News and Notes: 9/4/2007

One of the biggest problems for Notre Dame in the 33-3 defeat to Georgia Tech was the play of the offensive line. The Yellow Jackets were able to sack the Irish quarterbacks nine times. Seven of those were sustained by junior Evan Sharpley, when Notre Dame was mostly putting the ball in the air. The Irish knew Georgia Tech was going to blitz. They just couldn't stop them.

Weis has said a few times since the defeat that for the most part, it wasn't a numbers game of the Yellow Jackets sending more blitzers than the Irish could handle. It was blown assignments and getting beat in one-on-one situations. The offensive line was starting three new starters in Paul Duncan, Michael Turkovich and Dan Wenger along with fifth-year senior John Sullivan (34 starts) and sophomore Sam Young (14 starts). Weis, who expects Penn State to blitz until his team can handle it, hopes the issues resolve themselves this week in practice and it keeps freshman quarterback Jimmy Clausen off of his back on Saturday night.

"The sad part about it, and this is why I was so disappointed, with the exception of a couple weak safety blitzes that came from about 12 yards in depth, every one of those blitzes were practiced about 100 times," Weis said. "So obviously we should have practiced them 101, because 100 times wasn't good enough.

"So we are ready for what they do. What they did last week wasn't the problem. It was how we did. So we're going to have to do a heck of a lot better than we did last week if we want a chance of winning this game."

The defensive line started to wear down as the game progressed. Georgia Tech running back Tashard Choice ran for 196 of the team's 265 yards on the ground. Most of these came on runs outside the tackle. Weis will aim to fix the problem and "set the edge" on the corners of Notre Dame's front seven. Both lines can expect a tough week of practice.

"I have a feeling we are going to have a couple of physical practices here the next couple of days," Weis said. "I would make that a fairly safe assumption."

***Weis said multiple times during fall camp that all five backs could see action in a game. The Notre Dame coach was telling the truth. All five running backs did get into the Yellow Jackets contest..

The race for the No. 1 back is between fifth-year senior Travis Thomas and sophomore James Aldridge. Thomas had a forgettable afternoon on Saturday, rushing the ball seven times for -7 yards. Aldridge totaled just 19 yards on six carries. The sophomore, who has battled his way back from knee problems that plagued him early in his freshman year, is in a tight race with Thomas for carries.

"He's almost slash one," Weis said of Aldridge. "He just doesn't go in first. I think that James and Travis are very close. They are both very strong physical running. Hopefully we'll give him a little more opportunity for success this week than we did last week."

***There wasn't too many opportunities in the passing game against Georgia Tech, whether that be because of the game plan, the quarterbacks' play or the offensive line. Fifteen passes were completed to wide receivers and tight ends, with sophomore wideout Robby Parris leading the group. The Olmsted Falls, OH native, who caught just one pass as a freshman, nabbed three balls for 30 yards and also drew a pass interference call late in the second quarter.

"In spring ball he really started to pull a little bit away from the pack, and in training camp, he's done nothing to disappoint on that," Weis said. "He's a smooth receiver. He's got good hands, and he's played much more physically than he did when we first got him here last year."

***A statue of former Irish head football coach Ara Parseghian will be dedicated on Saturday, September 22nd at Notre Dame Stadium before the Michigan State contest. The dedication will take place at 9:30 A.M. EDT in front of Gate D, which honors the Irish national championship football coaches. All of Parseghian's former players and coaches have been invited to the ceremony and 1964 Heisman Trophy winner John Huarte will speak.

The statue will show Parseghian on the shoulders of his players following the 1971 Cotton Bowl victory over top-ranked Texas. Parseghian was the Notre Dame coach from 1964-74 and won national titles in 1966 and 1973. The Irish head coach combined to finish with a 95-17-4 (.836) record at the University.

***Notre Dame has faced the Big Ten more than any other conference in the nation. The Irish have played 383 games against the conference, almost three times more than any other league. The winning percentage in those contests: 66 percent.

***Weis owns a 8-1 record on the road in two-plus seasons with the Irish.

***Notre Dame has dropped seven of its last 10 road openers. Overall, the Irish are 75-32-5 in these contests.

***Notre Dame has six players on its roster from the state of Pennsylvania. They are: fifth-year seniors Joe Brockington and Travis Thomas, juniors Derrell Hand and Michael Turkovich, sophomore Darrin Walls and freshman Steve Paskorz.


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