Sunday, October 07, 2007

Notre Dame 20, UCLA 6

Quarterback: Sometimes you need to do just enough to win. As far as Jimmy Clausen is concerned, the important things I'm taking away from this game are his three QB sneaks. Only two were successful, but one was for a TD. More importantly, this is the first time I can remember Clausen running sneaks. This shows that he believes he has the toughness to get the first down, and that Coach Weis has faith in Clausen to execute the play.

Running Back: It was tough running again for the Irish, but James Aldridge did pick up 52 yards on the ground, and another 18 in the air. Armanda Allen added 19 yards on 3 rushes and 3 yards on 2 receptions. Allen also hit John Carlson on a ten yard pass late in the game. Is Allen becoming the poor man's Darren McFadden? Travis Thomas had another rough day, picking up 1 yard on two carries.

Fullback: Asaph Schwapp was finally able to gain some positive yardage, picking up 2 yards on 1 carry.

Receiver: Robby Parris started for the injured David Grimes and picked up 3 catches for 13 yards. Duval Kamara added 2 for 20. DJ Hord and Golden Tate each tried one "man on an island quick screen. Hord's went for 2 yards and Tate's for 0.

Tight End: They weren't All America numbers, but John Carlson's 6 catches for 38 yards are a sign that the star tight end is finding ways to get himself involved with this offense once again.

O-Line: The line is still a work in progress. Clausen was sacked 3 times, and the team only had 46 net rushing yards. But when the team was asked to just bowl over the guy in front of them, like on Clausen's sneaks or Schwapp's dive, they normally got the job done.

D-Line: Lost in the shuffle, Part I: Pat Kuntz and Trevor Laws both had big days for the Irish. Kuntz led the team with 8 tackles and knocked down two passes. Laws added 5 tackles, one of which was a sack, and also knocked down two passes. Dwight Stephenson made two stops in the backfield.

Linebacker: As Notre Dame was working on its offensive touchdown, I got a call from my brother. He's in the marching band, and they were on the way back to school from an away game. I needed to pick him up, but I figured that I would have enough time if I left at the end of the 3rd quarter (there were 3-4 minutes left in the quarter at that time. But after Clausen plunged in and Brandon Walker converted the PAT with under 2 minutes left in the quarter, I figured I could rush to my car and pick up the game on the radio. Once I finally found a radio station 10 minutes later, I discovered that I just missed Maurice Crum's fumble return for a touchdown. What a day for Crum. At the start of the game, I couldn't help but complain about his missed tackles. Boy, did he ever shut me up. After pulling a Tom Zbikowski and ripping the ball out of the UCLA back's hand, Crum also recorded a fumble return for a touchdown, 2 pass breakups, and 2 INTs playing deep zone in the fourth quarter. Crum had 80 return yards on the day, more than the Irish punt and kick returners combined. Oh, he also had a sack, part of his 7 tackles, which was second best on the team. I think you can qualify Crum as a "stat sheet stuffer," as he hit every defensive stat on the chart except for a quarterback hit (one that doesn't result in a sack) and a blocked kick. Joe Brockington added 6 tackles, one for a loss. Kerry Neal has continued to see his playing time increase. He had 3 tackles and recovered a fumble that set up a field goal. Anthony Vernaglia quietly added 4 tackles. Brian Smith recorded his first career sack, while John Ryan notched yet another. Toryan Smith added a tackle for a loss. Notre Dame had 9 stops in the backfield in this game, and not all of those can be blamed on a freshman walk-on quarterback.

Safety: Lost in the shuffle, Part II: Both safeties had themselves solid games. David Bruton probably deserves honorable mention on the horse trailer, both for his interception, and for his big hits on special teams that stopped several Bruins returns before they even started. Tom Zbikowski had 5 tackles, including the sack that led to a fumble and an injured quarterback.

Cornerback: Darrin Walls did a great job of breaking up a pass in the endzone, but apparently wasn't credited with an official "pass breakup." Ambrose Wooden, taking advantage of playing time due to UCLA's multiple receiver sets, recorded 6 tackles. Terrail Lambert recorded an interception in the 4th quarter.

Kicker: Lost in the shuffle, Part III: Brandon Walker had a solid day all around, kicking two PATs and hitting both of his field goal attempts. The 26-yarder was nice, but the 48-yarder was downright impressive. Has Coach Weis finally found his kicker?

Punter: Lost in the shuffle, Part IV: A week after being benched for inconsistency, Geoff Price was back punting, and punting well. Price booted the ball 9 times for an average of 40.3 yards and a long of 48. He was solid during a game when an early shanked punt could have easily changed the momentum of this game.

Kick Returner: Armando Allen handled all three kickoff returns, averaging 24 yards per with a long of 31.

Punt Returner: Tom Zbikowski returned two punts a total of 1 yard.

Special Teams: The Irish held UCLA to a 20 yard average on kickoffs and a 2 yard average on punts. Impressively, UCLA was only able to attempt returns on 2 of Price's 9 punts.