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Thursday, September 13, 2007

It returns for a second year: House Rock Built and MGoBlog talk about the game without choking anything to death. Except our hopes. This is part two of our wide-ranging conversation; Part one can be found over at HRB.

So... one guy who's looked impressive so far on the Irish offense (and dare I say, the only guy) is Armando Allen. Yes? No? He's fast... can he run yet?

Love the kid. He runs like a gazelle on crack wearing one of those girdle things that they put on bulls to make them buck like crazy.

This seems... suboptimal.

Your metaphors need work.

It's been a rough season... I alcohol blame.

But in all seriousness, he's something to be excited about. He can run inside and outside, and has actual breakaway speed, which the Irish haven't seen too much of in recent years. I was excited in the Penn State game when the entire first drive revolved around finding ways to get him the ball. Then, the next drive, Travis Thomas came out and ran blindfolded into a gopher hole, and I became saddened and thirsty for the nurturing kiss of grain alcohol.

The little swing on the opener against PSU was pretty impressive. When you get outside Penn State's linebackers, you've accomplished something. I worry he might gash us. I worry that four-year-olds might gash us, but I worry more about Allen.

A legitimate worry... provided Weis has the sense to actually stick with him, which he has inexplicably not done in the first two games

Has he run between the tackles much? Can anyone run between the tackles given Notre Dame's offensive line?

I saw Michael Haywood trying to drive a Ford F-350 between the tackles at the fall practice. I think he averaged like 3.8 yards per carry. So, uh, no.

This reassures, since Appalachian State plowed Michigan. Oh, God. Do they make 400 proof whiskey? Let's talk about the other side of the ball.

Let's talk about something else. Cartoon by Joel Morgan.

So... Corwin Brown. Sellout or sellout?

Nah, kidnap and brainwash victim. Like that girl who played the harp. I think the second he decapitated Keyshawn Johnson in the NFL and developed a taste for Trojan blood, it was inevitable that he'd end up in South Bend.

Ah... that's more palatable. How has the 3-4 gone? I notice a lot of rushing yards ceded.

The defense has been huge this year. The rushing yards are hugely misleading because there have been so many plays run against the defense due to the O's inability to get a first down for large swaths of time. Also, a large majority of the yardage was given up in the 4th quarter against an exhausted D that has been on the field all day.

Fact is, Notre Dame should have lost both of its first to games by Cumberland College-esque scores with the way the offense played and gagged up the ball. The fact that we kept either team under triple digits while giving them the gift of field position and offensive zone turnovers is nothing short of a triumph.

My one beef with the 3-4 is that both GT and PSU showed an ability to get big yards on stretch plays to the right side, where the OLB John Ryan clearly hadn't quite figured out his job of containment from the position. Theoretically, that should be correctible, but it has been a recurring thing.

That seems a poor weakness against Michigan's stretch-mad run game. I also note a BGS post that confirms the exhaustion you saw; is that not a potential item that will recur against Michigan?

If the offense goes two and a half quarters without a first down again, then I can promise you the splits will look exactly like that.

I can promise you that will not happen.

At least Yahoo provided kittens in our time of need.

Sigh. I want to believe you, but we'll have to wait and see. I really feel like if the offense can mount anything vaguely resembling an attack, the defense will be able to make this a game, particularly if they're getting rest time on the sideline and good field position. We were only down by 7 to Penn State late in the 3rd quarter despite having literally no offense (that 10 straight 3 and outs wasn't an exaggeration... check the box score).

I actually watched the game today... the key to me will be whether or not Clausen gets the green light to find receivers downfield and can. People should be open; he might not be able to locate them. Especially if he's on his back. I think the Michigan offense will probably be about as effective as Penn State's. Better running game, probably worse passing with a true freshman at the helm. I think even Michigan can shut down an offense that's playing as safe as Notre Dame did against Penn State.

What is it with Notre Dame quarterbacks and sexual ambiguity?

Well, word on the street is the playbook is going to be opened up, so at the very least we might get to see the Irish go down swinging for once. I'm glad to hear that, and feel like it's the only way this team is going to get anywhere is by taking the skirt off and slinging the football.

Given Michigan's secondary play last week, there will be opportunities to hit guys downfield... assuming people get blocked. Projected starting SDE Brandon Graham should return from an ankle injury that severely limited him the first two weeks; this will allow Shawn Crable to slide back to the attacking linebacker role he filled adeptly last year instead of being an undersized and ill-proportioned defensive end. The hope at the beginning of the year was for an attacking, sack-happy defense. That hasn't materialized but may against an offense Michigan seems better suited to defend.

One thing I am very concerned about: John Carlson. Michigan's linebackers are useless in space and Carlson is a terrific receiver. Seam routes off play action alarm.

Carlson has been the missing man this year. I'm guessing it's a combination of other teams keying on him (him being the only real proven threat on offense) and the dink-and-dunk offensive scheme not spreading the field. At any rate, the Carlson seam was a backbreaker against Penn State last year, and getting him involved in the offense should be one of the primary concerns for Weis coming into this game. I think by throwing the ball downfield more, it'll free up more room in the gooey middle of the field, where Carlson can play mismatches and raise hell.

Also Carlson's had to stay in to block.


All right, so the Michigan fanbase. Is there any sort of excitement for this game, or has it completely spiraled into sarcastic numbness? From the Irish perspective, this game is being viewed with much more aloofness and levity than it typically is because expectations are way down from recent years. What's the skinny in AA?

Sarcastic numbness is job one at Michigan even when things are going relatively well, now it's the only way we interact. We believe in nothing, Lebowski! There is something at stake here, though: if we beat Notre Dame there's at least some hope of refocusing the national derisiveness on the Irish and getting it (partially) off Michigan. Winning wouldn't make anyone particularly happy, per se, but it would be grimly satisfactory.

Women say the same thing about sleeping with me.


How about the Irish? Your 0-2 must suck considerably less than ours. I mean... you have all the freshman stuff, not four-year starters at QB and RB and a top five preseason ranking. Also you didn't lose to a I-AA team. But it seems that a lot of people are seriously questioning Weis, which is something I don't get. This year is the reason that Willingham got fired, really... not even the certified genius of Charlie Weis can deal with that. But it seems the natives are, if not exactly restless, a little peeved. Yes/no?

I don't think there's my native restlessness... or more to the point, I think that all of that is manufactured by the media because it makes for a charming headline. Irish fans are still happy with their robot genius, despite the fact that there are some legitimate grips to raise about the way these first two games were handled. You hit the nail on the head, this year is exactly why Willingham was fired. We knew it was going to be a rough 2007 back in 2004, so the results so far haven't been the type of radical departure from expectations that gets coaches fired. It's a rebuilding year, and everybody knows that. As long as the recruiting classes are staying good and the right kids are getting experience out there, the future and general inertia of the program is in good shape, which is the most important thing.

It's fair to say that people are actually "questioning" Weis in the sense that we're starting to move away from acknowledging him as the all-knowing oracle of football and moving toward a more realistic, post-honeymoon belief that he's a skilled coach capable of making some mistakes and occasionally being out-coached.

This seems... reasonable? You've turned my world on its head.

Yeah, there's a few stray rational neurons in the Notre Dame hivemind. Well, it's getting kind of late. You've probably got to go give Chad Henne a lower leg massage, right? So drop me some knowledge... what's your big prediction?

I would prefer implanting Tom Brady's brain but that will do.

I hesitate to predict anything good coming about for this Michigan team but it does seem to me that Michigan has at least one major advantage here: its offensive line and Mike Hart versus the Notre Dame run defense, which though valiant has been oft-perforated. Everything else looks like it could go either way. So I do tentatively think Michigan will win this, although a touchdown-plus spread seems excessive. Notre Dame wins if they find a downfield passing game that does not result in turnovers; I think this is probably not going to happen enough for them to win.

And you?

I had a vision last night while I was tripping on paint thinner. A hush falls over the Big House as a wobbly 59 yard field goal sails through the uprights, winning the game for the Irish. The benches clear, the jubilant Irish rush onto the field, and, lo, Jimmy Clausen finds Scarlett Johansson in the pandemonium, kneels down, and proposes. The two embrace passionately and the camera cuts to a teary-eyed Brent Musberger who solemnly declares, "This is why we love this sport so much," then trails off, not having any words to describe what he has just witnessed.

Book it.

MGoBlog's strict no-cheesecake rule is only superseded by MGoBlog's stricter
all-Scarlett-Johnasson-references-are-accompanied-by-picture rule. Because,
seriously, ladies... you would hit that too.

I welcome your 59-yard field goal attempt for the win. We are agreed that this is a satisfactory final play. (Assuming Michigan is ahead by 1 or 2.)


Well, best of luck this weekend. Tell that jowly interim head coach of yours I said "hi".

And tell your interstellar pirate made entirely of lard and self regard to invent something cool, like a first down, for Saturday.
I totally feel like The New Yorker with these things.
Cartoon by Joel Morgan.


Oh the hate!

Feel it flow through you.

Hate makes you strong!