Monday, October 11, 2004

ND 23, Stanford 15

Quarterback: A true college sophomore is bound to have an off day every once in a while. However, Brady Quinn was just good enough in this one. The important thing is Quinn's status. Quinn suffered a concussion on the drive (and by drive I mean 3-and-out) following Stanford's late go-ahead TD (other sources say it may have occured during his QB sneak TD). Word has it he will be back for the Navy game.

Running Back: Ryan Grant was back this week, and his presence was helpful. Besides getting around the corner for 2 TDs, Grant also put up 69 yards on the ground. Darius Walker is continuing to prove himself as a reliable and consistent ground gainer with 89 yards this week. I'd rather see 80-90 yards from him every week than see him get 120 one week and 25 the next.

Fullback: Rashon Powers-Neal picked up 4 yards on 4 carries. One of those carries even came while he was lined up as a fullback. Gasp - you can do that? RPN and Josh Schmidt each had a catch, for 10 and 8 yards, respectively.

Receiver: There wasn't much except for those two big plays by Rhema McKnight and Maurice Stovall. The two combined for 6 catches and 110 yards, and they were the only receivers with any catches in this game. Matt Shelton hasn't been getting open now that he's no longer a secret weapon. Shelton did, however, have a nice pass breakup on a sure interception in the end zone.

Tight End: With Anthony Fasano down with a shoulder injury, Jerome Collins had 3 catches for 45 yards. Collins must have great hands if he's moved ahead of Jared Clark and Marcus Freeman. Clark has be relegated to special teams (other than some run blocking in Fasano's absence), and Freeman has fallen off the earth since the BYU game.

O-Line: When your start quarterback gets concussed, and you don't have a solid backup option, that's not so good. Of course, I haven't studied the tapes (not that I ever have), so maybe the three sacks were due to poor blitz pickup. Walker and Grant have been doing a fine job taking out blitzing linebackers, but some times there are just too many people out in patterns, and not enough people in to block. ahem We have 6 tight ends, and we are allowed to use them to block on pass plays. ahem

D-Line: This wasn't the dominating performance I was hoping for from this unit. Rumor has it that Justin Tuck (2 tackles, 1.5 for loss) was playing through an injury for most, if not all, of this game. Defensive tackles Greg Pauly and Derek Landi did have some success, combining for 9 tackles.

Linebacker: This unit combined for 11 tackles, including 1.5 for loss. Derek Curry had ND's only sack. Brandon Hoyte saw limited playing time due to the need for nickle and dime packages (hey, we're allowed to use those?) and had 1 tackle.

Safety: Tom Zbikowski lead the team with 7 tackles. Chinedum Ndukwe saw some playing time, and responded with a tackle and a pass breakup. Ndukwe appears to be a tough-nosed hard-hitter.

Cornerback: Preston Jackson left the game early for an unspecified reason. NCAA 2005 starter Mike Richardson stepped in and had 5 tackles. Dwight Ellick had 6 tackles and managed to interrupt two straight passes intended for Stanford receiver Evan Moore on a key drive in the second half.

Kicker: DJ (Ellen loves him) had a 38 yard field goal. Sophomore Bobby Renkes handled the kickoff duty at the beginning of the game. He has a decent but not exactly powerful leg. Of course, he was also aided by a strong wind when Notre Dame was kicking from the north end zone towards the south.

Punter: DJ punted 6 times, and put 3 inside the 20. His long was 51 and his average was 43.7. Ellen, if the Giants ever have punting problems in a few years, I think DJ would be a great option if your dad could get him a tryout.

Kick Returner: Chase Anastacio was perhaps a single move away from the first big return of the season at one point. Of course, before he had a chance to fake out the kicker, a Stanford player was just able to trip him up. A solid return game is desperately lacking on this Irish team. Anastacio or Justin Hoskins may have a big return in them, but the blocking that sets up a big return is a team effort.

Punt Returner: Carlyle Holiday had two returns, one for 3 yards and one for -1. But, I wouldn't put the blame on him. Part of the problem was that he was positioned a little too close, so his first move always had to be back to get to the ball. Being new as a punt returner, I would imagine that it's a coaching responsibility to make sure Carlyle is positioned correctly. Also in Carlyle's defense, on every punt, Notre Dame lined up with only one bracket guy on each Stanford gunner, as opposed to the traditional two each. I have a feeling that even Rocket Ismail and Tim Brown would have trouble consistently putting up decent returns with only one guy covering each gunner.

Special Teams:

Courtesy AP/Joe Raymond

Coming into this game, I was 120% sure that Stanford would return a kickoff for a touchdown. The return coverage in the first half only made me fear it even more. However, in the second half, both the kick and punt coverage teams absolutely clamped down. Fisher freshman Chris Vaughn lead the charge. On punts, Vaughn would get to the returner not too long after the ball did.
Some comments on the botched punt:
1) As the picture clearly shows, it was Corey Mays who made the hit here. Some sources (ahem ahem) reported that Jerome Collins was the person responsible.
2) The "hit" wasn't even a "hit" in the non-fundamental, lead with the shoulder and hope he falls over, Ray Lewis/Robert Griffith sense, even though it appeared that way from the upper deck seats that most readers of this column had at this game. Instead, Mays wrapped up punter Jay Ottovegio and violently yanked him to the ground.
3) This wasn't as much of a case of good special teams play by the Irish as it was a case of Ottovegio sucking at life. With 8 guys in the box on the punt formation (see above), you would have thought that one of them could have picked the ball up and run with it a little. (subnote a: Yes, I realize that some of those 8 guys did back up into coverage. subnote b: Yes, I also realize that the general rule of a loose ball is for a "skills" guy to pick it up if he has a clear shot, but for a lineman to just fall on it.)

Ah, the Weekend in Review should again be a good one. I might have to start an official Sightings section, too. As a teaser, can you guess which of these three womens' basketballers were on campus this weekend?

Courtesy AP/