Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Guest Blogger: The Blue-Gray Sky

Everyone has an opinion on Notre Dame. I wanted to get one from someone who actually might know something, so I asked Pat from the Notre Dame blog Blue-Gray Sky a few question about the Irish. His answers are below.

1. The offense is coming off a productive second half against Purdue and did enough to capitalize on the UCLA miscues Saturday. Are these baby steps a sign of an oncoming offensive explosion? How do you see them attacking BC?

Pat from BGS: There have definitely been baby steps so far this season, but I think an offensive "explosion" is still a ways off and likely won't come against a tough Eagle defense. Coach Weis did admit to being extremely conservative against UCLA once they lost their starting QB. He basically decided to let them make all the mistakes on offense and that's what they did. That won't be the case against Matt Ryan and Charlie suggested that ND will have to be more aggressive in order to win. My guess is that ND will still attempt to establish a running game early, but we will see more of an intermediate passing game than in games past. At least that's what I hope happens.

2. The blitz proved effective against the Bruins. Do you think you'll risk the same attack against a more polished QB like Matt Ryan? Also, from what you know, how much collaboration goes into the defensive gameplan? I would think that Bill Lewis's familiarity with Steve Logan will be an underrated aspect of this game.

Pat from BGS: I highly doubt you will see the same kind of consistent defensive pressure as in the UCLA game. It's one thing to harass and confuse a third string walk-on sophomore. It's another to do it to a QB that Weis says reminds him of both Tom Brady and Brady Quinn. ND will probably just try to keep everything in front of them and force BC to drive down the field a handful of yards at a time. They will still blitz on occasion, but for most of the game will probably rely on the front three or four for pass rush pressure. If the BC O-line can keep Trevor Laws and the freshmen pass-rushing tandem of Kerry Neal and Brian Smith away from Ryan, it will be a long day for ND. I'm sure that Bill Lewis will be a part of the defensive gameplanning, but I'm also pretty sure that Logan has developed as a playcaller since 1992. There might be a few things he does the same, but it was 15 years ago.

3. The "Perfect Storm" is over. Without getting into assigning blame to Willingham or your AD or your old President for the rocky start, how do you guys feel about Weis now? Do you think he can build an annual contender at Notre Dame?

Pat from BGS: I'm a pretty optimistic guy, so I still have plenty of faith in Coach Weis. Talent and experience excuses aside, Charlie has made his fair share of coaching mistakes this year. The good news, for ND fans at least, is that he has worked to rectify many of them rather than just stubbornly continuing on the same path. He's still a relatively inexperienced head coach so he is going to make more mistakes and I think he's still learning about some of the differences of the college game versus the pros. But overall I still think he has the ability to build ND into an annual contender, especially with the way he has been recruiting recently. Like with most offensive-minded coaches though, he's going to need a top notch defensive coordinator.

4. Finally, what is your prediction for Saturday?

Pat from BGS: I mentioned that I'm an optimist right? I think that Matt Ryan will pile up plenty of yardage, but like it has done before, ND's defense will force a few field goals rather than touchdowns once the ball gets into the red zone. In order for the Irish to win, they will likely need a big defensive or special teams play to either score some points or set up the offense in great position. The Irish will also try and take a few shots down the field in order to keep the BC safeties from creeping up in run support constantly. If the Eagles can stop those passes like UCLA did and give the Irish OL fits, the ND offense will continue to sputter and BC will probably win. If ND can get a few big plays early and get the momentum behind them, then the Irish could walk away with a close win. Since I'm a total homer, I'll opt for the latter.


BCMike said...

Well, he was much better than I expected, after reading the NDNation boards.

Unless Ryan plays like a 3rd string walk-on freshman...and not like the Heisman front-runner that he is, we'll win this one going away.

Eagle in Brighton said...
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Eagle in Brighton said...

Not all Irish fans are irrationally arrogant homers for the country's most publicized 1-5 team.

Eagle in Brighton said...

Just most of them.

ChicagoD said...
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ChicagoD said...

While in general I am a fan of the guest blogger pieces (and actually think BGS is a good blog), my enthusiasm for this week's guest blogger installment was diminished by first having read the BGS season predictions. Its not so much that they don't seem to know much about their own team -- predictions for ND range from 8-4 to 11-1 with the consensus around 9-2 -- its that they say things like BC players/fans are "turds" and "classless assholes." Maybe I'm thin skinned or not fully apprised of the horrors BC fans have inflicted upon the peace loving inhabitants of ND Nation, but I like BC football just a little more than is healthy and I would NEVER say stuff like that. Shoot, the meanest thing I've ever said on a blog is that John Oates is contact shy and I still feel bad (sorry Johnny). Our boy ATL is the same way and that's part of why I'm a fan. Something for the boys at BGS to think about.

If you're looking for the link, I think its the 8/29/07 post in the archives.

ATL_eagle said...

chicagod, I think you'll find the BSG guys pretty fair. They are letting me guest blog and I am pretty candid about some of their fans. It will be interesting to see the reaction.

Domer Guy said...

ChicagoD -- to be fair:

The word "turds" was said by Pete. Mark said "classless assholes." The questions above were answered by Pat, who is the lead writer at BGS (imo).

Just as you would "never say stuff like that," I don't think Pat could be accused of doing so either.

Best of luck on Saturday,

Domer Guy

PS -- Are you really that offended by "turds?" That's damn near affectionate in my book.

Christopher said...

Hey Guys-

I'm an ND student, and I just wanted to let you know that no matter what you read or hear, not all of ND fans/students/alumni think all BC people are "classless assholes" or think of the school as our "little brother." As is the case with many things, the most vocal people also have the minority opinion.

I don't have any soft spot in my heart for BC and want to beat you as much as anyone, but I do respect you as a school and for having a good team this year.

Best of luck.

borromini said...

You guys nearly killed me with a near cardiac arrest back in '93, but that never made me post anything truly harsh or mean-spirited about you. I've never really cared for the debate about what's considered a rivalry. All I know is '93 will always haunt me.

Good luck on Saturday...but I hope the Irish give me something to ease those 14 year old visions!

Heather and said...

I think some of the enmity has to do with when you guys beat us when we were 8-0 and Willingham brought the boys out in the green jerseys. If I remember right, reports were that the BC team totally trashed the ND visitors' locker room after the win, and fans took issue with that. I don't know if that story is true; I'm just guessing that, truth or fiction, that story is where a lot of the animosity started, because I've heard as much from other fans.

As for me, I've never encountered any asshole BC fans. I love the campus. My cousin went there. And BC should be proud of how it has built upon its athletic tradition after moving into the tough ACC.

Here's to a classy game on Saturday.

Craig said...

The people who speak derogatorily of BC fans are typically speaking of direct experience of the fans that have traveled to South Bend in recent years (e.g. reports of crashing the pep rally, which is a pretty crass thing to do), and of personal associates.

I don't have any of the same experiences, as I went home the weekend of the only previous game vs. BC during my time at ND.

I can't say that I'm a fan of the typical arrogant dismissal of BC by my fellow ND fans, and I'm even less happy about how one of our school representatives reportedly represented us on one of the WWL outlets today.

Devin said...

nice job on this one:

John said...

As an ND alum (with family split between BC and ND for context), I've seen many teams come through ND, first as a student and then going back for many games. ND tends to be a relatively tame place in regards to how visiting teams are treated (contrast with UConn or WV for those who have gone to BC's contests at those venues). Usually, when the Michigan's or USC's or Nebraska's roll through South Bend with entourage en tow, their fans tend to act more or less the same...there may be some friendly banter here or there, but with the exception of a tiny minority it is nothing but good fun - and there is respect for the game.

When BC rolled into ND in 1992, masses of BC fans (many drunken, many not) crashed the pep rally and were quite disrespectful and continued to be quite disrespectful and rude ... at least compared to other teams that come through ... at least until the end of the first quarter when the scoreboard read 30 - 0. The poor behavior reminded me of someone thrust into the spotlight prematurely (because of their being in the top ten at the time for the first time in a long time) and just not really knowing how to respond. You can contrast this with the behavior of the fans of teams mentioned above where those fans take perennial high ranking as a birthright...fairly or not. No one at ND was particularly impressed by what they saw of the vocal, critical mass of BC fans that stood out (and perhaps they left a disproportionate impression). While that game fell steeply in ND's favor, there wasn't a sense of a rivalry in South Bend (despite pre-game hype)...just a sense that BC was perhaps one of the rudest schools in D-IA.

ND's loss the following year (as heart-breaking as it was for ND...and I still remember where I was standing in stadium as that field goal sailed through the uprights) wasn't viewed as the beginning of a rivalry either (from the ND perspective). While the BC coaches smartly used the prior year's score to encourage the players to come in with a chip on their shoulders, most fans felt it was just that ND was flat from their huge upset of the then unbeaten #1 Seminoles the prior week. The evidence (rationalization?) was the fact that despite being down by 20 pts in the 4th quarter and looking really flat all game (and we all know when our beloved teams look flat), we finally woke up and closed the gap to take the lead. The score was close and BC took the win in the end, but it wasn't viewed as a reflection of the talent at the time (but rather a testament to BC playing above themselves and ND playing below for 3 quarters...think USC/Stanford of late). ND at the time had Bettis, Mirer, and something like 5 others that went in the first round or two of the draft. BC couldn't match the talent across the board (despite some excellent players in specific positions - and a solid O-line in '93 if I remember correctly).

Later, when BC started having more success, talk of the rivalry re-surfaced...partly because of the two schools being the only two Catholic schools in D-IA football (and many families, like ours, have divided loyalties and good fun when the game comes up), and partly because there had been some exciting matches. But for ND it wasn't that much different than losing to Stanford repeatedly in the early 1990's. They beat us three or four times in a row at home (even when they had absolutely no business doing so...they just seemed to have our number). That didn't make them our rival. For many ND fans, that has been the recent role of BC: decent school that has had a knack of pulling off the win against us a few too many times (yes, yes...ignoring that fact that currently almost everyone has been having their way against our freshman squad as they develop and this year your squad is having a great run). Prior to this year, though, BC would turn around and drop a few games a year to teams that you shouldn't have lost to (causing quite the gnashing of teeth about your prior coach) there is some fairness in commenting that BC wasn't a top team despite its accolades this season.

I don't know BC football history as well as ND (it's not my school) I don't know who your rivals actually are. ND has had Michigan, USC, Michigan St., Purdue, Navy, and Stanford on their schedule for so many years (where Michigan and USC have been the rivals of late, but Michigan St. and Purdue and service academies back in the day were the big games). With the Michigan rivalry going back to the 1800's and USC to the 1920's and other regional conflicts (and the history with Navy keeping ND from going bankrupt), it's hard for anyone to really displace these teams. Meanwhile, how many rivalries can you realistically have? You appreciate the exciting matches (like when Penn State rolls through), but doesn't make them your rival. It feels like BC wants there to be a rivalry with ND more than ND. I'm happy to see us play BC in the same way I'm happy to see us play Oklahoma or Cal or Maryland or Pittsburgh. With increased parity in the college game, there's no way of knowing years ahead of time (when these games are scheduled) who is going to be dominant in a given year. Though you can expect that certain schools will be at least consistent and some years show something special and even exciting. So this is fine...ND should play BC sometimes as it is fair to expect them to be consistently respectable (and I will not attempt to defend our AD and our approach to scheduling).

What's more puzzling to me has been the animosity ND has experienced from BC fans compared to other fans (and possibly the BC team depending on what truth there is to early postings on that topic). I don't buy the argument that ND fans are so rude and horrible. First, we both have some "winners" in our respective families we wish we could muzzle...but when we travel, we don't throw batteries, throw bottles of bear, full cans of beer, disrupt pep rallies, tear up locker rooms or fields, hit girls in the band while they stand on the field after the game, etc. etc. etc. (all of which we have been on the receiving end of...) ND doesn't do these things, so to say we're so bad and deserve such animosity just doesn't make sense. We will vigorously support our team and think we're going to win (just like I think we're going to beat you on Saturday) - but what would you expect a fan to say? It's hard not to draw the conclusion that BC fans have a chip on their shoulder (regardless of recent success) unless you honestly believe that a tiny number of disgruntled posters represent the lot of us. (And reading your disgruntled posters I could easily draw the same misconception).

I can honestly say I hope BC does well (except for Saturday) the same way I hope all our opponents play well. I love when our schedule is hard. I also love the game, and to the extent your team has a great's fun to watch. (And I must admit to enjoying watching you beat Miami, Florida St., Virginia Tech and other teams where certain values aren't embodied...) But going back to the posts discussing ND fans being arrogant...I've seen much worse fans around the nation than ND, and frankly haven't seen BC fans embody a "role-model"...despite the fact I know many wonderful BC folks (my own family included).

Just a thought.

Will said...

Hey All,

Here's my two cents as a recent graduate from Notre Dame. You know, I'm quite sorry that two Catholic schools with proud academic and athletic traditions feel like it is necessary to be such bitter rivals. Granted, I have no problem with being rivals on the field, in a friendly and respectful way. Yet, it seems that some BC and ND fans take it to a whole different level of nastiness, and, honestly, there has been shameful behavior on both sides. If two Catholic schools can't rise above such behavior it's really a horrible shame and disgusting.

I unfortunately have had some bad experiences with BC fans at Notre Dame and at BC's campus. On the other hand, I know a number of Notre Dame fans who don't give BC the proper respect they deserve either. It's self-perpetuating, and it really should stop. There's no reason why we can't have a respectful rivalry with BC, like we do with some of the other schools we play more often. Both schools have good fans: let the good BC and ND fans step up and drown out the few jerks who give both schools a bad reputation.

Anyway, I'm hoping for an improbable Irish win, just to pay you all back for 1993 and 2002, but I have to congratulate BC on its success this season. You guys have a great team there, and no matter who wins tomorrow, I wish you good luck for the rest of the season.