened.

At Shiloh, Sherman and the Union were caught completely unprepared, but still somehow managed to pull out a victory, much like the Irish managing to beat Michigan State despite some issues of their own.

What we are waiting for though, is our Atlanta.  That big victory that pushes us over the edge and leads to the Irish going scorched earth on the rest of college football immediately after.  Bonus points if we finish our fiery campaign against an SEC team in the Sugar Bowl so this can actually happen against the South in their own backyard.