IBG – Big Apple Edition

Freshman Tommy Rees has 7 TDs in less than 2 full games, but he'll have competition for the starting QB position in 2011. (Photo - Icon SMI)

We get back into the IBG this week as the Irish travel to the Big Apple to take on Army in this year’s neutral site game.

1) Saturday’s result against Utah was a very pleasant surprise, but an unexpected one, to say the least. What was the biggest positive you took from the win over the Utes, and what concerns you most as the Irish head into their final two games of the regular season?

The fact that the Irish came out fired up and played hard from start to finish was very encouraging because it shows that the team has not quit on Brian Kelly after a very rough stretch of a few weeks.  The players have said all along they were all in with this staff and the effort shown on Saturday is proof they are still very much in Kelly’s corner.  I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention how promising it was to see the Irish defense dominate the Utah offense from start to finish as well.  If you throw out the Navy debacle, the Irish defense has been much improved this season.

Army’s option attack.  I expect Notre Dame to play better against the option this weekend, but after how bad the defense looked against Navy, who knows just how much better the defense will look.  Notre Dame has to win this game.  Another performance like the Navy could derail this year’s recruiting class further.  A win this weekend also makes the Irish bowl eligible giving them some much needed extra practice time.

2) The Irish will have to take a completely different approach against the Army option than they did against the Navy attack a few weeks ago. Who do you see playing the biggest role in slowing down the Black Knight attack? Who will be the big performer on offense?

The defensive line is going to have to play much better against Army than they did against Navy in order for the Irish defense to have a better performance this weekend.  Ethan Johnson, Kapron Lewis-Moore, and Sean Cwynar are going to have to control the line of scrimmage and take up blockers.

If the defense slows down Army, the Irish safeties will be the stars of the show.  Think back a few years to the 2006 Air Force game.  The Irish defense shut down the Air Force offense and Chinedum N’Dukwe had a career day.  Against Navy the Irish safeties routinely played deep even though Navy had no intention of passing the football.  I expect to see Jamoris Slaughter and Harrison Smith play much closer to the line of scrimmage and help secure the edge.   If they do that effectively, Manti Te’o and Carlo Calebrese will hopefully be able to slow down the inside runs.

3) Should Notre Dame win one of their final two games, they’ll likely be going bowling. There are a lot of tie-ins that may or may not be fulfilled from other conferences that will likely end up deciding their postseason fate, but what bowl do you see the Irish playing in?

The new Pinstripes Bowl in Yankee Stadium would definitely be an interesting scenario for Notre Dame since it would mark three Notre Dame games in New York for the Irish in 2011.  With a couple high profile recruits in the New York vicinity, another game in the Big Apple wouldn’t be a bad a thing.

The best chance for Notre Dame to make a statement in a bowl game, however, would be in the Champs Sports Bowl.  For that to happen, the Irish would have to beat both Army and USC.   Should the Irish land in the Champs Sports Bowl, Florida State or Miami could potentially be their opponent depending on how the ACC shakes out.

4) This isn’t a question any of us thought would be an issue at the start of the season, but who do you see as Notre Dame’s starting quarterback against South Florida next year?

Right now, I think it’s too early to make any predictions on the starting quarterback.  Tommy Rees is playing strong enough to warrant him holding the starting spot going in to spring practice.  Fellow freshman Andrew Hendrix and Luke Massa will have a say in the spring as well – especially if Dayne Crist misses all of the spring as many think he will.   The wild card here is Everett Golson.  Golson visited Notre Dame this past weekend and is looking to enroll early wherever he ends up which means he could be in the mix as well should he select Notre Dame.

One thing is for sure, Crist is going to have a tough time wrestling back the starting spot if he misses spring ball.  Tommy Rees has already looked more comfortable running Brian Kelly’s offense in limited action and the other quarterbacks on the roster will have all have more time to learn the offense.

5) We’re all very excited for Saturday night at Yankee Stadium, which is a nice turn towards some pretty exciting neutral site games (Miami at Soldier Field, Arizona State at Cowboys Stadium) after a rather lackluster start (Washington State in San Antonio). What are three neutral site games you’d like to see down the road?

  • Nebraska in Kansas City at Arrow Head Stadium.  Two great programs with great histories in a great city and a great stadium.
  • Alabama in New Orleans at the Superdome.  A rematch of the classic 1973 Sugar Bowl.
  • Wisconsin in Green Bay at Lambeau Field.  How great would it be to see the Irish play in one of the most historic stadiums in the NFL?

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  1. Amen Rob,

    The key to the option is making the QB make a decision in the backfield. I ran the Belly or Veer option in High School as a QB and the longer I was able to hold onto the ball caused the defense to have to count me. I can tell you that as a QB my favorite thing to do was cut the ball up. If after I faked the hand off to the full back and the DE stayed wide I would cut in up between the tackle and DE gap. It got about 4-5 yds every play becuase by the time the back side MLB could get me I was up the field five yds. I saw Navy over the past years do that a lot to teams. The Defense needs to be mindful of gap responsibility, but again you need to attack the ball carrier and force a decision. I also think this is the way to handle the spread also. As a defense you can not let the offense dictate to you, as a defense you dictate. Once you make the offense react to you, you are in control as a defense.

  2. Amen, jack!

    I’ve heard many good posts here from people who obviously know this game and know the option in particular. I trust the ND staff knows half as much. (Hard to say after watching the Navy game!)

    In a triple option there’s also usually a lead blocker on the edge for either the QB or pitch back. The lead back needs to be absorbed by an OLB to allow a DB to take the ball carrier (assuming the DE did his job and forced a quick pitch, like jack said). There should also always be a LB chasing the play from the back side, plus D players must disengage from initial blocks and always be moving toward the side where the ball is.

    The one thing all the posts here about defending the option have in common is that they’re all about ATTACKING the option quickly. 1) Take away the KB dive. 2) Force the QB to make quick reads. 3) This can lead to bad decisions and TOs as a result.


  3. I easy way to handle the option is as follows:

    Middle LB responsible for the FB
    DE responsible for hitting the QB every play down the line
    OLB or DB is responsible for pitch man
    You run a fourman line with DE standing and all they do is contain the play. You want to force the pitch as quick as possible, that way you can chase down the ball carrier. Also you want the pitch at or behind the line of scrimmage to allow the defense time to chase down the ball carrier with minimal gain of yardage. The DE standing makes it hard for the lineman to cut him especially if the DE is 3 yards off the line of scrimmage b/c you are now looking at a block below the waste because the are not engaged. Finally I agree with everyone to attack the line of scrimage and beat the snot out of the QB. Paul Johnson’s offense doesn’t run well without a great QB.

  4. Ghosts of 46 I agree with you 150%!! Need to throw a 4-4 at them with 4 LBs responsible for their assignments. We need to just blow up that Fullback dive all game and force them to deal without it!

  5. A 4-4-3 can beat the option. The Irish were effective with 4 down linemen against Utah. With only 3, the nose was isolated and double teamed against Navy. Just because you normally run a 3-4 doesn’t mean you always have to run a 3-4.

    Answer: 4-4

    Question: Can Diaco see it?

  6. You always have to take away the first option, fastest way to one piont is in a straight line so you have to take away the dive.Then you attack the qb and hit him hard! If you can make them go to the third option the pitch man every time you will win the game.Listening to Kelly I think he realised he did a bad job against Navy and will correct it for Army.GO IRISH BEAT ARMY!!!

  7. I second the motion attack the fullback, make qb pitch and safeties have pitch men with pursuit following… Navy backup fb ran for 206 yrds on us… I hope Brian smith is still playing inside LB

  8. What about this other QB recruit: 6’5″, 225 pounds, 4.5 40 yard dash….

    Great numbers… he seems to be able to move around the pocket too.

    We need to win out so we can finish strong in recruiting.

    I fully aware that stars and numbers don’t win ball games… but I still get excited about athletes that have impressive athletic numbers like that.

    There are still a few recruits that ND on there radar.

    GO IRISH..

    I know there are some who don’t care for the Green Jersey’s but I LOVE them… and really hope to see them this Saturday.

  9. ”lackluster start at San Antonio” ??????????????????????????????????????????????

    evidently the author WAS NOT THERE!! I was a terrific terrific venue for the game!!1

    1. I think he meant lackluster because it was against a very bad Washington State team. I, too, enjoyed the game immensely, but it would have been even better if the opponent had been stronger (nut not too strong!).

  10. spread is at 8.5, i think we win by a couple tds. however, we need to be stout in the redzone and force field-goals. navy killed us by getting a td in nearly every possession, if 2-3 of those were fg’s the game would have been in reach. army will have some success on the ground, but we can’t let them in the end-zone.

    it was awesome to watch the fourth quarter last week when the game was out of reach. i enjoyed every down. i would love to see our 2s and 3s seeing some pt in the second half, it builds confidence and depth in the whole team. something we couldn’t do under weis.

    go irish!

  11. 1. Will we attack the option or just react??

    2. Te’o will have his biggest game of the year if they allow him to
    attack the option.

    3. I like the Champs Sports bowl with FSU.

    4. Tommy has the advantage at the momment.

    5. Not sure, like the locations we have now.

  12. Take a look at the NYTimes article today on the history of the ND/Army rivalry. It’s a great article.

    It reminds me of my heritage. As a six-year-old, my Dad (very much a full-blooded Italian) told me that every Catholic kid in the country dreams to play football at the University of Notre Dame.

    Fun memories.

  13. UNC is under investigation by the NCAA for violations. If they get sanctioned, there will be a lot of recruits defecting to other schools. I can’t say I’d blame them if they did, either.

  14. I can’t believe everyone is so quick to dismiss Dayne Crist. Tommy Rees only threw the ball 20 times on Saturday and has only played 2 games. You can’t count Navy because the outcome was already decided in that when he came in. 2 games and he had 3 interceptions against the worst pass d in the country. I am not saying it might not be Rees but to so quickly throw Dayne into the junk heap is ridiculous.

    1. That’s true NDFan but I’d say he has a lot to think about as well. He’s played in a spread offense all through high school and UNC plays a Pro Style offense.

      Keep in mind he’s not a very big kid. Stands around 6′ and may have problems taking snaps under center from a line that averages 6’4-6″.

      Hopefully his visit to ND made an impression on him. After seeing his stats and highlight films he’s a pretty impressive kid. His pocket awareness, quickness, decision making and accurate arm would be a welcomed addition to our offense!

      I’ll definitely keep my fingers crossed for this kid.

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