In an internet conversation in which I’m not sure I actually participated or just lurked, it was posited that the reason ND’s defense contained Navy so well in 2008 was because Navy had never seen the Brown/Tenuta approach to defending the triple option. Looks like they were right. And it serves as a really stark reminder that the current circumstances of the coaching of the Notre Dame football team sit somewhere between “completely unacceptable” and “drowning in fecal matter.” Nobody in major college football is looking out at the coaching landscape for a solution to their current head coaching problem and placing the name Ken Niumatalolo on their short list of candidates. And that guy and his staff just out-schemed the University of Notre Dame not with the “Spread,” not with the “Run and Gun,” and not with the “West Coast Offense,” but with the triple-option; an offense that’s nearly older than the game of football. Frankly, if you’re the HC at ND and that happens to you, then that’s when you admit defeat and go find something new to whittle away the hours.
Before we burry Charlie Weis, let’s honor Navy for a bit, because they played really, really smart football. For one, they adjusted their archaic scheme just enough to sprint out to a 14-0 lead (and by the way, any time a team makes a nuanced change like they did in their system, and then saves it for ND, you know the game is still a big game to them, regardless of what they’ll tell ya). But once they got that 2 TD lead, they also put the pressure on Charlie. They didn’t just make it obvious that they were going to “shorten the game” with their running offense, they pushed their loud speaker system to 11 and blared it across the field, “Hey, Charlie, you’re going to have about 10 minutes of play clock to overcome this lead we’ve got. Better abandon the run and throw it all over the field.” And so Charlie did. And that’s sort of the rough nature of a game between ND and Navy these days: Beat Navy, and nobody cares. On a weekend when the entire SEC plays directionals, you still get the typical, “yeah, but it’s Navy,” despite the fact that Navy has consistently played good football for a decade now. Lose to Navy, and you lose your job. At least, you should lose your job. You know. After it happens twice. At home.
Anyway, well done, Navy. It was an impressive and well played gambit.
Now, onto Notre Dame. I’ve sort of been watching the world move since the game ended. While the sting of the loss stung, there seemed to be a calm acceptance of the fate of the football program Saturday night. This was it. Charlie was done. No more wondering. No more politicking on either side of the argument. It was a bit like watching an ill patient realize there was no more hope for a cure. But then Sunday we all awoke with questions. Question 1) Why hasn’t the Notre Dame athletic department scheduled a press conference for today? Question 2) Who will replace Charlie Weis? Question 3) Have we called Urban Meyer yet? Question 4) Oh god, wait, are they going to replace Weis or not? Question 5) They’re not really going to call Urban Meyer, are they? F that dude.
It seems not 12 hours had passed since the game clock expired, and already the fans of Notre Dame are gripped with fears of the unknown. And with that, a resuscitation of politicking. Now the ugly stories are cropping up on the internet about Weis, the veracity of which don’t matter. They’re just an opening salvo being launched upon a dead horse. Just an indication that some fear that the crowds with pitchforks will lose their interest before the week is over if nothing happens on the front before then. Afterall, ND might go and beat a top-15 Pitt team on Saturday. Wouldn’t that be horrible?
Don’t worry. It probably wont happen, though the notion of a Wanstache lead club somehow managing to prolong the ND Fanbase’s anguish via the clever use of fail is darkly hysterical. Can you imagine if ND went 3-0 to finish the season? Against a #12 Pitt, a Stanford that just ran all over Oregon, and a UConn team that’s clawing and scratching at every opponent they can find? You could just walk around identifying ND fans by their twitching and terrible cases of Tourette’s Syndrome.
I really wish I could write an articulate, thoughtful essay here about the demise of Weis despite all his effort. And I wish I could really share the disappointment I feel over seeing a fellow ND grad fail to bring Notre Dame to glorious heights on the football field, but I can’t. I can’t because you just can’t lose to Navy. That’s it. End of discussion. I can’t even consider hypotheticals wherein former legendary coaches of Notre Dame may or may not have been able to keep their jobs because of all their accomplishments being coupled with a loss or two (two!) to Navy. Because that never happened. Because it would be like prefacing a physics hypothetical with “pretend there’s no gravity or time.” You can’t lose to Navy! Twice! At home! On top of a 60% career win rate! A career win rate that’s identical to the one you’ve had the last season and 3 quarters! It’s times like these when the simplest explanation is the best. There’s no need for a great deal of analysis. No need to look at games within the games. No need to illustrate that Boston freaking College showed Navy how to slow down the ND offense so that it didn’t matter if Clausen threw for 800 yards, they still weren’t going to win.
There are just things you can’t do no matter the mitigating circumstances. You can’t steal your best friend’s wife. You can’t hit a road construction worker. You can’t be male and order a drink at Starbucks that includes any ingredients that must be hand-pumped into your cup without expecting to get razzed. You can’t cheer for Michigan and claim to value academics at all. You can’t trust a politician, and you can’t lose to Navy!