Although the Mountaineers and Fighting Irish have only played three times it always seems to be an exciting battle. Who could ever forget the 21-34 loss to the Irish in the 1988 Fiesta Bowl? In that game the Mountaineers started slow and could never recover from the injury to Major Harris. In 1997 Amos Zereoue went to South Bend and rushed for 234 yards and 2 TD's but Marc Bulger's interception by Ivory Covington late in the fourth quarter crushed WVU's hopes. Last year the Irish came to Morgantown for the first time and beat the Mountaineers 42-28. WVU scored the games last two touchdowns to make to score respectable but 2 big running plays were the cause of the Mountaineer defeat (80 and 73 yard TD's by the Irish).
Irish players to watch:
Notre Dame: QB Carlyle Holiday, TB Tony Fisher, TB Julius Jones, C Jeff Faine, LT Jordan Black, SE Javin Hunter, LB Tyreo Harrison, LB Courntey Watson, LB Rocky Boiman, FS Donald Dykes, P Joey Hildbold
WVU - Rasheed Marshall (Wrist) Out, Grant Wiley (Hamstirng) Questionable
Notre Dame - Arnaz Battle (Leg) Out, Jeff Faine (Foot) Probable, Georome Sapp (Shoulder) Probably, Tony Fisher (Knee) Probable, Grant Irons (Ankle) Probable, Ron Israel (Hamstring) Probable, Clifford Jefferson (Ankle) Probable
WVU 2-3, 0-2
Notre Dame 1-3
Sat. 10/13 2:30 p.m.
South Bend, IN
Series: ND 0-3-0
BCS: WVU-61 ND-71
Line: Irish -12
Stats & Trends
"It's just a matter of time...it could start to click during any game". That's what I keep telling myself about Rich Rodriguez spread offense and that is what I believe. Coach Rodriguez will get this thing going, there is no doubt in my mind about it. Unfortunately, it might not be anytime soon before this offense performs like a Ferrari instead of an AMC Gremlin.
I feel that Brad Lewis will start this game but Rodriguez will have a short leash on his senior signal caller so you can look for Derek Jones to see some playing time. Notre Dame's defense cannot be confused with the Hokies', but the Irish are tough up the middle and have a talented core of defensive backs. The Notre Dame defense is ranked 18th in total defense (286 yds/gm) and is ranked 31st in scoring defense (18.75 pts/gm).
In order for the WVU QB to find open receivers the offensive line will need to put a helmet on Courtney Waston who is averaging about 13 tackles a game. If the offensive line is unable to stop in the Irish rush then Avon Cobourne will have another long day running the ball and Lewis and/or Jones will spend all day looking up at Touchdown Jesus.
Here's more good news: the Notre Dame defense has been particularly good in the second half of games. They have not allowed a point in the 3rd quarter of their first 4 games and have allowed only 14 points in the 4th quarter (one TD was a blocked punt return).
Advantage : Notre Dame
WVU defense vs. Notre Dame offense
This will be where the game is won or lost for WVU. Let's face it, the Mountaineer run defense has been like Taliban's military installations: full of holes. Unfortunately, the going doesn't get any easier this week. The Irish run the ball 63% of the time while passing 37% of the time which plays right into the Mountaineer weakness.
Don't get me wrong, the Mountaineer defense can stop the Irish running game. Notre Dame averages only 129.5 yds/gm rushing (78th nationally) and 108.5 yds/gm passing (115th nationally). For the most part the WVU coaching staff have put the players in the right positions, but the basic skills of pursuit and tackling have not been up to par.
The Mountaineers' defense will also need to force at least 2 turnovers to win this game. Notre Dame was stingy with the ball last year but this year the Irish have given away more than they have taken. If the Mountaineers can get some turnovers or some quick "3 and outs" then the defense can rest and the WVU spread attack can wear down the Notre Dame defense.
One thing that the Mountaineer defense definitely wants to avoid is letting the Irish offense into the redzone. Notre Dame has scored 7 out of 8 times in the opponents redzone, including 4 TD's and 3 field goals. The Irish do not have a potent passing attack but if Notre Dame getting their running game going behind their offense line, which includes 3 talented lineman (Jordan Black, Kurt Vollers and Jeff Faine) it will be another long day for the WVU defense.
Advantage: Notre Dame
Coming into this game, Notre Dame and West Virginia have performed well on special teams. The Fighting Irish kicking tandem is one of the best in the country. Placekicker, Nicholas Setta is 4-4 on field goals and 5-5 on extra points, his longest field goal this year is 47 yards. Punter Joey Hildbold is ranked 8th in the nation with a 45.19 yard average and is a Ray Guy Award candidate.
The Mountaineers also have a strong set of kickers. Mark Fazzilori is averaging 42.38 yards/ punt (31st nationally) and Brendan Rauh is averaging 1.5 field goals/game (13th nationally) and is scoring 7.5 points/game (52nd nationally). With both teams' kickers being solid it will come down to the return game, which is where WVU will struggle.
The Irish have one of the nations top kick returners. Julius Jones averages 11.91 yards/punt return (27th nationally) and 22.14 yards/kick return (62nd nationally). The Mountaineers have Shawn Terry who is ranked 19th nationally in kick returns and can break one at any time. The problem with this match-up is that the Mountaineers have been allowing too many long punt and kick returns while Notre Dame covers kick-offs and punts very well. This slight difference gives the Fighting Irish the edge on special teams.
Advantage : Notre Dame
Picks to Click:
On Offense: Anybody...Please!!!
On Defense: Richard Bryant
Stat of the week:
Since Bob Davie took over the Notre Dame program in 1997 the Irish have gone 11-0 at home in games in which they were favored by more than 10 points. The Irish have covered the spread only 4 times in those games. Notre Dame has won 14 straight games in October.
This is the first time that the Mountaineers and Irish have played when neither team is ranked. Notre Dame is having a down year with their only victory coming against lowly Pitt and West Virginia is 0-2 in the Big East but 2-0 in the MAC. Not the numbers NBC was looking for from this nationally televised game. When it comes right down to it, Notre Dame has better athletes and is playing under the watchful eye of Touchdown Jesus.
Socre: Notre Dame 24 - WVU 13
|Other Big East Games|
|VT 45 at Boston College 10|
|Syracuse 31 at Pitt 9|
|Rutgers 21 at Temple 27|
|Miami Fl. 38 at Florida St. 27|