Through the first three games of the season, the Irish offense has totaled 977 yards. The passing offense has accounted for 658 of this yardage—something Irish fans aren't used to seeing.
The emergence of senior wide receiver Matt Shelton is one of the reasons the passing game continues to improve. In the 2003 season, Shelton had a total of three receptions for 80 yards and one touchdown. In three games of the 2004 campaign, he has four receptions good for 169 yards and two touchdowns.
Shelton was practically an unknown coming into this season but his play has changed all of that.
"I don't know exactly how to feel about that," Shelton said of the attention he's receiving. "It's good and I'm enjoying it and I'm not going to lie. But I do wish it was still a secret as it would make my job a little easier; but I think it's good for me and as long as I can keep helping the team, I'm loving it."
The two-time monogram winner was asked to describe his style as a receiver."Fast, I think everybody knows that is the gift that I have been given, and I try to use it to the fullest," the senior stated. "I'm not the 6-5 guy who is going to be in the red zone getting the fade or going up for the ball every time. I know my role on the team and I'm happy with it."
The 6-0, 175 pound receiver may rely on his quickness and speed to make big plays, but he also plays tough.
"I try to play aggressive to the ball. The coaches preach in practice to attack the ball," Shelton said. "I do my best to do it and I try and wait until the last second to jump up for it and sometimes it works out."
The Irish offense has definitely improved over the last two games, and Shelton says the Notre Dame offense is starting to find a rhythm amongst all the players.
"We are doing really good right now," Shelton said. "The offensive line is busting their butts and doing really good up front, and Brady is making good reads, and the backs are making plays. We have two guys rotating that are really looking good right now and the receivers are stepping up and making plays. Everyone is gelling."
The senior from Collierville, Tenn. realizes it is important to have the running game going well and said it also helps the receivers.
"It brings the safeties up worrying about the run and the linebackers are in worrying about the run; everybody is worrying about the run so it gives the receivers more room to run," he said.
Shelton believes the team will be focused for the game against the Huskies, but admits winning two in a row doesn't make it easier.
"I think don't think it is necessarily easier," Shelton said . "I think sometimes it's harder because sometimes you might get a little over-confident."
Irish wide receivers coach Trent Miles says he's very pleased with Shelton's performance and what he brings to the offense.
"Matt gives us the ability to stretch the field and make big plays," Miles said. "He is adjusting well when the football is in the air and making the most of all his opportunities."
The third-year Irish coach says his unit is as deep as it's ever been this season, and Shelton is definitely part of the rotation.
"This is the most numbers we have had since I've been here and we expect all of them to contribute," he stated. "If you look at this last game, all seven of them played. So we are expecting consistency from all of them, and expect all of them to be able to step up in any situation and make plays."
Shelton is one of those players that kept working and waiting for his chance. Now a senior, he's seeing that chance develop into quite an unexpected season. We think we'll see a lot more of Matt Shelton as the year moves on.