Quick Shot Monday: Thoughts on the Natty

Well, that hurt. Alabama completely dominated Notre Dame in the National Championship, routing Brian Kelly’s Fighting Irish 42-14. In a season where the Irish found a way to win game in, game out, the end came in a flurry of missed tackles and offensive ineptitude. On both sides of the ball, Notre Dame was outplayed by a nearly flawless Alabama team that put their stamp on the history of college football. And there was some  garbage officiating.

I really can’t overstate how stunned I was by our defensive showing. Manti Te’o, ND’s All Everything linebacker and Heisman runner-up, missed more tackles in the first drive than he did all season. And, as Manti went, so went the Irish. Alabama had their way with Notre Dame, running up the gut early and often, gashing the boys in blue and gold seemingly at will. The sight of KLM and Louis Nix writhing on gurneys was sad punctuation to the constant failings of Coach Diaco’s schemes.

Offensively, Notre Dame got nothing done. Drives died before they began as Everett Golson struggled under constant and ferocious pressure. There was no semblance of a running game. Credit to Alabama’s sometimes maligned front four who came in with a chip on their shoulder and held Theo Riddick largely held in check.

The officials had some hand in the early stages, calling a horrific personal foul against Notre Dame that negated a fumble recovery on a punt and deprived the Irish of a possession deep in Alabama territory. That being said, the vaunted Irish defense couldn’t hold Alabama until late in the second quarter, by which point the game was well out of reach. Time and again, Notre Dame’s strengths failed to match Alabama’s and the end result became more and more certain with every tick of the clock.

It would be wrong to suggest that Notre Dame’s season was pointless or that the Irish have been relegated back to irrelevance. Simply being there was, to most, an unthinkable thought back in July or August. The Irish never quit against Bama, but they never had answers, either. The gap between the two teams is not down to some fictitious, conference-based superiority. It may have been down, simply, to experience, for the Irish looked and played nervous from the opening whistle. Whatever the cause(s), there is plenty of time between now and signing day to dissect the mess.

That said, what a season. 12-1 is something of which these young men can be incredibly proud. There is no shame in losing to Alabama — not the way they played. And not in the National Championship Game. For the seniors — for Manti and KLM and Tyler and the rest — these are young men whose careers traced an arc from the nadir of Notre Dame to a point that, while not the apex, is clearly miles beyond where the sane or rational would have predicted but three years ago. Regardless of tonight’s result, we owe them our thanks.

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  • DJ

    1) On the “horrific personal foul”, it wasn’t a personal foul. It was kick catch interference, which does not require contact. The better question was whether the Notre Dame player was pushed into the receiver’s catch halo and drawing the penalty.

    2) A better criticism of the officials was the catch that Eifert made on the sidelines on the first series. It was ruled incomplete because of juggling. A terrible call, even worse on replay, and utterly meaningless in the end.

    3) Whatever the preparation was, it was sadly insufficient. Saban had his team doing full contact drills all throughout their preparation. I think if we had spent our practices tackling, we’d at least have tackled up to our standard.

    This loss is a damn shame. A seven- to ten-point loss and we can say it wasn’t our day. Now, every nitwit on ESPN, talk radio, and the Internet will say that we had no business being here and that our undefeated regular season was a fraud. Those players and coaches worked too hard for that verdict.

    • Matt Q.

      That game was won by Bama over the last several years of Saban’s leadership. You don’t dominate a 12-0 team like that by having a better December than the other guy.

      • DJ

        Well, yes. My point was that Saban’s knowledge and years of experience allowed him to prepare his team in a much better way than Kelly. It was one advantage of many.

  • Jake breland

    The issue was not the contact. When calling for a fair catch, the reciever must
    Wave his hand before the ball begins its downward arc. He calls for a fair catch moments before the ball hits his hands. In this case the penalty is negated, which they didn’t do.

    • DJ

      I thought the fair catch signal was timely…just barely. Musberger asked the national head of officiating about the call, and he said it was correct. Musberger was going to ask about Eifert’s catch, but forgot.

      Recall that the head official was the one who, when asked about the fourth down in OT stop against Stanford, said the officials made the correct call there, as well.

    • http://gravatar.com/clearwall TheRef

      That is absolutely not correct. There is no rule that states when a receiver must signal. The only regulations regarding fair catch is whether the signal is VALID(One hand in the air waved twice–Rule 2.8.2). Any other signalling is INVALID signalling which does not protect the receiver from contact, but he must ALWAYS be given 1 yard directly in front of him to catch the ball. When in question, the yard IS violated and a foul HAS been committed.

  • Vairish84

    We didn’t lose the game because of the calls although I thought both were wrong. They could have changed the dynamic, and the dynamic might have changed the outcome. A little confidence would have gone a long way.

    On the interference, it really does not matter whether he calls a fair catch or not, I think you have to give him space to catch the ball. Farley was close although the defender was the one who caused the problem.

    As for the score, it sucked. We got beaten up every which way at the LOS. both sides of the ball.

    It does not change the fact that we had a great season, the NC game was playing with house money and on a season basis we came out ahead. The future is bright.

  • canuck75

    This is the only site I care to comment on, so for what its worth, here goes. I echo the comment about how the D disappeared. A key play was the 3rd and 5 from about our 40 when we had the rb behind the line cleanly, but he broke the tackle and ran for the first down. That led to 21-0. I think a stop at 14-0 might have stopped the bleeding. It seems obvious that they were much better, but on the other hand the second half was 14-14 and they did not back off, so maybe we were closer than we think
    On an optimistic note, I think Golson was fantastic. Keep in mind this is the real best D in the country, yet without a running game he moved the ball quite well and threw some real strikes. Bad play call on the 4th and 5 though. Should’ve gone for a basic first down.
    We will be back and it was a great year. Proud to be Irish.

  • JH

    As much as it hurt, we really have to be proud of this season. A team that most predicted to be 8-4 at best went 12-0, made it to the national championship, and generally played their hearts out. I’m still very glad to be Irish.

    On the other hand, I live in Alabama so it’s going to be a long off-season for me.

  • http://www.herloyalsons.com The Biscuit

    Totally sucked balls. While Bama is a better team than ND, the ND I know from this season didn’t show up. So many uncharacteristic things about this game. Missed tackles, poor angles, flat-footedness on Defense. No run game, straight vertical routes, fades to our shortest outside receiver (Jones) over and over against their best corner.

    Just nothing that looked like the ND team that went 12-0. At our best I think we end within a TD, but still lose. Sadly, we weren’t close to our best.

    It doesn’t negate the season. Not at all. We are MUCH closer to ‘being there’ than we’ve been since 1993. But we still have steps to take as a program. We will get there!

  • http://www.ndnation.com irishize

    1. Scrap the dual threat, RG3 Type QB. Go with the McCarron-Kiel template. Sorry, Ev.
    2. Memo to Coach Longo: Make Nix your poster boy for bigger and stronger. He came in at
    370, dropped to 330, and balooned now to 344. He has got to drop 50 and go from mud
    slide to sculpted.
    3. Chris “Breezy” Brown replaces TJ Jones. TJ is a “nice” receiver. We need an Amari
    Cooper “gamebreaker.”
    4. No more “Slow” Zekes at safety and converted WRs at the corners. We need true, shut
    down corners like Dee Milliner (come on down Cole Luke).
    5. Bruising RBs like Lacy and Yeldon would help–is there another Jerome Bettis in the
    6. We need more dancing bears and baby hippos on our lines, like Warmack and Fluker.
    Once again, Coach Longo, put a rush on our new crop of OL.
    7. Make our special teams “special” like the Tide’s, Coach Booker.
    8. But now we get to the true essence of being like Bama:
    -more grayshirt recruits
    -1 year renewable scholarships: “no playee-no stayee”
    -more medical scholarships for football duds
    -bring on the JC cretins
    -Admissions-don’t worry about; graduation-forget about it
    9. This is the blueprint. Now ND can be like Nick. We can have a DYNASTY like Nick
    Saban (aka Dick Satan) and his devlish legions. Then, ND can lift and gaze into the
    crystal ball!

    • Canuck 75

      I hope your tongue was firmly in your cheek. A dual threat qb is the only way to win and Everett is our guy. Tj was fantastic against the best d in the country. We do need a bit better o line but that will come. But we need to play up the grad rate even more.

      • NDtex

        I wouldn’t go as far to say that a dual QB is the _only_ way to win, but having a dual threat certainly helps.

        Kiel actually fits that mold, even though most people probably don’t realize it.

  • RJ

    Don’t forget the really bad roughing the passer call against Bama. The officiating was bad on both sides