Thursday, October 21, 2004

ND Football 2004

Issue 8: Boston College

BC Rush Offense vs. ND Rush Defense

Boston College seems to always have a good rusher in their backfield. This year, it's Andre Callender. Callender has only played in three of BC's 6 games due to a groin injury, but he should be healthy in this one. When he's playing, Callender has averaged 97 yards per game. When he's not, AJ Brooks and LV Whitworth are combining for 143 yards per game. Brooks is their version of Darius Walker, a true freshman with games of 95 and 160 yards this year. Put it together (and consider that my math sucks because Callender and Whitworth have only played 3 games each), and BC is gaining 162.3 yards per game on the ground. The line appears to be a plus for them as well - with a rushing attack like that, and only 7 sacks given up in 6 games, they would have to be.
Notre Dame has played the run well this year, considering the competition. They're giving up 105 yards per game on the ground, but have only surrendered 4 rushing TDs. Look for leading tackler Mike Goolsby to play big in this one - he's still not happy with the outcome of the game at ND two years ago, and he's looking for revenge. With run stopper Brandon Hoyte as the team's #2 tackle, and improved play by the rotation of defensive tackles, look for ND to once again play bend-but-don't-break against the run in this one.

ND Rush Offense vs. BC Rush Defense

Who will it be this week? It appears that defenses have finally figured out Darius Walker. Plus, he's becoming less agressive hitting the holes as of late. That being said, he's still averaging 77 yards per game. Ryan Grant had a big game against Navy, but this inside runner and his injury bug may have a little more trouble against a slightly bigger team. It won't be impressive, but the combined attack, with help from an outside run or two by Marcus Wilson, should be able to get the job done.
BC is giving up 99.5 rushing yards per game, but I'd warn you to check their schedule before calling that a good stat. Their leading tackler is linebacker Ricky Brown with 35. Another man to watch is DT Tim Bulman, with 7 of the team's 34 TFL. This is a quick team, so ND will have to look to the misdirection and good blocking - just not on third and short.

BC Pass Offense vs. ND Pass Defense

His last name isn't Hasselbeck, but Paul Peterson is still a rather efficient passer. Peterson is averaging 233.7 (two thirty three point seven! hoo hoo!) with 10 TDs and 6 interceptions. Like Brady Quinn, Peterson likes to spread the ball around. He has hit 14 different receivers, and he's not afraid to throw it to his backs. The leading receiver is wideout Grant Adams, with 27 catches and 67.7 yards per. Right behind Adams are #2 receiver Joel Hazard and... fullback Mark Palmer. Hazard and Palmer have caught 35 balls between the two, and are both averaging about 29 yards per game. Throw in no less than five more guys averaging more than 20 yards per game, and this is a very balanced attack.
Against a balanced attack, Notre Dame's D will have to be good from top to bottom. As mentioned above BC has given up only 7 sacks this year, but Justin Tuck will look to change this. ND's top 4 linebackers have combined for 8 sacks. If they're playing agressively against the run, they can get into the backfield and get to the quarterback. However, you'll probably also have to see them in coverage as well. I have a feeling our linebackers are athletic enough to cover their fullback and tight ends, but it will be the running backs they'll have to look out for. The defensive backs will have to play as a unit in this one, and that could come down to coaching and playcalling. Adams isn't a superstar, but even if you shut him down, there are plenty of other places to go. The entire ND 11 will have to give it their all on every play to prevent giving up the big play to the Eagles.

ND Pass Offense vs. BC Pass Defense

There have been some complaints about Brady Quinn lately, but I can't complain about a kid who doesn't turn 20 until next Wednesday, but is still throwing for 237 yards per game with 9 TDs and 5 INTs. Quinn has increased his receiver total this year to 18 as well. Notre Dame has basically put together a Big 5 of key targets for Quinn. Rhema McKnight is still The Man for Quinn, with 10 more catches than anyone else on the team. Anthony Fasano continues to be the best "safety valve" a guy could have. Maurice Stovall is stepping up as a clutch go-to guy this season, while Matt Shelton is proving he can be a big play threat no matter where you give him the ball. Just when you think you have those four figured out, along comes Jeff Samardzija for a first down along the sideline.
Pass defense has been the pride for this quick Eagle team, giving up a scant 176 yards per game. The stars are defensive end Mathias Kiwanuka and corner Will Blackmon, but free safety TJ Stancil has been a solid performer as well. Kiwanuka is second on the team in tackles, and has put up a staggering 9 tackles for loss, including 4 sacks. Blackmon has 29 tackles and 2 picks, while Stancil is third on the team with 32 tackles. Notre Dame will have to rely on good blocking and throwing the ball away from Blackmon - which could mean a big day for Stovall or Shelton.

Special Teams

Ryan Ohliger is 6-9 in field goals on the year, with a long of 42 and one miss each in the 20+, 30+, and 40+ range. Don't be confused about Ohliger's leg strength, though, as he does have 4 touchbacks on the year. Punter Johnny Ayers is exactly what you would expect from an OK, up and down team - an average of 37.2 yards, with a long of 57, 3 touchbacks, and 10 of 30 punts inside the 20.
On returns, Blackmon is again the guy to watch. He averages 10.6 per on punts, and a whopping 35.3 per on kickoffs. He already has a 96 yard touchdown off of a kickoff this year. Not so good. You can tell it's team discipline, too, as Grant Adams, the other kick returner, has an average of 27.7 per. BC also boasts a blocked punt this season.
On coverage, BC is slightly above average on kickoffs - 15.4 yards per - and slightly below on punts - 9.8 per.
For Notre Dame, DJ continues to be a pleasant surprise. He's 7-9 on field goals with a long of 47, and carries a 42.5 yard punt average with 17 of 42 inside the 20. Bobby Renkes is averaging 60.7 yards per kickoff, 5.3 yards better than Carl Gioia. Renkes also has 3 touchbacks.
Notre Dame's return teams have been, well, disappointing. Chase Anastasio has a decent 20.8 yard average per kick return, but his long of 40 is by far the best return for this team on the season. Carlyle Holiday somehow has an 8.4 yards per punt return average, despite continued single coverage on the opposing gunners.
Coverage teams have been two separate entities for the Irish. The kick coverage team has an OK avearge of 22.1, but they have given up 2 TDs on the year. Hold your breath in this one. Meanwhile, the punt coverage team has put up a nice 6.9 yards per average, lead by the fired-up play of the gunners flying down the field.

Look for a big game from
Grant, Stovall, Fasano, the DTs, Goolsby, and Hoyte.

ND 20, BC 16: Two by Grant (one long drive, one short after a turnover) and two by DJ. BC gets a field position TD (starting around their own 40), a return TD, a missed extra point, and a figgie. Just an ugly, ugly game.

Go Irish, Eat Bagles!