When fans think of service academies, immediately the image of option offense comes to mind. Not entirely the case with the Black Knights. They do run some option plays but they are not afraid to toss it in the air. Army's leading receiver, Jeremy Trimble, has caught 44 balls for 453 yards and two touchdowns. That's only 11 fewer receptions than Notre Dame's leaders, Jeff Samardzija and Rhema McKnight, both at 55. The Black Knights throw it but aren't exactly lighting it up either. They rank 112th nationally in passing offense.
"They still run the option," head coach Charlie Weis said at his Tuesday press conference. "That surprised me a little bit. When I heard they had a conventional offense, I figured they were in normal formations. But they still run the option and it's still a threat. It's still part of their package and they are averaging four yards per carry. Even though it's a conventional offense, you still have to be worried about the option."
*Carl Gioia's performance last weekend left the kicking duties there for the taking. The senior missed three extra points in the win over Air Force. Two were blocked and one was wide right. On the season, Gioia is 7-for-11 in field goal kicks. This is good news for freshman Ryan Burkhart and Bobby Renkes. Both these kickers have handled the kickoff duties with Burkhart getting the vast majority of these reps lately. Now, they'll get a chance to assume a larger job title.
"If a starter doesn't stand up to a starter's performance, he's not the starter," Weis said. "Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday will determine that. There will be a competition this week."
*Saturday's win over the Falcons saw a variety of freshmen see action on the field. For the defense, it was more a case of exhaustion. Air Force's huge time of possession advantage forced Weis and the coaching staff to insert backups to give the starters a breather. Linebacker Toryan Smith and defensive end John Ryan both totaled two tackles.
On the offensive side of the ball, running back James Aldridge got the most opportunities to shine. The freshman back carried the ball five times for 27 yards. Aldridge, who is fully healthy from knee problems that plagued him when he came to campus back in January, now has 29 rushes for 131 yards on the season.
"Our plan was to get him involved in more meaningful reps," Weis said. "He's shown a propensity in the short amount of reps we've given him at the end of game that's he's smash mouth and can run the ball hard when everyone knows you're running the football. Getting him into the game with all the starters in there gave him a taste of what it's like and not just handing the ball to the right or hand the ball to the left."
*A person would have to be living underneath a rock not to know that No. 1 Ohio State and No. 2 Michigan will square off this weekend in Columbus for the right to claim one of the two spots in the national championship game. ESPN's "GameDay" pre-game college football show has had a countdown for weeks to November 18th.
Notre Dame should take particular interest in the contest. Irish fans are hoping for the loser of the game to fall behind them in the BCS rankings. This is both the Buckeyes and Wolverines last regular season contest and Notre Dame would have the USC contest to impress voters. Weis will be rooting for whatever scenario that gives the Irish the best chance to reach the title game in Glendale, AZ on January 8th.
"They both got it rolling," Weis said. "It should be interesting. We played one of the teams this year and played one of them last year. We lost to both of them. Obviously, Ohio State is playing at home. I think turnovers will decide game. They will be a determining factor in the game. On Sunday morning, when you look down and see one team turned it over less than the other, that will probably be the team that wins."
*Not surprisingly, Notre Dame quarterback Brady Quinn made the cut for the Walker Camp Player of the Year award. There are 10 players still up for the award, voted on by all 119 Division 1A head coaches and sports information directors. The winner be announced on Thursday, December 7th on ESPN's SportsCenter. Last year's winner was Reggie Bush, who now plays for the New Orleans Saints. Of the quarterbacks on the list, only Hawaii's Colt Brennan has passed for more touchdowns (46-29) and yards (3,753-2,786) than Quinn.
*The Notre Dame Football Fantasy Camp is opening up a second session for those interested in reliving old football dreams. It will be held from July 1-5 and there is still limited space for "players" and "honorary coaches." There's a maximum of 60 spots. It's only for men and open to all ages.
Highlights for those interested: meeting and listening to head coach Charlie Weis, learning offense, defense and special teams tactics from the Irish assistant coaches, rubbing shoulders with former Notre Dame players and a Fantasy game on July 4th held in the stadium. Players get to keep official home and away jerseys with the number of choice, game pants, adidas cleats and more. For more information, contact Camp Director and former Irish quarterback Patrick Steenberge at Patrick@globalfootball.com; 817-219-7274, or go to www.NDfootballfantasycamp.com.