Blue and Gold Illustrated

March 2021

Blue & Gold Illustrated: America's Foremost Authority on Notre Dame Football

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6 MARCH 2021 BLUE & GOLD ILLUSTRATED FAN FORUM HARD FINISH I think Notre Dame football fans need to accept that as a whole the team is not good at finishing up the season. Since 1981 — 40 years ago, and the first year under Gerry Faust — Notre Dame's record in its last two games is an abysmal 31-48-1, a .394 winning percentage. Yes, the final two games usually in- clude a good USC team about half the time, and very often a good bowl oppo- nent. But the whole point of being com- petitive at the top level is you compete with those teams and win (regularly). Take out the Lou Holtz years and the record is worse: 19-39 (.328). The only two coaches with a winning per- centage in the last two games of the season in the last half-century are Holtz and Ara Parseghian. The record since 1981 in the last three games of the season isn't much better: 58-61-1 (.488). Notre Dame is usually a top-20 team, often a top-10 team, but really is not — and hasn't been for decades — a top-four team. Sad but true. Gene Wytrykus Lincoln, Calif. Mr. Wytrykus, we double-checked your research and it is spot on. Part of it is that most of the USC and Stanford teams on the road in regular season endings since 1996 were good to great — and the 1981, 1985, 1987 and 1989 regular-season finales at Miami were against a dynasty. From 1994-2006 Notre Dame also set an NCAA record for consecutive losses in bowl games (nine). Holtz was 12-9-1 during his time in the final two games, and Parseghian 11- 8-3 — the same percentage (.568) despite different marks. Dan Devine was 6-6 (.500) from 1975-80. TEARS ABOUT TIERS While I was disappointed by the outcome of our game with Alabama, I was very proud of how hard the team played right to the end. I don't think we were overmatched as much as out- gunned at two key skill positions. This is a very good team, and they had a very good year. The question is can Notre Dame get into that very top tier — and if so, how? The difference in numbers of five- and four-star recruits between us and Alabama, Ohio State and Clemson is huge. Rick Whately, Class of '72 Via the Internet Mr. Whately, see our "From The Web" section on this page. KICKING OPTIONS I have questioned for a couple years why Brian Kelly continues to elect to receive the opening kickoff when he wins the coin toss. We have had an awesome defense for some years now, but beside that — no matter ahead or behind — I want to receive the second half kick- off. Yes, I know we have scored on an opening drive, but again I would rather have the second half kickoff. Speaking of defense, why weren't ad- justments made against Alabama when they were killing us with the short passes out in the flat where nobody was within 10 yards of the receiver? They were huge gains, and somebody had to be responsible for those receivers. Congrats on yet another great year. Looking at next year's schedule with four new offensive linemen, a new quarterback and pretty much a new defensive backfield makes me hope for a .500 season. Go Irish! Pat Buckley Portage, Mich. Mr. Buckley, in the seven previous games prior to Alabama, Notre Dame took the ball first and scored on six (most notably on the first play versus Clem- son Nov. 7). The identity of the 2020 team was built on a veteran offensive line and a third-year starting quarterback, so there was much confidence in them to set a tempo from the outset. The Irish did force an Alabama punt to begin the second half, but an interception on the ensuing series then pretty much sealed the game. As for the defensive strategy, when you play an offense that is averaging 50 points per game, you choose some form of poison one way or the other. For Notre Dame, the priority was to not get beat over the top. Alabama re- sponded with quick hitches, slants, etc., for yards after catch. If the Irish would have closed in more, then the Crimson Tide would have beaten them over the top. There's a reason why they were a three- touchdown favorite. Every defense is out-gunned against Alabama. Even Ohio State — which recruits at Alabama's level — allowed 52 points in the title game. Sometimes there is only so much you can do. To hold them to 31 points — their low- est total in the past two years — was a laudable feat. It's the Notre Dame offense that usually stalls in marquee contests. FROM THE WEB While Notre Dame continues to recruit at a top-10 to top-15 level, the richest get even wealthier, a lamentation expressed on Blue- Fitz9584: Damn, Alabama! Among 2021 re- cruits — 17 guys in the Top 76. 22-percent of the top 76 kids going to one school. When does this end? Almost all these guys are high 4-star to 5-star guys. Kcndmis97: Ohio State as well. It has only one 3-star in the 2021 class … one, that's it. We have 14 three-star recruits. GoldenJudge: It ends when a NFL minor league for graduated high school players and college freshman is created, one that pays sala- ries and is run by the NFL. Davo55: Tennessee and Texas need to start getting some of these kids. Spread the wealth. JPM34_NDFI: Ends a little after Nick Saban retires. Cleirish83: They also replaced several outgo- ing coaches with NFL head coaches. BE HEARD! Send your letters to: Letters Blue & Gold Illustrated P. O. Box 1007, Notre Dame, IN 46556 or e-mail to: The Irish went 12-9-1 in the final two games of the season under Lou Holtz, a .568 winning per- centage that is significantly better then the .328 (19-39) posted in all the other years since 1981. PHOTO COURTESY NOTRE DAME ATHLETICS

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