To quote Billy Martin, it is "Deja Vu all over again" at Notre Dame. Following last night's game at Michigan State, it is fair, one third of the season in, to assess where the program is and where it can make changes.
For one, I used to get mad at Charlie Weis for calling plays on 4th and short when unecessary. Twice last night, I had the chance to question why going for it on such situations. And on both counts, I was right.
The defense has been killing ND for the last 5 years. When you need to score 30 points to be able to win the game because your defense can't stop either the run or pass(pick the year), there is an issue. When Brian Kelly was hired, the pundits clamored that there would be no big change for ND. Cincinnati would win games by outscoring opponents, not by being strong on defense.
Charlie Weis claimed in his defense, that if the 4 games that were lost in the last minute had gone his way, he would have been 10-2 last year. After 3 games, 2 were decided in the last minutes because the defense had to come with the big plays. When that same defense spends the majority of time on the field due to the up tempo offense, it is difficult to show effectiveness when your legs can't probably bear your own weight.
There are many positives but like many years past, they are either on one side of the ball or the other. The offense shined again. 3 consecutive series with a touchdown in the second half. Floyd, as I had asked in my "preview of the game" post, did get the ball and was very productive. I hoped we could stop the turnovers but we went -2 for the game. The last thing needed? Stop the run. I could see that from my couch.
Stanford rolls into town next week. We are past adjustments. There is a big fix that needs to happen now or the January press conference with Brian Kelly stating: "We need to win now. A BCS bowl is the only goal at Notre Dame" will look again, like a Charlie Weis statement.
Porous defense? Check. Bad play management with 4th downs? Check. Ball protection issues? Check. Losing games in final minutes? Check.
It will get difficult to exercise the prescription offered by Coach Kelly in his post-game press conference to remediate these issues. "You have to believe. If you don't believe, that is when things fall apart". I believe, but not for long anymore.