The turning point of a football game seldom comes before one team has run an offensive play. Heck, it seldom comes in the first half. But, in the case of yesterday’s Notre Dame loss to Stanford, it came on the first offensive series.
A muffed punt with eight and a half minutes left in the first quarter gave Notre Dame the ball in the red zone. Instead of punching it into the end zone and sending a major early message, the Irish settled for a field goal and a 3 – 0 lead.
While this appeared to be a good start at the time, the remainder of the game would prove that assumption false. The Irish started strong offensivel… and then they stopped. Instead of being a productive “get me points in any capacity” situation, that first drive served as only an omen to the offensive ineptitude that would plague the Irish all afternoon. It’s only been four games, but this was the worst offensive performance of the Brian Kelly era. And it’s not even close.
Quarterback Dayne Crist regressed yesterday in ways that were unforeseen prior to kickoff. He looked like the Dayne Crist Irish fans thought they would see before the season started, not the Crist they’ve fallen in love with (too strong?) in the last three weeks. Despite slumping through portions of games (usually the middle), Crist always regained and redeemed himself late in the game. It was as if he started out overwhelmed and slowly got more and more comfortable.
Yesterday, it was almost the exact opposite.
On the NBC broadcast, blog favorite (ok, ok, “blogger favorite”) Mike Mayock talked a lot about the quarterbacks inability to read Stanford’s defense. He just couldn’t decipher the looks that the Cardinal defense gave him. The later it got in the game, the more confused Crist looked. The more confused he got, the more he panicked and made some awful choices. Case in point – Notre Dame’s first drive lasted 6:41 (including the plays after the muffed punt). Only two more Irish drives approached even half that amount of time. Here’s one more – only two drives in the second half lasted over two minutes. Although time of possession isn’t a stat that Notre Dame is going to win on a weekly basis (Kelly simply doesn’t believe it’s important, (this writer disagrees)), it has to be much better then this.
The only good thing to come out of the offense yesterday was Theo Riddick. Riddick had seven catches for 71 yards and one touchdown. The search for a second deep threat is officially over.
Because of the offensive deficiencies, it’s really hard to blame the defense. Despite allowing 30 points, a lot of positives emerged out of the defensive effort. Manti Te’o continues his rapid ascension to “Top 5 LB” status (if he isn’t already in that group). The sophomore had the best game of his career, surpassing his performance against Michigan two weeks ago. Sometimes it seems like Te’o is the only consistent defensive player on the field. Maybe that’s because he is.
Notre Dame did do something that no one else has been able to – force Andrew Luck into mistakes. After not throwing a pick in the first three weeks, Luck let two slip away.
Despite the score, the defense played well enough to win. They cannot be blamed for falling asleep in the final ten minutes. After all, they were on the field for what felt like 90% of the game and WON the turnover battle. That’s hard to push through. They still can’t stop the run, but for once, that wasn’t the problem Saturday. It was the offense.
On a final note of admiration, Stanford was really impressive yesterday. They scored 37 points despite not playing there best offensive game. Given that USC is a non – factor in the conference and Oregon State looks unbelievable beatable in a big game, next weeks game against Oregon could go a long way in determining the Pac – 10 title. The Arizona game a month later might actually determine it. Wow, Stanford. Who would have thunk?
Trivia question: What school did Nate Whitaker go to before Stanford?
Better question: How many times did Tom Hammond say it on the NBC broadcast?
About the Author
Written by Jordan Lauterbach
Jordan Lauterbach began his career in sports media when he was just 15 years old at WKWZ - Syosset. He hosted a sports talk show for nearly four years before moving on to WCWP - Brookville in 2006. Lauterbach currently hosts a sports talk show every Wednesday night from 9pm - midnight (eastern) and a College Football talk show on Saturday mornings from 11am - 12:30 (eastern) (can be heard online at wcwpsports.com and on Long Island on 88.1fm). Follow me on twiiter: jlauterbach1