Final Review: Notre Dame v. North Carolina ’06

Quinn Will be Sorely Missed
In watching Brady Quinn tear apart another defense this week without being overly impressed, it hit me just how much we will miss Brady Quinn once he’s gone.  The fact that a 346 yard, 4 touchdown game was still fairly ho-hum to me speaks volumes as to just how much Quinn has accomplished with the Irish.

It’s gotten to the point where we expect Quinn to throw for 300 yards with three of four touchdowns every week and anything less is almost a disappointment.  Again, this just speaks volumes for what Weis and Quinn have accomplished with this offense.

Carlson Will Have a Tough Decision to Make
Heading into this season it seemed a forgone conclusion that Carlson would be back for a 5th year next year, but with the way he has been performing, he is going to have a very difficult decision to make after the year.  Carlson has now caught 42 passes for 620 yards and is on pace for a 60 catch 827 yard season.

Carlson currently leads all college tight ends with 620 yards and is making a strong case for the Mackey Award.  NFL scouts have taken notice to Carlson and at this point, his return next year is anything but certain.  We’ll just have to see how this plays out, but I don’t think anyone would be surprised if Will Yeatmen and Konrad Rueland are battling for the starting tight end spot next year.

Lambert had an off day
Terrail Lambert took some abuse on the Notre Dame boards this week for his performance, but the junior corner just had an off day.  Lambert has been the most improved defensive player this year and has made some big plays for this defense.  Unfortunately for Terrail, he ended up on the wrong end of the highlights this past weekend.

Blitz was working – kind of
Notre Dame had a consistent pass rush Saturday and sacked North Carolina QBs four times – 2 for Victor Abiamiri, 1 for Maurice Crum, and ½ a sack for Chris Frome and Derek Landri.  For one of the few times this year, the Notre Dame defense generated a consistent pass rush and forced Joe Dailey to get rid of the ball sooner than he wanted to a number of times.

The problem with the blitz Saturday was that the secondary was unable to make plays when the Irish blitzed and as a result, North Carolina hit some deep passes downfield.

Derek Landri and Tervor Laws were Beasts
Notre Dame’s interior defensive line dominated the first half of the game and even when North Carolina adjusted in the second half they were still a disruptive force.  Landri finished the game with 3.5 tackles for loss in the game while Laws nearly came up with a couple sacks including a near safety.

Landri has really impressed me this year.  Coming into the season I thought he was going to be a marginal draft pick, but his quickness off the line is just amazing.  He was in the backfield all day Saturday and despite his size, he could play himself into a late first day draft pick.  Laws hasn’t been quite as impressive as Landri this year, but he too has been much better this year.  Hopefully, for Notre Dame’s sake, the Minnesota native returns for a 5th year.

Running game may be beyond repair
With just three games remaining in the regular season, it might be time to stop trying to fix the running game and focus instead on spreading defenses out and throwing it all over the field.  Unfortunately for Notre Dame, the Irish lack enough experienced receivers to a true five wide receiver set at this point, but when your starting running game can’t eclipse 100 yards on 20 carries against the 115th worst run defense in the NCAA, you’ve got problems.

On a positive note, James Aldridge got some late carries and averaged 5.6 yards a carry.  Hopefully he gets some first half carries these next two weeks before the USC game.  It would really be nice if Weis could get him some more experience these next two games so that they can use Aldridge against USC.  Last year Weis used Thomas quite a bit against USC when they played ball control and kept the ball out of the hands of the USC offense.

Late Hit was a Good Call
The late hit call on Quinn in the third quarter may have been a “bad” call to the Carolina players, but the call was right and the Irish response was also understandable.  The hit was completely unnecessary and even if Quinn did have a foot in bounds, there was no need for the hit other than to get a cheap shot on Quinn and that’s exactly what it was.

Maurice Crum had his best game
For the first time this year, Maurice Crum really looked like a middle linebacker.  He came very, very close to about three more sacks than the one sack he did register Saturday, and ended the game with a team leading nine tackles.

Crum has look a bit out of position at times playing middle linebacker when teams try and over power the Irish defense, but against North Carolina Crum had one of his better games in a Notre Dame uniform.

Toryan Smith is Going to be a Monster in the Middle
Smith saw some fourth quarter playing time against North Carolina and showed a lot of promise.  He had one big hit plugging a running lane late in the game and really looks like he is going to be a heck of a middle linebacker for the Irish.  I would be surprised if Smith wasn’t starting in the middle next year with Crum moving to one of the outside positions along with Travis Thomas.

Justin Brown Improving
When Ronald Talley decided to leave the team, it meant more playing time for Justin Brown and the junior has filled in nicely.  Brown had a sack two weeks ago against Navy and got his hands on a desperation pass by Dailey that he nearly picked.  Dailey had Trevor Laws all over him and when he tried to throw the ball away, Brown nearly came down with it.

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