Final Review: Notre Dame v. Penn State ’06

Welcome to week two of Final Review here at  We’re a little late this week thanks to a flat fire on the Indiana turnpike on the trek home from South Bend Sunday, but as the saying goes, better late than never.  Now let’s get into the beat down the Irish laid on Penn State.

Brady Quinn still hasn’t played his best

Quinn turned in a fine performance – 25 of 36, 286 yards, 3 touchdowns, 0 ints – but we still haven’t seen Quinn have the kind of performance where people just look and say “wow.”  Quinn had a couple games like that last year (BYU, Michigan State, Purdue) and I think we’ll see some similar games very soon.  Once he got that first touchdown pass he seemed to settle down a lot and started to get things rolling.  Quinn has struggled against Michigan in the past so this weekend is a perfect opportunity for Quinn to have one of those “wow” type performances.

Victor Abiamiri was a force
Abiamiri recorded his first sack of the year and could have probably had another one or two if the officials would have actually called holding on Penn State.  He was a disruptive force out there Saturday after a fairly uneventful opener last week against Georgia Tech.  Having similar performances consistently this year will go a long way in determining when Abiamiri’s name is called in April.

Corners got beat, Morelli didn’t make them pay
Terrail Lambert and Mike Richardson both got beat deep on a number of instances, but Anthony Morelli and Penn State failed to make them pay.  Derrick Williams had a critical drop on a nicely thrown ball and Morelli under threw two other deep balls that he had open which resulted in a pass breakup and a pick.  Ambrose Wooden was very good in coverage and appears to have taken his game to a new level this year.  Richardson and Lambert however are going to have to improve or I think we will see a lot more of Darrin Walls in a hurry.

Linebackers unimpressive again
Maurice Crum had a eye popping 14 tackles, but he was swallowed up on a number of running plays and looks like he will have trouble shedding blockers which is something many people worried about because of his size.  Travis Thomas had an integral role in the Morelli fumbled option, but he took was taken out of some running plays and is going to have to play better.  And strong side linebacker?  Mitchell Thomas looked a little better, but that position is still a big liability for this defense right now.  Which leads me to my next point

Running game is an area of concern on both sides of the ball

Defensively, the Irish appear to be susceptible to a power running attack.  Tony Hunt is very quick, but made the Irish pay with some power running right up the middle.  The Notre Dame linebackers were taken out of a lot of running plays which allowed Hunt to average 6.2 yards a carry a week after he averaged 2.6 against Akron.  The Irish played a lot of nickel which made them vulnerable to the run, but will still need to play much better against Mike Hart and the Michigan running game this weekend.

On the other side of the ball, the Irish had trouble moving the ball again this week.  The Irish couldn’t get their ground game working in the first half against Tech before Darius Walker ripped off 77 yards in the second half.  Against Penn State, the Irish were also fairly ineffective running the ball.  Notre Dame averaged just 3.1 yards/carry (a stat inflated by Travis Thomas’s 43 yard fake punt)..  Notre Dame should be able to run the ball behind their veteran offensive line and will need to do a better job of it this weekend.

Penn State fans were very gracious
As a Pennsylvanian I was actually surprised at just how gracious the Penn State fans were.  Maybe it’s the Philly fan in me, but I wasn’t expecting as many Lions fans to tell me how honored they were to be playing the Irish and how they felt Notre Dame Stadium was the “Mecca” of college football and how it was “hallowed ground.”  I am sure some people have some unpleasant stories with opposing fans from this weekend, but I am not one of them.  Even in defeat the Penn State fans I came across were very gracious and respectful.  I still can’t stand Penn State football, but I definitely have a new found respect for its fans.

Towels should be yellow or gold
I loved the towel idea, but the dark green color was hard to pick up in the crowd.  You could see the towels much better in person than on TV, but if they were gold or a yellow similar to last year’s Shirt, they would be much more noticeable.  With this year’s Shirt being navy, a yellow or gold towel would have some really nice contrast in the student section and would be MUCH more noticeable.

Speaking of the towels, they are on ebay already

Don’t know if everyone saw, but the towels from the game have already found their way on ebay and are selling for $50+.  I hope I’m not the only one who finds this crazy?  Who pays $50 for memorabilia from a game they did not attend?  Especially for something that was given out for free to roughly 70,000 fans (Penn State fans were not given them).

N’Dukwe/Zibby were animals
The Notre Dame safeties were outstanding.  Zibby and Nedu were all over the field and have really improved.  I wrote an entire article on them today so I won’t go into too much more detail, but damn, they played a heck of a game.

Penn State’s Offensive Numbers were very inflated

Take away the final two drives for the Penn State offense (once the Irish called off the hounds) and they gained just 226 yards of offense.  The last two drives came against a mixed group of starters and reserves so I don’t put much credence in them.  The starters on defense did a great job limiting Penn State’s offense.

Time of Possession key again this week

During the first three quarters Notre Dame held a 27:47 to 17:13 edge in time of possession giving them a lopsided advantage in this department for the second week in a row.  I said it last week and I’ll say it again this week.  If Notre Dame can continue to limit the time it’s defense is on the field, it will look better and better each week.

Fake Punt was Great, not Gratuitous
Some people have said the fake punt was Charlie pouring it on.  Bull.  There was still a lot of time left and the Irish were only up three scores at that time.  Not only that, it gives Michigan something else to prepare for this week, so I love the call.  Putting the fear of a fake in your opponent slows down their rush and allows your gunners to get down the field quicker.

No huddle offense was an excellent game plan

Penn State likes to use a lot of substitutions and mix in a lot of different linebackers since that is the strength of their defense.  Going no huddle took the ability to substitute personnel away from Paterno and his defensive coaches.  It is also not a coincidence that the Irish offense was able to work the middle of the field on the Penn State linebackers.  The no huddle kept the same linebackers on the field and tired them out which opened things up for John Carlson.

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