St. Edward tackling its assignments

St. Edward tackling its assignments

Thursday, Nov. 4, 2010
12:05 PM

By Erik Jacobsen
YourSeasn.com

St. Edwards defense provides a lesson in what teamwork is all about.

The Green Wave entered the season lacking size and experience on defense, but that hasnt stopped the unit from becoming the areas stingiest squad, statistically speaking.

Going into Saturdays showdown against Mendota (6-4) in the second round of the Class 4A state playoffs, St. Edward (8-2) boasts a defense that is holding opponents to 10.7 points per game. The 107 points allowed by the Wave this season is more than 50 points fewer than the next area team.

Those accomplishments seem even more impressive when it is taken into account that St. Edwards defense returned only four starters from last season and primarily uses a group of 12 players who average about 180 pounds.

So what is the key to success? Coach Mike Rolando says it is all about the players understanding the teams system.

All the guys are very coachable, Rolando said. They understand their assignments within the defense and they dont try to make too much happen. They understand that their job may not be to make tackles, but to contain or to not let receivers behind them.

The big thing is they understand each others roles and they count on each other to get the job done. Theyre not selfish and they dont go outside of their own discipline to try to make plays.

Rolando admits that the defense was a big question mark coming into the season.

Senior defensive tackle Derek Porto, junior defensive tackle Evan Finnane, senior linebacker Jon Keokanlaya and senior safety Sam Pozezinski were the only returning starters for the unit, meaning there would be several new faces at every level of the defense.

It didnt hurt that the incoming junior class was fresh off an undefeated sophomore campaign, but questions still remained.

Any time you make the leap from the sophomore level to the varsity level its a huge disparity in the speed and the physicality of the game, Rolando said. We were hoping theyd be able to play at this level, but when they make that jump you just never know.

It didnt take long for the juniors to assert themselves and take on leading roles.

Junior linebackers Luke Duffy and Mark Sink rank as the teams top two tacklers with 90 and 79, respectively. Junior defensive end Zack McQueen has a team-high seven sacks while junior cornerback Ryan Johnson and junior safety Sean Richmond are tied for the team lead in interceptions with two apiece.

We knew that our defense was going to mainly be made up of juniors, said Sink, the son of Hampshire defensive coordinator Rod Sink. We knew we had to step up and play big and play for our seniors. We didnt want to let them down.

Junior cornerback Matt Brockner (44 tackles) is another key piece to the puzzle along with Finnane, who is the only junior on the team in his second varsity season. Finnane has 54 tackles, six sacks and six forced fumbles.

Given the production of the Class of 2012, its safe to say defense wont be a major concern going into next season.

Luckily were at this point where were in November and were not thinking about next year yet, Rolando said. But in the back of your mind you do catch yourself thinking That (junior-dominated defense) does bode well for the future.

Rolando adds that the success of the juniors is in part due to the leadership provided by the teams seniors, who also play an important role.

Keokanlaya (73 tackles), Porto (four sacks) and Pozezinski (11 pass deflections) have all stepped up their games this season. Meanwhile, senior defensive end Kevin Danikowski has taken his game to a whole new level.

Danikowski didnt get much playing time last season, but he doesnt come off the field this year. In addition to his 64 tackles and five sacks on defense, he also starts at offensive tackle.

Senior linebacker Bobby Waclawik (58 tackles) is yet another important contributor for the Wave, which gets a boost from the scouting and preparation of defensive coordinator Marc Rusinko and the rest of the coaching staff.

Coach prepares us well, Porto said. We always change things up depending on what the offense on the other team does, and we watch a lot of film to get ready.

St. Edward allowed a season-low 69 yards in last weeks win against Chicago Uplift, which marked the first playoff victory in program history. The Wave hasnt allowed more than 29 points in a game this season, and in its eight victories it hasnt given up more than 14 points.

Along the way St. Edward held three opponents scoreless, including back-to-back shutouts in Weeks 2 and 3. Not since 1984 had the program accomplished such a feat, which proved to be a sign of things to come for a Wave team that is setting the bar higher than ever this year.

We strive to get a shutout every game, Keokanlaya said. We want to set an example and play hard-nosed defense every time out.

Notre Dame pulls away from Syracuse in New Jersey track meet

deshonekizernotredamesyracuse.jpg
USA Today Sports Images

Notre Dame pulls away from Syracuse in New Jersey track meet

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. — DeShone Kizer flirted with a school record and Notre Dame’s defense came up with a handful of big plays. So at least for this week, the Irish were able to put their disastrous September in the rearview mirror. 

Notre Dame sprinted past Syracuse, 50-33, Saturday afternoon at MetLife Stadium for their second win of the season, which ended a five-game losing streak to Power Five opponents. Kizer threw for 471 yards — 55 short of Joe Thiesmann’s record — and three touchdowns, powering the Irish offense to an average of nearly 10 yards per play. 

Notre Dame and Syracuse combined for 33 points in the first five minutes of the game, with Kizer finding Equanimeous St. Brown for 79- and 67-yard touchdowns on Notre Dame’s first two possessions, which were sandwiched around an eight-play, 75-yard Orange scoring drive (Jarron Jones blocked the PAT, which Cole Luke returned for a two-point score). Syracuse’s Amba Etta-Tawo added a 72-yard touchdown of his own, which was immediately followed by C.J. Sanders dashing 93 yards for a touchdown on the ensuing kickoff.

Things settled down a bit from there, but Notre Dame wasn’t quite able to put away Syracuse when it had the opportunity. Dexter Williams’ fourth-and-goal try from the one-yard line was stopped short, and Kizer missed a wide-open Kevin Stepherson on Notre Dame’s next possession (he would’ve had a touchdown had he connected on the throw). 

Syracuse converted its fourth-and-goal-from-the-one attempt in the second quarter to draw the Orange within three, but Kizer barged downfield for a 71-second scoring drive to put Notre Dame back up by 10. Led by Nyles Morgan and Isaac Rochell, Notre Dame’s defense dug in during the second quarter — though they were without safety Devin Studstill, who was ejected for targeting late in the first quarter — and Justin Yoon added a 31-yard field goal to put the Irish up by 13. 

[SHOP: Get your Notre Dame gear]

But things came unraveled for Notre Dame late in the second half. Kizer took a sack on third down that knocked Notre Dame out of field goal range, and after Brisly Estime cruised through some poor tackling for a 74-yard return, the Orange scored a late touchdown. Kizer was picked off with about 30 seconds left in the half, but Syracuse missed a 40-yard field goal to end a wild first 30 minutes. The two teams combined for 727 yards of total offense in the first half. 

As it turned out, that moment of panic was quickly washed away early in the second half. 

Notre Dame’s defense dug in, playing decent enough coverage and pressuring Dungey (James Onwualu’s sack-strip of the Orange quarterback was Notre Dame’s first forced fumble of the season). Kizer found Stepherson — who, again, was wide open — for a 46-yard touchdown, and Wililams dazzled with a video game-like cutback for a 59-yard run for a score. That six-point halftime lead quickly ballooned to 20.

For the first time this season, Notre Dame’s defense had a number of players come up with big individual plays. Linebacker Nyles Morgan had a few, including a pass break-up, a sack and a tackle for a loss. Defensive end Isaac Rochell added a tackle for a loss, as did Onwualu (in addition to his sack-strip). Defensive end Jay Hayes made a few plays, and cornerback Donte Vaughn and linebacker Greer Martini broke up passes, too. And Jones’ blocked PAT — his sixth blocked kick of his career and second of the season — meant Notre Dame was in the lead of this game from the first play to the last. 

Syracuse still racked up 33 points, but those individual efforts were a promising sign in the first game of the Greg Hudson era. Dungey’s five-yard touchdown run came with 6:52 remaining in the game and was Syracuse’s first score of the second half (the Orange botched the PAT attempt). 

Yoon tacked on a 39-yard field goal in the fourth quarter to give Notre Dame 50 points, its highest total against a Power Five opponent since Oct. 11, 2014 against North Carolina. 

J.T. Barrett becomes Buckeyes' all-time TD leader in crushing of Rutgers

jt-barrett-1001.png

J.T. Barrett becomes Buckeyes' all-time TD leader in crushing of Rutgers

J.T. Barrett threw an interception on Ohio State’s first offensive possession, but that was in no way an indication of how his day would go.

The redshirt junior became the program’s all-time leader in touchdown passes Saturday, throwing four in the first half in a 58-0 blowout of Rutgers at Ohio Stadium.

Despite a slowish start for Ohio State — it was just 6-0 after a quarter — Barrett and the Buckeyes turned on the jets in a 24-point second quarter and ended up out-gaining the Knights, 360-84, in the first 30 minutes of play. That trend continued after halftime, too, with Ohio State adding four more touchdowns, all of them of the rushing variety to turn this one into a merciless blowout.

After Barrett's interception, Ohio State scored on every drive until the game's last, when a fourth-and-goal try from 11 yards out was unsuccessful. That included seven straight touchdown drives.

Barrett had touchdown passes to four different receivers in the first half: Curtis Samuel, Dontre Wilson, Marcus Baugh and Terry McLaurin. Barrett's day was over before the third quarter was, and he finished 21-for-29 with 238 yards to go along with that quartet of scoring throws. Samuel had a big first half with 70 receiving yards to go along with his touchdown catch and an additional 58 rushing yards. He finished with 154 total yards.

Mike Weber also had a huge day running the ball. He went for 144 yards on just 14 carries, including a 46-yard touchdown run.

And, as it’s been doing all season, the Buckeyes’ defense certainly came to play, blanking the Knights and limiting them to just 107 total yards on the game. With 84 of those in the first half, the Knights had a shocking second-half yardage total of just 23. Ohio State out-rushed Rutgers, 410-74, holding a ridiculous 669-107 total-yardage edge on the day.

Throwing the ball, Rutgers was 3-for-16 as a team.

Ohio State, the second-ranked team in the country, improved to a perfect 4-0 with the win and will take on Indiana next weekend.

Rutgers fell to 2-3 with the loss and takes on Michigan next weekend.