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Seniors make mark ‘on a mission’

Ken Fowler | Monday, November 20, 2006

Derek Landri did it again.

Notre Dame’s 6-foot-3, 277-pound defensive tackle blocked another field goal Saturday – this time, a 39-yard attempt by Army kicker Austin Miller with 2:55 left in the third quarter. It was Landri’s fourth blocked kick of the season.

“It’s a good thing,” Landri said. “It’s one of those things where it’s another chance to keep points off the board.”

But it did more than that. The block came just four plays after Notre Dame failed to convert on fourth down with a yard and a half to go from its own 22.

Even though Irish coach Charlie Weis said it was a “dumb” decision to send the offense out on fourth down, he was happy with the result.

“It turned out great because we got stoned, I could be miserable, and the defense held them and we blocked the kick,” Weis said. “There’s a lot of good things that happened with that bad one. … We block a kick, okay, and that now is a teaching tool where I can say to the defense or to the special teams, ‘That’s the way to cover for your dumb head coach.'”

But Landri’s play all day Saturday hid almost every Irish defensive coaching weakness that may have existed. And for his part, Landri said the defensive line’s usual “confidence and swagger” showed up Saturday, along with sound preparation.

“We knew what they were going to bring and how they played,” he said. “What we saw on film was what we got.”

The senior from Concord, Calif., had seven tackles on the day, including 4.5 for losses and two sacks.

But Landri’s play, Weis said, went beyond those stats.

“When I watched [the tape], it seemed like every time I turned around he was in the backfield,” Weis said. “It wasn’t just the two sacks. I mean, there’s tackles for losses. I mean, he was in the backfield all day. He was playing on a mission.”

Landri, however, wasn’t the only defender playing on a mission on Senior Day.

Irish cornerback Mike Richardson, much maligned early in his Irish career, continued his solid play in 2006 with two interceptions.

On the first, Richardson picked off a pass from Black Knights starter Carson Williams to the left sideline four minutes into the second half. Williams didn’t reach the receiver, and Richardson made his first interception of the season.

“We were working on that type of route in practice all week. I was able to come up and undercut the up-and-out route,” Richardson said.

He made his second interception off backup Army quarterback David Pevoto less than two minutes into the fourth quarter.

“Mike has been pretty solid most of the year,” Weis said. “He’s probably been one of the most steady players we have. I think it was really good for him with those two interceptions, and I think that he’s been – out of all the players on defense, I’d have to say he’s been probably one of the steadiest from the start to the end.”