Of all the storylines we’ve seen over the years, one hasn’t entered the equation. How will Notre Dame handle success? Yes, success. The second chapter to a big time win is how you respond the following week against an opponent that is generally considered inferior.
Think about it. This team knows nothing except disappoint. So many times, they’ve been on the other side. They’ve been looking to avenge a poor performance or show they’re not a joke. Now, they’re coming off an emotional win that garnered them respect, not ridicule. Instead of getting punched in the face outside of local steak house’s, they are treated like, well, winners. It’s a feeling many who have passed through the program know well, but a feeling these players know nothing of.
Here comes Army. It’s a team that even the worst Notre Dame teams have beaten. They aren’t Navy and that’s a good thing. No bad memories exist. There is no negative mojo surrounding Army. After all, “it’s Army”, isn’t it? Would it be at all surprising if the Irish come out flat? Not at all.
Although the “coming out flat” theory is more then plausible, here’s why it won’t happen:
1. The stage: I’d be more inclined to be worried about the Irish coming out flat if the game was being played in West Point, or even South Bend. But because the game is being played in Yankee Stadium, all talk about “coming out flat” seems ridiculous. If you can’t get jazzed up about playing at night in Yankee Stadium, the university should probably revoke your scholarship.
2. The stakes: A bowl game. Yes, something that seemed virtually impossible one week ago is now only a win away. Notre Dame should relish the idea that they have a second chance at the post season. After last week, they know they can compete with anyone…and Utah is better then Army.
3. The Navy effect – Of all the embarrassing things that have happened in the last five years, I think the lack of success against service academies, specifically Navy, bothers the Irish the most. After all, these games were automatic wins for four decades and suddenly have become some of the most frustrating dates on the schedule. It would be a good bet that Notre Dame hasn’t forgotten about the Navy game, doesn’t help that that game was played in the same general area. And don’t think the Irish haven’t heard all the talk about how they have “trouble with service academies”. They’ll be out to prove this new theory on “why Notre Dame stinks” wrong.
4. Renewed offensive energy – I thought I loved Dayne Crist. I really did. Then Tommy Rees ran the offense the last two weeks and my opinion changed. Even without some of his top weapons, Reese runs the offense more fluidly and consistently then Crist did. I think it will be hard for a team with a young, good, relatively new quarterback to come out complacent. Suddenly, I’m less worried about this game because of Tommy Rees, not in spite of him.
Offensively, the philosophy shouldn’t be much different this week. Keep it simple, don’t have Rees do too much, run the football. Rees threw the football 20 times last week and completed 65% of his passes. It should be a steady dose of Cierre Wood and Jonas Gray
And that’s a good thing.
Let’s return to the “it’s Army” defense from before. Once again (say it with me), its not your fathers Army. If you feel like you’ve read that exact sentence in this space before, you have. Why is it that every team that was a slam dunk, laughable, easy win when I was a kid is now either excellent (Stanford), seemingly unbeatable (Navy), or bowl bound (Army)? It’s annoying, and could explain why the Irish have gone down hill in the last decade (but that’s for another column).
Yes, Army will be playing in the post season, but don’t loose too much sleep over the Irish not being able to join them after Saturday night. Call it “Utah overconfidence”, but Notre Dame shouldn’t be concerned with Army. Sure, they score a ton of points. But look at what they give up.
Air Force put up 42 two weeks ago. Temple knocked out 42. How about a loss to Rutgers?
And none of the wins are particularly impressive either. North Texas, Duke, Tulane, Virginia Military. Doing anything for you? I didn’t think so. The only thing this team has in common with Navy is that they are a service academy.
But Army does run one of those funky offenses and Notre Dame has had trouble with that. Five players got carries out of the backfield, and that’s not including quarterback Trent Steelman (coolest name in college football, bar none). Brian Cobbs and Raymond Maples were the only two Black Knights to average over 4 yards a carry. It should be noted that those two had a combined 12 caries. Needless to say, the idea of the Army offense being “explosive” may be a tad overrated.
If the Irish didn’t have trouble with Utah, a team that averaged 41 points a game, I don’t buy them having any issues with Army.
The Pick: Notre Dame 35 Army 17 – If you’re in the New York area and you were at the Navy game in October, this will make up for it. Army won’t put up much of a fight against a rejuvenated Irish defense that is used to the offensive theories they employ. The patch to Tommy Rees starting game one of 2011 continues with an Irish roll.
For an Army perspective on this game…click here
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