9.11 – Signs

There aren’t five quarterbacks in the game who could make the two phenomenal passes Brady Quinn did to Carlson in traffic to keep key drives alive. Those were two Heisman throws, but two of the best plays he made in the 41-17 win over Penn State were losses. With the Irish up big in the third quarter Quinn came under heavy pressure and ate back-to-back sacks. Not a play you want to see your quarterback make, but these were two opportunities for turnovers that could have given Penn State life. Instead, Quinn tucked ball and grabbed some turf. Turnovers decide big games (see Texas) and Quinn showed great maturity with the ball.

That was one of a few telling signs that we might have something good here. Admittedly, little things, but they’re the type of plays the 1988 team made.

The Belt Buckle: Terrail Lambert’s tackle on Derrick Williams after a monster punt by Price was a sign. Price launched an 60 yarder and Lambert (gunner) was the first one down the field. He broke down perfectly, kept his eye on William’s belt buckle, didn’t fall for the jukes and took Williams down for a four yard gain. That’s the type of play championship teams make.

Hands Up: There has been a lot of criticism of our defensive line and defense in general, but they played very aware football on Saturday. On a key third down play, Morelli fired, but the ball was tipped away by Trevor Laws. A replay showed that all of our linemen were getting their hands up. Doesn’t help every play, but the one that it does help on is usually an important one.

T2 and The Triple Team: The Lion taming play of the game was Zbikowski’s fumble return for a touchdown, but that play was as much T2 as it was Zibby. Thomas came up field quick on the play, took on a block and then came back inside to wrap up, while Crum stripped the ball and Zibby grabbed some more rightful glory with a walk-in touchdown.

Chasing the Block: It was a nothing play with Walker heading to the sidelines, but I noticed Chase Anastacio locked up on a Lion dback and finishing to the sideline. Play didn’t go for much and it certainly wasn’t highlight worthy, but there will be a game that will turn on wide receiver blocking and having three wide receivers who can block is a little advantage that can mean a lot of yards.

Quintessential: Seldom used linebacker Steve Quinn on kick-off coverage duty broke through the Lion wedge and brought down AJ Wallace with a diving tackle. It’s the type of play Notre Dame hasn’t been making over the past decade. Notre Dame’s special teams and defense tackled exceedingly well all game even drawing a mention from JoePa himself.

Joy To The Kicking Game: Who was that masked field goal kicker? After a rough opening game against Georgia Tech, Carlos Goia nailed two field goals that were meaningless to the overall score, but very important momentum kicks. Earlier in the week, Weis had said the problem was with his plant foot. It would appear that a huge question-mark is now a period.

Run Darius, Run: Darius Walker made it another game without a fumble. Say what you will about excessive dancing and lack of breakaway ability, but DWalk does not fumble. Also, note that Weis stayed with the run even when it wasn’t working as well as he’d hoped, starting off the first second half possession by running wide. Penn State’s pass rush was non-existent in the second half.

T2 and The Touchdown: In every championship run there are defining plays and Travis Thomas’s collision touchdown at the pylon was the stuff championships are made of. Justin King was in great position to make the play, but Thomas simply outhit King and put the ball into the endzone.

Rhythm: Each game has a specific rhythm and Weis seemed to either gauge or dictate the rhythm of this game perfectly. I never felt as if Notre Dame would lose this game… I never felt that Weis didn’t have complete control. He did pretty much what he planned on doing this in this game. Note what happens when a team is off rhythm: turnovers and big plays. Penn State was off rhythm. While many delusional Lion fans and even JoePa are complaining that they made mistakes, note that many of their mistakes came from trying too much, being out of sync or simply because the Irish made plays. Weis has shown a knack for understanding the tempo of each contest and where the intensity needs to be and his playcalling, taking the little the stuff and controlling the clock, kept the Penn State offense off the field and left them trying to do too much with too little time.

As I wrote earlier this year, even if the stars on the team play to their All-American potential, to beat the odds, Notre Dame needs every team member playing every play like a champion.

There appear to be some signs that such a mentality is taking hold, but right now they’re just signs and there are plenty of weaknesses to work on.


Nice place to be, but the preseason is over.

The real season, IMO, starts next Saturday.

~ The Rock


One Response to “9.11 – Signs”

  1. The Rock Says:


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