Notre Dame vs Georgia Tech - Keys to the Game
Posted Aug 31, 2006

John Harris breaks down and analyzes the biggest games of the weekend.

By John Harris

a.  Georgia Tech CB Kenny Scott vs. Notre Dame WR Jeff Samardzija and Rhema McKnight – Scott is the most experienced corner on the Tech sideline and that means he probably is going to see plenty of #83 Samardzija.  The Shark’s ability to get free from Scott in bump/press coverage is pertinent for Notre Dame QB Brady Quinn getting the ball off on time and in rhythm.  If Scott can prove that he can lock down Samardzija or slow his progress off of the line of scrimmage consistently, then Georgia Tech DC Jon Tenuta can open up his defensive playbook to harass Quinn more often than not.

b.  Notre Dame RB Darius Walker vs. Georgia Tech linebackers – Walker has to be a 100+ yard per game rusher this year to help the Irish offense avoid a plethora of nickel and dime coverage throughout the season.  His slashing style is conducive to finding small seams and bursting up to the second level where he’ll meet the Georgia Tech linebackers – KaMichael Hall, Philip Wheeler and Gary Guyton.  Hall, in particular, can fly and his ability to close quickly on Walker means that the Irish back has to make definitive cuts and get his shoulders square and downfield to be effective.

c. Georgia Tech OT Mansfield Wrotto and Andrew Gardner vs. Notre Dame DE Victor Abiamiri – Abiamiri hasn’t gotten tons of acclaim but might be the one major pressure player on defense for the Irish.  He’s not blazing fast off the edge, but he’s quick enough to force the Tech offense staff to consider putting RB Tashard Choice to that side to account for him on the pass rush.  Wrotto and Gardner cannot get beat on the high side by Abiamiri.  If they can get him to step back inside, it can at least give Georgia Tech QB Reggie Ball the opportunity to escape out of the pocket, instead of having to step up in the pocket.  It’s all about buying Ball more time with the ball in his hands.

d.  Georgia Tech WR Calvin Johnson vs. Notre Dame corners Ambrose Wooden and Mike Richardson – No question, the most pressure packed matchup for the Irish on either side of the ball.  If there’s any knock on Johnson, it’s that he’s not going to run by defenders like Ted Ginn, who torched ND in last year’s Fiesta Bowl.  As such, the one thing the Irish corners want to avoid is getting physical with Johnson.  This Irish duo can’t get in a shoving match at any point – at the line of scrimmage, out of Johnson’s cut or on a ball deep downfield.  They’re better served to play off and break on the ball, as opposed to slowing down Johnson at the line of scrimmage, where he can swat them away with his strength and size.

e.  Notre Dame DT Derek Landri vs. Georgia Tech’s Interior OL – Similar to Abiamiri, Landri has gotten very hype and deserves to be recognized.  Well, recognition should come in the form of double teams throughout Saturday night’s game from the interior of the Georgia Tech line.  The Irish DT is wonderfully quick and beats blockers with his feet off the ball.  His quickness off the snap is impressive and QB Ball will have to change his snap count to catch him anticipating.  But, most importantly, the Georgia Tech guards must win the leverage battle and keep him from pushing them into the backfield on running downs.  If they can’t win the one-on-one battle, then they’ll have to double team the DeLaSalle product throughout the game, freeing up the Irish LBs to have a big night.


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