Friday, November 16, 2007

Notre Dame Football 2007: Let's go for two!—The Duke preview

While many Fighting Irish sportswriters—at least those who don't openly mock Notre Dame—have already moved on to covering ND basketball, I love the Irish gridiron lore too much to ignore them, even if both the Blue and Gold and (Saturday's opponents) the Duke Blue Devils have identical (dreadful) records of 1-9.

Missing for the Irish will be injured senior starting center John Sullivan and his steady, if not spectacular play, amidst a rag-tag line that has given up a school record 51 sacks, will surely be missed. But it is interesting to note that, at 5:30 a.m. Monday morning, Coach Weis had a surprise visitor in his office, his 6'8" 310 lb. left tackle named Sam Young—there to fill the void.

"I woke up, and the idea 'Become a leader!' just popped into my head, and it really seemed I should go over and discuss it with Coach Weis," said Sam. And while some have dubbed this season "The Rockne Horror Picture Show," the lines Young spoke to Charlie, "With the line the way it is now, I'm trying to put myself in a position to help us get better ... whatever it [becoming a leader] entails of me, I'm more than willing to do!" sound right out of the movie Rudy.

Now there's no confusing the 6'8" Young with the 5'8" Ruettiger, and unlike the legendary walk-on who got the most out of his limited ability, it's safe to say that Sam's play, despite 23 straight starts and a few memorable blocks, has been somewhat of a disappointment considering he was the #1 rated tackle prospect coming out of high school in 2006. But the fact that Sam not only hasn't given up, but has vowed to become a leader, should not be lost in the midst of this otherwise sorrowful season. Notre Dame mystique has been built on being both an underdog and a winner, and so when Charlie Weis was asked if he felt like Duke coach Ted Roof, who, despite Duke's 1-9 record, claimed he was having the most fun coaching this year he has ever had, Weis could only laugh. "I would NOT agree with that statement!" said Weis, rolling his eyes. But he did say that Young's sunrise visit "was one of the most enjoyable parts of my entire week."

If the temperature stays above freezing, look for freshman receiver Duval Kamara to have a breakout game Saturday. Duval was on the sidelines last week, not due to injury but to academic deficiencies. But Duval has learned his lesson(s) in time for the final home game against Duke, and while it's too late for sure-handed Kamara to catch any of the eight dropped balls against Air Force, I know if Clausen is given time to deliver the pigskin against Duke, Kamara will catch it when the Irish "go for two"... wins that is. But just in case, I brought two candles home from my grotto visit last week, and you can be sure they will be lit at the sight of the first Duke fumble recovery, interception or sack.

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