SI.com college football writer Stewart Mandel shares his commentary, analysis and random tidbits on the latest developments around the country.
9/24/2006 12:18:00 AM
Saturday Observations Part V: Closing Thoughts
Brady Quinn revived his Heisman chances with a five-touchdown performance.
I had already written two-thirds of my Notre Dame obit. I had written an all-out apology for allowing myself to be so foolishly duped by the Charlie Weis hype machine (complete with an elaborate Rob Schneider analogy). And I was going to point out the irony that Tyrone Willingham's new team, 3-1 Washington, now had a better record than the one that fired him.
But as I was writing all this, Brady Quinn led the Irish on a phenomenal 19-point fourth-quarter comeback to beat Michigan State 40-37. Quinn, whose Heisman hopes seemed dead in the water after last week's debacle against Michigan, may have reinserted himself into the race by throwing for 319 yards and five touchdowns. It was one of the more stirring comebacks in recent memory -- and such a cruelly typical collapse by the Spartans.
Kudos to Quinn and cornerback Terrail Lambert, one of the goats of the Michigan game, whose two interceptions in the final minutes won the game. But I'm not getting carried way this time. The expectation level for this team has been taken down several rungs the past two weeks. Clearly, the Irish are still a far ways from contending for a national championship. Their defense is full of holes. Their running game has disappeared almost entirely. And Michigan State's own mistakes (where have we heard that before) helped them tremendously.
But that doesn't change the fact that this was a huge win for Weis and his program. The Irish now have a chance to put together a nice little winning streak between now and the season-ending USC game. More importantly, Weis saved himself the indignity of a second straight blowout loss that would have done some serious damage to the 'ol credibility. While the "genius" label has certainly taken a blow, you also can't say this is the "same old Notre Dame," either. The old Notre Dame would have folded the tent in the third quarter.
• Not sure why USC went so vanilla with its offense against Arizona -- when was the last time a Trojans quarterback completed 24 passes that went for just 180 yards? The good news for USC is that it appears a go-to tailback has finally emerged from the pack. Freshman Emmanuel Moody exhibited some slick moves in running for 130 yards on 21 carries.
• Big win for N.C. State. Chuck Amato's decision to switch to freshman QB Daniel Evans paid off, as Evans threw a game-winning 34-yard touchdown pass with five seconds left to knock off Boston College 17-15. Now let's see if the Wolfpack (2-2) can string a few together.
• Looks like Oklahoma took out a week's worth of replay frustrations on poor Middle Tennessee, winning 59-0. QB Paul Thompson's ascension continues -- 13-of-18 for 257 yards and three TDs.
• Your eyebrow-raising score of the week: Nebraska 56, Troy 0. This is the same Troy team that took Florida State to the wire and was tied with Georgia Tech after three quarters last week. The Huskers gained 597 yards of offense, which raises the question yet again: Why did Bill Callahan put the shackles on his offense against USC?
• Finally, talk about the ultimate indignity: Not only was it pointed out to me that my "Upset Special" pick this week, Ole Miss, was actually a three-point favorite against Wake Forest, but the Demon Deacons beat the Rebels 27-3. Heads up, fellow pollsters: Wake Forest is 4-0.
After watching this game I came away more convinced than ever that ND was overrated. The Spartans are the Detroit Lions of college football. They usually suck but even if they start playing well, you know it won't last and the inevitable collapse is coming. Last year against Michigan they blew a 17 point 4th quarter lead. But now the Irish can pad their win column during the easy part of their schedule and by the time they play USC they will be overhyped and overrated again.
It was incredible! I still cannot believe how someone can say that OSU played an excellent game when they were kept on tabs by PSU until the defensive team got two excellent interceptions. When it comes to ND, every comment leads to the conclusion that WSU simply let the game go away. Second half ND defensive team did an excellent job stopping completely WSU production (running or passing) and provoking mistakes which were nicely taken advantage of. Is it not that what football is all about? Why not every commentator simply accepts that ND team did excellent adjustments and simply overplayed and defeated WSU on the second half?
What an amazing comeback by the Irish! I understand it's got to be hard to evaluate this team. Are they the ones that flopped horribly against Michigan and through the first 50 minutes at East Lansing, or are they the team that whomped Penn State and made the miraculous comeback against the Spartans in the pouring rain?
We have another eight games to find out, but the Irish right now look to be pretty good (again.)
I don't think anybody expected Nebraska to do THAT well against Troy this week... not even those of us living in the state. I don't know why Bill Callahan didn't open up the playbook more against USC, but I still can't help but wonder if it was a preventative measure. Since 2004, he lost:
70-10 to Texas Tech 45-21 to Kansas State 41-24 to Missouri 40-15 to Kansas
All of a sudden only losing by 18 points to USC doesn't look that bad - but more importantly, as long as Nebraska keeps beating other people by 50 points, it keeps the kids from getting down on themselves and keeps the fans from being down on him. I'll take an 18 point loss from a closed playbook over what potentially could have been a 40-50 point loss resulting from higher-risk plays not paying off against a Trojan defense that is obviously much better than they were last year.
If things continue to progress as they have since 2004 this team is going to be absolutely scary in another year or so.
The media jumps at any chance to sing the praises of the Fighting Irish. This was MSU snatching defeat from the jaws of victory, nothing more. I'm hearing about championship game aspirations? Well, throw LSU and Tennessee in that mix, becuase they both lost last week and by much more respectable margins. College football fans by and large like to see Notre Dame get beat. It's too bad, because it would make these sportscasters and journalists earn their paychecks if they could be more creative and come up with some better material than popping off about Notre Dame every chance they get.
Why do people only notice the "State made mistakes to lose the game" and not "it was ND mistakes that got them behind to begin with"?!!! How the crap do you think State got up by so much. Try all the points off of turnovers. If you look at turnover margin, equal. So State mistakes don't count as any more than Irish ones. If they made mistakes at the end, all they did was even out the ones we made at the beginning.
Stewart,glad you wisened up and did not jump on the irish bandwagon! The fourth quarter debacle only shows the spartans are slackers, just like last year when they ALMOST blew away that big advantage. Charlie Weis ,forget the "genius tag",only barely managed to save his face.
I knew when I read the summaries, it would be about how the Irish staged a glorious comeback and how Brady Quinn Restored himself to being the golden boy. What happened was that MSU choked more than ND won. Why was Drew Stanton throwing over the middle with 2 minutes and change left on 3rd and 3? With the new clock rules, you run there and if you make it, the games virtually over. If you don't, you punt and the clock starts running as soon as they set the ball. ND would have had to go all the way for a td with somewhere around a minute and a half or less.
My Saturday Observations - I'm an Oklahoma Sooner that is now stationed in Tucson, AZ and I just returned from the USC/AZ game. Let me just say that Mike Stoops has brought the excitement of college football to Tucson. It reminds me much of the rise of the OU program with his brother Bob taking over (minus the winning and national title of course). People in this town no longer think basketball is the only sport around. They even have t-shirts that say "Stoops instead of Hoops". I chatted with some very nice USC fans and they commented on how electrifying the atmosphere was. Mike deserves alot of credit for his coaching and sometime in the near future, when the players that he recruited have matured, that will be evident in his win/loss record.
The fact remains that Michigan State came out explosive on offense, while forcing Notre Dame to punt almost every possession of the first quarter, and many throughout the half. Why John L. didn't stick to Jehuu Caulcrick is a mystery to me. The kid weighs 260 pounds and had over 100 yards rushing on less than 10 carries!! How can you not keep giving that kid the rock? He ran over Chimedum Ndukwe and Tom Zbikowski, on his way to long runs. He would have continued this throughout the second half had they decided to leave him in instead of going with the smaller back Javon Ringer. Had they stuck with Caulcrick, nothing else would have mattered, because they would run out the clock and he would have ended with over 200 yards and 3 touchdowns. GIVE IT TO HIM!!! After Stanton's stupid mistakes in the second half, including having 0 completions until there were less than 3 minutes left in the game, I would think something would click for the offensive coordinator and he'd think, "Maybe we should go back to the running game that has DOMINATED the game!" MSU lost this game, ND did NOT win it.
You got it roght about Wake Forest. Granted they haven't played the toughtest shedule so far, but being 4-0 with Liberty coming into town next week they have a solid chance of going bowlin'. Away games against NC State, UNC and Maryland along with WFU's annual upset of a team such as BC or Clemson leave them with a very good chance of a little post season action. Granted, it's out of the spotlight, but how about a little love for the underdog!!!!
Unfortunately it will be another ND love in by the media. God only knows how many ND fans had to be talked off a roof last week and 3 qtrs of this week. I did find it funny the media pumps up ND and they blow it straight out their butts. (Note to media...Quit it. Make ND the team they are-normal- and not what people want them to be, The glory days are gone) I don't think ND won because they were better, I think they won because MSU lost focus or wilted under pressure. But Hey, SC won and UCLA lost and that is what really counts. Joe from MN
ND was and still is overated. They get slaughtered by a ranked Michigan team at HOME then barely win against an unranked Michigan St., nice comeback though. They should fall a few spots in the rankings but they won't! ND have they're patsies all in a row now except for USC. Keep the faith as the pollsters, commentators and BCS bowl committee's can't wait to put them in the BCS where they wil get exposed and most likely humiliated.
Is it a comeback when the opposition loses 45 yards to penalties, fumbles, can't complete a pass and basically hands the ball off to your defense? I'm stunned by the nonsense that this was a 'great' win. Notre Dame was handed the game by a State team collapesed.
How Lou Holtz can be on television saying Notre Dame will be playing for the national championship is ludicrous. - And I'm traditionally a ND fan. No Spartan sour grapes here.
Stewart, you pointed it out yourself this was a comeback win (but forgot this part) AGAINST AN UNRANKED MSU TEAM. They should have won that game. The fact that they barely did should be the big story. But of course this is ND and if ND beats Sisters of the Blind U. then it's front page material. Their hype actually works against them, b/c when it comes time to play real teams (i.e bowl season - when they (rarely, in modern times) make it that far) reality comes knocking in the form of blowout loss for the old Golden Domers.
Wake Forest may be 4-0 but they haven't beaten any really good teams. Sure, you play who is on your schedule, but it's not like they had a tough time against the likes of Ole Miss, UConn, Syracuse, and Duke. If Wake can beat Clemson and NC State the first two weeks of October, then they deserve to be in the polls. Next weekend they face Liberty so the Deacons should be 5-0. Perhaps they could crack the poll then but don't be surprised if they are the only undefeated team not ranked.
Notre Dame did not win the game. Michigan State didn't lose because of turnovers. Michigan State lost the game becuase John L. Smith because he consulted Jim Mora (the daddy) for his 4th quarter game plan. How can a team that scores 37 points in 3 quarters just try to run out the clock in the 4th. He had Drew Stanton dancing around out there, afraid to make an important play because Smith didn't want him to make a turnover (which actually caused him to press and make them). And who in the hell tells his players to kneel at the 12 on a kickoff return with 5 minutes left in the game?
Callahan should apologize to his team for not having the confidence that they could play "their" game against USC and compete. Worse yet his refusal give a better answer than "we wanted to run the ball" is an insult to Nebraska fans as if we don't know anything about Football. Any and everyone saw a coach trying not to get blown out.
Anyone who thinks ND "won" the game against MSU should look at the MSU second half play list. Stanton threw exactly three passes the first 23 minutes of the second half - THREE! He only threw more at the end because he had no choice. MSU was essentially trying to run out the clock from the second half kickoff and absolutely trying to run out the clock from the 9 minute mark on. Okay, ND deserves some credit, but remember the lesson about "playing to win" vs. "playing not to lose". ND was playing to win; MSU was playing not to lose. The Spartans got what was coming to them.
the irish dug themselves into a huge hole in the first half. my friends and i figured it was over. what you saw there was not a spartan collapse. it was a brady quinn miracle. he did revive his heisman chances with that huge night (319 and 5 lets see troy smith do that). the defense made plays when it needed too (though it was horrible in the firfst 3 quarters). if Notre Dame can play like they did in the fourth quarter, which as of now is uncertain, they will be in a big bcs bowl and possibly, but highly unlikely, the natl. champ. game.
John L and the offensive coaching staff owe their team an apology. With about 2 minutes to go in the game MSU had attempted 5 passes in the second half...5!! Think they got a little conservative? More times than not when you play not to lose...you lose. ND struggled again with an unranked opponent (see also Ga Tech). They should be ranked somewhere between 19 & 25. Anything above that is media hype.
Could you just exclude wins against I-AA teams from teams' records? No one gives UNC any less of a hard time for barely beating Furman, so why should N.C. State be depicted as a .500 team because they scraped by Appalachain State? Also, Dan Evans was 15 of 31 for 179 yards. Tank Tyler is the one who most deserves credit for their win.
1. I think the OSU/PSU and UM/UW games prove that you need to bring your best game EVERY WEEK in the Big Ten. I'm not going to get into the debate about which conference is the best, but I do personally feel that in the Big Ten, unlike some other conferences, almost any team can win on any given day.
2. ND does not excite me. Charlie Weis still has no defense to speak of, and Brady Quinn, the media's Heisman darling, appears lost as much as he appears to be the best QB in college football. ND doesn't even play in a New Year's Bowl this year, and all of a sudden, alumni are questioning Charlie's huge extension as a repeat of Ty Willingham.
3. He may have been a lousy NFL coach, but Bill Callahan is quietly reloading one of the former glory programs. He had the guts to scrap the option, and it appears that his modified West Coast is catching on in Lincoln. With Oklahoma's struggles, and Texas without a QB, the Big 12 might get a lot more interesting next year.
Before anyone gets too excited about Notre Dame "looking pretty good," let me remind you that in their last two games, they've given up 84 points. MSU only managed to put up 27 against Idaho and gave up 20 to Eastern Michigan (worst team in the country). Let me also remind you that my Spartans, as was aptly stated, are adept at "snatching defeat out of the jaws of victory."
Looking forward to seeing ND get blown out in another undeserved BCS game.
Sorry - but, ND will beat USC this year. I don't think ND is National Championship material but - damn, we're good. And, yeah, I have said the same thing that the Spartan fans are saying now when ND loses, DUH, THE OTHER TEAM DIDN'T BEAT US - WE JUST CHOKED. Whatever guys - face the facts ND WON!!!! Deal with it. Oh yeah - some of the garbage that is on this message board - if ND didn't win this game because MSU GAVE it to them - does that mean that we (ND) actually WON last year -because ND was the team that choked???? Get real MSU fans - we ND won. Of course, we have too much class to PLANT A FLAG on your field. What moron does that???? Only teams other than ND-------!
I wouldn't give Weis or ND any credit for the outcome of last night's game. THey got manhandled and outcoached in the 1st half. Then MSU went into conservative mode and handed the game to ND. The only reason ND had a chance to win was due to those 4th quarter turnovers.
Wake may not have played anybody but how about if your favorite team loses its starter for the year in the first game, your leading rusher in the third game, and now start a redshirt freshman!?! Give them some love and they better be in the polls if they beat Clemson in 2 weeks