Closing the Book on BYU, Looking Ahead to Michigan

The Notre Dame football team has quite a challenge ahead of them on Saturday. The Irish will face Michigan (1-0) on Saturday afternoon and all the problems their offense and defense present. Irish Eyes spoke with both Irish defensive coordinator Kent Bear and offensive coordinator Bill Diedrick to get their closing thoughts on the BYU game, and their thoughts on the game this weekend.

The Irish defense played a pretty solid game this past Saturday against BYU and defensive coordinator Kent Baer says his unit will continue to tweak the defense and work out the kinks this week.

"I think there's a lot of things to build on from Saturday and there's some negatives that you have to learn from," Baer said of the performance of his defense Saturday night.

"There's a lot of positives. Your first worry about a first game like that is you just don't know. They coach too, and they've been on the board for nine months looking at us. I thought we had a pretty good feel after a couple of series. I thought we fell into a pretty good game plan."

Now the Irish will face one of the better teams in the country in Michigan. Baer says he's very impressed with what he's seen with the Michigan offense.

"The best receiving group in the country" is how describes the Michigan receiver corps. "That's a huge concern. Hard to describe the talent because they've got tremendous skill talent across the board. We've got to be smart about what we're doing."

Besides the talented Michigan's receivers, they also possess an experienced offensive line, some talented backs and tight ends, and a freshman quarterback, who looked very sharp in his first game in Chad Henne.

"I think we'll be up to the challenge," Baer said. "I know they're a tremendous football team. I thought they were the second best team in the country a year ago and I'm not so sure they're not close to that right now."

The most pressing concern for the Irish has to be eliminating big plays. The Irish defense played very well last weekend, but still allowed three big plays that ended up being the difference in the ballgame.

"That's a concern," Baer said of stopping the big plays. "If we eliminate that, I think we've got a chance to be OK. That's all part of the football game."

Much like Notre Dame, Michigan did struggle in their first game running the football. The Wolverines gained a just 115 yards and averaged 2.9 yards per carry in their first game against Miami of Ohio.

"A lot of it was Miami's pretty good on defense, they really are," Baer said of Michigan's struggles running the ball in their first game. "They loaded up the line of scrimmage and put a tremendous amount of pressure on those two corners, and they'd bring those two safeties down hard and I'm not sure I would've played that way."

The Irish didn't fare so well on the offensive side the ball against BYU. The Notre Dame offense struggled to run the football and score points in their first game of the season.

The Irish will have to have a much better day on Saturday if they're going to have any success against Michigan. Offensive coordinator Bill Diedrick said he did find some positives from the game on Saturday.

"I think you take a look at the first drive to go down to get three," Diedrick said when asked what positives he got out of the game. "You kind of go the length of the field, you would've liked to have gotten seven points, probably should've had seven points, missed a couple of throws, but you get points on the board."

The offensive line will have to play much better than they did against BYU to have a chance against Michigan. Diedrick said the offensive line did do some good things against BYU.

"Some of the play I was very pleased with," the third-year Irish offensive coordinator said. "My feelings in the first half, watching it from the press box, and probably as a spectator, you'd probably think we were getting our you know what's kicked.

"When you look at the film and break it down, it was one guy breaking down here or missing a block here, we never really gave ourselves an opportunity to get anything started.

"When you look at the other parts of the play, and how we were able to pass some games on, and handle some twists and handle the blitzes, that part of it you're very pleased with."

The Irish could never find a rhythm on Saturday night, and rarely were able to cross the 50 yard line.

"I think field position was a real key, (they) never let us out of the hole," Diedrick said. "I think we had one possession that we were on the plus side of the field that we started with and we kind of let that one get away. We let one get away, and unfortunately it was a big one.

"I think the biggest overall disappointment coming out of there is we had two on the ground, which we didn't expect, and we did not run the football effectively. Any time a team can make you one-dimensional, you're going to struggle."

Not being able to run the football really hurt the Irish against BYU. Diedrick said the Irish offense was forced to play a two-minute offense the entire second half.

"We spent the whole second half in basically a hurry-up type of offense" he said. "We did a lot of good things (in the two-minute offense), and there were a lot of glaring bad things, but I think you expect those in the first game."

Quarterback Brady Quinn protected the football on Saturday and didn't throw any interceptions, but also looked tentative. We asked Diedrick if he felt Quinn had missed some opportunities to get the football down field in the passing game.

"On occasions I think there were," Diedrick said of missed opportunities. "When you look at the possibilities of what was developing down field, it's one thing, and then you come back and look at the pressure or he's avoiding, sliding in the pocket, you don't have a clear shot.

"I think sometimes when you've got a guy screaming in your face, you might miss something or you might not have an opportunity to make a throw, and there were a number of those times.

"But I think there were a number of situations where I think we had an opportunity to go down field, and because someone got beat, or we missed an assignment up front, it didn't allow us to really execute or get to that part of the play."

"I think he's picking things up and he'll continue to improve and get better," Diedrick said of Quinn. "I think as a unit, we need to really start picking up and making plays. We need to get the running game going--that's an understatement."

A player who might be able to help the running game is freshman tailback, Darius Walker. Diedrick said while Walker is improving, he's not quite ready for action.

"He's learning," Diedrick said of Walker. "The speed of the game picks up tremendously as he's finding out. It's not all just running the ball. It's knowing protections, blocking technique and learning to be patient, especially on certain types of plays."

The Irish will have to find a way to be more productive on offense against Michigan to have any chance to win this game. Diedrick said he doesn't believe we saw his true offensive unit at BYU on Saturday.

"Was that necessarily our unit that showed up against BYU? I would hope that it was not, and I think the kids probably feel that way—I know the kids feel that way," said Diedrick when asked what gave him confidence against Michigan.

"I think there's a lot of guys that are pretty upset about their performance against BYU. We felt like we let one get away, and BYU played a very, very good football game."

Diedrick was also asked if he felt the Irish offense had lost their confidence.

"I think the big question is with the kids inside," Diedrick said. "Do they have that concern? Do they have that question mark? If they do, we're in trouble. If they don't, then I think that answers itself." Top Stories