Sunday, September 14, 2008

How to Straddle a 50 Yard Line

I never thought my mortal coil would be subdivided by that magical point on the field in ACross-ian fashion. Yet there I was, lucky duck that I am, watching the Irish throttle (and yes, that's what they did) the Wolverines 35-17 with Cash and JVan and NDOldtown.

Some thoughts from section 110.

Youth is served

Someone pointed out at the end of the game that every touchdown Notre Dame scored yesterday, on both sides of the ball, were scored by sophomores. If that doesn't bode well for the future, I don't know what does.

The most interesting sophomore was Clausen. Not only did he show great touch on the ball, he looked, as NDOldtown was heard to say, in command the entire evening. Yes, he made some mistakes on throws (two of which were picked, one of which wasn't nullified by penalty), and I'm still not convinced he's seeing the entire field, but he's got the rest of this season and then two more to clean that up. The TD pass to Golden Tate was a thing of beauty.

Standardized test

Last week, Notre Dame played a team with a standard offense that didn't execute well. This week, Notre Dame played a team with a non-standard offense (lots of misdirection) that executed competently.

So I'm going to be interested to see our defensive performance next week against Michigan State, an opponent who executes a more standard offense well. Ringer ran for almost 300 yards in a monsoon yesterday, and while I don't expect him to duplicate that feat in East Lansing on Saturday, it does show that Mark Dantonio is going to bread-and-butter you, at least sometimes.

Down goes Frazier

Speaking of defense, my biggest defensive complaint is also my biggest offensive cheer: sacks. On the good news side, Jimmy Clausen has yet to be put down by any defense, and considering MI's front seven (or at least front four) is probably the best ND will see until Thanksgiving weekend, that's a good thing.

On the bad news side, though, none of Jon Tenuta's vaunted blitzes has resulted in an opposing quarterback ending up on his back with the ball in his hands. I'm hoping it's a matter of getting the timing down, but such a defense is high risk - high reward, as evidenced by the two or three times MI ran a big play right into the vacated spot of a blitzer yesterday. I'd hate to see us running the high risk if we're not getting the high reward.

Not offensive at all

As awful as the OL was last year (and even, to an extent, last week), I don't think any other unit on the team made as many strides between week 1 and week 2 than they. Not only has Clausen not been sacked yet, they opened holes for ND backs to the tune of 113 yards yesterday. The last two times ND faced Michigan, they were lucky to get positive net rushing yardage at all.

Now I'd like to see Mike Haywood take more advantage of the line's improvement and get away from the delayed handoff running plays. Slow-developing plays give the defense time to recover from any mistakes they may have made. When you have running backs who can hit the hole like ours can, they should be hitting them, not dancing up to them.

Speaking of Haywood....

...that popping sound you heard in the 3rd quarter was Andy having an aneurysm as Clausen's ill-advised pass on the -and-goal from the 2 was picked off. JC got a mulligan when the Wolverines were called for pass interference, but it indicates there's still a level of excessive cute in the playbook.

While I saw one or two examples yesterday, I'm still looking for an extended drive where the OL (and the offense in general) imposes its will on the defense. Down the stretch, it seemed tough for ND to run the clock out when MI expected it. Sure, as I said, this front seven is probably the best we'll see until SC. Still, the inability to truly pound the ball when needed remains a concern. With the passing game looking good, maybe it's time for the coaches to work on the team's aggression.

Crank it up

Or "crank eeet up", as it sounded like in the Stadium.

I know it's been said before, but I'll say it again: Home-grown chants or traditions are refreshing, especially in light of the Disneyfied crapfest pep rallies have become. When it comes from the students by the students, it's usually of very high quality.

Edit: I've been corrected -- the chant is "Crank me up". Sounds a lot more suggestive, which makes it even better.

Better than the symphony

A lot's been said about the whole "cowbell" thing the ND band did last week, and I'm not a big Bon Jovi fan, so this week (while played and marched well) wasn't spiritually uplifting for me.

But "A tribute to boy bands"?? Holy crap. If the Michigan marching whoevers weren't embarrassed for themselves, I was embarrassed enough for all of them. Those readers who were in the ND band with me during my time will remember "Lovely Ladies of Song", the only marching band show God ever hated. This, I think, was worse.

Down in front

It'd been a year or two since I watched a game in Notre Dame Stadium. I was gratified that, at no time during my game-watching experience, was I asked to sit down. In fact, just about everyone behind me spent as much time standing up as I did.

Maybe it's a function of sitting in (what I still call) the new section of the stadium. I enjoy sitting there much more than I do sitting in the lower bowl, since there's more vertical room and you're not putting your knees into someone's back. But perhaps it's a cooler brand of people sitting up there who aren't going to get bent out of shape because someone dares to cheer.

Scratch one off the bucket list

No, not sitting on the 50 (which was cool, of course). But I've now done three things associated with Notre Dame football that have only enhanced the experience.

First, I've watched a game with Mike Frank. Those of you who know Mike know him to be a gentle soul who remains one of the most popular media figures covering ND because he genuinely is loath to say a bad word about anyone. Then he sits in front of the television to watch Notre Dame football and becomes ... well, the Jeckyl/Hyde analogy is too easy, yet apt. It's gangs of fun to watch.

Second, I've eaten deer at bbdome's tailgater. Once or twice a year, our poster bbdome puts together a huge spread of BBQ and smoked offerings, such as venison, goose, and all kinds of other meats. It has certainly expanded the quality of my palate, let alone the amount of beer I've consumed in my life.

But yesterday, I achieved the trifecta: I watched a Michigan game with NDOldtown. If you thought the written prose (like this and this and this and this and this) was equal parts entertaining and visceral, you ain't seen nothing until you've seen the show live. Wow. The moist weather may have put him slightly off his game, as he had nothing to say to the very loud woman who kept chanting "Sam, Sam, he's my man" a couple rows behind us, but still well worth the price of admission. It was better than Cats. I'm going to see it again and again.

It's like I'm ND football's Bob: Living large and laughing easy.



Anonymous Anonymous said...

The chant is "Crank me up."

9/14/2008 07:37:00 AM  
Blogger Mike Coffey said...

That would explain why it sounded the way it did. I couldn't understand how the whole ND student body had suddenly found itself on the Blue Collar Comedy tour.

9/14/2008 07:43:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I thought the bright purple flags swung around during the Michigan band's halftime performance was a particularly nice touch.

9/14/2008 08:51:00 AM  
Blogger Jer said...

I could have sworn they were chanting "Yankees suck."

9/14/2008 08:55:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I think it was in the third quarter when there was a blitz by Brunson and McGuffie cut back for a big gain off an option read. That was Neal's fault for going toward the qb instead of McGuffie. If Neal had played is appropriate technique he would have stopped McGuffie for little to no gain.

9/14/2008 09:39:00 AM  
Blogger Michael said...

Ringer will be tough although his yards came against a Sunbelt Snack which is even lighter than the traditional Big Ten MAC Snack.

9/14/2008 09:45:00 AM  
Anonymous Matt '09 said...

As a current ND band member, I too was embarassed for them. For the past 3 years, both of our bands have tried to put the best show on the field when the opponent comes to town (like Michigan's guitar hero show last year), but that was terrible.

The Crank Me Up cheer was actually created by one of the freshmen and it caught on with the football team during camp. They did it during the first pep rally, and the students latched on, I think because it actually got the team to show emotion, as opposed to "Let's Go, Irish!" or "We are ND!"

9/14/2008 10:48:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

It's great to read that "Crank Me Up!" is a freshman creation. About time we started a new stadium chant, along with ~ hopefully ~ a "Renewed Winning Tradition."

Yesterday was a very good win; not a "signature win," but a really good one, for our young team. From here out, let's take it one game at a time, and build a solid, winning season.

If all goes well, November 29th will be a "Signature Win" for our team. Crank me up for that one!


9/14/2008 11:22:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Section 5 was standing for almost the entire game with no down in front stuff. Good atmosphere yesterday. Pounding Michigan helps with that.

9/14/2008 12:06:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

After going to 5 home games last year and not seeing a win. I can honestly say that was the best game I have been to. Bryant Young sat in front of me with his son and we talked the whole 1st half. Then I high fived Lou Holtz and the Irish rolled Michigan. One of my best days ever. GO IRISH!!

9/14/2008 01:10:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I think the "down in front" stuff and sitting for an entire game is a testament to why no on e is scared to play at ND anymore. The bush push game a few years ago was the most electric I had seen the place in a long time. Imagine if we did that every week. To the lady who told me I was too loud: Go to the library if you want quiet!

9/14/2008 01:35:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

It was not Yankees was sox suck...both of them

9/14/2008 02:12:00 PM  
Blogger jim / Redondo Beach said...

...althogh I was "revitlized" by yesterday's victory...i couldn't help but think it somewhat resembled last year's UCLA game...a game that was handed to us rather than earned...I keep thinking what if 3 of those 6 turnovers from Michigan didn't happen...and they scored a touchdown on each occasion...

9/14/2008 02:28:00 PM  
Blogger jim / Redondo Beach said...

...and it wasn't just..."if they took those 3 non-turnovers and scored" was the easy field positions that their turnovers gave ND...who scored easily... I being too "glass half full?"...

9/14/2008 02:45:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I was at the game as well. crazy atmosphere. I didn't hear a 'down in front' till the end of the game. What was weird was that it was a nice young couple standing and cheering not doing any harm, plus at that point people had left and there were seats with an unobstructed view that one could move to. This older gentleman comes down and yells real loud 'down in front' at the couple. He was a total jerk. I never seen anything like it. There's gotta be a more tactful way then saying 'down in front' in that kind of demeaning way. If not, there's gonna be fights, because i'd be damned if I'm sitting down on 3rd and 12 and we're on defense.

9/14/2008 03:04:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Were most people standing to cheer or just because their seats were wet?

9/14/2008 04:42:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The rain didn't start until halftime, people were genuinely standing up and cheering.

We had an older couple (as in people I would give up seats on the bus for) next to us and they gamely stood with the rest of us for a large portion of the game.

9/14/2008 05:25:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

i was on the south goal line front row and the usher made me sit 5 times could barley see over the 88 team (when i was sitting) on my to lansing sat wont be sitting there

9/14/2008 05:59:00 PM  
Blogger Wooderson said...


thanks for the hospitality yesterday. I t was a pleasure ot meet the other ops, and even better that we stomped michigan's skull in. I do'nt htink that'll ever get old.

When was the last time we beat michigan that badly? Much credit to the players and coaches, it looks like the work they've put in is starting to pay off. Gator bowl here we come.

9/14/2008 06:06:00 PM  
Blogger cbass said...

hey, the band members need to play Carl Orff's, "Fortuna Imperatrix Mundi." For those who do not know, it was ESPN's theme song for the NBA playoffs. Tell the band director it will get students fired up.

9/14/2008 06:17:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I don't know if that song would work without a chorus.

9/14/2008 07:56:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

What is the team doing after a score when they are pumping their arms up and down in a "blow your horn trucker" type of motion???

Great win! GO IRISH!

9/14/2008 09:01:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

We actually do have "O Fortuna" this year, but we just didn't play it yesterday. I'm sure we'll play it sometime during the season, ideally when it's a close game and we need to really get fired up.

9/14/2008 09:55:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The "Crank Me Up" cheer actually comes from a rap song of the same name by Pastor Troy. Part of it is actually played during stretching at practice.

9/15/2008 12:53:00 AM  
Blogger DauntlessDave said...

3 Things...
1) It's "Crank ME up".
2) Only once did I hear "Down in front" in section 109, and that was followed with "I'm just kidding!"
3) Just because a QB isn't sacked, doesn't mean a blitz is ineffective. The two QBs we've faced are not connecting at high percentages and don't have much time to look for a receiver. The times that Threet had all kinds of time, everyone was covered and there was no one to throw to.

9/15/2008 02:52:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Great post, thanks.

I was in Section 5, about 45 rows up, and we stood for pretty much the entire game too. I think everyone was really into it, although I do give credit to the folks in the lower seats who stood and forced everyone else to stand. No one was complaining though.

9/15/2008 11:57:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I didn't stand once.

Enjoyed it all on my 61" HDTV.

Though after the first half I (laugh) kept sprinkeling water on my head...

9/15/2008 04:26:00 PM  

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