Archive for November, 2007

Goodman’s great

Friday, November 30th, 2007

Let’s all give out a big shout to 2008 Irish WR commit John Goodman, who joins Sean Cwynar, Michael Floyd, and Dan McCarthy as the fourth Irish recruit to win Player of the Year honors in his home state:

Goodman is The News-Sentinel’s PrepSports Football Player of the Year because his numbers are almost unbelievable. As Bishop Dwenger’s quarterback, the senior completed 95 of 175 passes for 1,697 yards and 16 touchdowns, with only two interceptions.

Goodman was also the Saints’ punter and a starting defensive back and the team’s heart and soul, leading them to the Summit Athletic Conference title, a No. 1 ranking all season in Class 4A and a semistate berth.

He rushed for 535 yards on 98 attempts — including sacks — caught seven passes for 199 yards, and returned eight kickoffs for 191 yards and 22 punts for 309 yards. He also averaged 35.3 yards per punt, grabbed two interceptions and made 28 tackles.

He averaged 17.9 yards per completion and 9.5 per attempt. His combined total was 28 touchdowns.

“There’s only one thing he didn’t do,” Bishop Dwenger coach Chris Svarczkopf said. “He was not on our kickoff team, and if we’d have gone another week, he’d have done that, too, because at that point it doesn’t make any difference and there’s no reason to hold him back. He would have done a tremendous job.”

Svarczkopf charted Goodman’s numbers for his three-year career, including the first two as a wide receiver. Besides earning first-team all-SAC honors twice as a receiver and this year as a quarterback, Goodman gained 5,600 yards in 480 touches, good for 11.8 yards per touch.

Goodman threw only two interceptions all season, one in the first half of the first game against Concordia Lutheran, and the other in his last throw in the Saints’ last game against Lowell.

In between, he threw 170 straight passes without a pick, a remarkable number for someone who played receiver the previous two seasons. He’ll return to receiver next year when he starts his college career at Notre Dame.

And there’s more to the player than his mind-blowing numbers:

“The best thing is that he’s someone whom everyone on the team admires and respects,” Svarczkopf said. “He elevated the play of everyone on the team. That’s what you want in your player of the year. He brought everybody else’s play to another level.”

Svarczkopf said his favorite memory of Goodman will be how after making a big play, the quarterback would charge off the field, laughing and grinning from ear to ear, because he was having so much fun.

“As a versatile player, you have to be like that,” Goodman said. “You have to be the type of player that executes in all those situations and the type of player who shows other people what to do, shows them how to do it and be the type of player that kids look up to. They fed off me, and as a leader I tried to show them what to do.”

Congratulations, John! Here’s to seeing a good deal of this on the field over the next few years:

(HT: Carms.)

Friday Night Lights roundup for the weekend of 11/23

Thursday, November 29th, 2007

Here’s the Roundup’s weekly overview of how the players currently committed to Notre Dame’s 2008 recruiting class fared in their high school games this past weekend:

  • Michael Floyd had three catches for 85 yards but was kept out of the end zone, and his Cretin-Derham Hall (Minn.) team fell to Eden Prairie, 50-21, in the class 5-A state championship game. Cretin-Derham ends the season at 13-1.
  • Jonas Gray had 34 carries for 144 yards, but was largely contained overall - he had only 36 yards on 20 carries in the first half, and was tackled for a loss seven times - as his Detroit Country Day (Mich.) team fell to Marine City, 21-7, in the Div-IV state championship game. The Yellowjackets finish the season with an 11-3 record.
  • Dan McCarthy was on the sidelines once again with a neck injury suffered a couple of weeks ago, but his Cardinal Mooney (Ohio) team still managed to make it to their fourth straight state championship game, defeating Pleasant by a final score of 28-0. The 14-0 Cardinals will play 13-1 Coldwater for the state title.
  • Omar Hunter (pictured here) and his Buford (Ga.) team moved to 13-0 with a 41-0 blowout of Darlington in the second round of the state playoffs. Next up for the top-ranked Wolves is second-ranked Charlton County (11-0).
  • Jamoris Slaughter’s Tucker (Ga.) team is now 12-0, after a 56-10 shellacking of Northwest Whitfield in their second-round game. The Tigers’ next playoff opponent is 9-3 Bainbridge.
  • Joseph Fauria had touchdown catches of 23 and 40 yards and played great defense to boot as his Crespi (Calif.) team pulled off a shocking, 48-26 rout of Mater Dei in the quarterfinals of the Southern Section Pac-5 playoffs. There’s more on the game, and on the play of Fauria and 2009 QB recruit Matt Barkley in particular, here. Next up for the 10-2 Celts is 9-2 Servite.
  • Ethan Johnson watched from the sidelines as his Lincoln (Ore.) team ended their season at 6-6 with a 28-21 loss to West Salem in the state 6A quarterfinals.
  • Despite a disappointing three-loss regular season and an early exit from the state playoffs, Darius Fleming and his St. Rita’s (Ill.) team still have something to cheer about, as they beat Morgan Park, 31-7, to claim their first Prep Bowl title since 1997. The Mustangs end the year at 10-4.
  • Hafis Williams’s Elizabeth (N.J.) team ends their year at 6-4 after a 39-24 victory over Scotch Plains in their regular-season finale. Their loss to Hunterdon Central in the previous week was actually a playoff game, so that ends their season.
  • And finally, Mike Golic Jr.’s Northwest Catholic (Conn.) team earned themselves a a Class S playoff berth, with a 36-12 victory over Plainville that moved them to 8-2 on the year.

Best of luck to Golic, Fauria, Slaughter, and Hunter, and to McCarthy’s Mooney squad, in their remaining games!

That’s “MISTER Football” to you …

Thursday, November 29th, 2007

Congratulations to 2008 DL commitment Sean Cwynar, of Marian Central Catholic High School in Woodstock, Ill., who just this past weekend was named Illinois “Mr. Football” for the 2007 season:

Sean Cwynar was blown away Saturday night, which is a rare sight, considering he stands 6-foot-4 and weighs 285 pounds.

The Marian Central senior lineman watched some of the IHSA state football championships and enjoyed the Class 8A game from a skybox at the University of Illinois’ Memorial Stadium. Then, at halftime, Cwynar joined Montini’s Garrett Goebel and Chicago Mount Carmel’s Steve Filer as the three nominees for the Mr. Football award.

Cwynar, who started at offensive tackle and defensive end, was named the winner of the award, given for the first time.

“I wasn’t expecting to win it,” Cwynar said. “It was cool. It’s a real big trophy. Those guys were two real good players. Just to be nominated as one of top three players, when you look at all the all-state players around the state, 20 in each class, was an honor. To be Player of the Year is just awesome.”

Cwynar also talked about his decision to graduate early from high school and enroll at Notre Dame a semester early to take part in spring practices:

“I’m excited about [enrolling early],” said Cwynar, who ranks in the top 30 of his senior class. “It was cool to get the opportunity to do that. I knew last summer [I could do it], but I had to take a religion and a Spanish class to get enough credits. I just kept it quiet, I didn’t want [graduating early] to interfere with the season.”

Cwynar was a two-way starter on Marian’s Class 5A state runner-up team in 2006 and again this season, when the Hurricanes reached the 5A semifinals. By enrolling early, Cwynar can join the Fighting Irish for spring practices. First, he will play in the U.S. Army All-American Bowl on Jan. 6 in San Antonio.

“[Enrolling early] will give me a lot better chance to have some early playing time,” Cwynar said. “I’ll have a whole extra semester to work on everything.”

Congratulations, Sean! The ND community looks forward to seeing you around campus and on the playing field.

In defense of John Latina (?)

Thursday, November 29th, 2007

A lot has been made of the awful mess that was the 2007 Notre Dame offensive line. Some of this blame has gone towards Charlie Weis, in particular for to his decision to run non-physical practices that lacked real hitting. A significantly larger portion of the criticism has been directed at the offensive line coach, John Latina, who many believe has failed to generate a dominant unit in his tenure at Notre Dame.

I think both of these criticisms hold some merit, though neither gets at the whole story. My gut reaction on the criticisms of Coach Latina is to say “Hey, forget the situation - a winner wins and this man hasn’t been able to do his job.” Nevertheless, after reflecting on the situation it’s clear there are plenty of other reasons why the Irish have been hamstrung up front with the big uglies. As the season ends and the coaches head out on the recruiting trail, it seems increasingly likely that Latina - who has paid visits to Hafis Williams and Kenneth Page in the past few days - will be with the Irish into 2008. Thus it seemed worth looking more closely at the past three years to see whether the calls for his firing are valid or not.

First, though, a bit of background on Coach Latina for those unacquainted with his resume: during his six-year period as an offensive line coach at Temple from 1983-1988, Latina had three lineman drafted by the NFL and four signed as free-agents. Temple tailback Paul Palmer led the nation in rushing in 1986. Following that, he produced seven NFL linemen in five years at Kansas State (1989-1993), six All-ACC linemen at in five years at Clemson (1994-1998), and eleven NFL linemen in six years at Ole Miss (1999-2004). Ole Miss allowed the fewest sacks in the SEC, and in two of his years at Clemson the Tigers were among the top two in the ACC in rushing yardage.

All of this sets him up as a man who came to Notre Dame with quite a distinguished background and an excellent resume. But all that really ought to matter to Irish fans is the job he’s done since 2005. So let’s take a look, shall we?

2005

Situation: Weis is entering his first year and the Irish have an offensive explosion, jumping to one of the top rated offenses in the nation. Brady Quinn has a breakout year, and Darius Walker rushes for nearly 1200 yards.

Offensive Line:

  • LT - Ryan Harris (6-5, 288, JR) - Mike Turkovich (6-6, 290, FR)
  • LG - Dan Santucci (6-4, 290, SR) - Brian Mattes (6-6, 285, SR)
  • C - Bob Morton (6-4, 292, SR) - John Sullivan (6-4, 298, JR)
  • RT - Dan Stevenson (6-6, 292, SR) - Scott Raridon (6-7, 304, SR)
  • RT - Mark Levoir (6-7, 311, SR) - Paul Duncan (6-7, 292, FR)

Evaluation: This was clearly the best offensive line of the past three years. ND had an almost all-senior starting line and all were legitimate talents. The biggest glaring spots here are the lack of sophomore and junior depth as well as how light all these seniors were. Ty Willingham preferred the lighter/quicker offensive lineman, which doesn’t gel with Weis’s pro-style offense. Latina seems to have been able to install the system well with good players despite their physical limitations.

Grade: B+

2006

Situation: The Irish come into the year ranked #2 in pre-season polls and looking to improve on their 9-3 record and BCS bowl loss. Brady Quinn is looking to be one of the top Heisman candidates, and most of the skill players are back to back him up.

Offensive Line:

  • LT - Ryan Harris (6-5, 292, SR) - Mike Turkovich (6-6, 290, SO)
  • LG - Dan Santucci (6-4, 290, 5th) - Eric Olsen (6-4, 290, FR)
  • C - John Sullivan (6-4, 298, SR) - Bob Morton (6-4, 292, 5th)
  • RG - Bob Morton (6-4, 292, 5th) - Brian Mattes (6-6, 287, SR)
  • RT - Sam Young (6-7, 292, FR) - Paul Duncan (6-7, 292, SO)

Evaluation: The team as a whole didn’t live up to the hype, getting beaten soundly by top competition. While most of the blame lies with the defense giving out points to anyone who asked, the offense looked lost at times, and certainly didn’t dominate like they did in ‘05. The linemen were about the same size as the previous year, so either they hit a ceiling for gaining weight or they were not coached well in terms of gaining size. Young started all thirteen games as a freshman and did well for the situation while having some struggles. Clearly depth was becoming a pressing concern as the two-deep now had two sophomores, two freshman, and one starter being a potential backup for Sullivan. In the NFL draft, Harris was selected in the third round and Santucci in the seventh.

Grade: C

2007

Situation: Notre Dame is turning the page, having lost most of its starters from the previous year. Though no one is actively saying it is a rebuilding season, all signs point to a downturn from the previous two. Virtually the entire two-deep is being replaced along the line, and there are new receivers, running backs, and quarterbacks. However they are all more highly touted coming out of high school and ND looks to use youthful talent over experience.

Offensive Line: (granted there was a lot of movement)

  • LT - Sam Young (6-8, 310, SO) - Taylor Dever (6-5, 289, FR)
  • LG - Mike Turkovich (6-6, 301, JR) - Thomas Bermenderfer (6-5, 285, JR)
  • C - John Sullivan (6-4, 303, SR) - Dan Wenger (6-4, 287, SO)
  • RG - Eric Olsen (6-5, 303, SO) - Dan Wenger (6-4, 287, SO)
  • RT - Paul Duncan (6-7, 308, JR) - Chris Stewart (6-5, 339, SO)

Evaluation: Well, the team was awful, and a lot of the troubles extended from the o-line. The Irish gave up record numbers of sacks, penalties, and negative yardage plays. That being said, this fact can be traced largely to the fact that there were only had two returning starters among the ENTIRE two-deep, one of whom was a true sophomore. The unit showed moderate improvement as the year went on, but still lacked any real luster. Sullivan did not look like his old self, and Wenger actually looked like one of the best players on the unit by season’s end.

Grade: D

The upshot of all of this is that it would be wrong to lay all of the blame for ND’s struggles up front at the feet of Coach Latina. Sure, we’re three seasons in and the Irish have yet to have an overpowering offensive line unit, but a lot of it is attributable to size issues in 2005/2006, depth issues in 2006/2007, and inexperience issues in 2007. It seems that Weis may hold off passing judgment on Latina until the end of the 2008 season and I would advise others to do so as well. While we haven’t seen much in terms of a finished product, the Irish have been working hard to develop their current players (18 lbs. by Young in one offseason - whew!), and it’s highly unlikely that they’ll have another situation where they have to replace almost the entire unit in one season. In any case, next year eight of the nine players who were listed along the two-deep from the end of the 2007 season will be back: the line’s performance in 2008 should give us a much better indication of whether Latina is up to the task.

Sweet Eighteen

Tuesday, November 27th, 2007

Happy 18th birthday to 2008 WR commit Michael Floyd, who just this morning was announced as Minnesota’s 2007 high school football player of the year by the Pioneer Press, for the second straight season:

The only thing missing is the Class AAAAA state championship. Eden Prairie quashed that opportunity for Floyd with a 50-21 victory over the Raiders in Friday night’s title game at the Metrodome.

The disappointing end to Floyd’s prep football career won’t damage his stature as one of the best high school receivers in Minnesota history. The 6-foot-4, 210-pound senior drew comparisons the past couple of seasons to former Holy Angels star Larry Fitzgerald Jr., now in his fourth NFL season with the Arizona Cardinals.

Floyd, who has committed to Notre Dame, finished the season ranked No. 81 among the nation’s top 100 seniors by Rivals.com, a leading national scouting service for high school football. Rivals.com ranks Floyd at No. 13 among receivers nationally.

Despite double-team coverage and a variety of defenses geared to stop him, Floyd had 56 catches for 1,211 yards and 17 touchdowns to help Cretin-Derham Hall finish with a 13-1 record. He averaged 21.6 yards a catch and ran for three touchdowns.

Floyd is the first two-time winner of the award in over a decade, but he hasn’t let the hype that comes with being a hotshot athlete go to his head:

[Cretin-Derham coach Mike] Scanlan said the Golden Domers will be getting a receiver with the physical skill set comparable to that of Hall of Famer Michael Irvin - a big, strong, workhorse with exceptional hands.

“He lifts weight like he’s a lineman,” Scanlan said. “Most skill guys, they don’t like the weight room. But he understands that if he is going to play at the next level, he can’t rely on his natural ability alone.”

The difference between Irvin and Floyd, who was unavailable to comment for this story due to a meeting with Notre Dame officials, is the ego. Floyd hasn’t let all the attention, and there has been an awful lot of it, change him, his mother said.

“Michael really is more embarrassed by all the attention,” [Floyd's mother Theresa] Romero said. “I think people think it’s difficult for him to be level-headed. It’s really not. He tells me that he’s a man now. I tell him, ‘I don’t see any paycheck here yet. So you’re still my son.’”

The Pioneer Press article also contains this tidbit:

The national signing date for high school football players to make formal commitments to colleges isn’t until Feb. 6. That’s plenty of time for Floyd to re-think his plan to attend Notre Dame in the fall of 2008, but no chance.

“I won’t be changing my mind,” he said.

Exactly what we want to hear.

Congratulations, Michael. And Irish fans, if you haven’t read the profile that I excerpted right after Floyd’s commitment, now’s a good time to do just that.

You stay classy, Palo Alto.

Monday, November 26th, 2007

Crooked refs. Awful field conditions. An obnoxious stadium announcer. A dreadful marching band whose absurd antics amuse no one but themselves and their similarly drunk friends. A beautiful new facility gone to waste as one of America’s most esteemed universities presents a gameday experience matched only by the ineptitude of their football program. That’s right - another day, another dollar, another road trip to Stanford.

A few thoughts about the trip in general: as I said, the new Stanford stadium really is very nice. We had endzone seats in the upper tier, but the view was great - and right up above us there was a big grassy area where kids could play, and so my son really managed to enjoy himself. That’s why it’s such a shame that the other elements of gameday at Stanford are so embarrassingly horrible: at least when you used to go, you sat on splintered wooden benches in a dumpy stadium, so the rest of what was going on around you didn’t seem so bad.

And it was awful. The parking crew exercised no control over tailgaters taking up spaces the width of four cars to spread out their folding chairs, and the only way they managed to determine whether a lot was full was by directing a line of cars into it, having them drive around for ten minutes, and seeing whether they came out the other side. The pre-game “festivities” featured a mediocre cover band playing bad rock-and-roll, and then deciding to abandon their break so that they could drown out ND’s alumni marching band. The stadium announcer showed himself to be as classless as he was annoying when he twice referred to Jimmy Clausen as “Casey,” and also pretended to get him mixed up with Tom Zbikowski at one point. And the band - oh, the band. I understand that they’re having fun, but the stupid halftime shows really do nothing at all for the fans. No wonder the stadium was half-empty. Honestly, we felt embarrassed for Stanford University at any number of different junctures on Saturday afternoon.

Speaking of which, there was a football game as well:

  • Jimmy Clausen played very well - he completed 19 20 of his 32 passes for 196 225 yards and a touchdown. He also made some really nice moves to get away from would-be tacklers, though on some occasions he ran out of bounds for lost yardage instead of throwing the ball away. His downfield throws were a bit uneven, and the one play on which he was intercepted was a really bad decision. Altogether, though, it was a solid day for a true freshman quarterback who showed some nice improvement over the course of the year - now it’s time for him to hit the weight room, practice those deep routes, and soak up the rest of the playbook.
  • Duval Kamara - six receptions for 93 yards - had a really nice day catching the ball. It’s clear that he’s a tremendous talent, and there’s little doubt that he’ll be the #1 receiver on the team next year: the challenge is figuring out who else is going to catch it. George West was as invisible on Saturday as he has been for most of the season, Robby Parris saw the field sparingly, and David Grimes showed why he’s best suited to be a third option rather than a featured guy. Hopefully Will Yeatman and Mike Ragone have got the stuff to help replace John Carlson next year; I’d also look to see Michael Floyd see the field early and often, much as Kamara did this year.
  • Robert Hughes - 18 carries for 136 yards - had a spectacular game, as he became the first Notre Dame freshman to pass the century mark twice in a season since Autry Denson did it in back-to-back games in 1995. He could use a bit more speed, though, as both of his long carries really should have gone for scores. Armando Allen started off well, as he picked up 18 yards on his first three carries, but after that he started going backwards, and while the banged-up James Aldridge did manage to get into the game, he didn’t end up touching the ball. Asaph Schwapp had another dreadful day, as he gained only four yards on his three carries, fumbled the ball once, and did a less-than-stellar job of blocking. I really have trouble seeing why Charlie Weis bothers putting him on the field. Kudos to Travis Thomas, who made the most of what was (thankfully!) his last stand as a goalline back by punching his one carry into the end zone from a yard out, and to Junior Jabbie, who’s shaping up into a great situational back for third-down passing situations.
  • Once again, we saw a lot of Chris Stewart on the offensive line, as he pretty much switched off series-by-series with Paul Duncan at right tackle. And once again, the play along the offensive line, and in pass protection in particular, was pretty terrible: Clausen was sacked on five occasions and pressured pretty heavily on many others, and while the running game was effective, the Irish running backs netted only 3.15 yards per carry if we factor out Hughes’s two huge runs.
  • The defense played quite well, and in particular they did a much better job at containing the outside run than they had in weeks past. Ian Williams had six tackles in his second start at the nose guard position, and made a strong case for some heavy playing time or even a starting role next year. Darrin Walls got turned around on one or two plays but had a great game overall, Brian Smith played a nice game on the outside, and David Bruton was his usual athletic self. But missed tackles were still a significant problem, as was fatigue - Stanford possessed the ball for over 21 minutes in the second half, and you could see the Irish defenders tiring out.

At the end of the day, a win is a win, no matter how bad the opponent (and the venue). The Irish came out strong, played with emotion, and rebounded nicely from the things that set them back. But many of those back-setting things - in particular the three fumbles and the five sacks - were exactly the sorts of problems that have killed this squad all year long. A team that puts the ball on the carpet, and allows its opponents to do the same to their quarterback, with that kind of frequency is not a team that’s going to win many games. Maybe experience will cure all - but only time will tell.

Obviously there’s a lot to think about as we head from the season of our discontent to what will hopefully be the the looooongest offseason - 285 days to go! - the Fighting Irish will have to endure for quite some time. I’ll have plenty of “bigger picture”-type of thoughts in the days and weeks ahead. In the meantime, here’s to West Virginia and Mizzou in the MNC game!

Let’s start moving forward now.

Sunday, November 25th, 2007

My Stanford recap is still in the works. In the meantime, I thought it was worth passing along this tidbit from the AP report on yesterday’s game:

As soon as the final whistle blew, the Notre Dame players gathered in the end zone to salute their fans and savor a season-ending victory.

The celebration continued in the locker room with multiple renditions of the school’s fight song and pictures for the departing seniors. The Fighting Irish managed to put a positive finish on the worst season ever for college football’s most storied team.


“When we were singing in there — and the last two games we didn’t even worry about our record, just that we were winning those games,” senior safety Tom Zbikowski said. “It feels good to get that feeling back of winning games.”

That’s exactly what you want to hear about a young team that’s trying to build for the future. There are no illusions, and there is no shortage of frustration, about the awfulness of a 3-9 season, but that doesn’t mean you have to hang your heads:

“It’s still 3-9. Let’s not kid ourselves,” [Charlie] Weis said. “But at least it’s 3-9 with two wins at the end of the year. Now all of a sudden, you’re going into the offseason winning the last game at home and then we go on the road and win our last game there. Let’s start moving forward now.”

Well said, Coach. The 2008 season begins today. 286 days ’til kickoff …

Worst. Call. Ever.

Saturday, November 24th, 2007

Well, except perhaps for the phantom personal foul on Laws. I’ll have more on the game, and our trip to Palo Alto, later this weekend. For now, I’ll let a picture serve as a stand-in for what could very well be a thousand words:

(HT: KamaraPolice.)

[UPDATE: Check out Jeff Carroll's hysterical attempt to be diplomatic:

In the third quarter, the Irish again appeared to take the advantage, this time on a spectacular catch by junior wide receiver David Grimes. Grimes laid out parallel to the ground to snare a throw from quarterback Jimmy Clausen, and appeared to hang onto the football, holding it in the air as he slid across the turf.

However, officials decided upon review that the ball had touched the ground at some point during the catch, though it seemed difficult to detect on the replays shown on the ESPN broadcast.

"Appeared to hang on ... officials decided ... at some point ... seemed difficult to detect ..." LMAO. Well done, Jeff.]

[ANOTHER UPDATE: More here and here.]

[ONE LAST UPDATE: Here's home video of the incident, Zapruder Film-style:

The crowd reaction at the end pretty much gets it right.]

Off to Palo Alto

Saturday, November 24th, 2007

My wife and I are packing up the Volvo in a few hours and heading down and across the Bay to take our son to his first ND game. If you’re at the alumni club tailgate, I’ll be the guy in glasses who’s in bad need of a haircut, toting around a big-eyed eight-month-old in a green #10 jersey. Feel free to say hello.

For my kid’s sake, I’m going to try to enjoy this game no matter what happens, but here are a few things the Irish could do that would help me achieve that more easily:

  • Protect the offensive backfield: Stanford is a horrible defensive team (81st against the run, 107th against the pass, 106th overall), but they’re pretty good at blowing plays up. Their 3.1 sacks per game are good for 11th in the nation, and their average of 7.9 tackles for a loss is 10th. They’ve got three different players - Clinton Snyder, Pat Maynor, and Udeme Udofia - with at least five sacks on the year. Maynor ranks 18th in the nation with almost 1.5 TFLs per game. Please, PLEASE keep them on the proper side of the line of scrimmage.
  • Defend the pass: Stanford’s rushing offense and total offense are similarly horrible, as they’re each ranked 106th overall. But they do pass for over 200 yards per game, and are right around the middle of I-A in that category. Trent Edwards may be gone, but senior quarterback T.C. Ostrander has given the Irish fits in years past: I for one remember the 2005 Fiesta Blow “play-in” game, when he torched ND with 11 of 15 passing for 197 yards as I cried in the stands. Ugh, flashbacks.
  • Show some mental toughness: Reality is that something’s going to go wrong at some point, though hopefully it won’t be on the game’s first series. The Irish managed to rebound pretty well from last week’s early setbacks, but the fact is that the offense spent most of the first half pretty much curled up in the fetal position until the defense went ahead and made some plays for them. Maybe with another win - and an all-around quality game on offense - under their belts, Jimmy Clausen & Co. can be even a bit more resilient this week.
  • Protect the rock: The Irish have lost 13 fumbles this year, including six in their last four games. There’s little doubt that they’ll be able to move the ball against Stanford at least somewhat effectively, but any combination of sacks (see above), penalties (ND has been whistled ten or more times in three games this year, including 11 for 103 yards against Duke), and - especially - turnovers can quickly bring that to a halt. Like I said last week: throwing a pick is one thing; putting the ball on the carpet is quite another.

Look: the fact is that this is another pretty bad team. Since their wins over USC and Arizona, Stanford has lost 23-6 to Oregon State, 27-9 to Washington, and 33-17 to Washington State. The Irish are certainly capable of winning today. Here’s to a fun afternoon of laughing at the LSJUMB and mocking their stupid mascot, a victory to close out 2007, and a happy drive home.

Go Irish, beat Cardinal!

* * *

A few more statistics and bits of news, for the junkies out there … the Cardinal give up over 180 rushing yards and almost 275 passing yards per game … they gave up 449 passing yards to Washington State last week, and 388 rushing yards to Washington the week before … they’re 117th in the nation in sacks allowed, at 4.2 per game … they average only 2.86 yards per carry on offense, and yield 4.3 on defense … they only convert 27% of their third downs, but they have a 76% success rate in the red zone … senior placekicker Derek Belch is just 13-of-20 (65%) in his field goal attempts this year … Stanford’s 3-7 record has come against what Jeff Sagarin ranks as the nations third-toughest schedule … the Irish have not won two games in a row to end a season since 1992 … John Sullivan, Pat Kuntz, Geoff Price, and Sergio Brown are all likely to miss the game with injuries, though Sully may get to see the field briefly for nostalgia’s sake … James Aldridge is on the depth chart and has been practicing in full pads, but reports indicate his having been “hobbled” this past week (though see here as well).

Friday Night Lights roundup for the weekend of 11/16

Friday, November 23rd, 2007

Sorry to be so slow once again in getting this up. Here’s your weekly rundown of how Notre Dame’s currently committed players fared in their high school football games last week:

  • With quarterback Dan McCarthy sitting on the sidelines after suffering a neck injury the previous week, Cardinal Mooney (Ohio) still managed to end two-time defending state D-III champion Steubenville’s 42-game win streak, as they built a 28-0 halftime lead and held on to win, 35-20. Mooney is now 13-0 on the year heading into this week’s semi-state game.
  • John Goodman had a tough day but did throw a 23-yard touchdown pass in the third quarter for a 7-0 lead, but Lowell came back with ten points in the last seven minutes to beat his Bishop Dwenger (Ind.) team 10-7, ending the Saints’ playoff run in the state semifinals. Dwenger finishes the season at 13-1.
  • Michael Floyd had five catches for 110 yards and a touchdown - including four receptions on the opening drive - as his Cretin-Derham Hall (Minn.) team moved to 13-0 with a 56-14 romp over Brainerd that moved them into the class 5A final for only the sixth time in their history.
  • Despite being bothered by a leg injury, Jonas Gray had 29 carries for 304 yards and four touchdowns - including fourth-quarter TD runs of 30 and 61 yards - as his Detroit Country Day (Mich.) team defeated top-ranked Zeeland West, 37-30, in a wild game that came down to a 52-yard hook-and-ladder play that went for a touchdown with 45 seconds remaining. Gray and the 11-2 Yellowjackets will face Marine City in the state finals.
  • Omar Hunter’s Buford (Ga.) team moved their record to a spotless 11-0 with a 56-7 blowout of Washington-Wilkes in the first round of the AA state playoffs.
  • Jamoris Slaughter’s Tucker (Ga.) team is also 11-0, after a 24-0 shutout of Clarke Central in their first-round AAAA game.
  • Robert Blanton had his fourth blocked kick and his sixth interception of the season, but it wasn’t enough, as his Butler (N.C.) team saw their season come to a disappointing end, falling to Charlotte Independence, 20-7, in the second round of the state playoffs. Butler finishes the season at 10-3.
  • Steve Filer’s Mount Carmel (Ill.) team also saw its dreams of a state title fade away, as they were upset by Glenbard North, 28-21. The Caravan’s final record is 12-1.
  • Sean Cwynar had a third-quarter extra point attempt - yes, you read that right - blocked, and his Marian Central (Ill.) team fell to Morris, 10-9, in the state semifinals. The Hurricanes finish the year at 10-3.
  • Joseph Fauria’s Crespi (Calif.) team defeated Millikan, 26-14, in the first round of the Pac-5 playoffs. Next up for the 9-2 Celts is Mater Dei.
  • Dayne Crist ended up being unable to play because of a concussion suffered in the previous week’s game against Crespi, and his and Anthony McDonald’s Sherman Oaks Notre Dame (Calif.) team couldn’t overcome his absence, as they fell to Newport Harbor, 7-3, in the first round of the Pac-5 playoffs. The Knights finish the season at 8-3.
  • Ethan Johnson’s Lincoln (Ore.) team moved to 6-5 on the year with a 19-7 playoff win over David Douglas. Next up for Lincoln is West Salem.
  • Darius Fleming and the 9-4 St. Rita’s (Ill.) defense shut down Loyola in a 28-0 win that moved the Mustangs to the Prep Bowl finals.

Hafis Williams and Mike Golic were off this week, and Braxston Cave, Brandon Newman, Lane Clelland, David Posluszny, and Kyle Rudolph are all done with their respective seasons.