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Nevada… (Why I'm petrified.)

Sep 3, 2009, 6:28 PM EDT

As a Notre Dame fan you get conditioned for certain reactions. Whether its bemoaning a ranking undeserved or chuckling when the team falls out of preseason favor, the opposition always finds a way to say something that gets under your skin.

The Nevada game is a perfect example.

This season’s Notre Dame story line undoubtedly begins with the schedule. It’s almost as if the universe has collectively agreed that the schedule is markedly easier. Predicting a ten-win season is uniformly attached to the scheduling rationale, as if Notre Dame was the only school to find a mix of teams that deserved mock and ridicule this year.

That’s what has me so worried about Nevada.

If you equated the opening of the football season with the first round of the NCAA basketball tournament, Notre Dame would be a 4 or 5 seed, and Nevada an 11 or 12. Nevada is the perfect upset / trap team. High powered offense, propelled with the least vulnerable asset an underdog can have: a potent running game.

The big stage does funny things to underdogs. In the NCAA tourney, the little engine that could either starts drilling big threes and gets the crowd and momentum behind them, or the rim gets really small, they get run out of the gym, and CBS cuts to a different game. The problem with Nevada from Notre Dame’s perspective is that Nevada’s offensive doesn’t depend on three-point shooting. Its excellence is also the least risky and best suited attack for an upset: a high octane running game.

It’s not as if coach Chris Ault is asking Colin Kaepernick to put the ball in the air 30 times to get Nevada the win. He’s got two (and if you believe Weis, three) running backs that can move the chains and eat the clock. That’s like combining Princeton’s back-door offense with the low post presence of NCAA sleeper Taylor Coppenrath. If the Irish can’t figure out how to stop the run, then this is going to be a very scary afternoon. Add in a 6-foot-6 quarterback that runs like a gazelle and can extend drives with both his legs and his arm, and I’m already getting armpit sweat.

As for the much maligned Nevada defense, if ND can’t figure a way to get a running game established, it’s going to force the Irish to get extremely one-dimensional, which could swing the time-of-possession battle even more into the run-happy Wolf Pack’s favor. And once you let a defense that’s set with two rock-solid pass-rushing defensive ends and cut them loose (and cut them loose against a left tackle that’s been a little nicked up and hasn’t played for a season), that’s got me already having nightmares about how many times I’m going to see the patent-pending Jimmy Clausen-reverse-peel-out-from-the-pocket-14-yard sack.

(Is it hot in here?)

It’s not as if Nevada doesn’t think they can win. I’m sure coach Ault has shown his troops footage of Notre Dame’s opening game last season, the 21-13 escape against a San Diego State that only managed to beat Idaho and UNLV.

And then there’s this from my interview earlier in the week with Juan Lopez of the Nevada school newspaper:

“The entire team, from head coach to ball boy, knows this is the biggest game in Nevada’s history in terms of national exposure. It is not just another game for anybody involved with Nevada. I’ve had guys tell me they’re losing sleep and that the Notre Dame game was used as a recruiting tool to bring them here to Nevada. This is easily the biggest game some of these guys will ever play in.”

It’s starting to feel like Notre Dame isn’t playing Nevada, but lining up against Norman Dale’s Hickory High basketball team, or Tom Brennan’s Vermont hoops team, or Homer Drew’s Valpo team that made a whole bunch of noise back in the day.

In the end, that’s what scares me the most. Take Notre Dame out of this equation, and I like everything about this Nevada team. High octane offense that’s nicknamed after a firearm, a quarterback that’s a freak of nature and who makes you prove your fanhood every time you spell his last name. (K-a-e-p-e-r-n-i-c-k… that’s what two weeks of Nevada prep gets you.)

I’ve always been a sucker for an upset story… But as a Notre Dame fan, I just hope we don’t get one this weekend.

  1. Tom Lynch - Sep 3, 2009 at 11:25 PM

    If we have to fear Nevada, it all means nada.

  2. Forrest Parker - Sep 4, 2009 at 10:23 AM

    The reality of college football in 2009 is you better fear every team you play. No matter how much ”talent” you have on paper you still have to perform on game day. On paper we have superior talent but that gets you nothing. As the slogen for this years team goes – ”Show Me”.
    Time to show us all.
    GO IRISH!!

  3. Tim - Sep 4, 2009 at 3:02 PM

    “You all know what to do. Remember.. No one, i mean NO ONE comes into our house and puches us around. LETS GET EM !!”
    Dan Devine…. Rudy

  4. derek - Sep 5, 2009 at 2:39 AM

    notre dME NATIONAL TITLE BEat usc and michigan st were in against texas

  5. mike oleary - Sep 5, 2009 at 9:49 AM

    I think that the main for ND to solve early in the game is how to defend a offensive set with 4 wide receivers and a dual threat QB.The big question is what palyers cover the WRS ARE THEY ALL GOING SHOT 2 TO THE MIDDLE 2 TO THE SIDELINES,Is the QB in the shotgun or up close to the center.Time oh POSESION is the key for this game.

  6. mike oleary - Sep 5, 2009 at 9:52 AM

    I think that the main for ND to solve early in the game is how to defend a offensive set with 4 wide receivers and a dual threat QB.The big question is what palyers cover the WRS ARE THEY ALL GOING SHOT 2 TO THE MIDDLE 2 TO THE SIDELINES,Is the QB in the shotgun or up close to the center.Time oh POSESION is the key for this game.

  7. Doc Rogers - Sep 5, 2009 at 2:16 PM

    I have to preface my comments with admitting I am a professor at the University of Nevada. I grew up in Lansing, Michigan and have rooted against ND for a very long time. I still can’t believe that tie with MSU in ’66.
    At UNR, we have been looking forward to this game for several years. We beat Northwestern a few years ago – but you could argue that isn’t really the Big 10 – and we got killed by Missouri and Chase Daniels last year. We really aren’t big enough to beat Notre Dame, but if Kap gets rolling I like our chances. The Nevada offense is fun to watch and I would bet by the fourth quarter the ND defense will be tired.
    At any rate, I appreciate that the good folks at Notre Dame scheduled this game with us. For a mid-major with aspirations to move to the big time, this is big deal.
    Go Pack!

  8. J B - Sep 5, 2009 at 9:10 PM

    Well….we’re post game now. 35-0. Ya, I guess the Irish answered the issues pretty handily. Solid game – firing on ALL cylinders today. Excited about what looks like a great season ahead.

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