Wednesday, December 31, 2008

A Look At The Orange Bowl

It wasn't the tangy bite of citrus fruit left in the collective mouth of the Virginia Tech football team last January in Miami, it was the bitter taste of defeat.

When the Hokies lost to Kansas 24-21 in last year's Orange Bowl, a game they were expected to win, many were left questioning the coaching staff and the way Tech approaches bowl games.

Sure the Hokies have made it to 16 consecutive bowl games, but they've lost 4 of their last 5 postseason clashes leading to a rethinking of bowl preparation.

“Our bowl-prep was more like August camp,” offensive coordinator Bryan Stinespring said. “It was colder than August, but the approach was the same.”

New wrinkles included practices during exam week and a full speed scrimmage the weekend before Christmas.

Even ACC commissioner John Swofford told the Hokies what they needed to do following their victory in the ACC Championship, "Go to win."

So how do the Hokies do that?

There's no question that the strength of this team is the defense. Macho Harris will look to have a big day in his final game donning the Chicago maroon and burnt orange. Harris and fellow corner Stephan Virgil should expect a busy evening given Cincinnati's open passing attack. Harris will also see action returning punts and as a receiver on offense. There's no doubt he'll leave everything he has on the field in his final game for the Techmen.

The defense will have a new face among the starters. Barquell Rivers will make his first career start for the Hokies in place of injured linebacker Brett Warren.

“He hasn’t gotten a lot of reps but he knows how to play middle linebacker, make no mistake,” defensive coordinator Bud Foster said of Rivers. “He’s a guy who has waited his turn and this is his time.”

The defense needs to score and keep quarterback Tony Pike and the 'Nati offense in check. On the other side, the Bearcats will look to their best defensive back Mike Mickens who is returning from an injury to lead the way in defending a Hokie offense that still isn't very good, but has improved in the final weeks of the season.

Tech will also be without a starter on the much-maligned offensive line. Nick Marshman was ruled academically ineligible, so redshirt freshman Jaymes Brooks will start at right guard. Keep an eye on big number 68 early in this one.

Cincinnati has several big-play receivers. Mardy Gilyard leads all Bearcat receivers with over 1,100 yards and Dominick Goodman returns from a shoulder injury to line up on the other side just 23 yards shy of 1,000. If the 'Nati expects to win, they must move the ball effectively through the air as the Tech defense has been dominant against the run.


This game is important for Virginia Tech and it's perhaps even more important to the ACC. The Atlantic Coast Conference is just 1-9 in BCS bowls, the lone victory coming when Florida State defeated then Big East member Virginia Tech in the 2000 National Championship game.

Tech looks to change that against the Big East Champion Bearcats. If the Hokie offense can manage to move the football and put some points on the board to supplant the defense's efforts.

An interesting note, the last time Virginia Tech was shutout by an opponent was in 1995 when Cincinnati shut the Hokies out 16-0 in a rain-soaked match up in Lane Stadium. Tech went on to win their next ten games that season including an upset win over the Texas Longhorns in the Sugar Bowl. Tech has also scored in 175 consecutive games since then.

This one will be close, I have little doubt of that. Look for a repeat of last season's Orange Bowl, but with a twist.

Virginia Tech 24
Cincinnati 21

Virginia Tech and Cincinnati square off New Year's Day at 8 p.m. on Fox.

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Mele Kalikimaka

Well, I stand seriously corrected. I thought that Notre Dame would continue their streak of bowl futility last night against the essentially home-standing Hawaii Warriors in the Sheraton Hawaii Bowl.

Notre Dame (7-6) exploded for a resounding 49-21 victory that really wasn't as close as the score indicates. Yeah, it was that bad.

Apparently the Warrior squad I saw nearly beat Cincinnati in their regular season finale is actually the worst team in a bowl game...ever.

At least last year when Hawaii (7-7) got pummeled in the Sugar Bowl it was by a Georgia squad that was clearly superior. This time around, they made a Notre Dame team that backed into a bowl game losing 4 of their last 5 games look like the Tennessee Titans.

The Fighting Irish deserve a great deal of credit too of course. Hawaii may have played their worst game of the season, but it came on a night when the Irish played their best.

Jimmy Clausen, who had an average season, played brilliantly, completing 22 of 26 passes for 401 yards and 5 touchdowns (both Irish bowl records).

Clausen exhibited his tremendous arm strength on deep balls floated perfectly into his receivers' arms. He zipped rockets across the middle, and most importantly didn't turn the ball over, something that has been a big problem for him this season.

Golden Tate put the finishing touches on a great personal season, catching 6 passes for 177 yards and 3 touchdowns to lead the Irish receivers.

Perhaps the only negative for Notre Dame was that they only managed 65 yards rushing, but when you can pass like that who needs to run the ball?

Overall, the Irish can be quite proud of the effort turned in during the season finale and for the first time since 1994, they will head into the off-season brimming with confidence and excited about the prospects that lay ahead.

Also, on behalf of Stars & Slights, we wish you a Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays!

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Leaving Bowl Streak On The Mainland?

In case you hadn't heard - and ESPN has made sure everyone and their mom's are informed - Notre Dame has lost its last 9 consecutive bowl appearances. 

Tonight, at 8 EST on ESPN the Fighting Irish take on the Hawaii Warriors in the Sheraton Hotels Hawaii Bowl and hope to end their skid.

Much has been said up to this point whether or not the Irish should be playing in this bowl but the day has come and its time to see what the men in blue and gold are made of.

Go Irish. Beat Warriors! (and please, please end the bowl streak).

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Song Of The Day

This one comes courtesy of our good friend Matt Smith. Thanks so much for bringing this to my attention. The artist is Jake Shimabukuro. I would say he's arguably the best ukulele player in the world, but I see no one to challenge him so there isn't much of an argument. This is his song called "Let's Dance" I only wish he had backing instruments.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Hokies Take Bite Out Of Big Apple

Photo Credit/AP Photo Steve Helber

For the second year in a row Virginia Tech won the Aeropostale Holiday Festival by defeating St. John's 81-67 Sunday in Madison Square Garden.

For the second game in a row, Tech's Malcolm Delaney played the entire 40 minutes scoring 22 points to go along with 8 assists en route to earning tournament MVP honors.

Last year's MVP, A.D. Vassallo also went the distance in this one and had another fine day adding 24 points and 8 rebounds.

Jeff Allen
had a double-double with 10 points and 10 rebounds despite playing just 24 minutes due to foul trouble. While Allen still has a penchant for making some silly fouls, he also has been the victim of some horrible calls including one today when two St. John's players fell over and he got whistled despite not touching them.

One could surmise that some of the tough calls going against Allen are retribution for his "bumping" an official last season. Food for thought at the very least.

Virginia Tech (8-4) will now have a week off before traveling to Charleston Southern (5-5) for their final preparation for conference play. Tech kicks off it's ACC slate Sunday, January 4 at Duke.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

NCAA Athletics: Taking The Student Out Of Student Athletes Since 1906

Gotta hand it to the NCAA. They are incredibly tough on their criteria for student athlete eligibility:
According to Beamer, Marshman has already graduated but was taking six credit hours as required by the NCAA and failed to pass.
Way to really challenge student athletes, NCAA officials! Six credits? Hmm what to choose: underwater basket weaving or ballroom dancing? 

Yes, the aforementioned Beamer is Frank, head football coach for Virginia Tech. That excerpt was from this article, which reported that the Hokies may be without three players for their bout against the Cincinnati Bearcats in the FedEx Orange Bowl on New Year's Day. Left guard Nick Marshman (academically ineligible), defensive end Jason Worlids (shoulder injury), and linebacker Brett Warren (torn ACL) will all likely miss the game against Cincy.

Coming from a school that requires all student athletes - football players included - to take at least 12 credits to be eligible, this is truly appalling news. It's like they want to set students to stay longer than 4 years. But why would they want to keep athletes on scholarship for an extra year given the economic implications?

I know many student athletes take summer courses as well, but I cannot understand how they don't finish in 4 years.

For the record, I don't think there is anything wrong with not finishing in 4 years. However, when given the opportunity to take summer courses to offset the course load during season one would expect these so-called student athletes to finish on schedule.

At Notre Dame, football players who apply for a fifth year must first apply and gain admission to one of Notre Dame's graduate programs. All players must finish their undergraduate schooling in 4 years. Moreover, they must also take at least 12 credits while in season.

If the NCAA were really serious about emphasizing the former portion of "student athlete" rather than the latter they might want to take a look at the requirements and standards ND, the Ivies, and many other schools hold their student athletes accountable to.

You have probably seen those commercials promoted by the NCAA with the tag line, "There are over 380,000 NCAA student athletes, and most of us will go pro in something other than sports."  I couldn't agree more with that statement, but it's an absolute joke considering the minimal requirements "enforced" by the NCAA.

Requiring a meager six credits is a disgrace and seems like quite the contradiction based on the above commercial series and NCAA student athletes tag line, doesn't it? The really sad part: some athletes have gotten away with taking less than that minimum...

If you recall, former USC quarterback Matt Leinart apparently took just one course, Ballroom Dancing, during his fifth year at the University of Southern California. Leinart clearly was not concerned about school at all.
A sociology major, Leinart needs two credits to graduate as he begins his fifth year at USC.

"School's done for me -- I'm here to concentrate on football," he said.

Leinart will complete his schooling by taking a class in ballroom dancing with Cameron, a sophomore from Thousand Oaks who plays on USC's women's basketball team.

"We both kind of figured, 'Let's take that.' We'll practice our tango or whatever the heck they do -- the 1-2 step," Leinart said, smiling.
Something is not right in paradise. I highly doubt that Ballroom Dancing at USC is worth six credits, let alone three. A quick academic search on their website revealed that Ballroom Dancing is listed as a club sport.

I wonder what Leinart filled out on his USC admissions application?

The moral of the story? Any attempt by the NCAA purporting its emphasis on student athletes is comical at worst and depressing at best. 

The NCAA should increase its academic requirements for its athletes, else those "going pro in something other than sports" commercials are nothing than a facade.

Friday, December 19, 2008

Dillon Hall Carol Of The Bells

As a former resident of Notre Dame's finest dorm on campus I must say, as humbly as possible, that Dillon Hall is clearly a step above the rest and should be a "no contest" winner for male dorm of the year. This is probably the coolest thing done within the confines of a dorm - possibly ever. Here is the poster's comments about the video:
My friend and I at Notre Dame set up some lights in our dorm hallway and choreographed them to "Carol of the Bells" played by Gary Hoey. Merry Christmas!
I'm guessing these guys are electrical engineers. Or just really smart. Or both. 

Nice work gentlemen. Go Big Red!

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Song Of The Day

This is an outrageous a cappella tribute to the music Of John Williams. The subject matter is Star Wars related. Thoroughly enjoyable/useless like a good viral video should be.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Song Of The Day

This song has been featured before, but this is a fresh live performance that is quite outrageous. "The Greatest Man That Ever Lived (Variations On a Shaker Hymn)" was performed live on Spike last night during their video game awards show by Weezer.

The vocals are great by all the band members (though I think the women's choir is a bit stiff throughout). Rivers Cuomo's strange cavorting about the stage is both crazed and inspired.

Gotta love the barefoot, white-suit wearing Cuomo, even if he isn't playing guitar.

The bald guy playing guitar in Rivers' place is Dave Kushner from Velvet Revolver. He and Weezer bassist Scott Shriner are apparently old friends.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

ND’s Bowl Trip No Strike, But Spare Will Suffice

If you are a member of Notre Dame Nation (alums and subway alums alike) you probably have a distinct opinion on Notre Dame’s acceptance to play in a bowl game with a 6-6 overall record.

Moreover, aside from the mere acceptance of the bowl bid it is probably safe to say you have an even more distinct opinion on the actual bowl game itself.

Before I get too far ahead of myself, Notre Dame accepted a bid this past Sunday to play in the Sheraton Hotels Hawaii bowl on Christmas Eve at 8pm EST. This marks the third bowl game that Charlie Weis has lead the Irish to after Tyrone Willingham led the Irish to two such games prior to Weis’ tenure (though he only coached one of them as Kent Baer served as interim Head Coach in the 2004 Insight Bowl).

Bowl games are generally exciting attractions for universities as they provide additional practice time/experience for the upcoming season and instant cash flow for the sake of merely showing up to play.

Moreover, they provide adoring fans yet another opportunity to see their teams play whether it be live and in person or on TV.

So, I beg the question, what is all the fuss about? If you read any fan forum or message board you would think the sky is falling and the program had lost all of its games this year.

Aside from even accepting the bid, people are complaining about ND choosing to play on Christmas Eve (what some ignorant people are calling the holiest day of the year even though Easter Sunday actually holds that title). They claim that more viable options existed, such as the Texas bowl on December 30, 2008.  They say ND should only accept more lucrative bids, such as BCS Bowls, Cotton Bowls, or Gator Bowls.

Perhaps the most shocking thing to me is that people are complaining about IMPROVEMENT. Sure, ND blew a number of games late in the year and lost to a hapless Syracuse team. But facts are facts: ND was 3-9 in 2007 without a bowl bid and are now 6-6 with a bowl game in the near future.

Consider where the program was last year and ask yourself this question: Can I honestly say that I expected ND to be in the national title game this year?

If you truthfully answered “yes” then I suggest you submit yourself to a psychiatric evaluation.

It simply is not logical (nor probable) to believe that ND would have transformed from 3-9 to 12-0, 11-1, or even 10-2. Heck, even 9-3 would have been a stretch, although it might have happened had the Irish closed out games against UNC, Pitt, and Syracuse.

ND has played with at least 12 underclassmen starters this season. At least 26 underclassmen have received playing time this season. (For an more in depth look at ND's youth, check out Part 1 and Part 2 of "The Youth Manifesto" by the fine gents over at Her Loyal Sons).

This young and talented team simply has not learned how to finish games yet. Say all you want about coaches motivating players, but the onus also falls on the players to execute and want to close out games in strong fashion rather than let their opponents creep back in.

Save for Ohio State’s heralded 1968 sophomore-led National Champions (10-0) there has not been as young as a team as the Irish that produced such amazing results (and OSU was 6-3 the year before).

I just finished reading a great book by Dr. Kenneth Blanchard  and Dr. Spencer Johnson called “The One Minute Manager” that is incredibly reflective of my outlook on this situation.

One of the sections in the book uses an analogy about teaching whales to jump over high ropes at aquatic shows. Trainers don’t go out to the ocean, hold a rope high over the water and wait for a whales to jump over it for show selection.

Whales aren’t born trained to jump over ropes held out of the water, let alone to swim over ones in the ocean. They must be trained to do so. Any expectation otherwise is wishful delusional thinking.

The same line of thinking can be applied to the state of Notre Dame football. The 2008 team has not yet been fully trained to jump over the proverbial rope, yet so many people illogically expect it and demand it.

I admire the passion, devotion and faith to one’s loyalties. I too want to see ND win national titles every year, let alone be in title contention. But I know that with the parity in sports today that that kind of thinking is improbable.

I love Notre Dame unconditionally, but that does not mean I simply sit back and blindly follow administration moves, faculty hiring/firing practices, development plans, or gameday operations.

However, that unconditional love does mean I can see the larger picture that ND is more than just football. If you think otherwise then you are sadly mistaken.

Notre Dame graduates – undergrad and graduate students alike – have gone on to become some of the world’s finest doctors, lawyers, mathematicians, businessmen and businesswomen, teachers, and priests.

Yet they haven't done so because of the success of the football team. They have done so because of their hard work, commitment, and determination to best the best. They embody what it means to "Play Like A Champion Today."

Family. Strength. Courage. Discipline. Sacrifice. Respect. Humility. Faith. Ethics. Service. Love. 

Those are all values that were either learned or reinforced during my time at Notre Dame. Our Lady's University provided the foundation for individuals who are fighting to make a positive impact on the lives of many.

I am proud to be a graduate of the University of Notre Dame because of the values it represents and holds itself accountable to, not because of its football team. 

National championships and Heisman trophies are great achievements by the University, but they should not be overlooked by the greater good facilitated by its graduates, faculty, and representatives.

As Lou Holtz once said, “People don’t come to Notre Dame to learn how to do something. They come to Notre Dame to learn how to be somebody.”

If you don’t believe so you are nobody.

Hokie Lacrosse In Crisis

A story published in the Collegiate Times this week gave us just a glimpse into the disfunctional lacrosse program residing in Blacksburg. The story has made some noise in the lacrosse community, and rightfully so. It certainly makes for an interesting read.

It reflects rather poorly on the Virginia Tech athletic department that there was no comment from anyone in the chain of command. Hopefully the current uproar will prove that they can't ignore the lacrosse program.

Kudos to author Thomas Emerick (a former scribe at Planet Blacksburg) who gave this aspect of the story a very fair slant. Clearly something is rotten in Denmark.

Be sure to read some of the comments at the bottom of the article, it's sparked quite a bit of debate.

A Vanishing Act

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Drum Hero

Have you ever played Guitar Hero 3? Did you play Through the Fire and Flames? Every try to beat it on Expert and succeed?

Today's song of the day features a man who not only can answer yes to all of those questions but can also claim he did so by playing it on a homemade midi drum kit. 

"Through the Fire and Flames" is easily the most difficult song in the Guitar Hero series. British power-metal band DragonForce, who were recently nominated for a Grammy in Best Metal Performance for "Hero of Our Time," formed in 1999 and have since been known for fast guitar solos.

Inhuman Rampage, the album containing today's song, was the third installment of studio albums by this group of rockin Brits. On August 20, 2008, they released their fourth album called Ultra Beatdown, from which "Hero of Our Time" was the first single. 

Rumor has it that, although their music sounds incredibly polished on their studio albums, they cannot necessarily play all of the notes they're supposed to.

Regardless, these guys can flat out shred. 

Ready. Set. Rock.

Saturday, December 6, 2008

ACC Champions

Congratulations goes out to the ACC Champion Virginia Tech Hokies who defended their title in style, beating Boston College 30-12.

I'll post a detailed wrap-up tomorrow. Meanwhile it's time to do a little scouting of the Hokies opponent in the Orange Bowl, the Cincinnati Bearcats as they battle Hawaii on ESPN2.

Championship Fever

As exciting and intriguing the matchup featuring Virginia Tech against Boston College is today, I sure do hope there are more fans in the stands than last year's title game:

Other games of note today include the SEC championship featuring Alabama vs Florida, the BIG XII Championship featuring Oklahoma vs Missouri, Army vs Navy, and USC vs UCLA. And that's just football.

Notre Dame takes on Ohio State in the Hartford Hall of Fame Showcase at 4pm on ESPNU in the beautiful new Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis. Wisconsin battles Marquette and Duke takes on Michigan in a rematch of the 2k Sports Classic championship game at Madison Square Garden earlier this year (won by Duke).

So sit down, relax, and enjoy a relaxing Saturday afternoon with the great collegiate athletics at your disposal.

Friday, December 5, 2008

ACC Championship Game Preview

Saturday at 1 pm Virginia Tech will look to defend it's ACC title against the same team they defeated for it last season, the Boston College Eagles.

I have only a few quick comments to make on this game.

First, the Hokies (8-4, 9-3) hold the advantage based on history. Last season of course Matt Ryan and the miracle Eagles rallied to break the collective hearts of Hokie Nation, winning on a last minute touchdown, 14-10 in Lane Stadium. The Hokies later rebounded and met the Eagles in the ACC Championship, redeeming themselves with a victory.

Virginia Tech's defense is playing as well as anyone's, ranking first in the ACC in total D. # 17 Boston College (9-3, 5-3) has the second best defense in the ACC however, and they really handled the Tech offense in their win in Chestnut Hill earlier this season.

The big key for Tech will be can they run the ball against the impressive Eagles defensive line. If Darren Evans and Tyrod Taylor can move the ball on the ground, Tech should be able to pull this one out.

Look for an ugly hard-hitting brawl today in Tampa.


Virginia Tech 21
Boston College 17

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Song Of The Day

Today we feature one of the best songs from Weezer's catalog, "Only In Dreams", the final track from their eponymous debut album. This video is a rehearsal from back in 1994. It really encapsulates that raw garage vibe of early Weezer.

For a far more detailed look, check out Soymilk's most recent post on his songblog here.

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Beat SC

This morning on College Gameday when predicting the outcome of the ND vs. SC game Kirk Herbstreit said, "Don't even worry about a number...Huge." Which team do you think he was referring to?

Sadly it was the Trojans, who enter tonight's battle for the Jeweled Shillelagh 32 point favorites. No Irish team has been more than a 24-point underdog since 1975.

Despite the woes of this year's 6-5 Irish club, former star Rhema McKnight guaranteed a Notre Dame victory when he spoke at last night's pep rally at the Marriott in Anaheim. Audacious? Yes. Possible? Yes. Probable? Who knows.

In rivalry match-ups it is impossible to predict who will win. Even as 32-point underdogs I would not count out the Irish. Anything can happen. Anything will happen.

Speaking of Rhema McKnight, check out this highlight video that someone put together of his senior year at ND. Notice anyone familiar around 56 seconds?

Go Irish, beat Trojans! 

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Happy Thanksgiving

This message greets you from the now mostly smokeless City of Angels. For the sake of brevity, I will offer this: while this holiday weekend is certainly short in time, remember to make the most of it. Whether or not you are with the ones you love be sure to let them know how grateful you are to have them in your lives. On this historic day in our nation's history, we offer you Adam Sandler's "Thanksgiving Song." 

Now stop reading, start listening, and eat Turkey! Happy Thanksgiving! 

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Rivalry Week

As Virginia Tech prepares to play Virginia Saturday in the battle for the Commonwealth Cup, it's important to remind ourselves just what makes rivalries great, namely, the fact that your rival school sucks.

It's no different in the commonwealth of Virginia. The shirt and tie wearing, wine and cheese crowd of UVA descends on the fair hamlet of Blacksburg this weekend to tell us how much more their degrees are worth, and to shower us with insults regarding our blue-collar nature.

Thank goodness it's going to be too cold for sundresses.

Football is a dirty, tough and often ugly slugfest. It's about hard-hitting and snot bubbles. It's about getting your bell rung. It's about beating your rival and holding down the home turf...unlike some schools below.

There's no real point to this post. I'll have some actual football analysis tomorrow sometime. But just food for thought, sometimes I think Virginia Tech is the smarter school...

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Maui Wowi

AP Photo/ Chris Carlson

Please forgive the horrible pun but if you caught any of the Irish vs. Longhorns Maui Invitational semi-final game earlier tonight you know exactly what I'm talking about.

Notre Dame survived a late scare from the Longhorns after two missed free throws by Luke Harangody with 3.5 seconds left provided Texas' A.J. Abrams with an opportuntiy to win the game. His half court attempt fell short and the Irish prevailed, 81-80.

The game featured the young and talented Longhorns (No. 7 ESPN/USA Today, No. 6 AP) and a mature and experienced Irish (No. 8 ESPN/USA Today, No. 8 AP) team. Both teams entered undefeated and looking for their first marquee win on the young season.

Behind a typical double-double performance by Harangody (29 points, 13 rebounds) and stellar 3-point shooting (11 for 24), Notre Dame secured its first ever slot in the championship game of the Maui Invitational where they will face off against the #1 ranked North Carolina Tar Heels.

Here's hoping the Irish wake up the echoes of the famous 1987 match up between the then ranked #1 Tar Heels and Fighting Irish:

Part I

Part II

In the first round of the Maui Invitational the Irish manhandled the rebuilding Indiana Hoosiers, 88-50 and Texas took care of its first round foe, the St Joseph's Hawks 68-50, setting the stage for tonight's heavyweight match up.

Both teams battled back and forth in this one, with neither one pulling away from the other. the Largest lead came with just under 3 minutes remaining in the game as Harangody made a layup to extend the Irish lead to 75-67.

Kyle McAlarney finished with 19 points off of 5-6 shooting from behind the arc and Tory Jackson added 16 points on top of 7 assists for the Irish.

This was certainly a signature win that will help when it comes time for NCAA Tournament seeding, but it didn't come without a few mishaps. 

Notre Dame failed to box out throughout the majority of the game, leaving the Longhorns with several second chance opportunities. Free throw shooting was also an area of concern, as the Irish missed 6 of their final 8 attempts from the charity stripe during the last minute of game time.

Regardless, this will be one of the most important games for the Irish this season. A win would make a statement that the Irish are serious Final Four contenders, while a loss could lead to any number of questions about the potential of this team to compete with the upper echelon in the NCAA.

It's the match up columnists and basketball fans have dreamt about since the field for the tournament was revealed last year: Harangody vs. Hansbrough. Bruiser vs. Bruiser. Lights out shooting vs. fast-break mania. Pure shooting vs. Pure athleticism.

Tune in tomorrow at 10pm EST on ESPN to see what could possibly be the most exciting game of the young season.

Go Irish!

Monday, November 24, 2008

Our 100th Post Is A Real Downer...

AP Photo/Joe Raymond

Optimism is a commodity in short supply around here today. Both Virginia Tech and Notre Dame turned in real stinkers on the gridiron yesterday, Notre Dame inexplicably falling to Syracuse 24-23 and Virginia Tech winning a war of attrition with the Duke Blue Devils 14-3.

First let's dissect the Irish.


Notre Dame had zero turnovers Saturday in South Bend and Jimmy Clausen turned in another solid performance completing 22 of 39 passes for 291 yards and 2 touchdowns.

Golden Tate continues to impress during his sophomore season. Tate caught 7 passes for 146 yards and 2 touchdowns. On the year, Tate has 50 catches for 888 yards and 7 touchdowns.

That's about all the good I could find in this one (granted I missed the end to go to the Tech game).


This should be pretty obvious. The Irish led Syracuse 23-10 and looked pretty good doing it up to that point. 'Cuse looked like the hapless shell of a once great program that they are but something strange happened on the way to 7-4 for the Irish...

Notre Dame suddenly couldn't muster any offense. Starting inside the Orange 23-yard line on 4 possessions, the Irish managed just 6 points.

"I really don't know why that happened," said a bewildered Clausen after the game.

The only way to rationalize this game is to chock it up to the dreaded "look ahead" factor with the #6 USC Trojans on the docket next weekend. In the end, it's a matter of executing consistently on offense which has been a problem throughout the season.

Now for the Hokies.


The Virginia Tech defense played one of its best games of the season holding Duke to just 136 total yards. The Blue Devils were able to complete just 2 passes for 20 yards and quarterback Zack Asack threw 4 interceptions, though he did run for 87 yards and was effective on the ground most of the night.

Sean Glennon
played well again, completing 12 of 22 passes for 132 yards and a touchdown. It was the first touchdown pass of the year to a wide receiver, freshman Jarrett Boykin who led the Hokies with 67 yards receiving.

Darren Evans
also had another good game rushing 24 times for 111 yards. Evans needs just 74 yards to eclipse 1,000 for the season.


The Hokies offense scored just 7 points on a frigid evening in Blacksburg. I would have to say it was among the worst performances by a Virginia Tech team that I've seen end in victory.

Tyrod Taylor
had an alarmingly off night. Taylor was just 2 of 5 passing for 15 yards and two interceptions. He also lost two fumbles. Couple that with the unlucky interception on Sean Glennon's first passing play and Tech turned the ball over 5 times, in the first half.

Tech coaches will decide who starts against Virginia during the week. Based on recent performance, it's hard not to pull for senior Sean Glennon to get the start in his final game at Lane Stadium.


The Irish are now 6-5 and will head out west to take on USC (9-1, 7-1). Virginia Tech is 7-4 overall and 4-3 in the ACC. If the Hokies can retain possession of the Commonwealth Cup and defeat Virginia (5-6, 3-4) on Saturday they will go to the ACC Championship for the third time in four years.

Notre Dame has a tough challenge ahead of them but I expect a game effort come Saturday. The result could get ugly, but I expect the team will rally around head coach Charlie Weis who has come under tremendous fire recently. Also, the Irish want to cement their bowl hopes. They could certainly go to a bowl at 6-6, but would be heavily criticized in the press in such a scenario. They don't want to limp into the postseason, but neither do the Trojans.

The Hokies are in an unbelievable position. The ACC has been an outrage of inconsistency this season, as a result, the Hokies are one win away from a pretty big accomplishment. Rivalry games are always tough, and this weekend should be no different. I actually give the Hoos a better shot at victory this year in Lane Stadium than last year up in Charlottesville. Just the nature of the conference and of these two teams this season lead me to expect the unexpected.

Plenty more to come on both these games as the week progresses.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Aloha Notre Dame Basketball

I will withold comment on the football team until further notice, but do expect to hear something soon about the latest debacle. 

As for now, get set as the Irish men's hoops team squares off as one of the premiere teams in the 25th edition of the Maui Invitational starting tomorrow. Notre Dame squares off against Indiana at 5:30pm EST in what would have seemed like a championship bout several years ago. Recruiting scandals and player attrition, however, have created a Hoosiers team replete of ho-hum talent and zero respect.

The potential road map for the Irish in the tournament: Indiana, then most likely Texas (ranked one spot above the Irish in the polls), and then likely North Carolina (who may or may not be without superstar celebrity Tyler "Psycho T" Hansbrough).  

Sports columnists are drooling over the possibility of a Harangody vs Hansbrough matchup in the title game and so should you. It could be a prelude to the Final Four...

In the next few weeks expect an influx of basketball articles as football season winds down.

Go Irish, beat Hoosiers! 

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Song Of The Day- November 20

I have a sneaking suspicion that I'm going to hear about this for a while, but here's a cut from Lil Wayne. This is actually the remix of his track "Lollipop". There are roughly 400 remixes on you tube but this is the one that I've heard and enjoyed so I'm going with it. Lil Wayne is downright hilarious and there are a few examples in here of what I mean.

"Don't worry why my wrist got so freeze
Tell a girl like Doritos that's not your {nacho} cheese
Tell her friends like Frito's I'm tryin' too lay
I can only have one and I ain't tryin' to wait"

Pretty good. But my favorite lines...

"Safe sex is great sex, better wear a latex
'Cause you don't want that late text
That "I think I'm late," text"

As someone who fancies himself a crafter of fine lyrics, I have to tip my cap to Lil Wayne. Believe it or not, I've even managed to "dance" to this stuff. Yikes.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

The Earth Stopped Rotating And Myanmar Has Taken Over The United States

Well, no it didn't. It's about as accurate a statement as all of the "Weis is getting fired" talk that is being spread around the news outlets. None of it is true. Stop debating - you are making yourself look ignorant.

Honestly people, do you really think that the University has any motivation to fire Weis right now? They knew this would not be a 10-2 season, and whether or not that should be acceptable at Notre Dame is an entirely different subject. 

As it is, Charlie's recruiting classes are as follows (2005 is omitted because Charlie was with the New England Patriots during their Super Bowl run, although he did his part to keep the class in tact after Tyrone Willingham's departure):
  • #8 Rivals, #5 Scout in 2006
  • #8 Rivals, #11 Scout in 2007
  • #2 Rivals (they haven't adjusted for the Alabama players that didn't enroll), #1 Scout in 2008
  • #9 Rivals, #10 Scout so far for the 2009 campaign
So you say recruiting rankings don't matter? Well maybe you're right. I'll scratch the rankings from the argument if you're willing to concede that the talent level has significantly increased under the Weis regime compared to the talent brought in under his predecessor, Tyrone Willingham. In fact, many Irish faithful contend that Notre Dame has not seen the breadth of talent roaming campus since the days of Lou Holtz more than a decade ago.

If that isn't enough, consider that Charlie took his first two teams to BCS games (warranted or not, again - different story). In doing so, he took previously unpolished talent and put them in a system that catered to their strengths and minimized their weaknesses. 

Had anyone in the country heard of Jeff Samardzija before Charlie helped thrust him into the limelight? Didn't think so. Tyrone recruited him but never used him. 

Why hasn't Charlie done so with this year's talent or even last year for that matter? Look at the starting lineups those years compared to 2005 and 2006. The majority of starters this year and last were true sophomores and/or true freshmen with sparse upperclassmen as their supporting cast. 

The value of experience must not be underestimated. For example, it can take up to four or five years for an offensive lineman to truly develop into a dominant force. Unfortunately, Notre Dame has not had the luxury of play elder offensive linemen thanks in part to the (lack of) recruiting by Tyrone Willingham

On top of that, do you think ND would really want to pay the buyout of Weis' remaining 7 years on his contract (each year worth a reported $3-4MM including incentives)? Didn't think so. While ND certainly has the money available to do it simply will not happen. Not a chance.

Now I bet you are all wondering if I'm a Weis apologist or not. The answer is no. As contradictory as it may seem, I am a realist and an eternal Notre Dame optimist at the same time. 

At the halfway point of the season I predicted that the Irish would go 4-2 in its remaining games. While the outcome is still in jeopardy it is not out of the question yet. I don't care if you're one of those people who has already signed off USC as a loss - the fact of the matter is that Notre Dame and USC have not played yet this year and I have yet to hear the fat lady. Still care to question the outcome? Bring it up with Oregon State.

Bottom line: quit believing everything you're hearing from your "sources" and just watch the three remaining games this season. 

Grab some popcorn - I heard that Boston Red Sox and the New York Yankees  are now best friends. 

Song Of The Day- November 12

Today's song comes from deep within the rock vault. This is Brian Wilson performing his famous song "Surf's Up", originally intended for the SMiLE album, which the Beach Boys never actually recorded. This is Brian Wilson at his finest. In his home performing solo as he heard it in his head in rough form.

When Wilson finally re-recorded SMiLE in it's entirety in 2004, "Surf's Up" was of course included, completely re-recorded with Wilson's backing band the Wondermints.

Van Dyke Parks' lyrics are awesome, Brian Wilson's singing is solid yet vulnerable. This song rocks.

Now here's the version from the SMiLE of 2004 with the Wondermints.

Saturday, November 8, 2008

Song Of The Day - November 8, 2008

Today's song of the day is a modern take on an old classic. In 1908, John and Michael Shea wrote one of the most recognizable songs the world has known, even though the two brothers thought it was very "amateurish."

"The Notre Dame Victory March" was dubbed the "greatest of all college fight songs" in college football's centennial season in 1969. There are plenty of other fine collegiate tunes - including Tennessee's Rocky Top, Texas' Texas Fight, Michigan's Hail to the Victors, Oklahoma's Boomer Sooner, LSU/Clemson's Tiger Rag, even Virginia Tech's Tech Triumph which I have grown fonder of thanks in small part to my fellow comrade - but for my money, nothing is more pleasing to the ears than the Notre Dame Victory March.

Michael Shea, music composer, and John Shea, lyricist, intended the original version of the Victory March to be as a stand-in until someone wrote a better song. In fact, even though it was written in 1908 it was not played on campus until 1909 and not at an athletic event until a decade later!

On October 4th, 2008 when Notre Dame took on the Stanford Cardinal I had the distinct pleasure and honor of performing in the Centennial Celebration of the Notre Dame Victory March. More than 500 alumni took part in what was truly a special weekend for Notre Dame, as this year marks the 100th birthday of one of the greatest and most recognizable songs in history.

That said, today's rendition is an instrumental cover by the Massachusetts band Dropkick Murphys. This Irish-American band is well known for their patronage of the Boston Red Sox  and Boston Bruins. In fact, I was told by a friend and alumnus of Boston College that they are not allowed to perform on BC's campus anymore due to the raucous crowds that inherently gather to celebrate Boston/Massachusetts heritage.

Ironically enough, the Dropkick Murphys decline the return of BC's adoration - why else would they have covered the fight song of one of BC's most hated rivals?

Tonight, at 8pm EST on ESPN the Notre Dame Fighting Irish take on the Boston College Eagles in Chestnut Hill in a rivalry bout known as the Holy War. In what was hopefully a prelude to this evening's contest, the Notre Dame hockey team defeated Boston College last night by a score of 4-1. While the win did not fully exact revenge from last year's loss in the national championship game to the Eagles the win was huge for an Irish team that had yet to defeat a ranked opponent and that will likely not face another such opponent until January.

Without any further digression, I present to you "Victory" by the Dropkick Murphys.

Friday, November 7, 2008

Hokies Run Past Terps

PHOTO CREDIT AP Photo/Don Petersen

Redshirt freshman Darren Evans surprised everyone, perhaps even himself, when he exploded for a school-record 253 yards rushing in a 23-13 victory over #23 Maryland Thursday night.

Evans also had 2 catches for 20 yards to go along with his 32 carries and a touchdown on the ground.

Sean Glennon made the start for the Hokies(6-3, 3-2) coming off an injury at Florida State. Glennon played well completing 14 of 20 passes for 127 yards and a 5-yard touchdown pass to tight end Greg Boone.

Boone was another interesting story on the night. Offensive coordinator Bryan Stinespring implemented his new "Wild Turkey" formation, which puts the former high school and Tech quarterback in the shotgun formation. Boone ran on every play, carrying the ball 6 times for 22 yards.

All in all it was a very impressive night for the Hokies. Tech's much maligned offense piled up 400 total yards while the defense held Maryland (6-2, 3-2) to just -12 yards rushing.

Tech improved to 15-3 all-time in Thursday night games and they'll have another such game next Thursday when the Hokies head to Miami for an important ACC Coastal Division match up.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Get Out The Vote

Back from the dead, Terry Tate (Office Linebacker) reminds America of the consequences for choosing not to exercise their right to vote. 

That's all kind of constitutional indeed. 

Regardless of who wins the election, Stars and Slights is proud to have 100% voter participation. More importantly, we are most proud to live in a country where our voting decisions do not determine whether or not we are persecuted by extremists, radicals, or even our own government. 

Relish your privilege to vote and do not take this election, or any other for that matter, lightly. Your government is waiting to hear from you (even if they are not thrilled about what you will say). 

So sit back and take a moment to think about how lucky we are to exercise our right to vote free of fear. 

God bless America. 


It's time America to perform your collective civic duty. As a resident of this country (and hopefully a registered voter) it's not your right to vote, it's a privilege and a responsibility to do so. Your country is asking for guidance, so give America a shove in whatever you feel is the proper direction. As a somewhat light-hearted anecdote, I will accompany this post with a Neil Young song, "Let's Impeach The President". I think we can all agree ol' G-dub left plenty to be desired.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Song Of The Day - October 29, 2008

Yet another song of the day brought to you in part by we, the humble creators of this fantastic blog. Today's song has a bit of a story to it so bear with me for a second. 

My final semester at Notre Dame last year I took a course called Music Through Technology. It was an amazingly cool course where we learned about how music and technology have grown over the years and propelled one another to such great heights. 

Throughout the course of the semester we had assorted projects, one of which today's song was born from. For the particular project, we were instructed to use a program developed by Propellerhead called Reason to create a musical piece. Reason is a great program (if you have $500 extra bones laying around and love music you should strongly consider buying it) that allows you to operate a mixer on your computer and create wonderful artistic ensembles. You have to have a piano keyboard that hooks up to your computer (usually USB) in order to input sounds, though you could technically input notes and chords manually. The manual entry is awesome because it allows you to refine your music without having to "record" it again - you can just edit it in their sequencer.

Once I had recorded the music it was time for name selection. This process was pretty simple because Cutting Room Floor was just getting ready to release its third album, entitled "In Our Luck." Perhaps in tribute of the album title, and also in hopes of adding the track to the album, I dubbed the song "In Our Luck". 

I eventually sent Justin the file and he wrote lyrics to go over top. To spare you from further scattered commentary, I cordially present to you the latest and greatest musical offering from the duo formerly known as The Deuce.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Irish Capsize Sinking Washington Ship

Notre Dame took care of business on Saturday as the Irish dominated the Washington Huskies in all facets of the game, winning 33-7 for its first win away from home this season. 

Irish gunslinger Jimmy Clausen connected with standout true freshman WR Michael Floyd less than three minutes into the ball game for a 51-yard touchdown reception. Floyd, who recorded his third 100+ yard performance, showed off his speed and athletic ability as he evaded the Washington secondary en route to the endzone. 

Golden Tate scored a few minutes later on an end-around to extend the ND lead to 14-0 in the first quarter. "I think we let up once we had them 14-0," quipped Tate after the game. 

Two quick scores were more than enough support for a swarming Irish defense that created headaches for Washington QB Ronnie Fouch all game long. The Irish D finished with 4 sacks,  4 pass break-ups, and prevented the Husky offense from crossing the 50-yard line until late in the fourth quarter.

Harrison Smith finished with 2 sacks, totaling 21 yards, but provided even more of a spark on special teams. Late in the third quarter on a 4th and 13 from ND's 37 yard line, Smith took a direct snap and scampered 35 yards. The Associated Press had the following to say about the play:
Notre Dame coach Charlie Weis, who exchanged a handshake and appeared cordial with Willingham on the field after the game, said he wanted to run that play late in the first half but the clock ran out on him. His team had practiced against a certain look he planned to exploit on Washington's punt-return unit. It was heavy on defenders outside, setting up for a return. That left Smith free and "excited," the linebacker said, in the middle.Asked if he thought about what the perception of such a play would be coming with a 24-point lead on an obviously overmatched opponent, Weis said: "No. It's the third quarter. ... It's not 50-0. I'm not that type of guy. ... We yanked guys at the start of the fourth quarter. Their only touchdown at the end was against guys who never play. No, that's not our deal."
Given the current landscape of the game, with teams racking up inordinate amounts of points in hopes of earning "style" points with voters, it is refreshing to hear Coach Weis openly admit his opposition to such tactics.

The Husky offense never get off the ground, amassing a measly 124 yards and earning only 9 first downs. Moreover, the only Husky points were scored when the game had already been decided and Notre Dame had removed its first-teamers.

On the other side of the ball, the Husky defense was trampled over by Notre Dame's running attack all night long. James Aldridge scored a career-high 2 TDs on 13 carries 84 yards rushing, Armando Allen added 62 yards on 15 carries,  and Robert Hughes added 19 yards on 4 carries.

True freshman RB Jonas Gray received his first game action on the offensive side of the ball (he has appeared on special teams in several games) and gained 61 yards on 9 carries.

Irish kicker Brandon Walker booted two field goals, a welcome surprise from his performance leading up to the game. Walker's improvement, however, didn't stop Coach Weis from testing out walk-on David Ruffer, the newest addition to the Irish roster. Ruffer misfired on an extra point attempt in his only game action.

Overall, this was the perfect game for Notre Dame to have scheduled coming off of a bye week. Washington head coach Tyrone Willingham looked stoic throughout the game as he watched what was likely one of his last few games as a Husky employee. For a very thorough take on Willingham's coaching abilities, take a look at this gem from the fine folks at NDNation.

Next up for the Irish: Pittsburgh on November 1 at 2:30 EST on NBC.

Friday, October 24, 2008

Ain't No Sunshine


TALLAHASSEE- It's been raining for nearly 24 hours consecutively, but supposedly things will clear up tomorrow for gameday. Today, we'll take a brief look at what to expect when the Hokies and Seminoles meet Saturday at 3:30.

When Tech and FSU have met in the past, the Hokies often find a way to outgain their opponent, but the 'Noles usually make some big special teams plays in a reversal of Beamerball. Special teams has been a problem for Tech this season. The Hokies rank 117 (out of 119 teams) in net punting, and 118 in punt return yardage defense.

On the flip side Tech has returned kicks fairly well, ranking 22 in punt returns but strangely 118 in kick returns. That can be explained at least in part by the fact that Macho Harris returns punts and he is probably Tech's best overall athlete and playmaker this season, but he doesn't return kickoffs.

It's a fairly safe bet to say the team that comes out on top will make the most big plays on special teams.

Both offenses are pretty mediocre. Tech's struggles are well documented on this blog, but for a concrete number Tech rank's 110 in total offense. FSU ranks 29 in total O, but I don't buy it. The 'Noles have faced such powerhouse defenses as NC State (ranked 103) Western Carolina and Chattanooga (who rank 84 and 110 respectively in total D at the 1-AA level). When FSU faced a defense similar to Tech's, that of Wake Forest, they put up a season-low 220 total yards.

Overall, it's an interesting match up and both teams will certainly be fired up. One stat that is decidedly in Florida State's favor, as an unranked team playing a ranked team on the road the Hokies are 2-28 all time. Yikes. The good news for Tech fans? Frank Beamer was involved in both of the other wins, including a 1968 win at FSU as a player.

I think this one could go either way. Unless the Hokies have some offensive tricks up their sleeves though, I don't have a very good feeling about it.


Florida State 24
Virginia Tech 21

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Goin' Down In Florida

TALLAHASSEE- Eric and I successfully made the lengthy trek from Blacksburg to the state capitol of Florida yesterday. The trip took us somewhere around 11 hours, though we were delayed with several wrong turns near the end of the journey.

I didn't think we would ever get out of Georgia. The bulk of the trip went through the peach state, and somewhere amongst the cotton fields and tall Georgia pines I nearly lost my mind with road weariness.

But as I pointed out, we made it. Today we plan to explore Florida State a bit and get a fix on Doak Campbell Stadium. We've set up headquarters not too far away and we'll probably wander over in a bit.

As Muddy Waters told us on the way down, "Yeah I be goin' down in Florida/Where the sun shines damn near every day."

Well today it's cloudy and overcast, but we'll do some scouting none the less.


I noticed a political sign when we were nearing our destination for Peter Boulware. Sure enough, it was the same Boulware who starred at linebacker for the Seminoles years ago and is still the Baltimore Ravens all-time leader in sacks. Apparently Boulware is running for the Florida house as a Republican. He won the Republican primary with 84.1 percent of the vote.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Hokies Offensive In Loss

The much-publicized woes of the Virginia Tech offense finally caught up with the Hokies Saturday night in Chestnut Hill, MA as the Boston College Eagles defeated Tech 28-23.

The Tech defense scored two touchdowns on interception returns including one on the the first play of the game from linebacker Brett Warren. The defense didn't allow any points in the second half, but Tech was unable to overcome a 28-17 half time deficit.

Tyrod Taylor completed just 12 of 27 passes for 90 yards and no touchdowns. A number of the incomplete throws can be attributed to the receivers who had several drops at inopportune moments. Taylor once again was able to make a number of plays with his feet, rushing 15 times for 110 yards. He was the leading rusher once again for the Hokies and Tech was unable to run the ball effectively otherwise.

The offense failed to score a touchdown all night and the Hokie special teams faltered allowing a Rich Gunnell punt return for touchdown.

Boston College quarterback Chris Crane threw three interceptions, but mistakes plagued the Hokies. Tech totaled 10 penalties for 76 yards to just 3 flags for 19 yards for BC.

With the loss Tech falls to 5-2 overall and 1-1 in ACC play. Next up for the Hokies is a another hostile road match up at Florida State.

I will be traveling to the game, so expect plenty of blog coverage from Tallahassee and points north and south as well.


The Hokie offense is clearly regressing. Wide receivers dropping passes, penalties bringing back big plays, settling for field goals instead of touchdowns. The ACC hasn't been known for good offense recently, but Virginia Tech appears to be sinking to the bottom of the conference to be sure. The seat gets perpetually hotter for offensive coordinator Bryan Stinespring and it's getting more difficult to defend him. With most major offensive rankings in the hundreds, things look pretty bleak on the offensive side of the ball. Defense and special teams can carry you only so far, points have to be found somewhere fast.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Song Of The Day - October 16, 2008

Back from the dead, it's the song of the day. Today's selection is by former Rage Against The Machine frontman Zack De La Rocha and former The Mars Volta drummer Jon Theodore. Together, they are One Day As A Lion - a blend of rap, rock, and rhythm with an incredibly unique and fresh sound. "Wild International" is the first single off of their eponymous EP album, which was released on July 22 in the US. Before climbing its way up to #20 on the American charts "Wild International" reached #6 in Norway. Behold, an innovative new sound brought fresh to your interwebs. 

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Ty Willingham Impersonations

Here's a clip of former ND head coach and current Washington Huskies coach Tyrone Willingham being impersonated by his own players. Enough said.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Irish Turnover Game To Tar Heels

Notre Dame is still looking for its first road win of the season after a heartbreaking 29-24 loss to the North Carolina Tar Heels yesterday. 

Irish quarterback Jimmy Clausen had another career day, but despite his efforts he was also part of the problem. He threw for 383 yards and two touchdowns while completing 31 of 48 passes. Yet another great day at the office, but it was spoiled by two boneheaded second half interceptions and a fumble (which wasn't entirely his fault but it certainly didn't help matters). 

Sophomore WR Golden Tate and true freshman Michael Floyd had typical, outstanding performances. Tate snagged 5 catches for 121 yards and a TD while Floyd added 6 catches for 93 yards and a TD. 

Floyd almost put the Irish in position to win the game. With a few second remaining on the game clock he caught a pass from Clausen around the 7-yard line. As Tate and fellow sophomore Duval Kamara later explained, Floyd was unsure how much time was remaining when he caught the ball so he attempted to lateral it backwards in hopes that an Irish player would scoop it up and waltz into the end-zone for a one point victory.

Unfortunately, the Irish did in fact have about 4 seconds left on the clock and if Floyd hadn't attempted to lateral the ball ND Nation could be singing a different tune. For good measure, the officials reviewed the play and determined that the ball was fumbled, crushing the hope that the Irish could attempt one more play.

One of the biggest concerns remains the Irish D. The plan for the secondary was to keep the North Carolina receivers in front of them to prevent big plays but even that was too tall of a task at times, as Hakeem Nicks repeatedly picked on Irish DB Raeshon McNeil. Cameron Sexton, a third-string Carolina QB, performed well during the second half as the Tar Heels mounted their comeback after being down 11 points at the half.

Irish kicker Brandon Walker finally made a field goal after converting only 1 out of his previous 9 attempts. He almost missed his attempt yesterday, but it hooked between the uprights and gave the Irish a 10-3 lead. I don't think his confidence has been fully restored, nor do I think he has regained Charlie's trust, but at least he took one small step (kick) forward in the right direction - finally between the uprights. At this point you have to take what you can get from Walker.

While losing stinks, I was probably most upset during the start of the game when ESPN patched the Ohio State vs Purdue game on both ABC and ESPN. Luckily, I had discovered a backup source to view the game the previous evening. The crisis was averted but I doubt the rest of the Twin Cities area was as resourceful or in tune with the situation. Boo ESPN. I don't care if they were in typical form, it is simply inexplicable for them to fail to realize the issue until 5 minutes of game time had passed. Moreover, the HD feed never made it to ESPNHD. Instead, we were graced by the atrociousness of ESPNewsHD. What a thrill. We got to watch highlights of the OU-Texas game that had already finished. Inexplicable. 

So the Irish are now 4-2 and at a critical stage in the season. With six games remaining there is still ample opportunity for the Irish to salvage a decent year. Factor in the opponents on the slate and the outlook appears brighter: @ Washington, home vs. Pittsburgh, @ Boston College,  @ Navy, home vs. Syracuse, and @ USC. The Irish really have no business losing to Washington, Navy, or Syracuse. An argument can be made for Pittsburgh, too. 

Prediction: ND will go 4-2 in the remaining games. I'm obviously hoping for more, but 4 wins should definitely be doable. If not, we clearly haven't made as much improvement as originally thought.

Saturday, October 11, 2008

No No-No, Sox Still Prevail

Well I must honestly say that I missed most of last night's game. I was out celebrating my girlfriend's birthday, so it's not like my priorities were out of line. I'm actually reminded of the scene in Goodwill Hunting where Robin Williams is telling Matt Damon about the 12 inning walk-off home-run that Carlton Fisk hit in game 6 of the 1975 World Series against the Cincinnati Reds at Fenway. If you haven't seen the movie or can't recall, Williams tells Damon that he and all of his buddies had tickets to the game, but he didn't go because he was at a bar meeting his future wife. 

Warning: Video contains strong language

This obviously isn't the same scenario (it's just the first game of the ALCS) but you get the point. 

I had full intentions of watching the game sometime this morning, but I had part of the game spoiled for me during dinner when I found out that Daisuke (Dice-K) was pitching a no-hitting through 6 and the Sox were clinging to a 1-0 lead over the hosting Tampa Bay Rays. I was a little irritated but also excited at the same time. I wound up getting home from dinner at the bottom of the ninth, and by this point I had already found out that the no-no was no longer in tact. I turned on the TV to see Jonathan Papelbon doing what he does best: dominate and confuse opposing hitters. 

As you can probably tell this is a very high level overview of the game, but I rewound the DVR to catch some of the earlier innings and I must say I was impressed with the defensive performance from the Sox. On a night when their bats were relatively cold, the Red Sox used their defense - fielding and pitching - to crush any momentum the Rays were building. Take the first inning, for example, when Daisuke walked the bases loaded. The home crowd was on their feet and fired up, but Cliff Floyd was induced to an inning-ending ground out to second. Daisuke finished with 9 strikeouts to help his cause.

It was a good win for the Red Sox who lost 8 of 9 regular season games played at Tampa. Tonight's game two pits Boston's Josh Beckett vs. Tampa's Scott Kazmir. Beckett did not pitch well in his last outing, a 5-4 Boston loss against the Los Angeles Angels six days ago. If the Red Sox can return home from Tampa with a 2-0 series lead they will be in great shape, but we all know that no lead is safe anymore.

On more point I want to touch on - the amazing presence of Red Sox fans in attendance for last night's game. The most telling sign occurred during the bottom of the 9th inning, when Cliff Floyd fouled to third and Kevin Youkilis recorded the out. Fans showered Youk with a rousing "Yooooouuuuuuuuuuuu" and it was very evident that either 1) all of the Rays fans had left and only Sox fans remained 2) there is a strong contingent of Sox fans in Tampa or 3) all of the above are true.

For now, the Red Sox must concentrate on winning game 2. Sooner or later the Red Sox bats are bound to come around, but it is much easier to rely on a defense than a good offense. Game 2 can be seen tonight at 8:07 pm ET on TBS.

Tuesday, October 7, 2008


Despite the pathetic attempt of Stanford OL Chris Marinelli to pump up his team, the Irish managed to defeat the Cardinal 28-21 this past Saturday on a weekend that celebrated the 100th Birthday of the greatest fight song ever written: The Notre Dame Victory March.

Notre Dame was led by Jimmy Clausen, who set a career high in passing yards for the second straight game. In all he finished with 347 yards on 29 of 40 passes and 3 touchdowns. His play throughout was impressive, especially his increasing ability to check down his receivers to find the open man instead of trying to force a play to happen. He has shown marked improvement since the start of the season, let alone last year.

True freshman Michael Floyd turned in his second straight 100 yard receiving game, hauling in  5 catches for 115 yards and a beautiful 48 yard TD pass courtesy of second quarter connection with Clausen.

Kyle Rudolph snagged his second TD pass in as many games, but the biggest takeaway from his play was his increased blocking ability. With Will Yeatman's fate still up in the air after a run-in with the law several weeks ago (he met with the University officials earlier today to plead his case) it is refreshing that the drop off in skills is not as great as many perceived it to be. ND would obviously prefer to have both available, but it is refreshing to know that Rudolph is a suitable back up option (keep in mind that both Rudolph and Yeatman were behind the injured Mike Ragone at the beginning of fall camp).

The Irish D played well against the pass but performed miserably against the scampering trees. Three first half interceptions of Stanford QB Tavita Pritchard helped set the stage for a commanding 21-7 lead at the half. 

A recurring theme throughout the weekend was the sheer lack of class exhibited by Jim Harbaugh and his band of fighting trees. A report from a sophomore band member revealed the overzealousness exuded by the Cardinal prior to kickoff. DT James McGillicuddy and WR Doug Baldwin were among the several Cardinal players to taunt the Notre Dame Band as the team entered into the locker room. I bet they also enjoy taking lunch money from little children and clubbing baby seals. Spineless.

As childish as the Cardinal players were, they were undoubtedly inspired by their fearless leader Head Coach Jim Harbaugh. Late in the second quarter the Cardinal punted away to Armando Allen, who signaled for a fair catch. Nate Wilcox-Fogel of the Cardinal got in the way of Allen and the ball caromed off Wilcox-Fogel's shoulder, onto Allen, and was scooped up by a Cardinal player who ran in for what Harbaugh thought was a TD. The officials, however, ruled that Allen was interfered with (and rightfully so), setting off a tirade from Harbaugh. As any four-year old denied of what he/she wanted would behave, Harbaugh put up quite the stink: he stormed onto the field almost to the middle of the field, screamed at the referees, and threw his hat in the direction of the fans sitting behind the Cardinal bench. Potty-trained? I think not.

For the first time in awhile ND put up a fight and did not back down all weekend. Pat Kuntz put forth one of the best defensive efforts I've seen in the last few years. During the Friday pep rally, Kuntz addressed the idiotic remarks from Marinelli. In typical Kuntzian fashion, he ripped off his suit during his speech, stating "something doesn't feel right... I just don't feel like I'm myself." Kyle McCarthy came up to the podim during Kuntz's speech and asked how Kuntz would react to Marinelli's comments during the game. After a long list of hypothetical ways McCarthy proposed to handle the situation, Kuntz concluded his speech with "I'm gonna rip his head off, Go Irish!"

Kuntz owned up to his pep rally declaration, finishing with 1 tipped ball, 1 interception, 2 sacks, and 1 fumble recovery. The fumble recovery occurred on the last play of the game, after which Kuntz spiked the ball. Stanford did not take kindly to Kuntz's enthusiasm and tempers flared. Here's a good look at what transpired as a result: end of game fight.

  • "Pac-10 officials have reviewed video of the play and it is apparent the Stanford player covering the punt impeded the Notre Dame player attempting to catch it. The call was correct. NCAA playing rule 6-4-1 states in part 'A player of the receiving team within the boundary lines must be given an unimpeded opportunity to catch the kick.' Even though the player attempting to catch the kick was bumped by his teammate, he still attempted to catch the kick and was impeded by the Stanford player. The rule places the onus on the kicking team member to avoid impeding the opportunity to catch the ball."  ~ Jim Hansen, Pac-10 Commissioner
  • "I got pushed out of bounds and Kyle McCarthy was mad at me because I didn't pitch it back to him. I figured we might as well just let me spike it out of bounds." ~ Pat Kuntz, Notre Dame DL
  • "There was a lot of talking going on between all of us. It was just a battle. I have to give them credit. They are a good team and they are a very improved team from last year, just like us. Good luck to them in the rest of their season." ~ Pat Kuntz, Notre Dame DL


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