Monday, September 18, 2017

Second viewing thoughts and grades: Notre Dame

In his postgame press conference and comments on Monday, Addazio kept emphasizing how close BC is and how close these games are. After watching it back, I actually agree with him. But where Addazio sees the relative talent as even and a team playing well the majority of the game, I see it as an indictment of everything he's doing. If your team is close and in it, you shouldn't lose 29 points.

Offense: B-

Brown looked much better than last week. Some of his passes were a little behind or a little short (like that early one to Walker) but he made good decisions and overall, made good passes. He stayed poised in the pocket. I think we should let him run a bit. Not because he has speed, but because the plays are there.

Hilliman looked much much better. I know part of it was that he finally had some holes, but he also ran with purpose and got things to the second level. Dillon didn't get as many touches but looked decent.

Callinan played really well. He made some tough catches and also fought for yards. Jeff Smith did not look great and dropped two catchable balls. Thadd Smith got snuffed out on the jet sweeps. White was good. The Tight Ends blocked better, but the false starts were killers.

The OLine looked how they were supposed to look. Petrula got well deserved praise. The right side looked good. They all gave Brown enough time.

What I liked about the Loeffler's adjustment was that we rolled Brown more and used more play action. That helped settle him and gave the WRs space. I know it is ultimately Addazio's call, but I still think we get too conservative in the redzone. The 4th down call was not well executed.

Defense: F

The DLine needs to get better quickly. Landry is being misused and had some plays. I think at this point we need to give him the greenlight and just chase QBs. Dropping into coverage is a waste. Even reading and waiting is not what he does best. He did miss Wimbush on Wimbush's biggest run. Allen had a few tackles but is not making the impact promised in the summer. Ray needs to step up. Merritt had some good plays.

Richardson made some plays earlier but didn't make the stops as the game wore on. Schwab was fine. Bletzer is not playing poorly but he is not closing on enough plays and his speed looks suspect.

The DBs looked good in past coverage. They had problems helping the run. Look at ND's first big play. It came off a Moore missed tackle. Other than that, Moore played well. Yiadom was good. Dennis continues to play well. Harris was active and productive, but we need some game changing plays from him.

I am a Jim Reid fan and defender, but this was bad. It doesn't matter if you stop them on the majority of plays if it falls apart later. I wish we were more aggressive. I wish we would stop messing around with Landry and I wish we knew how do defend a simple zone read. It hurt us in all three games. We will be seeing it until we show we can stop it.

Special Teams: B

Special teams continues to be the lone bright spot. Other than Walker's fumble -- which BC recovered -- everything was good.

Kick offs were strong. Punt coverage good. Knoll is placing the ball well.

Lichtenberg did well.

Overall: F

I obviously spent a lot of time on the sequence before the half, but there is plenty of blame to throw at Addazio. Why does he keep punting from the opponent's territory? Knoll is making the decision seem smart by punting well, but most Pop Warner coaches know that the better move is to go for it. Landry's usage is also looking dumb. Whether he is hurt, you're trying to develop him in other areas or you truly believe you are resting him, the benefits are not showing. Addazio even said that DEs were not the problem on the first three scores. He's implying that even with Landry, Notre Dame still scores. But that is not a given. Landry draws extra attention and forced ND to switch plays. We can't assume anything about what happens if he had been on the field. Even how he used Wade late during the blowout is weird. Why not go for it there? Or give him more throws? What do you have to lose?

BC has many tough games ahead. Most should be competitive. However, if Addazio keeps coaching like he did this week, nothing will be close.

Sunday, September 17, 2017

Revisiting the final minutes of the half: Addazio exposed (again)

I haven't had time to watch the game a second time yet, so no grades up until Monday. In the mean time I want to address Addazio's controversial decision to run the clock out at halftime. First I want to remind everyone that Steve Levy and Brian Griese questioned the decision live as it happened. It takes a lot for the TV crew to openly criticize a coach's decision during the game. They usually hedge or help the coach explain it away. This crew did not because it was an indefensible decision.

Second, Addazio's mistake was not just the final drive. The questionable, cowardly and misguided decisions started after Notre Dame scored their second TD to go up 14-10. The Irish kickoff and Walker returns it and ND gets called for a face mask. BC starts at the 40, with 1:57 left and two TOs. Addazio starts with the run, so you already see that he is thinking about killing clock. But Hilliman gets the first down. Addazio then throws and it is a iffy pass to Sweeney incomplete. Now Addazio runs again, killing his own clock. Hilliman only gets four. Third down. Still no use of timeout. If he is so concerned about the "psyche of his freshman QB" why not use a timeout there and get him to the sidelines to talk it over? Does he consider it 4 down territory? Let's see. 3rd down Brown makes a good throw but Walker drops the pass. What does Addazio do on 4th down from ND territory? He punts again. Fortunately for him it is a good punt.

Now the Irish get the ball back at their own 10 with just over a minute left. They run and it looks like Kelly might be chickening out too. But no, Kelly calls a timeout. Maybe because he sees Addazio is playing it conservatively, Kelly then decides to open up. Imagine that? Adjusting your gameplan based on what the other coach is doing?!? From there Wimbush starts chucking it. Deep dangerous passes downfield. They complete a few and miss a near INT. Does Kelly back off? Nope. Wimbush keeps chucking and a tip ball does turn into a BC INT.

Now Addazio has the ball in ND territory. 18 seconds are left and BC has two TOs. 1st play incomplete. Was it a bad throw? Eh. It wasn't sharp but it wasn't terrible either. Not enough to say that Brown is going to make a mistake. Now there are really two aggressive options. A quick out followed by a TO and field goal attempt. Or a Hail Mary into the endzone. Both are difficult to complete. Neither are likely, but you know what is also unlikely to happen? Some sort of turnover that leads to an Irish score. Mathematically, BC has all the advantages! Even if you think Brown can't make the Hail Mary throw, there must be someone who can (Fadule?). Instead, Addazio calls a run, lets the time expire and is content going into the half trailing.

The blowouts are a sign of problems, but you know why Addazio has only one second half comeback and a losing record in close games? Because he cannot manage a close game well. What is most confounding is that he didn't regret anything in the postgame press conference. But what do I know? As I tweeted yesterday, it is not like Addazio has ever seen a Redshirt Freshman QB complete a Hail Mary before the half.

Saturday, September 16, 2017

Notre Dame runs all over BC

When you lose by 29 at home to your "rival" in Year 5, there are plenty of problems. Talent and scheme are clearly issues. But I don't think the coach is doing everything he can to win. At least he didn't in this game. At the end of the half following an interception, Addazio called a time killing draw. No pass for the endzone. Nothing creative. Just a conservative dumb play. It sends a message to the players and the fans. It also sends a message to your new boss.

I would say this was a bad loss, but all the blowouts are starting to blend together. I think Addazio is done now. The discussion just shifts to when to fire him and who to hire.

Postgame Periscope below. Thanks for those who joined.

I will have grades and thoughts up late Sunday.

In-game comments post: Notre Dame

Once upon a time this was the highpoint of the season. Maybe we the Irish will bring out the best in us again. I just want a win.

Leave your thoughts and comments below.

You can also follow me on Twitter.

Friday, September 15, 2017

Friday picks

A little better last week. I am going to avoid UMass this week, since I clearly don't have a good handle of their team.

Oklahoma State-13 at Pitt

Northern Illinois+13 at Nebraska

UCLA-3 at Memphis

Tennessee+4 at Florida

Central Michigan+10 at Syracuse

Purdue+7.5 at Missouri

Kansas State-3.5 at Vanderbilt

Georgia Tech-2.5 at Central Florida

Troy-7.5 at New Mexico State

Clemson-3 at Louisville

Last week I went 6-3-1. For the season I am 12-7-1.

Game Watches: Notre Dame

Notre Dame usually brings out the crowds -- even to the Game Watches. I hope it is enjoyable for all. Add your club to the comments section if it is not listed.

Chicago Game Watch
Tobacco Road Tap Room
2249 N Lincoln Ave
Chicago, IL 60614

Los Angeles Game Watch
2615 Wilshire Blvd
Santa Monica, CA 90403

Phoenix Game Watch
Gallagher's Sports Grill
7575 N. 16th St.
Phoenix, AZ 85020

San Diego Game Watch
Striders 100 J St
San Diego, CA 92101

Washington, D.C. Game Watch
James Hoban's Irish Restaurant and Bar
One Dupont Circle, NW
Washington, DC 20036

Thursday, September 14, 2017

Notre Dame Week Periscope

Another mid-week Periscope. Short, but interactive. Thanks for the questions.

I spoke a bit about how I think Father Leahy's disinterest in sports is not as big a deal as BC fans make it. I rehashed the Notre Dame interest discussion and how I think there are probably fewer casual Irish fans in Boston these days. They've all become diehard Pats fans the last 20 years. I also talk about how attendance at our games is not the recruiting obstacle some make it out to be.

As always, I appreciate the support and feedback. I will try to do another post-game Periscope after the Notre Dame game.

BC-Notre Dame preview

The losing coach of this game is a dead man. I don't think either will get fired Monday, but the  loser's respective hole would probably be too big to overcome this season. If BC pulls off an upset, the Irish fans will be done with Kelly. It is one thing to lose to good BC teams, but to lose to one that just got waxed by Wake will be hard to rationalize. Addazio needs a big win to change momentum and perception. Winning this week buys him some time this year and gives the fans and team belief that they can win any game on the schedule.

What's on my mind (not totally related to this game)
I know it is hard for me to criticize Shaughnessy's BC hit piece considering I also asked if anyone cared about BC-Notre Dame. But one thing Dan overlooked when talking about Boston as a college town, is that you could argue College Football and BC Football is more popular than the Celtics or Bruins. Our TV ratings and the ratings for non-BC games in Boston are generally higher than those teams' regular season ratings. Even in down times, we have larger per game attendance numbers than those too. I understand that the weekly nature of football vs the multi-night nature of basketball and hockey makes it a little bit of apples and oranges. But my point is that football is still king nationally and locally. BC will always be a niche player in Boston, but being the second biggest football program after the Patriots is a big deal. Now we just need to turn that status into more wins and more tickets sold.

Three Simple Keys
1. Hit open receivers. Wake had 0 respect for our passing game and their pass coverage showed it. I predict Notre Dame will do the same thing, only they have better defensive talent than Wake. If BC has open WRs and TEs, we have to get them the ball.
2. Force Turnovers. Notre Dame fumbled twice against Georgia and Wimbush was lucky not to have a INT. BC needs to overwhelm him with different looks and hope the makes mistakes.
3. Play your best players the vast majority of snaps. Addazio explained that he doesn't want Landry playing 70 or 80 snaps a game. Guess what, coach? By switching to an uptempo offense, everyone is going to get stretched thin and play more. I understand that he needs to be fresh and our offense can help by scoring more, but get your best players out on the field at all times.

Gambling Notes
-- Addazio is 14-13 at home as BC's Head Coach
-- BC has lost five straight to the Irish
-- Addazio is 11-13 following a loss as BC's Head Coach
The current line is BC+13.5

It has been nine years since BC last beat Notre Dame. (I know the concept of eras is subjective, but that really feels like a different era of BC Football.)

Scoreboard Watching
The only people outside of Virginia who should care about UConn-UVA are BC fans. When I looked at the season, I saw those two teams as probable wins. Now nothing is probable. Perhaps this game will tell us if either team is really a potential win for us.

What I hope to see...
An explosive offensive play. I may be delusional, but I think there is talent on the offensive side of the ball. I think there are multiple guys who are just one block or one missed tackle away from breaking something. It would be nice for that to happen this week.

BC is in trouble if...
Any of the backup QBs play. Wade showed very little last week. While there is plenty of good word of mouth about the young QBs, do you trust any of them to come off the bench and lead a comeback against Notre Dame?

I really want BC to win this one. I want to see Brian Kelly turn purple. I want some optimism around the program. I want to look forward to Anthony Brown's future. I am trying to talk myself into a victory, but I am just not seeing it. I think BC comes out fired up and keeps it close for a half. I think some offensive mistakes kill momentum and we lose. The loss is close enough that Daz can still talk his growing pains nonsense.
Final Score: BC 14, Notre Dame 20

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

BC Basketball hype pops up amidst ND talk

Wednesday saw a tweet flurry from CBS's Jon Rothstein after sitting in on a BC practice. Combined with other media gossip and there are plenty of College Hoops writers expecting BC to make a big leap this year. Back in the Skinner days, I would take these sorts of leaks as a sure thing. Now, I have my doubts. Even with added talent, I don't know if there is enough for BC to break through and even be a middle of the pack ACC team.

What I did find interesting from Rothstein is the idea that BC might go with positionless basketball

This is not a new concept, just new to BC. Plenty of college and pro teams basically play with wings, big and a ball handler, many of whom can be interchanged. The challenge BC will have is with regards to D. If they put their best five out on the court together, who will guard the other team's big, inside players? Positionless basketball will work against less talented teams, but against the elite teams with size, we better hope BC makes a ton of three-pointers.

Tuesday, September 12, 2017

Do BC fans care about Notre Dame any more?

Notre Dame visited Alumni Stadium for the first time during the fall of my freshmen year (1994). This was less than a year after BC knocked off the then undefeated Irish in South Bend. I don't think there was a bigger game or more campus excitement in my whole time as a student. Notre Dame was still elite and we were still riding the excitement of the Coughlin years. Coughlin successfully leveraged Notre Dame as part of his rebuild. The Catholic aspect and the chance to take down Goliath were easy sells to a fanbase enjoying a post-Flutie football renaissance. Painting Notre Dame as the most important game on the schedule worked so well with fans, recruits and media that BC kept doing it long after Coughlin went to Jacksonville. Now all these years later, I get a sense that BC fans don't care about the game or the rivalry all that much any more.

I don't want to say that the lack of interest is based strictly on BC's current downturn. People cared when we were bad in other years. BC fans still took over the Notre Dame campus in 1997 when TOB's first team was terrible. They still cared when TOB's second team (also a losing one) got stopped on the goal line in the final seconds of the BC-ND game. Even when during Spaz's time, some of the Irish games were intense (remember Gunnell getting in Jimmy Clausen's face?). Yet now I think BC fans have moved on. The Clemson game has become the celebrated road trip to make. Even the causal fan realizes that ACC games are really a better measuring stick for BC's success.

Another reason the game might not mean is much is the lack of frequency. Notre Dame's deal with the ACC actually hurt BC's scheduling. Now instead of playing the Irish annually we will play them about six times every ten years. That keeps Addazio or any future BC coach from using the Irish as a rallying point.

The final reason why BC fans might not care is due to Notre Dame's diminishing brand. I am not trying to be one of those Notre Dame haters. My point is that for years the Irish had a cast of coaches and players that the casual BC fan could identify...and hate. Names like Holtz, Powlus, Jarious Jackson, Davie, Willingham, Brady Quinn, Jeff Samardzija, Charlie Weis, Jimmy Clausen and Manti Te'o. Kelly is pretty unlikable, but who else is well-known or stands out? Now with so many games accessible, the NBC deal doesn't bring the same level of notoriety. So until the Irish start either winning again at a high rate, losing in epic fashion or see their players do stupid things, they are just a bunch of gold helmets to most BC fans.

I always hated the BC-obsession with Notre Dame. I felt TOB and the Administration used it as a crutch to excuse other failures. Now I would love to see both teams "return to glory", just so there would be some excitement about the game.