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In the eye of the Storm

Joe Hettler | Thursday, September 11, 2003

Notre Dame’s offense barely survived the numerous blitzing schemes Washington State threw at them last Saturday.

This weekend against Michigan, the Irish will use the experience they gained from that pressure to improve an offense that gained 312 yards in a 29-26 overtime win against the Cougars.

“The more you do blitz pickup, the more [you get] the front unit working together and the backs working with them,” offensive coordinator Bill Diedrick said. “I don’t think there’s any question [experience will help].”

Washington State pressured Irish quarterback Carlyle Holiday all day with its blitz schemes, especially in the first half. Blindside and frontside pressure from the Cougar secondary caused Holiday to take hits and cough up the football.

“If you take a lot of hits, you’re going to start feeling the pressure,” Holiday said. “You’re going to have to because that’s the only option. You’re going to become aware of where everyone is.”

Holiday didn’t feel the pressure on several occasions in the first half and fumbled four times – one of which was returned for a touchdown. Holiday understands that he must feel the presence of opposing defenders and either scramble or get rid of the football, instead of taking a sack or making a costly fumble. He said this week in practice has helped him in that situation.

“Quarterbacks don’t get hit at practice, but at the same time you have to use everything like a game situation, so when you see that guys are coming you have to step and get rid of the ball.”

The Washington State pressure not only caused fumbles, but also forced Holiday out of his progressions. Ideally, Holiday will have about 3.5 seconds to check each of his three receivers on any given pass play. Last Saturday, the offensive line couldn’t keep the Cougars off Holiday long enough for him to check more than one, or sometimes, two receivers before being sacked or forced to throw the ball away.

“Overall through camp, I think Holiday’s done a good job going through his progression,” Diedrick said. “Sometimes you may not have a progression. You may have one receiver, and that might be a guy that’s hot or that might be the primary guy. You might not have the luxury of going to you favorite receiver.”

Holiday admitted the team struggled last week, but said the coaches made adjustments at halftime, and that was the difference between the first half and the second half.

“Last week at halftime we adjusted, and we were able to pick up the pressure. When they did blitz us in the second half we were able to pick it up and take advantage of it,” Holiday said.