Thursday, January 04, 2007

Tigers Trash Demoralized Irish 41-14

They say it isn't bragging if you back it up, and after Louisiana State talked more pre-game trash about the Irish than still remains strewn over the Katrina-ravaged outskirt parishes of New Orleans, the Tigers proceeded to smash Notre Dame on the field as well, defeating Mary's men in the 2007 Sugar Bowl by the score of 41-14.

Weis warned the Irish about letting the "home team" Tigers get off to a fast start, but his worst fears were soon realized when LSU blew through his beleagered defense to a 14-0 lead by mid first quarter. But the Irish stiffened and hung in with their Cajun hosts 'til almost halftime as nifty running by Darius Walker and two touchdown passes from Brady Quinn, first a 24-yarder to David Grimes, then a 10-yard toss to Jeff Samardzija tied it up at 14 apiece. But it didn't last, for less than 90 seconds later, a 5-yard touchdown run by LSU QB JaMarcus Russell gave the Tigers the halftime lead, 21-14.

It was all downhill after that or at least after a fumble recovery by Notre Dame was overturned three plays into the second quarter. The Notre Dame defense at least scored a moral victory by holding the vaunted LSU offense to field goals on their first two possessions, but this time it was Charlie Weis' pride and joy, the Irish offense that let the faithful down.

For at least in the first half, the Irish controlled the time of possession 19 minutes to 11, and due mostly to Walker's rushing, actually lead in yardage gained at halftime as well. But Quinn and Company managed only one first down in the third and most of the fourth quarter, and after being on the field for 20 of the first 24 minutes after halftime, the Notre Dame "D" caved in. LSU's last touchdown drive was particularly demoralizing, for by then the Tigers had put away the trick plays and long passes and were just running right through the smaller, slower, and now dog-tired Irish defense, which was unable to stop even the most basic straight ahead plays.

Russell, LSU's huge (6'6" 260 lb.) quarterback also had a huge day, completing 21 of 34 passes for 332 yards. By comparison, Quinn was a mere 15 of 35 for 148 with two interceptions. But Brady's receivers continually failed to get separation, and while JaMarcus seemed like he was throwing into a wide open ocean to complete passes, Quinn had to hurl his through the eye of a needle to find his man. Walker finished with 128 yards rushing but only seven of those after halftime. Samardzija did catch eight balls, but for only 59 yards, losing a potential touchdown grab in the notoriously dim Superdome lights. Meanwhile, Rhema McKnight had a night to forget catching three balls for a scant 22 yards, and dropping too many to remember.

Charlie certainly has to head back to the drawing board now (as well as the Grotto), to figure out what went wrong and how to fix it so the Irish can compete in the big games next season. And there is no rest for the weary Weis now, for he immediately has to head out on the recruiting trail and hope he can land some smart, tough, fast, and faithful high school seniors who truly want to play for Our Lady.

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