Before we jump ahead of ourselves, Notre Dame is still not back... yet. With a 5-2 record, the Fighting Irish faithful are jubilated despite losses at Michigan State & at North Carolina. This week, the Golden Domers take on a Pittsburgh Panther team that is not short on talent as much as they are short on coaching. A "Weis Strategy" for Notre Dame will be stopping the nation's hottest running back, Pitt's very own LeSean McCoy.
It all comes down to the "Three Weis Men." Defensive tackle Pat Kuntz, linebacker Maurice Crum Jr., and safety David Bruton will head the Notre Dame defense which is allowing 120-yards per game on the ground.
Versus Michigan, Notre Dame gave up 159 rushing yards and 1 touchdown in a win. In their first loss at the Spartans, Michigan State running back Javon Ringer led the way when the Spartans topped the 200 yards rushed mark. Michigan State also reached paydirt via the ground twice in that ball game.
Pittsburgh running back LeSean McCoy is featured this week at Pro Draft Guide. To quote Prospect Preview: 5 Stars to Watch on November 1:
After a brilliant redshirt freshman season, McCoy started 2008 off slow with fumbling issues and apparently a lack of vision for finding the running lane. Since the third game of the year though, McCoy has found his niche and has been unstoppable. This draft-eligibile redshirt sophomore is averaging 148.3 rushing yards per game over the last 4 games. He has scored 9 touchdowns over the same 4-game span.
LeSean McCoy is second in the nation in touchdowns scored (tied with MiQuale Lewis (Ball State), Donald Brown (Connecticut)). This week, he faces a stiff Fighting Irish defense that is allowing a solid 120 yards per game. Notre Dame is barely allowing 4-yards per carry while LeSean McCoy is averaging over 6-yards per carry over the last four weeks. Something will have to give.
Nothing sums up this battle between the Golden Domers of South Bend and the Pitt Panthers better.
As we seen versus Michigan, the Fighting Irish can still give up a ton of yardage on the ground and still win but limiting LeSean McCoy's time on the field will ease Notre Dame's path to their 6th win.
Linebacker Maurice Crum Jr. is one of the top run stuffers this side of the Mississippi River. He is the son of former Miami Hurricane and pro player Maurice Crum Sr. Defensive tackle Pat Kuntz is a hog in the middle. While he doesn't get much pressure on the quarterback, he is more than adequate against the run.
The key will be safety David Bruton, the third of the "Three Weis Men." With Pittsburgh having to start backup Pat Bostick due to an injury to incumbent Bill Stull, Bruton will be the eighth man in the box. Bruton has mixed it up on 57 total tackles. He has 1.5 tackles for a loss but that number could grow today. Twice this year, Bruton has tallied more than 10 tackles in a game.
The effort that Bruton makes to help Kuntz, Crum, and the rest of the defense will only further Notre Dame's cause. That is the key to a victory over the 5-2 Pitt Panthers. David Bruton has rarely played out of position this year.
Head coach Charlie Weis and the Golden Domers should find success as long as they stop LeSean McCoy. After all, Pitt is ranked in the middle of the pack nationally in passing offense with Bill Stull.
Stull is out, Bostick is in. McCoy has set the gridiron ablaze over Pitt's last four games. The only "Weis Strategy" is to try to stop LeSean McCoy. If not, Notre Dame could be in for a long day while McCoy makes his case known for the Heisman Trophy.