When I first mentioned Jags as a candidate for this job, I referenced the Notre Dame game in 1998, which turned out to be one of the worst losses of the TOB era. This game was another low point. TOB deserves the blame for not knowing the OT rules, however, if I ever get the chance, I would like to get Jags’ take on this game.
Despite being a lowpoint for TOB, but a high point for Jags’ offense.
First downs 26
Passing yards 134
Sacked-yards lost 3-19
Return yards 21
Time of possession 25:50
What can we learn from the game? Jags called a great game. What is so reassuring about his coaching style is how we dealt with an early deficit. In a show off confidence and understanding of your resources, we staged our comeback on the ground. Walker ran for 186. Cloud added another 156. In my opinion, this was one of the biggest differences between the Jags OC era and the Bible OC era. Bible would only abandon his gameplan late and even then, reluctantly (see Peterson’s comeback at South Bend). Jags was willing to go in a new direction as soon as the score dictated it (I’ve heard this same thing about Logan). In this game, Jags was down early. Balance got tossed, yet not in the direction you’d expect. Dicosmo was still out so he put the ball in the hands of our best players. He didn’t care that both were running backs. We didn't get pass happy. Jags kept going with what was working. BC got back into the game and forced OT.
Downsides: another uneven performance from Hasselbeck. This is where my memory is playing tricks on me. I called this game on ZBC and remember Matt having a good game and good senior year. But as I look back at the stats, his numbers weren’t all that great. We’d be killing QB performances like that today. In this game, the line’s pass protection slipped a notch below the previously high standards.
Finally, there is the OT. Long story short, BC went for 2 before we had to. After the game TOB explained that he misunderstood the rules. Because this was before the internet took off, and because BC was under the media radar and because he was a new head coach, this inexcusable excuse never got much attention. I hope Jags knew the rule and got overruled. Who knows? The sideline can be a chaotic place. Not that it justifies anything but I can tell you that the radio and TV booths were a mess. No one had a good grasp of the new OT rules. Sean Grande, who was calling the game for WEEI, is always on top of that stuff and even he and Cronin were popping their heads in the hallway to get clarification.
In the end, this fits in with the recurring theme of the 1997 season: we lost the game, but the running game dominated and the play calling was solid.