Even though David Shaw hasn’t lost to Notre Dame in three years, that doesn’t mean he’s taken the game against the Irish lightly. In fact, Shaw — just like Brian Kelly — settled in to his media obligations a few minutes late. He was studying Manti Te’o.
Shaw talked about what his Cardinal face in No. 7 Notre Dame, especially the Irish’s defensive leader.
“I’ve seen a certain No. 5 run around and make plays from sideline to sideline,” Shaw told Sirius XM’s Mad Dog Radio. “Sometimes that five looks like an “S” on his chest.”
During his teleconference, Shaw expanded on what made Te’o one of college football’s best players.
“He’s got as good of instincts as anybody I’ve seen on this level,” Shaw said. “He reads the quarterback so well. He’ll get a jump on a pass and he’ll get a jump on the run play.
““His acceleration from Point A to Point B has to be the best in college football. Once he sees it and diagnoses it, it doesn’t matter, sideline-to-sideline, he can get after you.”
With ESPN’s College GameDay in town and the Cardinal playing in front of a sellout crowd in Notre Dame Stadium, Shaw talked about the preparation needed to go into South Bend and come out with a victory.
“We go into it with a mentality of toughness,” Shaw said. “You’re going to have to be tough, you’re going to have to withstand a lot. The fans, the players, emotional swings, you’re not going to get a call here or there. It comes down to playing your technique, playing very smart, making plays when you need to make plays. Don’t turn the ball over.
“It’s all those simple training camp things. When you boil down to it, if you can do all those things you worked on in training camp you’ll have a chance to win. It’s when you think you have to do something special, something outside of the offense or defense, go on your own and make a play, outside of the structure of what we’re doing, that never works.”
Getting back to the basics is needed for the Cardinal after a disappointing defensive performance last week against Arizona. With the Irish not necessarily the same animal as the Wildcats offensively, though they do share roots in the spread offense, Shaw talked about the challenges of stopping the Irish offense, a week after they ran for 376 yards.
“I think the difference is these guys can rotate backs that can hurt you,” Shaw said. “They have three backs that if you give them a crease, they can take it the distance: Riddick, Atkinson and Wood. These are really good running backs.
“We’ve got to be in our gaps. We need to be where we need to be and we can’t miss tackles. You miss a tackle on these guys and you’re lining up for a PAT.”
Shaw was equally complimentary about the defense, especially the play of defensive tackle Louis Nix anchoring the middle.
“They’ve got very good defensive line play right now,” Shaw said. “I think Louis Nix is special. I think he’s got a chance to be one of those really high round draft pick guys as he continues to grow and develop.
“When you have a great player on the defensive line and a great player at linebacker, you can make a lot of things happen. They do a good job of playing smart. You don’t see them give up a lot of big plays. They keep the ball in front of them. Their safeties don’t miss tackles. They’ll play deep and they’ll come up and hit you and they don’t miss tackles. They play very smart, sound football.”