Monday, September 28, 2009

Charlie Weis survives another week

There's no way three straight down-to-the-wire finishes can be good for a 400-pound man's health. It's just not possible. But hey, as long as Notre Dame continues to employ him, Charlie Weis will take whatever wins he can get.

I wasn't sure exactly what ND's offense would like like minus Michael Floyd, but the struggles in the second and third quarters against Purdue pretty much affirmed that it won't be the same as what we saw in the first few games. Armando Allen's loss didn't help either, although Weis did a solid job of piecemealing together a running game with Jonas Gray, Dayne Crist and Golden Tate (who spent time at both tailback and wildcat QB).

The passing game, though, just wasn't the same. Tate had a whopping 57 receiving yards, and while Kyle Rudolph had a few big catches (including the game-saving touchdown on fourth-and-goal with 20 seconds left), there's no question now that Weis will have to make some adjustments against quality defenses like USC, Boston College, Pitt and Stanford for the Irish to have any chance at 10 wins.

Speaking of Rudolph's touchdown catch, watch his route on the final play (from the slot toward the top of the screen) ...

... and see if it looks familiar:

The funny thing is that he almost never had a chance to make that catch. When Purdue called timeout with 36 seconds left, ND was planning on spiking the ball (for some reason), which would have made the unsuccessful third-down play the fourth-down play.
"That kind of helped us out a little bit right there," Weis said. "We were going to clock it, so we made sure we had one play left. ... It didn't end up paying any dividends for us, because we didn't score on that third-down call. But we had an opportunity to gather our thoughts and get the right call for fourth down."
The obvious question: Why would you spike the ball with 36 seconds left? Even if takes 20 seconds to get a play in and get the ball snapped and then the play itself takes eight seconds, that still leaves eight more seconds on the clock. You only need one second left to run a play, of course, so I don't see any value in losing a play to save a few seconds in that situation.

Weis has never been known for his game-management skills, I suppose, but those are the little things that might make the difference if ND's offense takes a step back. It'll be interesting to see if Allen's return leads to more of a run-based offense or if Weis can figure out some other way to get the passing game clicking, because Floyd's loss was obviously huge.

Consider this: In the two and a half games before Floyd's broken collarbone, Clausen was 51-for-72 for 774 yards (10.75 yards per attempt) with eight touchdowns and no interceptions. In the game and a half since, he's gone 26-for-45 for 348 yards (7.73 yards per attempt) with two touchdowns and one interception.

In this case, numbers tell the story.

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