ND Offense Prepares For Stanford

At his Tuesday press conference, Notre Dame head coach Charlie Weis gives the media a run down of this week's opponent. Usually it takes him a few minutes to get through all the information. This time however, Weis didn't need nearly as much time prepping reporters on winless Stanford as he did the five weeks before against undefeated opponents.

While there were injuries for Weis to talk about regarding the Cardinal offense, he barely grazed the Stanford (0-5) defense. There wasn't much to say.

The 12th-ranked Irish (4-1) have the perfect opponent this week to find their rhythm offensively for four quarters. Stanford's defense ranks near or at the bottom in rushing yards allowed (282.8 ypg, 119th nationally), total defense (458.5 ypg, 117th) and points allowed (37.4) in the country.

"You can give us whatever stat against them you want but the bottom line is they're going to come in here, they have nothing to lose and they have everything to gain beating Notre Dame at Notre Dame," left tackle Ryan Harris stated about Saturday's game. "We expect the unexpected and we expect a great team to come out and play us."

"Obviously you go into every game with an open mind and you have to break them down from the beginning," receiver Jeff Samardzija explained. "Every team has players. This is a Division I program and they have guys that can run around just like everybody else does. We just have to look at them and check them out from guy to guy. Obviously as a whole they have some skill guys that I think, they have a strong secondary a lot of older guys kind of like are receiving core so you know any time you have experience you have guys that can play. Numbers aside, we haven't really broken down every game to see what those numbers came from, that is something we still need to do."

It's early in the week, but when Irish players do look at film of the Stanford defense, they won't be impressed.

Teams have run at will against Stanford, and the Irish look like they solved their rushing problems last week against Purdue. Tailback Darius Walker had by far his best rushing game of the season, his best effort since the Stanford game last year, gaining 146 yards on 31 carries and scoring a touchdown. Against the Cardinal in Palo Alto , Walker ran for a career high 186 yards and the game-winning touchdown.

Walker comes into Saturday's contest ranking seventh on Notre Dame's all-time rushing list with 2,355 yards. The junior should easily pass Phil Carter (2,409 yards) this weekend.

"Of course it feels good that I had the hand and was able to be productive, but this is a whole new week and a whole new game," Walker said. "We have a whole new team coming in that has a lot to prove and that is really going to be gunning for us. We all understand that we have to bring our A-game on Saturday."

The Stanford down-seven obviously isn't very talented. Middle linebacker Michael Okwo is the lone senior of the bunch and is averaging 12 tackles in three games. But someone has to make the tackles, team's aren't going to score on every play.

Samardzija was right, the Cardinal secondary does have older guys running around, and statistically they look like a good unit. Cornerbacks Brandon Harrison and Tim Sims and safeties David Lofton and Trevor Hooper are all seniors. Hooper's 38 tackles tie him for the team lead with linebacker Clinton Snyder. The defensive backs are giving up a respectable 176 ypg, good for 37th in the nation.

Those numbers could be deceiving with the way teams have been running the ball down the throats of the Cardinal defense. If Weis chose to, which is doubtful, he could have quarterback Brady Quinn drop back on every play and pick this team a part.

One thing you can expect is for the offense to have balance. They played well for the most part against a weak Purdue defense, and should be able to make even more strides this week.

"We came out the gate well, we came out the gate in the second half well, but we don't feel as an offense we finished the game four quarters," Harris said about last week. "Today and all week we're going to be emphasizing finishing the game and finishing out plays, doing the little things that help you finish off games."

"We gotta play for 60 minutes and that's really our main focus this week, is to start fast, end fast be in the middle fast, just keep it going," Walker said.

It's no secret Weis is using the last-minute 38-31 victory last year over Stanford as motivation. That's not the only thing motivating the players.

"Records aside, like everyone says when you play Notre Dame you are going to get everyone's best especially when they come into your place," Samardzija said. "It's such a great place to play at, teams are going to get excited to play there and you got to be ready to play your best game."

"I think just us being Notre Dame it's easier for us to look at any team as a tough team because regardless of who we play, it seems just like they turn into superstars when they play us," Walker explained. "We see them on film and things like that, and we say okay they are pretty good but when they play us they turn incredible. As Notre Dame we always have that target on our backs so we all understand that just because Stanford is 0-5 doesn't mean they are going to come in and play like that."

They'll be playing like they are about to be 0-6.

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