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670 the Score Radio Interview Audio and Reflections

By · October 19th, 2009 · 0 Comments · 3,202 views
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670 the Score Radio Interview Audio and Reflections

After Saturday’s loss to USC, Clashmore Mike staff writer Anthony Pilcher conducted an interview with Chicago’s 670 The Score (670am). The audio of the interview itself can be found at the bottom of this article.

What follows are some further responses and elaboration on topics from the interview itself.

On The “Must Win” Game For Charlie Weis…

One game does not define a coach.

For some the USC loss may be the proverbial “nail in the coffin” for Weis, but that is only because of what has come before it. There has been plenty of good and bad during Weis’ time in South Bend, and—save a colossal second-half meltdown—Notre Dame director Jack Swarbrick should evaluate Weis’ entire body of work.

That includes the bad: his dubious 9-21 record against winning teams and 1-11 record against teams in the AP Top 25 as well as allowing opponents to score 28 or more points in more than 40 percent of the games he has coached.

But it also includes the good: Weis’ recruiting prowess and the significant talent upgrade over the past four years, implementing a modern, professional-style offense, and his level of effort and commitment to Notre Dame and the Irish players. If there is one thing that separates Weis from his immediate predecessors, it is a work ethic that is beyond commendable.

Moreover, the Irish have played emotional, determined football over the better part of the last six games. Some of this is due to (finally) having talented upperclassmen leadership. But some of it is undoubtedly due to Weis’ all-in style of coaching, and the players have rallied around him because he plays to win. The natural by-product is a determined effort, and the greatest compliment a coach can receive is that his team plays with heart.

Weis’ fate will be determined at the end of the season. The only pertinent question at that point is, “Can he consistently compete for BCS game appearances and national titles?” A close loss, even to a hated rival, is not enough to tilt the scales one way or the other.

On Jimmy Clausen And His Heisman Chances…

It is highly unlikely Clausen will win the Heisman Trophy. It won’t be because he isn’t deserving, it will be because it is no longer given to the best player in college football.

That isn’t to say that Clausen is the best player in the country, but the Heisman Trophy is awarded to the best player on one of the top five or 10 teams in college football. The Irish are a far cry from the latter, and in all likelihood will not register that coveted “signature win.”

Notre Dame’s poor defense will force Clausen and company into shootouts which should elevate his production, but the bottom line is that this team will not beat a good opponent unless they improve dramatically on the defensive side of the ball.

Clausen is an exceptional passing quarterback, perhaps the best in the country, but he’s only as good as his supporting cast and if the front five are unable to provide protection (14 sacks or one per 10.4 pass attempts over the past four games), he won’t be able to consistently operate at a high level.

His performance against USC was as good as could be expected given the hand he was dealt. Sacked five times and hurried countless others, he threw for 260 yards and two touchdowns while completing 63.2 percent of his passes (removing five balls he threw away to avoid a sack). Considering the Trojan defense surrendered zero touchdown passes and only 173.8 yards per game through the air entering the game, Clausen played very well.

His poise and leadership have progressed rapidly this season, and Irish fans should feel proud to have such a fiery, competitive signal caller. He has brought the Irish back from deficits on several occasions, many while partially-crippled with an injury.

Ultimately he came up short in the waning moments of this game. He had his opportunities, but three failed pass attempts to force overtime or win the game all fell incomplete. In a race where perception and momentum is all that matters, that will be all that is remembered by the Heisman voters.

On The Unmentioned…

The silent hero of Saturday’s contest was Robby Parris.

The injury to Michael Floyd left a hole in the Irish receiving corps. Through the remainder of the contest with Michigan State, and the Purdue and Washington games, the production of Golden Tate largely offset the loss of Floyd. Still, it was inevitable that a third receiving option would be needed to complement Tate and tight end Kyle Rudolph.

Parris has emerged as that third option. With several clutch plays down the stretch in the Washington game and many more—including a 13-yard reception on fourth and ten to preserve the final drive—against USC, Parris has proved equal to the task. Hopefully his injury isn’t serious and he can continue to be a weapon in the Irish passing game.

In some ways the Irish did what they needed to win this game. In other ways, they did not.

Notre Dame executed a fake field goal to perfection in one of the best calls of Weis’ tenure. They also won the turnover battle, as the defense forced an interception at a moment when it was desperately needed.

But the Irish couldn’t block four defensive linemen with five on offense and the defense consistently surrendered big plays (eight passes of more than 20 yards), particularly on third and short. Going into the game both were desperately needed and neither were delivered.

There was a lot of luck (four fumbles, none lost, as well as five first downs from Trojan penalties) involved to keep the game close, but the Irish made the most of every opportunity. Playing hard has a way of doing that, and Weis deserves credit for having his team ready to go toe-to-toe with a very good opponent.

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