Thursday, November 04, 2004

ND Football 2004

Issue 9: Tennessee

UT Rush Offense vs. ND Rush Defense

Tennessee has a powerful, balanced attack, lead by a 1-2 punch at running back. Cedric Houston averages 77 yards per game, and Gerald Riggs is right behind him with 73 per game. Both are listed at 6', 220, so I doubt this is an inside-outside rotation. Both appear to be powerful backs made to both take and give a beating in the strong SEC. Behind these two in the rushing attack is QB #2 Brent Schaeffer at 11 yards per game. Overall, the Vols gain 181.4 yards per game on the ground.
Notre Dame gives up an average of 99.9 yards on the ground. This will be a physical game for the ND front 7. Tackles Greg Pauly and Derek Landi will have to hold their ground in the trenches. The matchup between Tennessee's powerful backs and Mike Goolsby and the hard-hitting Brandon Hoyte should be interesting to watch.

ND Rush Offense vs. UT Rush Defense

The Irish, averaging 124.8 yards per game, will have to get the running game going to win this one. Darius Walker is still leading the team with 71 yards per game, but things haven't come quite so easy for him as of late. He'll need to find the right holes, inside and outside, and his performance will be key in this game. Ryan Grant is averaging 60.8 yards per game. If Walker can't get it going, Grant will need to be able to hold onto the ball and pound it inside against a physical defense. (Right now Klondike probably has a lot of dirty thoughts running through his mind.)
Tennessee is giving up 123.6 rushing yards per game. I suppose that shouldn't be surprising in the SEC. Linebackers Kevin Burnett and Omar Gaither are numbers 2 and 3 on the team in tackles, combining for 127 and 12.5 for loss. (One note: UT is averaging negative 22 yards per game from sacks, making their actual run defense total 145.5.)

UT Pass Offense vs. ND Pass Defense

Cue the ND-BYU basketball highlights. Erik Ainge, nephew of two-sport star Danny, is the primary passer for the Vols. He as averaging only 162.9 yards per game, but has thrown 16 touchdowns (an average of 2 per game). Ainge is only a freshman, though, and he does have 9 interceptions. There are no stars of the UT passing game - there are 6 players with 9-19 catches and averaging 21-31 yards per game. Touchdown leader Bret Smith has 5, and 11 catches total.
Notre Dame is giving up a miserable 251.1 yards per game in the air. Assuming the playcalling is correct, the short and intermediate game hasn't been too bad. Defense of the deep pass, on the other hand, has been a problem for the past two seasons. I see longs of 60, 55, and 42, 39, and 39 from the Vol receivers, so ND will have to guard against the deep pass (safety help anyone?). Bret Smith already has TD catches of 57 and 60 yards on the year. Shutting down the deep pass, or at least minimizing the damage will be key for the Irish in this game.

ND Pass Offense vs. UT Pass Defense

"We're going inside of ‘em, we're going outside of ‘em -- inside of ‘em! outside of ‘em! -- and when we get them on the run once, we're going to keep ‘em on the run. And we're not going to pass unless their secondary comes up too close. But don't forget, men -- we're gonna get ‘em on the run, we're gonna go, go, go, go! -- and we aren't going to stop until we go over that goal line!"
On one hand, ND has a QB who can throw the ball - Brady Quinn is averaging 236.2 yards per game. On the other hand, I hope we don't need to use him. Of course, they could take a hint from the Browns' coaching staff vs. the Eagles - after running all over Philadelphia in the first half, they knew the Eagles would be looking run. So, it was then they went to the air. When Brady does go to the air, he has no less than 19 options to choose from. I'll assume that Marcus Freeman and Jerome Collins are still banged up, but other than that I haven't heard any injury reports. Leading the way for the Irish passing attack are Rhema McKnight and Anthony Fasano. McKnight has 31 catches for 466 yards, and Fasano has 19 for 286. Behind these two are the talent trio of Maurice Stovall, Matt Shelton, and Jeff Samardzija. If these five are used correctly, good things will come.
Do you want an active defense? How about 11 interceptions, 25 sacks, and 67 tackles for loss. Defensive back Jason Allen leads the team in tackles with a whopping 83. Defensive linemen Parys Haralson and Jesse Mahelona have 11.5 TFL each, and have combined for 9 sacks. The Irish line will have quite a challenge on their hands. Perhaps some misdirection and rollouts will come in handy.

Special Teams

Sophomore James Wilhoit is a deceiving 5-10 o n field goals. All 5 misses have come from 40+, but he does have a 51 yard game winner under his belt. Wilhoit is also averaging 62.1 yards per kickoff (good enough to get it to about the 3 yard line), and has 18 touchbacks. Punter Dustin Colquitt has numbers very similar to DJ Fitzpatrick's - 41.9 per with a long of 61 and 11 inside the 20.
Tennessee punt returns? Decent - 6.8 per return. Kick returns? 19.8 per. But, if you're not yet convinced that Bret Smith is a speedster and a playmaker - he has 1 kick return on the year, and one kick return TD. It's 44 yards, so probably an onside kick, but that's still nothing to sneeze at.
Tennessee's kick return teams have been average - 19.6 yards per. Meanwhile, ND can just forget about punt returns against this team - 3.4 yards per.
DJ has been the double threat as a kicker. He's 8-11 on field goals with a long of 47. But his strength has been his punting. DJ is averaging 42.8 per with a long of 67 (thanks to a wind at the BC that apparently I could see from my couch but Tom Hammond and Pat Haden couldn't see from inside the stadium) and 21 inside the 20. On kickoffs, Bobby Renkes's 59.8 yard average will put the ball around the 5, and he has 3 touchbacks.
ND return game? Nonexistent. I've spent too many words on it already.
As for the Irish coverage teams, it's night and day. The punt coverage team can be good, although their average is 8.8 per. The kick team, meanwhile, is giving up 21.4 per.

Look for a big game from
Walker, Grant, Goolsby, BHoyte, DJ

ND 23, Tennessee 22: I have no idea.