Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Notre Dame Football 2006
Issue 7: UCLA

UCLA Rush Offense vs. ND Rush Defense

28 Chris Markey has taken over for the graduated Maurice Jones-Drew, and he's picked up right where Maurice left off. Markey is averaging 98.2 rushing yards per game, on only 16-17 carries per game. Markey has only one rushing touchdown, while backup 36 Khalil Bell has two. Bell averages 9-10 carries and 38 yards per game. Markey and Bell come from the same physical mold; both are around 6' and just over 200 lbs. 42 Chane Moline is the power back. ("Chane" is the brother of teammates 46 Chad and 50 Chase. Guess who's lucky enough to be the youngest brother?) Chane has totalled 9 carries for 20 yards and 2 TD this season. Obviously, he's one to look for near the goal line. Fullback 32 Michael Pitre has carried the ball only twice this season, one time less that WR 1 Brandon Breazell. QB 12 Patrick Cowan scrambled 4 times for 20 yards last week, and was sacked twice.
Notre Dame's defense is giving up a staggering 134.8 rushing yards per game this year. MLB Maurice Crum, who was criticized by this site last week, leads the team in tackles with 43. He hasn't gotten much help from his fellow linebackers after Travis Thomas was injured. There's no word yet on whether Thomas will be back this week. Will Notre Dame scheme to stop the run, and take their chances with a young quarterback, or will they concede the run and attack that young quarterback?

ND Rush Offense vs. UCLA Rush Defense

After struggling against strong defenses, Darius Walker's numbers are slowly returning to their normal levels. Walker is averaging 20 carries and 88 yards per contest. He leads the team with 3 rushing touchdowns. With Asaph Schwapp officially out for the season, Ashley McConnell is the starting fullback. McConnell has carried only twice this season. If Travis Thomas is still out, the backup tailback situation will be interesting. Munir Prince has been overmatched by the size of college defenders. James Aldridge looked impressive in his ND debut, averaging 6.2 yards on 4 carries, but it was against the second stringers of a bottom 3 run defense. Brady Quinn has been effective with his legs, but hasn't been a threat. Thanks to sacks, Quinn has netted -23 yards on the ground.
UCLA is giving up 84 yards per game on the ground. That's impressive when you see that they held Rice, Washington, and Stanford under 60 yards each, and Arizona to -13 yards. That's not so impressive when you see that they gave up 256 rusing yards to Oregon. Linebackers 33 Christian Taylor, 42 Aaron Whittington, and 51 Reggie Carter have combined for 74 tackles, 8 for a loss.

UCLA Pass Offense vs. ND Pass Defense

UCLA starter Ben Olson is out with a knee injury. His backup, Patrick Cowan, had his necked stepped on last week but should play this Saturday. Last week, Cowan completed 16 of 31 passes for 112 yards. He had no touchdowns and 1 INT, and his longest completion went for 14 yards. Brandon Breazell has been UCLA's top receiver this season. He's averaging 3 catches and 35 yards per game. Right behind him are 8 Junior Taylor and 88 Matt Willis. Both are averaging 2-3 catches a game. Taylor is averaging 23 yards per game; Willis 17. Willis is tied for the team lead with 2 receiving touchdowns. Back Chris Markey, TEs 86 Logan Paulsen and 15 Ryan Moya, and WR Marcus Everett are averaging 2 catches a game. Everett also has 2 receiving TDs. FB Michael Pitre is averaging just over 1 catch a game.
The big news for the Notre Dame pass offense is the loss of Ronald Talley. Chris Frome, thrust back into the starter's role, is out to prove he deserves the spot. Of course, he may have already proven that before Talley left. Frome has 12 tackles on the season - one more than Talley - and three quarterback hits. After another big day against Stanford, Victor Abiamiri leads the team with 5 sacks. Chinedum Ndukwe is tied for the team lead in tackles (43) and interceptions (2). Tom Zbikowski may not be back Saturday, but it looks like he left the strong safety position in good hands. In his first career start, Ray Herring recorded 9 tackles. Mike Richardson leads the team in the ever-popular pass breakup category (5), and it looks like he'll be rejoined in the starting lineup by Ambrose Wooden.

ND Pass Offense vs. UCLA Pass Defense

Brady Quinn's numbers are slowly improving this year. His average day consists of completing 25 of 39 passes for 272 yards and 3 TDs. His leading receiver has been Darius Walker with 38 catches for 258 total receiving yards. Rhema McKnight has put up the impressive numbers with 37 catches for 495 yards and 7 TDs. He's leading the team in receiving yards, TDs, and yards per game (82.5). While it seems like Jeff Samardzija is having a quiet season, he's right behind McKnight with 34 catches for 369 yards and 5 TDs. Not to be outdone, TE John Carlson has 28 receptions for 397 yards and 2 TDs. If you're a fan of averages, Walker, McKnight, and Samardzija pull in about 6 catches again, while Carlson will get 4 or 5. Samardzija and Carlson will gain about 60 yards per game in the air; Walker, 43.
UCLA is holding opponents to 167.7 passing yards per game, another number that may be misleading. The Bruins are led by talented defensive ends 44 Bruce Davis and 17 Justin Hickman, who have combined for 12 sacks and 19 total tackles for a loss. SS Chris Horton leads the team with 35 tackles and is tied for team lead with 2 INTs. CB 23 Trey Brown also has 2 interceptions and 6 pass breakups, but is listed at only 5'9".

Special Teams

Senior kicker 7 Justin Medlock has converted 14 of 15 UCLA field goal attempts. He's made two from 50/51 yards, and his only miss came from the 40-49 yard range. Carl Gioia has made half of his field goal attempts for the Irish, going 3 for 3 from 35 yards, and 0 for 3 on longer tries.
17 Aaron Perez is UCLA's punter. He's averaging 39.3 yards per kick. Eleven of 27 punts have gone inside the 11, 2 have gone for touchbacks, and 4 have been fair caught. Geoff Price continues to boom away for the Irish, averaging 46.6 yards per punt. He's put 9 of 28 kicks inside the 20, with 3 touchbacks and 3 fair caught.
Freshman receiver 3 Jeremy McGee has been UCLA's primary kick returner. He's averaging 17.4 yards per return with a long of 31 yards. With Bobby Renkes ailing from a leg injury, Ryan Burkhart made his Notre Dame debut against Stanford. Burkhart averaged 59.8 yards per kick with 2 touchbacks. ND coverage teams are giving up 17.3 yards per kick, giving opponents an average start on the 22 when Burkhart kicks.
David Grimes and George West split ND's kick return duties. Grimes is averaging 27.4 yards per return, West 20.9. Justin Medlock kicks off for the Bruins, averaging 59.4 per with 7 touchbacks and 2 out of bounds. UCLA is giving up 19.6 yards per return, giving opponents an average start on the 25.
4 Terrence Austin, another freshman wideout, returns punts for the Bruins. He's averaging an impressive 13.8 yards per return, thanks to a long return of 79 yards. (However, the 79 yard return somehow wasn't a touchdown.) Notre Dame is giving up an average of 9.8 yards per punt return.
If healthy, Tom Zbikowski will return punts for the Irish. His average is slowly rising, and it now stands at 7.2 yards per return. In his stead, George West has returned 1 punt for 2 yards. UCLA is impressively holding opponents to 2.5 yards per return.

Look for a big game from Walker, Quinn, Abiamiri.

ND 35, UCLA 21: Samardzija, McKnight, Carlson, and one of each for Walker.