Any time you have a first five games that includes Michigan, Michigan State and Oklahoma, the chance for losing football games is there. But perhaps the disappointment for most Irish fans comes from the way Notre Dame lost the games -- a series of self-inflicted mistakes that many hoped were behind this team.
But as Brian Kelly has preached, each season is a different team. And while eight defensive starters returned and a core group of offensive players looked in place, the learning curve has taken a bit longer than many hoped.
All that doom and gloom ahead of us, what better way to introduce this week’s Irish Blogger Gathering! I put NDNation’s Mike Coffey to the test, asking him some tough questions that I wasn’t quite sure I knew the answer to either.
As usual, you can check out everybody else’s work below. I’ll be answering questions over at UHND.com.
Play along and answer in the comments below. (God knows we haven’t had enough venting there in the past couple days...)
1) Let’s try the glass half full approach. It appears that the Irish finally found a running game. Is that the one big positive you can take out of Saturday’s loss?
Not so much the “finding” of the running game but the willingness to stick with it even facing a two-touchdown deficit. I liked that the offense was showing balance in the second and third quarter and wished we’d have seen it a little bit in the fourth.
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again – operating an elite-level offense based on Tommy Rees’ arm is a complete waste of time. As much as I love the guy and think he’s been a good soldier this season, he’s being used in a way that is setting him up to fail. ND’s best bet in this current situation is a strong ground game and play-action passing. Only problem is this means a lot more Pistol and a lot less empty backfield, so the chances we’ll see it sit somewhere on the slim side of none.
2) After finishing at No. 25 in sacks last season, the Irish defense is sitting at 110th in the country in sacks this year. What’s your take on the problem?
I think it’s a combination of poor scheme and lost personnel.
When you have to game-plan against Manti Te’o, it means other guys are going to get opportunities. Right now, there’s no opportunity-maker on the defense, so everyone has to make his own hay, and the sun doesn’t seem to be shining.
Coupled with that is poor defensive planning by the staff. When two linebackers are trying to blitz through the same gap, that’s either terrible planning or terrible execution. When it happens more than once, the most direct explanation would be the players are executing the planned scheme, which is not good.
3) Sitting at 3-2 after five games and almost a touchdown underdog against ASU, what a successful finish to this season? What needs to change for that to happen?
At the risk of being pedantic, with two losses, we’re already sitting on the precipice of non-success in general. A 9-3 regular season was the minimum success level for me, so for that to happen, we’d only have one more loss to play with. If it comes Saturday, we’d have to run the table, including a win at Stanford.
For that to happen, we need better execution across the board, by players as well as coaches. We need balance on the offense and more effort on the defense. The potential is there, and if it can be reached, even a BCS game wouldn’t be out of the question. But there’s no margin for error, and that improvement has to start now.