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Notre Dame San Diego State Sports

Football thoughts: Week 13

Co-Champs of the Mountain West

It’s hard to imagine that a team that started off so poorly could come back and win 9 games, capturing a share of the conference title. But that’s exactly what the Aztecs have done. Yesterday they went to Laramie, a place which is high altitude and butt cold, and got a big win.

Congrats to them. I can’t wait to see them in either the Las Vegas or Poinsettia Bowl in a few weeks.

Pinch Me, I’m Irish

Yesterday was a dream. My dad and Paul, 3 generations of McLane men, were at the biggest live game any of us had seen. #1 Notre Dame took on upset minded USC. The stadium was packed 45 minutes before the game… And they booed everything Notre Dame did.

And we ground out a win. What I love about this years tam is that they aren’t always dominant… But they are tough and find ways to win. USC fans kept reminding me that we should be blowing out the Trojans… And I kept reminding them that we only needed to win by one. Style points mean nothing.

It was a magical day in an amazing stadium. Seriously, the Coliseum is one of the best college venues I’ve ever been to. It was made more meaningful to me by sharing the day with my dad and son. Life is messy. There’s been times when I’ve disappointed my dad and times when I’ve completely failed as a father. But some days you get it right. I was one proud dad and son yesterday. Football brought us together and you could feel this simple tradition going from father to son to grandson.

I’m all misty about that. Thank you Notre Dame.

Oh yeah, everyone else

Elsewhere around college football there were few surprises. Ohio State beat Michigan for a championship-less undefeated season. Florida beat Florida State. Georgia beat Georgia Tech. Oklahoma snuck one out against the Cowboys. Oregon beat up Oregon State. Outside of the Big East… Everyone won who you’d expect as we head towards the championship pre-bowl games.

I never thought both of my teams would do so well in 2012. Its been quite a ride. Now, lets get Manti Te’o his Heisman!

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Notre Dame San Diego State Sports

Football thoughts: Sixth Edition

Oh baby! Week seven was full of drama as the top teams jockey for all-important position in the first BCS rankings this week. There were significant tumbles at the top as the rest of conference play begins the shuffling which will eventually result in bowl play.

Notre Dame

Finally. The Irish proved they could slug it out in a messy, mistake-filled game. In some ways the Stanford game was legendary. Two highly defensive teams slugged it out in the mud until one team finally broke through. Fortunately, it was the Irish who prevailed.

Manti Te’o continued to show why he’s on Heisman watch lists as a linebacker. His impact on the game was much more than his game-high 11 tackles. He leads the team in every way. The Irish defense is legit. It’s now been 4 games since they’ve allowed an offensive touchdown. (They haven’t given up a rushing touchdown all season!) None of those were rollover teams. Michigan State, Michigan, Miami, and Stanford.

How far can Notre Dame go? Clearly, if they win out they are in the title game. But I don’t think it’s very likely that they will do that. I’m still preparing to see them stumble in a game… either BYU or Boston College. And I’m pleased if they beat either USC or Oklahoma on the road but I’m not expecting them to beat both. Does a 10-2 Notre Dame team get into a BCS bowl game? Easily.

San Diego State

Well, we’re 4-3 now. Ryan Katz has the offense rolling along and the defense looked OK as they sailed to an easy 38-14 win. In truth, this was a very boring game. All of the home games this year have been boring. I love going to the games and the Aztecs are clearly going the right direction. But I don’t think I’m alone in my excitement for basketball overpowering my desire to watch a s0-so team battle for an invite to the New Orleans Bowl.

Back to football, it is good to see progress on the defensive line. Those guys are starting to create the gaps needed for the linebackers to create chaos in the back field. But its tough to know if this was real progress or if it’s just a measurement of how bad Colorado State is without their starting QB.

We’ll see how good the Aztecs are over the next few weeks. They need a road win against Nevada or Boise State to have a shot at a bowl game.

National Title Race

With Notre Dame in the hunt I’m interested in today’s BCS rankings. I suspect to see them as BCS #3 because of their strength of schedule. (#5 in both polls) I think we’re on a collision course to see a very entertaining Alabama vs. Oregon game in the national championship. But, the Irish included, there are some outliers who have a legit chance of getting there which make the whole thing interesting. I don’t think Florida can get there with their remaining schedule and a potential SEC championship game vs. Alabama. K-State? They still have murderers row on their schedule with road games against West Virginia, Baylor, and TCU. Add a season ending home game vs. Texas and a Big 12 title game? There’s at least one loss in there for them. My outside show at it is Oregon State. The Beavers have a powder schedule leading up to a home game against their rival… the Oregon Ducks. In a rivalry game with everything on the line? Gosh, anything can happen.

The Big 10

Now that we’re in conference play its easy for Big 10 fans to think their league is legit. Yeah, right. Let’s not forget that they got ripped in non-conference games vs. ranked opponents. An ineligible Ohio State team does look good. But Michigan and Wisconsin, both allegedly the class of the conference, really aren’t any good. They are both so one-dimensional that they can’t play up and beat teams. I’m still seeing Northwestern as the Rose Bowl delegate to get the loser of the Oregon-Oregon State game.

My Current Top 10

(I don’t include ineligible teams. Sorry Buckeyes, at least your players got free tattoos and great deals on cars!)

  1. Alabama (6-0)
  2. Oregon (6-0)
  3. Notre Dame (6-0)
  4. Florida (6-0)
  5. K-State (6-0)
  6. LSU (6-1)
  7. Oregon State (5-0)
  8. South Carolina (6-1)
  9. Florida State (6-1)
  10. USC (5-1)

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youth ministry

My Sanctuary

Ugh. Another parking ticket. I think I already had about 10 of them. While I never intended to pay them I was still embarrassed to get ticket after ticket for parking in the women’s basketball coaches spot. She never seemed to use it anyway and the walk from the visitors lot was long. Plus, tickets were for rich kids.

I dropped the ticket on the ground and got back into my 1978 Ford LTD Station Wagon to begin the drive home.

It was the Winter of 1994 and I was spending a lot of time in Notre Dame’s Hesburgh Library. You might know the building as Touchdown Jesus but I know the building as my sanctuary.

My senior year of high school was complicated.

While I did my best to maintain a front that everything was OK, everything wasn’t OK.

After spending my junior year in Germany with my mom I moved in with my dad for my senior year.

My hope was to move home and resume my life. My reality was that I’d exchanged one chaotic situation with my mom for an even more chaotic situation with my dad. While his marriage to my stepmom wouldn’t end for a couple more years the volcano of their relationship erupted over and over again. It was pretty rough. I moved in, then we moved out, then we moved back in– on and on this went. I think I moved in and out of that house 7 times in 10 months.

When we were home I tried to avoid being there as much as possible. And when we lived with grandma I tried to stay out until after she went to bed. I spent as much time as I could at school. But eventually the janitors would ask me to leave and I’d have to go somewhere else.

Hesburgh Library was on my way home from school. It was both a logical and welcoming place for me to hang out. While I wasn’t a student no one ever asked me if I belonged. As long as I was quiet, doing homework, and didn’t break rules I knew no one would complain. I was good at blending in, knew enough about Notre Dame to fake it if I got into a conversation, and knew they weren’t going to put me in Leprechaun Jail if I got caught.

So I’d disappear for hours into the stacks to read, research, dream, nap, and explore.

To graduate I needed to pass gym. So I had little homework. But that didn’t mean I wasn’t learning. I’d grab a novel off the shelf or dig into an autobiography of someone I’d never heard of. They’d refer to a piece of history I wasn’t familiar with so I’d head over to the microfilm and read the New York Times from those days to find out what the author was referring to. Anything to pass the time.

As the weeks went by I got lost in reading newspapers from the Great Depression. Over time I got pretty good at finding stuff and operating the microfilm… and then I started helping the librarian show students how to find what they were looking for. And that lead to even more time in the library “studying.” (This was a great way to meet female students, by the way.)

At a time in my life when I didn’t feel welcome at home– or really even have a home to feel welcome in– I felt welcome in the library. More than a place I trespassed at or occasionally got a parking ticket for squatting on the women’s basketball coaches parking spot, it was a sanctuary of comfort and predictability that I desperately needed.

Do you work with teenagers? Help them find their place of sanctuary. Don’t ever assume that because they look OK or aren’t saying they aren’t OK that everything is fine. Sometimes the best thing you can do isn’t talk… it’s help them find a place where they can just be.

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Notre Dame parenting San Diego Living San Diego State Sports

Passing on a love of sports

My dad took me to lots of games at Notre Dame. Later in middle and high school it became more about football than the other sports. But I have lots of fond memories of spending time with my dad at Notre Dame basketball, hockey, and football games. I even remember a couple baseball and soccer games along the way.

Even though no one in my family went to Notre Dame, we lived so close and experienced so much there, that I have a pretty strong connection to the campus. My friends and I rode bikes all over campus. (Don’t tell my mom!) We played hide-n-seek near the Grotto and skateboarded the trail around St. Joeseph’s Lake. We yelled and made echoes between the giant buildings and dared one another to go into the administration building. (aka Golden Dome) I spent hundreds of hours in the library (aka Touchdown Jesus) during my senior year of high school and still have 10-15 unpaid parking tickets for parking in the basketball coaches spot when he wasn’t there.

But most of my memories of Notre Dame are from Saturday’s in the Fall. My dad had a group of friends who put on epic tailgate parties. 75-100 people would hang out and party between 3 motor homes starting before dawn and going until dark. When I was really young we went to almost every game because you could always find a ticket for free or almost free. That changed in the late 1980s and early 1990s when Lou Holtz had them in National Championship form year after year. But I managed to find a way in to a lot of games in those days. My stepdad had a brother who was an usher who could sneak me in. I’d get to the stadium several hours before the kickoff and sit in his usher seat during the game. When it was too cold or I’d get bored I’d climb into the scoreboard and watch the game from that little window, listening to the TV cameramen shuffle their feet above my head as they operated the endzone camera. For a couple of years my stepmom was an MBA student and we had tickets at the front of the student section. During those years I got to go to the games it was too cold for my dad and stepmom to enjoy. Cemented in my memory for a lifetime is freezing my butt off and hunting for hot chocolate during the 1992 snow bowl.

San Diego State

There’s no comparing Notre Dame to San Diego State. Pretty much everything that could be different about the two schools is different. But what isn’t different is the proximity of where we live. I grew up about a mile from Notre Dame’s campus and my kids are growing up about a mile from San Diego State’s campus. So I want my kids to experience the campus. (Um, the positive sides of campus activities!) That’s why I’m commited to taking them to football and basketball games and other fun/educational things offered on campus for kids.

I’d love for my kids to build happy memories about a place with their dad. Just like my growing up around Notre Dame… every moment isn’t memorable and not everything is going to make a lasting impression.

What are you doing to build memories with your kids? What kinds of things did you do with your parents which built lasting memories? 

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Notre Dame San Diego State

College Football predictions

Today is opening day for my two favorite teams, Notre Dame & San Diego State. Here are my predictions on their seasons.

  1. Notre Dame – The Irish have a tough schedule. The first five games are as tough a schedule as you’ll see anywhere because teams always “play up” for Notre Dame and their National TV audience. If you look at their order of schedule and the style of football each team plays… it’s really hard to adjust. This team is better, but not quite of the power to roll over teams just yet. I think they will handle USF today and Michigan next week, stumble at home to Michigan State and again at Pitt. But then go on a bit of a tear until and beat Purdue, Air Force, and USC. Then they will lose to Navy before beating Wake, Maryland, and Boston College. Then we’ll see how good they are in November at Stanford. If Andrew Luck is healthy they will be tough to beat. Overall- I’m seeing 8-4 and a trip to the lowest BCS game. (It’s about money, friends.)
  2. San Diego State – Last season, the secret weapon was the defense which made the offense look better than they really were.. They’ve leveled up a bit on D. But I think the combination of Rocky Long (a defensive-minded guy) and the flip-flop from a talented WR core to an all rookie one will kill their ability to move the ball. Ryan Lindley is a great pocket passer. He’ll need to depend less on the long ball and more on short passes and screen with the weapons he has available. Ronnie Hillman, if he is healthy, is explosive and rips yards off in a Barry Sanders kind of method. He’ll got 2-3 yards at a time, then rip off 25 when you aren’t looking. That will all depend on their ability to spread teams out with WR and TE. The opposite of the Irish, they have some playing styles with opponents that will help them. Secret weapon of the Aztecs? Kicking. Holy cow they have guys who can kick it miles. Remember last years 88 yard punt in New Mexico? I think they’ll beat Cal Poly and Army before losing to Washington State, Michigan, and TCU. Then they’ll win four in a row against Air Force, Wyoming, New Mexico, and Colorado State. They’ll get pounded by Boise State and then beat Fresno and UNLV. As long as Hillman and Lindley stay healthy they will be 8-4 and play again in the Poinsettia Bowl.

Other thoughts on college football, in general.

We need to see some teeth from the NCAA. Both Ohio State and Miami deserve the death penalty. Their fans disagree. But the reality is that they completely ignored NCAA rules and made a mockery of the whole thing. I think USC got off easy and it’s awesome they can’t get ranked in the coaches poll. (If only Pete Carroll had gotten punished…)

I hope the Mountain West defectors get pounded this year. TCU lost to Baylor last night. I hope Utah loses 8 games in the Pac-12. And BYU has just become BY-Who? (Who do they think they are to go independent? They are no Texas or Notre Dame.) None of the Mountain West teams want to schedule them. (I see one MWC game on this years schedule. What’s that tell you about the cheating they do?) Speaking of, I heard Texas A&M is looking for a conference home. I hope they jump on the bandwagon for next season with Fresno State, Nevada, and Hawaii.

Is it the year of the Ducks? They sure are fun to watch. And I’d love to see the tomahawk chop back in prominence in Tallahassee. If you just look at the mascots… it’s a great year. Could it be a BCS game of the cowboys vs. indians? (Oklahoma State vs. Florida State in the Fiesta Bowl?)

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Notre Dame San Diego Living Sports

Basketball fever

I’m an Indiana kid. Growing up, I played 21 from the time the neighbors driveway thawed until school started. Sometimes dozens of games per day. Not to sound like a John Cougar Mellencamp song, but we played until our fingers bled. Then we’d have lunch and play until it got dark.

Where I went to school everyone went to every high school basketball game. This culminated in 1994 with Clay High School making an improbable run to the state Final Four and winning it all in a come-from-behind thriller.

That love of the game carried on into college when I played endless games of pick-up basketball and even had a little stint as student sports information director for both men’s and women’s basketball teams. I’ve sat on the sidelines, keeping score, operating the shot clock… hundreds of games. I love it.

Not quite like my love for Notre Dame football. (Or cheddar cheese) But love nonetheless.

Finally, this year I have a lot to cheer about on the hardwood.

Notre Dame is very good. At 18-4, having beaten some very good teams, they are a lock for the NCAA tournament with 5 weeks to go. I’ve watched them play on TV a bunch. They might not be the most dynamic team in the Big East but I think they may be the most feared. No one wants to try to stop Ben Hansbrough. Because if you do he’ll just pass it off to someone else who will light you up. I’ve not seem them play better, top to bottom, in the Big East than with the squad they have this year. If they keep this up they would be a disappointment at anything less than a Sweet-16 berth.

San Diego State is ridiculous. I know that many people outside of the West Coast have been able to see them play yet. The Mountain West has a horrid TV deal with its own network which keeps them off of ESPN. But they are 22-1 and easily the best team in the west. I have kicked myself since November for not getting season tickets when I had the chance. But tonight will be my third game and I have another game next week to go to… but that’s it. They are sold out the rest of the way. The thing most people don’t understand is that SDSU has no star. They have 8 guys who could each start and one of them goes off to dominate each game. I’ve seen Billy White take over a game. I’ve seen Malcolm Thomas destroy teams. I’ve seen Kawhi Leonard make teams look silly. And D.J. Gay has ruined some teams from the point. It’s the craziest thing. But Coach Fisher has somehow kept the whole thing together, kept everyone focused, and been quick to remind his team that NO ONE outside of San Diego respects them. They barely even make it onto SportsCenter!

My biggest fear is that these two teams will play in the 2nd round of the NCAA. Ideally, they will meet in an Elite 8 or (be still, heart) the Final Four. Both of them are that good. And neither would surprise me to be there.

Let’s go Irish!

S-D-S-U! Aztecs Fight!

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Notre Dame

Notre Dame in New York

I was happy to catch some of the game last Saturday. A big win for Notre Dame. And a great way to bring the game to a core group of awesome fans in the city that never sleeps.

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management maturity mistakes Notre Dame

You’ve got to finish

My little football heart got broken last night. First, San Diego State gave up a touchdown with 50 seconds left to giveaway a victory to #25 Missouri. That would have been their best start in 30+ years. Then, a few hours later, Notre Dame gave up a silly trick play for a touchdown to lose to Michigan State.

In both cases, it was about finishing the game. Both teams were sloppy. In one game, a lack of tackling discipline cost them the game. In the other, being over-aggressive cost them an embarrassing lose and landed them on Sportscenter for all the wrong reasons.

For those of us who lead, both games were a powerful reminder for finishing.

In life, just like in football, your last play leaves a lasting memory. No one cares how well SDSU or Notre Dame played on Saturday. We’ll only remember the embarrassing finish.

Do you have a strategy for finishing a project well?

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Notre Dame

Notre Dame vs. Michigan

Today is a big game for two coaches going in opposite directions. A win here cements the quick turnaround by Brian Kelly for Notre Dame. (But the loss for Kelly is kind of neutral.) A loss for  Michigan and Rich Rodriguez is firmly on the hot seat and would have to beat Ohio State to keep his job.

For both Notre Dame and Michigan the annual game is clearly one which you circle on the calendar. They each have other rivalry games each year, but this rivalry game is always the early on the calendar and defines the season.

For me, it’s the one week a year where I cheer against Michigan.

The keys to the game seem to be:

  1. Can Notre Dame’s defense contain Denard Robinson? He looked phenomenal against UConn. But there’s definitely a quality difference between Notre Dame’s defense and UConn’s. If they force him to throw, that’ll be key.
  2. Can Notre Dame’s offense take advantage of Michigan’s weak secondary? They’ve had injuries and transfers. And Notre Dame’s Kyle Rudolph and Michael Floyd are legitimately top quality receivers in college football.

My prediction: Notre Dame 41 Michigan 33

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Notre Dame

Notre Dame Football Trailer

Oh man, I’ve got a fever. I might not sleep tonight.