Notre Dame Opponent Watch Week 5: Three New Lessons

Marc HalstedCorrespondent IOctober 4, 2009

LOS ANGELES - NOVEMBER 29:  Stafon Johnson #13 of the USC Trojans carries the ball against Kyle McCarthy #28 of the Notre Dame Fighting Irish on November 29, 2008 at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum in Los Angeles, California.  USC won 38-3.  (Photo by Jeff Golden/Getty Images)

College football's October came in like a lion as the Notre Dame Fighting Irish learned a lot more about what the next two months will bring.  Notre Dame Opponent Watch, Week 5, is here.


Billy and The Boys

The Louisville defensive backs got their hands on two of the first three passes thrown by Pittsburgh’s Bill Stull, Friday night. They would not touch another Stull ball for nearly 45 minutes of action.

Over the next 17 attempts, the Pitt signal caller completed fourteen passes for 219 yards and three touchdowns in route to a convincing 35-10 victory over the Cardinals.

Stull looked poised and confident in finding his big-time big men, Jonathan Baldwin (6-foot-5), Oderick Turner (6-3), and Dorin Dickerson (6-2). The UL defensive backfield was continuously out-routed, out-physicaled, and out-jumped as Pitt out-gained them by 100 total yards.

Stull has now thrown just one interception in 2009 compared to 11 touchdowns. He’s grown from an inconsistent and inferior passer into arguably the Big East’s best. Notre Dame can’t take the Pitt offense lightly, even if LeSean McCoy is gone to the NFL.

Defensively, Louisville struggled to gain significant rushing yards behind 2008 Big East Rookie of the Year Victor Anderson. The entire Cardinal offense accounted for a meek total of 305 yards. 

Looking more closely, UL running backs found the Pitt 4-3 defense nearly impenetrable in the first half, totaling just 15 yards on nine carries attempted between the tackles. In total, the inside running game of Anderson and Co. plodded along for 64 yards on 19 total carries between the bookends.

With Connecticut, Rutgers, South Florida, and Syracuse on the docket over the next month, the Panthers could find the momentum they need to roll into their home matchup with the Irish.
With Bill Stull and the Wannstedt-tough 4-3 defense on the prowl, the Panthers could find the marquee wins they need to catapult themselves into the national consciousness.

Mr. Hyde of Chestnut Hill

Maybe 25-year old Boston College freshman Dave Shinskie was just dusting off his AARP card, shaking out the cobwebs, and cleaning up the rust. 

The now infamous 54-total-yard performance against Clemson two weeks back now feels like two months ago as the Eagles put up 238 first half yards (and 399 overall) against the enigmatic Florida State Seminoles.

The October 24th game at South Bend that once looked to have all the contention of an Irish spring game suddenly contains meaning, significance, and a little trepidation for the ND faithful.

Shinskie, Montel Harris (179 yards), and the BC defense keyed a big 28-21 win against a respected program. They're 4-1 record now looks all that much more impressive.

Shinskie (180 first half yards) fits well into the larger Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde analogy as he becomes the next new or low-rated opposing quarterback that has evolved into a legitimate threat.  In August, most Irish fans were more afraid of Colin Kapaernick than of Tate Forcier, Kirk Cousins, Joey Elliot, Matt Barkley, or Mr. Shinkskie.

Now the ND faithful are anxiously awaiting the return of Dr. Jekyll.  Hopefully, he’ll find his way to Notre Dame Stadium in three weeks.

Cool Kid Chris Fowler

It’s called the “Notre Dame Clause” and it’s apparently been in Chris Fowler’s new ESPN contract since he re-upped with the Mother Ship last summer. 

Every Saturday morning at roughly 11:48am, as the Gameday crew sits in their cute little booth in front of 400 screaming fans from Whatever State University, Fowler low-balls the Irish, finds a way to insult Charlie Weis and his weight in some sarcastic way, and concludes his mini-rant with the shocking proclamation that Notre Dame’s 2009 schedule is pathetically easy.

Thanks Chris, nobody had heard that piece of news lately. But really, how tough is it now?

We don’t have the time or space to play the “they beat who” game and Todd McShay isn’t available to discuss the first-day NFL draft futures of Colin Kaepernick, Jake Locker, Brandon Graham, or Greg Jones. Let’s just look at one key position, running back, and let’s keep it quantitatively simple.

PAST: The Irish stopped Ralph Boldin of Purdue (No. 10 nationally in total yards) and Washington’s Chris Polk (No. 24).

PRESENT: ND has two weeks to prepare for Joe McNight of USC (No. 19) and the 1040-yard Trojan ground game.

FUTURE: The Domers have a second half loaded with rushing talent. National rushing leader Toby Gerhart of Stanford (650 yards and 8 touchdowns) and No. 5 overall Dion Lewis of Pittsburgh (580 and 7) lead the charge.  Montel Harris of BC (No. 25), Jordan Todman (No. 35) and Andrew Dixon (No. 39) of Connecticut, and Ricky Dobbs of Navy (No. 36) also currently rank among the top 40 backs in the nation.

The past was tough, the present is formidable, and the future looks downright daunting.
Maybe Chris Fowler should start spending more of his valuable prep-time doing his homework and less of his time preparing for the latest Weis crack, schedule slap, or sardonic Fighting Irish insult.

Maybe Fowler should quit the “Cool Kid” thing, stop pandering to the low-brow ignorant masses, and start showing the battle-tested 4-1 Blue and Gold the respect they deserve.