Junior Jabbie had a breakout performance to help the Gold team beat the Blue squad 10-6 at Notre Dame Stadium in front of a record crowd for a spring contest. The senior running back was a terror on the ground on Saturday, gaining 87 yards on 13 carries to earn Offensive MVP honors. Weis threw praise towards Jabbie's direction this spring for his practice performances. The Irish faithful got to see first-hand what the Irish head coach was talking about.
"Coming into the spring, I knew that everyone had a fair shot at playing time," Jabbie said. "All the main people in our offense last year are gone. I felt like the coaches were going to treat everyone fair and give everyone a chance to play."
It appears as if Jabbie has taken advantage of the opportunity. Before the 2006, Jabbie was way down on the defensive back depth chart. He had to watch players like Terrail Lambert and Leo Ferrine pass him by for playing time and it would only get tougher with Darrin Walls and Raeshon McNeil soon stepping onto campus. Sensing his shot at seeing the field was slipping away, Jabbie requested a position switch before last season.
"Growing up in Pee Wee football, I always played offense, not defense," Jabbie said. "I got recruited by a couple of schools to play defense. On offense, I felt like I would make a bigger impact at running back. So I asked Coach (Weis) and he approved it."
On Saturday, Jabbie and Aldridge alternated possessions. Jabbie got the majority of the carries in the second and fourth quarters and the senior made the most of them. After rushing for just two yards in the first quarter, Jabbie exploded in the second quarter for 50 yards on five carries. They all came on the final drive of the first half. Jabbie had runs of 3, 5, 17, 16 and 9 to put the Gold in scoring position but two sacks on Evan Sharpley erased the chance. For good measure, Jabbie also caught a four-yard pass.
In the fourth quarter, with the Gold protecting a 7-6 lead, Jabbie was the lead back on a 15-play drive that ended with a Ryan Burkhart field goal and dwindled the clock down to 2:00 remaining. On the series, Jabbie carried the ball six times for 35 yards. In the game, the senior averaged 6.7 yards per rush. The Gold team ran the ball 34 times in comparison to 12 throws. Weis wanted to create an identity on offense this spring and it appears to be on the ground with tough, physical running.
"You love to hear that," Jabbie said with a smile. "When you hear the coaches talk about us running the football and keep giving it to the running backs, every back loves to hear that. We love to run the football. That's what we do."
***While Jabbie received MVP on offense, safety David Bruton earned the defensive honors, highlighted by his 35-yard interception return for a touchdown to put the Gold team up 7-0. On the play, Bruton picked off a overthrown ball from sophomore quarterback Demetrius Jones and raced up the left sideline for the score. Bruton dove over the goal line and then did his own version of the Lambeau leap for the celebration, a move the junior safety said he's always wanted to do.
"I got a good break on it," Bruton said about the interception. "I ended up overbreaking on it so I had to step back and catch it. I took off running and all the guys made great blocks. There was this one block that I set up and ended up getting a crease."
Bruton is in a prime position to take over the starting duties at the free safety position. In the last two years, the big play in the passing game has consistently hurt the Notre Dame defense. Bruton is in competition with junior Kyle McCarthy and Ray Herring. If Saturday was any indicator of what to expect, Bruton has a good shot at the starting lineup for the opener against Georgia Tech.
"I feel like I've become a strong contender for it," Bruton said. "But nothing is set in stone. We'll know on September 1st who the starting free safety is. I feel like I've stepped up and got better everyday."
*** Center John Sullivan was helped off the field in the third quarter with an injury. The fifth-year senior, who is the anchor of a young offensive line, was hurt on a six-yard run up the middle by Armando Allen. Sullivan was helped off the field and did not return. Weis said after the game that X-rays were negative and that Sullivan had sustained a high ankle sprain. If this was the regular season, the Notre Dame head coach said Sullivan would miss 2-4 weeks. Weis joked that his fifth-year senior center is probable for the Georgia Tech opener on September 1st.
***The 51,852 crowd was a record for a Blue-Gold game. It breaks the record set last season of 41,279.
***Before the contest, Weis was presented with an honorary monogram by the Notre Dame Monogram Club. Weis has won 19 games in his first two seasons with the Irish, including two straight BCS appearances.
***Special teams had its usual ups and downs. The bad: Nate Whitaker's missed extra point that could have tied the game up a 7-all in the second quarter. The good: Ryan Burkhart connecting on a 24-yard field goal in the fourth quarter to give the Gold team some breathing room at 10-6. Punting-wise, sophomore Eric Maust outdid Geoff Price. Maust punted the ball three times for an average of 41 yards while Price's average was 37.3 yards in his three boots. No returns, either on punts or kickoffs, were allowed in the contest. Weis said he likes how the change to getting all the coaches involved on special teams has worked but knows there's more to do.
"Right now, we've hit a flat stage this spring," Weis said. "We need to get over the hump because this team will have to learn to play complimentary football. Too many games, we've counted on No. 10 (Brady Quinn) winning them. Guess what? No. 10 isn't here anymore. So we're going to have to learn to play complimentary football. The offense, defense and special teams are going to have to learn to play off each other."