Notre Dame may have scored an offensive touchdown. They may have been good in the running game. They may have protected Clausen for longer than usual. It's still not a moral victory.
In the newspaper, there is only a W column and an L column. There is no M column. We are not 0-4-1. We are 0-4. Notre Dame will not go 0-8-1. The NCAA got rid of the third collumn a decade ago. If you ask Coach Weis, he would back me up. You can only win if you put up more points than your opponents. However, there appears to be a bright spot. The running game.
The power backs for Notre Dame have shown how Weis can recruit. Robert Hughes and James Aldridge combined for an attack that has solidified Notre Dame as a power running team. Personally, this is the best identity they could have found. Power running is the least risky style of play. The backs have the power to fall forward. They normally fumble less. You can't throw an interception when you keep it on the ground. Robert Hughes is the type of back that Weis should groom for the future. In his first real game, he scored a touchdown and put up good stats. He was great, especially at picking up yards by falling forward. Speaking of that...
Notre Dame's run defense easily could have held them to 100 yards. They need to gang tackle. One man won't bring down a back like Javon Ringer. He fell forward after every rush. One yard gains turned into five yard gains all because they couldn't stop his forward progression. Notre Dame did have some players like Kerry Neal who showed that they could stop the pass. The run defense is the problem.
Notre Dame needs to get better on third down. Michigan State knew that they were going to pick up the three or four yards and get the first down. A few stops on third down, and this could have been a ten point game.
I do not think that the score showed how the Irish played. They had three or four guys who looked like studs on each side of the ball. The only problem is they need more. John Sullivan, Sam Young, and the rest of the offensive line needs to keep Clausen on his feet. Clausen does not perform well when he is getting rushed. He has trouble getting rid of the ball. Sam Young and Paul Duncan, the offensive tackles, played terribly in keeping the ends out of the backfield.
On defense, John Ryan and Anthony Vernaglia need to get more pressure on the running back in the backfield. Even if they don't get the tackle, they should be able to slow him down. Ryan and Vernaglia, the outside linebackers, missed many easy tackles if they would have gotten a better burst off of the line. The problem is both of these guys are defensive ends. They don't fit the personnel of the 3-4 defense. That personnel needs to be ready by next year. The recruits will be in pads next year.
Notre Dame fans just have to look toward next year. There is no chance this season. Unless they upset Purdue and UCLA, they won't go to a bowl game. They will have to pray that one or two of their linemen on both sides of the ball step up. The recruits are coming. Hopefully the rest of the team will be ready.
This game may have given Notre Dame an identity. This game resulted in two offensive touchdowns. But this game should not lift anyone's morale. No matter what Notre Dame accomplished, the box score still reads 0-4.