Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Notre Dame Football 2008
Issue 7: Washington

Washington Rush Offense vs. Notre Dame Rush Defense

Washington looks to be without its top rusher, quarterback 10 Jake Locker, and will employee a running back-by-committee in his absence. Without Locker, a trio of young running backs have been carrying the load. 20 David Freeman is averaging seven carries and 45 yards per game. 27 Terrance Dailey is averaging 11 carries and 60 yards per game. 6 Brandon Johnson - as a sophomore, the old man of the group - is averaging six to seven carries but only 12.6 yards per game.

Freeman and Dailey's yards-per-carry averages have been respectable, 6.2 YPC for the former and 5.5 for the latter. Johnson's average is a mere 2.0 YPC, but he is the biggest of the backs and does have two of the teams 10 rushing touchdowns. That leads me to believe that he's the team's short yardage back.

That's right, the Huskies are very young at running back, and that's even without another freshman, the injured 1 Chris Polk. They've also distributed the ball very well on the ground, as a variety of running backs, fullbacks, and wide receivers have recorded carries. Of note, wide receivers 82 Jordan Polk and 11 D'Andre Goodwin both are averaging nearly one rush per game.

Backup quarterback 8 Ronnie Fouch has not been as mobile as Jake Locker, however. (Few quarterbacks are, of course). Fouch has netted -9 yards for the season.

Notre Dame's defense has given up 136.3 rushing yards per game this season. The good news is that they're going up against a Washington team that's averaged only 103.2 yards per game. Take away Locker's production, and that number drops to 73 yards per game. After a few impressive weeks, Pat Kuntz now leads the team with 4 tackles for a loss. Brian Smith, Harrison Smith, and Justin Brown each have 3 TFL.

Maurice Crum is tied with Brian Smith for third on the team in tackles, behind safeties Kyle McCarthy and David Bruton. Crum is one of a dozen or so Irish fifth-year seniors who spent 2004 under Ty Willingham, and Saturday will be their last chance to perform in front of their old coach.

Notre Dame Rush Offense vs. Washington Rush Defense

As mediocre as Washington's running game has been, Notre Dame is right with them. The Irish have a slight advantage in yards per carry - 3.2 to 3.0, but are averaging only 101.2 yards per game to Washington's 103.2.

The Irish are lead by Armando Allen, with 10 carries and 49.7 yards per game, and a 4.9 yards per carry average. Robert Hughes is also averaging 10 carries per game, but only 32.2 yards per game thanks to a 3.1 yards per carry average. James Aldridge, who finally recorded his first collegiate touchdown against North Carolina two weeks ago, is averaging six carries and 21.4 yards per game.

Washington's defense is giving up 5.8 yards per carry and 232 yards per game on the year, but Notre Dame's run game has been known to make poor run defenses look good before. The defensive star for the Huskies is sophomore linebacker 40 Mason Foster, who is leading the team with 50 tackles and an impressive 6.5 tackles for a loss. Perhaps telling of Washington's defensive struggles, safety 8 Nate Williams is second on the team with 43 tackles.

Washington Pass Offense vs. Notre Dame Pass Defense

Backup-turned-starter Ronnie Fouch is a bit undersized at 6'1". An average day for Fouch is completing 11 of 21 or 22 passes (50.5%) for 156.4 yards. Fouch has three touchdowns and four interceptions in five games this season.

11 D'Andre Goodwin leads the Huskies with 5 receptions and 75.2 yards per game. Behind Goodwin are freshmen 9 Devin Aguilar and 15 Jermaine Kearse, each averaging three catches and 33-34 yards per game. Behind the top three receivers, five Huskies pass catchers averaging at least one reception per game.

Jermaine Kearse leads the team with two receiving touchdowns. Tight end 86 Michael Gottlieb and running back 35 Brandon Yakaboski have the team's other two receiving touchdowns, so look for them in the red zone.

As mentioned above, no less than eight Huskies are averaging at least one catch per game, so the Irish defense will have to be on their toes. One nice thing for the Notre Dame secondary is that they won't have to worry about too many height disadvantages. Gottlieb is 6'5", but of the top three wide receivers, Kearse is the tallest at 6'1". Pat Kuntz, adept at knocking down passes at the line, is probably licking his chops at the thought of facing a "short" quarterback in Fouch.

Kuntz also leads the Irish with three sacks, while four other players have one apiece. David Bruton has two interceptions, while five other Irish players have one apiece.

Notre Dame Pass Offense vs. Washington Pass Defense

Jimmy Clausen has showed sophomore growing pains, but he's also shown why he was such a sought-after recruit out of high school. On an average day, Clausen will throw 36-37 passes and complete 22-23 of them (61.6%) for 271.8 yards. On the season, he has 14 touchdowns to 8 interceptions.

Clausen's four main targets are each averaging around four catches per game. Golden Tate is averaging 86.3 yards per game, Michael Floyd 71.0, Armando Allen 26.7, and David Grimes 36.4. Tate and Floyd each have four touchdowns on the season, while Allen has one and Grimes two.

Kyle Rudolph is averaging two catches and 27.7 yards per game and has two touchdowns on the year. Duval Kamara, Robert Hughes, and Robby Parris are each averaging at least one catch per game, although Parris has struggled to find playing time with the emergence of Tate and Floyd.

The Huskies give up 250.2 passing yards per game. Cornerback 23 Mesphin Forrester is third on the team with 34 tackles. Mason Foster and corner 28 Quentin Richardson have the team's lone interceptions, while defensive end 66 Daniel Te'o-Nesheim has recorded all three of the team's sacks.

Special Teams

Washington employs two place kickers, and both are struggling. 13 Ryan Perkins is the short-yardage kicker, and he's made one of three attempts - a 35-yarder. 12 Jared Ballman is the long-range kicker, but all of his attempts have come from only the 40-49 yard range. He's two of five on the season. For the Irish, Brandon Walker is now two for eight on the year.

Jared Ballman is also Washington's punter. He's averaging just 38.8 yards per punt, but has five punts of 50 or more yards, including a 64-yarder. He's also had plenty of practice, with 32 punts in six games. For Notre Dame, Eric Maust is averaging 41.7 yards per punt with a long of 54.

Jordan Polk has been Washington's primary kick returner. He's averaging 18.8 yards per return with a long of 38. Ryan Burkhart is averaging 61.0 yards per kickoff for the Irish. Couple that with an 16.4 yard return average given up by Notre Dame, and opponents are getting an average start on the 24.

Armando Allen and Golden Tate are sharing kick return responsibility for Notre Dame. Allen has taken most of the kicks and has a 22.1 yard average; his long is 53 yards. Tate has a 21.8 yard average with a long of 29. In addition to long fields goals and punts, Jared Ballman also kicks of for the Huskies. Ballman is averaging 62.4 yards per kickoff, and seven of his 23 kicks have been touchbacks. That's a pretty good leg. Washington gives up 21.7 yards per return on average. Their website is also nice enough to list the average start for opponents on kickoffs: the 27 yard line.

Devin Aguilar has returned three punts for the Huskies, with an average of 7.7 yards and a long of 14. Armando Allen returns punts for the Irish. He's averaging 9.4 yards per return with a long of 22.

Notre Dame Players to Watch

Justin Brown, Maurice Crum, Terrail Lambert


Notre Dame 33, Washington 19