ND Football, The Reoccurring Nightmare

Under the lights in the Big House, the Irish put together another 500+ yard game, ending a full 60 yards ahead of hated Michigan.  They once again had their improved rushing game flourish, falling just two yards short of 200 total rushing yards.  Rees had another 300+ yard passing day, Wood had another 100+ yard rushing day.

And the Irish turned the ball over 5 times, again.

To add insult to injury, we had a flashback to last year as well.  Once again, Denard Robinson led a last minute comeback drive that spanned 80 yards to put yet another dagger in the Irish.  This time he pulled this drive off with just 30 seconds on the clock, using only 28 of them.  It took only three passes, only one of which feel incomplete.

We can dispel the myth that somehow Tommy Rees somehow magically makes this team play better (that isn’t meant to slam Rees, but, hopefully, I never have to see that argument again).  The number of drops might have gone down from last week, but the same number of turnovers remain, with the most crushing on being a Rees fumble that I can’t even begin to explain.  That fumble stopped a drive that could have put the game away.

In fact, the phrase “failing to put the game away” is the story of this entire game.  Unlike USF, the Irish came out and played to perfection.  They forced two Michigan three and outs and turned each of their resulting offensive possessions into TDs.  Michigan finally got their first first down on their third drive, but immediately followed it up with an INT.  The Irish had a chance to go for the kill, but failed and punted.

That drive was just the first of many missed opportunities for the Irish, but despite all that, the Irish still had a 21 point lead heading into the fourth quarter.  Granted, Michigan scored a TD immediately to start the fourth, so you could argue it was a 14 point lead.

However, that TD was the most mind boggling thing that I’ve ever seen.  The Irish defense did it’s job, stuffed the attempted TD run and forced a fumble…that Robinson immediately ran in the endzone untouched.

Denard was good but not great.  He barely rushed for over 100, but somehow managed over 300 passing yards on just 11 completions.  Damn near every single completion was an underthrown, lame duck, jump-ball that our DBs just couldn’t adjust too.  Robinson made them all look just silly in the most unimpressive fashion, ending with Gary Gray again forgetting to turn his head around to find the ball in the endzone.

I’m not even sure what to say at this point.  During USF, the Irish could never get anything going.  Against Michigan, we failed to close out what could have very well been a blowout win and at worst, should’ve been a single possession victory.  Both times though, turnovers and mental errors allowed two inferior teams to beat us.

Next week, Sparty comes in and is easily the best team that we will face yet.  With this season nearing life support early, we are once again looking to next week for the Irish to put it all together, stop making mistakes and play the football we know they are capable of, putting together the flash they showed in the first quarter and extending it for a full game.

It isn’t a lack of talent.  It isn’t a poor head coach.  I don’t believe the entire team is of the “here we go again mindset”.  I’m sure there are players that have it, but I believe it is a minority and I hope they find their way to the bench soon.

There is still hope, but admittedly, it’s fading fast.  For the Irish to hit their BCS hopes, they will basically need to run the table.  There is no other option.

This next week is going to be one of the most pivotal weeks for the Irish have ever faced and one that may very well define Kelly’s tenure.

ND/Michigan Preview

The Irish defense, led by Manti Te'o, attempt to stop Denard Robinson in last year's game (Getty Images)

This past weekend was a disappointment to say the least.  While I had predicted that the game would be too close for comfort at points, I never could have imagined that we’d cough the ball up five times, drop passes everywhere, and have a QB controversy not even a week after Crist was named the starter.

However, that was last week.  The game is done and no matter how bad it was, it only counts as one loss.  The sky isn’t falling.

…yet.

As I type the Irish are en-route to Ann Arbor and will take on the ever so hated Wolverines under the lights of the Big House.  It will be your featured game for the day.  College Gameday will be on hand, along with Michigan football alum Desmond Howard.  Both teams will don throwback jerseys.  All eyes will be on this game.

To add on, another disappointment has to be fresh in everyone’s mind and that would be last year’s collapse against Michigan.  A game in which the Irish started on fire and quickly saw it spiral out of control when Crist was knocked out of the game.  Rees, this year’s starter, came in and out in just a series.  Nate Montana was then called on to hold it all together.  Despite this QB craziness, Crist came back in and helped the Irish take a late lead, only to watch Denard Robinson torch the Irish on one last drive just as he had done all game.

Another collapse this time around though would be catastrophic, putting the Irish in the hole 0-2 on a season that still has BCS hopes.

Despite these dark clouds though the Irish have a lot to build on, even after last week’s disaster against USF.  Take away the turnovers and you have a stellar outing by the defense and an offense that put on a 500+ yard show.  Logic should state that if the Irish can avoid making mistakes that will make Kelly’s head explode on the sideline, the Irish should be able to handle Michigan.

But of course, there is still that persistent fear of Denard Robinson.  Fears should be somewhat eased though as Robinson did not really light up the stat sheet with a shortened game against Western Michigan.  Robinson went 9/13 for a total of only 98 yards passing and rushed for just 46.  Even playing in a shortened game, Robinson was far from taking that game over.

Instead, we should perhaps shift our fears to Fitzgerald Toussaint who had an impressive 80 yards on only 11 carries for a very stout 7.3 yards/carry.  If Michigan now isn’t a complete one man show on offense, the Irish defense could have quite a test in front of them as they can’t just zone in on Robinson.

For the Irish to be successful, the front seven will have to stop the run and force Robinson’s arm and not his (or Toussaint’s) feet beat us.  This does seem rather obvious, but considering the Wolverines ran the ball twice as much as they did passing last week, it is even more crucial.

Of course, the big question for Michigan is did their defense improve at all?  The answer seems to be no.  Western Michigan managed to put up 279 yards (just 9 less than Michigan’s total).  183 of those yards came through the air.  So yeah, that secondary that was full of holes last year…still full of holes.

The defensive line, which is usually Michigan’s strength gave up 96 yards on the ground.  However, they did not get a single sack in the game.  While there were two sacks against Western Michigan, they came in the 3rd quarter, and were claimed by Jordan Kovacs, a safety.  This is a far cry from the lines that used to give the Irish fits up front.

Much like ND/USF, one of the big stats that pops out are turnovers, and Western Michigan coughed the ball up three times.  The first was an INT that Michigan returned for a TD in which Western Michigan was 2nd and goal on Michigan’s four yard line.  Then, the Broncos coughed up a fumble which Michigan also returned for a TD.  The final turnover was another fumble that occurred right before the game got cancelled.

Turnovers that the opponent turns into points…sound familiar anyone?

If the Irish can just hold on to the damned ball, I really don’t see any reason why they can’t take this one under the lights.  Michigan was far from impressive against Western Michigan and the Irish are far more potent on both sides of the ball than the Broncos.  In fact, if the Irish truly play to potential, I don’t think this game will be close.  The defense will not give Robinson another career day on the field and this front seven can stop the run without a doubt.  The Irish should have no issue taking on a Wolverine defense that is still trying to rebuild as well.

ND should win and win big: 45-14.

But again, I can’t stress this enough: HOLD ON TO THE DAMN BALL!!!

Irish Blogger Gathering: Michigan Still Sucks

With my first ever NDtex25 rankings out, it’s time to put last week to bed for good.  It happened, it’s over, and I don’t want to think about it any more.  It’s time to focus on what really matters, and that’s hating Michigan and remembering that they still suck.

This week’s IBG is focused primarily on that.  Biscuit over at HerLoyalSons, is leading the charge for this year’s slinging of hate.  My responses to this week’s batch of questions are below.

Not to look too far ahead, but I want to drop a quick note that I will be hosting the IBG next week as we take on Sparty, so be sure to be on the lookout for my inaugural hosting post next week.

1) Well that result really sucked. Please describe how you feel about the loss using lyrics from a pop diva (eg Britney Spears, Rihanna, etc) song. Bonus points for video or pictures. (something good has to come out of last week)

I’m not sure what the obsession is with songs over at HLS for IBG questions.  And picking a pop diva? Really?!  You realize this is the kinda crap that opposing bloggers dream of seeing in order to make fun of us right?

Don’t worry, I’ll be a good sport and play along (honestly nothing can be worse than last weekend’s game anyways).  Let’s go with Britney’s “Oops I Did It Again” because, I can’t think of anything else to say when you continuously drop passes, commit awful penalties, and turn the ball over repeatedly.

Well, I’m sure Kelly has a few choice words, but anyways:

Honorable mention: Pink’s “U + Ur Hand” because I’m sure that’s what quite a few Irish players were told that night after screwing that game up so royally.

2) While we all want to move on, last week’s game can teach us many things about the ’11 Irish. After seeing what Week 1 brought us, do you find yourself more confident, less confident, or still confused as hell about our chances vs the Skunkbears? Why?

I’m more confident oddly enough.  I have to believe that the Irish won’t be turning the ball over five times a game and make the other mistakes that plagued the USF game.  When you take that away, you are left with a rather impressive offensive performance and an even more impressive outing by the defense.  The fact ND even had a shot at winning against USF is impressive considering how many points the Irish simply gave away.

The Irish caused their own demise last week and they know it.  They’ll be looking for someone to take it out on this week to claim redemption.  We couldn’t ask for a better punching bag in Michigan.

3) Other than QB, which position group pleasantly surprised you this past week? Which disappointed? What player absolutely MUST see more time in Week 2? Again, no QBs.

Save for the Jonas Gray fumble, the running backs pleasantly surprised me.  Yes, I did call for good seasons from both, including a breakout year by Cierre Wood, but calling it and having it proven right (for at least one week) are two different things.  Wood, obviously was the big story here.  He was seemingly unstoppable on every touch, flat out running defenders over.  I’m hoping we can have an entire game of balanced offense instead of needing to scrap the running game in only a half because I think Wood is a serious weapon this season.

For disappointment, I’m going to go with our receiving corps.  You simply cannot drop passes as often as they did, end of story.  When you drop a TD and have an INT bounce off your head in the red zone, it’s inexcusable.  Floyd coming up with a big second half is the only thing that really saved them from looking completely awful all game long.

While they obviously saw plenty of time all game long, I want to see our backs get more touches.  I know we had to go one-dimensional out of necessity and I know “we need to run the ball” is rather cliche, but for once, we have a running game that is a true weapon.  Having to abandon that, even with such a great passing attack, is a disservice.  If we can hold on to a balanced attack, opposing teams will definitely have their hands full all season long.  Here’s hoping we don’t have to panic with another all-out aerial assault tomorrow night.

4) Tommy Rees will lead the Irish Offense this week. Do you agree with Coach’s call? Either way, what part of Crist’s game will the Irish O miss the most, if any?

I’m fine with the call for Rees.  The only thing I didn’t agree with as far as QBs go was the quick hook on Crist.  If Kelly is convinced that Rees is his man, I’m all for it, just stick with it and don’t yank him in a half unless he is throwing picks all over the place.

The main thing we’d miss from Dayne is his speed.  Rees is much less of a dual threat than Crist, but considering that we saw no QB draws and read options, it seems that part of the playbook was put to rest.  So really, I don’t think we will be missing too much to be honest.

5) What’s the key to beating the Wolverines this week? Just 1 thing. Not 2. 1.

Hold on to the damned ball.  We can’t be our worst enemy two weeks in a row.

6) Make your Over-Under Picks:

Over-under on Floyd’s receiving total for this coming weekend: 154
Under.  I am probably overconfident, but I don’t think this game will be close and we will be spending more time chewing clock than giving Floyd more yards.

Over-under on Robinson’s rushing total: 100
Under.  I’m quite high on the defense’s performance last week and I think that last year’s performance against Robinson has to be major motivation as well.

Over-under on ND Number of Turnovers: 2
Under. For the love of God this better be under…

Over-under on Number of Times Kelly is caught Purple Monstering Out: 2
Under.  Kelly shouldn’t have any reason to lose his head this week (hopefully).

Over-under on ND Total Yards: 425
Over. The Michigan defense hasn’t gotten much better and I think the Irish will be able to move the ball quite easily against them.

7) Michigan: Just Another Opponent, Enemy, or Rival? Explain. 1 Bonus point for each use of the word ‘suck’.

Enemy. Hated enemy.

The Blue-Gray Sky wrote a nice letter to Michigan fans in 2005 to remind us why as well.  Michigan hasn’t exactly made their hatred a secret either.

We both have our “bigger” rivals.  Michigan has Ohio State and we have USC.  This game is a road block to a bigger picture, the bigger game that fans are really looking forward to.  A loss here ruins the season, the loser is then driven completely nuts that their season is now sullied by losing to the other.

From Michigan’s standpoint, we are a tougher, unneeded non-conference opponent that gets in the way of their more “important” Big Ten conference games.  Losing to us is just a distraction from the Rose Bowl that they’ll get to once every blue moon at this rate.  Beating us isn’t much better either.  It’d be great for a national title run, but when your recent history includes a loss to an FCS team and firing a coach that helped drive your program into the crowd, title thoughts are far away.

That’s why, before the most recent contract extension between the two of us was signed, there was plenty of noise from the Michigan side that the series could, in fact, end.  One of the funnier things I heard was a statement from Michigan, Bo Schembechler, specifically, that “Notre Dame needs us more than we need them”. Unfortunately, it seems the Detroit Free press has since taken down the article, but there are still some blogs that mention this hilarious statement from Bo who was about as anti-ND as they come.

Michigan fans tend to buy this line, convinced, somehow, that we are their little stepchild.  Michigan fans will make no bones about it either.  I even had one fan go as far to tell me it was harder to get into Michigan than ND…this also happened at a ND/USC game in South Bend.

It’s too hard for Michigan to be convinced that somehow we ever rose above them.  They have no logic behind it, so in steps pure hatred.  Feel free to throw it our way Skunkbears, we will throw it right back.

8 ) It’s Michigan week. Name 1 thing in the world that sucks as much as Michigan, if you can.

Damn, this is a tough on…uh, maybe Ty? Wait, no, even he managed to beat them. Oh, wait, I got this one: Craig James!

Shame one of the five hookers he killed at SMU wasn’t named Ann Arbor.

9) RichRod is back, announcing for CBS. Can’t wait to see how that goes. Bet he’s horrible.

Bet it’s better than Craig James.

NDtex25: Week 1

After much coding, debugging, several headaches, and far too much data entry, the first ever NDtex25 is ready.

For those that are confused or need a refresher on my crazy attempt at a formula, I suggest you check out my post on the matter.  There is one addition though from that post: I have added tie breakers.  If two or more teams happen to have the same score after everything is said and done, tie breakers will be done according to the following rankings: W/L points, ANTY, and then Avg TO Margin.

If teams are still tied by then, hurray alphabetical order!

Anyways, as expected, week 1 did have some rather hilarious outcomes, but for the most part, it isn’t too outrageous.  If you remember, this week is a little strange since I had to do an “initial ranking” based solely on ANTY and Avg TO Margin which created some of the insanity that you will see below.  I would assume that if I came up with a preseason rating, things would be a little more balanced out, but overall, I’m happy with the results and some rather big name teams do make an appearance.

So without further ado, here are the NDtex25 for week 1:

Rank Team Score
1 Mississippi State 112.75
2 Bowling Green 112.5
3 Stanford 110.25
4 Oklahoma 109.5
5 Texas 108.5
6 Illinois 108.5
7 Clemson 105.25
8 Texas A&M 102
9 Northern Illinois 100.5
10 BYU 97.75
11 Missouri 96.75
12 LSU 96.5
13 Maryland 95
14 Ohio State 94.75
15 Kentucky 94.5
16 South Carolina 92.5
17 Florida State 91.5
18 Colorado State 90.25
19 Wisconsin 90
20 Oklahoma State 87
21 Auburn 85.5
22 Hawaii 83.25
23 Pittsburgh 80.25
24 Michigan 80.25
25 West Virginia 79.25

Just missing the cut: Boise State, Cal, Ohio, Syracuse, Alabama.

Your leader in the clubhouse is Mississippi State with the MAC powerhouse that is Bowling Green nibbling oh so close behind.

Other crazy notables in this initial ranking are Auburn despite damn near falling on their face.  Michigan somehow manages to squeeze their way in despite not playing a full game.  Even though Kentucky played something that really didn’t resemble football, they appear as well.

Stanford and Oklahoma though grab a rather expected high ranking, with Texas rounding out the top 25 to my surprise.  Texas A&M has also held on to their preseason hype by finding themselves in the top 10 as well.  LSU probably wins for most hosed after beating Oregon soundly.

The worst team in the nation? Congrats to San Jose State, who managed to mimick Terrelle Pryor’s wonderlic score of 7, creates plenty of distance between them and team number 119: Akron (final score: 14.5).

Where does ND fall in this ranking?  Well, despite the 5th best ANTY in the nation, the worst Avg TO Margin and an awful loss smacked the Irish down to 49.  You will find such powerhouses like FIU, Louisiana Tech, North Texas, and Kent State above them.

Four of ND’s future opponents, Stanford, Maryland, Pittsburgh and Michigan are in the top 25.  The rest of ND’s opponents rank as follows:

  • Michigan State – 81
  • Purdue – 40
  • Air Force – 66
  • USC – 32
  • Navy – 82
  • Wake Forest – 55
  • Boston College –  47

Like I said, overall, I’m pleased with the results.  I do expect things to move around quite a bit once the wins and losses start piling up and some of the “big wins” end up being laughable before it’s all said and done.  The main goal of the rankings worked fairly well though: teams that won rose well above teams that didn’t for the most part.  For those teams that played FCS games, they got punished worse than I thought.  Sparty and Navy for instance are ranked over 80, landing only above teams that got absolutely destroyed last week.  I guess that punishment is working quite well so far.

I can’t wait to see next week’s results.  Remember, the W/L opponent rank will be determined by the previous week so we will likely have some more hilarity as teams with some clearly lopsided rankings benefit their opponents should they beat them.

ND/USF: The QB Controversy

As I mentioned in yesterday’s post-game write-up, I wanted to devote an entire post to the QB controversy that ND now finds itself in.

I have rewatched the game again, taken notes on each offensive play, and broken down each QBs performance.  I will post my findings on the stats, but also go beyond the numbers as well.  Personally, I still feel that Kelly had too short a leash on Crist and that he shouldn’t have been pulled from the game.  We got far too small a sample size for one, and as I will be showing in this post, Crist was much more of a victim of the play around him than most are giving credit for.

This isn’t to say Rees didn’t play well because he definitely did, but I question Kelly’s thought process on why Crist was yanked so early.  If you are certain that Crist is your top QB, you give more time than just a half, especially since the rest of the team needed to settle down as well.

But anyways, let’s get on to the breakdown.  Below are the basic stat lines for each QB:

Comp Att Comp % Yards Avg TD INT
Crist 7 15 46.67% 95 6.33 0 1
Rees 24 34 70.59% 296 8.71 2 2

 

Obviously, we don’t have too much to go on as far as Crist’s basic stats go.  Rees clearly had a solid performance and the INT number is misleading as one of them came off of T.J. Jones’ head.

Let’s go a bit deeper into the stats.  A lot of the criticism on Crist is that while he was in, the offense was flat and that he couldn’t covert third downs.  Blow is a look at the number of first downs each QB got on their six drives and how each performed on third down:

1st Downs By Pass By Penalty By Run 3rd Downs Faced Pass Conversion Run Conversion
Crist 9 5 0 4 6 0 0
Rees 15 11 3 1 5 3 1

 

Again, Rees by far has the better performance here, although it is quite interesting to note that Rees was the only QB that benefited from USF penalty mistakes, one of which came on a fourth down.  Take those three first downs away, and Rees has only 12 first downs, which is somewhat comparable to Dayne.

Of course, the major numbers that stand out for Crist are the zero third down conversions; however, if you dig a bit deeper:

Att Bad Throws Drops Great Catches Bad Throw % Drop % Great Catch %
Crist 15 4 3 0 26.67% 20.00% 0.00%
Rees 34 7 4 4 20.59% 11.76% 11.76%

 

And now we have the real story of the game.  Just to note, here is how I defined the above stats:

  • Bad Throws – Balls that were overthrown, underthrown, etc…basically balls that weren’t going to be caught
  • Drops – Balls that hit the receiver’s hands and failed to complete the catch (Jones’ off-the-head INT counts too)
  • Great Catches – Any catch the required the receiver to leave their feet in order to make the catch

While Crist did have a slightly higher percentage of bad throws, Rees definitely had far more chances to even his stats out.  Rees was accurate, made some great passes, but he was far from perfect; in fact, some of his bad throws game at the worst possible times.  Of course, you have the INT after the second weather delay, but you also have Rees overthrowing Wood right before Ruffer’s missed FG, and he made another awful throw on the failed 2-point conversion fade attempt to Floyd.

The big standout number that Crist had 20% of his passes dropped. That’s just flat out inexcusible.  The drops happened at the worst possible times too.  Before Crist’s memorable INT, T.J. Jones dropped what would’ve been a TD pass.  Two more passes were dropped on third down as well.

Yes, that’s 3 of Crist’s 5 failed third down conversions accounted for right there.  Another one of those failed third downs was Jonas Gray’s heartbreaking fumble after a stellar drive.  The final third down that Crist failed was 100% his fault though as he completely overthrew Floyd.

Rees was also very much a beneficiary of his receivers making much better plays and dropping far fewer passes.  I credit this to both halftime adjustments and ND using the weather delay to settle everyone down and get back into gear.  After the lengthy delay, the defense came out on fire and causes a USF three and out.  To top it off, USF had a horrid punt on top of that.  Momentum was squarely on ND’s side and ND finally got a break as USF jumped offside.  All was going so well until T.J. Jones had a ball go off his head.

Now should be a good time to note that’s two drives T.J. Jones helped to blow up.  You could credit him with 14 blown ND points if you really want to.  It’s unreal how his poor play has gone completely under the radar.

Another thing that has been noted by several people is that Rees got Floyd the ball.  For me, that’s a direct result of halftime adjustments, not a result of Crist “avoiding” Floyd as he definitely targeted him.  On my notes, I have “Floyd Curl”, “Floyd Screen”, “Floyd Slant” and “Floyd Look Pass” written down all over the place.  ND noticed USF was giving Floyd too much room out of fear of being beat deep and ND took advantage.

The there were two real successful “long shots” at Floyd.  One was a great ball thrown into a cover-2 window on a go route, and the other was another go route (possibly a hot-route as well) in which Floyd beat single coverage on a blitz (that was picked up very well by Wood).  There was a third attempt at a long route, to Floyd but that was Rees’ poor decision to throw to Floyd in double coverage.

In conclusion, I still feel like we have two very comparable QBs and the performance by both isn’t quite as far apart as people might think.  I would’ve loved to have seen Crist come back out with the Irish after they had settled down after the rain delay, especially considering how well he lead the Irish on the first drive.

As far as next week though, after seeing what happened last week, it doesn’t matter who comes out under center for the Irish under the lights.  I fully believe both QBs give us a chance to win.  What I do want to see is Kelly stick to his starter for the whole game if another situation like last week comes up.  If the start throws three awful INTs, yeah, yank him, but if everyone around him is dropping balls and fumbling, Kelly needs to restrain from the knee-jerk reaction that he displayed this week.

ND/USF: The Day After

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.

Defense

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.

Offense

Despite how awful everything was for ND offensively, ND gained over 500 yards, making them 15th overall in the nation and having a passing attack that is ranked 5th in the nation.

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…)

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