Sweeping Up in Seattle
I was going to launch a Sunday Irish Report Card in this space today but Notre Dame's 33-7 win over Washington was so lopsided that it seems rather pointless.
Instead, some observations ...
The knock on Tyrone Willingham is that he is not a great recruiter. Boy, was that ever obvious on Saturday night in Seattle.
Did anyone else notice the disparity in talent?
Washington is even younger than the Irish. They have started 12 true freshman to Notre Dame's nine. Many of those players can still develop into playmakers. For the most part, however, the Irish had vastly superior personnel.
THREE GOALS FOR THE IRISH:
Be more physical: I keep harping on this, but the difference between the best teams in the country and the ones near the bottom of the rankings is often physicality. The Irish are getting better but they need to continue to make huge strides.
Establish the run: This point has been pounded home as well, but it is also critical to Notre Dame's continued maturation. If they line up with five wide receivers and run the no-huddle, I feel that they can throw the ball on virtually any team in the country. That's great. It gives the offense something to hang its hat on, something to build around. But they also need to be able to run the ball on virtually any opponent in the country to be the team they want to be.
Defensive playmakers must emerge: We've been singing the praises of Notre Dame's young offensive playmakers. Now it's time for young defenders to stand up and be counted. That's not to say that players like Brian Smith, Harrison Smith and Kerry Neal, Ian Williams, Robert Blanton and others haven't made an impact. They have. But the Irish need to start making more big plays behind the line of scrimmage --- sacks, tackles for loss, etc. They made plenty against the Huskies, but Washington is so hapless offensively that it's difficult to know whether Notre Dame's competence or the Huskies incompetence was most responsible.
I'M AN IDIOT, PART I: Thanks to Michael Brannigan for setting me straight. I wrote that Willlingham was the first Notre Dame coach since Rockne to be given less than five years. Of course that's not true. I wasn't counting George O'Leary, for one. Hunk Anderson and Joe Kuharich also coached less than five years. My bad.
AGAINST THE WIND: Coach Charlie Weis explained after the game why he went for it on fourth-and-long three times in the game. Evidently, the wind was enough of a factor that he determined before the game that he wanted his offense to get inside the 25 yard line before attempting a field goal when they were moving right to left and within the 30 when moving left to right.
"Brandon is just staritng to get his confidence and the last thing I want to do just when a guy is getting his confidence is have a guy kick a 48-yard field goal into the wind," Weis said.
Before the game, on Chet Coppock's pregame show on WLS, I mentioned that I thought Weis should have walker kick as much as possible. I just don't think he's going to break out of his slump (he was two-for-eight on the season before making 28- and 42-yard field goals against the Huskies). I still believe that. But I also believe that Weis was right in this case. You want Walker to kick as much as possible. On the other hand, a coach's job boils down to putting his players in the best position to succeed.
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