Saturday, April 21, 2007

Notre Dame Spring Game: Defense Good as Gold

It's always hard to know exactly what to take from a college football intrasquad spring scrimmage, but at Notre Dame, a few facts are crystal clear. First, the Fighting Irish are as popular with its faithful as ever, as 51,852 fans, more than 10,000 over the previous spring record, paid to see Notre Dame play. Secondly, in a game that saw the Gold squad squeak by the Blue 10-6, it was the defense that dominated, quite unlike the high-flying Brady Quinn era. Lastly, in a pre-season that saw a lot of hype for quarterback, none of the four QB candidates stood out. But whether this was by design, part of Charlie Weis' master plan to keep his quarterback selection hidden until autumn, remains to be determined.

As for the quarterbacks, here are the stats. On the surface Evan Sharpley's were the best for he completed 5-7 for 21 yds. But Sharpley also had a fumble and a costly sack which cost the Gold a chance for a field goal and earned him an animated earful from Gold's honorary coach, Lou Holtz.

"We were just praying about it," Lou quipped.

Demetrius Jones (3 of 6, 23 yds.) threw the only touchdown pass, a fifteen-yarder to Robby Paris, and ran 31 yards on a nifty scramble. But his badly overthrown toss to TE John Carlson was intercepted by David Bruton and returned 35 yards for a touchdown.

Frosh phenom Jimmy Clausen went 3 for 7 for 23 yds. failing to rally the Blue with a 2:00 4th quarter possession, while Zach Taylor was a woeful 0-4 including an interception.

The surprise offensive star turned out to be none other than Junior Jabbie, who gained 87 yards and 13 carries and greatly out-rushed his more heralded teammates, including James Aldridge, 9 carries, 34 yds. and Travis Thomas (9-36).

Afterwards the triumphant Gold team doused Coach Holtz with the traditional Gatorade shower. Although he had received this treatment one hundred times during his Notre Dame coaching career, Holtz (who perhaps for the first time since his departure a decade ago looked happy to be back), feigned surprise and disgust. "You don't throw Gatorade on a 70-year-old guy in a spring game when it's not expected," Holtz dead-panned. "I could have had a heart attack—and sued Notre Dame for a lot of money!"

So whether Weis was trying to make his much maligned defense look good at the expense of humbling his quarterbacks is something we won't know until fall. But with freshmen now enrolling early and star 5th-year seniors such as John Carlson and teen heartthrob Tom Zbikowksi (who recently donated $20,000 he made from a boxing exhibition to Weis' charitable foundation Hannah & Friends) forsaking big NFL bucks to play one more year for Charlie and Our Lady, the expectations are high, and the prayers (including some from tomorrow's Notre Dame Eucharistic Procession) are starting already.


Pristinus Sapienter said...

One good way to foster both offense and defense is to permit one squad of the team smash the other. They both learn a lot about themselves.

Of Our Lady's own university, both squads must learn first and foremost to call on their heavenly mother in every huddle.

And, of the student body, they need not be playing football at the time they so plead. Any 'two gathered in My name' is sufficient huddle.

JimAroo said...

I learned today that our favorite university dedicated to Our Lady is in the County of..... St Joseph!

St Joseph, Terror of Demons- Pray for us!

Tom O'Toole said...

JimAroo - You're right Jim. Even (or especially depending upon your point of view) in South Bend, Mary and Joseph cannot long be separated. -Tom

Tom O'Toole said...

Pristinus Sapienter - Ah yes, the old school (i.e. pre-football) definition of huddle. Of course on good days, the Fighting Irish combine the two. -Tom