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Irish Insider: Stanford offense looks for spark against ND

Mike Gilloon | Saturday, October 7, 2006

It doesn’t look pretty on paper. Because when sizing Stanford’s seven-game losing string against Notre Dame’s Brady Quinn-led offense, it looks like the Irish are ready to unleash a flurry of points on the Cardinal. That may be true and – if Notre Dame can meet national experts’ blowout predictions of a blowout – must happen. But if Stanford is to stun Notre Dame at home for the first time since 1992, the Cardinal offense must stem that Irish tide and score some points of its own. That’s not impossible, according to one of this weekend’s visitors from Palo Alto. “We’re not playing [the] Four Horsemen and we’re not playing Joe Montana,” said Stanford offensive guard Josiah Vinson. “We’re playing this team who we have played with before and were ahead with a minute and a half to go last year.” The Notre Dame secondary on the field when the Irish trailed 31-30 with a minute and a half remaining against Stanford last season hasn’t changed much personnel-wise. Strong safety Tom Zbikowski, free safety Chinedum Ndukwe and cornerbacks Ambrose Wooden and Mike Richardson started against the Cardinal in 2005 and are all expected to play Saturday, along with freshman cornerback Darrin Walls and junior Terrail Lambert. It isn’t a group that said it will be surprised if the Cardinal plays like it did last year, when the Irish had to rally for the 38-31 win. Zbikowski said he isn’t fooled by the Cardinal’s uncharacteristically poor, winless record. And he doesn’t expect to get anything but Stanford’s best shot. “[Stanford coach Walt Harris] is one of the best offensive coordinators … in the game,” Zbikowski said. “We went out there last year, thinking this will be a pretty easy game and it was a dogfight.” If the Irish are to avoid a dogfight this weekend, the secondary must perform better than it did last week, when Zbikowski left the field scowling – partly because of a hard hit to the head and partly because of his unit’s subpar play. Purdue quarterback Curtis Painter stroked through the Irish defensive backfield for two touchdowns and 398 yards – not statistics that Zbikowski wants to walk away from Saturday night. “[Stanford’s] going to come out and try to prove a point that [it] can play,” Zbikowski said. “We’ve got to be ready to go.”