September 16, 2007


The Fighting Irish have to come up with an explanation of a nightmare start to the 2007 season. Last year Notre Dame got exposed as an overrated football team, but this year they look like they belong in Division I-AA, as they have gone winless in three starts -- and outscored by 89 points. Winless Michigan threw off the schneid in Ann Arbor, pounding the Irish 38-zip:

The Wolverines humbled the Fighting Irish, 38-0, today in an unprecedented matchup of major college football's winningest programs -- without a win or ranking between them.

Mike Hart ran for 187 yards on 35 carries and scored two touchdowns to back up his guarantee of a victory, and freshman Ryan Mallett threw for three scores in a game that seemed over soon after it began.

"I like being in the spotlight. For the wrong reasons? No," Hart said. "Hopefully, we'll be in the spotlight for right reasons now."

Michigan (1-2) avoided its first 0-3 start in seven decades, and handed the Irish their worst loss since beating them by the same score four years ago.

Notre Dame (0-3) is winless after three games for just the second time in school history, putting coach Charlie Weis in unwanted company with Bob Davie. The Irish have lost five straight for the first time since the 1985-86 seasons, Gerry Faust's last year and Lou Holtz's first.

Family obligations kept me from watching the game today. In fact, my aunt -- the one who gave up her seat at last year's USC game -- had to be the one to gleefully tell me that the Irish had tanked yet again. I'm grateful for (very) small favors.

This puts Charlie Weis on the hot seat. Irish fans expected this to be a rebuilding year after the departure of Brady Quinn and other key seniors, but no one expected this kind of collapse. The Irish still have not scored an offensive touchdown this season, and don't appear to be coming close to it. Irish QBs got sacked seven times and the Notre Dame offense wound up with a cringe-worthy -7 yards rushing for the game. The defense hasn't stopped anyone all season. The team has failed in all areas.

Weis says he will go back to training-camp mode, but if he can't turn this around quickly, the ghost of Ty Willingham will start haunting the campus. Willingham got the boot three years into a five-year contract for turning in a sub-par season. Weis now has had two full years to recruit and develop talent for the Irish, and so far it looks like Weis can't even measure up to Ty. The firing of Willingham caused a huge outcry -- and if the Irish keep Weis after a worse start than anything seen under Ty, be prepared for even more outrage over double standards at college football's most storied program.

And guess who's coming to eat Notre Dame's lunch next week? Michigan State -- undefeated Michigan State, who always play tough against the Irish. It makes little difference who the Irish play as long as they fumble the ball five times in a half and go backward more than forward, as Weis pointed out today. It hardly merits much concern when the team appears uncompetitive and unpoised. That starts with the coaches, and Weis will have some big explaining to do if he can't get a win before the military academies start showing up on the schedule.

UPDATE: I had Willingham's name in one spot where it should have been Weis. Also, as one commenter has already pointed out, the backup QB has suddenly registered for classes at Northern Illinois after skipping this game in Ann Arbor. The Domers have big problems right now, and I don't think they'll get much better against the Spartans next Saturday.

Still, hope springs eternal. I'm wearing my Fighting Irish t-shirt today out of solidarity ... and out of necessity, as it's my last clean shirt on my SoCal trip before I do laundry today.


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Comments (14)

Posted by Micah | September 16, 2007 5:33 AM

As a Browns fan, I welcome you to the world of tough losses, tough stretches, and tough seasons.
Also, as a Browns fan, this suggests that Brady Quinn is NOT overrated, and perhaps can be the leader the Browns[Clowns] have needed since the Kosar era.
I certainly hope so. I also hope the coach doesn't put him in unless the o-line shows SOME evidence it can block and pick up blitzes. Go Browns!

Posted by arch | September 16, 2007 6:51 AM

Hard for me to feel sorry for the Irish. In my plebe year (1962-1963) Navy played Notre Dame in Philadelphia. The brigade went up via greyhound bus in a freezing rain.

The field was a mudhole, but Roger Staubach had the game won (7-6) late in the 4th quarter. With time running out, the defense stopped Darryl Lamonica just beyond field goal range. Lamonica went for it on 4th down. On his way to the turf he let fly. It hit his tight end, who was laying on his back, in the stomach. First down, field goal, we lost 7-9. I was okay with that. The team played really well.

The busses weren't scheduled to depart until 10 PM, so all of us just wandered around town in uniform. Hanging from every window in the city was a drunken ND fan, most of whom had never seen the inside of any college classroom. To this day, I'm for anyone who is playing the Irish (except Army, of course).

Posted by Belvedere Jones | September 16, 2007 7:35 AM

>Willingham got the boot three years into a five-year contract for turning in a sub-par season.

Willingham got the boot because Urban Meyer was available and ND saw him for what he is -- the real deal. Weis is the result of a scramble after Meyer said 'no thanks'.

Yes, this season is ugly for ND. And yes, people will show outrage at the 'double standard'. But that will be a bit like skimming the surface.

Posted by Glenn | September 16, 2007 7:37 AM

The firing of Willingham caused a huge outcry -- and if the Irish keep Willingham after a worse start than anything seen under Ty, be prepared for even more outrage over double standards at college football's most storied program.

Minor 'typo' - I think you mean 'Weis' for the second 'Willingham' above.

I don't have a dog in this fight; I'm originally from Pittsburgh, and a transplanted Buckeye who can't even bring himself to care about OSU-vs-Michigan.

Posted by Ross | September 16, 2007 8:02 AM

It gets a bit worse for Weiss, Captain. Seems Demetrius Jones the QB that started the first game and this games back-up failed to make the team bus. What looks like a minor discipinary problem and minor embarassment turns bizarre. Mr Jones has deceided to transfer to Northern Illinois and has registered for classes there. Charlie found out about it late the day before.
If I were a Domer this would have me as concerned for the Weiss era as the team's current form.

Posted by Margaret | September 16, 2007 8:21 AM

I checked the boxscores and that was 8 sacks not 7 against ND and all against Clausen. Sorry, don't mean to rub it in, just fact checking my own post after I read your account of 7.

Posted by feeblemind | September 16, 2007 8:59 AM

My hat is off to you Cap'n for having the fortitude to post on the Irish. It is easy and fun to post when they are doing well. Not so, I am sure, this season.

Posted by Bob Buckles | September 16, 2007 12:12 PM

#1. You left Southern California.
#2. You want Notre Dame to win.
#3. You wanted USC to lose last year.

Life is wonderful. Go PAC 10!

Notre Dame is doing it's best to hurt USC's chances of a national championship. ND will be so bad that just playing them will lower USC's BCS ratings.

Posted by Davecatbone | September 16, 2007 5:48 PM

I love Michigan, but their victory was no more significant than Oregon beating Fresno State. Go Boise State.

Posted by LenS | September 16, 2007 8:45 PM

It's tough for Weiss. He doesn't have that elaborate New England spy system (bugs, cameras, microphones, etc.) to help him "outsmart" the other team anymore.

Posted by richard mcenroe | September 16, 2007 10:39 PM

LenS -- Breaking news: Bill Bellichick secret Hillary Fundraiser!

BTW, do the words Bronze Beta mean anything to you?

Posted by Frank Black | September 17, 2007 11:26 AM

As a Washington Husky season ticket holder, I'm a bit reluctant to complain, since we ended up with a good coach. But I have no sympathy for ND. I don't really have anything against Weis or the players, but I won't mind of they go 0-12. Well, 1-11; I hope they beat USC no matter what.

ND has yet to realize that they are not a premier program anymore. Their academic standards and location make it difficult to compete against the southern and southern California schools.

Posted by Mike Devx | September 18, 2007 7:41 AM

This Michigan State alum will be cheering for the Spartans this weekend! The Spartans are a good team - not even Top 25 caliber - and will provide a good test for the Fighting Irish. You will learn a LOT about the Fighting Irish this weekend.

If they get stomped by the Spartans, it's going to be a very long year for you Notre Dame fans. If it's close and competitive, no matter who wins, then Notre Dame will have a decent rebuilding process underway.

Michigan is a VERY good team, except against fast athletes in the spread offense. Notre Dame certainly took them too lightly.

Posted by MattJ | September 18, 2007 4:54 PM

Part of why Willingham got fired was a perceived failure in recruiting. correct? This teams 3rd 4th and 5th year players were recruited under the previous coach, so if the current problem is lack of talent as so many announcers say, he has to bear some of the blame.

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