Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Notre Dame Football 2006
Issue 9: North Carolina

UNC Rush Offense vs. ND Rush Defense

Tailback 25 Ronnie McGill has arguably been North Carolina's best weapon this year. He's averaging 16 carries and 65 yards per game. McGill has found the end zone six times on the ground, and once more via pass reception, giving him six more touchdowns than anyone else on the team. McGill's backup is 5 Barrington Edwards, who is averaging 9 carries and 34 yards per game. NC's two-headed quarterbacks, 12 Joe Dailey and 11 Cam Sexton, have combined for 40 positive rushes in 8 games this year. Dailey is a little more successful with his feet, averaging 5 carries and 11 yards per game to Sexton's 3 and 6. No Tarheels fullback has recorded a carry this season.
Both McGill and Edwards are listed at 220 lbs, the same weight as starting linebackers Maurice Crum and Joe Brockington, and five pounds heavier than Travis Thomas. Of course, Crum seemed to handle 223 lb Adam Ballard fairly well last week, so maybe this won't be an issue. If the linebackers can't contain the Carolina run, Tom Zbikowski will have to ignore any soreness left in his shoulder to make key stops.

ND Rush Offense vs. UNC Rush Defense

Darius Walker is averaging 20 carries and 85 yards per game. Assuming Notre Dame keeps it on the ground like they did against Navy, look for a few token carries for Travis Thomas and the continued emergence of James Aldridge. Aldridge is now third on the team in carries with 16, behind Walker and Brady Quinn. Sacks have spoiled Quinn's running numbers, but last week he had 3 positive carries for 36 yards.
Walker, Thomas, and Aldridge have to be licking their chops seeing that North Carolina's defense is giving up 205 rushing yards per game. North Carolina's list of top tacklers is loaded with members of the secondary, but the linebackers do make an appearance. 48 Durell Mapp, Larry Edwards, and 54 Victor Worsley have combined for 126 tackles and 10.5 tackles for a loss. (Conversely, Maurice Crum and Travis Thomas have combined for 93 tackles and 12 TFL, and Thomas missed two games.)

UNC Pass Offense vs. ND Pass Defense

North Carolina can't decide on a quarterback, so they're using two. Cam Sexton is averaging 7-for-19 passing for 120 yards; Joe Dailey 10-of-16 for 93. The two have combined for 15 interceptions and only 6 touchdowns on the year. UNC's top three receivers are 1 Brooks Foster, 9 Jesse Holley, and 88 Hakeem Nicks. Each are averaging about 3 catches and 40-50 yards per game. Tailbacks Reggie McGill and Barrington Edwards are averaging one catch per game. Tight end 86 Jon Hamlett and fullback 4 Bobby Rome each have 5 total catches after 8 games.
Notre Dame is giving up 192 passing yards per game. Victor Abiamiri is leading the way with 8 sacks, followed by Derek Landri and Trevor Laws with 3.5 a piece. Terrail Lambert has half of the team's 6 interceptions this season.

ND Pass Offense vs. UNC Pass Defense

Brady Quinn's new average numbers: 24-for-38 passing (63.7%) for 279 yards and 2-3 touchdowns per game. Per game, Rhema McKnight, Darius Walker, and Jeff Samardzija average 5-6 catches; John Carlson 4-5, and David Grimes 2. McKnight is averaging 77 yards per game, Carlson 66, Samardzija 64, Walker 39, and Grimes 29. McKnight is leading the team with 9 touchdowns, followed by Samardzija with 7 and Carlson with 2.
UNC is giving up only 171 yards per contest in the air, most likely because of that porous rushing D. If there's a star of this defense, it's Larry Edwards, who leads the team with 4.5 sacks. End 33 Hilee Taylor is next with 4. Between Edwards and Taylor, the Irish tackles will again have their hands full. Safety 27 Kareen Taylor leads the team in tackles with 48 and has the team's lone interception this season. 2 James "Cooter" Arnold, a former tailback converted to the other safety position, is second on the team with 46 tackles - tying him with Durell Mapp in that category.

Special Teams

Eric Byrnes lookalike 10 Connor Barth has been a perfect 6-for-6 on field goal attempts this year, including kicks from 47, 46, and 52. Carl Gioia has converted 6 of 10 field goal tries for the Irish. But again, he's 6-of-7 from 40 yards or less - not back for a walk-on.
Tarheels punter 45 David Wooldridge is averaging 40.9 yards per kick with a long of 61. Geoff Price is averaging 45.3 yards per punt with a long of 62.
WR 87 Brandon Tate returns kicks for the Tarheels, averaging 20.6 yards per return with a long of 42. Ryan Burkhart is averaging 59.3 yards per kickoff for the Irish, with 4 out of 21 kicks going for touchbacks. ND's kick coverage squad is surrendering 17 yards per return, giving opponents an average start at the 22.
David Grimes and George West split ND's kick return duty. Grimes averages 24.8 yards per return, West 19.5. Connor Barth is averaging 61.8 yards per kickoff, with 9 of 26 kicks going for touchbacks. UNC is surrendering an impressively low 14.6 yards per kick return, giving opponents an average start at the 18.
Brandon Tate handles punt return duties for the Tarheels as well (and he does have 2 carries and 3 catches on the year). Tate is averaging 7.7 yards per return with a long of 34. ND is giving up 10.2 yards per punt return.
Tom Zbikowski returns punts for the Irish. He's averaging a lowly 6.5 yards per return. North Carolina's punt coverage team is as good as their kick coveraging, giving up a measly 5.6 yards per return.

Look for a big game from Walker, McKnight, Landri, and Crum.

ND 38, UNC 14: McKnight, Aldrige, two by Walker, one by the defense, and one by Gioia.