Sunday, October 25, 2009

Second viewing thougths and grade report: Notre Dame

This was not a fun game to watch back but I have to thank NBC Sports for a huge advantage. Like ESPN 360, they have the Irish games available on demand online. The difference though is that NBC Sports edits the game by quarters and cuts out filler and dead time between plays. It makes watching the game back an easy task.
As for what I learned the second time around, it confirmed many of my first reactions. We didn’t play particularly well, but could have won. That’s a frustrating combination.

Offense: C+

Shinskie has upside. I think he can be a very good QB at this level, but he needs to start making better decisions. His touch and his throws, in general, are good. But too often he forces things. All three INTs were bad decisions. He was also off on some early throws and his deep balls towards the sidelines weren’t that crisp. As I’ve mentioned ad nauseum at this point balls are not even being thrown to the backs or the fourth option. That’s on Shinskie since there should be plays there. Shinskie showed again that he’s got surprising speed and athleticism. I think he should run more when things breakdown. On the last play he would have been better served to toss it out of bounds or try to run for two or three yards.

Harris’s struggles were partly his and also a net result of what Notre Dame schemed. They obviously did not want Harris to beat them, so they kept the box crowded for the most part. But still he missed a few holes and the goal line fumble was a killer. He blocked well though. McCluskey showed he can be a nice weapon in certain situations. Now let’s start throwing it to him out of the backfield.

Pantale and Anderson played well. They found spots in the ND defense and also did a good job blocking. However, one of the reasons I think our rushing attack suffered was due to the second level blocking. We need our TEs to get to the LBs and open things up.

Rich Gunnell obviously had a great game. He found soft spots in the zone. He made some tough catches. He was great and carried the team. Larmond was effective. Jarvis mad e a big catch. The others weren’t factors

As a group the offensive line played well. The pass blocking was good. The run blocking was not as effective but that was mostly because of ND crowding the line. Individually Castonzo and Tennant played well. Cleary was ok but made some mental errors. As the announcers noted Claiborne made some errors and wasn’t as dominant as last week. Lapham was good early. When he went down, Goodman struggled with the pass rush a bit.

I thought Tranq put together a good game. He stayed with the run a little more than I would have preferred, but it kept Notre Dame honest. Sticking with the run forced Notre Dame to respect the play action. My main complaint was on the play sequence after the goal line stance (but I will get into that in the overall section). My complaints are about how we adjust. I know the limited personnel kept us out of the wildcat/bazooka. So if that is not an option and the run is not working, why not try a stretch play or two? He also needs to work with Shinskie on his decision making.

Defense: B-

Rossi played well early on. He was disruptive and made some plays in the backfield. Not sure why he wasn’t as much of a factor or on the field later in the game. Ramella had one of his better games in a while. Albright was okay. Ramsey was okay. Newman was fine. The biggest problem with the line was that while they were okay, they didn’t make many plays and couldn’t stop ND’s rushing game.

Mike Morrissey deserves credit for taking his game to the next level. He showed good speed, was able to get to Clausen and played well in pass coverage. Kuechly was good although he had trouble shedding some blocks when Notre Dame ran right at him. McLaughlin did not have one of his better games. He couldn’t shed blocks, had a stupid penalty and didn’t make any big plays. I think the second teamers should be getting more snaps. LeGrande and DiSanzo specifically should be getting more playing time.

The defensive backs played very well. Much was made of the cushion, but that is not their fault. They are being asked to play that way. Their supposed to close quickly and tackle well and for the most part they did. Gause made some nice open field tacklers. Rollins was a beast. Fletcher was exploited a bit more than the others, but still had some good plays. Bowman had his best game in a while including the big hit at the goal line. Davis also played well (although he couldn’t tackle Tate on Tate’s big TD run).

The NBC team spent a considerable amount of time on our cushion. It has long been a topic among Spaz critics. Let me talk about it in this game and save our use of the cushion for another post. I felt depending so much on the cushion against a scheme like Notre Dame’s and against a QB like Clausen is asking for trouble. He will take all the easy passes and eventually he or one of his WRs will burn you. Sure, we nearly picked him off twice, but this year we haven’t been forcing many turnovers. I would have preferred more variety this past weekend. When we did flush Clausen he got dinged and also grounded the ball on a safety. I was also frustrated that we got gashed with their running game.

Special Teams: B

Good punting throughout. Good coverage too.

Decent kickoffs.

Gause looked good returning kicks.

Overall: C+

We lost this as a team, so I will not point fingers at any one group. Yet the conservative nature of our approach continues to frustrate me. Jimmy Clausen may be a jerk and he may be overrated but he has proven that if given time and enough possessions he will move the ball. Although the punts from Notre Dame territory worked, I didn’t love the mindset. I really didn’t like the three runs following the goal line stand. It was conceding the possession in what was still a close game. We made mistakes and that is what ultimately cost us the game. But I still feel like those mistakes are magnified because we are so cautious in other aspects of the game.

Notre Dame is behind us for another year. Now Spaz has to avoid the trap against CMU and get the guys ready for the stretch run.


mod34b said...

Nice review ATL. Love to see more of your scheme development pictures. Those little tutorials are great.

When you think about Shinskie at Clemson he was frozen. Against VT, Shinskie was very tentative.

Now against ND -- an intimidating atmosphere -- while his first few throws were very tentative, he found his groove. Yes, he made big mistakes, but after he settled down, he was not afraid to throw the ball. Think of his great toss on 4-17 at the end of the game. It was gutsy. You wonder if he had just connected on that first gimmick play (which he underthrew), how confident he would have been.

Matt Ryan used to suffer from INTs, and PIC-6, but he was gutsy in his play. That's what made him a great QB. I think Shinskie is getting guts to play and is not afraid to make a mistake. Good signs.

If you are tentative as a QB, your done. It's good to see Shinskie taking chances, taking his lumps, but learning at the same time. With more confidence and more adjustments to the speed of the game, he'll be making the right checks before he tosses the ball to the wrong target.

Guy is only a Frosh. A true (well sorta!) Freshman at that.

blist said...

Even though it's a tough loss to an underachieving team, you have to like the step forward Shinskie and the team took on a high-profile road game, after the debacles at VT and Clemson. I feel good about making at run to the ACCCG.

Was that Charlie Weis crying at the end of the game? At least we know it's a big deal to ND. I don't like ND much, but I have a soft spot in my heart for the guy for some reason.

Deacon Drake said...

Minus 5 in the turnover department sealed it. Even the '99 Rams couldn't overcome one of those.

There is A LOT of dissent over how the defense is called. Too soft, too vanilla.

35, 34, 33, 24, 37, 27...

BC gave up 20, plus grabbed a safety and the ensuing field position. The defense works, as frustrating as it is to watch receivers do absolutely nothing to take 8 yards. Spaz actually knows what he is doing, and this game was very winnable using the strategy. ND's two touchdowns came off a botched blitz where Giles got got flattened, allowing Clausen to roll away from Kuechly, and a very lucky pass where Morrissey jumped the hitch and just missed the pick... no idea why Fletcher was falling down out of bounds, but he should have been closing on the receiver, not where the ball was going.

The O-Line did well against the blitz in the pass game, but look awful run blocking. Tenuta sold out the middle of the field to shut down the run, which is why there were so many big plays on the drags, posts, and crosses. The fumbles are inexcusable... cannot play another game like that.

If that game is played at Alumni, BC walks with it. Shinskie is the guy.

ObserverCollege said...

What I liked about this game is that your coaches showed the proper respect for a tradition-laden program like Notre Dame. The generous cushion was the ongoing example, communicating to your two-star players that their coaches will protect them from the #1 QB recruit and 5-star receivers that Notre Dame runs out there.

Having said that, I LOVED the sequence after the goal-line stand. Your players on defense kept ND out of the end zone, and that could have caused some mental anguish on the part of the Irish. Such a lack of compassion and sportsmanship could have unfairly harmed the Irish as they prepped for the rest of their schedule. Your Coach Spaziani and Caoch Tranquill, however, stepped up with one of the most respectful sequence of plays I have ever witnessed in college football. A QB sneak and two conservative dives left you punting from your own 5-yard line. No passes to threaten the ND defense. No consideration of "going for it", with the thought that a safety would still let you free kick from the 20, up 1.

Instead, your coaches showed they RESPECT the titans of college football, the Notre Dames and the Alabamas. You still have to work on your kids and their idea that they can speak to those in a higher social status as equals (see Gunnell, Rich), but overall you've earned a lot of goodwill with what happened on Saturday.

blist said...

You spent all day Sunday in your Ron Pawlus jersey drafting this entry, didn't you ObserverCollege?

Erik said...

I think the defense played well enough to win, and the offense did just enough to have a chance to win, but all analysis starts and stops with turnover margin. Needed some on D, needed less on O, and it didn't shake out for us.

CMU could easily be better than Notre Dame, luckily its at Alumni Stadium.

Lally said...

The problem I have with the soft coverage is it seems like we consistently give the opposing team 6 to 8 yard passes when it was 3rd and 4, 3rd and 3. Shouldn't some adjustment be made to stop the 3rd down?

mod10aeagle said...

The turnovers were killers, but I found more to like than loath in this game overall. I'm much more disappointed that Clemson pulled off their OT victory over Miami.

Shinskie still making some freshman mistakes, as a freshman should, but he's got the touch of a much more mature passer. I can't wait to see him after a full offseason of football-specific D1 level conditioning and prep. He has the potential to be pretty special by his junior year.

Claver2010 said...

Shinskie: Improvement but needs to make better decisions. ND's pass defense is horrendous and there were holes. Throwing 3 picks, all essentially in the final quarter (I know one was last minutes of 3rd), all of which the results of bad decisions, is unacceptable.
Montel: Obviously game planned against him. He knows he made a mistake on hte fumble, ball control is the most important thing down in the red zone. It's his first lost fumble in 2 years, it was going to happen.
The WRs found holes in the zone and were able to beat their man one on one, most talented WR core thus far. Larmond had a TD on the 2nd to last drive had Shinskie thrown a good ball on a fly route.

The offense is so predictable. They double up TE on one side and run the ball that way, it must have happened 8 times. I have no clue why didn't use the Bazooka especially once the running game was getting blown up at the line. I don't want to hear about Haden being injured. Watch the game tape, we used other backs (Lee & Gunnell) as the Ricky Williams. The first time we run it we get 17 yards, we would only run it once again.

The defensive scheme was so frustrating. Clausen had the 8 yard out on the field corner the entire time. The one time we jump a route (Morrissey) he just misses it and it goes for a TD. Unfortunately I think a more athletic (read: LeGrande) makes that play. Another problem with this scheme is that it puts a premium on our CBs being able to tackle. They are a very tackling group however you are playing with fire when you have Tate alone on Fletcher or Gause.
The DL's inability to get to the QB at all with 4 is going to be a problem this week as LeFevour will pick us apart. It's up to McGovern to mix it up (hell at least once).

Overall, very very frustrating game. We had 4 turnovers inside ND territory going into the final drive, with the ball at their 30 with a minute to go and still a chance to win against the worst passing D (outside of NU) we will face all year.

conlonc said...

mod34b: very well put. bravo.

Matt said...

Take this quiz, I think you'll find it's interesting. Especially the fact that BC is not only on it, but also ahead of Alabama...

eagleboston said...

BC needs to put major effort into finding a defensive end that can get BC a pass rush. The Eagles have not had a great pass rush since Kiwi graduated. I realize that a Mamula or Kiwi are once in a decade players, but we're about due.

Watch out for CMU. I'm very worried about a hangover effect. Fortunately, it is at home and I will be there live. BC has won 7 in a row when I have been there in person, the last loss being in 2000in South Bend.

SaturdaysOnShea said...

I just finished watching the shortened version of the game on NBC Sports. I wasn't able to watch any of it on Saturday because I was away from a tv at the time and had to settle for constant text messaged score updates from my friends.

This was not as tough of a game to watch as Clemson or VT, compared to those games I thought we played well in a very hostile environment. Shinskie has obviously matured and, as mod34b pointed out, he definitely became more and more comfortable as the game went on, though he needs to work on those passes that just sailed over people's heads. There were a few, one to Larmond in the 4th I think in particular, that had they been more on target would could have been game changers. Why Montel was so anemic on his rushes is beyond me, especially after a career game like last week. I attribute that more to a Notre Dame defense that was well prepared than anything else. I don't want to say that his fumble on the goal line killed us, becuase a lot of things did, but that could have been overcome. I don't blame him for losing the ball, helmet to ball contact is hard to keep hold of, it was more bad luck than anything else.

After watching this game, you get the definite sense that we lost it rather than Notre Dame won it. We had a defense that kept us, for the most part, in the game, especially the defensive back who I think made some great plays and tackles. As we all know our problem there is on the line where ND was able to break open a lot of big runs. I think this game was a difference of night and day compared to our last two road games. If we play similarly, with less mistakes, at Virginia and Maryland, I feel pretty confident.

The other thing I noticed while watching this game back was that, I really didn't care. Maybe that is because it had has two days to set in, but, although I wanted to beat ND, the much more important games are coming up in the next month. I just hope we don't trip against CMU this weekend and go in confident and strong into the last three ACC games.

PHL BC Eagles said...

I was at the game. It was my 6th time watching BC play at ND; I lived in Chicago for many years.

I am envious of their game day atmosphere compared to Alumni. It really is outstanding, even with the terrible weather before Saturday's game. Inside the stadium, it is LOUD.

We should have won. The Harris fumble, the Shinskie INTs, the soft coverage by our Dbacks, all contributed to the lost.

Still, after the game, I felt pretty good about our team. With all of stuff that happened in the off season, we still are competitive.

Could we be better than where we are today? Yeah, maybe. Will we better in the future? Definitely.

(Yikes Atl! Tell those Google guys not to post ND on line degree ads on the site!)