If you haven't heard the Notre Dame team theme already (then something very important must of come up in your life keeping you from following the team you love), Abiamiri spoke a lot about technique and fundamentals. His teammates went as far to say they were only thinking about themselves and getting better, much like the offensive players stated on Tuesday. Defensive coordinator Rick Minter sung the same tune.
One thing is for sure, players for the 11th-ranked Michigan Wolverines won't have any bulletin-board material to use in its favor when they come to South Bend, Saturday, to take on No. 2 Notre Dame. The only thing coming from Notre Dame camp about Michigan were the pleasant words head coach Charlie Weis had for its rival from Ann Arbor.
"What we're trying to do is get better," Minter said. "We got a ton of things we need to work on, really regardless of who we play. Whether it be more physical, whether it be technique or fundamentals, so we are just out there trying to get better."
"Working on fundamentals and technique trying to get better," said Abiamiri in close to ten different ways. "Overall play, fundamentals and technique, you can always work hard to get better every single day."
That's all we ever do, fundamentals and technique," Crum stated.
While the Irish worry about fundamentals and technique, they are also getting prepared in stopping the power-game of the Wolverines. Whenever starting tailback Mike Hart (an impressive 262 yards, 5.2 ypc, three touchdowns this season) rushes for over 100 yards, Michigan is 11-1. A Brandon Hoyte tackle in last year's game knocked Hart out of the game in the first quarter.
There isn't much of a drop off behind Hart. Sophomore Kevin Grady (17 carries, 76 yards, 4.5 ypc) is a nice option to spell the junior. Paving the way is a physical veteran offensive line.
The Irish are allowing 138.50 yards per game on the ground (73rd in the nation), while Michigan is gaining 249 yards per contest (10th). Notre Dame gave up 158 yards on the ground last week in the win over Penn State, choosing to shut down the Nittany Lions' receivers.
The direction of the defense this week will change to stopping the run and forcing junior quarterback Chad Henne to beat Notre Dame with his arm. Henne is 21-of-41 passing for 248 yards, two touchdowns and zero interceptions. In two easy wins, he hasn't had to throw the ball much. Steve Breaston and Mario Manningham are two talented but inconsistent receivers. If Breaston is having a great game, he has the speed to be as dangerous as Ted Ginn Jr. of Ohio State. Tyler Ecker is a nice receiving target at tight end. The Notre Dame defensive backs did a nice job of containing the speedy Penn State receivers.
After saying a lot of good things about Michigan, Weis said a lot of nice things about his team, the defense and when asked, Crum, who moved from strongside linebacker to the middle before the season. The junior with three years of eligibility has a team-high 20 tackles, 14 coming against Penn State, a team-high five tackles-for-loss and a sack. Minter added to Weis' comments.
"Echoing more than anything is the role he is now into this year, not only the position but the role, because a lot goes with that role," Minter began. "Really that's what's been as impressive as his play has been. He's a good athlete, can run around well and those type of things, but he's really stepped up and accepted the challenge we gave to him back in the spring and into the summer at really a tender age, the position of asserting yourself and taking control of the huddle, putting the calls out there to the guys. I've coached him both years and after being around the (graduated Hoyte and Corey Mays) and him being the quiet kid on the block, the new kid, and now to see him really step up and assume that role, he has really done a nice job."
"Just relying on what I know, playing football basically," Crum said. "I'm just trying to get better every game."
The linebackers will have to better for their stiffest test of the young season coming this weekend.
"You hope to see a step-by-step progression each week, especially with Mo getting better and more comfortable on the inside and Travis (Thomas) just adapting to playing linebacker," Minter said. "He's really doing a nice job and he's trying really hard. I'm sitting in the box and it's amazing when you think about the story line of seeing this young man going in and out of the game in three different phases, offense, defense and teams. It's quite an amazing story to be honest with you."
It will be considered by some, another amazing story if the Notre Dame defense plays another solid game in helping the Irish improve to 3-0 after all the insults they heard about the unit heading into the season.
"Right now I think our identity is we want to prove the world wrong," Crum said. "That's what we pride ourselves on. We don't want to be known as the weak link."