And Now For Something Completely Relevant
...by which I mean GT-ND tape review. Not exactly a full Armageddon-style UFR, but I did go back and re-watch the Georgia Tech game with a critical eye to see what was there to be seen. As follows.
Brady Quinn was ass. Is this good news or bad news? I have no idea. The prevailing theory re: only 14 points was that Quinn was under seige and rattled. I buy the rattled part. He was indecisive, inaccurate, and all-around bleah. He displayed signs of hennebriation on many simple, chain-moving throws that were winged yards wide of the receiver. After the game Notre Dame fans were forced to wax poetic about his incredible determination on quarterback draws and scrambles and stuff.
But it wasn't really Georgia Tech's doing. For the most part Quinn had time to find receivers even when GT blitzed. There were very few instances of unblocked players bearing down on him, though when they did it was ugly: intentional grounding on a screen followed by a near-safety on another screen on one series. For the most part Quinn killed ND's first half drives with inaccuracy or indecision all by himself.
He was a bit better in the second half and even in the first there were a couple impressive throws mixed in, including a critical third down throw made with a GT player's helmet in his chest, but if Chad Henne turned in a performance like that Michigan fans would start calling for Carlos Brown.
I'm not overjoyed by this revelation: I think I'd rather have a clear distinction between GT's attacking defense destroying ND and Penn State's passive one being destroyed. Quinn committing largely unforced errors is something Michigan has no control over, and those errors can be attributed to first game jitters, especially on the road and double especially in this era of impossibly high expectations for Notre Dame.
Notre Dame got its points in a distinctly Lloydball fashion. The resemblance between the Notre Dame offense in this game and Michigan's 2005 abomination was eerie at times. They weren't that effective running the ball, the quarterback was incapable of converting a third and four, and the wide receiver screen was the most effective weapon available. Notre Dame did have better pass protection and two guys who you can just hurl jump balls to, FSU style.
And! And! When Notre Dame found itself in a hole following penalties in the red zone they basically went to a series of give-up plays -- Walker draws and screens -- that worked because Robot Jesus commanded them to. Then when they had the lead they decided to Lloyd it up some more, pounding the ball into the line. (Incidentally, this worked much better than relying on temporarily-unreliable Quinn.)
I don't think anything ND's defense did is particularly relevant. Tiny, ethnic, mobile Reggie Ball is the platonic opposite of a Michigan quarterback. They can't cover Calvin Johnson: we don't have any 6'5" pirate-ninja receivers. They got lost sometimes defending GT's all-finesse running game: finesse running game? Pa-fooey, we spit on finesse. Now finesse all gooey. What are you going to do about it? That's right, run another quarterback draw.
Some things I did notice:
- Zbikowski and Ndkuwe -- no doubt the only starting safety combo in the history of football to feature the letters N, D, B, and Z in the first two letters of their collective last names -- are big hitters but sometimes don't wrap up. There's a potential there for a missed tackle and Mike Hart trying desperately to stay away from pursuing secondary members.
- The corners had much trouble containing the few WR screens GT threw. I've come around on the WR screen -- most of the problems we had the first week were caused by poor throws or missed blocks and not defensive preparation -- and expect to see it deployed effectively.
- There was very little penetration from ND on running plays. It resembled Michigan's hold'em up and let the linebackers flow thing. Interesting thing you might want to look for: is Michigan getting the seal on these guys and getting to the second level quickly enough to plow the undersized linebackers?
- ND's performance was greatly aided by stupid GT playcalling on second and short. Three or four times during the game GT found themselves in second and one and instead of doing something reasonably safe and reward laden (like, say, hurling one skyward to Calvin Johnson), they did stuff like run speed options that lost four yards. They killed many of their drives by screwing up second and one.
- Chan Gailey: go for it on fourth and one from the ND forty! What, do you think your mighty offense of offensive might is ever going to get there again?
Conclusions from this in the preview Friday. For now, chat amongst yourselves.
Note: please keep it civil. Last year the run-up and aftermath of the ND game was extremely ugly in the comments section; this year I'm going to torch things to prevent an unmoderated Rivals-free-board-style free-for-all. Yes, I love oppressing Irish speech. It's what gets me up in the morning.