Sunday, October 21, 2007

Notre Dame Football 2007: South Bend Badlands? Trojans Annialate Irish 38-0

Keep pushin' 'til it's understood
And these Badlands start treatin' us good
–“Badlands” by Bruce Springsteen

Notre Dame Head Coach Charlie Weis is heading to Chicago today to hear his favorite recording artist and fellow New Jerseyan, Bruce Springstein, but he will inevitably be thinking of his Irish football team as the Boss is singing "Badlands" and his other sad ballads. For, despite blue skies and throwback green jerseys, Notre Dame suffered its worst loss ever to long-time red rival Southern California, bowing 38-0 Saturday in South Bend.

For the first time in his head coaching tenure, Charlie Weis won the toss and elected to defer, which proved a good move as the Irish "D" forced the Trojans into a 3 and out. Actually, the Notre Dame defense stopped the high-powered Trojans on their first five possessions, not including a 9-yard USC touchdown "drive" when the ND defense forced a punt, but the Trojans recovered it on the Irish 9 after the ball bounced off Munir Prince's head. In the meantime, the Irish offense could muster only two first downs on its first six possessions, as the Golden Domers blew a golden opportunity when David Bruton blocked and recovered a Southern Cal punt at the Trojan 29, only to see Evan Sharpley and crew gain but 6 yards on three attempts followed by a blocked 40-yard Irish field goal attempt.

During this span, Sharpley, starting in place of the beat-up Jimmy Clausen, started the game 6-16 for only 40 yards, and by the time he connected on a meaningless 3 for 3 against the Trojan prevent defense just before halftime, the once-again exhausted Irish defense had given up another touchdown and field goal as Notre Dame trailed 17-0 at the half.

Indeed all Irish hope was gone when on its first 2nd half offensive possession, Travis Thomas fumbled a short screen pass from Sharpley which USC recovered on the Notre Dame 12, and quickly converted to a 24-0 lead. As in the Michigan game, USC would score two more touchdowns against the demoralized Irish defense late in the contest to match that maddening 38-0 final score. Sharpley finished 17-33 but for a scant 117 yds. and 1 interception. Armando Allen finally showed promise running the football, gaining 58 yards on 11 carries, but much of this came at garbage time when, as my Navy son, Gary, dourly noted, Notre Dame couldn't even score a "pity touchdown."

Speaking of the Naval Academy, the Irish have a week off before they host them on Nov. 3, but their #1 ranked rushing offense must be already looking forward to the date as their chance to break the Irish's 44-game win streak (the longest current college win streak vs. another team) against them. As for the Irish, they have two choices. They can either wallow in their sorrow or learn to relish their underdog status (praying) with a Rosary in their hand and (playing) with a chip on their shoulder. It was interesting to see NBC (no doubt bored with the contest on the field) cut to an extended shot of the Grotto during the fourth quarter. Usually vacant during a home game, yesterday the cameras found the Lourdes-like shrine absolutely packed. And, after he returns from his visit with "the Boss," Charlie Weis will without question be visiting "THE Boss" there multiple times in the coming two weeks too.

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