Crum, Irish Get Monkey Off Their Back

PASADENA, Calif. - Since he arrived on campus, Maurice Crum Jr.'s father, a former All-American linebacker at Miami, hasn't stopped asking his son when he is going to score his first touchdown. Crum, a senior linebacker, will never have to hear that question again.

Crum, a 6-foot, 230-pound senior played the best game of his collegiate career, and turned in one of the best defensive performances in Notre Dame history, leading the Irish (1-5) to a 20-6 victory over host UCLA (4-2), Saturday night at the Rose Bowl. The Notre Dame captain had seven tackles, one sack, a forced fumble, two interceptions, and two fumble recoveries, the last one, a 34-yard score that put his team up by the decisive margin late in the third quarter.

"I'm most happy because I haven't had a chance to talk to my Dad yet, but I really want to talk to him so I can tell him, and finally get him off my back," Crum said laughing.

The Irish finally got the monkey off their back, bouncing back from five-straight losses to start the season with the win. Crum and defense held UCLA to just 282 yards of total offense, and forced seven turnovers.

Following the game, Crum led the Irish on two renditions of the school song to Notre Dame fans in attendance.

"It's been a long time but it's always good to go through that, and just being around the guys, that's what it's all about," he said.

In the second quarter, Crum took a shot to his shin and was hobbling on the sideline. With about six minutes to go, he went down into the tunnel into the trainer's room.

"I sent him in early because it was going to take a little time," head coach Charlie Weis said. "So I made the decision at that time, because the doctors were just going to keep on waiting for it to come around. Lets just send him in now. We'll get through the rest of the second quarter, lets just see if we can get him ready for the third quarter. I think that turned out to be a pretty good decision."

A great decision.

***Though quarterback Jimmy Clausen was sacked three times, he had all kinds of time to throw on most of his 27 pass attempts. After allowing 27 sacks through the first four games of the season, the offensive line has shored some things up, and have only surrendered five the last two weeks.

This week, UCLA defensive end Bruce Davis was very disrespectful towards the Irish offensive line in the media.

"That No. 44 helped them out a little bit this week," Weis stated. "You don't think those players know that somebody says you're a pile of crap. They notice."

"That motivated us, but at the same time, you don't really pay too much attention to what guys say in the media," fifth-year senior center John Sullivan said. "Mainly because we don't pay attention to what's being said about us by anybody.

"I think in the second half against Purdue, the entire offensive line started gelling. We started realizing protecting the quarterback, running the football, it's not about having perfect technique on every play, it's not about just knowing your assignments. It's about fighting and fighting hard. Since that second half started last week, I think we carried that into the beginning of this game because we were fighting from the start. We didn't put up a lot of points but we didn't hurt ourselves either."

***A 40-point underdog, Stanford's upset victory over USC on Saturday night drew loud ovations from the Bruins fans and Irish fans in attendance. Weis and his players noticed on the sideline.

"(Charlie Jr.) came up to me and said did you check the score," Weis said. "I said what score? It didn't hurt my feelings."

***Geoff Price regained his punting duties this week. Walk-on Eric Maust did the punting last week against Purdue, but Price was back in his familiar role against UCLA.

"It was a last minute thing at the end of the week," Weis said. "A couple things happen sometimes with Geoff that got him out of there. Sometimes there is a couple things that happen that get you back in there."

Maust was in there on the Irish's first punt attempt, because Weis called a fake. He didn't like the look, so he called a timeout and Price came on. Price punted nine times for a 40.3 average. He had three go inside the 20-yard line.

***In the first quarter, Tom Zbikowski and Trevor Laws jarred the ball loose from starting quarterback Ben Olson, also knocking the left-hander out of the game. Red-shirt freshman McLeod Bethel-Thompson came on in relief, and hadn't thrown a collegiate pass prior.

Weis said they knew a little bit about him.

"We knew that he was a righty," Weis said with a laugh. "That's a good start and it lets you know where your pressure is coming from a lot of time."

No matter who was in there, the Irish were going to bring pressure all night. That intensified when the rookie entered the game.

"I think you try and get in their face a little bit," Zbikowski said. The Irish had five sacks, and Bethel-Thompson finished a lousy 12-of-28 passing for 139 yards and four interceptions. "I think the d-line and a lot of people were giving a lot of pressure to him, rattling him a little bit and get those turnovers.

"That was the biggest thing," Zbikowski later said. "We were going to get after him, be aggressive, force them to make mistakes. Coach Brown did a good job all week and the defensive coaching staff really, getting us ready for those types of plays."

***Gameday decisions, receiver David Grimes and guard Dan Wenger did not play.


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