Posted by BrianBoru at 11/8/2009 2:14 AM EST
How many of you were surprised by the result of Saturday's Notre Dame/Navy game?
I suppose the better question is: Will this latest embarrassing defeat be enough to terminate the Charlie Weis Experiment?
You recall that this was supposed to be 'The Year' that the Irish returned to a BCS bowl. You may not recall that, back in 2007 during Notre Dame's worst season in program history, Notre Dame head coach Charlie Weis brashly stated that opposing football teams had better "get your yuks in now".
Charlie's bold salvo suggested that by 2009 he and the Fighting Irish would be laughing.
Sadly for Notre Dame alumni and fans alike, the 2009 edition of Notre Dame Football has been anything but funny.
This time, there were no last-minute reprieves for Charlie Weis. His All-American quarterback, the unflappable Jimmy Clausen, could not bail him out again. Clausen threw for a career-high 452 yards — yet somehow it did not seem so.
Acrobatic wide receiver Golden Tate finished with well over 100 yards receiving — including a remarkable (albeit a bit late) catch-and-jaunt into the end zone after the Irish recovered an onside kick with under a minute remaining. Though, as with Clausen's lofty numbers, Tate's final tally belied his scarce involvement in the game plan, as he caught just one pass during a first half in which Navy dominated the more talented Notre Dame.
The only positive news of the day was the return of dazzling wide receiver Michael Floyd. Floyd, too, breached the Navy defense all afternoon, scoring a fourth-quarter touchdown to pull the Irish within a score of the Midshipmen. But it seemed almost pedestrian by his extraordinary standards. Floyd also committed a few costly mental lapses.
With the Irish driving deep in Navy's red zone, Floyd mistakenly blocked his defender instead of turning around for the pass, leading to Jimmy Clausen's lone interception on the day. It was a huge mistake and it cost the Irish a potential touchdown. Later in the fourth quarter, with the Irish pinned deep in their own side of the field, Floyd dropped a pass that would have placed Notre Dame near midfield. Moments later, Clausen was sacked in the end zone for a safety, essentially eliminating Notre Dame's slim chances at pulling off the late rally.
Along the offensive line, The Irish continually rack up drive-killing penalties and marches backward in the red zone rather than forward. There has not been one consistent standout among these underachieving lads all season.
In case you were wondering, tackle Sam Young was the No. 1 rated lineman in high school. He spurned offers from, among others, Southern Cal and Florida.
I would be remiss if I did not note the poor tackling. Notre Dame has been remarkably consistent with its poor tackling this season. And, as it turns out, superhero linebacker Manti Te'o could not quell the scrappy Midshipmen by himself. With little aid from his teammates, the Middies ground game punished the Irish leaky defense to the tune of 348 yards on the ground.
Speaking of the running attack. It would have been nice to see what speedy freshman Theo Riddick could have accomplished had he been given a few more carries. Not surprisingly, Weis shunned his running game for his preferred method of attack: the richly-nuanced passing game — an offense whose success is predicated on near-perfect execution from its quarterback. In other words, a highly predictable and one-dimensional offense that essentially makes the opposing defensive coordinator's job a helluva lot easier than it ought to be.
Sixty yards. That is the number of yards Notre Dame was able to muster against the undersized Naval Academy. Last week, Temple, a program which not very long ago was politely asked to leave the mediocre Big East Conference, ran roughshod over the Midshipmen on their way to a 27-24 victory. Living in Philly, I am quite familiar with Temple Football. Not since Paul Palmer toted the pigskin for Temple in the 80's, have the Owls been on the national radar. Let's just say that losing to a team which was defeated by Temple is a recipe for nightmares on end.
In the wake of Saturday's defeat, Notre Dame dropped to a pitiful mark of 3-16 against teams with a .500 record. And that dates back to just 2007.
Something else to chew on — Charlie Weis' teams have an even worse record during the month of November — a month when good teams are generally thought to be improving — than Tyrone Willingham, who was heretofore considered the worst coach at Notre Dame during my lifetime. Worse than Gerry Faust.
Willingham was rightly fired from Notre Dame. His brief time in which he crippled the University of Washington football program further underscored how truly inept he was as a head coach — just as it validated the University of Notre Dame's decision to fire him after just three seasons in South Bend.
But what if Weis is worse than Willingham?
Sure, that may be a tough sell. Weis certainly recruits fairly well. And Willingham's poor recruiting hauls were the stuff of legend. However, Willingham had what was considered a 'signature win' when his Fighting Irish marched into Tallahassee and thumped Florida State back in 2002 during Notre Dame's 8-0 start — which later turned out to be a smoke-and-mirrors campaign — much like the first half of the 2009 season under the guidance of Charlie Weis, where last-minute heroics by talented players masked the litany of issues evidenced time and again over the course of the season, (e.g. mismanaged clock/time outs, false starts by the offensive linemen, sub par special teams, shoddy tackling and fundamentals, etc.)
Returning to the matter of Willingham V Weis, as noted, Willingham did secure a 'signature win' while at Notre Dame. Weis, winding down year five, has not yet grasped one.
Not one. Zilch.
And it appears, finally, that Charlie Weis has run out of coaching lives.
Guinness is good for you, say medical experts