Moving On

As Connor Lee's fifth field goal sailed through the uprights Saturday at Notre Dame Stadium, all one of the 80,795 spectators had to do to realize how much the Irish loss hurt the team was to look at the players' faces. With the overall struggles of the offensive unit in the second half, none of those looks were more downtrodden than those of the offensive line.

Although Pittsburgh's defense did not put up the statistics to show it, the Panther defensive front gave Jimmy Clausen and the Notre Dame offensive line fits throughout the contest. With only one sack and three quarterback hurries allowed in the entire contest, the numbers aren't that impressive. The ones that are however, refer to the 10-play, seven net yard output the Pittsburgh defense gave up in the third quarter. Additionally, Notre Dame could only muster a mere 146 yards in the second half and four overtime periods. It is no wonder that with these skimpy offensive numbers, the Irish could only pick up one touchdown after coming out up a pair of scores in halftime. As a result, several players along the offensive line have undergone an intense period of self-evaluation in an attempt to correct what went wrong against the Panthers.

"Once again, especially now, this week, I'm just looking at myself really and not worried about seeing how other people are progressing and seeing how they're playing, it's about what I can do help us out and help us win this weekend," Dan Wenger said.

This process involves watching hours of game and practice film to hone in on the player's areas of weakness and building upon strengths. It all starts, however, everyday when the squad meets for practice.

"Practice," Wenger responded. "Just in practice, working hard, watching film, watching tape on them, everything."

As a result, Wenger sees that his overall technique and fundamentals need some development after Saturday's defeat.

"Everywhere," he said. "Everywhere. Every part and every aspect of my game can use improvement."

Right tackle Sam Young concurs that after the squad's third loss of the season, a period of self-evaluation was completely necessary.

"Oh absolutely," Young said. "I mean, I know, watching the film, I came in on Sunday and I watched the film and actually Kyle [Rudolph] was in there before me so I watched a little bit with Kyle and then went over it again by myself. Yeah, you're going to self-evaluate yourself. Maybe you're a little harder on yourself when you have a loss, but you've got to take the good with the bad and in that kind of situation say, ‘okay, here's where I did good. Here's why I did it good, let's continue to do that and maybe some things we need to improve on from there,' but that kind of mentality from looking at the Pitt game ended on Monday and today is applying what we've learned from the tape and to practice."

Wenger had a similar attitude, wanting to put the loss aside in the dark recesses of his memory.

"Well to tell you the truth, that's in the past for us now," Wenger said. "We got back to work today and I think everyone's jumping on board and ready to work and ready to turn things around again. We got a good, hard say's work today, so we're going to try and keep it going obviously we need more work to do this week if we're going to be able to go out there and get a victory."

Now that Young and his teammates have applied their lessons from the 36-33 quadruple overtime defeat, it's time to move on and focus on the pair of senior defensive tackles, Ron Brace and B.J. Rali.

"Right now, I'm moving on to B.C.," offensive coordinator Mike Haywood said. "I'm more concerned about those two defensive tackles putting pressure on us. I think that because of the power that they have, the quickness that number 60 has in a one-on-one match up, it might create a little problem for us, but we're going to work it out and get it corrected."

Wenger has watched his share of film on the Eagles interior linemen and knows that a challenge awaits him come Saturday. Brace measures in at 6-foot-3, 324 pounds, while his teammate Rali is not too far behind, scaling 6-foot-1, 323 pounds. With this weight advantage over the Irish interior linemen, it will be imperative to defuse the penetration the duo will produce, specifically in the rushing attack.

"Yeah, it's going to be a challenge," Wenger said. "I think I'm up for it, and test the type of player that I am against two great athletes and players, so we'll see how it goes."

So how exactly does Wenger anticipate going about neutralizing the two massive defensive tackles?

"You know really, to do the best to fight as hard as you can," he said. "That's really all you can do."

The task at hand won't become any easier for the Notre Dame offensive line, either. Starting right guard Chris Stewart underwent an MRI, and doesn't seem likely to play against Boston College. In his place will most likely be freshman Trevor Robinson, who has turned some heads thus far this season.

"Well I think he's kind of experienced it all now," Young said of Robinson. "I mean, he's been able be dinged and dunked or whatever you want to call it. He's been able to dabble in through practice throughout this whole season … he's been doing a phenomenal job and he's caught on quick and he's got good confidence now."

Part of the reason as to why the freshman has been able to adapt so well is his physical gifts, even as a first-year player.

"Well he's a physical guy, he's a smart guy," Young said. "And I think that's probably the best thing he has going for him. Those two aspects as an offensive lineman, that's pretty good."

With Robinson likely to get the starting nod and a hefty challenge being thrown their way in Brace and Rali, a great deal of uncertainty surrounds the offensive line headed into Saturday. In order to achieve success and following the theme that Irish players and coaches have been alluding to after Pittsburgh — it's time to move on.


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