Tagged with "Nebraska"
More on LSU’s Start and Understanding FCS Games
Category: NCAA

I partly thought of some of the points of discussion below based on reading a blog from B.O.B. here.  There is a group of FCS teams that deserves respect. He singled out one of them in his blog, but I elaborate on a few more examples.  LSU used to avoid playing any FCS opponents, and I'm certainly in favor of avoiding the mediocre or bad ones, but I think it can be a really good experience to play ones that are among the best of their subdivision. So that's what I meant in the comments about the teams being better to play than the likes of Southern and Grambling.  I wasn't talking about seeking out some recruting edge.  LSU has routinely played in-state FBS opponents (they play one on Saturday, in fact), so I really don't think they're more worried about Southern and Grambling.  The better FCS teams give different looks and expose weaknesses.  I think they're more difficult to plan for in some ways.  In LSU's case, there is usually not a serious risk of losing, but all it takes is a bad game and for the FCS team to be particularly good and it could happen.  Michigan was a program in much better shape than it is now and had an otherwise successful year when it lost to Appalachian St.

Before I post my other thoughts on that topic, I gave some more thought to his divisions there.  Most of them are good, but I wouldn't put the Texas teams with the Southern California teams.  That doesn't make sense tradtionally or geographically.  The traditional teams to group together are the Pac-8.  So that's the Pac-12 minus Utah, Colorado, Arizona, and Arizona St., all of whom are much closer to Texas than the Southern California teams are. Utah is the only one that comes within a couple hundred miles of being as far.  The four relatively new Pac-12 teams also in general have more experience playing the relevant Texas teams.  I can also tell you that the Southern California teams want it the way I'm suggesting as well because they would not agree to the Pac-12 divisional alignment unless it was guaranteed they would both play all three of the other California teams every year.  I don't think they really care whether they play Arizona or Washington teams, but it even seems to me (at least if you talk to USC fans) that the Oregon opponents are a bigger deal than the Arizona ones.  Anyway, here's my regularly scheduled blog...

This isn’t the main thing I’m going to write about, but I heard it after I published my blog about the LSU-Wisconsin game. Since Les Miles took over at LSU, the Tigers are 22-21 when trailing in the fourth quarter, the only team in the FBS to have a winning record during that span (apparently, they don’t count the last-second loss to Clemson as “trailing in the fourth quarter”; but no one else comes close regardless). Miles is also back above the 80% mark as head coach of the Tigers. After winning 85% in his first three seasons, Miles’ winning percentage had fallen to 77.3% after the 2009 season. The Tigers are attempting to finish with double-digit wins for the fifth consecutive year since then. It would be Miles’ 8th overall in 10 seasons.

By comparison, Nick Saban won 75% of his games at LSU and had two double-digit-win seasons in five years, falling just short of a third on the last play of his stint at LSU. I understand Saban didn’t take over a program in the same shape; but he was still considered a strong success overall, so building on his tenure is still something to be proud of. Not many coaches can step into a situation like that and improve it, so Miles deserves a good deal of credit.

I don’t have too much to say about the Sam Houston St. game itself, but although LSU won extremely easily, that was not necessarily the expected result.

Ameer Abdullah's great run with 20 second left saved Nebraska from potential embarrassment.

Ameer Abdullah’s great run with 20 seconds left saved Nebraska from potential embarrassment.

After the Nebraska-McNeese St. game (if you missed it, Nebraska scored the winning touchdown with 20 seconds left with the Cowboys essentially one tackle away from forcing overtime), I want to talk a bit about FCS opponents. They really vary. A number of the scores were pretty close. Of course, you also have your 70-point wins against such opponents as well.

Sam Houston St. went to the FCS championship game in the 2012 season, so they could have been among the best teams this season. I was looking at the margins Sam Houston St. won by that season. They won seven games by 35 points or more and beat Southeast Louisiana, 70-0. I think there is as much of a gap between the top and bottom of FCS as there is of FBS. Maybe Sam Houston isn’t as high on the scale this season; but the team they lost to in that championship game, North Dakota St., seems to be about the same after the Bison’s 34-14 win over Iowa St. So I don’t think there is a real appreciation of that.

Most people dismiss the opposition right off the bat. I know a Kansas St. fan who just assumed North Dakota St. was nothing to worry about last year, for instance. There is a general lack of appreciation of the fact that if you play a playoff-level FCS team, there is a good chance that team will be clearly better than a low-level FBS team.

One of those teams that is routinely toward the bottom of the FCS is Nicholls St. (which just lost to Arkansas , 73-7), but even they have a recent win over an FBS school. They beat Western Michigan last year, but when they played would-be bowl teams, the results were more predicable: losses to Oregon, 66-3, and to ULL, 70-7.

Anyway, I’ve noticed the quality of FCS opponents on LSU’s schedule of late. The Tigers played Furman last year, and while that’s not typically one of the top FCS teams (although they are competitive in one of the top FCS conferences), they still did a decent job. LSU only led by four at halftime and didn’t lead by more than 11 until less than 17 minutes remained in the game. The Paladin defense folded after that, and LSU ended up winning by 32; but that was still a better exercise than Kent St., whom LSU led 31-7 in the second quarter, or UAB, whom LSU led 35-7 in the second quarter last season. LSU let both teams back into the game a little bit before pulling away, but I don’t think that’s the same kind of pressure.

In 2012, LSU blew out Idaho, 63-14, but then struggled to beat Towson, 38-22, two weeks later. Towson failed to make the playoffs that year despite only losing twice in FCS play, but they advanced to the FCS finals last year (they also lost to the Bison of NDSU) after again only losing two games in FCS play. They played no FBS opponents last season, however.

A similar combination of results took place in 2010 when LSU beat McNeese St., 32-10, after trailing in the second quarter and leading only 16-10 after halftime. The Tigers then went on to beat ULM, 51-0, later that season. LSU plays ULM next week, by the way.

LSU had only played an FCS opponent twice in the previous six seasons, both times being against Appalachian St. In the first meeting in 2005, the Tigers, who would win the SEC West, only led the Mountaineers 14-0 after three quarters before pulling away slightly in the fourth to win, 24-0. Appalachian St. at one point drove to the LSU 15 while it was still 14-0 (before missing a field goal), so the game was in doubt for a long time despite the lack of points. The Tigers had easier wins that season @Mississippi St., @Vanderbilt, @Ole Miss, and in the bowl game against Miami. LSU also blew out North Texas at home by more than twice that margin in that season.

So if I wanted to give LSU a test in a given year, I’d pick a top-20 FCS team over a bottom-20 FBS team every time. Just something to keep in mind.

Also, McNeese wasn’t the only team with a good result last week. Eastern Kentucky got the only win (over Miami U.), but there were some others that were in doubt fairly late. Stony Brook gave Connecticut all they could handle. Rutgers only beat Howard by 13. Eastern Washington was neck-and-neck with Washington the whole game, falling short by only 7 points. Southern Mississippi only beat Alcorn St. by 6, and UNLV only beat Northern Colorado by a single point.

Finally, I don’t think Missouri St. made Oklahoma St. too nervous, but I thought it was interesting that the Bears only lost by 17 after the Cowboys were a touchdown short of beating Florida St. in Week 1.

By the way, LSU plays McNeese St. and Eastern Michigan next season. I would not be surprised if they had more trouble with McNeese St.

Irish Shu's Irish Season Review
Category: NCAA
Tags: Notre Dame Football Tommy Rees Stephon Tuitt Louis Nix Pinstripe Bowl Zack Martin TJ Jones Montana Nebraska

HAPPY BELATED NEW YEAR TO ALL!!!  Here we go - Irish Shu is here with a look back at the now-completed Fighting Irish football season.  In the last edition I recapped the first 6 games, so now I'll review the last 7 including their bowl game.

USC:  This was a game that had me concerned.  So-Cal had owned the Irish in recent years and was looking for a big win to continue the era of interim Coach Ed Orgeron who had replaced the fired Lane Kiffin.  It did turn out to be an ugly game during which ND’s QB Tommy Rees and S.C’s stud receiver Marquise Lee both left the game with injuries (Lee has hurting to begin with) but the Irish D toughed it out and held on for a gutty 14-10 Irish win.  It was the first home win over the Trojans since 2001 and only the third night game played in South Bend in the past 2 decades.


In addition to the relentless pressure from the Irish D, USC also killed themselves with nearly 100 yards in penalties.  The win came in spite of a very poor effort from backup QB Andrew Hendrix in the wake of the injury to Rees.  I was among the many who had been calling for Hendrix to have a chance to play and prove himself…well, he blew that chance.  He looked very uncomfortable, failed to complete any passes and mustered only 27 yards of offense in the second half….that makes it all the more impressive that the Irish won this one.

AIR FORCE: This would turn out to be one of the best played games of the year for the Irish…but when it comes against a Falcon team that was on their 4th quarterback of the season and would finish 2-10, I would have been disappointed with anything less.  Rees had a career day going 17-22 for 284 yards and touchdown throws to 5 different ND receivers in a 45-10 rout.

The feat of completing TD throws to 5 men was the first time that had ever happened in Irish football.  The Air Force option attack did gash the Irish D for 290 yards, but the inability of the Falcons to finish drives and their turnovers proved costly to them, as well.

NAVY:  The Midshipmen came to play and played one of their best offensive games of the year.  They gutted the Irish D for 331 rushing yards, finished with a 15-minute advantage in time-of-possession, and committed NO penalties and NO turnovers to 2 for the Irish…but in spite of all that, the Irish still won 38-34.  WHEW!  Why did this happen?  Because the Navy D was not able to stop the Irish O, which finished with over 500 yards and very impressive balance between the run and the pass.  Freshman Irish running back Tarean Folston had his breakout game with a 140-yard rushing day and the game ended with a sensational play on D when safety Eliar Hardy and frosh linebacker Jaylon Smith snuffed-out a Navy end-around on 4th and 4 and stopped the receiver for no gain to preserve the win.

It would be the last loss Navy would suffer this season as they would go on to post a 9 and 4 record to match that of the Irish…however, this win and the prior win over Air Force would prove costly to the health of the Irish D-front.  Having consecutive games with the 2 service academies which both employ the option and cut-blocking took out several players including lineman Kona Schwenke and Sheldon Day, and linebacker Ishaq Williams.  The Irish D was already missing starters Louis Nix and Jarret Grace to leg injuries prior to this, and it made a bad situation worse.  The Irish D would go forward dipping further into the reserves from here.

PITT:  As well as the Irish had played in their 2 games prior to this one, that’s how poorly they played against the Panthers at Heinz Field.  Pitt capitalized on 3 Irish turnovers to their none, including 2 very costly “Turnover Tommy” interceptions (one in the Pitt end zone to prevent a touchdown) and the Panthers avenged last year’s triple-OT loss with a 28-21 win that would knock the Irish out of BCS Bowl contention.  In addition to the turnovers, including one Pitt fumble caused by a QB sack in the fourth quarter which the Irish did not pounce on, penalties also proved costly.  They didn’t have many penalties, but the ones they committed were big.  Defensive end Stephon Tuitt was ejected in the first half for targeting the Pitt QB (and I’ll agree with my pal, the Beeze, when I say that was a BULLSHIT call – Tuitt was lowering his head to try to get UNDER the QB’s head and the QB lowered his head, as well),


and a pass interference penalty on a 4th down play would extend a drive that Pitt would score on.  The overall-sloppy play in this game, in-particular, baffles me to this day…but shit does happen, and with all due respect to Pitt, that was shit.

BYU:  The Irish had a bye week to shake-off the loss to Pitt and hopefully bounce back against a good BYU team with one of the country’s best running quarterbacks in Taysom Hill.

Despite cold and snowy conditions, the Irish D contained Hill well-enough and won their last home game on senior day 23-13.  This time, it was running back Cam McDaniel who had a career day with 117 rushing yards.  Folston added 78 yards and a score.  Rees’ last home game was an adequate performance for him as he went 15-28 for 235 yards and a score.  It was a good tune-up for what would be one of their toughest opponents of the year (of which they had several, as always) in…

STANFORD:  The Irish were game in this one and made it close, but still lost to the eventual Pac-12 Champion 27-20.  Stanford Senior RB Tyler Gaffney tore the Irish D for 189 yards and a score and the Cardinal D held the Irish O in-check by allowing them only 263 total yards…and yet the Irish STILL had their chances to pull-off the win.  Rees threw for 2 touchdowns in the 3rd quarter to help bring the Irish back.  Then they had 2 final drives in the fourth quarter to try to tie the game but, alas, both ended in Rees interceptions and the Cardinal held-on.

Incidentally, Gaffney getting close to 200 yards against ND isn’t really a shame when you consider the year he had – he finished his season with over 1,700 yards and 21 touchdowns, so he was tough for most teams to handle.  Stanford would go on to win their second consecutive Pac-12 title and go on to the Rose Bowl to lose a close one to Michigan State – a team whose only loss this year was to – guess who?  NOTRE DAME!

Pinstripe Bowl vs. RUTGERS:  The season ended with a bowl win over a .500 Rutgers team that was a sloppy game for both teams.  Sloppy because the Irish were missing about a dozen players with the flu.  Sloppy because the field at Yankee Stadium was in poor shape with a lot of torn turf and divots that skill players on BOTH sides slipped and tripped on.  Sloppy because both teams had to settle for more field goals than they would have liked in-part due to said field conditions.  When all was said and done, though, Tommy Rees ended his career with a 319-yard effort against one of the poorest pass defenses in the country and the Irish did win 29-16 in a game that, with all due respect to the Scarlet Knights, was closer than it should have been.  The REALLY cool thing about this game?  The MVP award.  It went to outgoing senior tackle Zack Martin – the first time an O-lineman received a Bowl MVP trophy in 54 years, and it was very well deserved.

The Irish running game really took over in the second half by repeatedly running to Zack’s side and they had success doing so.  Martin will head into the NFL as one of the best Irish linemen to ever play, having never missed a game in his Irish career with a school record 52 career starts…and his leadership will be missed, for sure.

So to wrap it up the Irish football season was overall-disappointing, but not bad when one considers that, of the 12 regular season opponents the Irish faced, 9 went to bowl games, 3 played in BCS bowls and the Irish beat one of those 3 (Michigan State)…still, if the Irish can beat Michigan State and the Pac-12 runner-up in Arizona State, and play Stanford as close as they did, then why, WHY did they choke against Michigan and Pitt???...yeah, I know the answer.  Turnover Tommy.

Speaking of Tommy Rees, in spite of his several costly mistakes and lack of natural athleticism and the ability to run, I will give him this pat-on-the-back; statistically he actually did very well in spite of all that.  True, throwing 37 interceptions in a 4-year career is not good, but he did finish with 7,670 yards and 61 touchdowns.  The yardage put him in 3rd place in ND school history in that category behind only Brady Quinn and Jimmy Clausen.  With the Pinstripe Bowl victory, Rees joined Tom Clements, Joe Montana, Tony Rice and Rick Mirer as the only Notre Dame quarterbacks with two bowl game victories as a starter…it does make me wonder how much more impressive his career would have been if only he could RUN.

So, farewell to Tommy, thank you, and I’m REALLY looking forward to next year’s quarterback battle between Malik Zaire and the now-reinstated and supposedly-improved Everett Golson…assuming Golson doesn’t f-up and get himself kicked out of school again.

Other concerns as we head to next year: replacing lost starters.

Thankfully the Offense returns largely-intact; Rees will be replaced by a better running QB and while the O-line loses the awesome Zack Martin and Chris Watt, they get just about everyone else back.  TJ Jones and his over-1,100 receiving yards will be missed, but a whole ton of very good receivers come back, including DaVaris Daniels.  There is talk that their best tight end in Troy Niklas might declare for the draft, but hopefully he’ll stay.  ALL the best Irish running backs will be back next year.  The offensive coordinator in Chuck Martin did leave for the head coaching job at Miami of Ohio, so whoever replaces him will have some great athletes to work with.

On defense, though, the losses are more notable.  Along the front the Irish lose Louis Nix and Stephon Tuitt to the NFL – OUCH! - and a couple linebackers, too, including Carlo Calabrese and Dan Fox who was very good.  The secondary also loses a couple.  Another big loss is that of the D-coordinator in Bob Diaco who left for the head coaching gig at U-Conn.  Hopefully his replacement can get the D to reload rather than rebuild…the losses of Nix and Tuitt, in-particular, will make that challenging.  I do look forward to the continued rise of sensational frosh LB Jaylon Smith.  That guy made some impressive stops and should only get better.

As for how my other teams fared:

MONTANA GRIZZLIES:  Had a good bounce-back year as they went 10-3 and made it back to the FCS playoffs which they do regularly.  They did lose in the first round to Coastal Carolina, which became cannon fodder for eventual FCS champion North Dakota State (their third in a row).  Oh well, a good year nonetheless.

NEBRASKA CORNHUSKERS:  Had a pretty good year as they finished 9-4 and beat Georgia in the Gator Bowl, but they are far-removed from the clock-controlling ground game and Blackshirt D that made them champions.  Coach Bo Pelini and his sideline tirades didn’t help the program’s image, either…nor did a lot of the buzz that he should be canned.  Next year for the Huskers should be interesting given all of that.

COLORADO STATE RAMS:  Definitely improved this year!  The Rams finished an 8-6 season with a thrilling come-from-behind New Mexico Bowl win over Wazzu 48-45.  This is the best they’ve done in some time, so we’ll see if they can build on it.

CUSTER COUNTY COWBOYS:  My hometown high school team is a regular participant in the playoffs and has won a few state championships.  They did not make the playoffs last year, but did make it this year in spite of having a predominately young team again…however; they lost a heartbreaker in the first round by one point.  Next year should be even better, I hope.

Fellow You Gabbers: It is always a pleasure!!!  Have an awesome 2014!  Take care, Irish Shu

Thoughts on Pac-12 expansion
Category: NCAA

]Logos in white boxes represent potential additions.  The red areas are the current South Division, and the blue areas are the current North Division.

[Logos in white boxes represent potential additions.  The red areas are the current South Division, and the blue areas are the current North Division.]

With BYU's success as an independent team (despite losses to Virginia and Utah, the latter a recent Pac-12 addition), I still think the Cougars would be a good fit for the Pac-12.  That's the real rival for Utah--not Colorado, who doesn't have a real rival in the Pac-12.

I know the conference is expressing reluctance to expand, but it wasn’t too long ago that it was talking about 16 teams.  Also, it doesn't seem like that long ago that the Pac-10 and Big Ten didn't want to expand, didn't want a championship game, and didn't even want to be involved in the BCS.  Both wanted their champion to play in the Rose Bowl and for that to be the end of it.  A few conferences seemed happy at 12 but have expanded/are expanding anyway. 

I still don’t understand why public “research universities” is such a priority for Pac-12 admission, but people always bring it up.   I had never heard much about Utah or Arizona St. (or a couple of the more long-standing Pac-8/10/12 schools) being academic powerhouses.  Anyway, I do know BYU is a good school (without so much research maybe), and since they’re unaffiliated and there are two schools in the Rockies unconnected with the rest of the conference, it seems it would fit.  

Although I don’t know anything about its standing among other schools academically (promotional materials seem to make their research sound impressive: http://www.depts.ttu.edu/vpr/), Texas Tech would be a good way to expand into the pool of Texas talent since it is in Western Texas, actually not very far to the East (although significantly to the South) of Boulder, Colorado.  It was one of those potential additions to the Pac-12 when the Big XII nearly fell into pieces.

How to align the divisions would be a challenge, although I do have an idea of how that could be done.  Basically, take the 7 rivalry pairs and put all the more sophisticated schools in one division and the other schools in another.  Washington St. and Oregon St. seem a little grittier than Washington and Oregon, the latter two being rivals of one other anyway.  Stanford/Cal, USC/UCLA, and BYU/Utah are fairly obvious since the first one of each pair is private and the second public.  I don’t think I have to elaborate on why Texas Tech is more rough-around-the-edges than Colorado. Just imagine Boulder, then imagine Lubbock.  By reputation, Arizona seems a little more buttoned-down than Arizona St., but I’m not sure that matters either way.

Colorado could have an even better rival in Air Force, although that doesn’t really expand the recruiting base.  It may add to fan interest though.  The service academies have fans scattered all over. Of course, Air Force also regularly played BYU and Utah when all three were in the Mountain West and WAC.  The team right now is pretty bad though.  You don't always want to focus on the short term, but I think that would be a meaningful concern.  The Pac-12 doesn't want another doormat.  

Boise St. doesn’t have much of an academic profile, but that would seem to make for an easy transition.  The Broncos already have the talent and interest to compete, and it would be natural to add them to the Pac-12 North and BYU to the Pac-12 South.  I still think teams in Colorado and Utah being in the South seems a little off, but my understanding is everyone not in California wants to play in California at least once a year.

Fresno St., UNLV, San Diego St., and San Jose St. could be other possibilities if academics aren’t a priority.  UNLV and San Diego are big unexploited media markets for major college football (and in the case of UNLV, there are no major professional sports in the area either).  I'm not sure how much San Jose St. and Fresno St. would add, so they're probably least likely, but they make obvious geographical sense.  There are half a million people in Fresno and no major sports in the surrounding area, where arguably another half a million people or more live.  San Jose St. isn't very far from Stanford, but not everyone is a Stanford person.  

Another possibility I thought of was Hawaii, which apparently does have some research credentials, but that program has crashed and burned since June Jones and Colt Brennan left the islands, so it has some of the same problems as Air Force, except I think Air Force has better road fans.  Logistics aren’t very favorable for Hawaii either, of course.

Nebraska is a long-shot, but I thought it worth mentioning.  I don't think the Big Ten is quite what the Huskers signed up for. If they have to play a 9-game conference schedule and travel to one of the coasts, why not the Pacific Coast instead?  With Colorado, at least they would get one of their traditional rivals back.  Maybe if they joined along with Texas Tech, that would be the best way of including new teams in a more logical way.  

As to how the divisional alignment would work, Utah could just be switched to the North and keep playing Colorado as a permanent opponent (or "protected series", as the Big Ten calls it).  Berkeley is about the same distance away as Tempe (Arizona St. is the second-closest Pac-12 South opponent for the Utes) is anyway.  Nebraska would also help out the competitive balance in the long-run.  I'm sure that would be a really expensive proposition though.

Preliminary LSU Thoughts and Dodger Blue Skies
Category: NCAA

Preliminary LSU Thoughts

I’m fine with my team not being highly rated to start, but I still question the reasoning.

I guess people are forgetting that despite the #14 ranking to finish last year, LSU was one of the handful of top teams in the country for the third year in a row. The loss to Clemson in the bowl game was a matter of a highly motivated team playing a highly disappointed team. I’m not saying that it wasn’t right for LSU to fall in the polls afterward, but that didn’t mean that they weren’t one of the best teams in the country. If Alabama had been slotted into the Peach Bowl (Chick-fil-A doesn’t send me money, so I’m calling it what I want) against Clemson, that probably would have been a really close game too. When you are the national runner-up one year and you go down to the wire against a team like Alabama for what in all likelihood would have been a chance to repeat as SEC Champions, the Peach Bowl isn’t something you get excited about.

I’m not saying LSU would have necessarily won the SEC (Georgia showed itself to be pretty much equal to LSU and Alabama despite having played none of the top three teams in the West before the SEC Championship game [SECCG]), but only very good SEC teams control their own destiny going into the SECCG. LSU was in that position in neither of its championship years; and of course in 2011, Alabama wasn’t even in the SECCG.

An unfortunate aspect of preseason rankings is many voters (or random people who do preseason rankings) want to envision a team going undefeated. That’s hard to do when you have to play the best four other SEC teams from last year (Alabama, Texas A&M, Georgia, and Florida) and TCU.

How many does Alabama have to play? Two. So it’s possible LSU beats Alabama and still doesn’t make the SECCG as a result of the rest of the schedule.

You might vaguely recall the fact that Alabama had an easier slate against the East last year too. The Tide played Missouri and Tennessee while the Tigers played Florida and South Carolina. It seems like the least that could have been done would have been to let LSU play Missouri this year.

LSU also had quite a gauntlet in 2011 and went 13-0 going into the BCS title game. And that was without a reliable quarterback, which LSU finally seems to have going into next year. Zach Mettenberger had some shaky starts early last year, but compared to Jarrett Lee’s growing pains, his first season was a walk in the park. Had LSU not played Florida, the Tigers could have very well gone into the Alabama game (in which Mettenberger would have likely finished leading the team to victory had he been allowed) undefeated.

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HAPPY NEW YEAR!!!...and look back at the AWESOME Irish Football season.
Category: NCAA
Tags: Notre Dame College Football Brian Kelly Manti Te'o Tyler Eiffert Bob Diaco Montana Grizzlies Colorado State Nebraska



HAPPY NEW YEAR TO ALL!!!..Albeit a bit late due to my beloved Fighting Irish playing their last game just a couple days ago…I’ll get to that game in a minute.  Shut up.

Once again it's time for Irish Shu to look back at their season.  In the last edition I recapped the first 7 games, so now I'll review the last 6 including the championship game.

OKLAHOMA:  I, being the ever-pessimistic beaten-down Irish fan was preparing for the roof to fall in on what had thus-far been an excellent undefeated season.  I thought that if any team was going to expose the weaknesses my team had, it would be then-#8 Oklahoma at Norman…how very wrong I was, and how happy I was to be so!  The dominating Irish D held the Sooners to a measly 15 yards rushing, bent but did not break by allowing Landry Jones to pass for 356 yards, but no touchdowns, and ran away in the 4th quarter in a 30-13 win at Norman.  The Irish D did yield their first rushing touchdown of the season, but the backs of Cierre Wood, Everett Golson and Theo Riddick ran for one apiece to more than make up for it…It was the signature win for the Irish and Coach Kelly and the remainder of the season was definitely looking bright after this one.

PITT: Almost every great team has a “let down” game at some point in the season.  Even the eventual champions in Alabama had one against Texas A&M.  You could say this was the “almost let down” for the Irish…but by golly, they escaped with an ugly 29-26 triple overtime win over the eager Panthers.  The Irish overcame a mistake-filled day that included 3 turnovers and a 20-7 4th quarter deficit.  Everett Golson found it in himself to take charge after being benched, and the Irish got DAMN lucky when Pitt missed a 33-yard field goal attempt in the 2nd overtime on their way to the ugly win.  WHEW!!!

BOSTON COLLEGE:  The Irish went to Chestnut Hill to face an Eagle team that has given them problems in recent years and played an adequate, but unspectacular game on their way to a 21-6 win.  Hapless B.C. was torched by Theo Riddick for 104 rushing yards and 67 receiving yards in a game that was not as close as the score made it seem, but still had a milquetoast feel to it when it was all said and done…perhaps the pre-game news that Alabama had just lost to A&M before the game deterred their focus?  Who knows?  Boston College would go on to a final record of 2-10 that ended with the firing of Coach Frank Spaziani after 4 seasons…ND D-Coach Bob Diaco was interviewed to take his place, but declined.

WAKE FOREST:  The Irish showed a bit more of their true potential against the Demon Deacons as they routed them at home on Senior Day 38-0.  The game featured touchdowns on their first 3 drives, offensive yardage output that was more than 2 to 1 over the Deacs and total domination…something the Irish had trouble showing in the 2 games prior to this one.  The Irish then learned that they were in-control of their destination after both Oregon and Kansas State lost later that day…all they’d have to do now was go to the L.A. Coliseum and knock-off USC and the spot in the championship game was theirs!...uh-oh.

USC:  A team does not make excuses.  A team must play a game with the players they have…but to this day I still cannot help but wonder; would the outcome have been the same had Trojan QB Matt Barkley not suffered a separated shoulder the week before this one?  We’ll never know, obviously, but it certainly didn’t help USC’s cause in the 22-13 Irish win that punched their ticket to the national championship game and ended a very disappointing season for a USC team that started-out ranked #1.  Frosh QB Max Wittek gave his best in Barkley’s absence but still threw 2 interceptions and was flustered by the tough Irish D.  The ND Offense, meanwhile, gutted USC for 439 yards including 146 rushing yards from Theo Riddick, but still left some points off the board and had to settle for 5 Kyle Brindza field goals in the win…still, though, it was a win that left the Irish as the only bowl-eligible team with an undefeated record.  WOO-HOO!!!

National Championship game vs. ALABAMA:  SIGH…outside of the Notre Dame fans themselves, nobody gave the Irish a chance in this one.  Not to take anything away from the Tide, but the Irish defense that had been so dominant all season played nothing like they had been up until this game.  They played a “matador defense” waving the ‘Bama ball carriers by and yelling “Ole’!” instead of wrapping-up and tackling, and the Irish O under-executed against a tough Tide D (something this O did a few times this year) on their way to the 42-14 ass kicking that gave ‘Bama their 3rd national championship in 4 years.  The game was a pisser…and a disappointing end to the BEST season these Irish eyes have seen in over 20 years.  Congratulations to Alabama.  You came to play.  That’s all there is. 

So to wrap it up the Irish football season was awesome!  Sure, it sucked to not win the championship and to get our asses kicked in said game…hey, I don’t deny that we did!  But along the way the Irish:

-         Flew to Ireland and trounced a pesky Navy team on a soccer pitch.

-         Survived a strong defensive Purdue team while still trying to find an identity for their quarterback.

-         Saw their Defensive leader in Manti Te’o come of age as he suffered the losses of his girlfriend and grandmother in a day, and play the game of his life against Michigan State that weekend on his way to becoming a Heisman finalist and winning a truckload of other individual awards.

-         Shook the Denard Robinson monkey off their backs and beat Michigan for the first time in 4 years.

-         Developed a good quarterback in Everett Golson, who went from a redshirt frosh with no experience at season’s start, to a MUCH improved leader and signal caller by season’s end…something that gives this team a good head-of-steam going-in to next year.

-         Dominated a rivaled Miami team one week, and fight a tough Stanford team to an OT win the next…the same Stanford team that would eventually beat Oregon at Autzen Stadium and win both the Pac-12 Title and the Rose Bowl.

-         Survived scares against a BYU team with a tough Defense (and the Irish playing without their starting QB) and an inspired Pitt team that really put everything out there to try to beat the Irish…and almost did.

-         Survived their last “trap” game against a rival USC team on the road to get to the championship game in the first place.

-         Put together their first undefeated regular season in over 2 decades.

This Irish fan says THANK YOU for an awesome season…and waits with concern to see what transpires in the off-season.  The Irish don’t lose a ton of starters, although losing Te’o and All-American Tight End Tyler Eiffert among others will hurt, but they have an awesome recruiting class coming-in…

…However, as of this writing it is being reported that Coach Brian Kelly has interviewed for the head coaching job for the Philadelphia Eagles.  Defensive Coordinator Bob Diaco is also highly-coveted and may leave for a head coaching job of his own when it’s all said and done.  We shall see what will become of all this.

Great season, nonetheless.  THANK YOU!  And GO IRISH!!!

As for my other teams and how they did:

MONTANA GRIZZLIES: My alma-mater was a program in-shambles this year after rape and assault allegations gutted the team and the coaching staff.  It showed as the normally FCS championship-caliber Griz had a disappointing, but not surprising 5-6 season and didn’t even come close to making the playoffs…the good news?  They can only go UP from here.

NEBRASKA CORNHUSKERS: Finished with another 10-win season, which is good, but it ended with a THUD with ass-kickings at the hands of both Wisconsin in the Big 10 championship and to Georgia in the Capital One Bowl…not the way to go out.  Obviously this team is not bad, but has pieces missing.

COLORADO STATE RAMS:  Hate to say this, but my days as a Fort Collins resident and CSU Ram fan seem VERY long ago…as a result I’m not paying as much attention to them as I used to.  Jim McElwain’s first year as coach was only barely improved from the previous 2 seasons the Rams had as his team finished 4-8…but in his defense, the Mountain West was more beefy this year with the addition of Boise State.  We’ll see how they do next year.

CUSTER COUNTY COWBOYS:  Yep, my hometown high school team.   2 years ago they won a State Championship.  Last year, they made the State Semifinals.  This year, they had a lot of underclassmen and rebuilt as they won some games, but just missed the playoffs…something they don’t do very often.  Better luck next year.

Fellow You Gabbers: It is always a pleasure!!!  Have an awesome 2013!  I’ll keep reading your works. And still chip-in with a blog now and then.

PS  BEEZE – thank you for encouraging me to contribute!  Give lil Molls a kiss, ok?


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