Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Previewing the Rainbow Warriors

Nick Shepkowski, Domer Sports Report
Edited by Mark Allen

Notre Dame Football
Game Preview

Notre Dame enters the Hawaii Bowl desperate for their first bowl win since New Years Day 1994 when I was still seven years old (I am now 22, nearing 23 next month). Since then the Irish have been losers in games of both the close call and blow out variety. What needs to happen to prevent the Irish from finishing with their second straight losing season?

Both offenses bring a very average brand of football to the game. Hawaii and Notre Dame rank 74th and 75th nationally in total offense as they both put up 344.8 yards per contest. Hawaii does however average two or so more points a contest than do the Fighting Irish.

As most remember from Hawaii's Sugar Bowl team a year ago, they like to throw the ball around the field. Although Colt Brennan has moved on to clipboard holding responsibilities with the Washington Redskins, Junior Greg Alexander does the quarterbacking for the Warriors. He has completed 131 passes for 1634 yards and twelve scores during the regular season. He is also a guy who knows how bad turnovers can hurt as he rarely risks throwing a pick, doing so only four times this season.

The favorite targets of Alexander are wideouts
Greg Salas (50-755-3 tds) and Michael Washington (56-693-5 tds). Also seeing multiple passes thrown in their directions will be Malcom Lane and Aaron Bain. What scares me about Hawaii is the offense they run as it matches up against the Fighting Irish defense. Notre Dame has a defense that is designed to go after the quarterback; Hawaii has an offense who tries to simply pass their way downfield by dinking and dunking, taking whatever the defense is willing to give them. Not only do the Irish need pressure, but they need to walk away with a multiple sacks against Hawaii. This offense is designed to beat teams who are able to bring pressure, so unless Notre Dame can "Crank it Up", then it could be a long day for the Fighting Irish defense.

I fully expect to see
Corwin Brown bring maybe even more pressure if that is even possible against the Warriors. If the Irish can't get pressure, then Hawaii will pick apart the Irish secondary all evening and make it a sad Christmas Eve in South Bend.

If the Irish are able to take away the pass, they will be in great shape as Hawaii ranks 107th of 119 teams in rushing yards. Not suprisingly, former Warrior coach June Jones and the SMU Mustangs rank dead last in that category. For what its worth Daniel Libre leads the Warriors in rushing with a grand total of 431 yards and six touchdowns. Not overly impressive, but then again Notre Dame brings far from a stout rushing game to the contest.

Hawaii brings an average defense into the game from a below average conference. The Warriors allow 27 points a contest and right around 350 yards. Notre Dame will be without all purpose back Armando Allen who is out with a leg injury and Robert Hughes for a half because of the fight he started at USC. What that means is that James Aldridge will get the largest portion of carries for the Irish while freshman Jonas Gray will also likely see carries.

The depth may not be there, but the Irish bring a much larger offensive line to the game than the Warriors defensive front and we all know what that means: pound the ball. Notre Dame won't be trying to light up the scoreboard, not only because they likely would lose such a battle, but also because that does not give them the best chance to win the contest. The Irish will use the run to set up the pass but once again, I am nervous to see what the lack of depth allows ND to do.

Personally, the Fighting Irish bring in much more talent than do the Hawaii Warriors but they still must do three things to avoid yet another bowl loss:

1) Not a Joy Trip - I disagree that 6-6 justifies being rewarded, but in today's game, I understand how it happens. Notre Dame can't take the trip to Hawaii as a reward or just a joy ride. Focus is something I am very scared the Irish will not bring to the matchup.

2) Road Game - Yup, playing in a team's home stadium is never a positive, but when its in a bowl game it makes it that much more difficult. The good news is that Notre Dame travels well and will likely have a strong showing of support in attendance. The fact it is in Hawaii's home stadium can't possibly favor the Irish though.

3) Dumb Mistakes - Whether it was in the SDSU, UNC, Pitt, or Syracuse games we all know that Notre Dame has had an abundance of dumb mistakes this season. If the Irish don't avoid costly turnovers and penalites it will be ugly, trust me.

For whatever reason this football team has turned out to be a major disappointment and just not be very good. Because of that I am afraid that the bowl losing streak will only continue this Christmas...

Nick (The Downing Domer) says: Hawaii 27 Notre Dame 23
Mark (The Faithful Wonder) says: ND 27 Hawaii 21

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