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Gold Helmet
03-08-2007, 09:51 PM
Notre Dame played well in the first half on offense, controlling the ball by an almost 2-1 margin, piling up 262 yards and putting up 14 points despite many mistakes -- but when LSU scored late in the first half, I knew this game was over. It was OSU -- it was Michigan -- it was USC -- all over again. We can't stop good teams right now and might not be able to until 2008.

Weis seemed to have the perfect run-pass mix in first half with Darius Walker gutting the Tigers for 125 yards on the ground. Notre Dame only stopped itself with execution and a bad fake punt call in the first half.

Which, I somewhat get... I think.

Weis thought Notre Dame had to win the first quarter to win this game and keep the ball away from the LSU offense and by nature he errs on the side of aggressiveness. Whether it was called or audibled, it was ugly. On the other hand, odds are LSU would have driven down the field for a score anyway after a punt and the fake gave us a chance to control the early momentum.

It was bad.

That didn't cost Notre Dame the game though. And Samardzija's penalty was the real killer of that drive. Cheap though it was, Notre Dame can't afford those mistakes.

Now a moment on the wide receivers. As much progress as Stovall and Sam made last season, Samardzija and McKnight just didn't seem as passionate this year. Rhema was complaining to the refs far too much and dropping passes. Samardzija literally had a touchdown bounce off of his helmet after a short pushing match and, as noted, killed a drive by tossing the ball at his man. I wrote after the Georgia Tech game that both players seemed to be coasting this year and that was the main difference, IMO, between last year's offense and this year's offense. We missed Stovall greatly and Samardzija was just not the same receiver. More on that and how it's affected by the talent dearth below.

Back to the game.

There was just no stopping LSU's offense and while Russell was good, he all he had to do was get the ball in the general vicinity of his receivers, because they were wide open. Notre Dame never jammed their receivers and Notre Dame's defensive line could not control the line of scrimmage. This exacerbated our mismatches in both the secondary and the linebacking corps. The Irish are not a very big team and the physical mismatch against LSU was obvious. OSU exposed the flaws in the Irish defense and every team that has beaten ND since has followed the same playbook. Am I the only one who saw Russell check to a running play again and again? Didn't someone in the booth see this?

Now some have said the Irish gave up on the run too soon in the second half and those of you who read this column know that I think we need to improve our run-pass mix. But the second half was just a different ball-game than the first half. We used the pass to set up the runs in the first half -- not the other way around.

Our first drive of the second half wasn't any different than that of the first half except for execution. Chicken Egg. We tried to do it in the second half... but our run plays weren't getting yards an our pass plays were poorly executed. IF we had executed on some of the passing plays you likely would have seen just as many running plays (ratio wise) in the second half. LSU killed us on TOP in the second half. Notre Dame held the ball for under four minutes in the third quarter and, after our first drive, we didn't get the ball back until three minutes left in the third.

We completely controlled TOP in the first half -- which allowed for the mix.

LSU ate up the first 5.5 minutes of the half on their first drive.

We went pass-pass-run-pass.

Both passes worked and ND has a second and three, but LSU brought up seven in the box (they'd been playing four at times in the first half) and stuffed Walker. Brady then tried Samardzija on a slant, but the coverage was too tight and the pass was a tick behind. This was a well-called series, IMO. Though Weis could have gone back to the run on third down.

LSU controlled the clock for the next four minutes.

When ND got the ball back with 3:48 in the quarter, Brady was flushed for an incomplete on the first play. Samardzija gained six back on the next. Then Darius was stuffed on the 3rd down draw. This is the series that Weis could have mixed in the run better by running on first or second down.

Here's a drive summary of the third quarter:

LSU 15:00 FIELD GOAL 13-73 5:26

ND 09:34 Punt 4-20 1:49
N 1-10 N22 Quinn, Brady (http://www.fansonly.com/schools/nd/sports/m-footbl/mtt/quinn_brady00.html) sideline pass complete to Carlson, John (http://www.fansonly.com/schools/nd/sports/m-footbl/mtt/carlson_john00.html) for 13 yards to the
ND35, 1ST DOWN ND (Craig Steltz).
N 1-10 N35 Quinn, Brady (http://www.fansonly.com/schools/nd/sports/m-footbl/mtt/quinn_brady00.html) screen pass complete to SAMARDZIJA,Jeff for 7 yards to the
ND42, out-of-bounds (Daniel Francis;LaRon Landry).
N 2-3 N42 Walker, Darius (http://www.fansonly.com/schools/nd/sports/m-footbl/mtt/walker_darius00.html) rush over left end for no gain to the ND42 (Glenn Dorsey).
N 3-3 N42 Quinn, Brady (http://www.fansonly.com/schools/nd/sports/m-footbl/mtt/quinn_brady00.html) slant pass incomplete to SAMARDZIJA,Jeff (Jonathan Zenon).
LSU 07:45 FIELD GOAL 9-59 3:57
ND 03:48 Punt 3-6 1:52
N 1-10 N21 Quinn, Brady (http://www.fansonly.com/schools/nd/sports/m-footbl/mtt/quinn_brady00.html) pass incomplete.
N 2-10 N21 [SHOT], Quinn, Brady (http://www.fansonly.com/schools/nd/sports/m-footbl/mtt/quinn_brady00.html) middle pass complete to SAMARDZIJA,Jeff for 6 yards to
the ND27 (Jessie Daniels;Daniel Francis).
N 3-4 N27 Walker, Darius (http://www.fansonly.com/schools/nd/sports/m-footbl/mtt/walker_darius00.html) rush draw play for no gain to the ND27 (Marlon Favorite).
LSU 01:56 TOUCHDOWN 5-73 1:38
ND 00:18 Interception 1-20 0:43
And the fourth:
LSU 14:35 Interception 6-16 1:53
ND 12:42 Punt 3-2 1:04
LSU 11:38 TOUCHDOWN 9-76 4:11
ND 07:27 Punt 3-1 1:53
LSU 05:34 Punt 5-21 4:12
ND 01:22 End of half 2-3 1:22
If there was a failure to run more in the second half it came on the second series of the third quarter when time had ticked down to under four minutes in the quarter. After that, Notre Dame was in Michigan State mode. But the bottom line here is that the Irish just didn't have many opportunities in the third quarter (two) and if the pass plays had worked you would have likely seen more complementary running. Got to hand it to the OL, which did some excellent blocking in the first half. There's hope.

Now about that talent gap.

It hurts in a couple of ways. LSU has three backs that could start over Darius Walker or at the very least split time. While Walker is very good, a Julius Jones could have broken a couple of his runs last night for touchdowns. That's where having difference makers matters. A Ted Ginn allows you room for error, because they can erase errors in one play.

LSU's line's are deep and big. Notre Dame's is talented, but undersized and woefully thin. LSU simply has more options and more to play with and while their first teams are better, more importantly, so are their second teams.

Notre Dame has to play every big game on the margin. That's why this year's recruiting class is critical. Notre Dame needs to put together back-to-back top classes. The LSU senior and Junior classes that played Notre Dame last night were both ranked second in the country. USC's were ranked first in the country both years. Notre Dame's seniors were ranked fifth, but the junior class was not ranked and the sophomore class was worse.

That's where the talent gap lies. Most top recruits don't live up to their billing, so you need to stockpile them. A good chunk of Notre Dame's starters would not be starting if ND had landed its top targets in the Junior and Sophomore classes.

You need depth of talent, so the best can rise up.

For example, if Rhema had a Greg Little or Duval Kamara behind him this year he would have either stepped it up or stepped it out. Nedu would not be starting at safety. Neither would certain OL. But right now, ND has no choice and no choices.

We have two offensive linemen over two years. We've recruited one real DT in three years. We had a running back starting at linebacker. Our wide receivers went three deep. Our secondary consists of three converted wide receivers and one former quarterback. You don't win National Championships with that kind of talent depth, you just don't. Even top teams have depth problems, uncertain areas and position switches, but Notre Dame just has too many right now and the direct cause is poor recruiting in the Junior and Sophomore classes. We're lucky to be 10-3 this year.

This year's Notre Dame team had a shiny veneer, but the program has been rotting at the foundation for two years and that gets exposed when ND plays teams of LSU's and USC's caliber.

So yeah, there's a talent gap. There's also a defensive coaching gap. I'm very confident that the first is changing rapidly. Will the second?

~ The Rock

P.S. 19:31 - 08:43 is Notre Dame's time of possession in the first and second halves.Notre Dame Football, Charlie Weis, Sugar Bowl


More... (http://therockreport.blogspot.com/2007/01/1931-0843.html)