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.

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