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Landri, Laws combine to shut down runs

Pat Leonard | Friday, September 30, 2005

Opponents can’t run the ball against Notre Dame.

For as long as nose tackle Derek Landri has lined up wearing blue and gold, that much has been true.

In his junior season in 2004 – the second year Landri saw action – the Irish gave up only 88.2 rush yards per game. Landri combined with former defensive tackle Greg Pauly that season to make 77 tackles, 12 1/2 tackles for loss, and he made almost half of his own wrap-ups (19 of 40) solo.

Four games into the 2005 season, the final stats in the opponents’ rushing column haven’t changed much, and Landri knows part of the reason.

“I had great chemistry with [former Irish defensive tackle Greg] Pauly,” he said, “and I think me and Laws just picked up where that left off.”

Trevor Laws, a 6-foot-1, 293-pound junior, and Landri (6-foot-3, 263) are not the leading tacklers on Notre Dame’s defense. Their numbers are not called often. But the two interior defensive linemen apply pressure in the middle of the field that, so far, has kept opponents’ running threats – be it tailback or mobile quarterback – at bay.

“You hear them talk about the Landri/Laws combo, and I like that,” Laws said. “I think teams know they won’t be able to run the ball against us, and that’s why they pass the ball more.”

After four games, Landri has eight tackles, Laws has four and backup tackle Brian Beidatsch has six. With opponents throwing the ball often, though, the Irish linemen have found a majority of the plays occurring behind them.

But when teams try to go back to the run, they do not find much success.

Pittsburgh, Michigan, Michigan State and Washington managed an average of 104.8 rush yards per game against the Irish thus far. Though Washington exploited the Notre Dame secondary with an air attack, when the Huskies did run the ball, the result was a measly 41 yards on 22 carries.

In addition to keying in on teams’ top tailbacks and fullbacks, the Irish rush defense also has done a quiet but efficient job of keeping mobile quarterbacks from hurting them with their legs.

Prior to playing Michigan State, Landri, Laws and the linemen heard enough about Drew Stanton’s mobility. Stanton finished with 48 yards rushing on 14 carries, just a 3.4-yard average.

Prior to facing Washington, the media talked up Huskies quarterback Isaiah Stanback’s rushing prowess – seven carries, eight yards.

“On some plays, the D-linemen don’t even rush,” Laws said. “We’ll just spy the quarterback.”

Purdue will present a multi-faceted rushing attack in Saturday evening’s game, with the Boilermakers averaging 210 rush yards per game. Behind mobile quarterback Brandon Kirsch, the team now runs the option out of the shotgun on occasion, depending on how Kirsch reads the defense.

And the Boilermakers’ top two rushers – Jerod Void and Kory Sheets – average over 6.0 yards per carry.

This makes Notre Dame’s challenge different from previous years’ games against Purdue, when a more one-dimensional passing threat made shutting down the run early more final and sufficient.

“When a team is basically a throwing team first, if you can go in there and make sure that they don’t run the ball on you, at least you’ll have a fighting chance because you can play a mentality where they are just going to throw it on every down,” Weis said at his Tuesday afternoon press conference. “Now, you no longer can perceive their offense as one dimensional.”

Even though Purdue no longer has a one-dimensional offense, that doesn’t mean Landri and Laws cannot make it so.