Miami Review: Sports are Mostly Cruel

This has been my first football season as a father and through the afternoon of November 11th it had been such a great experience. By Saturday night I shuffled off to bed with that all-too-familiar sinking feeling in my stomach. I lay in bed thinking about my daughter and how she’d cheer me up in the morning. Then I tossed and turned for a couple hours and wondered, “Oh God, what if she grows up and experiences this with me too?”

Sports are mostly cruel and I’m not sure why we do this to ourselves. On this Sunday with the sun refusing to peek through a wall of gray clouds I’m left wishing there was a sports version of the MiB neuralizer.

PASSING OFFENSE

Quickly forgotten was that Brandon Wimbush opened the game with a pair of third down conversions through the air! And then it went down hill fast from there. In fact, those were the only completions for Wimbush before he was pulled late in the 1st half. He rallied a bit in the second half with 8 completions but Wimbush was depressingly ineffective passing the ball while his legs were a non-factor until the break.

Ian Book actually settled things down on his 2nd series under center connecting on 3 out of 4 passes before a pick six all but ruined any attempt at a comeback before halftime.

Somehow, Notre Dame finished with more passing yards than Miami which speaks more to the short fields for the Canes and a run-heavy second half that salted the game away. Three interceptions on 27 pass attempts is a great way to blow up any gameplan.

RUSHING OFFENSE

Josh Adams didn’t look right to me. He looked less explosive and unsure of himself. I’d tack a lot of that up to the offensive line really playing poorly as much as any injury concern with Adams, too.

Player 1st/2nd Yes 1st/2nd No 3rd/4th Yes 3rd/4th No Total
Adams 4 10 1 1 29.4%
Claypool 0 1 0 0 00.0%
Wimbush 2 2 0 2 33.3%
Jones 1 1 0 0 50.0%
Book 1 1 0 0 50.0%
Dexter 2 0 1 0 100.0%
McIntosh 0 0 0 1 00.0%
Totals 10 15 2 4 38.7%

 

Dexter and Tony Jones combining for 35 yards on 5 carries made this rushing performance look bad instead of utterly terrible. So we’ve got that going for us.

Upon re-watching the game (very quickly) I didn’t think the run game was set up that poorly or the gameplan looked out of sorts. When healthy Adams has been carrying the ball around 18 times per game and the Irish gave the ball to him 15 times in the first half. The vast majority tried to hit Miami in between the tackles.

The offense simply got manhandled up front. They tried putting the game on the back of their Heisman candidate and it failed miserably. Don’t get mad at the gameplan get upset that the biggest team strength was blown to bits by Miami and Wimbush was in no shape ready to help the team dig out of an early hole. This is actually a far worse indictment of the coaching staff (somehow looking this outmatched) than a case of zigging when they should’ve zagged on play-calls.

Three really bad plays do stick out, though. First, the 3rd down option to the boundary with Claypool that went nowhere on the second series. The last two occurred on the first offensive series of the 2nd half while down 34-0. A pair of screens to a large receiver and tight end had no chance of cutting into the lead.

PASSING DEFENSE

Malik Rosier was entirely comfortable all game long whereas Wimbush was feeling heat off the edges on most of his snaps. Notre Dame finished with 1 quarterback hurry and zero sacks. We may have seen greater contributing factors to this loss but the pass rush was entirely nonexistent.

Rosier didn’t need to do much (15 of 24 for 137 yards) but if the Canes did need something more it probably would’ve been successful.

RUSHING DEFENSE

I vividly remember watching the first half and thinking Miami hadn’t really established the run game and yet they were crushing us on the scoreboard. Turns out, they put together a miniature version of the run game we had seen from Notre Dame this season.

The Canes only finished with 43.5% success rate but ripped off enough medium-to-long runs to total a healthy 237 yards. Four out of Miami’s 7 successful carries in the first half came from Rosier. Once the Irish adjusted, Homer was able to get some nice runs in the second half.

SPECIAL TEAMS

Not much worthy of note although Miami did miss one of their 3 field goals.

TURNING POINT

Taking the pulse of the live action the game didn’t feel quite over until the Irish went down 20-0. In the early 2nd quarter the Irish converted a 4th down & 1 by Josh Adams and found themselves back with another 3rd & 2 while approaching midfield.

On this snap, Mustipher loses leverage with a run-blitzing linebacker and Adams uncharacteristically stop his feet from moving and loses all momentum. The Irish were set to go for it on 4th down again before a Hainsey false start forced a punt. For this drive there were 7 runs and 0 passes. Notre Dame tried to bread their butter on the ground and couldn’t get it done.

The defense forced a 3 & out on the next series for another opportunity given to the offense only to see Wimbush throw his 2nd interception on the first play of the Irish series. From there, it was 20-0 in a hurry.

3 STARS

  • Te’von Coney
  • Kevin Stepherson
  • Drue Tranquill

FINAL NOTES

I find myself pretty bored with the “What this means for Brian Kelly” talk after games like this. He’s not winning a championship and he rarely wins these big games on the road–neither are that interesting or ground breaking. I’d rather talk about anything else. We also know, especially at 8-2 and ranked No. 9 in the AP, that neither are grounds for termination. None of this is surprising.

I’ve had my suspicions about this team at times. We’re now sitting at +1.38 YPP which is a strong indicator to me that 3 or 4 losses are far more likely than a 11-2 finish. I predicted 8-4 in August but this season has been built up and the team has looked far different for large stretches of this fall that anything less than 11-2 will feel really disappointing. A loss at Stanford will be another embarrassing hair pull. Finishing out 2-0 with a win on the Farm will temporarily feel nice but this program has to win a major bowl game. That hope is still alive. As much as Saturday hurt it’d be a pretty significant resume box to check. Ending the major bowl streak would be cool, you guys.

So the #33Trucking stuff was an all-time great sports jinx. I’m not blaming anyone but who’s surprised that this ended up (at least for now) with egg on our face? As soon as the campaign hits full force Adams gets injured in back-to-back games and totals only 62 yards on 21 carries. A couple weeks ago, Adams looked like an easy bet to set the single-season rushing record and was on pace to break the mark with a handful of carries this upcoming weekend. He’s now 207 yards away from breaking the record and watch him sit out against Navy and really sweat it out over the final 2 games. I just really love Josh and want him to get this record, he deserves it. He’s also still flirting with Gipp’s single season rushing average.

Can we finally admit the strength program stuff really isn’t all that? Whatever happened to the Longo regime it may have contributed significantly to a 4-8 season. However, I’ve never believed a strength program can be that important compared to other teams across the country. Mostly everyone is doing the same things and it’s not some magical edge in Notre Dame’s corner only. It may help briefly to bring in new blood but that doesn’t last. Just remember, history suggests everyone will eventually turn on Balis, too.

By |2018-05-09T22:25:47+00:00November 12th, 2017|Football|39 Comments

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idocd
idocd

At this point, I really wonder who Dexter Williams pissed off. I mean, I feel like the staff puts him in situations where they want him to fail. When he doesn’t, he gets yanked immediately.

Ugh.

Brendan R

He fails in those situations because there are still some things that he doesn’t do very well. His blocking is still subpar and when he has the ball, he still goes off script too often when he should follow his blockers. That’s something Kelly mentioned about him in 2015 and he’s still struggling with.

They’re not keeping this super secret awesome weapon under wraps because he tweeted an eggplant emoji or something. He can’t do the right things consistently enough to be on the field more. Simple as that.

MDIRISH
MDIRISH

Ok. But then you find yourself in a game where fast backside linemen are making tackles at the line or for a loss. And you have a back in Dexter Williams whose strength would seem to be the ability to put his foot down and accelerate through a crease. I accept that he is hurt.

Brendan R

I think they would’ve chased down Dex too. The fact that he can cover the three yards to the line of scrimmage 0.02 seconds faster than Adams can wouldn’t have helped too much.

If we had Bo Jackson, maybe. That’s how badly the OL was getting beaten.

Russell Knox
Russell Knox

I agree with you Eric. Sports are cruel.

herecometheirish
herecometheirish

The ST were pretty bad early- and haven’t looked great for most of the season. The punting was poor and there is no return game.

This team can definitely end the bowl streak, though. I hope they get everything together for the final two games.

dpet
dpet

Was pretty much waiting all day for your review. I agree with most of what you said. You didn’t comment on the Wimbush benching. I didn’t like it, but I’ll admit he was awful up until that point. Congrats on being a new dad! I’m also a first time dad for about 6 weeks plus now. Our son slept and my wife watched the game with me last night. I think those factors kept me somewhat calm. On the Book pick 6 I saw her look at me out of the corner of my eye as I stared at the TV in disbelief. I really want 11-2 and a major bowl win. If we do finish 10-2, what bowl and what teams would you speculate on?

nd09hls12
nd09hls12

If we win out, it’s very likely the Cotton Bowl vs. Wisconsin or Penn State (depending on whether or not Wisconsin makes the playoff). Could also be Orange Bowl vs. Clemson. I don’t particularly want to play Clemson, but as long as we avoid Ohio State I’m fine.

dpet
dpet

Wisconsin won’t make the playoff when they get destroyed by Ohio St, and I wouldn’t be surprised if Michigan beat them this week. I think Orange Bowl

irish_bandit_10
irish_bandit_10

Oh dear God, not that stadium again.

IrishSprings
IrishSprings

Prescient post, Eric. Suspect there are plenty of us viewing this passion through a somewhat existential lens. Have had similar thoughts about my kids and their (potential) fandom someday, and about the hours and hours I’ve spent, the emotional swings (more to the negative since about.. 1993) and collateral effects of each. I have other passions which periodically bite me (old cars are fickle) Decided late last night that I was going to avoid the internet today so, I did a sunrise photography hike through my local back-40, made my kids the traditional Sunday pancake breakfast, and otherwise had a better day. Yet.. here I am (thanks for this blog of reason) again, and there I’ll be next Saturday. Go Irish!

More Noise
More Noise

You guys are all truly great. Totally echo IrishSpring’s thoughts.
So let me start off with the impact on our kids: I did not know you are a new dad, Eric, and please accept my most sincere congrats. When you wonder about her growing up and experiencing these agonies… well, yes…(sigh). At least — my daughter called me from Boston in tears, wanting me to comfort my grandson because he had really fallen in love with this team (his first); my older son in LA having invited all his friends to a game watch got drunk which he never does; and my younger son literally said to me that the joy of the USC game made this beat down even more painful.
But let us remember the joy of 49-14. BK said a good thing in the presser: he reminded the players that after they got whupped by us, USC has bounced back and is winning all their games. So echoes to all positive vibes above, and yes, 11-2 would make quite the memorable year.

That leaves the “ceiling” of ND itself, and the speed issue. At the risk of oversimplifying — does not much of this come back to our great difficulty in the modern era recruiting elite D-Linemen? B&G had a good feature on this. Back in our glory days, Leahy, Ara, Devine, and Lou, elite D-lines were a crucial part of our success; and they tended to come from the Pennsylvania/Ohio, northeast, and midwest regions. Now, they mostly come from the deep south where we have a tougher time persuading those elite kids to come our way.
The reason I single out the D-line is that much of the problems that came out in this game stem from that. Elite D-Line messes up one’s running game and throws one’s evolving QB off his feed; lack of one of our own results in no QB pressure, run misfits, etc.

hooks orpik
hooks orpik

Yeah, I would think pretty much everyone agree that ND needs a better defensive line to get to a higher level. That was expected to be a major weakness on this team and through smoke and mirrors (and Tillery stepping up big time and playing to his potential) they’ve been OK. But for all the talk of the coaching I don’t really think this defensive personnel is really worthy of being a playoff caliber team, which really is maybe more impressive and speaks to what Elko’s done to help get them as far along as they are.

I suppose ND will never have a collection of talent in the front-7 like Alabama or UGA or LSU or Auburn (not to mention Clemson, tOSU, FSU, Miami etc) but hopefully they can improve on it. Like you mention geography is a natural disadvantage, but shouldn’t be a total back-breaker. If only guys like Tuitt came along every year!

More Noise
More Noise

The one that bothers me is tOSU. But not only do they have one of 21st century college football’s two greatest, Rockne/Leahy level coaches … but Urbie doesn’t have to worry about admission standards or grades.
That does raise the issue of what is achievable for ND on a consistent level, since we do.
Let me posit a sort of modern ND “where we would like our Program to be:
With D-line recruiting issues, can we be “be in the conversation” for the CFP half the years, and in it once every five years, and win it every ten years – with a off year standard of 2-3 defeats a year?

Brendan R

My #33Trucking hat is still three days away. Literally didn’t even have time to get here before the campaign was effectively dead. Seems like a perfect commentary on the weekend.

farquad2012
farquad2012

I don’t care if I don’t get any money back, I’m sending mine back to the bookstore as soon as I receive it.

spider-man
spider-man

Thanks for the great and clear-headed post Eric! Hoping this doesn’t happen, but the ND pessimist in me wonders if this team might spiral down by practicing flat after this game and not being ready for the triple option, and then suffering from the Navy hangover the next week. However, the optimist in me says that this team is going to line up and try to physically maul the Navy defense with the running game.

And one more thing – let’s see that gold jersey!

hooks orpik
hooks orpik

As Wimbush already mentioned on instagram, it’s senior day and they know they have to show up and send the seniors off with a win. We’ll see if this team can walk the walk instead of just talking but I’m more hopeful that they won’t just mail it in or fold completely.

More Noise
More Noise

If they fold I will be really really sad. They seem like such high character guys. That by the way would be my response to Murtaugh’s point about S&C — I never bought in that the changes in muscles etc. was any different than any other program, he is right there. But I did like the apparent shot in the arm to a team in great disarray that Balis seemed to have brought. This week is the test. As BK said in his presser yesterday, they did not handle bright lights and big game, and I respect that he blamed that on coaching. Now can they handle true adversity? Because as much as it sucks for us, imagine being them?

domerihardlyknowher
domerihardlyknowher

Really enjoy the article and the site, but I disagree on strength and conditioning. I think it was a big ask to go from an apparently terrible s&c program and in one year become a dominant one. Next year will be the year we really see results or don’t in my opinion. I do think it can make a big difference, maybe not in outpacing other teams but at least in catching up to them. When we play a team like Miami that obviously has an edge in team speed, which as far as I understand is closely tied to leg strength and power, I can’t help but think that 2 years in a modern strength and conditioning program will help us close that gap.

Brendan R

Well, I think the S&C overhaul absolutely helped, but to speak for Eric here – because he’s made this point many, many, MANY times, believe me, in our internal discussions – S&C is rarely as much of a detriment or a boost as people make it out to be. And I agree with him on that. There’s very rarely any kind of secret sauce to the actual workouts themselves; some guys are better at motivating the kids to do it, but otherwise the gains over other programs tend to be incremental. Also, as Lou said, if you don’t know what you’re doing, you’ll just get to the wrong spot faster. So S&C helps, but it’s not going to be some magic sword that lets us cut a swath through our enemies if everything else is a mess, like it was on Saturday.

Andy Roberts

I did the new dad thing during last season. Talk about a bad year to introduce a kid to ND football. He makes it a lot easier than it used to be to move on from bad games, though. I certainly hope he grows up a fan, but I’d be fine if he didn’t care near as much as I do, because good lord, games like Saturday.

More Noise
More Noise

My younger boy is still kind of traumatized by the Bush Push, he was only like ten. Though he and I linked up for this year’s SC game, and it was great redemption. My older has not gotten over the Natty in ’12, our hopes were so high… like you say, good lord, games like Saturday…

KerryMD
KerryMD

My first thought after the game: this is the 3rd time in 4 years that the ACC gets the better end of the deal. Well deserved hype game at an ACC school that ND losses, which sets the winner up for a statement victory with the national spotlight. Hopefully this team responds like the 2015 team, not like the 2014 one.

Brendan R

Well, we get Florida State at home in November next year. Perhaps that’ll be our turn…