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Riddick, rushing attack ready for a golden opportunity

Chris Allen | Friday, January 4, 2013

FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. – With three days to go until a monumental BCS National Championship Game, a media throng surrounding him at every turn and a sunny Miami locale outside, Notre Dame senior running back Theo Riddick had an interesting topic on his mind Friday morning – socks.

“Yeah, I’ve got a little something. I’ve got a little fetish for [socks],” Riddick said. “I mean, I won’t elaborate on that. I don’t have [special socks] picked out right now. This year, it just came out of the blue and it’s been working ever since. It’s a little something like [2011 Heisman winner Robert Griffin III].”

If Notre Dame is to win its first national title in 24 years, it will need to rely on the feet under Riddick’s socks and rush the ball effectively against Alabama. Riddick emphasized the importance of the running game to set up a balanced offensive attack.

“You have to pass the ball and you have to run the ball,” he said. “You can’t become one-dimensional against this defense, because if you do they can light you up in a heartbeat.”

Two men with extensive experience in title games – Notre Dame offensive coordinator Chuck Martin and Alabama defensive coordinator Kirby Smart – echoed Riddick’s emphasis on the running game. Smart, who has been a part of two national championship teams as a coach, said title games are usually won in the trenches.

“I certainly think they’re won in the trenches, and I think that’s where they’re really dominant at,” Smart said. I know I haven’t seen their defensive front much, but that’s what everybody talks about, and I know their offensive line has several guys that are going to be playing in the NFL.

“They do a really good job with the run game. That’s what people don’t give them enough credit for to me is their ability to double-team up, run the power game, very similar to our guys.”

Martin, who won two Division II national titles as head coach of Grand Valley State before coming to Notre Dame, said the game would remain simple in the trenches despite the microscope on the title tilt.

“The game is a pretty simple game … a lot of coaches and media try to make it more difficult than it is,” Martin said. “No matter what defense that you put together, you don’t put guys in every gap, and when guys aren’t in the gap Alabama is going to take advantage of that, Notre Dame is going to take advantage of that. As big and strong as both front sevens are, if there’s somebody not in a gap, air is not very big and strong.”

Martin said a key to winning the matchup on the ground is finding space.

“That’s what both teams are trying to do, carve out some space in the run game and make sure their team has no space. Obviously both teams [have] very good offensive lines and very good running backs, so you can’t give them a lot of room. Both teams’ running backs proved that; you give them a little bit and they’ll take a lot.”

For his part, Riddick’s confidence is sky-high as he prepares to run into Alabama’s talented defensive front.

“We think this is our chance and this is our time,” he said.

Contact Chris Allen at callen10@nd.edu