Irish Defense Ready For Washington

The Irish defense will face a talented Washington offense on Saturday. The Huskies have a talented offensive line, some good running backs, a deep threat at receiver, and a balanced offense that could cause problem for the Notre Dame defense. Irish Eyes spoke to a number of Irish defenders on Wednesday about their game against Washington this weekend.

Sophomore nose guard Trevor Laws now has three games under his belt. The former USA Today All-American says he thinks the Washington offensive line might be one of the better he'll see this season.

"They're big, athletic guys," said Laws of the Washington front five. "Our offensive line is pretty good, too, and we've been working out with some of the (first string), and it's really been helping us out. If we play our game, hopefully we'll come out on top."

The Irish did give up some rushing yards in the Michigan State game, allowing 165 yards on the ground, and the Huskies come into this game averaging almost 200 yards a game on the ground. Laws said the Irish defense have focused on stopping the run this week.

"We're always focused on stopping the run," Laws said. "That's our primary goal. We've been watching their running game. They're averaging about 200 (yards) through the air and on the ground. (We'll) probably (try to) stop them in the run and make them one-sided."

Sophomore defensive end Victor Abiamiri is also impressed with the Washington offensive line.

"You see they're really athletic," Abiamiri said when asked how the Husky line looks on film. "They move their feet well. They play together well as a team and they're a very athletic offensive line. Probably the most athletic offensive line we've gone up against so far.

"It's a pretty balanced offense. They're probably the most balanced offense we've gone up against so far so it's a big challenge for us on Saturday."

The Irish have three straight home games on the schedule and we asked Abiamiri if he felt the Irish could put together a string of wins having the Irish fans cheering for them in Notre Dame Stadium.

"I think we can definitely go on a run," Abiamiri said. "We're definitely confident coming off big wins. But we've got to go out to every game with the same intensity. We're not overlooking anyone. We know there's parity in college football and anybody can beat anyone on any given day. Just because Washington is 0-2, it doesn't mean anything to us."

The Irish secondary has been playing very well so far this season. After a rough start in the opener against BYU, the Irish secondary has been impressive. We asked senior safety Quentin Burrell what the secret has been to their improved play.

"The biggest thing was that dark cloud that was supposedly over us, that just made us more hungry," Burrell said. "We always knew that the talent we had, maybe the people on the outside looking in didn't know, so that made us more hungry.

"I think a lot of it has to do with coach Wilks and ourselves. We knew the talent we had in the room, but coach Wilks comes in with his mind-set. He's a hard-nosed coach and he was on us. He knew what he could do."

Not only Wilks should be credited, but defensive coordinator Kent Baer spent a great deal of time coaching up the Irish secondary. Burrell admits it was hard at times because both coaches are known to be pretty fiery on the field.

"That was a good thing because you know deep down inside they love us," Burrell said of Wilks and Baer. "They're only giving us advice to help us. They're hard-nosed coaches, but when it comes down to it, they're just doing things to help us win on the field."

Burrell says he sees a very athletic Washington team coming into Notre Dame Stadium on Saturday.

"To me, I didn't think they were 0-2," Burrell said of the Huskies. "You look at the film and you see some exceptional athletes, especially at the receiver position. No. 10 sticks out. I think they're a hell of a team, and we've got to come focused with our A game and I think we'll be all right.

"They've got some great skill position players. Their backs are fast, their receivers are fast, and we've got come ready to play."

Senior defensive end Justin Tuck is a half sack away from breaking the all-time sack record for Notre Dame. Tuck admits he knows he shouldn't think about the record, but he also admits that the record will be special for him if/when he breaks it.

"Mentally, I'm trying not to try not to have a lot of focus on it, but it's a big thing," Tuck said of the sack record. "Any time you put yourself in a category like that, considering all the talent that's come through this program, it's a big thing.

"I'm probably going to downplay it when it happens, but in the back of my mind, I'm going to say ‘hey, it's a great feat.'"

Tuck also says that if he's going to break it this week, it will have to come against a very talented offensive line.

"They have a quick tackle, quick guard," Tuck said of Washington's offensive line. "Kind of like how Florida State ran. They're very talented. I think their offensive tackle, No. 65, is probably going to be the best offensive lineman I face so far this year.

"Whenever a line presents a challenge like that, you just want to step up. You want to play your best game against people that are good. We're looking forward to the challenge."

The Irish defense has played very well in their first three games and it appears they have their swagger back. Tuck was asked if he felt this unit is playing to the level of the 2002 unit at this point.

"We (haven't) got to that level yet of the 2002 year," Tuck admitted. "That's something as a defense we're always striving for.

"I've seen Shane (Walton), I talked to him after the Michigan game and the first thing he said to me was "that reminded me of that year, that reminded of me of everybody flying around, everyone celebrating when somebody made a big play.' So in a way we have gotten our swagger back, but we've still got a long way to go."

Irish head coach Tyrone Willingham said he felt his Irish team has performed well so far this week in practice.

""I think our team is moving well," said Willingham. "They practiced fairly well today. But I think, for the most part, we had a sufficient amount of energy and focus."

One area the Irish need to improve is special teams. We asked Willingham if his team would take some extra time to focus on special teams this week.

"We allot the same amount of time on all of our special teams. In the first week, we didn't have a problem in that area. Then all of the sudden, the third week, you have a problem in that area. We had a problem in the other area in the first week, we couldn't make good decisions in our punt return game."

"There's always going to be something that's deficient not matter how hard you work at it. You just continue to work on the fundamentals of the game and hope that one day you will be perfect."

With Ryan Grant's status uncertain, we asked Willingham if we might see freshman running back Justin Hoskins in the game this weekend.

"I'm not sure yet. I probably wouldn't want to commit to that at this time, but I'm excited about what Justin brings to our football team," Willingham said of Hoskins. "He's another very talented back, and in time, will have some impact on our team."

Three Irish players, running back Ryan Grant, wide receiver Maurice Stovall and linebacker Brandon Hoyte all seemed injured after the Michigan State game. Willingham was asked if the status of his players would be a game-time decision.

"They will be," Willingham said. "I think it's really to our advantage to wait until that time. No. 1, it gives them the maximum amount of time to heal, and we can really see where they are."

"He's coming along fine," Willingham said of Hoyte. "We've got quite a few a little banged up. These first three weeks of the season has been physical football. When you play at that level, you have guys limping around, some guys with bruised shoulders, etc. Hopefully, by game time, we'll be ready to play." Top Stories