Wednesday, November 23, 2005

Notre Dame Football 2005
Issue 11: Stanford

Stanford Rush Offense vs. ND Rush Defense

Stanford is a team that likes to be fair. Counting sacks as failed pass attempts, the Cardinal have run the ball 327 times and passed 336 times. Stanford even likes to be fair when it comes to playing tailback. Three players average approximately 6-7 carries and 25-30 yards per game. Jason Evans, who has yet to earn a start this season, does lead the team in carries (72) and yards (248). He also has 2 touchdowns. Anthony Kimble has rushed 65 times for 243 yards, and senior JR Lemon has run 64 times for 182 yards. Fullback Nick Frank averages 4 carries and 13.4 yards per game. With 3 of the team's 8 rushing touchdowns, look for Frank in goal line situations. Quarterback Trent Edwards can scramble when necessary; he has 167 net rushing yards and averages 8 carries per game. However, Edwards was hurt in last week's game against Cal and may not play in this one. Backup TC Ostrander is far from a scrambling QB - he has -10 net rushing yards. As a team, the Cardinal combine for 102.6 rushing yards per game.
Notre Dame is giving up 132.4 rushing yards per game. Run-stopping linebacker Brandon Hoyte still leads the team with 75 tackles and 13.5 tackles for a loss. But, it has been fellow linebacker Corey Mays who has shined these past few weeks. With 24 tackles in the last two games, Mays is now third on the team with 62. He also has 9.5 tackles for loss.

ND Rush Offense vs. Stanford Rush Defense

Against Syracuse, Darius Walker notched his sixth 100 yard game of the season. He's now 80 yards away from the 1000 mark. Walker averages 20 carries and 92 yards per game, so he should reach his goal this weekend. Fullback Rashon Powers-Neal is rumored to be a candidate for "reinstatement" with the team prior to this weekend's game. Even if he does play, don't expect his typical 6 carry/20 yard/1 touchdown day. Never fear, though, as Travis Thomas has done an admirable job stepping up in his absence. He's averaging 23.5 yards on 6 carries per game. Walker and Thomas have combined for 9 rushing touchdowns on the season, or about 1 per game. Not counting sacks, quarterback Brady Quinn has run 39 times for 204 yards and one touchdown. His per-game averages break down to approximately 4 carries for 20 yards. As a team, Notre Dame averages 147.2 yards per game on the ground.
Stanford gives up 148.5 rushing yards per game. Sure, that seems like a large number for a team that plays against PAC-10 offenses, but they have played the likes of Navy, USC, and UCLA this season. The Cardinal run a base 3-4 defense, led by inside linebacker Kevin Schimmelmann. Schimmelmann has a team-leading 78 tackles. Fellow inside linebacker Mike Silva has 51. At 6'2, 320 pounds, nose tackle Babatunde Oshinowo will be a handful for the taller, lighter Bob Morton. He'll need some guard help if Notre Dame wants to run successfully between the tackles.

Stanford Pass Offense vs. ND Pass Defense

As mentioned above, Stanford quarterback Trent Edwards was injured in last week's game. He's listed as questionable for this game. Edwards completes 62.9 percent of his passes and has 15 touchdowns to 7 interceptions. But, the rest of his numbers aren't entirely impressive. His average day is 16 for 25 passing for 178 yards. Backup TC Ostrander has completed 28 of 52 passes (53.8%) for 332 yards, with one interception. Stanford's top three pass catchers are all wide receivers. Mark Bradford leads the team with 32 catches and 5 touchdowns; he averages 53.9 yards per game. The other starting receiver, Gerrn Crochet, has 29 catches for 387 yards (38.7 per game), but has yet to see the end zone. The number 3 receiver, Justin McCullum, has actually had a better year that Crochet: 30 catches, 438 yards, and 4 touchdowns. If it means anything, McCullum is 6'4, while Crochet is 6'0. Playing the averages game, these receivers will each catch 3 passes on Saturday. Running back Jason Evans and fullback Nick Frank each average 2 catches and about 13 yards per game. Starting tight end Matt Traverso and back Anthony Kimble average a catch and 15-17 yards per game. JR Lemon and backup tight end average a catch and 7 yards per game. At 250 pounds a piece, and without a definitive big play guy, I'm having a flashback to the BYU game with these two tight ends, especially Traverso.
Notre Dame surrenders 248.6 passing yards per game. An improved secondary features Ambrose Wooden (63 tackles, 2 interceptions), Tom Zbikowski (61, 5), Mike Richardson (55, 3), and Chinedum Ndukwe (47, 2). The corners tend to play soft to avoid the big play, and that has proved more or less effective. They have improved their skills at breaking up passes as the season has gone along. The formation where Ndukwe comes up to play a slot receiver, Zbikowski moves up to strong safety, and Richardson moves back to free safety has proven suprisingly effective. Richardson was hurt last week, but assumedly will be back. If not, nickel back Leo Ferrine has proven his worth this season, even before last week's "pick 6." In the front 7, Bradon Hoyte, Corey Mays, and defensive end Victor Abiamiri are tied for the team lead with 4 sacks, while tackle Derek Landri is right behind with 3.

ND Pass Offense vs. Stanford Pass Defense

If you're a fan of round numbers, this game is for you. Brady Quinn is 299 yards away from 3500 yards passing on the season. Receiver Jeff Samardzija is 1 yard away from 1000 receiving, while Mo Stovall is a realistic 113 yards away. Quinn is one touchdown away from 30, while Samardzija is 2 away from 15. Quinn's average day consists of completing 24 of 37 passes (64.9%) for 320 yards and 3 touchdowns. On the average day, Samardzija will catch 6 passes for 100 yards and a touchdown, while Stovall will catch 5 passes for 89 yards and a touchdown. Tight end Anthony Fasano, whose season seems quiet compared to Samardzija and Stovall's, has 42 catches for 545 yards and 2 TDs on the year. Darius walker averages 3 catches and 26 yards per game, while #3 receiver Matt Shelton averages 2 and 25.
On average, the Cardinal give up 271.3 yards in the air. The team has 8 interceptions; no player has more than 2. The front 7 does like to get into the backfield. End Julian Jenkins has 7 sacks, while outside linebacker Jon Alston has 6 and NT Oshinowo has 4.

Special Teams

Stanford kicker Michael Sgroi has made only 14 of 22 field goal attempts, an number which includes 4 blocks. His long is from 48 yards. For the Irish, DJ Fitzpatrick has converted 11 of 15 field goals, with a long of 48. Fitzpatrick was injured in the last game, but is expected to be back. As an odd stat, Stanford opponents have made only 5 of 14 field goal attempts.
The Cardinal punter is Jay Ottovegio. He averages 40.7 yards per punt and 6 punts per game. His long is 56 and has 7 touchbacks, 15 fair catches, and 21 kicks inside the 20. DJ averages 40.3 yards per punt and 3-4 punts per game for Notre Dame. His long is 60 yards. Of DJ's 37 punts, 1 was a touchback, 2 were fair caught, and 9 went inside the 20. Both teams have blocked 3 opponents' punts. For Stanford, linebacker Jon Alston is credited with a 10 yard punt return touchdown, meaning he's likely returned a block punt for a score. Chase Anastasio, this week's special teams captain, has all three for the Irish.
Cornerback TJ Rushing is Stanford's main kick returner. He's averaging 24 yards per return, with a 93 yard touchdown. For the Irish, Fitzpatrick averages 60.5 yards per kick, and the coverage team gives up 20.5 yards per return. Not counting DJ's 8 touchbacks, ND gives opponents an average start at the 26 yard line.
David Grimes has handled most of the kick returns for Notre Dame. He's averaging 21.9 yards per with a long of 40. For all of his accuracy problems (and protection problems), Stanford's Michael Sgroi has a powerful leg. Twenty-four of his 50 kickoffs have been touchbacks. With a 62 yard kick average, and a 19.2 average return against, Cardinal opponents get an average start on the 22 yard line.
TJ Rushing also returns punts for the Cardinal. He averages 9.1 yards per return with a long of 20. Notre Dame gives up 6.2 yards per punt return.
Tom Zbikowski has a 17.2 yard average on punt returns. He's averaging a touchdown once every 10 punt returns. (In the "small sample set" category, Zbikowski is also averaging a touchdown once every 2.5 interceptions, and Leo Ferrine is averaging a touchdown once per interception. Where was I?) Stanford's coverage team has held opponents to a spectacular 3.8 yard punt return average.

Look for a big game from Quinn, Walker, Stovall, the offensive line (I don't give them nearly enough credit here), Landri, Mays, and Ferrine.

ND 38, Stanford 17: Samardzija, Stovall, Walker, Fasano, Thomas, and one by DJ beats two legit scores and another garbage time TD.

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