by John Vannie
Notre Dame plays its final home game of the season on Saturday against the Black Knights of Army. The Irish will celebrate Senior Day, and even the walk-ons should be able to get on the field. Although Bobby Ross’ 3-7 squad enjoyed some early success including a couple of overtime wins, they have lost four in a row and are no match for Brady Quinn and friends.
Army’s situation at quarterback is much less settled. David Pevoto was the starter until the last two games, when freshman Carson Williams earned his shot. After five turnovers against Air Force on November 3, only Ross knows who will start this week. Neither has been particularly effective in the Knights’ pro-style offense, as evidenced by a combined eight touchdown passes against 20 interceptions.
The running game is only marginally better. Leading rusher Wesley McMahand is only 5’6” and 171 pounds. If the Notre Dame defense can find him, he won’t get very far. Freshman tailback Tony Moore is five inches taller and fifty pounds larger, and he will see action as McMahand’s backup. The offensive line is anchored by seniors Pete Bier and Jonathan Cannon, and is generally a full sized group. Tim Dunn is also an emerging weapon at tight end.
The Irish defense should not be overstressed in this ballgame, and for once they do not have to defend an option attack while playing a service academy. There should be plenty of opportunity for substitution such that the Notre Dame coaching staff can take a long look at its young players.
Defensively, the Knights have a few good players among the front seven. End Cameron Craig is solid, while his very talented running mate Brandon Thompson is rounding into form after missing several weeks due to injury. Linebackers Cason Shrode and Barrett Scruggs are very productive players and sure tacklers.
The secondary has missed its star player, strong safety Caleb Campbell, who went down with a season-ending knee injury against Tulane three weeks ago. The rest of the group will face a significant challenge against Notre Dame’s tall and athletic receivers. Army has recorded only three interceptions this season.
Once again, Irish fans are going to be watching the offensive line and the running game. This game should be another confidence builder and a chance to see more of James Aldridge and Munir Prince, although the temptation to throw the ball against the Knights will be difficult to ignore. Quinn will have to get used to life without John Carlson, and it will be interesting to see if Will Yeatman or Konrad Reuland can play with veteran tight end Marcus Freeman.
Coach Ross and his players are excited about the opportunity to play at Notre Dame despite the overwhelming odds. “It’s a football game in which I wanted to play and I still do”, he said this week. “It is going to be fun for me, and I think it will be for our kids too. I think they’re excited about playing in this game. I think they’ll be ready to play this game. We’re going to have some matchup problems during the course of the game. I think we’re going to be ready to play, and if we don’t turn the ball over we can give ourselves a fighting chance.”
Everyone associated with Notre Dame wants to see a well played game in all three phases. Although there have been frustrating breakdowns throughout this season, there will be no excuses if the team cannot deliver this week. Don’t worry, they’ll do just that.
NOTRE DAME 49 ARMY 7