Saturday, November 29, 2008

Tradition and Football

I hope everyone's Thanksgiving has gone/is going well. I also hope that tonight's USC game doesn't make anyone lose their Turkey, but I am expecting the worst defeat in school history.

This break I went to Nebraska with my roommate and we attended the Nebraska-Colorado game. A huge rivalry game at a major, tradition-filled school which ended up going down to a 57-yard, school-record field goal and interception-return by a D-End. Exciting? Yes. But also thought-provoking as Notre Dame's own program has gone from BCS-bound my freshman year to the worst-two year stretch in history.

Notre Dame still has tradition. Yes, I enjoyed watching replays on Memorial Stadium's massive video screen, but the constant advertising is distracting. The game and energy surrounding it was something I haven't experienced in a long time.

This energy was the primary difference I felt between Nebraska Husker football and the second-most winningest program in college football history. At Memorial Stadium, the entire bowl and crowd is deeply engaged, its the highlight of the week to attend and cheer on the Huskers (a program which, like our own, has suffered in the new century after great success previously). Whereas, our student section has been policed by overzealous officer hoping to get their jollies off from arresting college kids for drinking before a depressing football game. The entire environment in Nebraska is one of solidarity and support for a team that everyone hopes can win. I have been to too many games lately, where we merely hope for a decent showing. Nebraska was and is a truly welcoming place to fans without the overriding presence of police and ushers in the student section and bowl area. This constraint has certainly dampened the enthusiasm of my own student seating area and I'm sure others as well.

This lack of energy at Notre Dame Stadium appears to translate to the field and between the coach and players. Now, I am not bashing our players and coach, but compare these two anecdotes:

After the Syracuse game (Senior Day), Weis said he felt sorry for the seniors and in post-game interviews, one player said that "They just wanted it more."

After the Colorado Game, Husker Coach Bo Pelini said that he talked to his kicker who swore he was ready to make the 57-yarder that would put the Big Red ahead. Pelini said that the entire time the kick was in the air, he was wondering if he had made the right decision or if he had let everyone down. This coming from a man that apologized to the entire state following a loss to Missouri, why can't Weis apologize following a loss to Syracuse? Missouri is top-15 and winner of the division. Syracuse? Bottom-15 and winner of three games, one against us. The defensive end who returned the interception for a touchdown, sealing the win, said "We just wanted it more. We weren't going to lose. Even when we were down 14 points in the first, we didn't panic."

What Charlie has done is recruit and recruit well. What he hasn't done is energized me as a fan the past two years or apparently a group of the most-talented players in the nation (three Top-5 classes in a row). If our team falls beyond 14, we crumble. We are team that can't hold a lead against Syracuse. That is energy, that is the coach's fault.

Change is needed both on the field and off the field.


Andrew said...

I agree about the lack of energy, with the exception of the band. I was at the USC game and felt like our band played with more heart than our football players. That's a problem. But the band was awesome. They deserve some props.

One thing though. I don't know if 'change is needed on the field' suggests that we should fire Charlie, but if it does I would disagree.

Of course he has recruited well, but they are all still young. I can see someone else coming in, winning with Charlie's players, and then having the same problem in a few years. I think we need to give him a chance with his kids.

Kevin Donohue said...

A loss at home for the senior game against a team ranked near the bottom in every stat category when you have the level of talent we have comes down to one thing: coaching.

Our team was uninspired, poorly coached and prepared, looking ahead to USC, and generally awful. This has been a re-occurring theme throughout the past several years and either change needs to be made in the way he coaches and develops players or in who coaches and develops players. Charlie has yet to take someone he recruited and turn them into a star.