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Football: Abiamiri devours Cardinal passers

Fran Tolan | Monday, October 9, 2006

Stanford quarterbacks can breathe a little easier knowing that Victor Abiamiri has faced them for the last time.

In Notre Dame’s final regular season game last season, the 6-foot-4, 270-pound senior defensive end recorded four sacks against Stanford – as many as he had recorded in all 10 games up to that point.

A year later, Abiamiri once end again performed well against the Cardinal, collecting three sacks and two quarterback hurries in the 31-10 Irish triumph Saturday.

“He turns into a pass-rushing demon when we play against [Stanford],” Irish coach Charlie Weis said after the game.

But Abiamiri said “nothing in particular” about the Cardinal spurred his strong play. Instead, he said, he was determined to put forth a fierce effort because of Notre Dame’s upcoming bye week.

“Knowing we had a bye coming up, I just wanted to leave it all on the field,” he said.

Stanford coach Walt Harris is relieved that his team will not have to face Abiamiri again because the lineman is due to graduate at the end of the year.

“I just think he’s a good football player,” he said. “He can’t wait to play us – that’s what it looks like.”

But for Abiamiri, last week was more important than last year.

A week after Notre Dame failed to sack Purdue quarterback Curtis Painter as he threw for 398 yards on 46 attempts, Abiamiri and the Irish defense never allowed Stanford signal-caller Trent Edwards to feel comfortable in the pocket.

“Getting to the quarterback was definitely a point of emphasis for us this week,” Abiamiri said.

Abiamiri served as Notre Dame’s defensive leader with seniors Tom Zbikowski and Travis Thomas injured. His front four set the tone for the rest of the defense, which surrendered few big plays after Stanford drove for a touchdown on its first possession.

“The line’s playing great,” defensive tackle Trevor Laws said. “We got challenged by Coach Weis and we’ve really picked it up.”

The defensive front responded to that challenge, registering five sacks and hounding Edwards throughout the game.

“It wasn’t a big blitz day today, and I thought that [the line] had sustained good pressure on them, on the quarterback, for most of the day,” Weis said.

The front four was also responsible for squashing a fourth quarter Stanford drive that would have given momentum and a trace of hope back to the Cardinal.

Trailing 31-10 with just over five minutes remaining in the game, Stanford left its offense on the field to attempt a conversion on fourth-and-two. Several Irish linemen won their one-on-one battles, and tackle Derek Landri was the first to sack Edwards.

“Once the defensive line gets after them, you can sense the other team gets their rhythm thrown off,” Abiamiri said.

Abiamiri, who now has five sacks this season and 16 for his career, said he realized that he and the rest of the defensive front needed to set the tone for the Irish, especially since the secondary has been weakened by injuries lately. Along with starters Zbikowski and Thomas, cornerback Ambrose Wooden was also sidelined Saturday.

Weis said this game could help Abiamiri springboard into a strong second half of the season.

“We might just try to get him to see a psychologist and see if we can put an S on all these helmets we’re going against,” he quipped.

But Abiamiri is not fully satisfied with the way his teammates played.

“We have yet to play our best game,” he said. “It was a good day. But I’m going to evaluate the film tomorrow and find some things wrong with the way I played.”