HAPPY NEW YEAR TO ALL!!!..Albeit a bit late. I’ve been busy. Shut up.
Notre Dame's football season came to a close a week or so ago, so once again it's time for Irish Shu to look back at their season. In the last edition I recapped the first 6 games, so now I'll review the last 7 including the bowl game…get ready for a bit of stone-casting, because I am NOT pleased…
SOUTHERN CAL: Christ, Irish, you had just trounced a decent Air Force team, and then had a bye week to prepare for a Trojan team you proved last year you could beat, and what did you do? You shat the bed! That’s what you did. It was the first night game played at Notre Dame stadium in 21 years and the spotlight proved too bright for them as it ended in a 31-17 loss to the Condoms. They spotted said Prophylactics a 17-0 lead early before George Atkinson III scored for the second time this year on a kickoff return to put a spark into the Irish and start a comeback. The momentum carried into the second half when QB Tommy Rees got hurt, giving way for Dayne Crist to go in and have his chance to prove to his coach that he should have been the starter all-along…and he almost did. Crist completed 4 of 5 passes and drove the Irish to the USC 1 yard line and then…lightening struck. Instead of punching-in for the score that would have tied the game, Crist fumbled and Rubber safety Jawanza Starling scooped-up the loose ball and ran it back for a French Tickler touchdown that stole the game from ND a-la South Florida. USC dominated with nearly twice the yardage and possession time, as well as 0 turnovers to Notre Dame’s 3. In his post-game interview, Pecker Tarp quarterback Matt Barkley might have provided the Irish with some good bulletin board material for next year when he said that the Irish quit on them and let them win after that fumble return…the only problem with that statement being used as motivation is this: he was right.
Now, as a few of you know, I have always claimed to be as loyal an Irish fan as there is…but even I found myself saying “fuck it” after this one. The rest of the season just wasn’t all that enjoyable for me after this loss…but, the season went on so I will, too.
NAVY: The Irish needed to bounce back after the loss to the Sheep Skins and they certainly did in a 56-14 trouncing of the Midshipmen. Notre Dame scored on 5 of its first 6 offensive possessions and cruised against a Navy team that has given them problems in recent years with their option attack…and this in spite of the fact that the Irish turned the ball over twice. Tommy Rees had a pretty good day going 16 of 22 for 227 yards, but it was the running backs that had a career day here as Cierre Wood and Jonas Gray scored 5 rushing TD’s between them. Receiver Michael Floyd chipped-in with one rushing and one receiving TD of his own.
WAKE FOREST: Notre Dame continued to roll in a hard-fought 24-17 win over a pretty good Demon Deacon team that had just beaten a ranked Florida State team a couple weeks prior. The Irish were somewhat depleted with injuries, but the defense nutted-up as Wake Forest had the ball at or inside the Notre Dame 10 twice in the second half while down by a touchdown -- and came away with no points. The Irish O was pretty balanced with 341 total years almost 50/50 between the run and pass…but they still turned the ball over twice in the win.
MARYLAND: The GOOD Irish team showed-up for this one in a “home” game that took place only 20 miles from Maryland’s campus and trounced the lowly Terrapins 45-21…but, then, it’s easy for a team to show it’s best when they’re facing an opponent that finished with only 2 wins on the year. Regardless, the workout was good as the Irish O hung over 500 yards and 6 touchdowns on Maryland. This included a pick 6 from sophomore cornerback Lo Wood. This also was a rare turnover-free game for the Irish.
BOSTON COLLEGE: Continuing their pattern of great play one week and poor play the next, the Irish struggled with poor field position all afternoon, but came up with the big plays when they needed to…and ONLY when they needed to…and survived the Eagles 16-14…over a team that would finish with only 4 wins. To his credit, all-ACC linebacker Luke Kuechly did make things difficult for the Irish and finished with 14 tackles and I, for one, was glad to hear he won’t be back next season as he chose to enter the NFL Draft. The bummer, though, was that the win came at a price. The solid Irish power halfback, Jonas Gray, injured his right knee in the game and was lost for the season.
STANFORD: Well, I really didn’t expect the Irish to win this one, anyway. They spotted the Cardinal an early 21-0 lead as golden boy Andrew Luck had a statement game and tore though the Irish Defense for 233 yards and 4 touchdowns on his way to a 28-14 win. The Irish QB tandem of Rees and Andrew Hendrix actually combined to outdo Luck with 252 passing yards of their own (Hendrix came-on after Rees was injured) but they also threw 1 interception each and Hendrix had only 1 TD pass. Luck could very-well be the best quarterback to come out of Stanford – a program which produced some good ones such as John Elway – and he is another player whom I won’t miss next year. He is, in fact, expected to go to the Indy Colts with the first pick of the upcoming NFL draft.
FLORIDA STATE: This game was a pisser. Notre Dame went to the Champs Sports Bowl and ended what I thought would be a better season the same way they started the season out – by shooting themselves in the foot, repeatedly, and losing 18-14 to a team they had no business losing to. With all due respect to the Seminoles, you were starting 4 freshmen on your injury-depleted O-line and your offense did not even start playing until the 3rd quarter was almost over. Be sure to thank Brian Kelly for allowing himself to be outcoached, and shuffling 2 quarterbacks in and out instead of having the balls to stick with one of them like he should have. While you’re at it, Seminoles, be sure to also thank Andrew Hendrix for throwing an interception straight at Nigel Bradham (no Irish receivers were even close on that play) and giving you a short field to take the lead with…and finally, don’t forget to thank Michael Floyd for dropping what would have been a touchdown pass in the first half that bounced right off his hands at the 20 yard line like so many other passes have throughout his career…considering that, it was impressive he caught the one score he did catch in the 3rd quarter after he juggled it. I really can’t stand losing to Florida teams, either. As awesome as it felt for the Irish to kick the Hurricane’s asses in last years’ Sun Bowl, that’s how shitty it felt to lose to the Semen-Holes this time.
So to wrap it up the Irish football season was, overall, disappointing. This Irish team came into 2011 loaded from top to bottom with one of the best receivers in the country, a solid and experienced O-line, a good stable of high-potential quarterbacks and running backs and a good defense with just enough star players to make at least 10 wins and a BCS appearance happen…AT LEAST! The problem is, they didn’t. They were not consistent on offense at quarterback, in-particular, and special teams were not solid save for 2 kickoff returns for touchdowns by George Atkinson III. What’s worse, they will lose a good group of senior players which include some good O-linemen, a good running back in Jonas Gray, a handful of good defensive players including most of their secondary and of course, one of their best receivers ever in Michael Floyd. I will credit Floyd for this much; he did redeem himself after making some poor choices and getting arrested 3 times for alcohol-related offenses throughout his career, but he held it together for his last season and finished without such incident. He also finished his impressive career in the ND record books with: 271 receptions, 3,686 receiving yards, 17 games with at least 100 yards receiving and 37 touchdown receptions – all #1 in those categories and a few others, as well…but I’m sorry to say I will remember him for being less than sure-handed despite all that. He had many instances of the dropsies throughout his career – he’d better fix that problem if he wants to succeed in the NFL. I wish him well with that. I also wish Dayne Crist well. After Coach Kelly pushed him down the bench after one poor half of play in one game, Crist has transferred to the Kansas Jayhawks to play one more year…and he will be reunited with their new head coach in Charlie Weis, who recruited Crist to Notre Dame…I wish you well, Dayne, and you certainly deserved better. It is encouraging, though, that both linebacker Manti Te’o and Tight End Tyler Eifert have both announced that they will come back for their senior year...you will both be needed.
One other comment for Coach Kelly – you don’t do yourself or your team any favors by making rude comments about the players you recruited vs. the players you didn’t. Try using your head before you use your mouth next time. Good teams need unity. Good luck with your recruiting – sounds like the incoming class could be another good one if you can hold them to their commitments.
As for my other teams and how they did:
MONTANA GRIZZLIES: After an uncharacteristically off-year, the Griz bounced back and are among the FCS elite once again. They finished 11-3 and made it to the semifinal round of the FCS playoffs before they lost to then-undefeated and top-ranked Sam Houston State by a field goal…Sam Houston went on to lose to the new FCS champion in North Dakota State just yesterday…by the way, does anyone remember Nate Montana? He was a Notre Dame backup who transferred to my Griz for a chance to play more…too bad he didn’t get that chance. He didn’t get above 3rd string there, either. Oh, well.
NEBRASKA CORNHUSKERS: Their first year in the Big Ten wasn’t entirely disappointing, but I’d have liked to see them at least compete with both Michigan and Wisconsin and not get beaten by Northwestern. They missed their chance at a 10-win season when they lost the Capital One Bowl to South Carolina, but there’s no shame in losing to a good SEC school when 2 teams from that conference are playing for the national championship…I have mixed feelings about that, too, though. The Huskers STILL need a better passing game.
COLORADO STATE RAMS: POOH! Yet another 3 win season for my once-good-but-now-lowly Rams and Coach Steve Fairchild was fired for it. The reins have now been turned over to Jim McElwain who was the Offensive Coordinator for Alabama. We’ll see if he can do any better. Good luck, coach…and good luck to my brother who recently moved to Fort Collins to start a new life with his lady friend in Irish Shu’s former stomping grounds. Go get ‘em baby bro!
CUSTER COUNTY COWBOYS: my hometown high school team came into the season as the defending state champions in their class. I thought it might be a rebuilding year as they turned to a sophomore quarterback with no experience, but he did pretty well, considering, and so did the team as they made it all the way to the state semifinals before losing to Billings Central – a team they run into about every year in the playoffs, it seems. Good year for the Cowboys, nonetheless.
WHEW! Long blog and overdue, as well. Fellow You Gabbers: You all have an awesome 2012! I’ll keep reading your works…Take care, all.