Friday, October 26, 2012
ND defense preps for toughest task yet
By Matt Fortuna
Notre Dame has yet to face anybody like Landry Jones this season.
SOUTH BEND, Ind. -- The closest thing Notre Dame has seen to someone like Landry Jones this season is debatable. The closest thing Jones has seen to Notre Dame?
Allow the fifth-year Oklahoma quarterback to explain the early-season loss to Kansas State.
"It still kind of hurts," Jones said. "You don't ever want a game to slip away from you and you don't ever want to lose that early in the season. Yes, Kansas State is a good team, for sure -- no doubt about that. But it still hurts.
"You still think about it, and you can go, 'What if?' all you want, but that game is behind us now. Yes, it still does hurt, but you have to move on from it, and we are playing ball now."
Notre Dame is hoping to pressure Jones into looking more like the man who turned it over twice in a Sept. 22 home loss to the Wildcats than the one who has responded by throwing for a total of 880 yards in three straight wins.
Jones was hurried twice and sacked twice in his team's lone defeat, and he had a fumble returned for a score. He has not been officially hurried since, absorbing just two sacks and throwing for seven touchdowns with just one pick.
"He's gotten into a good rhythm," Irish coach Brian Kelly said. "He hasn't been disrupted very much. And I think, like most good quarterbacks, if you can get into a good rhythm and you're not disrupted, you're going to be pretty effective. You can see that's been the case."
The Irish secondary has lost two first-teamers for the season and is starting just one player who's been on defense his whole career, but the unit has put together the nation's No. 14 passing defense through its 7-0 start. However, six of Notre Dame's opponents rank outside the top 60 in passing, with Miami the lone outlier at No. 23. (Oklahoma is 26th).
The Hurricanes dropped a pair of would-be touchdown passes on their opening drive versus the Irish and never really threatened after, scoring just three points.
"It's exciting for us, and we know that they're a team that likes to throw the ball, especially try and get the ball over the defensive backs' heads," senior safety Zeke Motta said of Oklahoma. "But I think it's going to be a good challenge for us, and we've seen something similar to that in Miami, so at least we have a little taste and we know kind of what to expect. So it's all in our preparation this week and we're really excited about it."
Jones is not a threat to run, but he is quick to get rid of the ball.
"Pocket presence, his ability to put the ball where he needs to, his accuracy," Motta said, rattling off what he noticed from film. "He's probably the best quarterback we're going to face to date."
Which puts the onus on the nation's No. 2 scoring defense to slow down a machine that averaged 52 points over its past three games.
"I am a lot different now," Jones said of his past three games. "I have been playing a lot better. Obviously, after games like Texas Tech, Texas and last week against Kansas, you are going to have a lot higher confidence, and I think everyone on this team is going to have higher confidence because of the way we have been playing."