Mattison Hoping To Pressure Orton on Saturday

Defensive line coach Greg Mattison has seen his unit play at a very high level so far this season. The Irish will now face their biggest challenge to date in an explosive Purdue offense, and the veteran Irish coach sees this game as a big challenge for his defensive front. Irish Eyes spoke with Mattison to get his thoughts on the Purdue game on Tuesday.

"They're probably one of the toughest offenses we'll play," said Mattison of the Boilermakers. "They are tremendously well coached. They've got a great quarterback, great wide receivers, but the biggest thing that they do, if you let them, is they run the football.

You can't let them run the ball, because if this team is allowed to run the ball, and then pass when they want, you're really in trouble. You have to stop the run first."

Purdue has converted an outstanding 64 percent of their third downs this season and Mattison believes that will be one of the big keys to this game.

"A key in a game like this is obviously third downs," Mattison said. "You have to capitalize on your third-down conversions. You have to do a great job on third down."

Like defensive coordinator Kent Baer, Mattison told Irish Eyes that he expects some high yardage totals from the Boilermakers on Saturday.

"The thing that you've always keep in mind playing is that they're going to get yards," he said. "You're not going to keep a team like this from getting yardage. What you have to be able to say is, until they get in the end zone or until they score, you've been successful no matter how many yards they get."

In addition to the outstanding Boilermaker passing game, the Purdue offense also averages 200 yards per game on the ground. Mattison says this stat makes the Purdue offense much harder to prepare from than past Purdue teams they've faced.

"This is one of the better Purdue teams that we've played because they do have the ability to do both. We're going to have to be on our best game," Mattison said.

We asked Mattison what he felt the Irish needed to do to win the game on Saturday.

"Discipline an effort," he said. "One of the key things in playing an offense like this is every guy has to be buying into the fact that we have to be running to the ball on every play. That's our advantage. We have to shut down the field and make that field smaller by our pursuit."

Senior defensive tackle Greg Pauly had probably one of his best games against Washington on Saturday, and has been a major factor in the Irish defense this season. We asked Mattison what he's meant to the Irish defense in 2004.

"He's been everything to us," Mattison said of Pauly. "He's a leader, he's a leader by example, he's a leader by his play. You never hear about him much. You don't read a lot about him. I have appreciated him since the day he was here because he's got a work ethic.

"He tries every day to become as good as he can be, and this year he is really getting the chance to be that glue inside that we need. I look for him to get better and better every game."

Pauly's ability to blow up the middle on first down, combined with excellent play by both nose guards—Trevor Laws and Derek Landri—has been a big factor in stopping the opposition running the football on first down.

"That's really important to us," Mattison said. "It's a combination of everybody—it's the linebackers fitting, it's the secondary fitting. If we're not getting knocked back, and we're getting a new line of scrimmage then we have a chance."

The one area the Irish seemed to have struggled so far along the defensive line is sacks. The Irish have eight sacks on the year—not a bad number, but many expected more. Mattison says he thinks the sacks will come with good effort.

"There's a lot of people throwing the ball fairly quick, and we have missed some sack opportunities," he said. "This last game, there were three times when we let the guy get outside of us where we had sacks.

"As long as we're playing great run defense, and as long as we're knocking balls down. We've probably knocked more footballs down this already than we did all of last year. I think we had four the last game and three the game before.

"Those, to me, are like sacks. When you bat a ball down trying to be a complete pass, that's like sacking a guy. I'm not worried about it. As long as we're working on our technique and trying our hardest to get to the quarterback, good things will happen."

Batting down balls will be a huge factor for the Irish this week if they can knock down a few Kyle Orton passes. Mattison said his unit would be looking for opportunities to knock the ball down with their hands all game.

"It's huge. We have to know that any time we can't get to him, and the ball is coming out, we've got to get our hands up," Mattison said. "That's got to be something that's got to be really big for us."

Irish Eyes also noticed that Mattison has expanded his rotation to eight men with senior defensive tackle Brian Beidatsch seeing some time last week as well as junior defensive end Chris Frome.

"They've earned the playing time," Mattison said of Beidatsch and Frome. "They've worked extremely hard.

"In every practice, we go four guys with the first unit and four guys with the second unit, and they get equal reps throughout the entire practice. And they have proved by how they've practiced that they're ready to play. And then they went into this game and did a good job. Now it is truly and eight-man rotation."

We asked Mattison where he'd like to see his unit improve the remaining games of 2004.

"I think we've got to get a lot better at our pass rush," Mattison said. "I think we've got to turn the run mentality into a pass rush mentality. I think we've got to play consistently hard all the time. Last game was the closest thing we've had to everybody playing hard the entire game."

A better pass rush would certainly help the Irish this week. The Irish defense has been impressive, but they haven't faced an offense as efficient as the Boilermaker offense. Expect a lot of yards surrendered on Saturday, but as Mattison and Baer have said, points are all that matters in this game.


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