The Observer is a Student-run, daily print & online newspaper serving Notre Dame & Saint Mary's. Learn more about us.



Sunday’s matchup dubbed a ‘must-win’ for Stanford

Joe Meixell | Friday, September 24, 2004

The second week of the season is rarely considered “do-or-die” time. But don’t tell that to Stanford captain Vin Monaco.

“We know that if we lose two games this early, we will probably be out of the playoffs,” Monaco said. “This is a must-win game for us.”

Standing in the Griffins’ way will be last year’s interhall football runner-up, Dillon. The two are set to square off Sunday at 1 p.m. on Riehle North Field.

Stanford will try to rebound from its disappointing 7-6 opening game loss to Keenan in which the Griffins totaled a measly 20 yards of offense. Monaco blamed the struggles on predictable play calling and an inability to establish the run, but promised that an overhauled playbook would get the offense back on track.

“We’ve been retooling our offense in practice all week,” Stanford quarterback Matt McQueary said.

Stanford has added several new plays which it believes will allow the running game to take off with tailbacks Dan Campion and Rudi Nkinzingabo. The Griffins hope a consistent rushing game will open things up for the passing attack.

Dillon, on the other hand, had a bye last week and will be playing its first game of the season. The Big Red’s lack of game experience worries captain Mike Roaldi.

“It’s definitely a disadvantage in the first half in terms of game speed and knowing when to make your cuts, but we think we can handle it,” Roaldi said. “We’ll just have to get into it as fast as we can.”

Dillon will fall back on its tradition of dominant rushing offense. The Big Red has run the same wing-t offense for the past five years. This season will be no different as the team plans on running the ball 90 percent of the time.

Stanford realizes it must stop the Dillon rushing attack. The team’s defensive performance against Keenan leaves plenty of room for optimism.

“The defense played very well,” McQueary said. “They forced a lot of turnovers and gave us great field position.”

In addition, Stanford doubts that it will see anything too unexpected from the Big Red.

“We have a pretty good idea of what plays they will run, but this is the first time in the last four years that we have the personnel to match up,” Monaco said. “I think we will be able to neutralize their offense for the first time this year.”

Monaco feels the key to victory will lie in his team’s attitude. The captain wants the Griffins to come out with much more fire and intensity than they did last Sunday.

Dillon believes the game hinges on its ability to run and hold onto the football.

“If we can control the time of possession, we will win,” Roaldi said.

Keenan vs. Morrissey

Defense will be the name of the game this week as Morrissey takes on Keenan Sunday at Riehle Field.

Both teams took home victories last week with impressive defensive performances, each giving up just six points.

“Any time you step on the field you want to get the win, and we did,” Morrissey senior captain and wide receiver/defensive back Aaron Ronsheim said about last week’s victory over O’Neill.

The Morrissey offense was equally impressive, rushing for over 100 yards against the Angry Mob. It will again look to running back Nick Klein to lead its scoring attack Sunday.

“We’d like to keep it on the ground again,” Ronsheim said. “Our offensive line will be the key.”

Sophomore center Tony Cunningham and senior guard Dave Esparza will anchor Morrissey’s line against a Keenan defense that gave up just 20 total yards to Stanford, including an impressive negative-15 in the second half.

“We played well, but there are still a lot of mistakes – penalties and turnovers being the big ones,” Keenan senior captain Pat Downey said.

Those mistakes included two separate touchdowns being called back by penalties, including a 56-yard punt return called back on a clipping penalty.

“Hopefully we can chalk it up to first-game jitters,” Downey said. “We worked this week to eliminate the mistakes.”

Morrissey will also attempt to eliminate some first game mistakes, including two turnovers.

“We have to take care of the ball,” Ronsheim said.

Meanwhile, on offense, the Knights will look to establish their running game behind sophomore running back Alex Staffieri.

Downey knows this will be difficult to do against a Morrissey defense built on stopping the run, and the Knights will again look to sophomore quarterback Eric Laumann and wide receiver Dan Zenker for leadership on offense.

“You have to take what the defense gives you,” Downey said.

The 3 p.m. game looks to be an intense showdown between two playoff-caliber teams, and both appear to have the same game plan.

“You line up your guys, we’ll line up ours and we’ll see who is better,” Downey said.