Game Speed

They say teams always make the most progress between week one and week two. The Notre Dame football team hopes that's the case this weekend when they take on a very potent Penn State offense and defense. But why did they struggle last weekend?

The Irish offense sputtered in their opener against Georgia Tech and many wondered why that would happen. The Irish return the vast majority of players who averaged over 36 points per game in 2005 but only managed to score 14 against the Yellow Jackets last Saturday night.

We often here the term "game speed" used by coaches and players alike, and we wanted to get their thoughts on what that term means. Could the lack of "game speed" in practice been a problem?

"I think that any time you're going into a game when you're starting off the season, the speed is a little bit different that what you've experienced during practice," Irish offensive coordinator Michael Haywood said. "The quality of athletes are a little bit different from the scout team guys which you go up against. I think our guys have given us a good look since we divided up the teams and gone to scout team."

Irish offensive line coach John Latina said he feels we'll see a much different Irish offense this week when the Irish take on Penn State.

"Just getting back into game speed," said Latina when asked why teams are said to make their most progress between week one and week two. "The first game you don't know how your team is going react to the game speed. You've got new players here and new players there. They're sprinkled throughout your team. Some guys have a lot of experience, but you're only as good as your weakest link. Until you get your whole team ready for the speed of the game and game experience, I think that's why they progress from one to two and two to three."

Irish running back Darius Walker said it can be tough to prepare for that first game without actually being able to simulate the speed of the game in practice.

"You can never practice game speed," Walker said. ‘You can practice at a tempo and full go, but there's nothing like the game. When you get into a game the entire atmosphere of the game is totally different from that of practice."

Irish defensive back Mike Richardson and linebacker Maurice Crum agree with Walker.

"We try to go out and practice and play to the speed that you might see in a game, but it always seems different, feels different, when you get into the game," Richardson said. "The first couple of plays seem like they go really fast. You have to adjust to that as fast as you can."

"It's nothing like game speed because those guys that we're going to face are different from the guys we face in practice," Crum said about the speed of practice. "You just have to adjust fast."

"It's just a feeling," Richardson added. "It's not necessarily that we're not playing as fast as they are. I just feels faster. Maybe it's the atmosphere. It just feels different."

"I would assume it's because you get the first-game jitters out of the way," Walker said of why he believes teams progress the most from the first to the second game. "I think that's the main thing that people think about. I don't know that we necessarily had them, but I know with some teams that's always the thing…getting rid of first-game jitters, the butterflies and getting back into the season."

Latina said the Irish offensive line got up to game speed in the second half and expects to see a more productive Irish offensive line this week.

"Maybe there was a sense of urgency," Latina said on why his unit played much better in the second half of last week's game. "You certainly wanted to feel that. I know I felt that. You saw the game not progressing the way we wanted it to progress. Hopefully our kids felt the sense of urgency and hopefully that helped that." "They better be," Latina said of eliminating the costly line of scrimmage penalties they endured. "You don't want to do anything to beat yourself, whether it's a missed assignment or a line of scrimmage penalty, because you have total control over that situation."

The Irish did stumble out of the gate, but I do think Notre Dame fans will see a much more effective and hopefully faster Notre Dame team on Saturday.

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