Thursday, October 07, 2004

ND Football 2004

Issue 6: Stanford

Stanford Rush Offense vs. ND Rush Defense

For a PAC 10 team, Stanford has a very respectible 137.5 yards per game on the ground. JR Lemon leads the team with 84 yards per game, and 6.9 per rush. However, those stats are a shade influenced by his 82 yard sprint against USC (still, an 82 yard run against USC is nothing to sneeze at). Backing up Lemon is Kenneth Tolon with 41.8 yards per game.
On the other side of the ball, ND has been giving up 90.8 rushing yards per game. Mike Goolsby,, Derek Curry, and Brandon Hoyte are 1, 2, and 3 respectively on the team in tackles. They've also combined for 10 tackles for a loss. On the defensive line, it's almost as if people have been taking turns having good games. The line has many movable parts, and it seems as if they've solidified as a unit.

ND Rush Offense vs. Stanford Rush Defense

A unit that gains 108.2 yards per game will also see the return of Ryan Grant. The combination of Grant and Darius Walker is much more reliable than the combination of Walker and anybody else (at least until Justin Hoskins starts seeing good playing time). If Grant is asked to be the power back up the middle, he could have a very nice day.
Stanford is giving up 85.5 yards per game on the ground. Throw out BYU, who doesn't run all that much, and the average is hovering around 100. Judging by the numbers, this team is lead by a deep, aggressive linebacking corps. Stanford won't be a pushover, and the Notre Dame offensive line won't manhandle them, but with the right playcalling the Notre Dame backs should put up good numbers on Saturday.

Stanford Pass Offense vs. ND Pass Defense

Redshirt sophomore Trent Edwards split time as a starter last year, but he did not play versus Notre Dame in 2003 due to injury. Edwards is averaging 230 passing yards per game. That doesn't sound too effective for a PAC 10 team, but his 61% completion ratio and 7 touchdown passes do sound very effective. The passing game is split between four key guys, each with 12-19 catches and 49-62 yards receiving per game. Tight end Alex Smith appears to be the go-to guy with a team-leading 19 catches, while the three receivers are looked upon for the big play. 6'7" Evan Moore leads the team in touchdowns (4) and yards per game (62), while Mark Bradford and Justin McCullum have long gains of 76 and 50, respectively.
Notre Dame's pass defense will have to rebound from a 413 yard, 4 touchdown performance against Purdue. The way Stanford spreads the ball around, the Irish will have to play together as a team. The way Stanford can break the big play, the coaching staff will have to scheme well enough to cover for this young Notre Dame secondary's weaknesses against the deep pass. On a positive note, Stanford has surrendered 11 sacks on the season. Justin Tuck should break the all-time Notre Dame sack record in this game. With the success of DT Darrell Campbell in last year's game, look for Greg Pauly, Trevor Laws, or Derek Landry to be in the backfield and add a sack or two.

ND Pass Offense vs. Stanford Pass Defense

276.8 yards per game. Sixteen different receivers. Long pass. Short pass. Brady Quinn has proven he can be a good Division 1-A pocket passer. Now, after last week's game, Brady just has to prove he can find the end zone again. Many of his TDs have come on runs after the catch, but if he can throw the ball accurately into the endzone, we'll be in very good shape. Rhema McKnight re-established himself as a playmaker in the last game, and I think it was the waking of a sleeping giant. Of course, if he's not open, Quinn can always look for Anthony Fasano in a hole in the zone. So many options, the passing game should be nothing to worry about.
On the other side of the ball, Stanford is giving up 235 passing yards per game. They have 6 picks by six different people, which tells me this is a good team defense. Having given up only 2 passing TDs, this tells me they have a very good team defense. Also spread out are the team's 8 sacks, with no one having more than 2.

Special Teams

Kicker Michael Sgroi is 3-6 with a long of 41, missing from 42, 49, and 22. The misses are from lack of accuracy, not from lack of leg strength. His strength is evident in his 8 touchbacks on 23 kickoffs. Punter Jay Ottovegio has been more or less average - 39.1 per with a long of 59 and 2 touchbacks.
Stanford's return teams will cause problems for the Irish. TJ Rushing averages 37.6 yards per kick return, and already has a 99 yard TD. The punt returners haven't been as successful, but the Cardinal have blocked 3 punts in 4 games. Coverage teams for the Cardinal have been average so far - 18.4 yards per kick return; 11.4 per punt return.
DJ continues to be a solid kicker and is turning into a very good punter. He's 4-6 with a long of 45 on field goals. Punting, he has an average of 42.5, a long of 59, and 12 of 32 punts inside the 20.
Special teams seemed otherwise overlooked by ND (to quote an NDNationer during a discussion about the band trip: "Can we leave Buzz Preston and take a band member instead?") Notre Dame's return averages match Stanford's coverages almost exactly. Notre Dame's punt coverage team has been good, but their kick coverage team must must must maintain their lanes in this one. The defense will have enough trouble defending the long pass; there's no reason to put their backs even closer to the wall with a return TD.

Comparative Stats

Both teams have played BYU and Washington this year. This is how they stacked up. Offensive stats are yards for; defensive stats are yards given up.
 vs. BYUvs. Washington
Stanford Rush Offense72144
ND Rush Defense22112
ND Rush Offense11146
Stanford Rush Defense4191
Stanford Pass Offense297254
ND Pass Defense263223
ND Pass Offense265266
Stanford Pass Defense288211

Look for a big game from

Grant, Quinn, McKnight, Tuck, the "Chain Gang"

ND 24, Stanford 20: McKnight, Fasano, RPN (short drive after a turnover), and 1 by DJ