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Football: Hold the line

Joe Meixell | Wednesday, September 17, 2008

After two games in 2007, Notre Dame quarterbacks had been sacked 11 times for a loss of 87 total yards.

Two games into the 2008 season the Irish have yet to give up a single sack. Last Saturday the line held strong against virtually the same Michigan defensive front that got to the quarterback eight times last season.

“I think it’s a step forward,” junior tackle Sam Young said. “We’re only two games in and having no sacks is definitely something we’re proud of, but we recognize that we have to keep that up and keep Jimmy’s jersey as clean as possible every week.”

The improved offensive line has been a huge part of Notre Dame’s 2-0 start this year. The guys up front attribute their early success to a new attitude and an off-season of hard work.

The group’s core spent their summer in Florida working together to get better. They spent long days pushing sleds, flipping tires and even playing some improvised games of sumo wrestling.

“You just lock into each other and push until someone comes out of the ring. It was hard work,” Young said.

Offensive line coach John Latina said that his players are definitely pulling their weight but the lack of sacks should be attributed to the entire offense.

“Our tight ends block, our receivers are doing a good job getting open, those are team stats and I’ve always believed that,” he said.

Jimmy Clausen has helped his own cause several times already this year by feeling pressure and getting rid of the ball, something he struggled with in his first year.

“It really is a combination of everything – the backs and the quarterback making good reads,” left tackle Mike Turkovich said.

Turkovich said he struggled last year when he played guard, but was committed to make himself a better player in his final season at Notre Dame.

“[Last year] I wasn’t seeing the whole picture, I was just kind of doing my own thing,” he said. “As an offensive line you have five guys out there and you have to see the bigger picture.”

The Irish have also shown that their line is deeper than before in their first two games. Last week starting guard Chris Stewart was playing injured throughout the first half. In the second half true freshman Trevor Robinson stepped in and took over right where Stewart left off.

“I thought Trevor really did a nice job for us,” Latina said. “The good thing was I didn’t notice him. On the offensive line if you are doing your job you don’t get noticed.”

So far this year the line is doing so well that they are getting noticed. After the Michigan win, Clausen told the media that he would be taking the entire line out to dinner this week for all of their hard work. He hasn’t made good on his promise yet, but the guys up front aren’t going to let him forget.

“We’re still working on it. We’re in negotiations,” Young said.