Ground gains will be at a premium for Notre Dame and Army this weekend in San Antonio, and those earned on the money downs will likely tell the contest’s final tale.
To that end, Army has made good on 9 of 13 fourth-down conversion attempts of two yards or less so far this fall. (Notre Dame foil Duke stopped three of those four.)
And the Black Knights of the Hudson are likely to encounter more than a couple such situations Saturday in San Antonio vs. Notre Dame’s defense.
It thus stands to reason that six-foot six-inch, 315-pound pro prospect Jarron Jones – the national player of the week for his efforts vs. Miami on Oct. 29 – could aid their efforts in that regard.
“It’s a different offense, right?’ said senior linebacker James Onwualu when asked what he and fellow team leaders could do to help Jones prepare to play more than the 12 snaps he did last week vs. Navy’s similar triple-option offense, a 28-27 Irish loss in Jacksonville.
“Jarron has his own strengths and some different weaknesses. Just pushing him to continue to work. It’s hard, right?” Onwualu continued. “Usually we only have it for a week, now we have it for two weeks. But to change your whole mindset, you really have to be a flexible player. Jarron has been working it in practice from my view.
“Hopefully get him out there a little this week. If not, get him ballin’ vs. VT (Virginia Tech).”
Army ranks second in the nation with 320 rushing yards per game, the exact total the fifth-ranked Midshipmen rushing offense posted vs. the Irish.
“Jarron does a good job of motivating himself,” said Isaac Rochell, the defensive end that moved to nose tackle in Jones’ stead last week. “He’s a senior, we all understand what’s at stake and he does (too). And he’s done a good job of responding.
“A lot of people in the media seem to have some stuff to say about not wanting to play or bigger picture, but Jarron wants to play for us and he wants to win games just like the rest of us. He knows what he has to do.”
Jones’ tag-team nose tackle Daniel Cage missed last week’s loss to Navy with a concussion. His status for Saturday against Army is in doubt. Cage missed two games last November (Wake Forest and Boston College) with a concussion as well.
Asked about facing cut blocks for the second straight practice week and game Saturday, Rochell offered it was merely a necessary evil.
“That’s just the nature of the game,” he said. “Sometimes you don’t want to but that’s just how it is. You only have to do it for two weeks. We just attack it; get better every day.”
Asked if Jones would be available for extended duty vs. Army as compared to the dozen snaps he saw vs. Navy, Irish head coach Brian Kelly offered, “Well, I think you know that one guy does not stop the option. Preparation is important. Preparation is important. That's all I'll say.”