Offensive line coach, John McDonell, has seen his young group of centers and guards start to come together. They have been learning under fire, and this week will be no different. McDonnell says opportunities like this game are why they choose to come to Notre Dame.
"That's why we came to Notre Dame and why the kids came – to play games like this. To get to be the best you have to play the great teams and that's what we are looking forward to doing."
McDonnell says he's seen his unit improve, but they still have a ways to go before they can be considered a good offensive line. "I think its typical coaching - yes, they are improving, but it is never as fast as you'd like. You'd like to see the consistency improve. As a coach you are always looking for more and better."
The centers and guards will have to play another very talent front four on Saturday. McDonnell says he's been impressed with the Seminole defensive line. "They will still do all, they are a very talented team. They line up, play football and get after it. They are a very good front."
The Notre Dame offensive line dominated Florida State in the game last year in Tallahassee. The Seminole defensive line will surely remember that game. The problem for the Irish is none of the starters along the offensive line participated in the domination. We asked McDonnell how he would prepare his unit to face a team that is set on revenge.
"This is a great game, it's the kind of game we want to play in and that we prepare to play in, that we expect to be in. That is obviously what our focus is as it was last year. We just have to focus and get after them."
The Irish haven't been able to run the football effectively in the last two games. We asked McDonnell if they have been focusing on running the football this week. "I think you always want to have as much balance in your offense as you possibly can so you don't have to rely on one or the other. Obviously running the football is critical to us as being able to throw and catch is critical to us. I think you have to have the best of both worlds but coaches always like to run the ball."
Offensive coordinator, Bill Diedrick, made no bones about the talent of the Florida State defense. "I'll say upfront that I think they are comparable, if not better, than SC's (USC)."
The one real positive that Diedrick can hang his hat on is the play of freshman quarterback, Brady Quinn. Quinn has played very well according to Diedrick. "I think any time that a young freshman steps into a situation, and plays as well as he has, that there is something very special about the young man that can do that. A lot of it is his ability but also his preparation coming in. I think with continued development, dotting the I's and crossing the T's, that he has a tremendous career ahead of him."
Diedrick says establishing the run early will be important for the Irish to have success, but he'd like to be able to run all game. "You always like to establish it early but I think it is just important to be able to run the football against them, early, late and in the middle."
We are getting closer," said Diedrick of his offensive becoming an effective offense. "You rush the ball really well one week; you throw it well the other week. What you really want to do is find the balance where you can do both effectively and efficiently on any given day."
It appears every team the Irish face have been selling out to stop the run. Diedrick said he still felt they could've run the football more effectively against Boston College. "B.C. felt that they had to take the run a way from us and make us one-dimensional, that was the disappointing thing, I think we should have been able to run the football a little bit better against B.C."
The Irish are 2-5 on the season, and doubt can sometimes set in with any losing team. We asked Diedrick if the team has been motivated to do what they have to this week to win this game. "I think you always hope for the best, and when we met with the players on Sunday there was a sense of disappointment at the BC loss, but I think the players were excited at the opportunity to play Florida State. Our practices have been very spirited so I think that meets the expectations of the coaches."
Coach Tyrone Willingham also spoke a little about Florida State. The Seminoles will enter the game forcing 22 turnovers on the year—the Irish have just 13 on the year. Willingham says there are few holes to be found when speaking about Florida State.
"They are doing a good job," said Willingham. "They are probably playing more as a team this year than I can remember last year. I think they all seem to be pointed in the same direction. There are very few holes, very few mental mistakes, so they are flying around and doing some good things."
"We know and they know that if you turn the ball over it doesn't equal wins in most cases," Willingham said about winning the turnover battle. "It's rare that if you lose the turnover margin that you win the football game, so whenever you can dominate that particular statistic, you have a great chance to win. And most people will point to that more so than possession, more so than 3rd down conversion. A lot of people will point to turnover margin and, of course, the score as indicators as to who will win the football game."
One area the Irish have struggled this year is special teams. Willingham was asked if they are spending more time on special teams this week. "Oh, we always do. What is amazing about that question is, that one week one area has performed well, one week another area has not performed well so it has bounced around. It is part of that inconsistency that we are struggling with right now. We continue to work in all those areas and to try to strengthen them and get the right personnel in there and get the right team in there."
The Irish will need a complete game on offense, defense, and special teams to beat a very good Florida State team. All facets of the game will have to play disciplined football if they want to steal a victory from the Seminoles.