Sunday, September 09, 2007

Irish Collapse No Laughing Matter: Penn State Pounds Notre Dame 31-10

Which of you ... does not first sit down and calculate the cost to see if there is enough for its completion? Otherwise, afterwards ... finding himself unable to finish the work the onlookers should laugh at him ...
–Luke 14:28-29 from today's gospel reading


Jimmy Clausen was 42-0 as a starter in high school, but he is 0-1 in that role for the faltering Irish as they lost to the Nittany Lions Saturday by twenty-one.

Indeed the game was a virtual rerun of last week, as the Irish defense hung tough for the first half or so, until the dreadful Irish offense (which has not scored a touchdown all season), abandoned them to die on the field of battle with its steady diet of 3 and outs. In fact not only was the lone Irish touchdown scored by the defense (on Darren Wells' 73-yd. interception return), even their field goal was due to Tom Zbikowski's punt return to the Penn State 7. But even then the Irish offense could not muster 7 yards for 7 points, and had to settle for 3.

Not that the offensive offense was Clausen's fault. J.C. (17-32, 144 yds.) may not have been the Irish savior, but he showed rare composure for a freshman considering he was sacked six times and passed behind an offensive line that played like turnstiles. Still it seemed like whenever Clausen made a clutch play it was cancelled, whether it was his long bomb called back by one of many Irish penalties (ND was flagged 14 times for 97 yds.) or a perfect touchdown pass dropped in the end zone. So while the offensive line continue to be the usual suspects in the Irish demise, one is also left to wonder if Notre Dame has enough skilled running backs or wide receivers to allow Jimmy to compete. And with the not-so-special special teams giving up both a 78-yd. touchdown punt return and a 68-yd. kickoff run, Weis' statement, "We're not playing a complementary game," may be the greatest understatement since Pope Leo X called Martin Luther's ravings "A dispute among monks."

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Perhaps it goes without saying that such dire reviews are difficult for me (especially on Our Lady's birthday) to write, for not only is Notre Dame by far my favorite team, She is without a doubt my favorite saint as well. Both personally and professionally (for who wants to hire an inspirational sports speaker whose football team has lost its last four contests by at least three touchdowns?) the fall of the Fighting Irish hurts me deeply, but just as Peter could not leave Our Lord after his challenging teaching on the Eucharist—"Master, to whom shall we go? You have the words of everlasting life" (John 6:68)—I could never leave Our Lady's lads no matter how challenging it now is to root for them. But to continue on with the theme from today's gospel, I feel a little like the king marching into battle with 10,000 troops against an opponent of 20,000 legions, and unless Our Savior calls down 10,000 heavenly helpers (or at least the spirit of Rockne to speak at the next pep rally) to even up the score, I'm considering peace terms before the Spartans or Trojans descend upon South Bend.

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