Line Integral In Opening Up Offense

The Notre Dame offense finally showed some semblance of a running game during game four of the season against Michigan State. The following Saturday against Purdue, the Irish proved they could move the ball through the air. Against UCLA, head coach Charlie Weis' conservative play calling didn't allow the team to put it all together. They didn't have to in a 20-6 victory.

This Saturday is a different story.

Weis plans to open up an offense that gained just 140 total yards against the Bruins, as his Irish (1-5) host No. 4 Boston College (6-0).

You can't stay conservative," Weis stated. "They know that, too. This isn't like I'm giving away any big secret. It's not like we're going to go in with three tight ends and run the ball inside the whole game. We're going to have to score some points to win.

"Last week especially after (UCLA QB Ben) Olson got knocked down, you knew you weren't going to need to score a whole bunch of points to win the game. This week, you're going to have to score some points to win."

The Eagles are averaging nearly 36 points per game. The Irish on the other hand, are only scoring 11 points per contest, ranking second-to-last in the country.

Notre Dame will head into the Boston College game mooching off the small successes they had against the Spartans (117 yards rushing, two touchdowns) and Boilermakers (377 yards passing, three touchdowns). The team will try and combine those two performances, while adding consistency.

It all starts in the trenches, where the offensive line that has replaced three starters from last season, has looked considerably better the last three weeks compared to the first three games where the Irish never had a prayer to win. So despite what the national statistics read, where Notre Dame still ranks last or near the bottom of every offensive category, the unit thinks it's close.

"With pass blocking we just kept chipping away at it, each week getting gradually better," sophomore left tackle Sam Young said. The Irish rank last in the nation in sacks allowed, but over the last three weeks have done a much better job protecting the passer. "I think the same is true with run blocking. We're trying to come out, we're getting physical in practice just trying to get that mentality. We just have to keep doing that. This week, obviously a great rush defense. We just have to get after them and finish our blocks and have very limited mental mistakes."

"I think we've gotten better," junior guard Michael Turkovich said. "I think we're starting to develop some chemistry as far as going on the field and stuff. We're starting to see things a lot better and I think it comes with experience. I think we've improved. We've hit some rough spots like last week, UCLA we were going against a good run defense. We're going against a good run defense this week against Boston College. We need to improve and that's what we're trying to do."

Saying Boston College has a good run defense is an understatement. They rank third in the country, allowing just 49.7 yards per game. On the flip side, the Irish are last in the nation in rushing yards per game, gaining only 33 yards per game.

So how do the Irish have a chance? Turkovich gave a laundry-list type answer, on top of the fact that for the second-straight Tuesday practice, the first-string offense and first-string defense simulated the opposition's attack for each other.

"Hard work, playing physical, knowing what you've got to do, studying, getting in the class room, looking at their film, taking the DVDs home and watching those of their defense, and just trying to get an idea of knowing what they're going to do before they do it," Turkovich explained.

With Weis opening the offense up, if they can't get a rushing attack going, Boston College can tee off on Irish quarterback Jimmy Clausen.

"I think if we open it up, there has been times where we haven't blocked as well as we needed to, but I think we've gotten better at that as weeks have gone by," Turkovich said.

***The key player in opening up the offense will be Clausen. Like the offense, he has showed signs of being able to make plays, but the freshman signal-caller hasn't done it on a consistent basis. Against Purdue, he was 18-of-26 passing for 169 yards and his first career touchdown. For the season, Clausen is 74-of-121, an impressive 61.2 percent, for 558 yards, the one score and three interceptions. That stat that sticks out is the 4.6 yards per attempt. That will have to be much better against the Eagles.

"I think Jimmy is doing a fine job with what we're asking him to do," quarterbacks coach Ron Powlus said. "Week to week, game plans are dictated on what you think you can and what you think is best to win against an opponent. He's doing what we're asking him to and that's most important."

***When Clausen drops back to pass, he'll have to be cognizant of the fact that Boston College leads the nation in interceptions. However, they are giving up 290.83 yards passing per game, which ranks 110th nationally.

"If they can lead the nation in interceptions, they must break on the ball well, they must catch it when it comes to them," sophomore receiver Robby Parris said.

With the Irish likely to throw the ball downfield more than they did against UCLA, that gets Parris excited.

"It definitely gets you a little more fired up because it means coach is going to put a little more faith in you this week," Parris said. "He's going to call on you to make plays, and if that's what the game plan is for this week, then that's great because I love just going out there and trying to compete."

***Weis will stick to the practice schedule that helped his team achieve its first win last Saturday. On Tuesday, for the second straight week there were no show teams, as the Irish offense and defense provided the looks for Boston College. Weis called last Tuesday's practice the most physical one during his three-year tenure. The players said yesterday's practice was just as physical.

"(Tuesday) was physical and that's good," Turkovich said. "We need to be physical, we need to go out their and hit people. Going against your one defense running scout team, running the Boston College defense, that's important. That's really important, because you when you see things full speed that's more game speed, it gets you ready."

"They're physical, but I think they help in getting mentally and physically prepared for game speed and game physicalness," running back James Aldridge explained.

Parris commented on going against an Irish secondary that ranks fourth nationally against the pass at 153.67 yards allowed per game.

"It's awesome because they give you a live look and even sometimes it comes a little quicker than even in the game because it is so fast and you're going against our defense and it's a great defense so it gives you a good look." Top Stories