Blue and Gold Illustrated

Oct. 3, 2016

Blue & Gold Illustrated: America's Foremost Authority on Notre Dame Football

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52 OCT. 3, 2016 BLUE & GOLD ILLUSTRATED WHERE HAVE YOU GONE? BY LOU SOMOGYI T here was legitimate pain in Ross Browner 's reaction when he was informed of the stat: During Notre Dame's 1‑2 start this season, it was one of only two teams in the 128‑team Football Bowl Subdivision that had not yet recorded a quarterback sack (Nevada was the other). "Oooooohhhh," Browner silently cringed in mourning. During his Notre Dame career that helped lead Notre Dame to two na‑ tional titles (1973 and 1977), Browner set two Fighting Irish standards that can safely be said will never be broken. One is his 340 career tackles as a line‑ man. The closest to come to that mark (eighth overall at Notre Dame, behind seven linebackers) since his graduation are Trevor Laws with 224 from 2004‑07 and Browner's fellow College Football Hall of Fame inductee Chris Zorich with 219 from 1988‑90. The other is his 77 tackles for loss. No one else has ever been credited with more than 45. Among those 77, about 50 of them were likely quarter‑ back sacks from an era that didn't track that data. Now 62 years old and retired from about 30 years of work in various fields such as real estate and insur‑ ance, the Nashville, Tenn., resident Browner comes up at least once a year to a Notre Dame game, most recently this year's 36‑28 loss to Michigan State to mingle with longtime friends, in‑ cluding members of the 1966 national title team that were commemorating their 50th anniversary. "My observation is that our linemen are playing too high," Browner said of the loss to Michigan State in which the Spartans passed for 241 yards and ran for 260. "They're almost like standing up, and I know they are tall — 6‑5, 6‑6 — but the game is still about leverage. "In order to get those sacks, you have to be low enough to knock the of‑ fensive lineman back into the backfield and get some penetration with a lower pad level." Head coach Brian Kelly has con‑ tended that sack stats can be "over‑ rated," because with today's quick‑ step drops and releases, sacks are much more difficult to come by. It's just as effective to pressure the passer either with hurried throws or bat down the quick passes in your lane. Browner doesn't necessarily dis‑ agree with Kelly's evaluation, but he isn't fully on board either. "One thing about it today is you have to be more aware as a pass rusher," Browner said. "You have to react much faster and you have to beat your opponent or your blocker a lot faster, too. "Those three‑step drops, we had to deal with them in the pros — and we were still expected to make sacks. You have to teach the technique and you also had to know you have to get pen‑ etration. We had throwing lanes in the NFL, too, and we had to put our hands up to knock a lot of those quick passes down, or to tip it to give the lineback‑ ers and defensive backs a chance to intercept." Myriad rule changes since Brown‑ er's era have been made to favor of‑ fenses and promote scoring. Some would contend that "legalized hold‑ ing" has become more prevalent. "Today the offensive linemen are allowed to put their hands out, so you have to be really quick with your hands and really know where your hands are going and the positioning of them," Browner said. "You can't have wasted movement, because once they get you inside, they can hold you as long as they want. "Our day was different — the of‑ fensive linemen weren't really allowed to extend; they had to keep their arms kind of bent. Now they can extend on you and put their hands on you." Nevertheless, Browner contends that in his prime he could be even more effective as a speed and bull rusher today because of the girth of so many offensive linemen. He doesn't believe they are more athletic than his time in college and the NFL (1978‑87). "You have to be powerful, you have to be quick, and you definitely have to have agility," he summarized of the requirements of an elite pass rusher. "You have to change directions quicker than they change directions." The first of four brothers who would play in the NFL, Browner was a mag‑ nificent specimen who many schools, including Notre Dame, thought could immediately help on offense. "Ara [Parseghian] told me I would be a great tight end and I said, 'Coach, if you don't mind, I would love to play defense. I like hitting people,'" Browner recalled. "And he said, 'OK, you can play that then.'" It made an enormous difference af‑ ter Parseghian experienced his worst Ross Browner, 1973, 1975-77 Defensive End Browner's 340 career tackles are by far the most ever by an Irish defensive lineman and his 77 career tackles for loss are a school record for any position. PHOTO COURTESY NOTRE DAME MEDIA RELATIONS Notre Dame's most dominant lineman ever reflects on sacks

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