Players are only measured by their performances against the Irish this season.
Embrace the pain one last time, folks...
Skill Position Starters
- Quarterback – Tate Forcier, Michigan: 23-33 for 242 yards and 2 touchdowns (vs. one interception). Forcier also ran for 70 yards on 13 carries including a 31-yard 4th and 3 touchdown juke and sprint to give the Wolverines a 4th Quarter lead. The Irish were helpless vs. Forcier's mobility and the true freshman led the rival Wolverines on a 57-yard scoring drive to win the game in the final minute.
- Running Back – Toby Gerhart, Stanford: A one-man wrecking crew with 29 carries for 205 yards and three touchdowns. Gerhart added a 4th down passing score for good measure.
- Running Back – Dion Lewis, Pittsburgh: Too quick for Irish linebackers; too fast and powerful for the secondary. The fabulous freshman finished with 152 rushing yards on 21 carries including a 50-yard touchdown late in the 3rd Quarter.
- Fullback – Vince Murray, Navy: 14 carries for 152 yards and a 25-yard touchdown. Posted eight carries in excess of 10 yards.
- Wide Receiver – Jonathan Baldwin, Pittsburgh: Five receptions (at least three spectacular in nature) for 142 yards and a touchdown. Baldwin's receptions covered 15, 21, 36, 51, and 19 yards.
- Wide Receiver – Rich Gunnell, Boston College: 10 receptions (9 from the slot) for 179 yards and a touchdown. 9 of Gunnell's 10 receptions resulted in first downs.
- Tight End – Anthony McCoy, USC: Five receptions for 153 yards; McCoy's receptions covered 35, 23, 7, 60, and 28 yards.
- Others Considered: QB Ricky Dobbs (Navy) and Matt Barkley (USC); WR Blair White and Mark Dell (MSU), Keith Smith (Purdue), and Damian Williams (USC); RB: Carlos Polk (Washington); Jordan Todman (who could double as the kick returner) and Andre Dixon (UConn).
Rather than rank them individually (I can't watch those tapes a third time until the summer), I've ranked them in terms of performance, taking into account the situation of the game and the talent around them.
- Navy – 383 rushing yards on 57 triple-option carries with just three resulting in lost yardage. Holy Cow.
- UConn – Mashed the Irish in the second half and overtime and finished with 231 rushing yards against Notre Dame's 4-4 defensive alignment designed to stop the power game and seal the edge.
- Stanford – 48 rushes for 280 yards though much of the credit for that performance must go to the hard-charging Gerhart.
- Honorable Mention – Pittsburgh: 429 total yards; no sacks allowed.
All-Opponent Team: Defense
- Defensive End – Ryan Kerrigan, Purdue: Eight tackles, two for lost yardage including a sack of quarterback Jimmy Clausen on 4th down.
- Defensive End – Everson Griffen, USC: Four tackles (including two sacks); a pass break-up and two QB pressures/hits. That and the fact that he totally dominated the first three quarters defensively.
- Defensive Tackle – Jurrell Casey, USC: Ten tackles (one for lost yardage) a forced fumble and a QB hit/pressure…incredible production for an interior defensive lineman.
- Defensive Tackle – Gus Mustakas, Pittsburgh: Two tackles, both for lost yardage (of 13 yards), a sack, and two QB pressures/hits.
- Linebacker – Luke Kuechly, Boston College: 14 tackles (including one for lost yardage) and a key 3rd Down pass break-up on Notre Dame's final offensive drive (an interception that was overturned by replay). Notre Dame could not block the underrated Kuechly on October 24.
- Linebacker – Ram Vella, Navy: 9 tackles (including one for lost yardage); a fumble recovery, and end zone interception, two pass breakups and two QB pressures/hits. You've got to be kidding me…
- Linebacker – Lawrence Wilson, Connecticut: 16 tackles and a fumble recovery in the home finale.
- Cornerback – Desmond Trufant, Washington: Six tackles including one for lost yardage; a fumble recovery touchdown, two pass break-ups and a QB pressure/hit on Clausen. Then again, Golden Tate did tear him up.
- Cornerback – Blidi Wreh-Wilson, Connecticut: Four tackles and two pass breakups including the play-of-the game, cutting off Golden Tate's 3rd Down slant route in overtime to force a Notre Dame field goal. UConn won on its next possession.
- Safety – Marcellus Bowman, Boston College: Eight tackles and a brutal 4th Down hit at the goal line to stop the Irish and running back Robert Hughes early in the 4th Quarter.
- Safety – Taylor Mays: Ten tackles but this nomination is the result of the dearth of plays made by safeties vs. the Irish this season. Golden Tate absorbed two Mays hits for touchdowns in the second half of Notre Dame's 34-27 loss to the Trojans.
Coaching Staff: Navy, apparently…