Defense Domintes Blue-Gold Game

<P>Notre Dame held their 74th Annual Blue-Gold game on Saturday and the defense dominated most of the game. The Irish did manage some nice plays on offense but the game was clearly dominated by the defense as the Blue squad beat the Gold squad 17-14. </P>

The Irish defense shined on Saturday finishing the day with 8 sacks. The Irish quarterbacks were hurried on what seemed like every play and they held the Irish rushing attack to minus two yards. The Irish offense did manage to throw for 227 yards on 17-for-38 passing but also had two interceptions and fumbled the snap a number of times.

The Irish offense struggled most of the day but did manage to score some points. Most of the scoring was done on the ground and that should give coach Tyrone Willingham some confidence in his offense. Running back Nate Schiccatano opened the scoring with a three-yard run in the first quarter capping an eight-play, 72-yard drive by the Gold. A failed D.J. Fitzpatrick PAT gave the Gold the 6-0 lead. Schiccatano had a number of solid runs in this drive including runs for nine, five and eight yards before his 3-yard scamper.

The Blue got on the scoreboard in the third quarter with a Nicholas Setta 27-yard field goal capitalizing on Jake Carney interception of Pat Dillingham to give the Blue the their first points of the game.

The Blue scored again as Jeff Jenkins scored from two yards out up the middle capping a seven-play, 26-yard drive that capitalized on a Pat Dillingham fumble giving the Blue the short field. A Nick Setta successful PAT gave the Blue the 10-6 lead.

The Blue team got rolling again behind the arm of quarterback Chris Olsen who hit Omar Jenkins down the middle on a great catch for 28 yards. Olsen then found walk-on fullback Cole Laux for 10 yards and later scored on a four-yard scramble after being chased from the pocket up the middle. Nick Setta converted the PAT giving the Blue the 17-6 lead.

The Gold scored late in the fourth quarter led by passes from Dillingham to freshman Anthony Fasano and to tight end Jared Clark. Dillingham hit Fasano for nine yards and 39 yards in the drive and Clark for 17 yards on fourth down to keep the drive alive. Dillingham then handed off to Marcus Wilson who beat the defense to the corner of the end zone to narrow the lead. Jared Clark caught a Dillingham two-point conversion attempt in the back of the end zone narrowing the lead to Blue 17, Gold 14.

The Blue defense closed the game with two sacks of walk-on quarterback Matt Krueger preserving the 17-14 Blue win over the Gold.

The highlights on defense were many but Irish fans were probably the most happy to see Justin Tuck today. Tuck had been injured most of the spring with a shoulder injury and will be counted on to provide the Irish defense with pass rush. Tuck certainly didn't play like he had been injured and finished the game with three sacks and harassed the Irish quarterbacks all day. "We're excited about what Justin can bring," said coach Tyrone Willingham. "Hopefully today is just another one of those very positive outings that he will have for us in the future. That he continues to play at a high level and not just as a pass rusher but as a complete player is what we're hoping for out of Justin."

Freshman quarterback Chris Olsen had a pretty good day considering the circumstances. Olsen finished the game 11-for-25 with 146 yards passing and didn't throw and interception. Olsen was running for his life most of the day and showed a confidence and toughness in the pocket. "I thought Chris Olsen did a good job. I was impressed with how clever he seemed to be at times in making plays and that's always a good quality for your quarterback to have," said Willingham. Can Olsen push starter Carlyle Holiday for the starting position? "That is one potent question you just asked, time will tell," Willingham said.

Willingham was asked if he could name his number two quarterback at this point. "I think we'll work our way through that as we approach the fall," said Willingham

Olsen won the MVP for the offensive side of the ball and offensive coordinator Bill Diedrick was also impressed with Olsen. "I was pleased with Chris' overall play. I thought he stepped up and made some plays. He showed maybe a little bit more consistency than he has in the earlier part of spring."

Willingham was pleased with the performance and thinks this game is important to for his team. "It's an opportunity to play football which you can't rehearse anywhere else. It gives our young men the chance to be athletic. We kind of pare down the offense, pare down the defense so they can be athletic and play and hopefully have some fun."

Starting Quarterback Carlyle Holiday didn't see much action today. He only played in two series and sat out the rest of the game. Willingham was asked if he was trying to protect his starting quarterback. "The real force there was our need to let the two young men play. To see if we could focus the afternoon on Pat Dillingham and Chris Olsen and I think we worked toward that by giving them plenty of time and plenty of opportunities."

Jared Clark had an outstanding game. He is clearly stepping up as the tight end that will be called upon to make plays. Clark finished with two catches for 47 yards and a two-point conversion. Freshman Anthony Fasano finished with three catches for 69 yards. It appears the tight ends will be featured more in the offense next year and Willingham said he expects this out of all his tight ends. "I don't necessarily list it as a Jared Clark role. I list it as identifying playmakers, people who can make plays. Jared and some other guys fit in that category. We want to find ways to showcase them and get them the ball and have our offense be productive."

The Irish offense did struggle but they certainly looked more adept at running this offense than in last year's Blue-Gold game. "We're a lot further along. We're so much further along that we could take Carlyle and not have him play the whole day. I think that in itself means there's some advancement in our offense and advancement in our confidence as coaches as where we are," said Willingham.

The offensive line has been a big concern all through spring. The offensive line did do some good things today and did make some plays when needed. The encouraging sign has to be that they were able to score touchdowns most of the time while in the red zone. "We still need a lot of work," said Willingham. "There's some areas and times that we're good, I thought we got a little more comfortable as the second half started to work it's way through but we're still learning, we're still growing and that's going to be an area of concern."

The Irish running backs made some nice plays as well. Nate Schiccatano had a nice series of runs giving his team the chance to put the first points on the board. Willingham was pleased with Shiccatano and the other backs as well. "It was pleasing to see him step it up on occasions today and really run the ball in there very hard, very tough. That's what we need from him. Both he and Jeff Jenkins had some good runs in there. I thought Marcus Wilson had some good runs and added something to the mix."

On a day when the defense dominated, there were still encouraging signs for the offense. Not having the starting offensive line unit together hurt the production of the offense and starter Carlyle Holiday sat most of the game. Omar Jenkins finished as the leading receiver with four catches for 68 yards and two amazing catches to keep drives alive. The best news for Willingham and his staff is the offense-- while limited-- was able to score touchdowns while in the red zone.


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