BY SHANNON O’KEEFE
NOTRE DAME INSIDER
To say that Notre Dame’s 2007 squad has left me speechless wouldn’t quite cover it. Start reaching for your thesaurus. Dumbfounded. Aghast. Bewildered. Keep ‘em coming.
The Irish are 1-9 with two games left in what is – officially – the worst season in the history of Notre Dame football. We all knew it would be bad. Pre-season talks of an 0-8 start were all over the airwaves and the internet. But this bad? Nearly impossible to imagine, let alone predict.
The team is talented, but young and obviously inexperienced. Experience comes from practice and playing, and the freshman and sophomores are getting plenty of time and taking an awful lot of hits. But what, if anything, are they learning? There doesn’t seem to be any forward progress. If Charlie Weis really is an X’s and O’s guy, then this game of tic-tac-toe should be a bit more fun to watch. Instead, the team continues to fall apart week in and week out, and continues to disappoint and offend fans and journalists alike.
The problems aren’t new. The team lacks physicality. The offensive line continues to create the same holes they’re supposed to close. Running backs rarely gain positive yardage. First downs elicit gasps and cheers. Receivers aren’t tall enough, fast enough, or in the case of Duval Kamara, who could have contributed to the offense in last week’s loss to Air Force, disciplined enough to get their schoolwork in order. Even the defense, which has occasionally looked promising, routinely miss their coverages.
More than anything, the team lacks leadership. Brady Quinn led the team through the last two seasons, and the general expectation was that Jimmy Clausen, oh-so confident in that now infamous press conference, would pick up the mantle. If not Clausen, a true freshman, there were fifth-year starters to look to – John Sullivan, John Carlson, Travis Thomas. None of these men have stepped into that role. If anything, they’ve muddied the waters of what it takes to be a captain with their sometimes sloppy play and regular penalty accrual. Trevor Laws, with his tireless play during the most desperate of seasons, has been the only player to exhibit true and consistent leadership to this young and troubled team. While an offensive leader could make all the difference, the great quarterback shuffle continues. Coach Weis may accept blame in the press conference following each game and every loss, but that’s not enough given that the team keeps losing. If only he’d spend more time in practice than he does behind the podium.
Heading into this week’s game against Duke – a game that fans scoffed at prior to the season as an easy and almost pointless win – many fans are too disgruntled to even watch their beloved Irish try to climb to 2-9 against the 1-9 Blue Devils. After all, when it’s this bad, without any indication that it’s going to get better, what’s the point? Following losses to Navy and Air Force, teams that neither attract nor demand the same talent pool as Notre Dame, fans are resigned to whatever fate Coach Weis cooks up next. Duke put up 24 points against Georgia Tech last week – a team that immobilized the Irish in the season opener. If you’re counting, that’s 21 more points than the Irish put up against the same opponent. So who will win the battle of the one-win teams? At this point, it’s anybody’s guess. Loyalty dictates that this reporter takes the Irish, but only by six, and with a very heavy heart.