A Long Time Coming

Coming into Saturday's contest against Purdue, Charlie Weis was wondering where Armando Allen had been. He knew he had been in practice throughout the fall and was well aware that he's been playing this season, but he was speculating as to where the real Armando Allen was. After Notre Dame's 38-21 victory, it appears as though he found him.

"Yeah, I think he wound up with a big day," coach Weis said. "We were really getting on him pretty good. I think in his career, I don't know if he had a 15 yard carry and he had five of them of over 15 in the game, so we said, ‘where have you been? You could have taken a little pressure off us in the running game a little earlier with a few of these runs,' but I thought he had a nice day."

Armando Allen, knowing his coach's unique personality, had heard it all and figured it was time to show him.

"Yeah, he did," Allen said whether or not it was true if coach Weis asked where he had been. "I mean, we talk about it all the time. I practice hard, and sometimes in games it doesn't go as well as we planned and today everything was working well, so it was a good saying by coach Weis."

This whole time, Weis was fully conscious with regard to his sophomore's talents. Now it's time to raise the bar that has been set.

"I think that Armando is a very good football player," Weis said. "And I think that a game like this could boost his confidence even more, because he knows he's capable of doing it. I think the best part about this is that now I have a bar, I can set a bar and say, ‘well I've already seen you do this,' because every time the bar is raised, you want to pass that bar and I think that that's what we're going to try to do."

Much of the criticism that had been hurled at Allen was his lack of vision and inability to break tackles. If Saturday's contest was any indication, he can quiet his detractors, at least for the time being. The Opa Locka, Fla. native had a career day, amassing 134 yards on 17 carries for an extremely efficient average of 7.9 yards per rush. His highest rushing total last season was good for 91 yards against Navy.

In what was the arguably Notre Dame's most impressive drive of the season, the first possession of the second half, Allen took over. In the series, the Irish started off with the pass as their point of attack. Once Allen had the ball in his hands, however, the decision was easy for the Irish coaching staff to keep it in his mitts. After David Grimes and Golden Tate each caught first down passes to start the possession, the Hialeah-Miami Lakes High School product carried the ball for the next three plays, concluding with his career-first 16-yard touchdown carry.

In the subsequent Irish drive, Allen was just as instrumental as the offense plowed forward for another score. After a Clausen incompletion, Allen had a pair of 21-yard carries, to go along with a six-yard rush. Additionally, when Clausen dropped back to pass, Allen had a nifty delayed curl route that gave his quarterback a safety valve for nine yards. All in all, the sophomore collected 91 rushing yards in the third quarter, by far his most productive. For Allen and his teammates, he knew the start of the second half was going to be an essential stretch of the game that would determine the outcome.

"Well, obviously coming out after halftime, we felt like the first drive was going to be very important," he said. "Not only that, but we felt like it would set the tone for the rest of the game so to go out and score was very important."

Not only did Allen excel at rushing the ball, but he also showed how he has become an increasingly well-rounded runningback. Since he was in the contest for the majority of the game, it was necessary for him to pick up blitzes and block opposing defenders. That's exactly what he did, often times preventing sacks. On a play late in the third quarter, Jimmy Clausen's pre-snap read was to audible Allen from the right side of the backfield to the left to reduce the pressure of a Boilermaker blitz, showing Clausen's trust in Allen to pass protect.

After the contest, Clausen spoke highly of his classmate.

"He did a great job today," Clausen said. "I talked to him last night and I said, ‘Armando, it's time to get stuff going around here,' and he did a great job today."

In addition, Allen was a key contributor for the special teams unit, picking up 104 yards on returns. One statistic that shows the explosiveness that Allen carries with him is his all purpose yardage; with 23 total touches of the ball on the day, he secured 247 all purpose yards for an average of 10.7 yards per touch. Any player who can generate yardage with this efficacy is an asset that can change the outcome of games.

Being one of the offense's main producers is a role he can quickly become accustomed to — and one that makes him feel more like himself.

"Yeah, actually I do," Allen said when he was asked if he felt more like himself with a chuckle. "It was a great win. Purdue came out there and played hard so we can't ask for nothing more from the offensive linemen."

Part of the reason as to why Allen felt at ease against the Boilermakers was because the offensive scheme, using more wideouts than usual, places him in a comfort zone.

"To go out there today with our offense spreading it out, it was something I really felt comfortable in so it really gave me an opportunity to go out there and do what I do best," Allen said.

The last time Allen had a game as productive as he had Saturday, he would have to go all the way back to his junior year in high school. Because of a season-ending ankle injury, Allen did not play his senior year. For the sophomore, it's been a long time coming.

"My junior year in high school," he responded after some thought when asked of his last productive performance. "Sometime in my junior year."

So how does it feel for the speedy rusher?

"It feels great," Allen said. "To go out there and kind of prove to a lot of people that we can run the ball, because that's something that we hear a lot, that we can't run the ball, so to go out there and run the ball effectively, it feels great."

So when Weis asked Allen where he had been, how did the runningback respond?

"I just smiled," he said.

It was with that grin that Weis finally knew that he had found what he had been looking for in Armando Allen.

IrishIllustrated.com Top Stories