Wednesday, October 19, 2005

ND Football 2005

Issue 7: BYU

BYU Rush Offense vs ND Rush Defense

The brunt of BYU's 115 yards per game on the ground come from Curtis Brown. Brown is averaging 84 yards on almost 18 yards per game. He's averaging 4.8 yards per carry, with 5 TDs and a long run of 34 yards. Lining up in front of Brown is fullback Naufahu Tahi. Tahi has carried the ball 35 times for 202 yards, or an average of about 34 yards on 6 carries per game. Quarterback John Beck looks like he'd be a threat to run, with 24 positive rushing attempts, but the yards he's lost on 14 sacks (101) surpass anything he's gained scrambling (82).
Notre Dame is giving up just over 126 rushing yards per game. The Irish should be able to handle the Cougar run game with ease. Against BYU's two toughest opponents, BC and TCU, Brown and Company gained a combined 105 yards - split 8 against BC and 97 against TCU. The linebacking crew of Brandon Hoyte, Corey Mays, and Maurice Crum, Jr. have combined for 103 tackles this year, including 14 in the backfield.

ND Rush Offense vs BYU Rush Defense

Darius Walker is averaging exactly 100 yards on 22.5 carries per game. It looks like Rashon Powers-Neal will again be out this Saturday, officially questionable with an arm injury. In his absence, Travis Thomas may again be called upon to share the load with Walker. In limited time, Thomas has performed admirably. He has 161 yards on 37 carries. He is tied with walker in yards per rush - 4.4 - and touchdowns - 3. Meanwhile, Brady Quinn is increasingly becoming a threat to scramble, but only when needed. On 30 non-sack carries (5 per game), Quinn has 164 yards and a TD. Of course, why scramble when you can just shrug off a would-be tackler and throw downfield?
BYU is giving up almost 145 yards on the ground per contest. Those numbers are founded on a combined 500+ rushing yards put up by San Deigo State and New Mexico. The Cougars run the infamous 3-3-5 defense: three down linemen, three linebackers, and five in the secondary (which normally breaks down to two corners, one free safety, and two hybrid strong safeties/linebackers). You can tell the BYU likes to blitz from all angles - 20 players have combined for 39 tackles for loss. The people to look out for are linebackers Cameron Jensen, who leads the team with 39 tackles, and Justin Luettgerodt, who has 6 backfield stops on the year. Basically, BYU is going to guess right at least 5 times this game, and Walker will be stuffed for four yard losses on those plays. The Notre Dame faithful will just have to accept that and move on to the next play. If the Irish line can keep pounding the 6-man Cougar front, ND should have no problem picking up good ground with the running game.

BYU Pass Offense vs ND Pass Defense

John Beck, now in his third(?) season as a starter, definitely has the experience to play quarterback. The average game consists of Beck completing 28 of 44 passes for 317 yards. Beck does complete 64.5% of his passes, but he also has 8 interceptions. That tells me he will try to force it every once in a while. Beck's primary targets are Curtis Brown and TE Jonny Harline, each with 29 catches. I would say that this is a sign that BYU uses the short pass to compensate for the run, but 115 rushing yards per game isn't a bad number in their conference. Harline, by the way, averages 75 yards per game, while Brown averages 36. Three other players have at least 20 catches - WR Todd Watkins (23), fullback Tahi (21), and WR Nathan Meikle (20). Watkins averages 60.8 yards per game with 5 of Beck's 12 TDs, meaning he's the team's deep threat. Tahi averages 32.4 yards per game, while Meikle averages 24.5. TE Dan Coats has 13 catches, and WRs Matt Allen, Zac Collie, and Michael Reed have combined for 24, so look for a variety of sets from the Cougars.
Notre Dame, giving up 304.8 passing yards per game, has survived to this point but turning things up a notch in the red zone. A suddenly young defensive line played with a passion last week. Led by Victor Abiamiri's 3 sacks, watch how ND's small, quick line matches up against BYU's big offensive line. Notre Dame's secondary, which will again be tested this week, will need to prove that they can keep things in front of them. That'll take discipline from safety Tom Zbikowski (37 tackles) and a continued improvement in play from corners Ambrose Wooden (43 tackles), Mike Richardson (2 INT), and, when needed, Leo Ferrine (9 tackles).

ND Pass Offense vs BYU Pass Defense

Notre Dame's passing game continues its assault on the record book, led by Brady Quinn and Jeff Samardzija. Quinn's average day is 314 yards on 24 of 38 passing (63.6%), with just over 2 TDs and just under 1 INT per game. Samardzija is close to 100 yards on 6 catches on the average Saturday. His 9 TD catches are already tied for second by an ND receiver over the course of a full season. Aiding Samardzija are Anthony Fasano with 27 catches and Mo Stovall with 26. Right behind Fasano and Stovall is Walker with 21 catches. Matt Shelton is slowly creeping his way up the chart with 15 catches for 164 yards.
As mentioned above, BYU loves to blitz out of their 3-3-5. Justin Luettgerodt has 3.5 of the team's 11 sacks. What the Cougars don't like to do, apparently, is intercept the ball. Safety Dustin Gabriel has the team's lone pick. BYU, giving up a decent 241.3 passing yards per game, will have its hands full with ND. Starting corner Justin Robinson is listed at 5'7" (and that's probably a generous listing, as usually happens when you're 5'9" or shorter). He'll have to attempt to cover one of ND's 6'5" receivers. Pitted against Stovall, who has not been effective in jump ball situations, Charlie Weis can go for the pass interference. Against Samardzija, well, I'm afraid Robinson will just be toast. Meanwhile, TE Anthony Fasano will likely be covered by one of BYU's three safeties. While Fasano likely won't be able to outrun the DBs, he can certainly out-physical them.

Special Teams

BYU kicker Jared McLaughlin has converted 7 of 9 field goals, missing from 48 and 42, but connecting once from 47. His coutnerpart, DJ Fitzpatrick, has also made 7 of 9 now, missing from 35 while also going 1 for two from 48.
Punter Derek McLaughlin (there are also three Becks, two Berrys, four Browns, two Hansens, and two Reynoldses, in case you were wondering) is averaging 39.4 yards on 25 punts, with a long of 60. BYU is a fan of playing the field position game - punting instead of going for it from close - as this McLaughlin has 6 touchbacks and 5 punts inside the 20. For the Irish, Fitzpatrick has punted 24 times with an average of 40.5 yards per. He also has a long of 60, with 6 punts landing inside the 20.
Kick return duties have been shared by BYU CB Breyon Jones, WR Brett Cooper, and safety Justin Robinson. They have combined to average 18.8 yards per return. Jones has the long - 36 yards. DJ Fitzpatrick averages 58.6 yards per kickoff, putting the ball at about the 6. From there, ND is giving up 19.1 yards per return, giving opponents an average start at the 25.
David Grimes is now ND's chief kick returner. On 5 returns, he's averaging 25.8 yards per, with a long of 40. Kickoff information for BYU is not available, but they are giving up 21.1 yards per return, including one 100-yard TD.
WRs Nathan Meikle and Bryce Mahuika combine to return punts for the Cougars. They combine for a 5.7 yard average with a long of 12. ND's coverage team, meanwhile, is giving up 6 yards per punt return.
Tom Zbikowski is averaging 16.5 yards per punt return, with help from a 60-yard TD last week. BYU is surrendering a mere 6 yards per punt return, with a long of 24.

Look for a big game from Samardzija, Stovall, Walker, Abiamiri, Hoyte, Richardson

ND 38, BYU 19: Walker, Thomas, Samardzija, Fasano's first of the season, one by the defense, and one by DJ.

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