Thursday, September 09, 2004

ND Football 2004

Issue 2: Michigan

Michigan Rush Offense vs. ND Rush Defense

Despite the 43-10 win, Michigan only put up 115 yards on the ground, on 40 carries. Chris Perry replacement David Underwood put up an Eddie George/Duce Staley-esque 2.9 yards per carry - 64 yards on 22 carries. In addition to the loss of Perry, remember that Michigan also had a very veteran O-Line last year. Judging by the lack of stars (indicating letters won) next to the O-Linemen's names on the roster, most of the experience on the line has moved on. Brandon Hoyte, Mike Goolsby, and the rest of the front 7, now that they have a game under their belts, should be able to hold Michigan to a respectible total on the ground.

ND Rush Offense vs. Michigan Rush Defense

Well, for starters, we need to have a rush offense this week. Miami had some decent runs early against Michigan, but they were completely shut down after that. Ryan Grant (if he's back) and Travis Thomas need to step up and say "give me the football," and then they need to hold onto it. Otherwise, it's going to be a long day.

Michigan Pass Offense vs. ND Pass Defense

Chad Henne, who will most likely be starting this Saturday, has shown he can throw the deep ball. ND has shown that they have trouble defending the deep pass. However, it appears that this is one of the few holes in this year's D. Henne is playing his first road game in a place that should be tough for him. The student section will have to get loud, stay loud, and rally behind their defense. Every time the home fans boo ND's defense, they're only encouraging Henne, Lloyd Carr, and the Wolverine offense. Braylon Edwards and Steve Breaston will get their catches, and will probably even pull down a few deep ones. The key is for the line to get in the backfield and the safeties have to limit yards-after-catch on the deep balls. Then, the rest of the secondary can handle the short passing game. Of course, one big hit by BHoyte on Chad Henne will really help this Irish D. Here's a goal for the Irish secondary: 159. That's how many yards Miami's pass defense game up. Motivate yourselves to meet or top that.

ND Pass Offense vs. Michigan Pass Defense

Michigan had 5 picks last week, but that was against an untested QB. I'm also guessing it happened once Miami got behind and needed to go pass-heavy to stay in the ballgame. So, don't expect to see 5 picks again. If the Irish can start by establishing the run game, they won't have to panic and leave the game in the hands of the Wolverine secondary. The key here is to effectively use each receiver's skill set, throw the ball downfield, and rely on Marcus Freeman and Anthony Fasano in key situations. Preferrably, those key situations should involve them being past the first down marker when they catch the ball. Michigan only got 2 sacks last week, so Brady Quinn should have time to throw the ball. He just needs to sit back and wait for his receivers to get open down the field.

Special Teams

Michigan didn't have a punt or kick return longer than 20 yards, but that doesn't mean they won't be a threat. Kicker Garrett Rivas had a 31-yard field goal, but missed the last two of his 6 extra point attempts. Punter Adam Finley had a 45.2 yard average in his first game, but that may actually be a sigh of relief for the Irish. Also of note: Miami had a 70-yard punt return during the game, and also had a punt return TD called back.
For the Irish, DJ Fitzpatrick is continuing to handle both kicking duties to the best of his ability. Special teams coverage and returing has been competent, except for a few decisions on punt returns. Breaking one, either on a kickoff or punt, would do a great deal of good for the home team.

Look for a big game from

Thomas, Fasano, and the defense as a whole.

ND 24, Michigan 17 Yeah, I said it. Thomas, Freeman, McKnight, and DJ.