News and Notes: 10/19/2006

*The defense held the Stanford offense down without the services of Tom Zbikowski. The senior did not play in the game for precautionary reasons. Head coach Charlie Weis said Zbikowski's shoulder was bothering him from a hard hit taken vs. Purdue. Weis made the final decision because he knew the tough-guy safety probably would have lied to him about the true extent of the injury.

"I defiantly could have played but it was a smart decision looking back on it," Zbikowski said on Wednesday. "We were cautious with it. Any re-injury probably would set me back much farther. I'm feeling good and I'm getting back on the field. It's tough when you get into a rhythm of playing all the time and sitting and watching the game."

In his place, Ray Herring got the start and totaled a team-high nine stops. It shows the depth the secondary possesses and when one guy goes down, another can step in and make a needed contribution.

"He's got a good nose for the ball," Zbikowski said about Herring. "He's a solid tackler and hits hard. He's going to be a good player in the future. He's going to get his opportunities. He's a lot like me. I didn't get to play a lot my freshman year and once you get that first chance to play, you're going to be successful."

Zbikowski is ready to go for this weekend's contest with UCLA. He'll be facing a Bruin offense that is down to their second-string quarterback. Redshirt sophomore Patrick Cowan will be making his second start of his career and second straight on the road after a 16-for-31 performance for 112 yards and an interception in the 30-20 loss to Oregon. Against the Ducks, Cowan got hit in the throat and lost his voice late in the game. Head coach Karl Dorrell said on Monday that his quarterback is on a no-talk order from the medical staff. Zbikowski doesn't think that'll change too much.

"There's really not much," Zbikowski said about Cowan's lack of voice. "When they go into shotgun, they can use a silent count. He really doesn't have to use his voice that much with the cadence. He'll have to use some more hand signals to audible. But it doesn't change how we get ready for them."

*Weis said it was good for the players to get away for the weekend and rid football of their systems for a few days. Not so for quarterback Brady Quinn, who was chomping at the bit to be back on the field after watching some games on television. It led to a desire and hunger among his teammates to have Tuesday's practice be a crisp one.

"Honestly, I think our team was excited to get back out there and play again," Quinn said. "It's been a little tough, especially when you take a little break from football for three to four days. You're going to be excited about getting back out on the field. I don't know about the other guys but I watched a lot of college football this weekend and it kind of sucked to not be a part of that and watching the highlights. That definitely played a part in the guys focusing and doing their part."

Quinn will be facing a tough UCLA defense on Saturday, or at least on paper they are. The Bruins rank 9th overall in total defense. More importantly, he'll have to worry about defensive ends Justin Hickman and Bruce Davis coming off the edge to disrupt the Irish passing game. Together, these two have combined for 12 sacks and 19 tackles for loss.

"There are a lot of different things that they do to make them tough," Quinn said about UCLA's defense. "The one thing that they all possess is speed. Across the board, from the defensive line to the secondary, they all have speed. They move to the ball well. They make big plays when they have the opportunity to do so. The biggest thing for us is no turnovers and not allow them to swing the momentum in the game."

*The first BCS standings have Notre Dame at No. 8. Weis said on Monday that his team will need some help to get into the top two for a chance at the national championship. Quinn thinks it's too early to think about the rankings.

"We're halfway through the season," Quinn said. "We have six games left. It's a long way until those polls really matter to us. I couldn't tell you where we're ranked right now."

*Next season, Notre Dame will return the favor and travel west to face UCLA in Los Angeles. Bad news for the Irish: the Bruins start just three seniors on this year's team. They are Hickman, wide receiver Junior Taylor and center Robert Chai.

*Last weekend, Oregon was the only UCLA opponent to break the 300-yard total offense barrier, a reason the Bruins are ranked so high in various defensive categories.

*Notre Dame's defense has been pretty good at getting off the field on 3rd down. The Irish are allowing opponents to convert just 27.5 percent of the time on the money down, good for 8th in Division 1A. UCLA is even better in the category, allowing first downs on 23.3 percent of third downs. That's the second best percentage in the nation to New Mexico State's 21.6 percent. Top Stories