Eye in the Sky: Linebackers

IrishEyes' film review of Notre Dame's linebackers vs. the Midshipmen.

Any defensive player of the game award would be incidental…

Inside Linebacker Manti Te'o

Appeared to correctly crash into the dive play (fullback) on the opening possession as QB Ricky Dobbs ran to Te'o's left for 7 yards. That's likely a late safety fill (judging from Play No. 1, this review is going to take awhile…)…Hammered by a down block from Navy left tackle Jeff Battipaglia on Teich's 54-yard burst through the heart of the D two snaps later…Filled his outside lane to stop slot-back Gee Gee Greene for two yards immediately after the pitch. Te'o came too high and Greene wriggled free for two yards on what should have been a one-yard loss…Pancaked on the following snap by right guard John Dowd…Pancaked by LG Josh Cabral on Teich's 31-yard screen reception for a touchdown.

Wrong read (crashed on the fullback) as Dobbs slipped through the vacated gap for 11 yards…Filled to stop Teich for three yards up the gut, setting up 2nd and 7 at midfield…Sprinted past a block to bury slot-back Andre Byrd immediately after a pitch for two-yard loss…Leveraged from his gap by 5'8" 167-pound slot-back Alexander Santiago as Teich rumbled over right tackle for 8 yards down to the Irish 6-yard line. (For the sake of reference: I wonder how often Robby Toma is asked to take on – and succeeds – vs. the opponents' top linebacker in the box?)…Late in his gap thanks to a thigh block from left guard Josh Cabral on Ricky Dobbs first TD. Navy 14 ND 3.

Stayed home to rock Dobbs for no gain on 1st and 10, which contributed to the only punt of the first half by the Midshipmen…Gave up too much ground and was cut six yards downfield on a Dobbs option keeper over the right side (5 yards)…On the final series of the first half, lost sight of the ball on a Dobbs keeper that gained five yards down to the Irish 19-yard line.

2nd Half: Nice flow to stop Santiago for no gain on a reverse toss to the right. That's the third quality play in space by Te'o who struggled at the point throughout the contest…I couldn't tell if he over pursued or played his responsibility well (and the D failed him) on Dobbs' 9-yard cut-back TD run. Either way, Te'o had no chance vs. Dobbs in space as he played tentatively throughout the contest….Drilled in the chest and shoved backwards four yards by 5'7" 153-pound wing back Andre Byrd. (Teich ran for 12 yards to the outside on the play, but that's not really the point anymore now, is it?)…Controlled and turned by left tackle Jeff Battipaglia on the ensuing play, a 25-yard burst by Teich through the heart of the Irish defense (pun intended)…Nice pop on Teich in the hole on Navy's 1st and Goal run from the 7-yard line. Teich gained three on the play…Controlled by LT Battipaglia again, this time for 16-yards by Teich near the end of the 3rd Quarter.

Observation: The word you're looking for is "tentative." Te'o has played with nowhere near the same aggression level vs. the option in his two collegiate experiences to date.

Inside Linebacker Carlo Calabrese

Gave ground and was cut (7 yards off the line) on a 4-yard run by Teich…One play later, was late to fill as Dobbs followed his fake hand-off to Teich for a 4-yard gain over the left A gap for a Navy 1st Down at the Irish 15-yard line…Succeeded vs. the same play three snaps later to drill Dobbs for one-yard inside the Irish 4-yard line…No flow to the ball on a 13-yard keeper by Dobbs; Calabrese just flopped on a pile of blockers away from the play…Read the pitch wide but was stiff-armed to the ground by slot-back Gee Gee Greene who sprinted 9 yards for a diving TD to end the half. Navy 21 ND 10.

2nd Half: Slow to fill then is absolutely pancaked by 5'8" 168-pound slot-back Aaron Santiago on the half's opening play, a 12-yard gain over right tackle…Pancaked by Teich seven yards down field on Dobbs' 9-yard touchdown run (28-10 Navy)…Appeared to injure his hamstring after John Howell ran by him on a near-side pitch for six yards. Calabrese did not return.

Observation: Struggled mightily in his first experience vs. a true option. Calabrese rarely filled a gap with authority and failed to elude blockers at the second level. Toughest game of the season for the redshirt-freshman who spent the vast majority of the game clock on the turf.

Outside Linebacker Darius Fleming

Had Dobbs dead-to-rights on a pass rush but teammate Brian Smith abandoned his opposite side responsibility and a screen pass turned into a 31-yard score. Good burst off the edge by Fleming to avoid a (weak) cut block…Hesitated on the edge and allowed slot-back Gee Gee Greene 13 yards on the near side. Fleming didn't trust his eyes on the play…Impressive backside pursuit to stop Dobbs 5 yards downfield on an option keeper. Fleming sprinted down the line and upfield to tackle the Navy QB.

2nd Half: Easily secured outside on Teich's 12-yard sprint over the right side to start the half. Fleming had been solid in his outside containment responsibilities prior to that play.

Outside Linebacker Kerry Neal

Cut down at scrimmage on a toss play to Gee Gee Greene that gained 13 yards…Fought off a double-team block to team with Zeke Motta for a sideline tackle of Greene (4 yards)…Maintained outside responsibility which allowed Te'o to stop Dobbs for no gain late in the 2nd Quarter (eventually forced a punt)…Diving, crashing tackle helped limit Dobbs to five yards up the gut as Navy methodically drove for the half-ending score.

2nd Half: Crashed too far inside, allowing Teich 12 yards to the corner on a 3rd and 3 run midway through the 3rd Quarter…Pushed, shoved and turned around by RT Ryan Basford on Dobbs' carry down to the one-yard line.

Outside Linebacker Brian Smith

Fulfilled his assignment on his first defensive snap, forcing Dobbs to pitch early to his slot-back (Te'o on the play)…Committed the cardinal sin of leaving his responsibility (the pass target) on an obvious screen pass to fullback Alexander Teich. Teich did the rest, weaving through well-blocked downfield defenders before performing a half-helicopter rotation dive into the end zone. Smith could play at ND for 10 years and these mental breakdowns would continue to occur on a bi-weekly basis.

Cut down on a veer toss left that resulted in 10 yards and a Navy first down…Stayed with his Dobb responsibility one play later to force a pitch (tackle by Te'o)…Abandoned backside responsibility on a reverse toss to wide receiver Greg Jones who pulled up and threw deep (15-yard obvious interference penalty on the Irish). That play should have been stopped for an 8-10 yard loss.

2nd Half: Stayed home on Dobbs to force the pitch (Te'o tackle for no gain).

Observation: Assignments 'R Us...

Inside Linebacker Dan Fox

Entered in the 2nd Half in relief of injured ILB Carlo Calabrese. Fox was shoved backwards to the ground on his second snap, a Teich 3rd and 2 gain of 14 yards down to the ND 7-yard line. Welcome to triple-option football…Got a low hit on Dobbs that stopped Dobbs short of the goal. Nice effort by Fox to shed a block, come across traffic and hit the QB the only place that could have stopped him from scoring.

Poor pursuit angle (caught up in traffic) on the following series contributes to a 16-yard gain past Cwynar/Lewis-Moore/Te'o…Fought off a lead block and helped stop Teich one-yard shy of the marker on 3rd and 4, forcing a rare Midshipmen punt to begin the final period.

Performed admirably under difficult relief circumstances.

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