Sept. 22, 2000
NOTRE DAME, Ind. – Each week the FANSzine will take a look at Notre Dame’s opponent and feature one of the key players in Saturday’s game. This week the Irish face the Spartans of Michigan State. The key player in this week’s matchup without a doubt is T.J. Duckett. The Spartan’s ground game burned the Irish two years ago in East Lansing.
This year’s key component to Michigan State’s ground game is the likes of T.J. Duckett. With just two games under his belt, he already one of the nation’s leading rushers.
“You have got to stop him before he gets started,” Davie said about Duckett. “I mean, when he gets rolling now he goes down hill, he is impressive. When he gets heading north and south, just takes it on a straight line, he is a heck of a player.”
Duckett already ranks fourth in the country in terms of rushing. Already, he has tallied up 59 carries and amassed 350 yards. He averages around 175 yards per game.
Duckett is no stranger to Davie and the coaching staff. Notre Dame courted Duckett back in his senior year at Loy Norrix high school. The Irish went after Duckett with intense pressure. In fact, Davie recruited him as a tailback, which many schools did not even have in mind.
“We knew that that was probably our best opportunity to get him,” Davie said about his decision to recruit Duckett as a tailback. “We knew that his brother had gone to Michigan State and that we were behind in that sense. He is from the State of Michigan. There were a lot of people recruiting him.”
Davie believed it game the Irish the best opportunity to sign him. Also the coaching staff had a “sincere appreciation” of his ability.
“With him, he is real patient and then when he finds the gaps, he just hit it,” Davie said. “You have to be really patient and disciplined on defense and not allow seams to occur in your defense.”
After the massacre at Spartan Stadium two years ago, Davie knows not to underestimate how much Duckett can do for his team. The ground game alone caused fits for the Irish two years ago without the likes of Duckett.
One of the keys to a win on the road for the Irish must be to slow Duckett down. It is hard to stop him but if you can keep the gains small, the Irish could walk away victorious.