This weekend saw the unveiling of The Shirt and The Team, as the players squared off in the 263rd rendition of the annual Blue Gold Game. We can all take considerable relief that The Team was far more impressive, more focused, and, frankly, far better looking than The Shirt. Here are my takes from the weekend.
First, The Shirt. Having started at Notre Dame in 1990, you can call me an “early adopter” of The Shirt. The first one was green. The second one was AND THAT’S WHERE THEY WENT WRONG. The Shirt should always be green. But what do I know? Anyway, this year’s color, known in the industry as Old Navy Commercial Background Color 732, was first utilized in 1991 on a The Shirt that featured an almost elegant yellow outline of The Basilica and The Dome but that could also look like my EKG after a trip through SDH. The front said simply “Irish ’91.”
As colors go, this year’s is not as horrific as others, e.g. 1996 (forest green), 1997 (is that green?), 1998 (baby poop green), 2000 (that is honestly the green you picked?), 2005 (solar flare), and 2009 (white person naked).
As designs go, this year’s ranks up there with the worst. Understanding that “rise above ourselves” is part of a Father Hesburgh quote, in isolation and on the back of a t-shirt, it seems to urge us to “get out of our own way.” The effect is enhanced by the helmet stickers of national championship years, none of which have come in a year in which we could have worn The Shirt, so the viewer is left with a sense of self-inflicted futility or, as we used to call it, irrelevance.
There is also SO MUCH GOING ON. There’s a leprechaun, an interlocking ND, three different fonts, another ND, a ghost football, lots of numbers, a patch on the sleeve, the head of alfredo garcia. Literally the only thing it’s missing is a pocket.
Speaking of pockets, the 2016 Blue Gold Game did nothing to settle the raging quarterback debate, but it did remind us of why we’re having it. Both Kizer and Zaire were very good and Brandon Wimbush showed why he’s even being mentioned at this point. To my eye, if that’s worth anything, Kizer seemed more in control back there and I liked his demonstrative leadership style.
Each had a terrific series. If anything, Kizer was rendered somehow less-impressive by a horror drop from Kevin Stepherson. The freshman phenom’s mistake added to the brilliance of Torii Hunter, Jr.’s magnificent basket-catch on the opposite end of a perfect pass from Malik Zaire.
On the offensive side of the football, I was taken by the weapons either QB will have at their disposal, with clear talent at the TE position and Hunter, Stepherson, and a maturing Equatorial St. Brown at wide-receiver. Justin Brent had some quality moments as well and the Irish are loaded in the backfield. Folston was green-shirted so we got to see him not get hit.
The defense looked better, which is about as subjective an observation as can be, but I never saw the panicked screaming or indecisive shuffling among the secondary and linebackers that characterized the vanGorder years as much as injury. The tackling seemed surer and sounder, although Max Redfield negated earlier brilliance by absolutely whiffing on a tackle that could have prevented a Blue touchdown. Drue Tranquill should have been ejected for targeting on Chris Finke, your Joe Schmidt feel-good walk-on story for 2016.
The O-line looked way better than I though probable. The quarterbacks had plenty of time to develop plays and I don’t think there were any false starts, though there was one horrible shotgun snap by Tristen Hoge.
And speaking of long snaps, just give the Ray Guy Award to Tyler Newsome right now. He was quietly devastating, like a dog fart, with seven punts that averaged almost FIFTY-THREE yards each. That sort of leg, and an ability to get it out quickly and soundly, will give Notre Dame a clear advantage in the position-battle and on defense. The rest of the special teams were perplexing at best, as there may have been confusion with the Spring rules and whether the kickers were supposed to put the ball through, or far away from, the uprights.