The Washington State defense sure gave McDonell's unit a welcoming party. They lined up eight or nine men at the line of scrimmage and came after the Notre Dame offense. McDonell says the Cougars sure had a lot of faith in their secondary.
"Well, I think when teams do that they have great confidence in their secondary," said McDonell. "They feel that they can cover you with their two corners and safeties. What we decided to do is go to the maximum type protection and run the ball. When they have that many guys up on the line of scrimmage all you really have to do is get through the first level then big runs occur. Eventually that's what happened. Obviously we would have liked to have done it a lot sooner. Eventually we got the big runs, great runs by the running backs. It really got us over the hump."
McDonell says he thinks Washington State took the gamble because the Irish hadn't played a game and wouldn't know what to expect from Washington State. "Obviously they came in with that philosophy to try and steal the game. Probably they figured they had the game under their belt. It was our first game; we are young and new in the front – that's probably what their philosophy was."
Offensive coordinator Bill Diedrick told Irish Eyes he expected every team he faces to come with pressure until the Irish can prove they can beat the blitz—McDonell also believes they will. "Obviously that's where practice comes in. As many game-like simulations in practice as you can get will help. Obviously, the more true games you play, the smoother it becomes. There's no doubt about it, growing pains in the first half were a little difficult but as the game wore on everyone began settling in. That's what you have to keep focusing on. Nothing in life comes easy, you have to work at it and that's what we have to continue to do."
McDonell says his unit struggled but became more comfortable as the game went on. He thinks they are starting to understand how to make adjustments in a game. "Sure, that's where you have to be almost a coach on the field. To adjust and handle those things, to keep the composure when something happens you haven't seen. That's called getting it on the run."
The Irish did find a way to win and McDonell was impressed by the attitude of the offense. "I think the overriding factor was not just the offensive line, but the team, found a way to win. I would have been easy to fold up the tents – we are young and inexperienced, but the fight was there. We have to keep the fight and now we have to get better at technique."
McDonell says he was pleased with the effort his team showed in the Washington State game but they still have a ways to go before becoming a great offensive line. "I thought they fought, I thought they competed. It wasn't very pretty but the want and resiliency was there. It's a start. We have a lot of work to do; it's always good to make a lot of corrections coming off a win."
McDonell's unit will travel to Michigan on Saturday and face the Michigan defense. Central Michigan proved you could run on the Wolverine defense rushing for 218 yards against Michigan. We asked McDonnell if Central Michigan's success running the football gave him hope. "I don't look at it like that – what we are trying to do for a game plan is what's going to put our players in the right position to succeed. Whether it's something Central Michigan did or Houston did or something we did last year, whatever it may be. That's how you utilize those kinds of things, what position can you put your players in the best succeed."
If the Irish are going to win this game against Michigan, McDonell's unit will have to play a better game. We think we will see a much more productive offensive line.