Notre Dame won on the road for the first time this season, but another streak ended that probably could have been avoided.
Marice Crum Jr. sat idle on the sidelines for the first defensive play, breaking a streak of 43 consecutive starts dating to the first game of his red-shirt freshman year. Since the 2005 game against Pittsburgh when Crum started at “Apache,” he has been a versatile and stable figure of the Irish linebacker corps, starting on the inside and outside.
When he was named defensive captain of the 2008 squad, he became one of only 17 players in the history of Notre Dame football to be a two-time captain.
The Irish middle linebacker is the son of Maurice Crum, an All-American linebacker at Miami from 1987-90, who in his own right, led the Hurricanes in tackles for three straight seasons.
Like his father, Crum’s longevity is only surpassed by his production. He led the Irish in tackles during the 2006 campaign. With a solid second half against teams who will run more often than the first half of the Irish schedule, Crum has the opportunity to pass David Bruton and Kyle McCarthy for the Irish lead in tackles in 2008. In just over three years for the Irish, Crum has 281 tackles.
When asked if he was disappointed about the streak ending, Crum said, “No, I’m okay. I’m a huge team guy. Whatever [it takes] for the team to win.”
It didn’t seem clear that this was entirely planned. After watching a replay of the game, it appears the Irish defensive coaching staff made a personnel call on the sidelines that sent in a package of players which did not include Crum. The senior linebacker confirmed when he was asked if he knew he wouldn’t be starting. “No, it was kind of a game time thing.”
The coaching staff dialed up a NICKEL defensive personnel package for the first play of the game, and included four down linemen (Kuntz, Johnson, Fleming and Neal), two linebackers (Smith, H. and Smith, B.), and five defensive backs (Brown, Lambert, McNeil, McCarthy and Bruton). Washington had initially huddled their offense on the sidelines which gave the Irish coaches a chance to see their oncoming offensive personnel and might have influenced the decision. The first play resulted in an incompletion. It is interesting to note on the second play, the Irish stayed in Nickel, with Sergio Brown coming off the field, Harrison Smith moving to the Nickel back and Crum taking the vacated linebacker position. On that second play, Crum made the tackle on Ronnie Fouch (UW’s QB).
Crum had almost seen this streak end on a number of other occasions because he was questionable due to injury. Crum was plagued early in his career with back problems and was banged up several other times, but never missed a start before Saturday. His most memorable performance came against the UCLA Bruins in 2007. A game he was questionable to see action because of injury and illness, he ended the contest with 7 tackles, 2 interceptions, 2 forces fumbles and 2 fumble recoveries, with the final one being returned for a touchdown. The stellar performance lifted the Irish to a 20-6 win over UCLA, their first of the season.