News and Notes: 9/8/2006

*Last Saturday in their 34-16 win over Akron, Penn State scored four touchdowns. Quarterback Anthony Morelli hit wide receiver Deon Butler on his first throw of the contest for a 42-yard scoring strike. Morelli finished up the contest 16-of-32 for 206 yards and three touchdowns.

As the Nittany Lions roar into Notre Dame Stadium this week, the scary thing about the four touchdowns scored vs. Akron was the amount of time it took off the clock. Butler's touchdown was three plays into the drive. The second score was four plays, the third six plays and the fourth seven plays. That's an average of five plays for the four scores.

What was Notre Dame's problem last season on defense? The big play. Now, the Irish defense is expected to be a little bit sitffer than the Zips were last Saturday. Notre Dame looked improved in the victory over Georgia Tech but Penn State has more weapons at the wide receiver position. Butler, Derrick Williams and Jordan Norwood all caught touchdown passes from Morelli last weekend. This trio of sophomore receivers can score in a variety of manners. Nittany Lions offensive coordinator Galen Hall has shown a tendency to get creative in his play calling. The Irish defense should be ready for anything.

*The Irish offense should be aware of linebacker Tim Shaw on Saturday. Notre Dame head coach Charlie Weis called him the "wildcard" on Penn State's defense. The Nittany Lions run a 4-3 with 3-4 personnel. Shaw can line up off the line of scrimmage or in front of the tackle or the end. Last week, the fifth-year senior only registered two tackles but both were sacks. His flexibility gives the Penn State defense an added dimension.

*How many Nittany Lions fans' will be able to get into Notre Dame Stadium? This game drew a record of almost 67,000 ticket request. It's the first time since 1992 that the two teams have met. Both have long, storied traditions. This translates into a frenzied atmosphere for the contest.

Don't expect a "sea of blue or white" inside the stadium on Saturday afternoon, which would make some think back to the "sea of red" when Nebraska fans invaded South Bend back in 2000. But Penn State fans should be well represented. Does that mean 10,000 or 5,000? We'll have to wait for Saturday. The Notre Dame t-shirt this year, though, is navy blue. It might make it hard to distinguish some Irish fans from Nittany Lions fans.

*Here are some of Weis's best quotes from the past week:

*On changing the approach to this year's home opener: "I go over team top 10 every week on Tuesday. I go over the ten things that I feel that are important to help win a game. Last year I went back and reviewed the first list of things and one of the things there, don't be distracted. And now that's playing to the crowd.

"So there's just that alone, as a general comment, but use the energy of the crowd to an advantage instead of don't be distracted. You could see about how last year I felt it was a negative activity, and this year, I'm trying to use that as an advantage rather than as a disadvantage."

*On kicker Carl Gioia's two misses last weekend: "I think it was his left foot. The problem is, it wasn't his right foot. It was his left foot. So that's what we have to get fixed. That was not a question about whether he can kick it far enough. It's when your left foot doesn't get plant right and you go it kick it with your right foot. And that's what we're working on."

*On Joe Paterno: "The guy takes over the job in 1966. That's when he takes over the job. So let's think about what's happened since 1966, just in our history. We're talking about the Vietnam War right until now. So anyone who has been able to go through all of those cultural changes and still deal with 18to 23-year old young men, okay, has to be a special person, because there's been quite a change in our society in all that time, and here he is, the guy just keeps on with it, just keeps on with it. They go win their ten games, go to a bowl game. That isn't by chance. That's by design."

*On Penn State linebacker Paul Posluszny: "All of the good ones that play that position have instincts that you can't coach. You can talk about toughness and athletic ability and tackles and interceptions and all that stuff but some people are out there and they have all the world of ability but they don't have natural instincts. He is a very natural and smart, instinctive player."

*On dealing with quarterback Brady Quinn after a so-so performance in the Georgia Tech game: "There are tiers in the week. The week is broken down into different segments. For example you only have so much time you can spend with them so what he and I do, he meets with the quarterbacks and Coach (Peter) Vass and then he meets with me personally, so he gets double-teamed. We have been able to go back and analyze last week and we have really been able to delve into what we need to do to play better. And I think he's had a pretty good couple of days and he is expected to have a pretty good one on Saturday."

*On setting a per-game sack total for defensive line: "No, I think pressure is sometimes as important as sacks; making the quarterback throw under duress. Because a lot of time, when you see the 50 percent completions for a game, it wasn't because they got sacked six times. It was because the quarterback felt pressure most of the night. I think pressure has just as much adverse effect on a passing game as a sack does."

*On getting tape on first-year starting quarterback Anthony Morelli: "He played last year. He has 20 throws from last year. We have them all cut out and we have all the plays from last year so we don't have to go back to there. But what you do know is you have prototypical 6-4, 215 pound drop-back quarterback with a strong arm who can sling it down the field. So that's what you have to get ready for. You can name him whatever you want, but his name happens to be Morelli and he's pretty good at doing those things – he can sling it down the field."

***Prediction: Notre Dame 31 Penn State 21.


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