Monday, September 11, 2006

Post Mortem: Notre Dame 41, Penn State 17

Well, that was a pleasant surprise.

Not that Notre Dame's offense isn't capable of scoring 41 points. But even the most optimistic of (unbiased) prognosticators wouldn't have figured this would be the game for them to do it in.

Technically speaking the Irish hung only 34 on Penn State's young defensive unit, and surprisingly they did it by going straight at the stellar linebacking unit of the Nittany Lions. Rather than go deep early and often against an untested secondary, Brady Quinn was often looking for (rather than settling for) TE John Carlson across the middle as well as Darius Walker out of the backfield. Walker was bottled up in the running game with only 56 yards on 20 carries, but he compensated by being the top pass catcher with 7 grabs for 72 yards and a touchdown.

Brady Quinn's Heisman candidacy is alive and well: 25 of 36 for 297 and 3 TDs, and (what new?) absolutely zero mistakes. Quinn said after the game he'd like to have a few throws back, but overall the unit had a good day against a good (but overvalued) team.

Now the real question: where do the Irish go from here? Penn State was supposed to be the opponent that would drain them leading into the Michigan game; the starters were all gone by the end of the 3rd quarter. The defense held Penn State to 211 yards through the first 3 quarters before the second and third stringers allowed a pair of meaningless (though long) touchdown drives during garbage time. So did the Irish simply benefit from a bevy of early Nittany mistakes, or are they really that good?

Probably a mix of the two at this point. Coach Weis had a lot of compliments to dish out in the post-game presser, but by Sunday afternoon was back to his churlish self having glanced at the tape. He correctly pounced on the fact that the Irish left scoring opportunities out there during the first half, tallying only 6 points through the first 20 minutes, and the same bug that cut down drives against Georgia Tech - penalties - reared its ugly head on Saturday. There were definitely some slip-ups, but they didn't hurt the Irish due to sheer Nittany Lion ineptitude. The Wolverines are unlikely to be as forgiving.

Paterno has been coaching since before Weis was born, but
the "young gun" came out on top Saturday.

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