Thursday, September 23, 2004

ND Football 2004

Issue 4: Washington

Washinton Rush Offense vs. ND Rush Defense

Washington, believe it or not, is averaging 194.5 yards per game on the ground. That is against Fresno State and UCLA, but it still shouldn't be taken lightly. The Husky rushing attack is lead by Kenny James with 104 yards per game. Backup Shelton Sampson is nothing to sneeze at, with 40.5 yards per game and a 7.4 per carry average.
The Irish rush defense is giving up 81 yards per game, and they just need to keep doing what they've been doing. The entire starting linebacker corps has been solid all year. Helped by a competent game from the line, and a few key backfield pops from the secondary, this team should be able to contain the Washington run game. Trevor Laws had a good chance at a big game, with Greg Pauly and Brian Beidatsch on the shelf.

ND Rush Offense vs. Washington Rush Defense

Ryan Grant is most likely out for this game, so Darius Walker will be in charge. Travis Thomas will back up, and this is his big chance to break out of the doghouse. Fumble problems may keep Thomas from being the "inside" to Walker's "outside," but Walker can prove that he can pound it up the middle just like the big boys. I'd be interested to see RPN line up behind Josh Schmidt on short-yardage situations, but I doubt that will happen.
As much as the Huskies gain on the ground, they give up even more (you will find out that this is a theme for Washington as a team - big offense, but a defense that gives up much more). Thanks to a 322-yard performance from UCLA's Maurice Drew, Washington is giving up 280.5 yards per game. In case you think those numbers are skewed by the UCLA game, realize this: 280.5 YPG still means Washington gave up more than 230 rushing yards to Fresno State. Once again, Notre Dame needs to establish the run early, keep it on the ground if and when it works, and hold onto the football.

Washinton Pass Offense vs. ND Pass Defense

Washington's 195 yards per game in the air isn't very impressive for the PAC 10. The inexperienced Casey Paus has found a favorite receiver in Charles Frederick, who pulls in 104 receiving yards per game. Ty may be obligated to line up Preston Jackson against Frederick, just to see who weighs less or has the better hair. Other than Frederick, there isn't much. Corey Williams and fullback Zach Tuiasosopo (are PAC 10 teams required to have a Tuiasosopo on their roster at some point?) both average 20+ yards per game receiving.
Again, if the Irish pass defense continues to do what its doing, they should be able to contain Washington. The Huskies have only surrendered 2 sacks this season, but Justin Tuck et al. should be able to change that. Jackson, Dwight Ellick, Tom Zbikowski, and even Quentin Burrell and Carlos Campbell have put all worries about the Irish secondary to rest so far. There's no reason why this game should be different.

ND Pass Offense vs. Washington Pass Defense

Once again, the Irish shouldn't need to rely on their passing game at all. Washington is only giving up 123.5 passing yards per game, but that should only serve as a hint to Bill Diedrick - it's so easy to run on Washington, you don't need to pass on them. All three Washington sacks, and both of its interceptions, have come from linebackers. That means Notre Dame will have to control the blitz. With the lack of game experience for Walker and Thomas, this may be where the loss of Grant hurts ND the most. Of course, it could just mean more playing time for RPN.
After a good start to the season, Maurice Stovall will be out for this game. ND can't hide Matt Shelton forever, so Rhema McKnight and Jeff Samardzija will have to step up when needed. Finding the tight ends once again would be nice as well. Opening the playbook up for Carlyle Holliday would be nice, but we can always save those plays for a team like Purdue. Of course, if Shelton can still just outrun everybody, my points are moot.

Special Teams

Washington appears to actually have a placekicker controversy. After incumbent Evan Knudson missed his first two field goals, redshirt freshman Mike Braunstein came in and went 2 for 2. Washington is giving up an average 21 yards per on kickoffs. Punter Sean Douglas is averaging 33.5 yards per, which is very helpful to ND in the battle for field position. Douglas also handles the kickoffs, and is yet to get a touchback.
Charles Frederick is also the primary kick returner for Washington. With a long of 62, he's a threat. Presumably, he's also their punt returner, but who knows? No one has had to punt to Washington yet. I kid you not.
DJ (Ellen loves him!) has continued to do a solid job kicking (2-3 field goals) and punting (40.5 average). Coverage teams have been decent so far.
Carlyle Holliday is the main return threat for this team as a punt returner. John Vannie reports that their may be changes on the kickoff return and coverage teams. (Vannie also reports that a 330 pound freshman named Jordan White-Frisbee may start on the D-Line. I'm not making that up.)

Look for a big game from

The two-headed threat of Walker and Thomas, Anthony Fasano, Samardzija, BHoyte (he loves his mamma), Tuck, and Zbikowski.

ND 31, Washington 16: Walker, Shelton, Holliday, [insert your favorite defensive player here], and 1 by DJ.