Lambert turned his season—and possibly his college career around—in that game.
Coming off a brutal performance against Michigan, which had crushed the Irish
the week before, Lambert, a junior, had a pair of critical interceptions
against the Spartans. "When I got here, I was afraid to put him on the
field," Irish coach Charlie Weis admitted this week. Now he is loath to
take him out. Lambert had another interception last Saturday; his promotion
over the erratic Ambrose Wooden was part of a minor shake-up of the defense,
which took place during the bye week preceding the UCLA game.
Weis also elevated
Chris Frome to starter at defensive end, in place of Ronald Talley, who left
the team on Oct. 12. Also benched was outside linebacker Mitchell Thomas, whose
place was taken by senior Joe Brockington. Although the reconstituted unit
looked alarmingly like its old self at times against the Bruins, yielding
first-half touchdown passes of 54 and 36 yards, it bore down in the second
half, holding UCLA to 75 total yards.
The Irish will be
heavy favorites in the four games before their Nov. 25 date at USC. The win
over the other team from Los Angeles drastically increases Notre Dame's chances
of playing in a BCS bowl. "You want blowouts; you want to prove a point to
the country," said strong safety Tom Zbikowski. "But no matter how it
looks, we'll take the win."
Wisconsin's P.J. Hill: Big Gains for a Hefty Back
It may not have been pretty, but Wisconsin running back P.J. Hill finished off
his day in style. With the Badgers leading Purdue 17--3 late in the fourth
quarter last Saturday, the 5'11", 242 pound Weeble of a redshirt freshman
rumbled 46 yards on his final carry of the afternoon. It was an impressive run
for a player who had already toted the ball 28 times for 115 yards and two
touchdowns, often with a Boilermaker or two hanging on. So hard had he worked,
it was forgivable that Hill was caught from behind, eight yards short of the
goal line. (Running back Lance Smith scored on the next play to seal the 24--3
win for the 17th-ranked Badgers.) "He's not as quick as other backs,"
Wisconsin running backs coach John Settle says of Hill. "He's a
What else would
you expect from a man whose egg-shaped physique spurred his mother to nickname
him Thunder Thighs? Eight games into his college career, Hill has developed
into one of the most punishing and durable runners in the game, and he's taken
the sting out of the loss of Brian Calhoun, who left Madison after his junior
season and was a third-round draft pick of the Lions last spring. Hill's 1,172
rushing yards are tops in the Big Ten and the most of any freshman in the
country. And with 14 touchdowns he's the sixth-leading scorer in Division I A.
"P.J.'s very explosive and very physical, but he's got great feet for a big
guy," says Settle, a former NFL running back.
With 4.6 speed,
Hill, a native of East Elmhurst, N.Y., who played at Brooklyn-Poly Prep, wasn't
recruited heavily. His decision to attend Wisconsin over Syracuse and Buffalo
raised a few eyebrows at home, but Hill liked the Badgers' reputation for
churning out 1,000-yard rushers. He broke his left leg in August 2005,
preventing him from backing up Calhoun last fall, but he fully recovered by the
spring. Hill's development has been impressive, but Settle and the Wisconsin
strength coaches still want him to improve his upper-body strength. "This
is how my body is," Hill protests. "The strength is going to come, but
I don't think it's my appearance that matters. Performance is all that matters
Read more from
Stewart Mandel at SI.com/collegefootball.