Sunday, September 30, 2007

Tories and Trek

After holding out for more than a year, Kathryn Lopez finally delivered: Star Trek Weekend on NRO. Now, as John Podhoretz concedes, TNG was basically "a conservative's nightmare." But I wasn't so politically attuned in my formative years, and even if I had been, I clearly wouldn't have been alone in still liking Trek. It's just that now, I agree with my dad that Kirk was the better man, even if Stewart was inarguably the better actor - and to a degree I even agree with Jonah Goldberg that TNG has not aged well. Still, as it is, I can still tell you within 2 minutes of watching the title of any given Next Generation episode. This is a cool trick only among a certain small population of guys, a fact of which I was only too well aware in high school (why yes, I was writing fanfic when it was in its BBS/Usenet days, and I did save up baby-sitting money to go to a convention once). Heh. It all worked out when I met my husband because of Star Wars (and Notre Dame football, I always hasten to add), leading to an appearance by Darth Vader at our rehearsal dinner and a reception toast from my father to "live long and prosper."

Anyway, some amusing articles are up at National Review this weekend. Celebrate the dorkiness.

Saturday, September 22, 2007

Beat Sparty

Vannie's MSU preview is predicting another loss. Ay. Regardless, I'll be down at McFadden's with the ND Club today and hopefully finding some things to cheer about. Go Irish!

Halftime update (stayed home instead of heading downtown): See, now that's improvement. We're uneven so far, but "uneven" is better than "hopeless" and we are seeing some great play from the freshmen. With two offensive TDs, plus on turnovers, a few actual drives, and fewer penalties (overall) and sacks than the last few weeks, we're on pace to stay in this game and maybe even pull out a win. Woohoo! I hate Michigan State.

Fourth quarter update: Or not. Still hate MSU, but unhappy with the second half regression.

Appropriate judgment

On Tuesday, the Maryland Court of Appeals turned down a challenge to the state's Defense of Marriage Act, declining to invent a state constitutional right to same-sex marriage. I was surprised but pleased by the opinion, as the Court applied an appropriate standard of review (rational basis) for the existing DOMA, and concluded that the statute did withstand rational basis scrutiny. Moreover, the Court noted that it was following the majority of state courts that have taken up the issue since 2003's Goodridge in Massachusetts. As this was one of the likeliest states to have followed the Massachusetts court (which the plaintiffs certainly believed, having chosen to bring the challenge here and won in the lower courts), it is somewhat of a relief to see the Court, albeit by only a 4-1-2 vote, effectively ruled that the issue was the province of the legislature. Thus, SSM advocates vowed to take the matter to the legislative.

I'm glad they want to go to the legislature now rather than attempting to circumvent the legislative process, but I hope they intend to have a fair debate. Eighteen months ago, Maryland delegates killed by procedural maneuvering an attempt to place a marriage amendment on the 2006 ballot, so that Marylanders could decide the issue for themselves. The delegates at first seemed not to want to place themselves on the record - which I called a cowardly act, since if they were so much in favor of SSM, they ought to have openly supported it instead of hiding their stance from the voters and denying those same voters the chance to decide for themselves. A few days later, the entire House did vote on whether to consider the amendment, and while many Democrats joined Republicans in voting for a full legislative vote, 78 delegates showed by their vote they were not even going to consider allowing Marylanders to decide for themselves on the marriage amendment. I thought the issue might have been more salient in the 2006 elections, though it turned out not to be. Still, with a renewed focus on the issue in light of the Court of Appeals' ruling this week, I am glad to see the Republicans (again, few though they are) intend to try re-introducing an amendment to the legislature (amendments cannot appear on the ballot via popular initiative in Maryland, but must first be approved by the legislature).

"I assure you the constitutional marriage amendment will be reintroduced this session," said Del. Donald H. Dwyer Jr., an Anne Arundel County Republican and leading same-sex marriage opponent in the House. "Without it, there's nothing to preclude a future legal challenge made on a different argument or a different basis. The legislature ought to have the courage and the desire to publicly vote on the issue of marriage."

Now that we know the Court has made the judicially prudent ruling not to strike down Maryland's DOMA, I welcome a debate in the legislature - as long as delegates also act prudently, not patronizingly, by allowing open votes in the House itself and/or giving the state's voters a chance to decide the issue themselves.

Monday, September 17, 2007

Dazed and confused

Well, things didn't improve at all on Saturday after the first quarter, including in the measures (penalties and errors) I forgot to mention at the time. They all got worse, except for the fact that we finally went into positive yardage on offense - but not rushing, because the numerous sacks are still negating every hard-fought gain in this regard. Does anyone out there know how to play offensive line? RW at Rakes of Mallow has a job posting for you!

Strangely, I'm not nearly as despondent or fatalistic as might have been expected after a drubbing identical in outcome to four years ago (although it did kill my mood on Saturday night). I think this is for several reasons. First, this is not our program's lowest moment. (I know that's hardly an endorsement. Bear with me.) I've been reading comments about how this was the worst game Irish fans can remember seeing for 50 years, and all I can say is -- where were you during Davieham? This is nowhere near as bad, and that has to be because of the long-term situation. Yes, this team is stinking badly in ways that we didn't expect at the beginning of the year. But it's traceable to two things primarily that we did know to expect, at least somewhat: an offensive line that is truly, horrendously offensive, and a lack of experience across the board. We knew to expect that our line would probably not be as good this year and our team was going to be younger than average because we're playing under NCAA sanction-like conditions, missing a full 15 scholarship players at the junior-senior level, thanks to the prior coach's recruiting "efforts." But these things are going to improve in the next few years, as Weis's strong recruiting classes gain experience and maturity. If we can keep the recruits we already have lined up for next year (class is currently ranked #1) the situation will improve. Thus, I just don't have the same sinking feeling as a few years ago, when it wasn't clear that many good new players were coming up. It's still embarrassing because the players should still be playing better than they are, but that explains some of the difference.

In addition, the team is making so many correctable errors that things will look magically improved as soon as they fix the errors. I'm sure that sounds simplistic, but cut out the false starts, snap the ball to the actual quarterback, don't freaking clip on special teams coverage (those last two apply to you, fifth-year seniors), and turn your head around when it appears the receiver you're covering is looking for the ball, and suddenly the team overall looks better - at the very least stops killing field position and drives for no reason. I understand the buck stops with the coach on all of these errors, and Weis has rightly accepted responsibility, but then again, I'm sure he's not telling John Sullivan to snap balls way over the quarterback's head or telling Travis Thomas to punch people. If the players themselves just played smarter, the team as a whole will have a much better chance to implement the offense.

That still leaves the offensive line, which I will agree is the worst I've seen. They need to figure out how to block better than 1-AA lines (or heck, the Oaks Christian HS line). I don't know what Weis needs to do to fix this - some have suggested he needs to run more physical practices, others have just said the players need to just wake up and decide to play. We'll see what happens with this over the next week.

Saturday, September 15, 2007

All signs point to negative

After one quarter, I see: another 2 sacks; another 3 fumbles; more total negative yardage; and another scoreboard blanking.

Here's hoping we improve in the next quarter.

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Not-so-happy Valley

We ending up "watching" last week's game by hitting "refresh" at several intervals during the reception on the boxscore on my Blackberry. Accordingly, my impressions were mostly just of the statistics. Ones I liked: We scored a few more points this week (albeit 7 on defense). Clausen started off 12-16, so he must have been throwing fairly well. The defense looked promising, especially holding down the PSU rush yards in the first three quarters. Stats that stunk: Six sacks. Relatedly, another game with zero rushing yards. Ouch. 1 for 10 on third downs. 14 penalties for almost 100 yards. And, of course, the final score.

I can't offer much analysis of the above, not having seen it all, but the stats do speak for themselves, and the main thing they scream is: The offensive line is royally bad, and the mental mistakes and playcalling aren't helping much. I'll point y'all to Rob's recap at Rakes of Mallow and Mike's thoughts on recruiting and playcalling at BGS. Then, as we look toward Michigan week (how ugly could this one get?), here is JVan's preview at NDN. Even with UM reeling, he calls a (closer) loss for us. I hope he's wrong. . .

Thursday, September 06, 2007

First law of weddings and football

That is, as has been noted before, don't schedule weddings on football Saturdays! There's another 40 weekends you could use over the rest of the year, so this ought to be an easy law to adhere to. For my own wedding, we not only avoided any ND weekends, we even managed to schedule it for the bye weekend between the conference championships and the Super Bowl in January (although, given the outcome of the Super Bowl this year, my Chicago-native spouse maybe would rather not have had that next weekend free to watch the game). For my best friend (a Domer, like me), a June wedding this year nicely avoided having any guests (not to mention the bride herself) have to sneak away during the reception to catch snippets from a game. Nonetheless, my other closest friend (this one from law school, not college, and so not necessarily attuned to the fixed appointments that are Saturday gametimes) has scheduled her wedding for this weekend. While I'm thrilled for her and am looking forward to a fun and full weekend, I'm aggrieved at this blatant disregard for the football fans in the congregation. Who's this day all about, anyway?? :)

Wednesday, September 05, 2007

In the lions' den

It's time to look forward to Saturday's game at Penn State, but first Charlie Weis freely admitted that his reaction to the Georgia Tech outing was the same as a lot of fans: "I wanted to vomit." A few other tidbits to take from last week:

- In answer to everyone's question of whether he didn't expect that Georgia Tech would bring blitzes throughout the game, this unsettling response: "But all of the blitz zones and the Michaels and the Sam Mikes, they were, unfortunately, they were what we practiced every day unfortunately. And the reason why I say unfortunately is because when you know what they are doing and you don't handle it, that's even a bigger problem than when you don't know what they were doing, because at least you can say, hey, we weren't expecting that. That's where I feel we had our biggest failure. So rather than sit there and blame the players for not getting it done, I blame me for not practicing enough to get it done."

- On whether there were any positives to take from the game on defense: "[Y]ou lose 33-3, there's no good stat. But that would be the one stat looking back and reviewing, you know, you would say, hey, like in the first half, they had shut them down on third down. He's 0 for 6 on third down and you look at that and you look at the red zone stops, and you're encouraged in certain aspects by what we did on defense."

Jimmy Clausen is going to start on Saturday. Looking back at his plays from last week, he seemed by far to be the most in command, moving out of the pocket when needed, with a quick release and accurate throws. He's still a true freshman playing behind an offensive line that apparently has trouble with blitz defense even when they're expecting blitzes, so I don't expect Clausen to necessarily be a superstar right away, but I'd be surprised if he can't move the offense a lot better this weekend than last. Given BGS's latest post on how even our spread offense last week wasn't as bad as it looked at first, my optimism is definitely up again. (Only to be crushed again?) No, I really do expect to see a lot of progress and a competitive game this weekend, maybe even a surprising win. Go Irish.

Return of the BSOD

I just got a new computer this weekend after five years with my last laptop (which still works really well - I was just persuaded it was finally time for an upgrade), and switched to Dell after nine years total with Toshiba. I like the current 1420 model's specs and aesthetics, and so far everything's been pretty good. Nope, the only adjustment is coming with (and I feel like there should be an ominous chord here) Microsoft Vista. I went five years on XP without seeing a single blue screen of death, but now it's happened five times in the last two days. I've been able to solve most of the compatibility issues by Googling and patching, but it looks like I'll have to do without Paint Shop Pro XI, since patches only work once a program's installed but the computer crashes every time I insert the disk. Otherwise, things seem to be fine, but I'm just waiting for "Windows Genuine Advantage" (which I avoided installing on XP) to tell me my pre-installed copy isn't valid and shut down the whole system. A ver.

Saturday, September 01, 2007

An inauspicious start

That's being polite. I'm trying to find positives in today's 33-3 loss to Georgia Tech, but they're hard to come by. (At least Charlie's great fourth down percentage continues...) So, just some thoughts.

- It was surprising how flat the offense started out. I was expecting to see a focus on the run, given our depth here, but none of the running backs really broke out and it wasn't immediately clear to me whether that was a failure of the offensive line to get any push or open any holes, or whether it was a failure of playcalling. At one point I think the run-pass ratio from the beginning of the game was 20-1, and the one (incomplete) throw was made on a rollout under tremendous pressure. No slants, no out routes, no quickness to beat the blitzes. And two turnovers in the first half. Give credit to Georgia Tech - the blitzes were creative, the defense was aggressive and their push off the defensive line was strong all game.

- I liked our defense in the first half in particular, especially given that GT had such good starting field position. I thought they only started to really tire/unravel after the idiotic Justin Brown foul got him ejected and negated what had been another in a great series of third-down stops. Holding GT to a few field goals kept us in the game throughout the first half, and Laws got some terrific height on his blocked field goal. The overall GT third down percentage was under 30%. It didn't seem people were out of place on too many plays, except on occasion to the outside.

- Nine sacks is absolutely horrendous. Brady, where art thou (and thy great ability to evade sacks)? If we're going to have a porous offensive line all year before the great new recruits start arriving and maturing, we're going to have to select a quarterback who has more mobility - so in spite of the fact that he did get benched for his two fumbles (which were also good strips by GT) and a need to shake up the game, I would probably still rank Jones ahead of Sharpley. But based on the last eight minutes or so, I think Clausen might have earned the nod - he showed a bit of mobility and some great zing to his passes. Of course, if we'd called any slants in the first two quarters, maybe Jones would have demonstrated he could complete those as well. But even if Clausen takes his lumps like everyone else, he looked the best out of the three.

- Charlie said to strike him dead if he ever used the word "rebuilding" to describe this year - so I won't use it, but I will note that apparently we have only 20 scholarship players in the junior and senior classes total instead of 20 in each class, which is Ty's legacy of NCAA-penalty-level recruiting. Where we should have great depth on the offensive line at this point, we just don't and that's been a problem for the last two years as well. Take the last series of the third quarter for one example - on the first play, Sharpley was sacked on first down to inside the Irish ten, and two or three offensive linemen were on the ground. Next play, Sharpley completed a nine-yard pass to West under some pressure. Third down, Turkovich just checked off his defender, who ended up in the Irish backfield again and helped pressure Sharpley into an incompletion. At least Price had a nice punt on this drive - but otherwise it was just emblematic of the way most of the game went. This team needs to gain some experience and momentum. We'll just have to watch closely for the adjustments next week.

- But here's some consolation in the meantime: Hey, Michigan lost.