Sunday, October 05, 2008

Notre Dame 28, Stanford 21

Quarterback: Jimmy Clausen showed great poise and decision-making, and it led to a career day. Clausen completed 29 of 40 passes for 347 yards and 3 touchdowns. He hit the deep balls. He hit the checkdowns. He even scrambled 3 times for 16 yards.

Running Back: Clausen bailed out the running game in this one. The Irish ran 27 times for 83 yards, and 23 of those yards came on Harrison Smith's fake punt run. Armando Allen had the best day of any Irish back, running 9 times for 33 yards and a touchdown. Allen's 3.7 yards per carry averaged more than doubled that of Robert Hughes (8 carries, 14 yards) or James Aldridge (5, 9), who both earned only 1.8 YPC. Allen also had 66 receiving yards and a touchdown on 7 catches. Hughes added 1 catch for 4 yards.

Receiver: Notre Dame's receiving depth showed in this game. As mentioned above, Clausen recorded a career-high 347 passing yards this game, and he did so with his leading receiver - Golden Tate - limited to 3 catches and 30 yards. Michael Floyd had 5 catches for 115 yards and a touchdown, and David Grimes added 5 for 60. Duval Kamara, who is struggling for playing time these days, had 1 catch for 2 yards.

Tight End: Kyle Rudolph is really starting to find a place in this offense. Rudolph owned the middle of the field, recording 5 catches for 70 yards and a touchdown.

Offensive Line: The running game struggled again, and Clausen was sacked when a blitzer raced through the line untouched. But that was the lone sack of the game for one of the top sack teams in the nation. Like the rest of this team, the offensive line may have its ups and downs, but it's definitely grown from last year.

Defensive Line: Pat Kuntz stole the show at Friday night's pep rally, and he did his best attempt to steal the show on Saturday. Kuntz recorded 3 tackles, two of them sacks, knocked down a pass, and intercepted another. Justin Brown added 3 tackles - one for a loss - and a quarterback hit. For one day at least, Kuntz and Brown quieted the critics of Notre Dame's blitz schemes and the defensive line's production.

Linebacker: Brian Smith had the best performance of any Irish linebacker, recording 6 tackles, a sack, and a quarterback hit. Maurice Crum added 4 tackles. Darius Fleming had the best game of his young career with 3 tackles and a sack.

Safety: For better or for worse, Kyle McCarthy and David Bruton once again led the Irish in tackles. I don't know if it's possible to have a quiet day when you rack up 14 tackles, 1 TFL, and an interception, but somehow McCarthy happened to do that. Bruton added 9 tackles and an interception of his own. Harrison Smith and Sergio Brown each had 3 tackles, and Brown added a sack.

Cornerback: Raeshon McNeil and Terrail Lambert led the unit with 4 tackles apiece.

Kicker: It seems pretty obvious that Brandon Walker's troubles at this point are mental, especially when kicking from one of the hashes. I'd love to see the kid get a few tries from the middle of the field to build up his confidence. Not that Notre Dame should waste their third down tries to set up a field goal instead of trying to convert the first down, of course.

Punter: Eric Maust averaged just over 40 yards per punt with a long of 50.

Kick Returner: Armando Allen had three kick returns for 54 yards with a long of 24. Golden Tate had one kick return for 18 yards.

Special Teams: Notre Dame seemed to struggle on special teams in this one, relatively speaking. The return team averaged only 18 yards per attempt, and the coverage teams gave up 11.5 yards per punt return and 22.2 yards per kick return.

But as far as special teams go, the highlight came when Stanford returner Doug Baldwin was stopped at the 3 yard line late in the contest. Prior to the game, Baldwin came over to the Notre Dame Alumni Band pounding his chest and proclaiming, "This is war!" Because, apparently, when you're 5'11" and 185 lbs, the only people you can intimidate are middle aged bandos. But the band had the last laugh when Baldwin fielded a punt at his own 2, ran back into the end zone, then took it out to the 3 - and was tackled right in front of the same band members who were the subject of his pregame taunts.