Sunday, September 6, 2015

Irish eyesight, Part Deux

OK. So which Texas was this again?

Texas-Arlington? Texas-San Antonio? The Dillon, Texas, Panthers?

Surely these were not the burnt-orange hordes of Earl Campbell, of James Street and Steve Worster, of the Johnny Joneses, Lam and Ham. These Longhorns looked more like ham-on-rye. And the team that put them there?

Well. Let's just say a re-assessment of  Notre Dame might be in order. Might be.

Until they play a team (Georgia Tech?) that can block, tackle and run the football, we won't really know if what we saw under the lights last night in Notre Dame Stadium was a mirage or the real deal. But at least beating the wadding out of Texas-not-really-Texas 38-3 indicated the Irish are who we thought they were, which is a killer defense, a brutish offensive line and some talent at the skill position that looks more than modest.

The jury might still be out on Malik Zaire and his still-small sample size, but the sample again looked pretty appealing. Several thousand NFL fantasy players were no doubt looking for a loophole after Zaire's 19-of-22, 313-yard, three-touchdown night. Even if it came against a defense that only made faint attempts to chase him down or cover his receivers, it was the kind of performance to which they build statues at Notre Dame -- or at least they will if he can duplicate it 11 or 12 more times.

Zaire can throw and run. The offensive line can block, and they have running backs -- last night it was C.J. Prosise (20 carries, 98 yards) -- who can gain ground behind it. The receivers, led by Will Fuller (7 catches, 142 yards), provide capable targets. And the defense will not be an open road for anyone; against Texas, it was a locked door, holding the Longhorns to just 163 total yards.

So, now it's on to stiffer challenges. Several await.

But if Week 1 is any bellwether -- and remember, it hardly ever is -- upward mobility could well be in Notre Dame's future. No. 2 TCU struggled before beating unranked Minnesota by six. No. 5 Michigan State struggled to put away Western Michigan out of the MAC, finally winning 37-24. No. 6 Auburn didn't wear out any superlatives in beating unranked Louisville by a touchdown.  And Stanford, against whom the Irish close the season, lost 16-6 to Northwestern.

All of which puts us on the dangerous ground of getting the Domers' hopes up, an exercise that always requires very little effort. They're gonna be good, the Irish, until they're not. Which is exactly where we stand this morning.

 Beyond that ...

Well. Two words no fan ever wants to hear: We'll see.

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