Terrail Lambert has been starting the past few games in place of the injured Ambrose Wooden. When everyone is healthy, Lambert is the nickel back in multiple defensive packages. For the season, the junior from Oxnard, CA has 21 tackles, good for eighth on the team. But Lambert's two interceptions, both in the victory over Michigan State, are tied with Chinedum Ndukwe for the Irish lead. His play has surely impressed his head coach.
"From the day I stepped on campus to this very second, the guy who is currently on the biggest rise with me has to be Lambert because when I got here I was afraid to put him on the field," Charlie Weis said on Sunday. "It was a new system. He was struggling with it. He had all sorts of athletic ability, but now the more and more he's out there, the more confidence I have in him.
"Now, it wasn't so long ago when that 86 from Michigan was going by him. It wasn't that long ago. Now he's out there and no one is even noticing. I'll knock on wood on that one."
No. 86 from Michigan would be Mario Manningham. The sophomore Wolverine wide receiver torched Notre Dame for three touchdowns, including two on Lambert. An inside secret: Manningham is making a lot of defensive backs in the nation look foolish. For the season, he has nine receiving touchdowns.
The leading receiver is running back Darius Walker. The junior halfback has caught 38 balls for 258 yards. McKnight is one catch behind his teammate with 37 grabs. Quarterback Brady Quinn takes what the defense gives him. Weis talked a little shop to explain Walker's proficient pass catching this season.
"Monty Kiffin was a defensive coordinator for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and years ago he put in a form of two cover, where the middle linebacker runs to the middle of the field to take away the big seams where everyone was attacking cover two," Weis said. "So everyone everywhere calls it Tampa, Tampa two or two Tampa. They call it that way in the NFL and they call it that in college."
"Well, the one void in Tampa is right over to center. So our whole feeling is, we'll look down the field to see if we can throw it down the field. If not, we'll dump it right there. If they play two Tampa, we'll continue to dump it right there."
A final note on Walker: after a slow start, he's on pace for over 1,000 yards this season (1,052 to be exact for a 12-game season). The bye week might come at a bad time for a Notre Dame rushing attack that appears to be hitting their stride. UCLA will come to South Bend in two weekends with the second best rush defense in the nation, allowing a meager 50 yards per game on the ground.
*The weekly Geoff Price watch: the senior punter booted three balls for an average of 39 yards. For the season, he's still on pace to break Craig Hentrich's single season average record. Price's average through six games is at 46.6 yards per punt while Hentrich's record (as you probably know by now if you've read this article) was 44.9 yards.
*Last season, Notre Dame totaled 10 touchbacks on kickoffs. Through just six games, the Irish have seven this season. Bobby Renkes has five of them while freshman Ryan Burkhart notched two vs. Stanford.