Offensive coordinator Bill Diedrick has seen his offense look very good in some areas, and not so good in others during the course of this season.
The Irish have had games where they ran the ball effectively, but they've struggled recently without the services of senior running back Ryan Grant. Diedrick says his offense will welcome a healthy Grant with open arms.
"You really miss the leadership that Ryan brings," Diedrick said when asked what the offense misses when Grant isn't available to play. "That's a big void.
" The second thing you really miss is a combination, a one-two punch, or maybe a guy who can give you a little bit harder down-hill yards. I think getting Ryan back is going to be a tremendous lift for the offense."
The Irish just managed 75 yards on the ground against Purdue, and Diedrick said that just isn't acceptable.
"I think No. 1 is being able to run the football very effectively," said Diedrick when asked how to get the offense back on track. "I think regardless of what opponent, you have to be able establish the line of scrimmage. We have to run the football, and that kind of takes care of all the other things."
The Irish pounded a weaker Stanford defense last season, 57-7, but the Irish offensive coordinator says he sees a totally different defense on film when he watches the Cardinal.
"It's very similar to the same group we faced a year ago," Diedrick said of the Stanford defense. "The scheme is different, and they are much improved.
"They've got better than average team speed in the backend, in the secondary and the linebackers. I know that Newberry is playing extremely well. They're flying around. They're a lot more confident group. They've had a lot of success. It will be a great challenge."
Defensive coordinator Kent Baer said his defensive unit would just have to pick up the pieces after their dismal performance on Saturday and bounce back this week.
"You still build on some of the good things you did," Baer said. "You've got to make sure you get the things corrected that happened, and they're certainly some breakdowns that happened to us. I think we have those corrected. I think our kids are really anxious. I'm really anxious. I wish tomorrow was Saturday."
The Irish defense could lack confidence after such a disappointing loss, but Baer says he doesn't see that happening to his unit.
"I just know how our guys are," he said. "I can look at their faces on Sunday and see where they're at. I talked to most of them in the locker room after the game. I don't see that at all. Our kids will be ready."
Baer, once again, took the blame for the points allowed last Saturday against Purdue.
"I don't think I had enough patience the second half," said Baer when asked what went wrong against Purdue. "It was a decision we made. Like I said Saturday, I take the bullet for that, and I still do. I wished I had a little more patience and it might've been a little bit different."
Most of the Irish coaches came over with Notre Dame head coach Tyrone Willingham from Stanford when Willingham accepted the Notre Dame coaching position. Baer held the same job at Stanford, defensive coordinator, and was asked if there are still any emotions in playing against his old team.
"I'm glad that the first year we played them, we played them here because there was a lot of emotion of leaving," Baer said. "Last year wasn't as tough, and now the third year I think you move on. You've always got an interest in what those kids are doing and how they're playing, and I think playing really well."
And Stanford is playing well according to Baer. The third-year Irish coach says he's been very impressed with the Cardinal offense on film.
"I think the biggest difference they've got right now is their quarterback play," Baer said. "He's really good. I think he's doing a great job of reading coverages. He's tall and he can really run. He causes people problems by breaking contain.
"They've got some really good receivers, and they're tall--one kid is 6-7; McCullum is probably 6-4. They're tight ends are really good—Alex Smith. They can run the football. J.R. (Lemon) is playing great. It's a very balanced offense. They're better than they were a year ago, and they're playing with a lot more confidence.".
Running back Ryan Grant says he's playing—and he means it this time. In all seriousness, Grant did seem sure he would be playing on Saturday.
"It's good. I'm playing," was Grant's response when asked his status for Saturday's game.
"You don't even know," said Grant when asked what it feels like to know he'll be back on the field on Saturday. "I was jumping around, hollering, I'm very excited. Just because being around my guys, get after it, have a good week of practice, and be able to get the job done this Saturday."
Senior offensive lineman Dan Stevenson told Irish Eyes that the Irish offense missed Grant's leadership and skills on the field. We asked Grant how that comment made him feel.
"Makes you feel good," he said. "Especially from the big boys. I've got a lot of respect, and I'm probably closer with the big guys than I ever was before."
We asked Grant what he thought of the Stanford defense he'd face in his first game back from injury.
"Their defense gets after it," Grant said. "Their linebackers fly around. They move really well. As a whole, I think they're a solid defense. I think their confidence is very high. They play fast and play hard."