Nick Shepkowski, Domer Sports Report
Notre Dame Football
As we enter the second half of the 2008 regular season the Irish seem to be primed to make a bowl appearance, something that seems like somewhat of an accomplishment after last year. Game seven sends Notre Dame to the great northwest to try and conquer ole' Ty once again as the 4-2 Fighting Irish take on the 0-6 Washington Huskies in a primetime game this Saturday night on ESPN2.
When the 2008 schedule was put together years ago, Washington was in the midst of a run which included eight straight bowl appearances and a victory in the 2001 Rose Bowl over Purdue. Sadly for Washington fans, the Huskies have not returned to a bowl game since the Sun Bowl on New Years Eve in 2002, a loss to that same Purdue team.
In 2008 it is safe to say the 0-6 Huskies will be waiting until at least 2009 to make a return trip the postseason. What is it exactly that has caused the problems for Washington this year? All one needs to do is look at the "points allowed" column to see that the Huskies give up 40.6 PPG. Give them credit in scheduling the big dogs like Oklahoma and BYU as well as Notre Dame in the non-conference slate, especially when you compare their schedule to the likes of the Arizona's and Washington State's of the Pac-10.
The biggest worry for Huskies fans going into this Saturday is the fact that Jake Locker will not be under center, due to a broken thumb. Locker not only was the quarterback of this team, but also leads the Huskies in rushing yards as well. Needless to say, losing him has made a bad team even that much more horrendous this season.
Not only has the defense been a dark spot for Washington, but the offense hasn't exactly 'lit up the joint' either. The offense has put together 17.6 ppg on average, not great but not terrible...until you look at the fact that exactly 20% of their points this season have been scored while trailing by thirty or more points.
This Washington team is shaping up to be just what the doctor ordered to stop the Notre Dame traveling blues. With Locker out, Ronnie Fouch will be left with the quarterback duties for Washington. Fouch, a sophomore, has thrown for 782 yards and three scores this season, completing 50% of his passes and throwing four interceptions. Don't blame Fouch or Locker for any of this, but the Huskies just do not have the talent on offense to be putting up many points a game.
David Freeman leads the Huskies in rushing yards (136) outside of the versatile Locker, but has not played since their matchup with Stanford on September 27th. Freshman Terrance Dailey has emerged on the scene as a capable back, running for a 59 yard touchdown against Oregon State last week. The bad news with Dailey - his other 21 carries this season have gone for just 61 total yards. Brandon Johnson has seen the ball the most times for Washington, but his touches have diminished in recent weeks. Johnson has had 32 carries for 63 yards, but only had two carries a week ago against the Beavers. As you can tell by the numbers, this shouldn't be a team who can run all over Notre Dame. Then again, the Irish run defense has been far from great. But, expect to see improvement in that aspect this week.
D'Andre Goodwin is the weapon of choice of the wideouts for Washington, pulling in 32 receptions for 451 yards (14.1 per). Jermaine Kearse and Devin Aguilar have each compiled over 200 yards receiving, but Kearse has the only two touchdowns of the three names mentioned. As implied throughout, this is a weak offense all around and the receivers are just another example of that. Defensively, expect Notre Dame to have many successes against this Washington team.
The Huskies enter Saturday with the 115th best run defense in the nation, giving up 232.8 yards a contest alone on the ground. At 98th best, the pass defense looks that much better as they allow 250 more yards a game. Daniel Te'o-Nesheim leads the Huskies as he has come up with their only three sacks in 2008 from his defensive tackle position. Mason Foster leads the defense with 50 tackles, good for second most in the Pac-10. Nate Williams has added 43, good for 7th in the conference as well. The defense has only forced two turnovers all season long, both being interceptions.
Notre Dame is headed west this Saturday and look to make it 5-2 on the season. Washington has been a program that has hit the ruts under Ty Willingham's watch and many Irish fans would like to see nothing more than Notre Dame clobber their old coach and keep him 0-'08 another week. With the two products that will be out on the field Saturday, Notre Dame's will offer a much better brand of football. Vegas says Notre Dame by 11, we here at Domer Sports Report say:
Nick (5-1): Notre Dame 44 Washington 17
Mark (6-0): Notre Dame 42 Washington 20
Makes you just long for the days, doesn't it?