Saturday, December 30, 2006

Notre Dame Football 2006
Issue 13: Sugar Bowl vs. LSU

LSU Rush Offense vs. ND Rush Defense

LSU has taken running back-by-committee to a new level, with 5 backs recording 45 or more carries this season. 18 Jacob Hester is the starter and the closest thing the Tigers have to a feature back. Hester averages 7-8 carries and 35 yards a game. He also leads the team with 6 rushing TDs. Keiland Williams similarly averages 7-8 carries and 41 yards per game, with 3 total touchdowns. 22 Alley Broussard is the power back. He averages 7 carries per game, but for only 28 yards per contest. Broussard has scored 4 times on the ground. 32 Charles Scott averages 6-7 carries and 40 yards per game, with 5 total touchdowns. 25 Justin Vincent, who has recorded 5 starts alongside Hester, is averaging 4 carries and 12 yards per game. Freshman wide receiver 8 Trindon Holliday, all 5'5" of him, has carried the ball 13 times this season - more than once a game. Holliday has been used effectively, averaging 12.4 yards per carry. Finally, quarterback 2 JaMarcus Russell is averaging 44 carries and 10 yards per game on the ground. All in all, the Tigers average 159 yards per game on the ground, so their system works.
The Irish linebackers will have their hands full with the LSU backs. Marcus Crum and Joe Brockington are listed at 220 pounds and Travis Thomas at 215 pounds. Hester (228 lbs), Williams (223), Broussard (250), Scott (221), and Vincent (223) - and Russell (260) - all outweigh the Irish staring backers. (Russell is only 12 pounds lighter than Chris Frome.) Notre Dame's susceptibility to trick plays could also lead to several big gains for Holliday. The Irish will need to play with discipline and fundamentals, and flock to the ball without over-pursuing.

ND Rush Offense vs. LSU Rush Defense

Darius Walker averages 19 carries and 95 yards per game. However, Walker and the run game seem to disappear in big games. This can partially be attributed to Coach Weis' tendency to pass more when behind, and the tendency to save the run for late in the game to hold a lead. But Walker has averaged just 2 yards per carry in most of those big games, a number that can partially be attributed to inconsistent offensive line play. It will be interesting to see who backs up Walker in this game: James Aldridge, who is now third on the team in carries (behind Walker and Brady Quinn), or the veteran Travis Thomas, who is rumored to move back to running back full time next year. Aldridge now averages 6 carries and 23 yards per game. Thomas has only carred the ball 11 times this season, but is averaging 6.9 yards per carry (3.3 YPC if you discount his 43-yard fake punt run). Discounting sacks, Brady Quinn has carried 49 times for 288 yards this season, with a long of 60. Munir Prince is the only other Irish player to carry the ball more than 4 times. Prince has 15 carries, most coming in garbage time.
At 93.2 yards per game, LSU's run defense is very good, but not impenetrable. Like their running game, though, their offense is very balanced. Linebackers 48 Darry Beckwith and 7 Ali Highsmith have 61 and 58 tackles, respectively. DT 72 Glenn Dorsey has 59 tackles, 8.5 for a loss.

LSU Pass Offense vs. ND Pass Defense

Apparently, this JaMarcus Russell guy is pretty good. The "Young Daunte Culpepper" is only completing 68.5% of his passes this season. Russell's average day consists of completing 18 of 26 passes for 233 yards. Russell has 26 TDs and 7 interceptions on the year. To paraphase a certain parody of a certain FOX baseball playoff announcer: As balanced as LSU is with their running backs, that's how as not balanced they are with their receivers. Russell focuses primarily on his top three wide receivers, who each have between 50 and 60 catches. 80 Dwayne Bowe averages 5 caches and 76 yards per game. He leads the team with 11 receiving touchdowns, almost one per game. 3 Craig Davis averages 4-5 catches and 72 yards per game. 9 Early Doucet is the number 3 receiver. He rarely starts, but he hasn't failed to put up impressive numbers. Doucet also averages 4-5 catches per game for 55 yards per. Doucet does know how to find the end zone, as he has 8 touchdowns on the year. After these three top receivers, halfback Jacob Hester has 34 catches, and no one else has more than 6. Hester averages 3 catches and 21 yards per game.
Notre Dame's pass defense has been known to struggle in big games. However, knowing they only have to focus on 3 or 4 guys may help, as it allows for bracket coverages and other teams. Of course, coaches love to save the best for last, so don't be surprised if Les Miles decides to get his tight ends involved for the first time this season. Chinedum Ndukwe was injured in the USC game, but he is expected to be healthy for the Sugar Bowl. Victor Abiamiri started slow, but he ended with 10 sacks and 14.5 total TFL (and 14 quarterback hits). I was going to praise LSU's Duncan for having great numbers for a tackle, until I saw Derek Landri's: 65 tackles, 15.5 TFL, and 7 sacks.

ND Pass Offense vs. LSU Pass Defense

Don't forget - that Brady Quinn guy is pretty good, too. On the average day, Quinn completes 23 of 36 passes for 273 yards. Quinn has 35 touchdowns to only 5 interceptions. Once again, Quinn's leading receiver is Jeff Samardzija. Samardzija is averaging 6 catches and 80 yards per game. Right behind Samardzija is Rhema McKnight, who averages 5 catches and 74 yards per game. Samardzija has 11 touchdown catches to McKnight's team-leading 15. Darius Walker averages 4-5 catches and 30 yards per game. John Carlson, expected to return from a knee injury, averages 4-5 catches and 62 yards per game. Carlson has four touchdowns on the season. While Carlson was out, David Grimes matured into a reliable third option - and perhaps a reliable 1 or 2 option for next year. Grimes now has 25 catches on the season, and is averaging 28 yards per game.
This is the matchup of the game, as LSU is giving up only 145.5 passing yards per game. If you look at just sacks and interceptions, LSU's pass defense doesn't look that impressive; the Tigers have only 8 more sacks and 4 more interceptions than Notre Dame's defense. But then you look at the other numbers. Pass breakups are arguable as an official stat, but you have to be impressed when starting DBs 21 Chevis Jackson and 19 Jonathan Zenon each have hit double digits in that category. End 93 Tyson Jackson has 8.5 sacks and 10 TFL. 94 Chase Pittman, the other defensive end, has 5.5 sacks and 6.5 tackles for a loss. Strong safety 16 Craig Steltz leads the team with 4 interceptions; Jonathan Zenon is second with 3. 30 LaRon Landry, the free safety, leads the team with 68 tackles.

Special Teams

LSU's placekicker is 6 Colt David. David has converted only 6 of 10 field goals, but all 4 misses have come from 40+ yards. His long is 45. For the Irish, Carl Gioia has converted 8 of 12 field goals, including 7 of 8 from inside 40 yards. His long is 40.
41 Chris Jackson handles LSU's punting duties. On 35 kicks, he is averaging 41.8 yards with a long of 58. Notre Dame's Geoff Price is averaging 45.2 yards per punt. The long out of his 45 kicks is a 62-yarder.
Early Doucet and Trindon Holliday are LSU's kick returners. On 9 returns, Doucet averages 17 yards with a long of 36 yards. Holliday is averaging 32 yards on 5 returns, with a 92-yard touchdown. Ryan Burkhart has been kicking off for the Irish. He is averaging 59.2 yards per kick, with 8 of 42 kicks going for touchbacks. Notre Dame is giving up 20 yards per return, giving opponents an average start at the 25.
David Grimes and George West return kicks for the Irish. Grimes is averaging 25.5 yards on 17 returns, with a long of 50. West is averaging 20.3 yards on 10 returns, with a long of 33. Against USC, Tom Zbikowski returned 5 kicks for an average of 21.4 yards. His long was 28. Chris Jackson is also in charge of kickoffs for the Tigers. Jackson is averaging 61.6 yards per kick, with 22 of 67 kickoffs going for touchbacks. LSU is giving up 19.7 yards per kick return, giving opponents an average start at the 23.
DB 21 Chevis Jackson and Craig Davis have shared punt return duties for LSU. Jackson is averaging 6.7 yards on 15 returns, with a long of 22. Davis is averaging 14.2 yards on 10 returns, with a 77-yard touchdown. Notre Dame is giving up a mediocre 12.1 yards per punt return.
When healthy, Tom Zbikowski has returned punts for ND. He has averaged 9 yards on 16 returns. His long was a 52-yard TD. LSU is giving up 11.4 yards per punt return.

Look for a big game from Quinn, Walker, Samardzija, the secondary, and Carl Gioia.

ND 26, LSU 24: LSU has outscored opponents by an average of 33-13 this year. Against teams with winning records, that margin is a slightly-more-human 24-16. Notre Dame has outscored similar opponents 27-24. Look for touchdowns from McKnight, Walker, and a DB not named Terrail Lambert. (Lambert already has 2 TDs - let's give someone else a chance. Gioia will miss an extra point, but make up for it with two field goals.

Friday, December 29, 2006


For those of you who don't visit the site on the weekend:

Hall of Fame Ballots (sent to and Bowl Picks (Posted here, assuming the board wants to work today) are due Sunday.

Contingency plan for bowl picks: Post your picks for the winners of each of the January bowls, plus the score of the NC game, to the regular message board. Here's a list of bowls.

And a reminder for myself: You might want to write a Sugar Bowl preview before the game is played on next Wednesday.

Tuesday, December 26, 2006

Nobody goes there anymore

It's too crowded.

Judging by these recent posts, there aren't too many Notre Dame fans headed down to the Fiesta Bowl. Maybe it's too small a sample set. Maybe it's just unfair to compare this year to last year, with the excitement over the Fiesta Bowl.

But here's the question: Why aren't you going to the Sugar Bowl? Sound off using the poll to the right, or on the message board.

Oh, and my Sugar Bowl preview is coming soon... I hope.

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

KankaNation Gift Guide 2006

It's that time of year again. If I left you out, please yell at me. Repeatedly.

For Aflac, hourse of "that's what she said" enjoyment.

Assuming Dave doesn't want an autographed photo of a future Hall of Famer, I could give him something that shows off his devotion to Snoop Dogg.

For F-Bomb, a shirt that espouses two of his greatest passions.

For Mike and Patrick, matching attire.

Unfortunately, Jon and Andy may have to share this gift.

For Klondike, a gift to make him feel at home, and a second gift to keep the first one cold.

For nickyschu, there's no outliving his underclassman reputation.

Pete's gift allows him to showcase his two favorite emotions, pride for winning everything, and bitterness.

Finally, for Yonto, something to make him feel more at home.

Sunday, December 17, 2006

Buck O'Neil: A True Class Act

When I received my Sportsman of the Year edition of Sports Illustrated and saw Dwayne Wade on the cover, I was forlorn. Sure, Wade did have a decent year. But a few weeks prior, one of SI's writers suggested that Buck O'Neil be named SOTY. Seeing that O'Neil wasn't SOTY, months after he wasn't included among the 17 Negro League figures inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame this year, I thought to myself, "Gee, this guy can't win anything."

Did Buck, who died on August 5, deserve to be a Baseball Hall of Famer? He won a few Negro League batting championships, but carried just a .288 career average. He won two Negro League championships as a manager. He had a long career as a Major League scout; his most notable signing was Lou Brock. In 1962, the Cubs made him the first African American coach in the majors. After he retired as a player, coach, and scout, he became an ambassador for the Negro Leagues, and for baseball in general. O'Neil helped open the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum in Kansas City in 1990. These accomplishments, though, apparently weren't good enough for the folks in Cooperstown.

Fortunately, in the time between I received my Dwayne Wade SI and the time I sat down to write this, a baseball owner found it proper to honor O'Neil when the baseball writers couldn't. On December 7, President George W. Bush honored Buck O'Neil posthumously with a Presidential Medal of Freedom - one of our country's highest civilian honors.

I could go on, but my words can't come close to the eloquence of Buck's. Imagine in your head the most pleasant 94-year-old man you've ever met addressing the Baseball Hall of Fame crowd and try to keep your eyes dry:

Earlier this year, when Buck found out that he missed the Baseball Hall of Fame by one vote, he had the following to say:

God's been good to me. You can see that, can't you? It didn't happen. They didn't think Buck was good enough to be in the Hall of Fame. That's the way they thought about it and that's the way it is, so we're going to live with that. Now, if I'm a Hall of Famer for you, that's all right with me. Just keep loving old Buck.

Don't shed any tears 'cause I'm not going to the Hall of Fame.

You think about this. Here I am, the grandson of a slave. And here the whole world was excited about whether I was going into the Hall of Fame or not. We've come a long ways. Before, we never even thought about anything like that. America, you've really grown and you're still growing.

I don't know about you, but Buck O'Neil is a Hall of Famer to me.

Wednesday, December 13, 2006


If you are currently in a place where online videos can be watched and listed to,
first watch this,
then watch this,
then read this.

If you are not in such a place, check out the Notre Dame postseason awards post, now including AP All-America selections.

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Bring Back Coach Yonto

There's growing resentment towards Coach Rick Minter, despite national attention in his favor. But if Minter does go, who should replace him?

Number Crunching

I looked at points per game for both Coaches Yonto and Minter. For Coach Minter, his Notre Dame days aren't a large enough sample set, so I included some data from his time at Ball State - the job that essentially got him hired by Lou Holtz. Coach Yonto's teams gave up an average of 8 points per game below the national mean. For Coach Minter, that number is closer to 4.5. I'll avoid comparing other numbers across eras, but the number-versus-mean figures should speak for themselves.
Also, if you want my raw data to do some real statistical analysis - as opposed to my "Look at me, I just finished Stats 101 this quarter!" analysis, please let me know.

Mr. Notre Dame

The title "Mr. Notre Dame" belongs to Moose Krause, and rightfully so. Notre Dame's record of football national championships eerily matches Moose's timeline with ND. Notre Dame's second and third championships came in 1929 and 1930. Moose started school in 1930, but wasn't eligible to play with the varsity until 1931. Moose returned to ND as a coach in 1942. In 1943, ND won another championship. In 1944 and 1945, Moose and Frank Leahy went away to war. The Irish didn't win any titles that year, but in the following two years. Notre Dame celebrated Moose Krause's first year as Athletic Director, 1949, with another championship. Moose's reign as Athletic Director also brought four more consensus championships. Moose Krause passed away in 1992, and the Irish haven't been serious National Championship contenders since 1993. That's almost too much of a coincidence.
Coach Yonto, who fortunately is still with us, can make a claim for success that's nearly as impressive. Joe Yonto started school in 1944 and played with the varsity in 1945. A gruesome leg injury ended his playing career, but the school still won two national titles while he was there in 1946 and 1947. After Yonto graduated, the school earned one more championship in 1949 before falling into one of the darkest stretches of the program. Awful seasons abounded until Ara Parseghian brought Joe Yonto back in 1964. The Irish saw three more titles under Coach Yonto in 1966, 1973, and 1977. In 1981, Gerry Faust pushed Coach Yonto into a desk job, and the Irish program again faltered. Lou Holtz brought Coach Yonto back into the stadium in 1986 and 1987. Had Coach Yonto not retired after 1987, he would have seen yet another national championship the following year.


Coach Yonto was Coach Parseghian's go-to guy for east coach recruiting. There he recruited legends big and small. Fellow assistant coach Johnny Ray kidded Yonto about recruiting a 5-10, 148 lb Joe Theismann by asking Yonto if he was to be the new waterboy. Meanwhile, a 6-5, 235 lb Ken MacAfee was worried that he was too small for major college football. Coach Yonto replied, "If you're too small, we might as well quit trying to recruit."
I haven't kept up on Coach Minter's recruiting prowess, but I'm sure many of you will point out that Notre Dame was unable to land a defensive tackle recruit until just Tuesday.


After a 21-17 loss to #1 Texas in the 1970 Cotton Bowl (following the 1969 season), the Irish were set to face the Longhorns again in the 1971 Cotton Bowl - and again Texas was ranked #1. Coach Yonto developed the famed "mirror defense" to shut down Texas' more-famed wishbone option, and the Irish prevailed 24-10. In the 1978 Cotton Bowl, the Irish yet again travelled down to face a #1 Texas team. Coach Yonto's defense held Earl Campbell and the Longhorns as the #5 Irish routed Texas 38-10. The decisive victory gave Notre Dame their 10th national championship.
Coach Minter is known for his zone blitzing schemes. Perhaps they will work with the right personnel. But over the past two years, it appears that Notre Dame doesn't have the right personnel. It also appears that the Irish secondary isn't being trained to at least look like the right personnel for the job. Well, then, why is Minter stubbornly sticking to these schemes?

Words of Wisdom

All from Coach Yonto.

On his playing days: "I was a fullback who ate my way to guard."

As a high school head coach, foreshadowing Yoda: "There is no try. There is do or don’t do!"

On Rudy being carried of the field: "Of course, we carried him off the field. He was the only guy small enough for us to pick up."

On running back Jerome Heavens: "The Gipper would have approved of this himself. You don't find a football player with more class than Jerome Heavens."

On being reassigned by Gerry Faust: "Do you know what a special assistant to the athletic director does? If I told you, it wouldn't be so special."

On wearing the green jerseys against BC in 2002: "Gimmicks don't pull the train, power pulls the train."

On the 2006 Army team: "You could have picked 11 midgets off the quad to play them. Or 11 trombones."

Finally: "That's the real meaning of coaching - to see what the players do when they get out, how they help one another."

Open Petition to Bring Back Joe Yonto as Defensive Coordinator

It's your choice. Defense wins championships.
Click here.

Sunday, December 10, 2006

Very, Very Rewarding!

Or awarding. Or something. SchrockStar called me out for my recent blogging slacktitude, especially in light of Brady Quinn's recent acceptance of the Maxwell Award. To make it up to him, here is a list of (to date-ish) awards won by this year's Fighting Irish football team.

Brady Quinn
Maxwell Award College Player of the Year House Rock Built calls it the Heisman Miss Congeniality Award. I call it the "We know you're as good as the other guy, if not better, and we're sorry that the media didn't hype you up as much" Award. Quinn brings home Notre Dame's sixth Maxwell award. Past winners include Ross Browner, Jim Lynch, John Lattner (twice), and Leon Hart.
Johnny Unitas Golden Arm Award Best Senior College Quarterback Tony Rice was the first Notre Dame player to win this award when he did it back in 1989. Quinn joins an impressive list that includes Peyton Manning, David Carr, Carson Palmer, Eli Manning, and Matt Leinart. That's one-sixth of the current starting quarterbacks in the NFL. Rodney Peete, whose accomplishments include a long NFL career and marrying the hot chick from Hangin' with Mr. Cooper, is also a past Unitas Golden arm recipient. Unfortunately, Quinn also joins a list that includes the likes of Chris Weinke, Cade McNown, Danny Wuerffel, and Gino Toretta.
Sports Illustrated Second Team All-American Predictably, Quinn ceded the first team spot to that Troy Smith guy. Quinn didn't make the Walter Camp All-America list thanks to Smith and Hawaii's Colt Brennan, who put up Ty Detmer-esque numbers this year.
AP Second Team All-American Again behind that Troy Smith guy.
Pontiac Game Changing Performance Nominee Voting is still open, as the game-winning touchdown from the UCLA game is now one of the final ten plays up for this award.
Senior Bowl January 27, 2007 This is the bowl you want to be in if you have NFL aspirations. Both squads are led by current NFL coaching staffs, essentially turning this game into a draft tryout. A few years ago, Marty Schottenheimer coached Phillip Rivers' team. Schottenheimer used that as a chance to teach Rivers his San Diego system, and then Schottenheimer drafted Rivers. Last year, Jay Cutler used an excellent Senior Bowl performance to prove that he belonged with the big boys, and his draft status skyrocketed.

Jeff Samardzija
Walter Camp Foundation Second Team All-American The Walter Camp Foundation is the granddaddy of all All-America selection committees. Samardzija joins record-setting Rice wideout Jarett Dillard on the second team, behind the talented Dwayne Jarrett and Calvin Johnson.
Sports Illustrated Honorable Mention All-American SI places Jarrett, Johnson, Dillard, and Tennessee's Robert Meachem on their first and second teams.
AP Second Team All-American Joining Dillard behind Johnson and Jarrett
Pontiac Game Changing Performance Nominee See above. He's going in! Notre Dame has scored!
Senior Bowl January 27, 2007 This, along with good combine numbers, will help convert any scouts who still have white stereotypes running through their heads. It may also create a craze to recruit the Eastern European athlete.

Rhema McKnight
Sports Illustrated Honorable Mention All-American McKnight is a good player who quietly had a very solid season.
Senior Bowl January 27, 2007 Missing most of last year due to injury, combined with a relatively quiet season, didn't help McKnight's draft status. This will be his chance to shine.

John Carlson
Sports Illustrated Honorable Mention All-American I'm not sure what SI was thinking here, as Matt Spaeth - who won the Mackey Award as the nation's best tight end - also was only able to make honorable mention. Carlson put up outstanding numbers this year. If he hadn't missed the last two games of this season, or if he hadn't burst onto the scene so suddenly, perhaps his trophy case would be much fuller right now.

Ryan Harris
Senior Bowl January 27, 2007 Has it been that long since the "too skinny" kid was thrown into the fire his freshman year? Harris will be given his chance to prove that all of the accolades over the years were well-earned.

Sam Young
Sporting News First Team Freshman All-American Freshman first became eligible to play in 1972. Since then, Young has been Notre Dame's first opening day starter on the offensive line. The important thing, though, is that he played well enough to keep the job. Young proved very early on that Bob Morton's hand holding was rarely needed.

Dan Santucci
East-West Shrine Game January 20, 2007 All postseason senior bowls are an honor. Not bad for someone who started out as a defensive tackle.

Bob Morton
Hula Bowl January 14, 2007 Morton was a four year starter at ND. The big redhead had better bring the extra-strength sunblock to Hawaii.

Victor Abiamiri
Senior Bowl January 27, 2007 Abiamiri is already a Day One pick in the draft. A good performance could make him a Round One pick.

Derek Landri
East-West Shrine Game January 20, 2007 Landri really isn't big enough to play defensive tackle in the pros. The fact that he wasn't picked for the Senior Bowl shows that he isn't considered a top talent right now. But if he plays with the same intensity he's shown all season, he will get the scouts talking.

Tom Zbikowski
Walter Camp Foundation Second Team All-American Zbikowski was named an All-American at defensive back. However, injuries hampered Zbikowski's performance, and limited him to zero interceptions, so one wonders if this is more of a lifetime achievement award. Still, a lifetime achievement award is well-earned in Zbikowski's case.
AP Third Team All-American

Geoff Price
Sports Illustrated Honorable Mention All-American At first I wondered if, like Carlson, Price was hurt a little by coming out of nowhere in his senior season. But then I saw Price finished "only" seventh in the country in punt average. So, honorable mention is fair in this case.

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

What I'm Working On

Really, I'm not just playing NetHack and fooling around with Compiz. Really.

  • The Bring Back Joe Yonto as Notre Dame Defensive Coordinator campaign. I'm throwing some numbers together right now - we'll see how they turn out.

  • An essay requesting you to vote Buck O'Neil into the KankaNation Hall of Fame. No numbers in this one, just words.

  • The return of the KankaNation Gift Guides.

  • A look at the LSU blogs, and a Sugar Bowl preview.

  • Notre Dame Fall Sports Review, featuring Hermann Trophy winner Kerri Hanks and the National Runners-Up women's soccer team. (Darn UNC got them again!)

  • Some ND basketball coverage. The women Beat Purduuue! (ranked #9/10) 67-58 Wednesday night. The men are looking for some more upset magic against Alabama Thursday night, after they knocked off #23 Maryland the other day.

  • Notre Dame Football: The Year in Pictures.

  • BCS Predictions.

Until then, take a look at some of the blogs and sites I've been reading lately. They have also found a new home in the right sidebar.
MLB Trade Rumors
Baseball Musings
Baseball America
Let's Go Tribe
Good News in College Sports - "Tales of faith, persevereance, and overcoming adversity" from The Courtmaster

Sunday, December 03, 2006

Get Your Ballots Ready

Once again, it's time to vote for the KankaNation Hall of Fame. A blatant copying and pasting of the rules from last year's post:

List up to 10 people you think should be in the KankaNation Hall of Fame, and email to by 5 pm Eastern on December 31.
Those who receive a certain percentage of the vote (depends on how many ballots are received; usually 66-75%) will join the Class of 2004 and the Class of 2005.

Obviously, they will also join the Class of 2006. To view past inductees and voting results, click one of the links below:
Class of 2004
Class of 2005
Class of 2006