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Irish Insider: Irish line hopes to dominate in the trenches

Ken Fowler | Friday, September 8, 2006

Notre Dame’s offensive line can’t focus on any mistakes it made against Georgia Tech. It’ll have a big enough task handling Penn State this Saturday.

The Nittany Lions surrendered just 33 yards rushing to Akron last weekend in a dominant performance. The hybrid 4-3-4 defense that Penn State utilizes surrendered just 225 as a whole.

Jay Alford, a 6-foot-3, 288-pound senior lines up at left tackle, next to fellow seniors Ed Johnson at right tackle and Jim Shaw on the right end.

Athletic senior linebacker/lineman Tim Shaw lines up at the left end position on the defensive line in a two-point stance. At 6-foot-1 and 237 pounds, Shaw creates problems for offensive lines.

He had two tackles against Akron, resulting in 15 yards lost for the Zips.

“I think Tim Shaw did a good job, and he’s a good athlete who can run,” Nittany Lions coach Joe Paterno said during a teleconference Tuesday. “I want to keep him in the football game.”

The Irish offensive line didn’t have as good of a showing against Tech, allowing two sacks of quarterback Brady Quinn and 10 “hurries.”

For the Irish, last Saturday was a game they’d rather forget.

“I don’t want to focus on Georgia Tech and compare the two teams,” senior center John Sullivan said.

Four-year starting left tackle Ryan Harris echoed Sullivan’s comments about the “lesser performance” of the offensive line against the Yellow jackets.

“There are peaks and valleys in a game and in a season, and we will overcome [the performance against Tech],” he said. “This is something you’ve got to put behind you. You learn from it … and you move on.

Harris made two costly penalties in the fourth quarter against the Yellow Jackets, a 15-yard leg whip and a 10-yard holding call.

“The penalties really hurt us,” Harris said. “You can’t play a good game with the amount of penalties we had, myself included.”

Freshman starter Sam Young was shaky at times, but Harris said Young, for the most part, “held his own.”

“When [Young] came in, he was a little nervous … but I think he calmed down,” Harris said. “We’re proud of him.”

Young will have to deal with Shaw this time – and that’s a battle Harris thinks the freshman can win.

“Nothing [Young] does surprises us, and we really feel he’s going to be one of the best tackles in the country,” Harris said.

Offensive line coach John Latina said Penn State’s depth will cause a problem if Notre Dame’s offensive line wears down toward the end of the game.

“They have a lot of good athletes,” he said.

What may be more of a concern is if the Nittany Lions play better against Notre Dame than they did against Akron – and that’s exactly what Paterno is hoping for.

“I think a good football team gets better from the first game to the second game of the year more than between any other games of the year,” he said.

If the Irish don’t come out much better than they did against the Yellow Jackets, it could be a long day for Notre Dame.