By MIKE CONNOLLY
"Communication was a problem," Bob Davie said after the game.
Before the telephone, communication was a problem. On the Irish sidelines, communication was a disaster.
Davie spoke about crowd noise and broken headsets as factors in Notre Dame's inability to communicate. But when it comes right down to it, the coaches are ultimately responsible for play calling, substitutions and general team cohesion on the field.
To improve these areas in the future, the following refresher course is offered.
Football 101 midterm exam:
1. On second-and-20 from your opponents 40-yard line and with 25 seconds left in the first half, your fifth-year senior captain and star quarterback completes a pass to his talented receiver for a 17-yard gain. Facing third-and-three on the 23-yard line with no timeouts, what is the correct call?
A. Spike the ball to stop the clock, and then bring the field goal team onto the field on fourth down to try a field goal.
B. Run the field-goal team out onto the field and try to set up for a field goal in 18 seconds.
C. A and B at the same time.
2. On third-and-goal from the 1-yard line with 16 seconds on the clock and trailing by five with no timeouts, your team lines up in the goal-line offense. What is the correct call?
A. Give the ball to one of your two tailbacks, each of whom is averaging more than 4 yards-per-carry on the day.
B. Run a quarterback keeper to the left side using your three backs as lead blockers.
C. A and B at the same time.
1. If you chose A, you are correct. Stopping the clock by spiking the ball would give your team plenty of time to get set up for a field goal.
If you chose B, you would also be correct. Your team has plenty of time to set up for a field goal if they hurry.
If you chose C, you have a future in the Notre Dame coaching staff.
At the end of the first half, Jarious Jackson put together a nine-play drive in 1:47 that put the Irish in position for a field goal that would have given them a five-point lead heading into halftime.
But that field goal never came.
Jackson chose option A while the rest of the team chose option B. The confusion wasn't Jackson's fault, and it wasn't the field goal team's fault. It was the coaches fault.
Instead of kicking a field goal at the end of the half, the Irish were left standing on the field wondering what was going on as the final seconds of the first half ticked away.
2. If you chose A, you are correct. If your offensive line can't open a hole wide enough for a back to run through for one yard, then you don't deserve to win the game.
If you chose B, you also would be correct. With three lead blockers and an elusive quarterback running the ball, an outside run probably would yield a touchdown.
If you chose option C, Bob Davie might be interested in seeing your résumé.
With the ball on the 1-yard line and 16 seconds on the clock, Jackson and the Irish offense lined up in their goal line formation. Davie had called for an isolation run by Tony Fisher.
Realizing Purdue might pinch up their linebackers close to the line expecting a run up the middle, Davie also gave Jackson the option of calling an audible and running the ball to the outside.
When Jackson stepped to the line and surveyed the defense, he called a fake audible. Fullback Joey Goodspeed, however, didn't hear the "fake" part of the audible and relayed an audible call to tailbacks Tony Fisher and Tony Driver.
Thus, when the ball was snapped, Jackson ran the isolation because he hadn't audibled while the backs ran to block for the outside run because they had heard an audible.
Not surprisingly, the play was a complete disaster, and Purdue sacked Jackson for an 8-yard loss. The game was over.
What is the purpose of a fake audible?
There is not a good reason to call a fake audible.
The defense doesn't know the audibles anyway. Whether the audible is real or just a ploy to confuse the defense, the defense can't tell. Only the offense understands audibles.
So when a fake audible is called, it only fakes the offense while the defense is unaffected.
Therefore, one wonders why coaches would have a fake audible in the playbook.
Davie has blamed the last two losses on himself and poor coaching. Davie has no problem communicating the obvious.
The views expressed in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.
All Sports Stories for Monday, September 13, 1999