Posted by BrianBoru at 9/7/2009 4:35 PM EDT
If recent history has taught us anything, it should remind us that winning a season opener does not guarantee a successful season. Under Charlie Weis, the Fighting Irish are 4-1 in season openers. With that out of the way, it was an impressive victory for the Irish; however, there remain a few question marks:
1) The interior of the defensive line. Too often Notre Dame was gashed by running back Vai Taua up the middle. In order for Notre Dame to once again be considered an elite program, that must not continue this season. The defensive tackles will need to fill the gaps much better as the season moves forward.
2) Given the depth of talent within the secondary ranks, I was surprised to see the defensive backs allowing a deep cushion in coverage. Although Nevada purportedly had a very good offensive unit, their receivers will not be confused for Michael Floyd or Golden Tate.
A possible explanation for the Irish's soft coverage could be that defensive coordinator Jon Tenuta understood that Nevada quarterback Colin Kaepernick was an erratic passer, sometimes prone to missing his receivers; and Tenuta opted instead to send a host of blitzers at him, keeping the defensive backs in zone coverage, conceding short gains. At any rate, it turned out favorably for the Irish.
3) Tight end blocking: Kyle Rudolph eventually will be a great tight end, capable of becoming a force in the running game. However, his blocking remains a bit suspect. Mike Ragone, too, will become a very good all-purpose tight end. But if the Irish ground game is to be a legitimate force this season, the talented duo must demonstrate that they are more than just beefed-up receivers.
4) Last but certainly not least: Will Charlie Weis develop the killer instinct to put teams away?
This may be my biggest concern of the Charlie Weis era. Far too often we have seen Notre Dame squander leads during the past few years. And though the Irish did pitch a shutout against Nevada, I believe Weis put his foot on the brake much too soon.
I am not advocating that Notre Dame ought to run up the score a la vintage Steve Spurrier outfits, but if the Irish have any hope of competing for a National Title this season, they will need to not only win every game, but win a bunch of games by a large margin. Remember, the goal at Notre Dame is to win National Titles — not finish with 9-3 ledgers. That is how Notre Dame has always been measured, and that is as it should be.
If Charlie Weis can begin to develop a clinical approach to scoring points — not concerning himself with being perceived as perhaps showing up his opponent, the Irish should be able to rise up the polls in short order. Weis, more than anyone, must understand that opponents of the Irish will never give up — and they are not dead until the game is over.
Perhaps Urban Meyer, college football's best head coach, could give Charlie a few pointers on finishing off your opponent...
This week represents a good challenge for the Irish. Much has been written and said about the possible NCAA violations committed by the Michigan Wolverines. This is a game that Notre Dame should win without much of a problem.
As it stands, forgive me for being cautiously optimistic about the Irish under Charlie Weis.