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Max Wittek: “We’re going to win this ballgame”

Nov 20, 2012, 2:57 PM EDT

Colorado v USC Getty Images

With senior quarterback Matt Barkley on the sidelines for Saturday’s game, the Trojans will turn to redshirt freshman Max Wittek to pilot their high-powered offense. Having appeared in only three games in his USC career, Wittek is far from a proven commodity. But that hasn’t stopped the young quarterback from calling his shot.

“We’re going to play our offense, whatever Coach Kiffin feels comfortable giving me,” Wittek told ESPN LA 710’s Mark Willard. “It he wants to air it out, let’s air it out. If he wants to pound them on the ground, let’s do that. Like I said, I’m going to go out there, play within myself, within the system, and we’re going to win this ballgame.”

Broadway Joe meet Bulletin Board Max.

Wittek is no stranger to success. Nor is he a stranger to replacing Matt Barkley. At Orange County powerhouse Mater Dei, it was Wittek that replaced Barkley as the quarterback, continuing an incredible stretch of signal-callers that have gone on to star for the Trojans the past decade, joining Mark Sanchez and Matt Leinart.

It’s that type of pedigree that helps make Brian Kelly’s job easier, as he can expect an elite skillset on whatever quarterback Lane Kiffin trots out behind center.

“When you get a scholarship to USC, you’re one of the best quarterbacks in the country,” Kelly said. “He’s a big, strong, physical kid, he’s got a live arm, he certainly fits into their offensive scheme of things. He’s a perfect fit for what they do.”

In Wittek, USC might just have their prototype. Another quarterbacking creation, Wittek’s family relocated to California to help find better competition in his prep years, after working as a junior high prodigy with noted quarterback guru Steve Clarkson, who flew to Connecticut for multiple training sessions. The Wittek family was introduced to Clarkson by none other than Joe Montana, who is a business associate of Wittek’s father in the commercial real estate field.

Never shy to praise a former student (it was Clarkson who dubbed Jimmy Clausen the “LeBron James of high school football”), Clarkson praised the unique skills Wittek brings to the game, with a country-strong arm and surprisingly agile feet and speed for a quarterback his size.

“What he brings to the table that some other USC quarterbacks have not is a real sense of athleticism,” Clarkson told the LA Times. “In a lot of ways, he has Brett Hundley capability in his foot dynamics.”

It was Hundley that tormented the Trojans defense with his ability to move and create both inside and out of the pocket, something Everett Golson has done fairly well this season. And while Wittek is facing the nation’s top scoring defense this weekend, he’ll be armed with the top receiving duo in the country, Robert Woods and Heisman candidate Marqise Lee.

“We’re going to do what we do, absolutely,” Kelly said. “At this point, for us to go into one game and say, all right, we’re going to do different things to confuse Max is really crazy. This guy has watched football all year, he’s going to be watching film, he knows our defense. We’re going to do what we do, because that’s gotten us to that point. No big changes on our end.”

What that likely means is challenging Wittek and the Trojans to march down the field, giving USC’s receivers the chance to catch underneath passes while the Irish rally to make tackles. And while they won’t dramatically alter their plans, expect Bob Diaco to mix three and four man fronts and bring a few exotic pressure looks to confuse Wittek, who will likely do most of his passing from the confines of the pocket.

For the Irish, the stakes are clear: Win and advance to the national championship.

For Wittek, this could kick-start another era of the Notre Dame-USC rivalry, a series that’s leaned heavily in the Trojan’s favor the past decade.

“His story starts this weekend,” USC receiver Robert Woods said.

  1. dschilling2012 - Nov 20, 2012 at 8:39 PM

    As a long time Irish fan with a even longer memory, lets not repeat 1964. Ara’s first season,undefeated , 30 minutes to go against USC. A horrible nightmare I don’t want to live through again. Go Irish!

    • bostonjan - Nov 20, 2012 at 9:31 PM

      Indeed, let’s repeat 1966 – Ara’s 3rd season, undefeated, #1 in the country, marched into CA and laid a 51-0 hammer on USC….. enroute to the National Championship! A dream from my soph year at ND that I enjoy living through. Go Irish!

      • 9irish - Nov 21, 2012 at 12:10 AM

        Same way in 1988…we’re on the way up, they’re in a state of confusion. I don’t think they know what they’re in for really. Caution and preparation, still, however. I don’t get the feeling the Irish are writing this one off already.

  2. ndirish87 - Nov 20, 2012 at 9:10 PM

    Just remember than any quarterback who has never started a game in his career and guarantees victory over the #1 ranked defense can not be taken seriously.

    • papadec - Nov 20, 2012 at 10:13 PM

      The kid has to be confident – he’s the QB. What’s he going to say? I’m afraid I’m going to get my ass sacked and we’re going to lose.

      • ndirish87 - Nov 20, 2012 at 10:58 PM

        I didn’t say that he shouldn’t be confident. I said he can’t be taken seriously. And thats in reference to his comment, not his abilities. He hasn’t done anything this season to warrant the respect a claim like that requires. The fact of the matter is he didn’t have to “guarantee victory”. When your team has been humbled week after week its only appropriate and respectful to give your undefeated and #1 ranked rival a little more credit. Thats all I was saying.

    • runners00 - Nov 20, 2012 at 10:23 PM

      I think we have to take every scholarship quarterback at USC seriously. USC in football is like UNC in basketball. They get the best players. They can play. Barkley is out but they still have four or so first or second round draft picks on offense: Woods; McNeill; Redd; Lee. I’m sure there are others. We should be able to move the ball, though. We should be able to score and as everyone else has, they will struggle to score on us.

    • corsair5 - Nov 21, 2012 at 5:39 AM

      Taken seriously? Maybe not, but the kid who has never started a game just called out the dogs. I hope he has the game to back that mouth. I am really sweating this game as it is the big game between USC and ND, but I think this kid just added the some needed fuel to the fire.

      • ndirish87 - Nov 21, 2012 at 10:56 AM

        So he called out the dogs.. He still looks foolish doing it. With no starts under center. No stats worth reviewing. Who cares if he calls the dogs out using a dog whistle.. I don’t. The kid is doing it for show. Period. Stop giving him more credit than he deserves.

      • corsair5 - Nov 22, 2012 at 7:05 AM

        ndirish87

        I did not mean to make it sound like the kid called out USC’s dogs. I meant that he called out our defense. I agree that he looks foolish. I just hope his mouth can handle the amount of turf that is about to be shoved into it. I am confused as to why a kid who has not started a game in D1 football has taken it upon himself to say things like he said. Game is played on the field. I say he is lost in a haze by the second quarter from being pressured to much.

      • bfloyd6277 - Nov 22, 2012 at 11:50 PM

        He didn’t “guarantee victory” nor did he call out the dogs, or wolf pack, or any such thing. It appalls me how a writer makes something like this sound so opposite. That is what the media is good at these days; putting a spin on what was actually said. And, I can’t believe the amount of people whom reacted to this in the way the media wanted them to. You’ve got to be ignorant to receive the message as the QB “calling” someone out or “guaranteeing victory” against the #1 team.

        I listened to this message on ESPN and it didn’t seem like anything negative towards Notre Dame whatsoever. He merely stated that he will play within the confines of his personal ability, the ability of the players around him, and the play book and plays called by Kiffin. He is going into the game with a Positive Mental Attitude (PMA) and is showing courage towards the Trojan Nation. He is simply wanting his teammates to get behind him and believe, and that belief will give this team a fighting chance.

        I read this on my Bleacher/Report app on my phone. The name of the article makes this young player sound arrogant, but when you read the article the QB never says what was stated in the article. If Wettig would have said, “I am guaranteeing a Trojan victory this weekend, so come on out her Irish, and we will give you a good old country a$$ whipping.” He doesn’t seem arrogant whatsoever. Definitely doesn’t after hearing the actual voice on ESPN radio.

        Btw, I am an Alabama fan. I don’t have a dog in the fight. However, I would live to see two of the most storied programs face off in the biggest stage of the season. Roll Tide!

    • morleydrury - Nov 21, 2012 at 1:40 PM

      Silly article. Max never “guaranteed” victory. Sheesh. He’s starting his first game, he’s showing his team he’s confident. That was a throwaway line. What’s he supposed to say–“I’m scared s—less, we have no chance?”

      It’s OK to be paranoid–ND has a history of choking in big games against USC–but let’s not get carried away here.

  3. rrussellndfan - Nov 20, 2012 at 10:37 PM

    Confidence is good. Arrogant is not. Especially when you’ve never started a game.

  4. papadec - Nov 20, 2012 at 10:51 PM

    With Thanksgiving just a few days away – I fondly remember the extended Notre Dame Family. In 1965, my brother was a Freshman & I had enlisted in the Marine Corps (with orders to report to boot camp on 12/8). I took the bus to South Bend to be with him. We had Thanksgiving dinner with a South Bend family. They weren’t wealthy – just regular people, like us. I remember that one of the family members was recovering from an auto accident. Football memories come, and go – that kindness & their love for the ND family lasts forever. Happy Thanksgiving everyone – I don’t know about you, but I have a lot to be thankful for.

    • dickasman - Nov 20, 2012 at 11:27 PM

      I think I am going through midlife crisis, honestly I absolutely have nothing to be thankful for, life is miserable and getting old sucks and people are worthless phony garbage.

      • papadec - Nov 21, 2012 at 12:37 AM

        dickas – not everyone is “worthless phony garbage”. I may not agree with most of what you say – or the way you say it. But, I get the impression that it is how you feel. You don’t sugar coat it – so you aren’t phony. This site wouldn’t be the same – without you (for better or worse). Getting old ain’t for pu****s – but the alternative isn’t very attractive, either. I hope things get better for you.

  5. dickasman - Nov 20, 2012 at 11:18 PM

    WeedDick for President!!!

  6. mtb1996 - Nov 21, 2012 at 12:57 AM

    Aside from wanting to beat the Trojans and make the national championship game… it appears that Mark May made a bet that if ND went undefeated he would dress up in a Leprechaun suit. OH LORD!!! There’s little more that I’d want to see than that.

    • papadec - Nov 21, 2012 at 1:18 AM

      mtb – I want one of those full size posters of that!

  7. cpfirish - Nov 21, 2012 at 12:58 AM

    I was reading an article on bleacher report. And it was saying how Gunner is out future QB at ND. Ummmm am I missing something here??? If golson can play like he did against wake, I don’t think anyone can stop him. That pump fake when hit jones dead on in the end zone was freaking amazing. Our future QB is playing right before our eyes and getting better every game.
    Go Irish!
    Best USC!!
    Roll to Miami!!

    • papadec - Nov 21, 2012 at 1:20 AM

      cpf – it’s going to be very interesting during Spring football 2013.

    • bostonjan - Nov 21, 2012 at 1:08 PM

      The competition between Golson and Gunner will help both rise to new levels of performance – a win-win situation. I believe Kelly will manage the situation well (as he did this year) to the best advantage of the team….and we continue to recruit stud QBs to join the 2013 and 2014 classes. ND = QB U.

  8. idratherbeinsouthbend - Nov 21, 2012 at 1:18 AM

    Moments after ABC starts their live broadcast you’re going to hear…

    MUSBERGER: “You are looking live at the Los Angeles Coliseum, as we’ve got a classic for you tonight here. These two young quarterbacks, Everett Golston for the Irish and Matt Witlick for the Trojans, set to square off in this storied rivalry. The #1 ranked Irish and their Heisman Hopeful Manteeee Te’o are gonna have their hands full here tonight Herbie”

    HERBSTREIT: “Well, you’re right Brent, if Notre Dame has any chance to win tonight their going to need to control the ball on offense and contain USC’s skill players. If they can’t do that, it’ll be a long night for the Irish.”

    MUSBERGER: “Stay with us folks, this one’s sure to be a doosy. Lisa Salters down on the field standing by with Wayne Kiffin. Lisa, whatdoya have for us?”

    • papadec - Nov 21, 2012 at 1:23 AM

      idrather – fire them – hire YOU. You’re funnier than either of them.

    • ctfivula - Nov 21, 2012 at 8:50 AM

      Great post. Part of me thinks he might be wasted during every broadcast. Did anyone else hear Lee Corso call the Oregon kid they had on gameday set a midget last week. Herby almost swallowed his microphone.

  9. buffalomike - Nov 21, 2012 at 2:35 AM

    My first year at Notre Dame was 1964. I do not want a repeat of the way that year ended. All I have to say is keep an eye on the air pressure of the football. Don’t trust Lame Kiffin.

  10. norcalirish - Nov 21, 2012 at 7:16 AM

    This is the longest week of my life.

    Nervous. Hope he’s not that mobile. Manti will have us ready.

  11. irishirish777 - Nov 21, 2012 at 8:35 AM

    USC QB is just trying to build some confidence and momentum. If he is really as cocky as he sounds, they will fall. Pride cometh before destruction…
    If USC can get anything extra in their corner they really need to. The atmosphere that night will be high. The crowd will help USC but if ND plays their game, that should hush the crowd. I predict Irish victory 24-10. ND goes on to play GA in NC game and wins 28-17. Go Irish!!!!!

  12. 4horsemenrideagain - Nov 21, 2012 at 9:29 AM

    A conversation taking place at the Coliseum on Saturday:

    “Which one is Max Wittek?”

    “He’s the one wearing the Stephon Tuitt on his head.”

    • jerseyshorendfan1 - Nov 21, 2012 at 9:45 AM

      How about: “He’s the one being helped off the field by the trainers.” Dear, sweet, misguided Mr. Wittek, do you realize what you’ve done? You have essentially called the Notre Dame locker room pay phone, to announce, to anyone willing to listen, that YOU have Shembo’s bike seat. Good Luck with that.

      GO IRISH!

  13. deaconjack - Nov 21, 2012 at 11:26 AM

    Dickasman you are a sad case indeed.

  14. cosanostra71 - Nov 25, 2012 at 1:06 AM

    Sanchez is from Mission Viejo HS

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