Friday, October 5, 2012
Spring Game Blues
The 79th Blue and Gold game came and went and left somewhat of a bad taste in a few fan's mouths. Even though the contest itself was intense as the Blue (offense) defeated the Gold (defense), 47-46 on a last second touchdown, my overall impression of the team was not too optimistic. A lot of factors played into that sentiment, but it leaves one wondering, did the Irish show or reveal much? To sum it up briefly, not really.
Here is the IBB report card for the Irish after the game:
Jimmy Clausen definitely is 100% healthy and it showed with some zip! Clausen's numbers weren't stellar, 10-of-27 for 183 yards and 1 Touchdown and 1 interception. He definitely would have better numbers if it weren't for a few drops here and there. One trend that will have to be straightened out before the start of the season will be Clausen's ability to not "Lock" on a receiver too soon. He didn't look off any receivers and it showed on several throws, including the 22-yard interception return by Harrison Smith.
Overall Jimmy is improving and will only get better!
The Blue rushing attack started and ended with offensive MVP Robert Hughes. Hughes picked up where he left off last season by gaining 100 yards on 22 carries, including the first touchdown of the game. He put in a workmanlike effort and was rewarded for his output.
Armando Allen gave a good change up for the bruising Hughes with 11 rushes for 53 yards. Just like last season, Allen was a tackle or two away from breaking a big one!
James Aldridge saw limited amount of carries, which makes me wonder if A) he's not fully 100% healthy, or B) he's slipping down the depth chart. Either case, Aldridge didn't provide much spark when he did carry (3.0 average per carry).
The Barry Gallup Jr. experiment at running back turned into just that, an experiment. Even though he got almost as many carries as Aldridge, Gallup Jr. is probably not going to get much time on the field next season unless the injury bug hits either the backs or receivers.
Asaph Schwapp didn't touch the ball at all, which might not be a bad thing. He did a so-so job of lead blocking or protecting Clausen on a few pass plays. Not too much to go off of for Schwapp's evaluation.
This was a unit I felt showed a bit of everything on Saturday. It had its ups of great catches (Ragone's spectacular 23-yard reception; Tate's 57 yarder to set up the game winner, and Kamara's jump ball TD) and its downs with several dropped passes.
When it did matter, the receivers stepped up against the best unit on the Irish squad (secondary). New captain David Grimes will spearhead this group in the right direction, as incoming freshman Michael Floyd will add more depth and star power to the Irish's arsenal.
I think I was more dumbfounded than anything with the o-line's performance on Saturday. First off, all that you hear and read about Sam Young's poor play was pretty much on the mark. Mental mistakes of false starts, holding calls, and allowing a few missed assignments, didn't bode well for a player that wants to be a leader of this team.
With that said, there were signs of life from the offensive line, especially when the little skirmish broke out. Eric Olsen has a little, Jeff Faine, mean streak about him that is much needed. Chris Stewart looked fairly decent, but still the offensive line gave up four sacks to a defense that is missing some valuable parts.
Help is on the way, but will it be enough? Time will tell.
The defensive front was the hardest hit from graduation (Trevor Laws), suspension (Patrick Kuntz), and injury (Darrell Hand); however they had a pretty good outing. End Morrice Richardson and tackle Justin Brown led the charge with 12 tackles, including one and a half sacks, respectively. Incoming freshman Sean Cwynar and Freshman All-American, Ian Williams, had three and two stops as well.
They clogged up the middle and put some pressure on Clausen, which means the arrow is definitely pointing up on this unit, especially with the return of Kuntz in the fall.
It was all Smith, all the time for the linebacking corps, as Harrison Smith shored up the game's defensive MVP honors after returning an interception for a touchdown. Jon Tenuta's placement of Harrison Smith as a linebacker proved to be genius as he was everywhere on the field for five tackles.
Scott Smith led the group with six tackles, while Brian Smith (3 tackles) headed the charge with two sacks and Toryan Smith added three stops.
The non-Smiths, Kevin Washington had four tackles, and both Kerry Neal and Maurice Crum each had two stops apiece.
This was Notre Dame's strength last season and should be the pillar once again. Kyle McCarthy will fill in nicely for Tom Zbikowski at safety, while David Bruton should be on a few preseason honor lists. Depth will also be a valuable weapon for this unit, as Ray Herring, Raeshon McNeil, Jashaad Gaines, Sergio Brown, and Gary Gray, will be battling more this fall for playing minutes.
The hit of the day went to senior Terrail Lambert. Armando Allen ran into the brick wall of Lambert to stop the Blue from scoring. That hit definitely woke up the crowd from its early slumber! The only knock of this group was that it let up at the end for the Blue to escape with the win and the Steak dinner.
Overall this unit is going to be solid and will improve on last year's numbers!
Brandon Walker looked a lot better than last season, which isn't saying much, and Eric Maust had some good punts and some not so good punts. If Walker didn't hit the upright of his 46 yard field goal, this unit would have had a better day.
Overall I'm not sure if the Irish showed a lot because of adjusting to new personnel assignments (Mike Haywood calling the plays) and lack of depth problems. There were signs of improvement at several positions, but was it enough? We shall see in 136 days!