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Both Zbikowski and Burrell see the field

Justin Schuver | Monday, September 6, 2004

PROVO, Utah – Irish coaches surprised many when the starting defense for Notre Dame came onto the field and both Quentin Burrell and Tom Zbikowski ran onto the turf.Burrell and Zbikowski were expected to compete for the starting position at free safety, with Lionel Bolen the projected starter at strong safety, but Notre Dame’s coaches elected to start both players on Saturday. Zbikowski moved over to strong safety and made five tackles, while Burrell played free safety and made six tackles.”It was a decision we made last week,” Irish defensive coordinator Kent Baer said. “We wanted to get our best players on the field and I thought we did that and I thought [Zbikowski] played really well.”

Grant remains parked on benchNotre Dame running back Ryan Grant, who said earlier in the week that he felt “about 95 percent,” did not play in Saturday’s loss as he continues to recover from an injury suffered in practice earlier this fall.Sophomore Travis Thomas started the game in Grant’s place but proved ineffective behind a line that struggled to pick up blitz packages and run block. Thomas fumbled twice, losing one, and collected just two yards on six carries. Senior Marcus Wilson took over after Thomas’ second fumble and ended the game with 22 yards on nine carries.Irish coaches refused to attribute Notre Dame’s lack of a running game to the loss of Grant, who collected over 1,000 yards rushing for the Irish in 2002.”I don’t think it can place our inability to run the football on the absence of Ryan,” Irish head coach Tyrone Willingham said. “I think more than anything else it was their defensive scheme and our inability to get much of a push up front that kept both our passing game and our running game from being what we wanted it to be.”

Hobbled Hoyte still able to contributeIrish linebacker Brandon Hoyte played several productive minutes for Notre Dame on defense Saturday, despite the fact that he injured his arm in practice last week and did not participate in the preseason scrimmage Aug. 27. Hoyte finished the game as Notre Dame’s third-leading tackler with six tackles total including five solo tackles and two tackles for a loss. He also had a sack for a loss of eight yards.”Brandon played a pretty good ball game,” Baer said. “He was all over the place and looked pretty good out there.”Hoyte was second on the team in tackles in 2003 with 74 behind team leader Courtney Watson, who had 117 total tackles.

Defense remains offensivePreston Jackson’s interception return for a score in the fourth quarter of Notre Dame’s loss to BYU Saturday marked the 27th time the Irish have scored on defense during the past six seasons [1999-2004]. That mark ties for the eighth-best scoring defense in the nation during that time period, but Jackson’s return didn’t make up for a lack of ability to stop the Cougars receivers on key plays.”[Jackson’s interception] was a big play,” Baer said. “It’s something we always talk about as a team is scoring on defense, but we needed to get another one.”The ball was on the ground a few times and we didn’t get it, there were some crucial situations there where we just couldn’t make it happen.”

Game captainsCaptains for the game Saturday were defensive end Kyle Budinscak, linebacker Derek Curry, tight end Billy Palmer and fullback Rashon Powers-Neal.