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Another Notre Dame Take

When making the case that a coaching change is in order at UCLA, it's my opinion that the Notre Dame game does not provide particularly strong evidence. Taken a step farther, the last three minutes of the game against the Irish barely factors into the case against Dorrell.

At best, the macro and the micro of the Notre Dame fiasco is best used to make the case only in context of three and a half years worth of losses that should have been wins.

Let's put it this way:

If Dorrell and Company had not squandered a big lead against Washington and had they not spotted an overrated Oregon team three scores before they decided to show up, then the loss to Notre Dame would have been "just one of those things."

As a UCLA fan, I was far more offended when Dorrell raised the white flag with that punt against the Ducks and then waved it around with a complete absence of urgency when we picked up the punt and got the ball back.

The game wasn't over and he quit. That was embarrassing.

The closing minutes of the Notre Dame game are more complicated.

Recall that the defense stopped the Irish on a fourth and short with less than three minutes to go. This play was followed by three runs into the gut -- which produced no yards, but burned over a minute from the clock and forced Notre Dame to expend all of its timeouts.

An odd thing happened on fourth down. We took a delay of game penalty, instead of snapping the ball with one second to go on the play clock or calling a time out just before the penalty. Those five yards ran an extra second off the clock, but when Notre Dame held on the next play, the ten yards weren't enough for a first down. Had we not taken a delay of game, the holding penalty would have essentially ended the game.

Be that as it may, Notre Dame had the ball with a minute to go, 80 yards to the end zone and no time outs. As T.J. Simers asked in the L.A. Times  this morning, "How many fans would've jumped at the offer, though, getting a four-point lead with 1:02 remaining, 80 yards to go, no timeouts and Notre Dame matched against a defense that had stuffed it all day?"

Answer: Any of us. All of us.

Contrary to popular belief, Dorrell and DeWayne Walker did not go into a prevent defense. They stayed in Cover 2, rushed four. Just as one could argue against the three straight running plays, you could argue about the decision not to blitz. But the d-line had pressured and gotten to Quinn all day with four linemen, it's not clear that the blitz was obviously mandated in this situation either.

Speaking of pressure, the Bruins actually did get good pressure on Quinn on the final drive. Take a look at it here. On the first play, Quinn is forced out of the pocket, rolls right and completes the pass. On the touchdown, he's forced to step up in the pocket - it almost looks like he's going to run - and then he executes a killer pump fake that the DB bites on (DeAngelo Hall would have bitten on it, Chris McCallister would have bitten on it) and a missed tackle later the game was over.

Point is: Notre Dame and Brady Quinn made plays and the Irish won.

It's not obvious to me that another coach would have done anything differently down the stretch to stop them (or would have passed on the Bruins final drive). Some would've, others would have done it the same. It was a heartbreaking loss, but it wasn't Karl Dorrell's worse moment.

As above, the context of the Dorrell era is what makes the Notre Dame loss tough to take, it's only when added to the Washington choke, the Oregon punt, the USC punt, the Wyoming debacle that it warrants the criticism it's generating.

Any other coach might be off the hook altogether given the entirety of the circumstance. But this coach has demonstrated a pattern of conservatism that borders on the fearful; this coach needed to make a bolder move to save face and, perhaps, save the game.