Quantum of Solace

Ok, enough of ND Football for now, time for something new. This past weekend, I went out so see the 22nd James Bond Movie, Quantum of Solace so I thought I’d throw my two cents in on the movie. (Note: I will do my best to keep all spoilers to a minimum)

The basic premise of the movie is rather…bland…well, for a Bond movie at least. The main “villain” is an environmentalist, whom as Bond comes to find out is a part of a large organization known as Quantum. This environmentalist is looking to overthrow the current Bolivian government and help a Bolivian General rise as its new dictator (for a fee). Bond, of course, is trying to stop this.

However, that isn’t really the intent of the movie. Much like Casino Royale, we are still watching Bond develop from a rookie 00-agent into the James Bond we all currently know. Bond is still quite motivated by his want to avenge his love in Casino Royale, Vesper. Much like Batman Begins and The Dark Knight, the main focus is on character development.

The movie starts with a quick car chase scene and Bond opening the trunk to reveal Mr. White, the man he shot in the leg at the end of Casino Royale. From there Mr. White reveals he is working for a large organization (which we later learn is Quantum), and they have people everywhere — and we find out he is dead serious as an MI6 agent turns and fires on Bond and M, starting yet another chase scene.

The movie continues following that same formula for the most part: spill a bit of the story, have an action/chase scene, repeat. This makes the pace of movie far, far faster than Casino Royale. There is no doubt that this is indeed an action movie.

The formula, while predictable isn’t what makes the movie successful. You literally see the “old” Bond coming through as the film progresses. Daniel Craig was meant to stick out like a sore thump in Casino Royale — blond hair, bulky build, and far more human than we have ever seen him. In Quantum, Craig starts to blend in — his hair is dyed brown, he fires of many classic Bond one-liners, and develops into a much more smooth and calm individual. Throughout both Casino Royale and Quantum, Bond appears more like Jason Bourne — more like an assassin. At the conclusion though, he begins to act much more like an actual secret agent than assassin.

Bond also starts to develop the much more familiar emotional detachment. I can’t really dive too deep into this without spoiling some major scenes and the ending. But believe me when I say that Bond’s prediction in Casino Royale comes true when he says if he continues being a 00-agent “there won’t be much humanity left in [him].”

It should also be noted that this movie is most definitely a bridge between Casino Royale and the future 23rd Bond movie. As far as the Quantum group goes, don’t expect much closure — in fact, some of the negative reviews that I’ve read and heard have highlighted this. Bond has always been episodic and not followed a continuing storyline so this is a radical departure. Keep in mind, this movie is much more about Bond’s character development rather than the villains he fights and the gadgets he uses. It isn’t a stereotypical “Bond Movie”, but it is definitely the right direction for the series. Previous stories were becoming way too far fetched almost to the point of parodying themselves; in fact, it is no surprise that the Austin Powers trilogy happened to come out during this time as Bond was making it far too easy.

The movie is definitely worth the price of admission and I’d highly recommend it. If you aren’t a fan of Bond to begin with, I would give this movie a shot if you liked The Bourne Identity or Batman Begins.

Final Grade: A-

ND Avoids Shipwreck

Just a quick-hit post on the ND/Navy game.

  1. We should never, ever, EVER again put in the second string when it is only the third quarter and you are only up by 20.  WAY too much time left.
  2. ND had an abysmal first half.
  3. The 3rd quarter (when the starters were in) reminded me of 2005 and 2006 seasons and the kind of offensive dominance we can show.
  4. Clausen had a much better game, but still has room to improve.
  5. The O-Line worries me…it takes a full half to wear down an undersized line?  Seriously?  And then they allowed Navy to cause two turnovers when they laid hits on Clausen.  I shudder to think what USC will do to Clausen if this isn’t rectified fast.
  6. Our turnover ratio is really sucking right now.
  7. We clearly have never tried to recover an onside kick before.  ND just made a perfect “what not to do” video on onside kick coverage.
  8. If you are a Big East referee, you see no issue with Navy using four timeouts.
  9. How did we get beat deep by Navy’s passing offense?  Especially considering we knew they were ready to throw bombs to the endzone every play.
  10. Michael Floyd is out for the next two games — ouch…
  11. In the end, a win is a win.  Time for the Irish to go Bowling this year and end the 15 year drought.
  12. The Irish now have a win against a winning program this season.
  13. This post pretty much sums up my feelings of the ridiculous notion of firing Weis this season.
  14. Dear Michigan, enjoy your 3-9 season.  There is no way in hell you will beat Ohio State.  Welcome to our world, Love ND.

Charlie Weis Is NOT Ty Willingham

While doing my usual ND Football blog run today an ESPN article was linked in which our new AD gave Charlie Weis his vote of confidence. The article itself isn’t what I want to address, but the video attached to it in which Pat Forde and Gene Wojciechowski are asked to grade and evaluate Charlie Weis and said comments. And yet again, they choose to fuel the ridiculous fire that Ty was given a “raw deal” and Charlie Weis is being given “the benefit of the doubt” because we gave him a large contract and are tied down to him. They again wish to claim that if we held the two to the same standard that Weis should be fired.

How in the world people still spew out and buy into this line of thinking is beyond me.

Fine let’s put the two to the same standard. Ty was fired for two reasons: continued declining performance on the field and lack of solid recruiting. Basically, we were convinced that he wasn’t putting the program in the right direction, otherwise known as, he was driving ND into the damned ground.

So let’s compare the two and see how they stack up on this standard. Below is a table comparing both win/loss records and the recruiting class rank that each was able to put together for the next year. We will use three years to hold the two to the standard ESPN wants us to.

Ty Willingham

2002: Record – 10-3, Gator Bowl Loss, 2003 Recruiting Class Rank – 12
2003: Record – 5-7, No Bowl Birth, 2004 Recruiting Class Rank – 32
2004*: Record – 6-5, Insight Bowl Birth, 2005 Recruiting Class Rank – 40

*Note: Ty was fired before the Insight Bowl loss, the Irish lost that game and finished 6-6. Weis also officially completed the recruiting class; however, these were the guys Ty went after. With this in mind, I will not give Ty the Insight Bowl loss and give him “credit” for the 2005 Recruiting Class.

Record: 21-15
Bowl Births: 2
Bowl Record: 0-1
BCS Births: 0
Avg Recruiting Rank: 28

Charlie Weis

2005: Record – 9-3, Fiesta Bowl Loss, 2006 Recruiting Class Rank – 8
2006: Record – 10-3, Sugar Bowl Loss, 2007 Recruiting Class Rank – 8
2007: Record – 3-9, No Bowl Birth, 2008 Recruiting Class Rank – 2

Record: 22-15
Bowl Births: 2
Bowl Record: 0-2
BCS Births: 2
Avg Recruiting Rank: 6

So based on this standard, which coach are you going to hold on to after three years? ESPN loves to say “Hey, look the win/loss records are similar!”. What they, and everyone that wishes to continue to criticize ND for the Ty Situation fail to mention is the horrible recruiting Ty did. He had only one class in the top 25, and that was in his one good season with ND.

Also, you have to look at progression in both categories. Ty got worse every single year. Weis has only had one bad year in record, but despite that, he put together the best recruiting class that he has had to date. Furthermore, he hasn’t had a single class outside of the top 10.

Now, I am not saying Weis doesn’t deserve some heat. If you go 3-9 at Notre Dame, you better receive it, especially when you toted around “9-3 is not good enough” two seasons prior. Coming off the heels of two very disappointing losses with such a season still fresh in the memory of ND fans, you can bet that heat will pick up.

Let’s get the notion of firing Weis out of our heads please for at least this season. There is no way that you are going to fire a coach that had one horrible season, improved the team’s record immediately the following season (again, it is some improvement), and is still looking to put together another top 10 recruiting class (currently, ND is ranked 8 in the nation) despite everything.

Last season pushed Weis towards the hot-seat and this season has planted him firmly on it. Now, if we are in this same spot next season, mediocrity is NO excuse for Weis. Every last bit of next year’s team will be Weis’ recruits and our team will be filled with four consecutive top 10 ranked classes. Our young players will have gotten their experience. Clausen will be pushed by the now red-shirtless Dayne Crist — there is a lot to be said for the intensitity you play with when you know you can easily be replaced in a heartbeat. The defense will have a year’s experience with the blitz-happy tendancies of Tenuta. If ND can’t get at the very least, a major bowl birth and consistently stay in the top 25, then it is obvious that Weis is a great recruiter, solid offensive mind, but not a good head coach.

Let’s wait, however, until we get to that point.

ND Football: The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly

I definitely wanted my first post to be about ND football. Every day I go through various ND Football blogs and keeping up as much as I can with the Fighting Irish, so it made sense (in my head at least) to toss out my opinions as well. However, I wasn’t sure how to go about this post at first. I don’t want to be yet another person preaching ND doom and gloom in my first post, but I also don’t want to ignore the obvious problems the unranked 5-4 Irish have seen in the past two weeks.

So I figure the best way to go about this is do a general overview of what we have right in front of us. After 9 games, there is plenty of information that can allow us to see just exactly what this team is. As Lou Holtz said, “Things are not always as good as they seem and things are not always as bad as they seem.” So with that perspective in mind, I bring you ND Football: The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly.

The Good

Well first off, if you had said that the Irish would be currently be 5-4 at the start of the season, most likely you would be quite happy considering the horrid 3-9 showing last year. That is one of the things any ND fan can hold on to — this season is not nearly as bad as the last. ND should be able to beat both Navy and Syracuse (remember this is the “good” section, let me stay positive for a bit…), and then they travel to LA to very likely have USC beat us for the 7th straight time. This would leave the Irish at 7-5 and a lower tier bowl birth — a perfect spot to snap that God-forsaken bowl game losing streak. So worse case senario you are looking at a 7-6 Irish, and possibly a 8-5 team if they pull out a bowl win. You can slice the record and tear it apart any way you like but the simple fact is that we are winning games that we couldn’t last year and improvement is improvement.

Beyond the record though, we are seeing something for the first time in years: top-notch recruits that are turning into playmakers. And these guys aren’t just turning into playmakers, they are doing it as true freshmen and sophomores.

For the best examples of this, look no further than the WR duo of Golden Tate and Michael Floyd. Tate, originally, a running back easily has some of the best hands on the team and simply has a knack for making big plays. He has the speed to be a deep threat and fights for the ball no matter where it is thrown.

And then you have Michael Floyd, a 6′ 3″ true freshman, that has probably the best potential for growth on the team. That’s saying a lot, considering he already is one of, if not the best offensive weapon on the field. I liken him to Maurice Stovall — a big target with good hands and a great jump ball/fade target. However, with Floyd you can take Stovall’s qualities and then add more speed and a better ability to make something happen after the catch. And again, this kid is only a freshmen. I can only imagine the kind of strength and experience he will be able to gain in a couple of offseasons — the number 3 is definitely in great hands with Floyd.

The talent doesn’t stop in these recent classes either. Weis has still managed to bring in, and still continues to bring in Blue Chip talent. For example, we have QB Dayne Christ now sitting on the sidelines with a red shirt and also have highly touted RB Cierre Wood coming to us next season.

There is no doubt the talent is definitely (and finally) coming into this program. The future definitely looks bright for the Irish and there is definitely a light at the end of the dark tunnel Bob Davie and Tyronne Willingham had made for us.

The Bad

Again to chanell Lou: “Watch out for the light at the end of the tunnel. It might be an oncoming train.” And the train has definitely hit the Irish this season.

Despite the noted improvement in the record, there is one slight problem. Try to guess the win-loss record of the Irish against winning teams this year. If you gave the Irish just one win, you would be dead wrong. The Irish are 0-4 against teams with a winning record. Ouch. You can’t exactly build a winning program if you can’t beat…well winning programs.

Yes beatining Michigan and Purdue was nice, but just take a look of the sad coniditions of those teams. And our other wins have come against a woeful San Diego State (that was beaten by Cal friggin’ Poly), Standford (our highest “quality” win — they are 5-5), and another team that Ty Willingham has driven square into the ground in Washington (who STILL hasn’t won a game).

While the record has improved, it is extremely disheartening to see us have zero wins against teams that actually matter. Without a doubt the end goal for anyone involved with ND is one thing, a national title, and you don’t get there consistently losing to teams that can actually play.

Despite the young talent, we are still defintiely suffering from inexperience. Clausen has some moments where everything seems to click, and then others were the wheels seem to just come flying off. It seems that if he throws one INT into double (or triple) coverage he is determined to make that same pass work later in the game for yet another INT. Saying Clausen forces the ball into small windows is a gross understatement. Which is funny, because this is a complete departure from last year when he seemed to be scared to take many risks at all. He still hasn’t seemed to find that happy medium yet and learn when it is a good time to throw those bombs and when it would be better to dump it off or throw it away.

Clausen is probably the best example of on the field inexperience, but that inexperience also exists on the sidelines. Consider this post from The Blue-Gray Sky:

The past few years that I have done the pre-season position previews, I’ve been valuing veteran players more and more, at times over more highly-recruited rookies. Every year we get excited about the shiny new toys out on the field, but for the most part it is the guys who have been around who keep getting the job done. Certainly there are exceptions, but in college football there isn’t much of a better teacher than experience. You make a mistake, you learn, you improve and move forward. Wash, rinse, repeat. And this isn’t a week-by-week process, but rather a season-by-season one.

And that brings me to this. Notre Dame has the following on the sidelines:

* A defensive coordinator in his second year as a defensive coordinator.

* An offensive coordinator in his first year as an offensive coordinator.

* A head coach in only his fourth season as a head coach.

Putting aside every other issue for the moment (and there are plenty), Notre Dame should never ever again find itself in a position where the top three coaches for the football team have so little experience at their current position. Notre Dame football is not a place for on-the-job training.

People can debate all of the other issues back and forth all they want, but I firmly believe that experience is invaluable and irreplaceable. It all starts there.

Now I haven’t yet fully hopped off the Weis bandwagon yet, but a great point is made here. We have a head coach that is still trying to transition from being a NFL offensive coordinator coaching professionals to a college Head Coach coaching kids. We also have an offensive coordinator taking the helm for the first time, although now that experiment seems to be over with Weis saying he will make the play calls against Navy. Someone, somewhere along the line has to have the know-how of what to do and when to do it. It is becoming abundantly clear that the players aren’t the only ones going through a learning curve.

I do have some confidence that Weis is going to figure it out; however, knowing that this kind of inexperience is on the coaching staff is a definite worry. Recent history has not been kind to coaches trying to “figure it out” at ND and I’m sure the whole staff realizes that.

The Ugly

Alternate Title: ND vs. BC this past Saturday and a rant on that mess. If you want to have one standing example of the issues that we currently face watch that game again (if you can stomach it — I sure can’t). That game had it all, loss of composure and poor decisions by Clausen, horrible play calling from the staff, untimely breakdowns on defense, and some of the worst special teams I’ve ever seen.

First let’s start with Clausen. His INTs were all results of bad decisions. The first one (the pick-six), was the result of Clausen trying to fit the ball in a very small window and not seeing the whole coverage. Clausen made only a half correct read. He saw that he needed to throw the ball high to have a chance to hit Rudolph on the play; however, he failed to either see the safety lurking behind his target or realize that the pass would be an easy pick if it sailed on him just a little. In short, he made the decision to make a pass with a tiny margin of error and the result was catastrophic.

He seemed to completely lose it as the game went on. He forced the ball into double and triple coverage, leading to more picks. He visably started to lose his cool on the field as well. This is supposed to be the leader of the offense and I sure as hell didn’t see an ounce of leadership from him as the game went on. The wheels came off of him and I didn’t see another player try to fill that void.

Moving on, I really want to figure out just what in the hell goes through the minds of the coaching staff when we continue to call passing plays on 3rd and short as well as 4th and short like they did against Pitt. What happened to the quick QB sneaks that we used to run with Brady? Do we really not think Alderidge can’t bang out a yard? And more importantly, do they really think we are fooling anyone anymore since we do this all the time now?

The best example was one of the 3rd and 1’s late in the game…in which Clausen took a shot at the endzone. That pass was clearly his first read. This means either one of two things: 1) That was the play called, 2) Clausen audibled to it. I’m leaning towards #1 since Clausen did not see his ass chewed out returning to the sidelines. How is that play called in this situation? The game was still (somewhat) close and there was no need to take that kind of risk. Get the first down, and keep the drive going.

And then the breakdowns on defense…well let’s be more specific here…the breakdowns in coverage that keep occurring from Terrail Lambert. Now, I like this guy. He’s from my old dorm, he made huge plays against Michigan State two years ago; however, it is becoming quite clear that he gets burned in coverage and gets burned often. It is like everytime I see a huge or clutch pass play from the opposition I see a #20 jersey two steps behind it. On BC’s last TD of the game, Lambert never even looked to find the ball.

One interesting note with him is that he didn’t play a single down during the overtime against Pitt from what I saw. There were no reports of him being hurt at all either. So basically we have the coaching staff making the call that he wasn’t good enough to be in such a clutch situation (and incidentally, that is the best defense I’ve seen the Irish play), but yet he is good enough to start? Something isn’t quite computing here.

Special teams — where to even begin? Brandon Walker, thankfully, doesn’t even seem to be a large issue (although he didn’t exactly get any chances against BC). But yet we still find ways to completely botch the other elements of special teams in the punt game.

Golden Tate, whom I love, and know is a great playmaker needs to never be allowed to return a punt again this season. I’m all for finding ways to get the ball into his hands, but put someone else back on punts. He doesn’t know when to fair catch as most times he gets the ball he is met with a helmet to the kisser, and then that culminates to him focusing too much on the other players around him and muffs a punt leading to yet another ND turnover. Put him back on kickoffs, but leave him out of punts. If we want to be serious about him returning, let’s make him #1 in Spring ball so he can learn how to do it. We have enough people learning as they go, let’s not increase that number when we don’t need to.

Eric Maust also seemed to forget how to punt during the BC game. He takes far too long to actually get the punt off, leading to a blocked punt and he also shanked a couple of his six punts leading to a horrid 36.5 yard average. Charlie Weis always says he is huge on special teams yet we keep losing the battle here. In such a close game, field position is invaluable. You can’t beat good teams or pull of upsets when your opponent is always on your side of the field and you are pinned to your own endzone at the start of every drive.

Clearly, there are several issues that the Irish need to work on. The future might be bright talent wise, but we definitely need to see some of the present problems fixed or ND will continue to find themselves hitting a wall.

Either way, Go Irish! Beat Midshipmen! Let’s start another streak and turn this ship around.

Welcome to NDTex.com

Welcome all to NDTex.com and this blog in which you will be subjected to my rambling thoughts and opinions on all sorts of different subjects.

I’ve tried writing and maintaining blogs on more than one occasion, each of them eventually fizzling out. The common theme was always the same, I just didn’t care to continuously post about the same subject over and over again and manage to keep it fresh. There is little point in a blog if I don’t care to write it.

So this is my new incarnation. I originally purchased this web server to learn PHP and test out some scripts. However, I did always want to use this server for more than just that. I couldn’t really figure out the best direction to go. My mind and interests move all over, so developing a site with this ADD-like mind just flat out didn’t happen. A blog format though can allow me to go all over the map, allowing me to develop around the various topics and grow from there.

I still can’t tell you exactly where this project and idea will take me and that’s what I like about it the most. What I can tell you is that I will be touching on various topics and I believe I can hit a topic or two that many different people can enjoy.

So what will these topics be? Well, I can garantee you will see topics centered around Notre Dame Athletics (especially football), Dallas Sports (more often than not the Cowboys and Rangers, I’m sure I’ll touch on the Mavericks and Stars as well), Final Fantasy XI and other video games, technology, programming, maybe even politics during election times, and other randomness that pops into my head.

One thing that I won’t post about is my life in general. I tired this a couple times on Xanga why back when as well as MySpace a tad, but it always wore on me for two reasons. One, I hate writing and walking on eggshells, as posting about life involves people you know and things get far too public, feelings can get hurt, drama can happen, etc. I want to write what I mean and not hold back to avoid airing potential personal dirty laundry. Two, I don’t care for my life to be posted beyond what it already is. Those that know me can stalk me to no end on Facebook and I don’t need to write blog entries on top of it. Updates on my life just tended to follow a pattern of generalized rambling (read: horribly freaking boring to read/write) and I would rarely find the need to actually post when the subject was my life.

I’m sure some of my life my creep in here every now and then if Earth-shattering moments occur, but having it as a central focus isn’t what I want to do. Personally I would much rather write about ND Football instead of say “Well, I got stuck in traffic today and then got to work, etc, etc, etc”. If it bores me to write it, I can’t possibly see how it is enjoyable to read.

So that is the basic jist of things. I look forward to writing here and I hope being able to spread the topics around means a far more active blog and one that doesn’t die within a month. I will also update the look of this site in general. Give me time on this though — creativity with pictures, art, and Photoshop aren’t exactly high on my list of aptitudes.