'Belldozer' presents unique challenge for Irish defense

'Belldozer' presents unique challenge for Irish defense
October 24, 2012, 9:05 pm
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SOUTH BEND, Ind. -- Standing at 6-foot-6 and weighing over 250 pounds, Oklahoma quarterback Blake Bell might be the toughest goal-line matchup in the nation. The aptly-nicknamed Belldozer has scored eight touchdowns in 17 red zone rushing attempts, often running behind a pair of fullbacks. Against Texas, Bell rushed for four touchdowns -- four more than the Irish defense has allowed in seven games this year.

Coach Brian Kelly admitted Tuesday if Oklahoma can work the ball close to the goal line, Notre Dame may not be able to boast a goose eggs in the department of rushing touchdowns allowed.

"If it's first and goal from the five, we're going to have a hard time keeping them out of the end zone," Kelly said. " It's a great short yardage offense. And he's big, he's physical, (he's) running behind a very good offensive line.

"I told our defensive coaches this: If he's on the field, we're going to have to do something really extraordinary, because he's a tough guy to stop."

Notre Dame has held plenty of talented runners out of the end zone this year, most notably Stanford's Stepfan Taylor (of course, whether the Irish actually kept Taylor out of the end zone is still a point of contention). But Bell is a totally different challenge, one that seems difficult to prepare for.

But linebacker Manti Te'o didn't hint at any change in preparation for Oklahoma's Belldozer package.

"You just hit him," Te'o bluntly said. "It's nothing different. At the end of the day, you bring him to the ground. It's not anything different."

Hitting Bell isn't the hard part -- it's tackling him. That's been the problem for so many teams over the last year and a half.

"He runs the same as anybody else," Te'o elaborated. "Obviously he's bigger than normal running backs but like I said, it's football. It's nothing different."

Bell has attempted only 16 passes in 13 collegiate games, so when he jogs in from the Oklahoma sidelines, Notre Dame will know what's coming. That's not the question. Whether a run defense the hasn't allowed a touchdown in 28 quarters and an overtime period this year can keep Bell out of the end zone is the issue.

"For us, everybody has to be in their fit, we have to understand where our team is going to be and fit off of them," Te'o explained. "When that happens, we know what to expect and we know what we like to do, so we'll adjust then."