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



Irish Insider: Wolverines stifle Irish offense

Kate Gales | Monday, September 18, 2006

The Michigan defensive line pressured Irish quarterback Brady Quinn all afternoon.

The linebackers blitzed and didn’t allow Notre Dame to establish anything resembling a running game.

The secondary eliminated a viable passing game, keeping Notre Dame’s receivers covered and under constant pressure.

Saturday’s story was all about Michigan’s effectiveness against what was considered one of the nation’s top offenses.

“We went in [to the game] with the idea if we were going to have a chance to win, we had to pressure Brady Quinn,” Michigan coach Lloyd Carr said. “We felt we could do that because we have an excellent front. I mean, we’ve got some depth and we’ve got some guys that are very athletic.”

Notre Dame certainly didn’t prove Carr wrong.

Quinn was unable to set his feet all day, and hurries kept him off-balance and unable to hit receivers in stride.

“There was a lot of blitzing, especially later in the game,” Irish coach Charlie Weis said. “I have a lot of respect for their front four.”

But pressuring Quinn was just one facet of a defense that dominated the game from start to finish.

“It wasn’t just their front four – I thought their whole defense played good,” Weis said.

Linebacker Preston Burgess intercepted Quinn twice, one returned 31 yards to halt Notre Dame’s first series. Cornerback Leon Hall added one more, and cornerback Morgan Trent and defensive end LaMarr Woodley picked up fumbles, totaling five Irish turnovers.

“I think this game was a team effort,” Carr said. “But it certainly was, I think, punctuated by our defense.”

The man who put the biggest exclamation mark into the punctuation was Burgess.

The senior linebacker from Warren, Ohio had what Carr called “quite a day.”

That could have been the understatement of the day by Carr.

“I mean, you intercept a ball, run back for the touchdown, then make another big one,” he said.

Burgess’ development wasn’t as smooth as his game against the Irish. After playing strong safety in high school, he moved to linebacker. He saw time as a freshman on special teams, but was quiet on defense last year.

He was anything but placid Saturday and neither was his team.

The Wolverine defense was credited with six quarterback hurries, four pass break ups and five tackles for loss as it wouldn’t let Notre Dame’s offense settle into a rhythm. It took away Irish running back Darius Walker – who led the Irish in rushing with a meager 25 yards – and forced Notre Dame to be “one dimensional,” Carr said.

Although consistent play by the secondary was crucial, praise returned to the front four, which Carr said could be the best he’s had at Michigan.

One of those on the front four was Woodley, who had two tackles, one for a loss and outran Irish tight end John Carlson on a 54-yard fumble return touchdown to top off Michigan’s day.

“Woodley, in my judgment … he’s the real deal,” Carr said. “He’s a captain. He’s a leader. Done a great job.”

Notre Dame would probably agree.