We won’t blame young Jimmy Clausen for the lack of offense demonstrated by Notre Dame in its 31-10 defeat at the hands of the #14 Nittany Lions. In the words of the poets, one quarterback and one tight end do not an offense make. That the Fighting Irish offense lacks steam does not detract from the fine defensive performance by Dan Connor and company. The PSU defense demonstrated complete mastery of their trade.
So, lessons learned? Until the running game got on track in the third quarter, the Nittany Lion offense was rather anemic. Morelli threw an early interception, which was returned for a Notre Dame touchdown. The rest of his passing in the first half was less than effective, and this was against a rather crappy Irish defense. Morelli finished up 12-22 for 131 yards with one touchdown and one interception. The passing game just didn’t show up. On the ground, Austin Scott, though frustrated in the first half, wound up with 28 carries for 112 yards and two touchdowns—great stats, for a change!
The featured pugilistic event of the first half by the so-called Fighting Irish was the attempted playground ass-kicking of Jerome Hayes on punt coverage. Two Irish goons tried to hold Hayes down and stomp him, receiving only a fifteen-yard personal foul penalty.
We finally saw some of the old magic from Derrick Williams, as he returned a first quarter punt 78 yards for a touchdown. An A.J. Wallace block was instrumental in springing Williams.
So, I was wrong on a couple of counts. I was wrong to think that the Lions could not cover the spread of 17.5 points. Las Vegas had this one right, including the 44.5 point over/under. I was wrong to think that the Irish were better than they proved to be. And now, I might have to join the rest of you in wondering if our team will ever be tested this year.
Meanwhile in the Big Ten…
Michigan went down in flames for the second week in a row. This time, it was a worthy [formerly known as] Division I opponent, Oregon. While both Michigan and Oregon were unranked going into this game, Oregon was clearly the better team. Once again, the Michigan defense could not cope with a fast and tricky quarterback, as they were buried 39-7.
Ohio State’s offense did not show up for their 20-2 victory over upstate “rival” Akron, who themselves showed significant defensive spunk. An early safety plus three turnovers kept the #12 Buckeyes at bay in the first half, which ended with a baseball score of 3-2. Tressel changed quarterbacks in the third quarter as Boeckman had seemed pretty ineffectual. While the Buckeyes’ offense was anemic, the defense appeared pretty fearsome. We’ve got to keep an eye on those dudes. Good thing the defense showed up, because had this game finished a little closer, the Buckeye fans, who have been gloating over Appalachian State’s opening game defeat of Michigan, might have had some serious egg on their nutball faces.
The guys who I thought might be this year’s toughest opponents, the #5 Badgers, had a close call in Sin City. Wisconsin trailed UNLV 13-12 midway through the fourth quarter before scoring the winning touchdown.
Meanwhile, Iowa was running all over Syracuse, beating the Orangemen, 35-0. I’m going to have to take a closer look at the Hawkeyes now. I have a great deal of respect for their defense, and I think they’ll be one of our toughest opponents this year.
So, what’s going on in the Big Ten? The conference schedule hasn’t yet started and the whole thing is topsy-turvy. Hell, Michigan at 0-2 now could still win the Big Ten title. Others in title contention at the moment appear to be all the Big Ten teams listed above: Ohio State, Wisconsin, Iowa, and Penn State. However, one must ask the same old tired question at this point as has been asked in other years and, indeed, was on everybody’s mind after the Big Ten’s rather unsuccessful bowl season last year: Does the Big Ten suck?
And this weekend’s patsy…
We’re back to the pussy schedule this weekend as the mighty Buffalo Bulls (1-1, 1-0 Mid American) come to face the #12 Nittany Lions (2-0, 0-0 Big Ten). You’ll recall that on our schedule this year were the bottom three teams in the Division Formerly Known As Division I-A (Buffalo, FIU, and Temple). Well last Saturday, in the Battle of Mid-American Conference Titans, Buffalo crushed conference rival Temple by the score of 42-7, ringing up 414 yards in a balanced attack. The formidable Bulls’ defense held the Owls to -36 yards on the ground. Why am I writing about this abomination? All we have to do is show up and the game is won. Well, maybe I shouldn’t be so confident, given what is happening in the Big Ten this year!
Aww, well, hell…I’ll look for an angle to write about later in the week. I’ll watch Paterno’s press conference tomorrow to get some bon mots from old Joe. He’ll be telling us all that this is a worthy opponent, a bunch of young whippersnappers who are coming to Beaver Stadium to win, etc., etc., etc. You know, the same stuff he spewed before FIU.
[In the original version of this article, I screwed up the names of Jerome Hayes and Derrick Williams. Many thanks to reader T.C. for the corrections! —TNT]