Irish offense takes a siesta as OSU 'D' dominates Fiesta



By ROB TODOR
VINDICATOR SPORTS EDITOR
TEMPE, Ariz. -- Notre Dame had the 10th-highest rated offense in the country during the 2005 season, averaging just over 489 yards per game.
Monday night, in their 34-20 loss to Ohio State in the Tostitos Fiesta Bowl, the Fighting Irish were limited to 348 yards. Notre Dame did not commit any turnovers, yet scored more than 18 points under its season average.
All of which made Ohio State defensive coordinator Jim Heacock a very pleased coach after the game.
"It was just unbelievable, the effort for the entire game," said Heacock, the brother of Youngstown State coach Jon Heacock who's in his first season as the Buckeyes' defensive coordinator.
"All year long we've faced tremendous competition and today was no different, but everybody, from the guys up front to the linebackers to the secondary, just did a great job," added Heacock.
Sack time
Notre Dame quarterback Brady Quinn suffered just 16 sacks all season, but was dropped five times by the Buckeyes.
Linebacker A.J. Hawk had 3.5 sacks and lineman Mike Kudla, who was also used in coverage in Ohio State's nickel package, had three sacks.
"We went after [Quinn] a lot early in the game," Heacock said, "but when they went no-huddle we had to go to more nickel coverages."
Hawk, who was named the defensive player of the game, said the Buckeyes weren't fazed by Notre Dame's game-opening, six-play touchdown drive.
"We knew Notre Dame was coming out to make plays," Hawk said. "They have a ton of talent and a great coaching staff.
"That shows the kind of leadership we have and heart our defense has. [Against] San Diego State they scored the first play of the game on us and we just have to calm down and play our game. We always talk about our next play [being] the most important."
Key play
One of the most important plays came in the first quarter, when Hawk sacked Quinn on a fourth down play from inside the Buckeyes' 10. That kept the score tied at 7 and six plays later Ohio State was in the end zone, taking the lead for good.
"We thought they would throw a fade route," Heacock said. "But that team, with as many weapons as they have, it's kind of pick your poison. So we decided to just send [Hawk] and try to get pressure on [Quinn]. Fortunately for us it worked out."
Hawk, who won the Lombardi Award, was heaped with praise by Heacock.
"To me he's the best linebacker in America," Heacock said. "His best attribute is his attitude. He works just as hard in practice as he does in a game. He's a great leader."
todor@vindy.com

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