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Offense is in, but defense is still what it takes to win big.
Irish Players Excited For BCS Title Game
NOTRE DAME, Ind. – There was one surprise when the BCS bowl pairings were announced on Sunday night and it had nothing to do with the BCS National Championship game. The shock of the night came when Northern Illinois was announced to face Florida State in the Orange Bowl, but s expected, No. 1 Notre Dame will face No. 2 and defending national champion Alabama in the title tilt in the same stadium on Jan. 7.
“It’s exciting right now,” Fighting Irish safety Zeke Motta said right after the announcement was made on ESPN. “To be able to finally decide on who you’re playing and start breaking down film and getting back to work. It’s a great feeling to know that you made it 12-0.”
Motta watched just a “little bit” of Saturday night’s SEC Championship game between Alabama and Georgia, but he saw enough to know Alabama ran the ball for 350 yards against the Bulldogs.
“They’ve got a good run game,” Motta said. “So that’ll be a good chance for us to show what we’re about on defense. It’ll be a great challenge for us and we’re looking forward to it.”
While Motta only watched some of Alabama’s dramatic 32-28 win over Georgia, defensive teammate Kapron Lewis-Moore stayed in his own seat and watched a bit more.
“They’ve got a really strong, physical line,” the captain said of Alabama’s offensive front. “We’ve gotta bring our A-game, but what really impressed me the most about Alabama is the way the running backs are. They run hard, they run powerfully and we’re really gonna have to wrap-up.”
The Crimson Tide’s big back, Eddie Lacy rushed for 181 yards and two touchdowns on 20 carries against the Bulldogs, while backfield mate T.J. Yeldon rushed for 153 yards and a touchdown on 25 carries. They averaged 9.1 and 6.1 respective yards per carry.”
The most obvious comparison to Alabama that Notre Dame has played this year is Stanford. Lewis-Moore sees agrees with the comparison.
“I think they’re a lot similar to Stanford,” Lewis-Moore said. “Playing Stepfan Taylor, he’s a real physical back. He’s always moving forward. They have a lot of similar running styles.”
Stanford ranks 50th in the nation with 173 rushing yards a game, while Alabama ranks 20th at 224 yards. The Cardinal rushed for 147 yards against the Irish back on Oct. 13. The Irish rank 4th nationally, allowing just 92 yards per game. The 161 yards ND gave-up against Michigan in Sept. is the season-high for an opponent.
Notre Dame is looking for the program’s 12th overall national title and its first since 1988, while Alabama is trying to secure its third crown in the last four years.
“It’s a great opportunity for us,” Lewis-Moore said of the championship game against the defending champs. “Playing for the national championship – I honestly don’t think it’s set in with a couple guys yet, but playing a team from the SEC is always gonna be a challenge and I think we’re up to the challenge.”
Running back Theo Riddick was the only Irish offensive player to speak to the media on Sunday night. He is excited for the chance to take down the defending national champs as well.
“It makes it very special,” Riddick began. “But regardless (of) whether they were there or if Georgia came in it’s a great (and) significant game. So regardless of who’s there it’s going to be a major game, but to have them as our opponent it just makes everything a little more meaningful.”
While Lewis-Moore watched more of the SEC Championship game than Motta, Riddick watched even less. From what he did view though, the Stanford comparison is apt.
“I only caught glimpses,” Riddick said of his Saturday afternoon/early evening television viewing. “And it was more the second half when it was power football, so if anything I would say a little bit of Stanford, but obviously a little more versatile also, so what can I say – they’re a good ball club.”
Riddick says he was more interested in “relaxing” and enjoying his time off than watching his future opponent on TV, adding he has plenty of time for film study and work on the practice field over the course of the next five weeks.
The Irish are already installed as double-digit underdogs in the national championship game to an Alabama team that gave-up more points Saturday night (28) than the Irish surrendered in their last three games combined (19).
“I think we’ve been going through that throughout this whole season in terms of gaining respect,” Riddick said of his team’s national perception throughout its unbeaten season. “But you can’t get all tied up into that. All we can do is control the things we can control and try to play the best we can in this national championship game.”
Notre Dame will bring the nation’s number one scoring defense into the game. It is a defense that has allowed just over 10 points a week. The only time an opponent topped 20 points against the Fighting Irish this season was in their 29-26 triple overtime win over Pittsburgh a month ago. Even with the nation’s top defense and a No. 1 national ranking they again play the part of underdog, but it is a role that suits the Irish just fine.
“That’s for the media and people in Vegas,” Lewis-Moore said of his team’s underdog status. “That’s cool and everything, but a lot of people counted us out against Oklahoma and USC, so it’s not something we haven’t seen all year.”
“I like it,” Motta said of Alabama being such a heavy favorite in the most important game in nearly the last quarter century of Notre Dame football. “I like being the underdog in any game. That’s good. The odds are against you. You get the chance to prove people wrong. I like that.”
Here’s the complete BCS bowl rundown:
BCS Championship Game: No. 1 Notre Dame vs. No. 2 Alabama – Jan. 7
Sugar Bowl: No. 3 Florida vs. No. 21 Louisville
Fiesta Bowl: No. 4 Oregon vs. No. 5 Kansas State
Orange Bowl: No. 12 Florida State vs. No. 15 Northern Illinois
Rose Bowl: No. 6 Stanford vs. Wisconsin
Booker Stops At Woodberry
Greer Martini couldn’t have much contact with Scott Booker when the Notre Dame assistant stopped by Woodberry Forest School (Woodberry, Va.) on Thursday to check on Martini and his fellow Irish linebacker commit Doug Randolph.
“It was good to have him come by,” said Randolph. “He’s been there a couple of times before. It was just great to have him there to come by.”
Booker stopped at the Virginia prep school for lunch and was able to have more contact with Randolph, a 2013 prospect, than Martini, a 2014 recruit.
“Since I’m still an underclassman, I can’t really talk to him,” said Martini.
Booker still managed to get his message across through his talk with Randolph (pictured).
“The message was to get ready for the season, how great their season has been and our progression as football players and what we need to do for the future,” said Martini.
The 6-foot-3, 215-pound junior knows one area that he needs to focus on in the future.
“For me, I think having more of a killer mentality,” said Martini. “Going out on the field and presenting yourself, I guess the word for it is having more swagger. Just to go out on the field as one of the better players and know it and show it.”
Martini thinks that’ll come as part of his natural progression.
“I think that comes with being a senior and being one of the older guys out on the field,” he said. “This year I was just trying to play and do my job. I think I did that to the best of my abilities. Now, it’s just taking that to the next level and having an energetic feel to me that will rub off on other players around me.”
Even though he couldn’t extensive contact with Booker, Martini was excited to have an Irish coach come check on him.
“It’s just special being a recruit and being committed to the number one team in the country,” he said. “I could have never dreamed of anything more special. Just to know that a Notre Dame coach knows me on a personal level and that he came in to see me is pretty special I think.”
Martini has been impressed with the Irish’s march to the national championship game.
“It’s incredible,” he said. “I definitely knew Notre Dame football was a special program and they’re definitely a great team, but I don’t think anybody expected it to this degree. Just being a believer of the program after I committed, it’s special to see how well they’ve done and I’m going to be a part of it one day.”
“I wouldn’t say surprised because I always expect my team to do pretty well, but I definitely didn’t expect them to go to the national championship this year,” he said.
Randolph will be presented with his Army All-American jersey this week and is excited about playing in the game.
“It’s a huge honor for me to be asked to play in that game and I’m really looking forward to it,” he said. “I think it’ll be fun to compete. In a full contact setting, it should be so much fun.
“I’m really looking forward to hanging out with a lot of the commits and the other guys I’ve met throughout the recruiting process.”
Randolph will take his official visit to Notre Dame for the team’s banquet on Dec. 7th.
“I don’t really know much about it,” he said. “I think it’ll be pretty exciting to see all of the players and everything, especially after the way this season went.”
Martini won’t be at the banquet, but does have an eye on returning to South Bend in the coming months.
“I don’t know the specific dates, but I’m definitely going to try to get out for a junior day.”
Montelus Ready For Super Bowl
John Montelus believed Harry Hiestand was the person he wanted coaching him and college, so the 2013 Massachusetts offensive lineman committed to Notre Dame in April. Since that time Montelus and Hiestand have become extremely close and now the 6-foot-5, 295-pounder from Everett, Mass., knows that the Irish offensive line coach is the one he wants leading him in the future.
Hiestand dropped in on Hiestand at Everett High School this week to further that relationship.
“We’re becoming boys,” Montelus said. “Every time I call him and every time we meet each other, we get closer and closer. Basically, he was asking me how my mom was. He saw my mom and watched me practice.”
Montelus was proud to host his future coach at his high school practice.
“It was amazing knowing that one of my coaches that is going to coach me in college is here watching me,” he said. “For me, it feels like he really cares about me. I can’t wait to get coached by him.”
Montelus’ mother met Hiestand and Irish head coach Brian Kelly during his official visit to South Bend earlier this month.
“She thinks all of the coaches are great,” Montelus said of his mother. “She really likes Coach Hiestand and Coach Kelly, all of the coaches. She loves all of the coaches. She thinks they’re all great guys.”
Kelly will be by the school eventually, but Hiestand wasn’t exactly sure when yet.
“He’s going to tell me and we’re going to set up a plan,” said Montelus.
For now, Montelus’ sights are set on capturing another Massachusetts 1A Super Bowl title after a 42-14 win over Masconmet in a state semifinal earlier this week. Saturday’s contest at Gillette Stadium will be a rematch of last year’s title game, which Everett won, and a rematch of a regular season contest that saw Everett catch its only loss of the year.
Montelus is excited for a shot at redemption.
“I can’t wait,” he said. “I just can’t wait to give them revenge. We’re going to practice hard (Thursday). We already have a game plan set up. I don’t think they’re ready yet.
“Last time, we had a lot of guys hurt. All of our guys are back healthy, so we’re definitely going to bring the heat.”
Montelus played at Gillette two years ago and is looking forward to finish his high school career on the New England Patriots’ home field.
“Knowing that the pros like Tom Brady and all of those big-time football players play on that field, it makes me feel special,” he said. “It’s a really nice stadium, so I can’t wait to play there.”
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