Sunday, September 04, 2005

Patriot Games, Or Why I Don't Miss The Dave Wannstedt Face

During the Dave Wannstedt Era in Miami, there’s a certain face he makes when things start to go poorly for his teams. (Bears fans, you know what I’m talking about.) He sort of curls his lip up, the mustache looks a little more uneven than usual, and you can’t tell if he’s going to cry, or if he’s just really confused, or maybe a little bit of both. I saw it a lot, and it’s really a disheartening thing to see as a fan. Maybe he claps afterwards, and maybe your team does something to make the hurt go away a little, but in the end, you know the Dave Wannstedt Face means your team is being outsmarted, and whether it’s sooner or later, something bad is going to happen.

Well, watching the game from the friendly confines of Super Quad last night, it was great to be on the other side of the face. As Charlie Weis’s offense rolled up and down Heinz Field against Diamond Dave’s defense, the new Pitt head coach could do little but look befuddled and break out that familiar face. Knowing that meant my team was doing something positive, as opposed to doomed to screw up in the end, was as good as I’ve felt in a while.

All of my experience in watching the AFC East also paid off last night as the Irish offense looked so much like the Patriots offense you could have replaced the navy and gold with red, white and blue. The way all the wide-outs caught the dump passes any time the corner was coming up, all of the screens, the way the linemen were blocking downfield and the way we shut things down after scoring enough to secure the win were all reminiscent of the Belichick-Weis offenses. Do you realize we scored those 42 points in two and a half quarters? Just like the style the Patriots have established, we didn’t show Michigan or any other future opponent anything more than we had to, and considering that means there’s an entire vertical attack just waiting to be unleashed at some point in time, I’m really excited.

Defensively, the fundamentals were great. More often than not, we were wrapping up on tackles that would have been missed last year. Talent-wise, I’m thinking we aren’t going to have an advantage on many teams we play, but if we can get to the quarterback like we got to Palko last night and our offense can limit the opponent’s possessions, there isn’t a game on the schedule we wont’ be competing in, and that includes the USC game.

I don’t want to get too optimistic after one game, especially against a Dave Wannstedt-coached team, but it’s hard not too. The offense looked so crisp, so efficient. We’re like the freaking NCAA Patriots, people. Do you understand what that means?! Not just for this season, but for the future? Charlie Weis is looking like a genius, and barring some horrific collapse against Michigan, the Irish eyes will be smiling all around campus.

(And yes, I realize Ty won his first eight games, and yes, I realize we beat Maryland 22-0 to open his first season, but as Rob reminded me this evening, we didn’t score an offensive touchdown until our third game. As I told Rob, there wasn’t much smoke and not a mirror to be seen during the first forty minutes of last night’s game.)

I’m so ecstatic for the Michigan game Saturday, despite the fact it starts at 11:00 AM Notre Dame time. We might not be able to stop their offense – if we don’t wrap up Mike Hart, he will kill us – but if they play like they did against Northern Illinois and we keep rolling like we did against the Panthers, they won’t have a prayer of stopping us. Don’t forget, people, we beat Michigan last year, and it’s not like Brady’s going to be frazzled by the Big House, having already won in Neyland against Ol’ Rocky Top. Between our game and the Ohio State/Texas clash in the primetime, this Saturday is going to be a day book-ended by college football’s finest.

So excuse me for feeling a little too optimistic, but after years of being on the side of the mustached guy getting out-coached, it’s fun to be on the side of the Patriots….err, Irish. And anytime the line between your college football team and the two-time defending Super Bowl champions is a little blurry – even if it’s only on offense – that’s a very good thing.


Other Thoughts From Saturday’s Games

• Anyone else going to enjoy this incredibly long season for Oklahoma? Call this karma paying them back for ruining USC vs. LSU and USC vs. Auburn/Utah. Although I still kind of feel Texas will have a hard time with them, just because it’s Texas, but we’ll see.

• Brian Calhoun, Wisconsin running back and slayer of Omar The Great, is going to be the first named listed on our BAMF (Bad-Ass-Mother-F*ckers) poster once we put it up. That guy was sick, even against a crappy BGSU defense.

• Is this Georgia’s year, or was Boise State really just that outclassed? The SEC is insane exciting with Ol’ Rocky Top, Florida, LSU and now the Bulldogs looking like national title contenders.

• Even though it’s in the middle of October, I’m hoping and praying there’s an ice storm for the USC game. Heck, I’d settle for a blizzard, but I want there to be a taste of Old Man Winter when the champs come to town.

• Stupid coaching cost Reggie McNeal and the Aggies the game last night, because instead of going for two to make it a 3-point game, Dennis Franchione kicked the extra point and ended up losing by one. Wasted effort from Reggie, who is just as good as Vince Young. I’m telling you this, and I don’t care how awesome Young was against Lousiana-Lafayette.

• I know it’s a little soon – well, way too soon, especially with games against Iowa, Michigan and Texas remaining – but I’d love to start penciling Ohio State into the Rose Bowl now. AJ Hawk leading the defense, Ted Ginn and Santonio Holmes sparking the offense…I like, I like.

• Straight from Dill’s mouth on PSU: ”I think our offense is worse than last year.” From what I saw, I’d have to agree. Michael Robinson is not a quarterback, not even an option QB. Put Morelli in, take your chances and put Robinson in the slot. Just do it, JoePA, because you’ll face some better opponents than USF eventually.

• Worse day: Brandon Cox or Jared Zabransky?

• I know it’s just week one, but there’s a lot of exciting teams out there. It’s going to be a fun season.

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