Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Notre Dame Football 2010
Issue 8: Navy

An abbreviated preview for a hectic week....

Navy's offense runs through 4 Ricky Dobbs, who has given the Irish fits in the past. Dobbs is averaging 22 carries and 63 yards rushing per game. But the Middies are also leveraging Dobbs's throwing ability, as he's averaging 13 attempts, seven completions, and 111 yards per game. Dobbs has five rushing touchdowns to four passing, which has to be the best ratio for any recent Navy QB.

This year, Navy has two players sharing time at the fullback spot. 39 Alexander Teich and 47 Vine Murray are both averaging nine carries per game. Murray has had a little more success, averaging 57 yards per game and five yards per carry to Teich's 38 and four.

The slot backs are 20 Andre Byrd and 21 Gee Gee Greene, both small and speedy. Byrd is averaging three carries and 24 yards per game; Greene six and 46. Both are averaging an impressive seven yards per carry.

Navy's fullbacks may have more trouble running the ball than in past years, as Notre Dame's middle defenders - Ian Williams, Manti Te'o, and Carlo Calabrese - have been stout against the rush. The concern for the Irish all season has been discipline on outside runs, which could mean big days for Dobbs, Byrd, and Greene.

In the passing game, both Gee Gee Greene and senior wideout 84 Greg Jones are averaging two catches and 36 yards per game.

Navy's defense is giving up 163 yards per game on he ground and 160 in the air. Their 3-4 defense is heavy on the left side, led by linebackers 29 Aaron McCauley and 54 Tyler Simmons and defensive end 98 Jabaree Tuani. McCauley is first on the team in tackles and TFL, while Simmons is second in the former and Tuani is second in the latter.

McCauley also leads the team in sacks with two, followed by Tuani and fellow DE 90 Billy Yarborough. Middle linebackers Simmons and 44 Max Blue, safety 7 Emett Merchant, and rover (strong safety) 8 Wyatt Middleton.

On special teams, wide receiver 83 Gary Myers is averaging seven yards per punt return, 217-pound fullback Teich is averaging 26 yards per kick return, 16 Joe Buckley has made five of eight field goal attempts (long 42), and 35 Kyle Delahooke is averaging 39 yards per punt with a long of 61. The Midshipmen are giving up 12 yards per punt return and 29 yards per kickoff return. Opponents' average start on kickoffs is the 33 yard line.

In injury news for the Irish, both Theo Riddick and Jamoris Slaughter are having MRIs on their ankles this week. If Riddick can't go, TJ Jones will take his position in the slot with John Goodman starting on the outside.

Notre Dame Players to Watch

Michael Floyd, Cierre Wood, Ian Williams, Harrison Smith, Bennett Jackson, John Goodman


Notre Dame 28, Navy 21

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Notre Dame Football 2010
Issue 7: Western Michigan

Western Michigan Run Offense vs. Notre Dame Run Defense

Western Michigan is averaging a respectable 103 yards per game on the ground, although they are achieving that number through quantity, not quality. The Broncos are averaging 35 carries per game, but just three yards per carry.

23 Aaron Winchester, small but strong at 5'6", 181 lbs, is averaging 29 yards per game on just under 11 carries per game. Quarterback 14 Alex Carder is the next leading threat. Discounting sacks, Carder is averaging just under eight carries and 46 yards per game.

WMU has cornered the market on diminutive running backs, as 5'4", 160 lb freshman 22 Dareyon Chance is Winchester's backup. Chance is averaging just under five carries and 26 yards per game. He's had the most success of any of the regular backs, averaging 4.5 yards per carry. Fellow backs 20 Brian Fields and 21 Antoin Scriven are averaging three carries for under 10 yards per game.

Western Michigan did take the redshirt off of prize freshman 21 Tevin Drake last week. The 6'1", 210 lb beast carried the ball eight times against Ball State for 63 yards.

Notre Dame's run defense is still giving up 146 yards per game, but they've steadily improved against six very good rushing teams. Bob Ross-devotees Manti Carlo (that's Te'o and Calabrese) lead the way - Te'o with 69 tackles and four tackles for loss, and Calabrese with 46 and five.

Notre Dame Run Offense vs. Western Michigan Run Defense

Armando Allen is averaging 16 carries and 75 yards per game, but is a bit banged up. One wonders if the Irish will save Allen and instead employ co-second stringers Cierre Wood (four carries/18 yards per game) and Robert Hughes (one and three) more. Jonas Gray (two and nine) has also been cleared to play for this game.

Western Michigan essentially employs a 4-2 defense, with a "rover" who's listed as a safety on the roster, but who can drop down as a third linebacker when necessary. 34 Jamall Berry, WMU's starting rover, has done it all for the Broncos, sacking the QB, breaking up passes, and forcing fumbles. Berry is also second on the team in tackles to mike linebacker 47 Mitch Zajac.

Will linebacker 42 Dex Jones and defensive end 99 Paul Hazel lead the team in tackles for a loss, with seven and six respectively. The team as a whole has been pretty disruptive on defense, averaging six TFL per game.

Of course, playing what is essentially a nickel package at all times has had its cost for the Broncos, who are holding opponents to just 195 yards per game in the air, but giving up 168 yards per on the ground.

Western Michigan Pass Offense vs. Notre Dame Pass Defense

Western Michigan runs a one back, one tight end, three wide receiver spread similar to Notre Dame's. Quarterback Alex Carder has seen mixed results as a first-year starter. On average, he's completing 25 of 42 passes for 258, a rate of 60 percent. But at the same time, he has almost as many interceptions (seven) as touchdowns (10) this year.

Carder has two main targets averaging five catches per game, wideouts 83 Jordan White and 81 Juan Nunez. White is more of a big play threat, averaging 107 yards per game to Nunez's 59.

8 Ansel Ponder is the first receiver off the bench, and is averaging three catches and 24 yards per game. Running back Aaron Winchester, starting slot receiver 12 Robert Arnheim, and tight end 85 Blake Hammond are all averaging at least one catch per game.

Jordan White leads the team with three touchdown catches, with Nunez, Ponder, and Hammond right behind with two apiece.

Notre Dame's pass defense, giving up 252 yards per game, is starting to pile up the interceptions. The Irish now have eight picks, led by Harrison Smith and Darrin Walls with two apiece. Darius Fleming and Prince Shembo lead the way with three sacks apiece.

Notre Dame Pass Offense vs. Western Michigan Pass Defense

Theo Riddick and Michael Floyd lead the Irish with six catches per game. Riddick is averaging 66 yards per game to Floyd's 78. Look for Floyd to pick on WMU's smaller corners, and Riddick to just run around them.

Kyle Rudolph is out for the year with a hamstring injury, leaving Mike Ragone, Tyler Eifert, and Jake Golic to pick up the slack. However, it's John Goodman who has picked up most of Rudolph's slack recently. Goodman is now averaging two catches and 16 yards per game. Armando Allen and TJ Jones are also averaging a pair of receptions per contest.

As mentioned above, WMU likes to use what is basically a permanent nickel set to limit opponents' passing. They're registering just under three sacks per game, led by the aforementioned Paul Hazel and Dex Jones. The team also has six interceptions on the season, led by cornerback 24 Lewis Toler with three.

Special Teams

17 John Potter has connected on four of five field goals for the Broncos, with a long of 38. David Ruffer remains perfect on the season for the Irish, now converting all 11 attempts. His long is 50, but he says his range is 52.

37 Ben Armer is averaging 43 yards per punt for WMU, with a long of 65. The Broncos are giving up 10 yards per punt return, but the longest return they've given up so far has been for 20 yards. Ben Turk is averaging just 38 yards per punt, but has been booming the ball as of late. Irish opponents have only returned three of his punts for an average of less than one yard per return.

Ansel Ponder returns kicks for Western Michigan. He's averaging 20 yards per return with a long of 31. Nick Tausch is now kicking of for the Irish by virtue of his hang time. Tausch is averaging 55 yards per kick, and ND's coverage team is giving up 21 yards per return. That's an average start on the 26 yard line.

Bennett Jackson is averaging 24 yards per kick return for Notre Dame, with a long of 43. John Potter kicks off for the Broncos. He's averaging 65 yards per boot with five touchbacks in 28 tries. Western Michigan is giving up 21 yards per return, leaving opponents with an average start on the 25.

WMU's punt returner is Jordan White, who's averaging just six yards per return with a long of 14. John Goodman is averaging just four yards per punt return for the Irish, with a long of 13.

Notre Dame Players to Watch

Cierre Wood, Jonas Gray, Harrison Smith, Darrin Walls, Bennett Jackson, John Goodman


Notre Dame 38, Western Michigan 14

Thursday, October 07, 2010

Notre Dame Football 2010
Issue 6: Pittsburgh

Pittsburgh Run Offense vs. Notre Dame Run Defense

It shouldn't be surprising by now that Pittsburgh's offense is led by a small but powerful underclassman running back. What is surprising is that that leader is 1 Ray Graham, not returning starter 28 Dion Lewis. Both Graham and Lewis have played three games and are averaging 16 carries per game, but the former has had much more success than the latter. Graham is averaging almost 10 yards per carry and 164 yards per game to Lewis's three and 48.

Quarterback 12 Tino Sunseri averages two rushes per game, excluding sacks, for three yards. So he's not much of a concern in the running game. Fullback 27 Henry Hynoski is averaging two carries and seven yards per game. Wide receivers 82 Jon Baldwin and 5 Cameron Saddler each have one rush to their credit on the season.

Notre Dame has faced some tough run offenses this year, and the numbers reflect it. The team is giving up 153 rushing yards per game.

The Irish have been stout against the inside run, but have had trouble with outside contain. Manti Te'o is averaging almost 13 tackles per game, but many of those have come from chasing down the ballcarrier after the original defender missed. Fellow inside linebacker Carlo Calabrese and safety Harrison Smith are also sure tacklers, averaging over seven tackles per game.

Calabrese leads the team with five tackles for a loss. It was exciting during the Boston College game to watch him wait in a gap and then pounce on the running back at the right moment. Te'o and Darius Fleming have added four TFL apiece.

Notre Dame Run Offense vs. Pittsburgh Run Defense

Notre Dame's run offense has been up and down this year, averaging 111 yards per game. Armando Allen is the clear leader, averaging 16 carries and 78 yards per game.

Robert Hughes is once again listed as the number two tailback, although he still hasn't been given much of a chance to shine on offense. Hughes has only four carries on the year for 12 yards, and is used mostly for his blocking abilities.

Jonas Gray is once again questionable with a quad injury, leaving Cierre Wood as the lone man left in the rotation. Wood is averaging just three carries and 15 yards per game.

Quarterback Dayne Crist has been used sparingly in the Notre Dame run game as of late, although he now has two of the team's four rushing touchdowns. Allen has the other two.

Pitt's 4-3 defense has been predictably stout against the run, giving up three yards per carry and 97 yards per game. Linebackers 55 Max Gruder and 38 Greg Williams lead the team in tackles, and have combined for 45 overall. Excluding sacks, however, the team is averaging just two tackles for loss per game.

Pittsburgh Pass Offense vs. Notre Dame Pass Defense

After a rough few years for Bill Stull and 19 Pat Bostick, the Panthers may have found a quarterback in 12 Tino Sunseri. Sunseri is completing 63 percent of his passes, completing 16 of 25 attempts per game for 172 yards. On the season, Sunseri has four touchdowns to two interceptions.

Wideouts 82 Jon Baldwin and 87 Mike Shanahan (not related, as far as I'm aware) are averaging around 50 yards per game on close to four catches per game. Baldwin has two of the team's four receiving touchdowns.

Running backs Ray Graham and Dion Lewis are averaging three catches per game, and receiver Cameron Saddler two per game. Receiver 15 Devin Street, tight end 85 Mike Cruz, and fullback Henry Hynoski are each averaging one catch per game.

Notre Dame is giving up 248 yards per game in the air. The pass rush has generated just 13 sacks and 12 quarterback hits through five games. Carlo Calabrese leads the team with 2.5 sacks, while Darius Fleming, Ethan Johnson, and Prince Shembo are right behind with 2.0. Fleming and Brian Smith lead the team with three quarterback hits each.

The Irish have seven interceptions on the year, led by Darrin Walls with two. ND has 28 official passes defended, including 21 breakups. Walls leads in both categories, with five and three respectively. Predictably, fellow corners Gary Gray and Robert Blanton have put up similar numbers to Walls in defenses and breakups.

Notre Dame Pass Offense vs. Pittsburgh Pass Defense

On an average Saturday, Dayne Crist completes 23 of 39 passes (58 percent) for 272 yards, two touchdowns, and one interception. For what it's worth, his efficiency rating is 129.9.

Theo Riddick is now the leading the Irish with 30 catches (six per game) and three touchdowns. Michael Floyd is still the big play threat, hauling in 28 catches and averaging 82 yards per game. Kyle Rudolph has been hampered by injuries as of late, but still has made 23 catches and three touchdowns.

Armando Allen is averaging three catches per game and TJ Jones two. Jones also has two touchdown catches, matching Michael Floyd. John Goodman has played well as of late, picking up Rudolph's slack as a reliable outlet option. That performance has caused Goodman to be named a co-number one with Jones on the depth chart. Goodman is now up to eight catches on the year.

Pitt has been all-or-nothing against the pass. Even without the injured 91 Greg Romeus, the line has gotten into the backfield a bunch. 97 Jabaal Sheard, 98 Chas Alecxih, 94 Myles Caragein, and 35 Brandon Lindsey have made 15.5 stops in the backfield, including 10 sacks. Sheard has 11 quarterback hits, almost three per game.

Despite all the pressure from the line, the Panthers are still giving up 244 passing yards per game. The team does have four interceptions, three by free safety 17 Jarred Holley.

Special Teams

30 Dan Hutchins kicks field goals for the Panthers. He's converted eight of 11 attempts. Hutchins is perfect from inside 40 yards but has yet to make one from longer than 40. David Ruffer remains perfect for the Irish, converting all eight attempts with a long of 46.

Dan Hutchins also handles Pittsburgh's punting duties. He's averaging 46 yards per kick with a long of 59. Opponents have returned five of Hutchins's 16 punts for a combined two yards. Ben Turk continues to be inconsistent for the Irish. Turk is averaging 37 yards per punt with a long of 53. Fortunately for Turk, the Irish punt coverage is holding opponents to just two yards per return.

Cameron Saddler is Pitt's primary kick returner. He's averaging 20 yards per return with a long of 27. David Ruffer is averaging 65 yards per kickoff with three touchbacks in 26 tries. Notre Dame opponents are averaging 22 yards per return, giving them an average start on the 26.

Bennett Jackson's performance against Boston College has propelled him to the top kick return spot. Jackson is averaging 28 yards per return with a long of 43. 39 Kevin Harper kicks off for the Panthers. He's averaging 66 yards per kick with six touchbacks on 22 tries. Pitt is giving up just 13 yards per return, leaving opponents with an average start on the 22.

Cameron Saddler also returns punts for Pittsburgh. He's averaging 11 punts per return with a long of 29. John Goodman will again return kicks for the Irish. Goodman has shown reliable hands but not much return ability so far, averaging just six yards per return with a long of 13.

Notre Dame Players to Watch

Robert Hughes, John Goodman, Carlo Calabrese, Ethan Johnson, David Ruffer, Bennett Jackson


Notre Dame 27, Pittsburgh 22