Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Previewing the Rainbow Warriors

Nick Shepkowski, Domer Sports Report
Edited by Mark Allen

Notre Dame Football
Game Preview

Notre Dame enters the Hawaii Bowl desperate for their first bowl win since New Years Day 1994 when I was still seven years old (I am now 22, nearing 23 next month). Since then the Irish have been losers in games of both the close call and blow out variety. What needs to happen to prevent the Irish from finishing with their second straight losing season?

Both offenses bring a very average brand of football to the game. Hawaii and Notre Dame rank 74th and 75th nationally in total offense as they both put up 344.8 yards per contest. Hawaii does however average two or so more points a contest than do the Fighting Irish.

As most remember from Hawaii's Sugar Bowl team a year ago, they like to throw the ball around the field. Although Colt Brennan has moved on to clipboard holding responsibilities with the Washington Redskins, Junior Greg Alexander does the quarterbacking for the Warriors. He has completed 131 passes for 1634 yards and twelve scores during the regular season. He is also a guy who knows how bad turnovers can hurt as he rarely risks throwing a pick, doing so only four times this season.

The favorite targets of Alexander are wideouts
Greg Salas (50-755-3 tds) and Michael Washington (56-693-5 tds). Also seeing multiple passes thrown in their directions will be Malcom Lane and Aaron Bain. What scares me about Hawaii is the offense they run as it matches up against the Fighting Irish defense. Notre Dame has a defense that is designed to go after the quarterback; Hawaii has an offense who tries to simply pass their way downfield by dinking and dunking, taking whatever the defense is willing to give them. Not only do the Irish need pressure, but they need to walk away with a multiple sacks against Hawaii. This offense is designed to beat teams who are able to bring pressure, so unless Notre Dame can "Crank it Up", then it could be a long day for the Fighting Irish defense.

I fully expect to see
Corwin Brown bring maybe even more pressure if that is even possible against the Warriors. If the Irish can't get pressure, then Hawaii will pick apart the Irish secondary all evening and make it a sad Christmas Eve in South Bend.

If the Irish are able to take away the pass, they will be in great shape as Hawaii ranks 107th of 119 teams in rushing yards. Not suprisingly, former Warrior coach June Jones and the SMU Mustangs rank dead last in that category. For what its worth Daniel Libre leads the Warriors in rushing with a grand total of 431 yards and six touchdowns. Not overly impressive, but then again Notre Dame brings far from a stout rushing game to the contest.

Hawaii brings an average defense into the game from a below average conference. The Warriors allow 27 points a contest and right around 350 yards. Notre Dame will be without all purpose back Armando Allen who is out with a leg injury and Robert Hughes for a half because of the fight he started at USC. What that means is that James Aldridge will get the largest portion of carries for the Irish while freshman Jonas Gray will also likely see carries.

The depth may not be there, but the Irish bring a much larger offensive line to the game than the Warriors defensive front and we all know what that means: pound the ball. Notre Dame won't be trying to light up the scoreboard, not only because they likely would lose such a battle, but also because that does not give them the best chance to win the contest. The Irish will use the run to set up the pass but once again, I am nervous to see what the lack of depth allows ND to do.

Personally, the Fighting Irish bring in much more talent than do the Hawaii Warriors but they still must do three things to avoid yet another bowl loss:

1) Not a Joy Trip - I disagree that 6-6 justifies being rewarded, but in today's game, I understand how it happens. Notre Dame can't take the trip to Hawaii as a reward or just a joy ride. Focus is something I am very scared the Irish will not bring to the matchup.

2) Road Game - Yup, playing in a team's home stadium is never a positive, but when its in a bowl game it makes it that much more difficult. The good news is that Notre Dame travels well and will likely have a strong showing of support in attendance. The fact it is in Hawaii's home stadium can't possibly favor the Irish though.

3) Dumb Mistakes - Whether it was in the SDSU, UNC, Pitt, or Syracuse games we all know that Notre Dame has had an abundance of dumb mistakes this season. If the Irish don't avoid costly turnovers and penalites it will be ugly, trust me.

For whatever reason this football team has turned out to be a major disappointment and just not be very good. Because of that I am afraid that the bowl losing streak will only continue this Christmas...

Nick (The Downing Domer) says: Hawaii 27 Notre Dame 23
Mark (The Faithful Wonder) says: ND 27 Hawaii 21

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Aloha Notre Dame!

Nick Shepkowski, Domer Sports Report

Notre Dame Football
Breaking News

If nothing else, the Fighting Irish football team, most likely, will be rewarded with the best post season destination of anyone outside of those in the national championship; Notre Dame is set to accept a bid to the Sheraton Hawaii Bowl on Christmas Eve to take on the host Hawaii Warriors in Aloha Stadium, the Warriors home turf.

For Notre Dame this will cap off a disappointing season with maybe its least talented bowl opponent in quite some time - a game the Irish could very possibly be favored to win. Hawaii finished the year with a 7-6 record, good for fourth place in the Western Athletic Conference.

The Warriors wrapped up their regular season with a heart breaking loss to Big East Champion, Cincinnati with a 29-24 defeat on their home field Saturday night. Hawaii took a 17-10 lead into the fourth quarter, but could not hold off the Bearcats who reeled off 19 points in the games final frame.

Remember to check back often at Domer Sports Report for all your latest Notre Dame news as we will continue to keep you updated with all things Gold and Blue.

Go Irish, Beat Warriors.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Charlie Still in Charge

Nick Shepkowski, Domer Sports Report
Edited by Mark Allen

Notre Dame Football

Charles remains in charge of the Notre Dame football program, this after going 6-6 over the past year and only 3-9 a year ago. Needless to say things have not gone the way the Irish faithful would like during the past two seasons. Notre Dame appears headed for either the Sun Bowl, Texas Bowl , or Hawaii Bowl in the coming weeks, but where is the direction of the team headed? Under the watch of Charlie Weis it is hard to tell.

What is most bothersome to me is not necessarily the record Notre Dame has compiled over the past two seasons, but they way they have compiled that record. The Irish had losses in '07 to the likes of Navy and Air Force, whom the Irish had much more talent than, and then choke jobs against North Carolina, Pitt, and Syracuse with near disasters against both Navy and Stanford in which the Irish hung on for victories after leading by two scores or more.

What bothers me most about Charlie Weis and Notre Dame is why are the Irish out-coached, seemingly, from halftime on? So many times this year the Irish have let teams back into games in which the opponent had no business being in. Where does the responsibility of much of that fall? Some on the defense, yes, but what would burn clock while also putting points on the scoreboard?

The running game. Notre Dame has not been able to run the ball under Charlie Weis. John Latina is in charge of the offensive line and after two train wrecks of seasons in that department, where do the Irish turn? In 2007 the Irish yielded more sacks than any team in college football history. In 2008 Notre Dame averaged a whopping 3.4 yards a carry. Granted, the running backs having quite lived up to their billings of four and five star recruits but the offensive line is much to blame for that.

To me, the O-Line has gotten better in the pass blocking department, but the fact of the matter clearly is that Notre Dame needs to be able to run the football. Charlie Weis promised in his inaugural speech as Notre Dame's head coach that the Irish were going to be a nasty football team. To me, nasty means power football, lining my guys up against your guys and pounding the ball down your throat for the duration of the game. Needless to say we have not seen that under Weis - not even signs of that.

I am not calling for Charlie's head. I am, instead, giving him one last chance. Begin to be able to have a power running game. Start to show signs of this nasty football team you promised. Don't give up so many damn two possession leads that leave Irish fans' heads in their hands after games. It's time to put up or shut up, Charlie. I don't care when you run your mouth as long as you back it up. So far it is safe to say that you have not. I don't like to set a standard barrier for what keeps Charlie around longer than 2009, but there is no reason Notre Dame should not be playing in a BCS game next year.

Does keeping Weis bring Notre Dame any closer to winning a National Championship? Let yourself answer that question honestly and then ask yourself again if you really think Charlie Weis should remain as head coach of Notre Dame.

***Personal Note:

I backed Charlie after the Navy loss in '07. I backed Charlie after giving up a lead on the road to UNC. Hell, I even backed him after blowing a two score lead at home to Pitt. However, enough is enough! A loss to 2-8 Syracuse and a mind-boggling 93 yards of offense against USC later, I am now understanding where people are coming from when they call for Charlie's head. He is not getting the most from his players and does not have me feeling any more confident in the program after 2008 than I did at the conclusion of 2009. I wish success on Weis at Notre Dame because, first and foremost, that means that Notre Dame football is a legit title contender on an almost yearly basis. I, however, feel that the best we will ever see from Charlie is a run at a BCS game, heck, maybe even a win in a BCS game one day. We will not see Notre Dame play in a title game under Weis, he simply losses to too many teams he should beat. With that said, I do not understand why he will remain as head coach in 2009 besides and because of Kevin White giving Weis far too much to stay away from the NFL...that just days after Weis' finest moment at Notre Dame, which was still a loss to the Irish's biggest rival.

*Nick Shepkowski has been a Notre Dame fan virtually since birth and is a recent graduate of North Central College in Naperville, Illinois. He currently works at both Chicago Sports Radio 670 The Score and the Big Ten Network.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Notes from the South Dakota game

Laura, Domer Sports Report

Notre Dame Men's Basketball
Game Notes

  • Ayers was incredible tonight. He's caught the 3-pointer bug in a very good way, making a whopping nine shots from the outside.

  • The team maintained a comfortable lead without throttling their opponents. For a moment midway through the second half the Coyotes broke the twenty point barrier, but the Irish put a stop to that with another 3 points.

  • In the last few minutes, Kopko and Andree both got playing time. It was also nice to see more minutes for Nash and Scott through the second half.

  • The leprechaun was throwing free t-shirts into the student section after three pointers, but soon had to stop because the team was scoring so many.

  • Free throws looked much better (7-of-11). Good for them.

  • A group of high school-aged kids came to the game in body paint, spelling out Go Fighting Irish. The leprechaun joined them for some cheers in the second half.
  • Also spotted at the game: Golden Tate.
  • All in all, a solid game for the Irish. We were outshot in the second half, 46-42, but the team had the situation firmly in hand. Others might say otherwise, but I don't see any cause for concern here.

  • Final score: Irish 102, Coyotes 76

Laura is a current junior at Notre Dame. A political science major originally from Georgia, she loves cheering for and talking about all Notre Dame teams.

Aldridge in the spotlight

UWIRE | Football: USC thrashes Notre Dame in rivalry game:
"Aldridge could play a big role in a potential bowl game for the Irish, who may be without their two other running backs for at least the first half. Sophomore Armando Allen suffered a leg injury early in the game Saturday and did not return. Weis said after the game that he was not certain of Allen's status.

Fellow sophomore back Robert Hughes will also miss the first half of his next game because he was ejected in the final minutes after getting in a scuffle with a Trojan defender."

I know a lot of fans don't like Aldridge very much, citing his failure to get a touchdown last year and his sometimes-unimpressive stats. I've always been a fan of the guy, if only for his dedication to the game. He received a lot of play time last year, but has seen fewer carries this year with the advent of Armando.This year he's averaged 3.97 yds/carry, a respectable number given the quality of our running game. Armando only has 4.4 yds/carry and they both have 3 TDs this year. I feel like Aldridge could be a great back if given the chance- and it looks like the bowl game might be that chance.


Laura is a current junior at Notre Dame. A political science major originally from Georgia, she loves cheering for and talking about all Notre Dame teams.

Monday, December 1, 2008

Charlie: "I'm Good to Go"

By Mark Allen, Domer Sports Report

Notre Dame Football
Breaking News

Rumors have circulated among the media and around the various message boards regarding the future of Charlie Weis. Would he stay or be let go? Popular opinion was that, if money could be collected to pay for his buyout, that he would be replaced. Even new athletic director Jack Swarbrick was sort of vague regarding what would happen. He said he'd meet with Weis on December 8 for a review.

Now comes word of comments made to a Notre Dame recruit. Charlie Weis, on the surface, at least, seemed defiant when he said he could not meet with Swarbrick. He said he was staying on the west coast to recruit. But, was he being defiant or out-of-touch with reality regarding his future status as Notre Dame's head coach? Or, did he know something?

Words spoken to recruit, wide receiver Shaquelle Evans, seem to indicate that Weis might have been assured the job was still his in 2009. "I asked him about his job status," Evans said. "He told me he's good to go; he'll be there. He said he made sure he's good before he left and it's just the media spreading that he's going to get fired. He said if he didn't know if he was going to be there or not he would tell me. It makes me feel good that he'll be there."

So, out of Weis's own mouth, it seems that he will be back in 2009. But, stay tuned. The flip side of all of it is that he wants to keep his recruits. Would he say those words in order to keep his recruits? Or, did Swarbrick actually reassure him that his job was safe?