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Throwback Thursday: Notre Dame Fighting Irish VS Washington Huskies, 2009

Defensive Line Steps Up in Victory

Washington v Notre Dame
SOUTH BEND, IN - OCTOBER 03: Theo Riddick #32 of the Notre Dame Fighting Irish moves past Erik Folk #17 of the Washington Huskies on a kick return on October 3, 2009 at Notre Dame Stadium in South Bend, Indiana. Notre Dame defeated Washington 37-30 in overtime.
Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

In this edition of my Throwback Thursday column, we’ll take a nostalgic journey to revisit the thrilling clash in 2009 between the Notre Dame Fighting Irish football squad and the Washington Huskies. Join me as we rewind the clock and delve into the excitement of that memorable matchup.

Notre Dame and Washington have met each other a total of eight times with Notre Dame winning all eight times. Notre Dame’s largest margin of victory is 46-0 in 1948. Notre Dame’s all-time record is 947-338-42 (.729), and Washington’s is 773-464-50 (.620). Notre Dame has had 107 consensus All-American’s to Washington’s 23. Note Dame has had 525 NFL Draft picks to Washington’s 315. Notre Dame has spent 872 weeks in the AP Poll to Washington’s 480. And Notre Dame has spent 98 weeks at AP No. 1 to Washington’s 15 weeks.

Today I’m going to share an excerpt of a story from the ND-SMC Observer, recapping the 2009 Notre Dame VS Washington game, written by Laura Myers.

Defensive Line Steps Up in Victory

The quarterback threw for 422 yards. The receiver caught 244 of those yards. The freshman kicker hit five field goals.

And the defensive line coach got the game ball.

Not only that, but Randy Hart led the fight song in the Irish locker room after the win.

Notre Dame’s much-maligned defensive line was instrumental in three goal line stands against Washington, stopping the Huskies in 10 plays from within the Irish 8-yard line and allowing just one field goal in those drives.

“That was huge,” senior safety and defensive captain Kyle McCarthy said. “You can credit the defensive line and linebackers there. They really buckled up their chinstraps and lined up to play some hard-nosed football. Those goal line stands in the third and fourth quarters were obviously huge for this game.”

Hart, who spent 21 years as defensive line coach at Washington, came to Notre Dame after the 2008 season to coach the young Irish linemen – two of the three starters are sophomores.

So far, the line has struggled in 2009 and is currently ranked 67th in the country in rush defense with 139.6 yards per game.

However, they are tied for eighth in red zone defense. Opponents this season have scored in just 65 percent of chances from inside the 20-yard line, and have managed a touchdown in only 50 percent.

“The key is just to go as low as possible while keeping your feet moving,” sophomore defensive tackle Ethan Johnson said. “It’s all about the first step and staying lower than the offensive line. Just make plays. It’s not that complicated.”

The red zone defense is something Hart has emphasized, players said.

“We practiced goal line stand all through camp, going against our guys,” junior defensive end Kerry Neal said. “Our linemen are bigger than [Washington’s], so we felt like we were ready for it.”

The linemen credit that readiness to confidence in themselves and their teammates.

“We just kept our composure and just kept believing in each other and we had each other’s back,” sophomore defensive end Kapron Lewis-Moore said. “It’s just confidence and heart to go out there and not give it up.”

Added Johnson: “It was all heart, staying low and just wanting it more than [Washington].”

With each successive stop, the plays got easier, Lewis-Moore said.

“After every stop, we feel like we’re just gaining more and more momentum. By the time the fourth down came, we just felt like we could do it,” he said.

In the fourth quarter of Saturday’s game, the defense made one goal line stop only to have it nullified when nose tackle Ian Williams was called for roughing the snapper on the ensuing Husky field goal attempt.

McCarthy said the defense was still confident despite the fresh set of downs the penalty gave to the Huskies.

“That’s a pretty tough call, especially in a game like that,” McCarthy said. “But our guys knew we still had a chance. Coach Tenuta always preaches that if you give yourself a chance, good things can happen. Hats off to our defense, we really came up big there.”

Defenders agreed that the fourth quarter stand, during which the Irish stopped the Huskies six straight times to keep Notre Dame within one score, was crucial.

“I don’t think we’ve ever had that many in a row,” Johnson said. “But hard work pays off.”

Which is why Randy Hart has a new souvenir.

And one more excerpt from Bleacher Report, to give you an alternative take on the game, written by Ismail.

Jimmy Clausen and Notre Dame Hand Washington Huskies Devastating Loss

It was another thrilling victory again for the Notre Dame Fighting Irish as they defeated Washington in overtime yesterday. The Irish now stand at 4-1 heading into a bye week and a looming matchup with archrival USC in two weeks.

So what are we to make of Notre Dame after five weeks?

I think a lot of people believed before the season that a 4-1 record for the Irish would be a pretty decent start, and I think what we have learned is exactly that: Notre Dame is a decent team.

Unless Notre Dame improves significantly in a handful of key areas, particularly defense, this team is not a national contender, but there are still a lot of positives for this team as one of the biggest games of the Weis era comes up in a couple weeks.

If there’s one thing this team can do, it is throw the ball. Quarterback Jimmy Clausen is going to become a national Heisman contender over the next two weeks; there’s just no way he won’t be in the discussion now.

Clausen threw for 422 yards against UW, and this wasn’t one of those Weis games where Notre Dame abandoned the run and just threw it all over the field. The Irish ran the ball a respectable 29 times in the game, and Clausen only attempted 31 passes.

For now, I’ll just say Clausen is one of the most improved players in the country. He’s proven two things this year that bring a whole new dimension to his game and Notre Dame’s chances: he’s tough and he’s becoming clutch.

Elsewhere on offense, Golden Tate is an incredible athlete. His 244 yards receiving was second most in school history, and Tate is also becoming a clutch player. I wasn’t sure what Washington was doing, because it didn’t seem like they were doubling Tate, who was open all day long.

The other positive news for Notre Dame is that Nick Tausch has turned into a reliable and steady placekicker. The kicking game was a real liability the past two years, and Tausch has started 10 for 11, including tying a school-record five field goals against UW.

The running game was disappointing against Washington, and that is something that will have to improve if Notre Dame wants to beat USC. Armando Allen had a very mediocre game before being injured and replaced by Robert Hughes at tailback.

I’ve been hard on Hughes in the past, but I have to admit he really stepped up and played really well against the Huskies. In fact, he was the reason Weis could keep the offense relatively balanced after Allen left the game.

Overall, the offensive line for Notre Dame has been outstanding. They still struggle in short yardage situations, but Notre Dame can pretty much run the ball when it wants to and the line has been giving Clausen great protection all year.

On defense I don’t know what to think or say. On the one hand, they are statistically a downright bad defense and gave up 457 yards to Washington. Yet, for the second time this season, they came away with improbable stops when it counted most.

Still, I can’t shake the feeling that the defense is at best average. Clearly, the defense has been the most disappointing aspect of the 2009 Irish club and will need to play better if a BCS bowl is going to be discussed.

I can’t figure out what is wrong with the defensive backfield. This was supposed to be the beast of the Notre Dame defense, and they have been pretty bad this year. McCarthy is a great tackler and has been the defense’s best player, but he isn’t great in coverage and his fellow safety Harrison Smith has been all but invisible this year.

Corners Darrin Walls and Rasheon McNeil have been picked on quite frequently this year and have not been doing much in coverage. Sophomore Robert Blanton has been better in coverage, but the playmaking ability is missing. From what I’ve seen, Gary Gray has been the most dependable corner and he needs to play more in the future.

On the coaching front, I think Charlie Weis is slowly learning the college football game, and he played his cards very well against Washington. Basically, he coached a very un-Weis like game and it worked amazingly.

Going forward, it will be beneficial and likely that Weis will not be gambling so much on fourth down. In the past, he might have tried to force a touchdown on fourth down near the goal line on a couple of occasions, but smartly relied on his kicking game.

Obviously, the game against USC is going to be huge. The Trojans offense may not be as powerful as in the past, but it is still a dangerous unit, and Barkley probably won’t be hesitant to throw the ball against Notre Dame.

That means it’s going to be tough to keep USC under 30 points, and the Irish offense will be facing its toughest test of the year against a top five defense. Without a strong running game, Notre Dame will be forced to rely heavily on the pass, and that most likely will not work.

Armando Allen seems to have a beat-up ankle and, even after the rest of the bye week, he may not be 100 percent. Hughes’s effort has been admirable in the past two games, but he doesn’t present a huge threat and has trouble being effective if large holes aren’t opened by the offensive line.

Weis seems reluctant to give Gray and Riddick any carries, but they may be needed to add more speed against USC. It would also be a good idea to get Tate the ball as much as possible, and give him some carries out of the backfield, too.

The receivers played better against UW, but there still isn’t a decent number two. Evans finally made a name for himself this weekend, and I think it’s safe to say he will be sharing most of the playing time with Robby Parris. Clearly, Evans has the ability, and Parris (besides his drop in the end zone) is a smart player with reliable hands.

Sticking tight end Kyle Rudolph at wideout was also a great move by Weis, and it could be very effective against USC. If Notre Dame can get another tight end to block consistently and become a small threat in the passing game, Rudolph could be a huge threat. Weis could then use Rudolph in a Dallas Clarke-type role and create mismatches all over the field.

The Irish defense really feeds off energy, and with the home crowd, they have a chance to beat USC. Two areas the defense really needs to improve on are tackling and coverage. The tackling against Washington was mostly abysmal, and it is still too easy to move the ball through the air against Notre Dame.

The good thing is that Notre Dame is winning games they would usually have lost in the past. That is a big sign of progress, and I believe Weis has really done well this year game planning for opponents. Beyond USC, there are still a few tough games (BC, Pitt, and Stanford especially), but the Irish can still be a 10-win team.

As bad as the defense has played, it will be very difficult to stop the Irish offense. The anemic efforts against Michigan State, Pittsburgh, BC, and Syracuse in 2008 are not going to happen this year. That’s why this team still has hope for greater things.

Continue reading this story here.

Got a memorable game you’d like me to throw back to? Drop your suggestions in the comments.

Cheers & GO IRISH!