Final Review: Notre Dame v. Army ’06

Special Teams Inconsistent Again
The Notre Dame special teams were shaky again this week.  Kick coverage was pretty poor and Carl Gioia missed another extra point this week.  On the positive side Derek Landri blocked another field goal for the Irish – his fourth blocked kick of the season.  Notre Dame has gotten away with some inconsistent special teams play the last three weeks against North Carolina, Air Force, and Army which was ok since none of these three teams had much of a chance.

These special teams blunders can’t happen next weekend when Notre Dame travels to Los Angeles if the Irish are to leave with a victory.  If Notre Dame gives up starting field position to Southern Cal like they did to Army this week, the Irish could be in real trouble.

Mike Richardson Had a Great Game
Richardson has been one of the most improved players on defense for the Irish all year and it showed Saturday.  Richardson picked off his first two passes of the year.  We haven’t heard Richardson’s name mentioned too much in the passing game which means he has been doing his job all year long.  He’s become one of the best tacklers in the secondary by using good technique and not just going for the knock out and his coverage skills and ability to adjust to and actually play the ball are night and day from where they were two years ago.

Third Down Offense/Defense
Notre Dame converted 60% (6 of 10) third downs on offense and held Army to 35%(5 of 14).  Four of Army’s third down conversions came on their final two drives against the reserve defense.  The Black Knights converted 4 of 5 third downs in their final two drives meaning the starting defense for Notre Dame allowed just one third down conversion in 9 attempts.  The lone conversion for Army was a 3rd and two in the second quarter.

Redzone Scoring

Notre Dame had five trips into the redzone started and each ended the same way – with a Notre Dame touchdown.  The Irish were a perfect five for five inside the 20 yard line Saturday.  On the season Notre Dame has scored 93% of the time they’ve reached the redzone (39 of 42) with a 79% touchdown rate (33 of 42).

Army meanwhile scored on just two of its four trips into the redzone including their touchdown on the final play of the game.  Notre Dame is allowing opponents to score 77% of the time they reach the 20, but less than half of opponents trips into the redzone have resulted in touchdowns.

First time ND didn’t receive to start the game
For the first time this season Notre Dame did not receive the opening kick-off.  Amry won the toss and Bobby Ross elected to receive.

Speaking of Bobby Ross…
Some people didn’t care too much for him calling timeouts in the final minute of the game so Army could score one more time.  Joe Paterno did this earlier in the season as well and while I wasn’t too thrilled when Paterno did it, I really don’t have any problem with Ross doing it.  Army doesn’t get to play in places like Notre Dame Stadium very often so for him to give his kids one more chance to score, I can’t fault him.  When Paterno did it, Penn State had already scored a touchdown a few minutes earlier and the Lions play in big games in historic stadiums every year so I think the two are slightly different circumstances.

Ross showed he is a class act when he led his players over to sing the alma mater with Irish players after they stood with the Black Knights for theirs.  He was also very complimentary in his post game comments about Notre Dame.

Landri/Laws Were Beats… Again
These two, especially Lanri, have been a permanent fixture in my Final Review wrap ups.  What else is there to say about Landri other than all he did against was record another 2 sacks, and 4.5 tackles for loss.  Landri has really elevated his game this year, especially down the stretch, and has become one of the best interior defensive linemen for the Irish in years.  His presence is going to create a huge hole to be filled in the middle of the Notre Dame defense next year.

Offensive Line Dominated
For the second week in a row the Notre Dame offensive line dominated the game.  We’ll find out just how far this offensive line has come this weekend against USC.  These last two games are the kind of games Notre Dame should dominate in the trenches so its hard to get too excited over these last two dominating performances, but at the very least they are reason for optimism.  The offensive line had underachieved all year, but they have paved the way for Darius Walker to post back to back 150+ yard efforts.

Darius Walker looked good
Walker went over the 1,000 yard mark for the second consecutive year with his season high 162 yards.  Walker sliced and diced through the Army defense to the tune of a 6.8 yards per carry average.  Walker has looked good these last two weeks and has not looked nearly as tentative as he did in the beginning of the season.

Where are the Willingham/Weis comparisons now?
When Weis was 11-4 in his first 15 games there were numerous articles comparing Weis to Tyrone Willingham who was also 11-4 after 15 games.  Surprisingly, I have not seen too many of those articles from the national media so I’ll update the comparison for them.  Weis has now coach 23 games with a record of 19-4.  Willingham after 23 games was 14-9.  Weird how people like Mark May haven’t report that isn’t it?

Quinn will be missed
Brady had another three touchdown performance, his fourth in a row and tied his single season touchdown record of 32.  Despite all the records there are still some out there who doubt Quinn, but this kid has been a true warrior for this team and an excellent representative of the University over these last four years and he will be sorely missed.  Jimmy Clausen may come in and break a lot of Brady’s records if for no other reason than because he will have more seasons under Weis, but Brady has cemented his place in Notre Dame history as one of it’s finest quarterbacks.

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