Sunday, January 21, 2007

Of Defeats, Defense and Departures: Notre Dame Sports Shorts

With future Father (and Doctor of the Church) Michael Hallman (check out his most excellent blog PSALM 46:11 – A JOURNEY TO TRUTH) in attendance, the Villanova Wildcats (Michael's school) defeated the visiting Fighting Irish 102-87 last Wednesday. While I am not certain if the soon-to-be-priest pulled a Ray Meyer (after then ND Coach Digger Phelps would attend early Mass and light a candle for the Irish, Meyer used to attend a later liturgy, blow Digger's candle out, and light one for DePaul) to help the home team to victory, someone sure lit a fire under super 'Nova freshman Scottie Reynolds, who torched the Golden Domers for 27 points.

It's not that the Irish, lead by Russell Carter and Colin Falls who scored 26 and 19 (including six of eleven, and five of ten from three-point-land) respectively couldn't put up points, it's just that they couldn't stop the Wildcats from doing more of the same, and never got closer than seven in the second half. Of course college basketball isn't college football; over 20 premier Catholic programs play college hoops (and thus, often bring the Catholic sports ethic against one another) whereas in football Notre Dame is one of only two Catholic teams. Still, I hope the Irish return the favor when the suddenly hot 'Cats (who also defeated #24 Texas yesterday) invade South Bend next Saturday.

Speaking of weak defense, Coach Charlie Weis quietly dismissed Defensive Coordinator Rick Minter and hired Corwin Brown, a friend of Weis' from his NFL days as his replacement. Letting someone go is always difficult but Weis proved once again he could make the hard moves when he had to. For while Weis has transformed the Irish offense into one of the tops in college football, the defense, despite several talented players, has gotten worse in Weis' two seasons, ranking near the bottom in stopping the pass, and sorely needed new direction.

Meanwhile two surprising departures struck Charlie's team as well. First, it was Darius Walker who decided to skip his senior season at Notre Dame and opt for the NFL draft. Most scouts feel it is a mistake on Walker's part, for without size or breakaway speed, Darius is a third or fourth round pick at best, and would have benefited from an extra season under Weis' expert tutelage. Sadly, the opportunity to play one more year under Our Lady's watchful eye didn't seem to play any part in this decision, although Darius did promise the disappointed Weis that he would still get his college degree from Notre Dame eventually. Here's hoping Darius at least makes an NFL roster and doesn't wait too long to finish his studies either.

Finally, Jeff Samardzija, unlike Walker, a projected first rounder in the NFL, surprised everyone including his dad by deciding to play pro baseball instead. “I have a die-hard love for baseball,” Jeff declared as he spurned the NFL scouts and signed a five-year, ten million dollar contract with the Chicago Cubs. “Getting guys out at the plate is what really gets me going,” he admitted. Still, Weis has reason to be proud of “The Shark” for despite the fact baseball was Samardzija's first love, Charlie got Jeff to love ND football too, turning him from a third-string bench-warmer under Tyrone Willingham into one of the most productive receivers in Fighting Irish history. And, while his gridiron exploits will surely be missed, I might now actually have a reason to root for the Cubs!

1 comment :

Michael Hallman said...

I have no idea how I missed this post at the time, but I just read it now and it cracked me up. Thanks for the plug :) And I'm not giving away any secrets as to what candles I may or may not have blown out - but do know that Scottie Reynolds and I did have a class together, and I told him of all the games he needed to win, this one was big :) After all, Villanova is a real Irish university :P

Just kidding, of course. I love Notre Dame.