Top 3 Players SaturdayA defensive player deserved the top spot after a stifling effort Saturday night.
- Carlo Calabrese: The redshirt-frosh played the best game of his young career, posting 10 tackles with 3.5 for loss – the highest team total this season. Calabrese added a sack for the second time in three weeks. His 5 TFL leads the team – the Irish have 29 TFL through five games, two behind last year's 31 at the same juncture though the 2010 D has posted three more sacks than did last season's blitz-happy unit after five weeks.
- Dayne Crist: Critics of the redshirt-junior QB seem to forget that the 1st Quarter Saturday did indeed count: 119 passing yards including two touchdowns; 9 rushing yards including a touchdown and 3rd down conversion. No turnovers, four possessions, 21 points. Brian Kelly's stated plan was to jump on the Eagles early. Crist executed that with three 1st Quarter touchdowns. BC scored 13 points over the course of the contest. He might have been shaky for the final 45 minutes, but Crist was a force for the first 15.
- Manti Te'o: The sophomore has likely forged a permanent spot on this list. Te'o's improvement from Game Two (Purdue and Michigan) through Game Five is just what the Diaco ordered for a defense that will return largely intact next season. Te'o posted 10 tackles again Saturday, the fourth consecutive contest in which he reached double digit stops. He's tied for second nationally with 64 total stops (one behind Marshall's Mario Harvey).
Also Considered: Junior CB Robert Blanton (2 TFL, INT, sack…and the INT was impressive); RT Taylor Dever and RG Trevor Robinson: The tandem was instrumental in the first quarter demolition of the Eagles, opening up a huge lane for Armando Allen's career-best 30-yard run while clearing a path for Crist's walk-in score one play later. Dever left the game with a hamstring injury.
Slot receiver Theo Riddick (9 catches and a touchdown); Armando Allen (90 rushing yards and a touchdown, though his fumble cost the Irish 3 points).
Top UnitThe first five (a trio of starters plus Sean Cwynar and Hafis Williams) are much more highly regarded by the Irish staff than by most fans.
- Defensive Line: Completely controlled Boston College's traditionally strong offensive front, limiting the Eagles to five net rushing yards (including sacks). Ian Williams, Ethan Johnson, Kapron Lewis-Moore, Sean Cwynar and Hafis Williams, along with Tyler Stockton late, kept the Irish inside linebackers free to roam and wreak havoc – a combined 20 tackles including four behind the line of scrimmage.
Underrated senior nose guard Ian Williams was the unit's statistical leader with four solos including one for loss. The ‘backers get the glory, but as always, the D-Line did the dirty work.
Also Considered: Inside linebackers as noted above.
Coaching Move of the Week: The insertion of freshman Bennett Jackson as the chief kick returner. Kelly noted as late as Thursday night that sophomore Cierre Wood would remain in the role. Wood was not set deep for the opening kick, and Jackson sparked the Irish with a 43-yard sprint back to midfield. ND score four plays later and the rout had begun.
Block of the Game: Several candidates from Notre Dame's first two drives (Michael Floyd on Crist's opening touchdown; Kyle Rudolph setting up the second score; Taylor Dever and Trevor Robinson on Crist's TD), but the best, and most difficult assignment, of the bunch occurred on ND's final score:
Leading 24-13 with 4:41 remaining at the BC 2-yard line, center Braxston Cave sought, found, secured, and slammed down Eagles MLB Luke Kuechly in space to open up a walk-in touchdown run by Armando Allen, effectively ending the contest. The sophomore Kuechly ranks among the most difficult players to block in space in college football.
Hit of the Game: Leading 14-0 with 6:11 remaining in the opening quarter, inside linebacker Carlo Calabrese shot through the left B Gap and lambasted Eagles running back Montel Harris a tick after he received the handoff. The play resulted in a three-yard loss and BC punted two plays later. Either Calabrese or Te'o has earned this honor each week.
Top Freshman Effort: Bennett Jackson kicked off the 1st Quarter festivities with a 43-yard opening return but this week's award goes to Prince Shembo, who became the second true freshman to record two sacks in the same game for Notre Dame since Kory Minor in 1995 (Ethan Johnson in the 2008 Sheraton Hawaii Bowl is the other). Both of Shembo's sacks occurred from the Dime defensive package on 3rd and long.
Crucial injury situation to monitor: Senior RT Taylor Dever exited Saturday's contest with a hamstring injury. Classmate Andrew Nuss is Dever's chief backup.
Quote of the Day: "They came in here and licked us –schematically, physically, and in every way." –BC coach Frank Spaziani.
When's the last time you read that as an Irish fan following a matchup with a perceived peer and recent rival?
Note: Part II, to be published prior to today's Brian Kelly press conference, will include notable player observations from Saturday and heading into Week Six.