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Football: Line needs to improve running game for BC

Ken Fowler | Friday, October 12, 2007

Two-touchdown victories for winless squads are not normally indications that a team needs to improve.

Then again, Notre Dame isn’t a normal team.

A week after the 20-6 Irish win over UCLA in the Rose Bowl, Notre Dame’s offensive line knows it will have to do a better job opening up holes for its rushing backs and protecting quarterback Jimmy Clausen to have a shot at beating No. 4 Boston College.

“I think we’ve hit some rough spots, like last week against UCLA going against a good run defense,” Irish junior guard Mike Turkovich said. “We’re going against a good run defense this week in Boston College. We know we need to improve, and that’s what we’re trying to do.”

Against UCLA, the Irish surrendered three sacks – a relatively low number for the team this season, but largely the result of three-tight end sets with extra protection for Clausen.

And the rushing game was still an issue. Even excluding sacks, Notre Dame had 65 yards on 35 attempts – not even two yards per carry.

Still, the Irish view the win as a major building block, so to speak.

“I think everyone’s got a little more confidence now that we’ve won a game,” Turkovich said. “I don’t know about for the other players, but I know for me, I didn’t realize how heavy [the losing streak] was on my back.”

Sophomore tackle Sam Young said the three sacks were too many, and there is still work to be done.

“We have to keep building. We’re still not at 100 percent [mentally]”, Young said. “So we’ve just got to keep improving on that and strive for protection.”

He said coach Charlie Weis’ decision the week before the UCLA game to have a very physical practice Tuesday with successively lighter-hitting sessions Wednesday and Thursday paid dividends.

“It’s kind of a game feel – you’re going first team on first team, and like last year we didn’t get that opportunity,” Young said. “It helps definitely when it comes to Saturdays. … When we went against Georgia Tech, we had that problem with speed of the game, and this has really corrected it.”

Still, Young said, there’s work to be done. The Irish are last in the nation in rushing yards and total yards per game. The passing offense is in the bottom 10. And, most importantly, the Irish are 1-5, now facing an undefeated team.

“I think that we have to, no matter who we’re playing … I think the offense needs to pick up the pace a little bit,” Young said. “We’re able to do that when we need to. Last week, we didn’t need to – our defense really carried us, they did a great job. But going into this game, I think we’ve got to establish an identity in the run game.”