Irish Set Their Sights on BYU

The Notre Dame football team closed their first day of practice in preparation for BYU on Tuesday. The Irish will have to find a way to stop the pass-happy Cougars after defending the Navy option last week. We talked to some Irish players after practice to get their thoughts on the Cougars.

Strong safety Garron Bible had a solid game against Navy last week recording six tackles. Bible says the difference between the Navy option and the Cougar offense is vast. "It's night and day," said Bible. "With the triple option and wing sets to empty sets and four wide. It's completely different, but we've got experience with that. We've played a lot of teams that pass a lot so I'm confident we'll be alright."

Bible says that the Cougars try to confuse a defense. "I think they're going to come out there and try and confuse us, just sling the ball. We've got to stay focused on our keys and we'll be fine."

The BYU defense also tries to confuse the opposition according to wide receiver Rhema McKnight. "It's a weird defense," he said. "We really got to stay focused on what we're looking at, our keys and everything. Once we establish what we're going to go into the game with, I think we'll be fine."

The Cougar defense brings a lot of pressure, but they hide the pressure according to McKnight. "It's not necessarily a blitz, they're rushing the same amount, five guys, it's hard to explain. It's just a matter of the team being aware of who's coming and staying focused on who they've got to pick up."

The Irish offensive line has been more efficient over the last three games. Quarterback Brady Quinn says it's a combination of him feeling more comfortable in the pocket and the line getting the job done.

"I definitely feel more comfortable back there," said Quinn. "I also feel like things are timing up better for us. We're kind of getting the job done. You never want to take a sack--that just takes away from drives. I'm just trying to get the ball out of my hands as quick as possible."

Quinn also believes the Cougars will try to confuse him this week with their disguised blitzes. "Looking at the film, looking at how they disguise their coverages and the way they move, I think it can be somewhat confusing if you're not sure who your keys are. I also think they've had some time to prepare for this game so that will kind of play into it too."

Quinn also believes the Irish offense can be successful against their defense. "I think they bring pressure in certain spots. Whenever you bring pressure there's always going to be people left open in certain spots."

The seniors will be playing in their last game at Notre Dame Stadium. Quinn says he hopes to send them off with a win. "I will be thinking about doing everything in my physical body to help win that game for those seniors. I definitely want to send them out winning their last game at home."

The Cougars have suffered some injuries on offense including injuries to their quarterbacks. Four different quarterbacks have seen action this year under center for BYU. Nobody is certain which player is going to start at quarterback for the Cougars at this point.

Cornerback Vontez Duff says that isn't a concern for the Irish. "They're still going to run their offense no matter what," said Duff. "They spread the ball out. We've got to make sure we disrupt some of their timing with the quarterback. We've just got to be physical with these guys and make sure we out-play them."

The Cougars don't appear to have much of a vertical passing game. We asked Duff if the Notre Dame secondary would play a physical game to disrupt the timing of the Cougar offense. "We've got to be physical. We've got to get some pressure up front with some blitzes and things. We've got to disrupt their timing so we can get those interceptions."

"They spread guys out and get the field wide open," Duff continued. "If a guy catches it and you miss a tackle, then he can take it to their house and we need to make sure that doesn't happen."

Duff will be playing in his last game in Notre Dame Stadium. We asked him what he thought that would feel like. "I can't tell you. Once I get out there, then I'll know. Right now I know that I'm thinking about it, knowing it's my last game, but I really can't tell you how I will feel."

Defensive tackle Darrell Campbell will also being playing in his last game at Notre Dame Stadium. Campbell has always worn his heart on his sleeve and says this game will be no different.

"During the game I'm going to worry about beating BYU," said Campbell. "After the game I'm probably going to really be emotional. I'm a real emotional during games anyway. I'm probably going to break down--I'm not going to lie."

The Cougar offense appears to be struggling this year. College football fans are used to seeing 50+ point games and 400-yard passing performances from the Cougars. This year they are averaging just 229 yards passing per game and scoring an average of little more than 18 points per game. They've also allowed 31 sacks on the season.

Campbell says the sack totals might be an opportunity for the Irish defensive line. "It's an opportunity, but like any other team, we respect them. You don't know who is going to come out there on Saturday. You've got to prepare this week like you're going up against a National Championship team because you never know who's going to step on that field."

Coach Tyrone Willingham was asked if the 16-day layoff the Cougars have had since playing their last game worries him. "It does from the standpoint that there's always something new that they will put into their system that we might've not seen, that causes you some real concern,' said Willingham. "Other than that, you're curious as to how they can get themselves back up to game-speed."

Willingham agrees that the challenge this week for his defense is difficult after playing the option, and now turning to pass-happy BYU.

"180 degrees," said Willingham when asked how much of a change this is for his defense. "We've got to do almost a complete turnaround in terms of style of play. That's good in a sense because there are some things in pass coverage that you cheated in doing. With the option, you can't cheat, you've got to have everything covered, if you don't, you're in deep trouble. This allows you to take some liberties in your defensive scheme. You still have to be sound, but it does allow you to cheat just a little bit." Top Stories