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Inside pressure wreaks havoc on Tar Heels

Greg Arbogast | Monday, November 6, 2006

For Irish coach Charlie Weis, seeing defensive tackles Derek Landri and Trevor Laws burst through the line of scrimmage to block extra points is only indicative of the way they play.

Notre Dame’s two senior defensive tackles made themselves at home in the Tar Heel backfield all afternoon, stuffing rushing plays, disrupting called passes and all-in-all wreaking “havoc.”

Landri finished with 3.5 tackles for losses, a half sack and, according to Weis, two blocked extra points. Laws had three tackles, a near safety in the fourth quarter and, according to the official scorekeepers, one blocked extra point.

“[Laws and Landri] are very quick off the ball, and they penetrate,” Weis said. “One thing you can depend on with them is that they will always be active.”

By getting penetration into the Tar Heel backfield all game, Weis said, Laws and Landri opened up holes for their fellow defensemen to the tune of eight tackles for a loss and four sacks.

“Whether [Laws and Landri] are involved pressuring the quarterback or because they are being blocked, it helps for Victor [Abiamiri] and those guys off the edge,” Weis said.

The havoc created by Laws and Landri was no more evident than on North Carolina’s fourth quarter series when the Tar Heels started at their own 10. The Irish were trying to put the game away, and the two men in the middle wanted a piece of the North Carolina quarterback.

On second-and-10, Tar Heels signal caller Joe Dailey dropped back towards his goal line looking for a receiver downfield when Laws broke through the line. The senior wrapped Dailey up in the end zone, but Dailey got the ball off to no one in particular. The play may have gone for a safety because of intentional grounding, but Irish junior defensive end Justin Brown got a hand on it.

“We knew it was late in the game,” Laws said. “We were coming at them as much as we could trying to get a safety, which we should have got.”

While neither Laws nor Landri were able to bring Dailey down for the safety, the defensive tackles did manage to block two North Carolina extra point attempts – no small feat considering Tar Heels kicker Connor Barth had not missed a field goal or extra point attempt on the season.

“When I’ve tipped them in the past, they’ve gone in, but I just got a little bit more of the ball this week,” Landri said. “Anytime we have an opportunity to stop them from putting points on the board, I think it’s a play worth playing as hard as your can for.”

The blocked extra points – after North Carolina’s second and third touchdowns – had a big effect on the game. After Hakeem Nicks’s 13-yard touchdown reception cut Notre Dame’s lead to 31-19 late in the third quarter, an extra point was all the Tar Heels needed to be within a touchdown, two-point conversion and field goal of Notre Dame. By blocking the point after attempt, Laws assured North Carolina would need at least two touchdowns to catch and surpass the Irish.

“There’s a lot of defensive linemen who when it gets to be an extra point just take the play off,” Weis said. “Kudos to Landri and Laws because it shows they’re not taking a play off. Even though they just scored a touchdown, they’re going out there like this is a field goal to win the game.”

Despite their impressive performances against the Tar Heels, Laws and Landri are far from satisfied.

“I think we’re still building up,” Laws said. “Our goal is to peak for the bowl game and I think we’re still on the rise.”

re all healthy and we’re all still playing together, trying to gel even more, get better, and play more consistently.”