A Word With The Captains

Maurice Crum Jr. was walking alone. His smile was ear to ear, the grass stains were evident on his white jersey and gold pants, and the senior linebacker was patting his gold helmet sparkling in the California evening like a drum. Crum just finished a TV interview on the field of the Rose Bowl, and the game's star player was walking over to join his teammates in leading the school's fight song.

For a guy that took Notre Dame's first five losses of the season as hard as anybody, Crum's smile was priceless, as it was a night to remember.

The 6-foot, 230-pound Crum became the first Irish player to ever record a pair of forced fumbles, recover two fumbles and intercept two passes in the same game. It was a single-game record with four forced turnovers, and Crum's 34-yard fumble recovery for a touchdown provided the game's winning margin, a 20-6 victory over UCLA.

Crum, who also had seven tackles and two pass breakups, said he has never had a game like that in his life on any level. Nobody in an Irish jersey ever has.

"It (was) just one of those days," Crum said on Thursday. He leads the team with 47 tackles. "I guess every dog has his day, and I guess it was my turn."

"I was kind of feeding off the way the team was playing." The Irish defense held UCLA to 282 yards of offense, and forced seven turnovers. Crum was named the Walter Camp National Defensive Player of the Week following his performance. "We were playing great as a team, as a unit. So I think we kind of fed off each other. When you are feeding off each other like that, the plays are bound to happen. I just happened to be there."

Crum's father, an All-American linebacker at Miami, gave his son a hard time from the day he arrived at Notre Dame about when Crum Jr. would find the end zone. Because Crum's stepmother works for the cable company, Crum Sr. was able to see his boy finally get into the end zone back home in Tampa, Fla. If he wouldn't have seen it, his phone was ringing shortly afterwards. And it was well after midnight on the east coast by the time Crum called his Dad.

"He said he wasn't going to answer," Crum said. "He thought about it because he already knew what I was calling him about. He was real happy for me. He told me he was proud of me, and he was going to be wearing my jersey around. He said "That's my boy." He was very happy, so I was happy that he said it."

A night like that could've actually been even more perfect. Crum intercepted a McLeod Bethel-Thompson pass late in the fourth quarter and had a clean route to the end zone. But he tripped and fell over his own feet untouched, and has heard jokes from head coach Charlie Weis, teammates and around campus.

"I have been hearing that all week, the turf monster," Crum said. "I guess I got to work on my footwork."

The Irish (1-5) will need another big performance out of Crum, as No. 4 Boston College (6-0) comes to town this Saturday.

***Senior center John Sullivan had had troubles with his shotgun snaps this season. The issue came up against the Bruins, but it didn't end up hurting the team like it has in the past.

"It's a technical thing," Sullivan said. "I've been working on my technique a lot in practice and I've got some things that I've tweaked a little bit. My stance being, it's a problem I've had until the last couple of games. I'm just trying to approach it with the mind set that it's something I need to fix. I played with my stance and my grip and in practice. You need those reps in the game and so in practice, they have been good and we'll see if they are good in the game."

***The Matt Ryan love has been flowing profusely this week around Notre Dame's campus. Listen to what's being said around the Guglielmino Athletics Complex, and the Boston College quarterback sounds like a lock to win the Heisman Trophy.

The numbers are certainly there. Ryan has completed 160-of-255 passes for 1,857 yards (third most in the country) and 15 touchdowns. Safety Tom Zbikowski compared Ryan to former Purdue quarterback Kyle Orton, who when the Irish played him three years ago, was also one of the top candidates for the Heisman. Notre Dame didn't fair so well that day, falling to the Boilermakers 41-16

"Watching tape, he seems like he is always going to the right wide receiver," Zbikowski said. "I think that's the biggest attribute that he knows where to put the ball. Really, he is not really making bad decisions. He seems to put the ball in the receiver's hands pretty much every time."

***Ranking last in the nation in yards rushing per game, the Irish will have their hands full trying to run the ball this weekend against Boston College, the nation's fourth best defense against the rush.

"They have always had this mentality that they are going to be physical and tough and just try to go hit people, smack people in the mouth," tight end John Carlson said. "They have got a lot of big guys up front and their linebackers are really physical, and like I said, they play with that mentality. It's going to be a physical game and I think we're looking forward to the opportunity."

Sullivan agreed.

"The other thing I think you can see on tape, because like John says, is they are big and they are very physical, they play with a lot of confidence, too," he added. "Just watching them on tape, it seems like the team knows they are going to take care of their assignments on every play. I'm looking forward to the game on Saturday and I think it's going to be a big challenge and you have to be thankful to play against an opportunity that's ranked No. 3 or 4 in the country and deserves to be so. I think Boston College is a great team and I think we have a big challenge ahead of us."

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