Sunday, September 13, 2009
What we learned from Notre Dame, Week 2
Posted by ESPN.com's Brian Bennett
What we learned about Notre Dame after its 38-34 loss to Michigan on Saturday:
1. The Irish aren't a championship-caliber team: There were some who insisted Notre Dame had an outside chance at the BCS title game this season, or at the very least could be a 10- or 11-win, top 10-type of outfit. The Irish are not there yet. Teams of that pedigree do not lose to rebuilding opponents with a freshman quarterback, and they certainly don't make as many mistakes as Notre Dame did in all facets of the game on Saturday. The Irish's realistic goal this year was getting to nine wins and a BCS game. That's still possible, but now it's harder.
2. The defensive line is a sore spot: The D-line was a major area of concern going into the season, and some of the problems in the Nevada game were glossed over because the Wolf Pack failed to score. But Michigan exposed Notre Dame's problems in its front four in a big, big way. The Wolverines pulverized the interior of that line with huge runs up the middle all during the second half. Tackles Ian Williams and Ethan Johnson need to play a whole lot better if this team is going anywhere.
3. Charlie Weis maybe out-thinks himself: With 2:29 left, Notre Dame has a second-and-10 on its own 29 with a 34-31 lead. Michigan had two timeouts left. If the Irish simply run the ball twice, the Wolverines have to burn both timeouts and might not have enough time for the winning drive (they scored with 11 seconds left, and used a timeout after a sack on the drive). Instead, Weis dialed up too high-risk passes that both fell incomplete.
The coach's reasoning -- that Michigan had loaded the box against the run -- failed to make a lot of sense, since milking the clock there was at least as important as getting another first down. Sometimes it's better to play it safe in the final minutes than to try and out-scheme your opponent. Those two calls are being widely second-guessed by fans.