Saturday’s game against the Washington Huskies provides the Fighting Irish with a unique opportunity to finally get a quality win against a previously ranked opponent, one who miraculously upset the mighty Trojans. Washington (2-2, 4th in Pac-10) is coming off a close loss to Stanford, and will be looking to pull off the upset on the road against the Irish. For the Irish to beat the Huskies, I believe they will need to do three things well.
- First, Notre Dame’s defensive line will need to play big. Lead by Ethan Johnson, this unit will need to put consistent pressure on Washington’s dual threat quarterback, Jake Locker. Forcing Locker to make rushed throws to young receivers will be key because in the past three games, the Irish have been passed all over by inferior quarterbacks. Also, pressuring Locker will be crucial, as he is one of the premier running quarterbacks in the nation. Young linemen such as Kapron Lewis-Moore and Ian Williams will need to step up in the spotlight and rush Locker. Putting pressure on the quarterback has been a problem this season and has allowed opposing quarterbacks too much time in the pocket down the stretch
- The second key to a victory this Saturday is penalties. This season, Notre Dame has had costly penalties in key points of the game that has taken all the wind out of productive drives. Last week against Purdue, Golden Tate caught a touchdown because of a magnificent throw, all to be called back by a penalty, forcing the Irish to settle for a field goal. The most highlighted penalties have been by experienced players such as Sam Young, Harrison Smith and Duval Kamara. Notre Dame will need to play smart, and cannot afford to beat themselves against a quality team like the Huskies.
- The last key to the game is the young special teams. Coach Weis announced this week that Ben Turk will be taking over for the inconsistent Eric Maust at punter. Turk will need to pin the Huskies deep into their own territory in order for Tenuta to bring the blitz against Locker. A name that was highly publicized last year was Rudy-like figure, Mike Anello, and although he has played well so far, I am waiting for his break out game this season. There is no reason it can’t happen Saturday. The return game has been solid for the Irish so far, but freshman Theo Riddick will need solid returns to give Clausen and the offense a strong opportunity to succeed. On punt returns, Tate has been effective, but the Irish will need good blocking for him to have a chance to take one back.