Monday, November 21, 2005

Odds & Sods, Screwdriver Edition | by Mike

Sundry thoughts about Syracuse...

Race for the prize. Darius Walker rushed for 123 yards and 1 touchdown on 26 carries. This gave Walker his sixth 100-yard game of the season and brought him within 80 yards of a 1,000-yard season. Most importantly, Walker's 37-yard run in the first quarter gave him the Irish's longest run of the season. Prior to the Syracuse game, this honor belonged to backup quarterback David Wolke, who had a 22-yard scamper in the fourth quarter of the Pittsburgh game. Thus Irish fans have been spared an offseason of message board whining about how our running back couldn't put up a longer run than the backup quarterback. Given how little there is to be unhappy about under Weis, you know the Master Shakes among the Notre Dame fanbase would have latched on to this one.

Wave of mutilation. Linebackers Brandon Hoyte and Corey Mays crashed through the Syracuse offensive line all day. Mays finished with 10 tackles, 3.5 of which were for a loss. Brandon Hoyte contributed 5 tackles, 2.5 of which were for a loss. Part of the reason the two were in the Syracuse backfield for most of the game was defensive coordinator Rick Minter's willingness to bring pressure and utilize the delayed blitz. Nonetheless, it was great to see the two seniors who formed the heart of Notre Dame's defense put up these numbers in their final game in Notre Dame stadium.

Marquee moon-ey. Charlie Weis declared that Marty Mooney's 16-yard strike to fellow senior walk-on Michael O'Hara was his "favorite play of the game." However, O'Hara is probably only Mooney's second favorite receiver. As happy as Weis was with the play, it's telling that Mooney was only given the opportunity to pass when the down, distance and game situation called for it. When the play was called, Notre Dame was in third-and-long and needed a first down in order to run out the clock. Given what we've seen from Charlie, I think this is the only situation in which he would have allowed Mooney to throw. Although Wolke and Mooney have combined to finish out all but three games this year, they have only been allowed to throw a combined four passes. Charlie's not one for needlessly throwing on a defeated opponent.

999 problems. As of the close of the Syracuse game, Biletnikoff finalist Jeff Samardzija has 999 receiving yards on the year. With just one more yard, he will become Notre Dame's first 1,000-yard receiver in thirty-five years. Maurice Stovall is not far behind with 887 yards, and Anthony Fasano has 545 yards. In twelve games last year, only Rhema McKnight (610) and Matt Shelton (515) had more than 400 yards receiving.

Let's get known. All 34 seniors saw playing time against Syracuse. Throughout the week, Weis reiterated that the theme for the Syracuse game was sending the seniors out the right way, and that is exactly what Notre Dame did. While Syracuse ultimately scored a touchdown when Weis emptied the bench on Syracuse's final drive, the Orange offense had their hands full against Notre Dame's senior walk-ons and reserves. Syracuse needed fourteen plays and two fourth-down conversions for their first-string to score against this group. While I would have loved to have seen the defense hold Syracuse on one of the fourth downs and keep the Orange out of the endzone, these players - many seeing their first game action - gave another team's frontline players all they could handle.

This protector. Just as he did against Michigan and Purdue, Ambrose Wooden once again used his blazing speed to make a game-saving tackle. In the first quarter, Wooden caught Syracuse running back Damien Rhodes from behind, putting an end to Rhodes's 51-yard run at the 14 yard line. The Syracuse offense then proceeded to sputter and was forced to settle for a field goal. This refusal to give up on plays explains why Notre Dame stands 37th in scoring defense despite the yardage the defense has given up this year. This play also provided a stark contrast to the 2003 Syracuse game, where the team gave up long before Brady Quinn took a knee on the final play. Both games illustrated Weis's truism that "the attitude of the head coach will be permeated through the players."