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Notre Dame Notes

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Thanks to Dorrell just like last year, there is not much excitement around a game, that many of us had circled on our calendar when it got scheduled during Donahue's later (mediocre) years in Westwood.

I am as fired up about UCLA taking on an 0-5 Notre Dame team, as I would get for a pre season games against San Diego State. As we have mentioned multiple times, a victory in this game will mean "nothing" in terms of the big picture take on UCLA football. A blowout win in this game will not erase the stain of the debacle in Salt Lake City. And considering we are more than 20 point favorites, anything less than a blowout win, will be considered as a huge let down in BN.

And if you just take a cursory look at the numbers, you'd realize what a mistmatch this game is on paper. Still with all that out of the way we have Dorrell and Notre Dame no matter will always be Notre Dame, when it comes to college football. There is no way UCLA should lose this game. And if somehow Irish manage to break their winless streak, that will most likely be one of the final nail in Dorrell's coffin at the Rose Bowl.

So with that in mind lets take a look at the Notre Dame D:

Bruin Offense 07 Rank Per Game Irish Defense 07 Rank Per Game
Rushing Offense 27 199.40 Rushing Defense 107 210.00
Pass Offense 60 225.20 Pass Defense 7 145.80
Pass Eff. Offense 63 122.61 Pass Eff. Defense 60 121.31
Total Offense 39 424.60 Total Defense 52 355.80
Scoring Offense 39 32.40 Scoring Defense 96 33.20

Looking at these numbers, the obvious note that stuck out to me was the Irish pass defense that is ranked number 7 in the nation. It wasn?t making any sense to me. So I emailed CW our SBN colleagues who runs the wonderful Irish blog ? Rakes of Mallow ? to see if he had any answer. CW fired right back with this explanation:

Those numbers are that good simply because no one has needed to throw on us due to the undersized defensive line and slowness of the linebackers. Zibby (Tom Zbikowski), (Terrail) Lambert and (Ambrose) Wooden are all still awful in coverage, although David Bruton and Darrin Walls are showing flashes. If someone wanted to throw on us, they most certainly could, but it just hasn't been necessary yet.
CW?s frustration with the Irish secondary was also evident in his Purdue game recap:
Our "veteran cornerbacks" still can't cover anyone, but until we get a few more recruits in who don't have broken arms, I suppose they have to play. It must be difficult to have obvious physical ability, go to practice, play in games and never improve over the course of two or three seasons. How do you give up a 3rd and 29? (Answer: Press coverage on 3rd and 29, taking away the quick slant for a first...wait, no, they'd have twenty more yards to go)
Now its going to be interesting how the clown combination of Dorvell schemes against the Irish defense. The obvious answer is to run the ball right down their throats. But here is the deal. We know Markey is 50-50 and Bell may be banged up as well. I?d hope this would be the perfect game to break in Moline with few carries and also try out Ramirez.

But if Bell is not completely healthy, and Dorell?s joke WCO scheme is resorting to same ole same old run up the middle crap in first and second down, it will once again create a lot of pressure not just on Olson but on the offense in 3rd and long situations.

I know we sound like a broken record here, but it would be nice to get Olson to throw some medium range passes (15-20) yards on second and third downs to get him comfortable or perhaps to get him to roll out and move the pocket.

If there was a time for the UCLA offense to get clicking in all cylinders, and work out all of its kinks by playing mistake free and balanced offense, this is the game to do it. Moving on to the Irish offense.

You think the Irish defense numbers are mediocre, take a look at their ?offensive? stats, stacked up against our much hyped defense.
Bruin Defense 07 Rank Per Game Irish Offense 07 Rank Per Game
Rushing Defense 16 88.80 Rushing Offense 119 30.40
Pass Defense 100 272.60 Pass Offense 106 164.40
Pass Eff. Defense 56 119.40 Pass Eff. Offense 100 107.39
Total Defense 55 361.40 Total Offense 118 194.80
Scoring Defense 56 24.60 Scoring Offense 118 9.20

Well just going by sheer numbers Notre Dame offense has been a disaster. Their offensive line has been a total mess which has been unable to open up holes for any kind of credible running attack, while not providing any protection for their embattled and inexperienced quarterbacks.

5 games into this season Notre Dame has given up an astounding 29 sacks on pace to break last year?s mark of 37 sacks.

However, despite their troubles, the Notre Dame offense has shown some sign of life notably in their passing game against the Boilermakers:


The passing game started to come around, with young receivers such as David Grimes, Robby Parris, George West and Golden Tate becoming more involved. Notre Dame's 377 yards passing against Purdue was its best total since it had 432 against Stanford on Nov. 26, 2005.

WR Golden Tate, a true freshman, had three catches for 104 yards and a touchdown against Purdue, and that doesn't begin to describe the degree of difficulty of some of those receptions. He made a leaping snag in the end zone for a 25-yard score in the fourth quarter. Earlier, he had catches of 36 and 43 yards. Looks like he needs to be on the field more. He is the first freshman at Notre Dame to get 100 receiving yards since Derrick Mayes (two catches, 100 yards) against Pittsburgh on Oct. 10, 1992.
More on the improvements in Notre Dame?s passing attack from CW at Rakes:
The second half passing attack was straight out of 2005 and 2006, with Duval Kamara and Robby Parris taking the place of Maurice Stovall and Jeff Samardjiza while Golden Tate was some awesome hybrid of Matt Shelton and Rhema McKnight. There's also this crazy thing we did where we "Threw it to John Carlson", who repeatedly carried three or four defenders up the field for extra yardage while making sweet catches on fourth and goal. Much lauding has been done towards Tate, and justifiably so, but Kamara and Parris were also running great routes (or Purdue's secondary is that bad) and catching most everything thrown their way. If there is someway to combine the running attack against Michigan State and the passing assault versus Purdue, we might have ourselves something resembling an "offense" coming down the stretch.
The question heading into Saturday?s game is who will be the Irish QB. Obviously for the folks in Southern California there is lot of interesting in seeing Jimmy Clausen. However, Clausen injured his hip last Saturday, and right now its not clear who is going to start:
"He's supposed to be set and ready to go,'' Weis said. "I have to see that. Some guys are set and ready to go, and they don't play for another two weeks. Other guys are set and ready to go, and they're ready to go that day. I'm going to have to see how it goes visually on the field."
Now in terms of who works better for the Irish, I refer you to our friends at Blue Gray Sky, which IMHO is the best college football team blog in the internets. Jay over at BGS has a must read post on the Irish QBs. Now I urge you to read the entire post, but the first three paras. really stuck out to me:
Towards the end of the Purdue broadcast, the hyperbolic Andre Ware "climbed the ladder" to make this observation:

"We've got an interesting situation developing at quarterback for ND. Sharpley has come in and he looks tremendous. And the players are responding to him."

Setting aside the silly notion that the other Irish players played harder for Evan Sharpley, Ware's comments still didn't jibe with what I was watching. Sharpley was definitely solid in relief, but was he a stark improvement from Jimmy? Up until Clausen came out of the game (for the last time), my impression was that he hadn't been playing so poorly.
Again read the whole entry in which Jay masterfully breakdown on the pros and cons of both Irish QBs, but man that paragraph stuck out to me for some reason but I can quiet put my finger on it. ;-)

Anyways I think it is safe to say the entire BN is expecting a defensive Bruin domination on Saturday. The win over hapless Oregon State has reignited the Walker hyper machine ? again. From the LA Times today:
No need to wake up those echoes as the Bruins prepare to face Notre Dame in the Rose Bowl on Saturday, though linebacker Christian Taylor recalls things differently.

"That is very admirable that he takes the blame, and I respect him for doing it," Taylor said. "But I can't let him. If we don't miss two tackles on that [last] play, we win the game."

Indeed, the Bruins were so passive at the end of that game it actually accented how aggressively they had played the rest of the game.

A reputation was born.

"If all you do is run, they load up the box," said Oregon State Coach Mike Riley, whose team was limited to 248 total yards Saturday. "If you try to beat them passing, they'll blitz you to death. You can't be one dimensional."

That attack strategy was honed in the NFL, where Walker spent nearly a decade as an assistant learning from Pete Carroll, Bill Belichick and Joe Gibbs.
Yeah, that "attack strategy" looked so effective against powerhouse teams like Stanford, BYU, and Utah (and that's just this year).

If UCLA defense really has gotten it groove back, then it should not only beat Notre Dame, it should DOMINATE their offense, holding them to single digits, and then come out and beat up the Cal offense two weeks from Saturday.

The fact that UCLA?s defense given its edge in talent and experience should dominate the Irish is not the question, the question is whether Walker will be able to deliver against teams like Cal, WSU, Arizona, and Oregon ? that do not run conventional NFL offenses. If Walker's D delivers against those teams, then he will be worthy of the hype which he hasn't live up to at this point of the season.

Bruins need to deliver a dominating win this Saturday, and anything else will be considered as let down. We will have more on Irish through the week.