Irish O-line focused on task at hand

January, 4, 2013
1/04/13
4:00
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FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. -- Chuck Martin pleaded ignorance Friday when asked about Alabama's offensive line. The Notre Dame offensive coordinator only sees the Tide's top-ranked rushing defense -- and he has little to add to the growing narrative that the Alabama offensive line his Irish will face in Monday's Discover BCS National Championship is among the best in college football history.

"I'd say our offensive line is much more concerned with Alabama's very good defensive line," Martin said. "I would say we probably don't know a lot about what's been written about Alabama's offensive line. They’ve got their own set of issues dealing with the big boys on the other side of the ball."

[+] EnlargeNotre Dame's Chuck Martin
Steve Mitchell/USA TODAY SportsNotre Dame offensive coordinator Chuck Martin's line has steadily improved since struggling in the home opener against Purdue.
For the Irish's front, that will be one final challenge on its steady climb toward a perfect season.

Notre Dame surrendered five sacks in its home-opening nailbiter against Purdue. By the end of their first month of games, the Irish ranked 87th nationally rushing the ball, averaging 140.25 yards per outing.

Flash forward three months, and those numbers paint a different picture: Notre Dame has surrendered just 11 sacks in the 10 games since beating the Boilermakers, good for 28th-fewest nationally. Their rushing average has risen to 29th overall, at 202.5 yards per game.

Getting on the same page with a first-year starting quarterback in Everett Golson has been part of that surge. Getting accustomed to new offensive line coach Harry Hiestand likely has been, too.

Alabama surrenders just 79.77 rushing yards per game and 2.46 yards per carry. Notre Dame's line has paved the way for a pair of 700-plus-yard rushers in Theo Riddick and Cierre Wood.

“I think collectively they will be the toughest defensive line we face," left tackle and captain Zack Martin said of the Tide. "We have played some talented players, but collectively Alabama is the most talented. They are big, physical and have guys that can stop the run. They can also get after the quarterback, so we will have to be on our game.”

“They are similar to our defense, which we see every day," he added. "They have big D-linemen who can stop the run and rush the passer. Also, Alabama has mobile linebackers who can make big plays and an active secondary, so very similar to our defense. We will have to be ready.”

Matt Fortuna | email

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