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.
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.
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.
Gause looked good returning kicks.
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.