Introducing the Down the Tunnel Radio Show

-Sgt Shamrock

Here at Down the Tunnel we are always looking for new ways to improve and provide you the fans and readers new and entertaining content such as our YouTube show “Roughing the Passer” and Dear Dixie. We have the best fans in the Notre Dame fan community and we really enjoy bringing you all the best content and coverage of Notre Dame athletics.

With that said we are pleased the announce the creation of the Down the Tunnel Radio Show, which will begin next week. The radio show will be a live show and will give our fans the opportunity to call in and talk Notre Dame athletics. I will be hosting the show that will take place on Wednesday nights throughout the football season as well as certain weeks during basketball season.

However I can’t host a radio show on my own so in addition to the new radio show, we are pleased to announce the addition of Brae Beadles (@BraeBeadles34) and Augie Farwig (@AugieFarwig) to the Down the Tunnel crew to be the co-hosts of the new Down the Tunnel radio show. We are thrilled to add them to the team and I hope everyone will welcome them.

We will keep you posted as to the call in number for the show and the starting time for the first show next Wednesday. We looking forward to taking all of your calls and talking Notre Dame athletics with the best fans in the entire ND fan base. GO IRISH.

Grading Out the First Three Weeks

-Sgt Shamrock

The first quarter of the season is complete and with this week being the first bye week of the season, now would be as good a time as ever to look back at the first three games of the season to see just where the Irish stand. Record wise nobody is complaining with the Irish being 3-0 with wins over Rice, Michigan, and Purdue and the outlook of the entire season looking much brighter than it did a few weeks ago. Even with the academic investigation not complete and dragging into the season, the Irish have been able to plug and play players to fill in the holes and have so far done a pretty good job of it. Lets take a look at some interesting statistics from the first three weeks and also give out grades for each position group for the first quarter of the season

Stats and Notes:

  • Notre Dame has scored at least 30 points in their first three games of the season, the first time that has happened since Brian Kelly arrived at Notre Dame
  • Through three games Notre Dame is converting 47% of its third downs while holding their opponents to a 37% conversion rate.
  • Notre Dame has been in the red zone fourteen times so far this season. The Irish are 14/14 in those trips in scoring with ten touchdowns and four field goals.
  • The Irish have intercepted six passes by through three games. Those six interceptions were intercepted by six different players
  • Notre Dame has scored 13 touchdowns in their first three games while only allowing opponents into the end zone four times.
  • Notre Dame has won each of its first three games by at least 16 points. The last time an Irish team did that was in 1987
  • Notre Dame ranks 4th nationally in scoring defense allowing only 10.3 points per game.

Quarterback 

There is really not a more impressive way for Everett Golson to start of the season. After sitting out the entire 2013 season, Golson has quickly put himself in the Heisman Trophy conversation. After the first three games, Golson is 62 of 96 passing for 780 yards, seven touchdowns and ZERO interceptions or fumbles. Notre Dame ranks 51st nationally in Passing offense averaging 260 yards per game. Even with a receiving corps full of new faces, Golson has had pretty good chemistry with his receivers and has looked very crisp and comfortable in the pocket. Irish fans can only hope that Golson keeps up this performance because if he plays at this level, the wins will keep piling up. Grade: A

Running backs

The running game has been a bit underwhelming in the first quarter of the season. After a strong performance against Rice, Notre Dame had two lackluster performances running the football against Michigan and Purdue. The Irish are currently ranked 70th nationally averaging a very average 158 yards per game. Greg Bryant leads the team in rushing with 119 yards while Tarean Folston is a close second with 110 yards. Those types of numbers are what we were hoping these guys to have in one game, not three games. With the amount of talent in the Irish backfield it is vital to get the running game going in order to keep defenses off balance to open up the passing game for Everett Golson. Grade: C

Receiving Corps

With Davaris Daniels still being held out as the academic investigation continues, Will Fuller has been the breakout star in the Irish receiving corps early on this season. While he has had some drops early on, he leads the team with 19 receptions for 225 yards and three touchdowns. He has really shown the speed that we all expected. Amir Carlise and CJ Prosice have been very effective in the slot and are adding even more speedy weapons to Golson’s arsenal. Torii Hunter will return to the lineup next week against Syracuse to make his Notre Dame debut which should add another weapon to the offense. Chris Brown has been disappointing thus far, being very inconsistent and really not playing to the level that many thought he would. There have been some miscues in terms of communication with the receivers in terms of routes and play calls as well as a couple drops. That is going to need to get cleaned up quickly. Grade: B-

Offensive Line

If there was one part of the offense that has not looked impressive through the first three weeks it would be the offensive line. There have been some major issues in both run and pass blocking that are real concerns for the Irish. The offensive line along with not really opening running lanes to allow the running game going, they have also given up six sacks in the first three games. At times the offensive line has had real trouble maintaining blocks in the passing game, especially against Purdue. Brian Kelly said following the win over Purdue that he was going to talk to the coaching staff about possibly moving some players to different positions along the line. After the first three games performance that is a pretty good idea. Grade: C-

Defensive Line

So far this season the defensive line has really been Doctor Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. They looked not bad against Rice, played a fantastic game against Michigan, but then look to take a step back after a fairly lackluster performance against Purdue. The line had a hard time getting any pressure on the Purdue quarterback this past weekend and that is not a good sign with much tougher opponents looming on the schedule. Sheldon Day however has played very well so far this season and is really looking like he is turning into a dominant force on defense. Jarron Jones has also shown some flashes of brilliance which is a reason for some optimism. We saw that the defensive line can play very well in Brian VanGorders scheme in the Michigan game. Now we have to see if they can get back to that level and stay there. Grade: B-

Linebackers

Let me go ahead and get this out of the way. Jaylon Smith is a beast and is without a doubt the best player on defense. Other than Jaylon Smith the linebackers have had a pretty season so far. Joe Schmidt is playing far better than people expected him too and he looks nothing like a former walk on. VanGorder has shown he is not afraid to mix up the blitz packages and bring linebackers from all areas of the field to get pressure on the quarterback. While we have not seen much of Ben Council, expect that to change once Stanford comes to town in a few weeks as Brian Kelly will bring him in to help against the physical offense of the Cardinal. Jared Grace is still out with an injury however he is getting closer and closer to playing time. He will not play against Syracuse but I don’t think its out of the realm of possibly he could return for Stanford. The group hasn’t been super flashy early on but they have not made many mistakes either. Oh yea and Jaylon Smith is a beast. Grade: B+

Secondary 

In my opinion even without KeiVarae Russell playing right now, the secondary is the strength of the Irish defense at this point in the season and I believe it will stay that way all year long. The Irish have already intercepted six passes through three games and the entire unit is really thriving in VanGorder’s scheme. Mathias Farley, a player that after a lackluster performance last year, has really thrived and is playing his best football in his new nickel corner position. Both Cole Luke and Cody Riggs are doing more than enough in coverage at the corner positions. Redfield and Shumate have played really well at the safety positions and Austin Collinsworth should return to the lineup soon after missing the first three games with a strained MCL. The only issue with the secondary that worries me going forward is depth. Going on the assumption that Russell will not return this season (I dont know that is the case I am just assuming) and Nikki Barrati being out for the remainder of the season with a shoulder injury, Notre Dame can not afford any more injuries. Grade A-

Special Teams

In years past this is normally where I would be talking about how the special teams is a mess yet again and trying to figure out what to do due to fix it. However that is not the case this season. Cody Riggs and Greg Bryant has finally provided and successful punt return unit and Amir Carlise has looked good on kickoffs as well. Kyle Brindza is a valuable weapon in all facets of the kicking game especially on kickoffs. Forcing your opponent to start on the 25 without a chance at a return is always good and is a big part of Notre Dame’s success. Grade: A-

Irish Invade Indy. A Weekend Preview

-Sgt Shamrock

shamrock_logo_2014_final
The 11th ranked Notre Dame Fighting Irish head down to Indianapolis this weekend to take on the Purdue Boilermakers in the annual Shamrock Series game. Notre Dame (2-0) is fresh off a complete destruction of Michigan while Purdue (1-1) got blown out last weekend by CENTRAL MICHIGAN AT HOME. That fact alone paints a pretty good picture of how this game should play out this weekend. Now normally this is the type of game that Irish fans have had to worry about in the past. Coming fresh off a huge win and playing a completely inferior opponent the following week has spelled trouble for the Irish in the past and I have already seen a bit of concern from some fans about if the Irish will come out flat Saturday night. Normally I could sort of understand that sentiment. I mean it has been a problem in the past and Notre Dame has lost to teams that they had no business losing too however that will not be the case this season. When Notre Dame originally announced that the Shamrock Series was going to be played in Indianapolis, this early in the season, against PURDUE, I was a bit confused. In the past Notre Dame had traveled to places like Dallas, New York City, and Chicago to play against opponents like Arizona State, Army, and Miami. The locations were places where in areas where Notre Dame usually didn’t play that often and against teams that are not on the schedule as much as maybe some of the normal staples like Navy or Stanford. However now I can completely appreciate the choosing of this game and per usual Jack Swarbrick is a smart smart man. The Irish knew headed into the season that their first big test of the season was against Michigan and that the first bye week of the season was fairly early (Its in week 4 this year). I actually had a chance to talk to Jack Swarbrick last weekend when some of my buddies and I ran into him in the bookstore. He was great and took some time to talk to the three of us. When talking about the Shamrock series he said that the program knew if they good get to the first bye week at 3-0 that the season would start taking shape very nicely. Having the Shamrock Series in week 3 against a team that is just not very good is going to completely get rid of the chance of a letdown game. The players are not only excited to wear the special Shamrock Series uniforms but are also just as excited to play in an NFL stadium. The players will be amped and I really expect them to come out firing on all cylinders from the time the game starts to when the backups are closing out the game.

Offense

Everett Golson has looked fantastic through the first two games of the season. After looking a bit wide eyed in the early stages against Michigan this past weekend, he quickly got a hold of himself and made some fantastic throws and led the Irish to a 31-0 win over the Wolverines. Golson has eight touchdowns to his name thru the first two games of the season but has yet to throw for over 300 yards. If you look at it closer though the yardage can really be attributed to the fact that Notre Dame has had fantastic starting field position in each of the first two games. Regardless, this week he will break that 300 yard mark and I actually think he has a good shot at 400 yards. The Purdue defense is pretty bad ranking 108th in the country in scoring defense allowing an average of 34.5 points per game so far this season. They are also giving up close to 225 yards through the air per game and that was against two very mediocre quarterbacks. Golson is on a completely different level than what Purdue has seen so far and their secondary is going to be in for a LONG day. Speaking of long days the front 7 for Purdue is in for one too. While the Irish didn’t run the ball nearly as effectively against Michigan as they did against Rice, part of that was due to Michigan’s defensive game plan of trying to stop the run and make Golson throw. As dumb as that sounds, that was their plan and the Irish were more than happy to oblige. This week expect the Irish backfield to have a field day against a Purdue run defense that for lack of a better word is..well..BAD. The Boilermakers rank 97th nationally allowing a whopping  187 yards on the ground per game. The Irish should have no problem dominating the line of scrimmage and running the ball at will. I dont think it is farfetched for the Irish to have 300 total rushing yards by games end.

Defense

I could not be more surprised by how the defense has played through the first two games of the season. After losing the big names of Nix, Tuitt, and Shembo to the NFL Draft and Williams and Russell to the ongoing academic fraud investigation, I had very tempered expectations of just how the defense was going to play this season. That defensive unit has gone above and beyond those expectations and the great thing is I think they can keep getting better. Cody Riggs has been a huge addition to the team and Cole Luke has more than just filled in for Russell. After a pretty plain look against Rice, Brian VanGorder unleashed the dogs against Michigan with multiple blitz packages that had the Wolverines guessing the entire game. Expect that to continue. Purdue’s offense is nothing to write home about either ranking 95th nationally and averaging close to 350 yards per game. And those games were against Western and Central Michigan. Thats not good. Add on the fact that Purdue still doesn’t even know who is going to start at quarterback saturday and its pretty safe to say the Purdue offense has some major issues. Something that I noticed when looking back at the defenses performance through the first two games of the season really caught me by surprise. Through the first two games, Notre Dame has played EIGHT freshman on defense and have committed only ONE penalty. With the amount of young players on the field, that is just insane to think they have only been called for one penalty. The younger players while inexperienced, have a ton of speed and are really out performing my initial expectations. Not only does that bode well for this season but it makes the future look very bright for the Irish defense.

Prediction 

Notre Dame opened up as a 30 point favorite and I believe the line has dropped to 28. Both of those are too low and if you are a betting man put your money on the Irish. Notre Dame is a flat out better team in every aspect and its not even close. I fully expect the Irish to have close to 600 total yards of offense and the defense should have another stellar performance. Notre Dame rolls over Purdue and heads into the bye week at 3-0 and a possible top 10 ranking. Notre Dame 51 Purdue 6

Other Games around the country

This weekend has a bunch of dud games and not very many good match ups but here a couple of the not so bad, bad games.

Tennessee at 4 Oklahoma- While I don’t think Oklahoma is as good as everyone is giving them credit for, they are going to be too much for Tennessee. Butch Jones is taking the Vols in the right direction and will have them back in contention in the SEC but not this year. Oklahoma 35 Tennessee 17

6 Georgia at 24 South Carolina- Georgia looks like a bonafide SEC title contender and playoff team hopeful led by Heisman candidate Todd Gurley. Gurley is a beast and by far the best running back in the nation. I have no idea how South Carolina is even still ranked at this point after getting flat out embarrassed by Texas A&M but that ranking will be gone soon enough. Georgia 31 South Carolina 20

12 UCLA at Texas (Arlington Stadium)- UCLA received a bunch of preseason hype as a playoff contender for some reason but through the first two weeks of the season they look far then impressive. However they are taking on a Texas team this weekend that is practically in shambles. The Longhorns are missing their starting quarterback as well as countless other players. UCLA 41 Texas 14

Notre Dame Player Interviews- Purdue Week

-Sgt Shamrock 

Thanks to our recent partnership with The New Notre Dame Nation, I am very blessed to be able to attend Brian Kelly’s weekly press conferences as well as the player interviews that take place every Wednesday. We here at Down the Tunnel are doing our best to be the NUMBER ONE Notre Dame blog by providing you, the readers/viewers, high quality, unique, and at times comical, coverage of all things Notre Dame. Starting today we will have video and audio from the player interviews every Wednesday. And make sure you check back to Down the Tunnel every week have wall-to-wall coverage of each and every Irish football game this season.

Everett Golson  

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0U3nUwbc0ok

Will Fuller

Kyle Brindza

Amir Carlise

Nick Martin

Elijah Shumate

Mathias Farley

 

 

Dear Dixie – Week 2. Post scUM.

Well it’s post scUM week, and it shows in y’alls questions.  While there are a couple of witty questions, most sound like they were thought up during a horrible hangover.  I still answered them to the best of my ability.  A LOT of questions were not included due to the graphic nature of them.  Here they are in all their glory.  Thanks to @irishfootball11, @mrmayhem75, @HoosIrish, @BraeBeadles34, @BravoSarno, @bhaydon5, @JBNDFAN, @Stan_Cherry, @jharlow23, @mr_jt412, @MrsTruj, @stickamania, @PackyP, @kickassmjh, and @TheShamRap.  Keep em coming y’all.

How do you keep that glorious beard of yours so soft?  Mines getting pretty rough.

-It’s my understanding that this question needed to be answered first.  Understandable.  Simple, the tears of defeated opponents make for excellent conditioner.  But seriously, just conditioner.

What is the proper punishment for someone who drops a full jar of Apple Pie Moonshine?

-Besides a season long ban from tailgating? 

Why does Brae still look like a 13 year old punk?

-You really wish he was 17 huh?

Joe has 10 apples. Anthony gives him 13 more.  How many apples does Brad have?

-Didn’t I tell you I went to art school?

In the movie “Encino Man” a cave man was taught to exist in present day society.  Does this mean @irishfootball11 has a chance?

-Not likely.  He is no Brendan Fraser.

I heard Down The Tunnel has achieved Notre Dame blog supremacy.  Is the air crisper at the top?

-O’Doyle Rulez.

I couldn’t get an answer from #AskJameis so I’ll give #DearDixie a chance:  Drawn butter or cocktail sauce?

-Can anyone really get an answer from him?  Refer to his NCG post game speech for proof.

What in the hell happened to the flag in the student section?

-Have you ever tried to get dressed/undressed while drunk?  Same concept.

You said after the game, that you were going to conceive baby number #2.  I don’t get it.  Please explain?

-It’s ok.  Neither did Mrs. Dixie.

Of your total number of tweets you have tweeted, How many would you say were composed on the throne?

-The easy answer is 2 right?

At what age is it appropriate to start taking viagra?

-How old is Brady Hoke?

Bob Diaco’s luscious hair or BVG’s sweet stache?

-Brian Kelly’s Nips.

In rankings of best states to raise girls, Michigan came in at 28th place.  Rankings fair?

-Michigan rarely makes it into the top 25.  But hey, at least we aren’t Mississippi.

I just farted in my office, and my secretary walks in. 1) What does it smell like? 2) Can I blame i on her?

-The second question depends on the answer to the first.  If it smells like jalapeño cheese brats and stale PBR, its highly doubtful you can blame it on her. 

Has Michigan scored yet?

-Nope.   

Is a burrito a Mexican sandwich?

-Is that the same as a donkey show?

A bottle of Jameson, reserved for post scUM celebration was missing.  Has it been found?

-Why are you looking at me?  *Shoves altoids in mouth

Should I be embarrassed that I love “All About That Base”

-Not nearly as embarrassing as my Ace of Base t-shirt collection.

Do you like foot longs?

-I know you do Jared.

How can you REspond, but just not Spond?

-Life’s a bitch ain’t it?

Have you ever pooped your pants as an adult?

-No, but I have pooped on my Grandma-in-laws floor.

How much wood could a woodchuck chuck, if a woodchuck, could chuck, wood?

-Ask IrishFootball11.  He knows all about chucking wood.

I have a Michigan fan to my left, and a roll of toilet paper to my right.  What do I let kiss my ass first?

-They’re both used to handling copious amounts of poo. Michigan is softer too.

Could Jaylon Smith become a better player than Manti?

-Damn tough question.  I think he will end up with better career stats than Manti.  Will he have a greater impact on the team than Manti?  We shall see, but his future is BRIGHT.

What now?

BxDeBBeCQAAnlK1

-God gave you hands for a reason.

To prepare for my dance off against GoIrishGlory, what training program do you recommend?

-Do the Stanky Leg.

Would you rather have a beer with Kirk Herbstreit  or Mark May?

-Lee Corso.  He curses on live TV and plays with guns.

Stat Sandwich: Notre Dame/scUM Team Breakdown

Notre Dame: 37 – Michigan: 0. Those are the only numbers you really need to know. I thought about making my entire post just that because when you set up the scenario where you may never give up a point to your rival opponent again, what else is there to do? And don’t you dare tell me I got the score wrong. I’ve seen plenty of pictures that confirmed that score. What’s that saying? Numbers never lie? That may be true, but there’s an equally true saying that was in play on Saturday: B1G referees suck. And it’s for that reason that some in the business will insist the final score was 31-0.

When you find yourself in a situation where the numbers disagree, it can help to re-imagine them in a different way. I’ve already taken it upon myself to petition the NCAA official record books to reconcile this discrepancy in a reasonable manner. I’ve asked them to change the final score to: Brian VanGorder Double Fist Pumps – Eternal Sadness. Until that goes official (I’m optimistic it’ll be sometime next week because we all know how efficient the NCAA is in its decision-making process, right UNC and Miami?), let’s dig into this week’s Stat Sandwich.

Like last week, I’ll start off by presenting some of the baseline, team wide statistics. As an added wrinkle, and until enough games have passed to develop more season long trends and analysis, I’m presenting this week’s stats alongside last week’s for comparison purposes. The last column is a general point of reference for whether week-over-week a particular category saw improvement or regression. Of course, this is all relative. So, for instance, I noted that “just” 31 points was a fall off from last week’s 48 (aren’t you glad you’ve read this far to learn 31 is in fact less than 48?), and therefore it’s noted as worse. Don’t take that too seriously. How about you pretend to look at the table, and then jump below for the areas that I was actually interested in.

Rice:

Michigan:

Better/Worse:

Points:

48

31

Worse

Plays:

72

75

Better

Points per Play:

.67

.41

Worse

Passing Attempts:

22

34

N/A

Rushing Attempts:

42

31

N/A

Penalties:

2

3

Worse

FG Attempts:

3

1

N/A

Punts:

3

6

Worse

Total Yards:

576

280

Worse

Rushing Yards:

281

54

Worse

Passing Yards:

295

226

Worse

Yards per Play:*

8.72

4.24

WORSE

Yards per Point:

12

9.03

BETTER

Penalty Yards:

10

20

Worse

Turnovers:

0

0

Same

Field Goals:

2/3. Makes: 29, 36 yards. Misses: 39 yards

1/1, Makes: 43

Better %

Punts: 39 yards (fair catch), 50 yards (touchback), 55 yards (touchback). 47 yards (fair catch), 41 yards (fair catch), 40 yards (fair catch), 39 yards (fair catch), 40 yards (fair catch), 23 yards (out of bounds) No touchbacks. Pinned Michigan inside 10 yard line twice. One shank.
Punt Average:

48

38

Worse

Net Punt Average:

35

38

BETTER

1st Downs:

23

20

Worse

3rd Down Converts:

6/13 for 46%

7/15 for 47%

Better

Red Zone Atts:

6

4

Worse

Red Zone TDs:

4

3

N/A

Red Zone FG’s:

2

1

N/A

RZ Score %:

100%

100%

Same

RZ TD %:

67%

75%

Better

* YPP = (Total Yards )/(Total plays – (Punts + FG Att + Def. Penalties))

Points per play: Last week I introduced some folks to the points per play metric which is a rough guide to explosiveness. Notre Dame’s week one performance versus Rice resulted in 0.67 points per play which in 2013 would have ranked second behind only Florida State. Given the total points, 48, and the explosive touchdowns (Fuller’s 75 yard TD comes to mind), you can get a general impression as to how the two work with one another. This week then it’s not at all surprising that points per play dropped off. Notre Dame’s longest rush of the game was Malik Zaire’s 14 yard scramble at the end of the game on 3rd and 16. Greg Bryant, Tarean Folston, and Cam McDaniel all had poor rushing performances. If you’re into that equality of life thing though, this was your game. Bryant, Folston, and McDaniel all received either 8 or 9 carries. They each had a long run of (just) 6 yards. Consider that last game each of the three had at least one rush of 17 yards, and you can quickly start to understand why points per play diminished.

The passing game, while effective, also lacked the firework plays that get the ladies excited like staring at a certain picture of one Cam McDaniel. The 24-yard touchdown pass to William Fuller in the second quarter was a thing of beauty…it was also the longest offensive play of the game and one of just 4 offensive plays all game that netted more than 15 yards. There are other measures to consider as well, but suffice it to say, this week’s team was more efficient than explosive.

Yards per point: While the offense was less explosive and less efficient in terms of yards per play, the team was quite efficient (nearly unreasonably so) in converting yards to points. The four touchdown drives for Notre Dame were drives of 56, 61, 71, and 80 yards. On the 7 drives the Irish had which did not result in a touchdown the longest drive netted just 19 yards. There were no in between distance drives leading to a remarkably strong yards per point. As stated last week, yards per point is not necessarily predictive in that the correlation from week to week is not terribly strong, but in describing how a team can be outgained in total yards but still absolutely dominate a game, this is a big reason why.

Notre Dame Offensive Play Breakdown by Quarter:

First Quarter Second Quarter Third Quarter Fourth Quarter
# Plays:

17

25 15

18

Runs:

8

9 6

8

Passes:

6

15 7

6

Penalties:

2 (Defensive)

0 1

0

Punts/FG Att:

1

1 1

4

Touchdowns:

1

2 1

0

Rushing Yards:

20

26 10

-2

Passing Yards:

40

129 46

11

Rush:Pass Ratio*

1.33

0.6 0.86

1.33

Rush Yds/Car.

2.5

2.89 1.67

-0.25

  • Michigan Rush:Pass Ratio = 0.91; Rice Rush:Pass Ratio = 1.91; 2013 Rush-Pass Ratio = 1.02. A Ratio of >1 means the team rushed more than it passed. < 1 means the opposite. A ratio of exactly 1 means the team ran the same number of rushing plays as passing plays.

Most of the scoring occurred in the first half, and that’s where the yards were found as well. The running game never really got going and was abandoned during the middle part of the game. The Irish had just 8 yards rushing in the second half, and the fourth quarter in particular was troubling with -2 yards on 8 carries. Versus Rice, Notre Dame put their foot down in the fourth quarter by running the ball 13 times compared to just 1 pass while averaging nearly 10 yards a carry. No repeat versus Michigan.

It’s worth noting that the Irish frequently used an offset back shotgun formation as opposed to the pistol formation which was effective last week. From my perspective, Notre Dame used read option runs early to gauge how the Michigan defense planned to deal with Golson. Michigan made a concerted effort to keep a contain man on Golson. As such, plays which may have been drawn up as read option turned almost exclusively into offset handoffs. The offensive line lacked any sort of real push to free up these slow developing runs. It also led to increased use of the play action pass. Versus Rice, Golson attempted 4 play actions passes all game. Versus Michigan, Golson attempted 6…in the first half. The offense abandoned the play action in the second half, except for one lone play, but when your defense forces 4 turnovers in one half, the need for consistent offense is alleviated.

Notre Dame Performance by Down: 

1st Down:

2nd Down:

3rd Down:

# Plays

28**

23

15

Run:

15

11

4

Pass:

11

11

11

Penalty:

2 (Defensive)^

1^^

0

Avg. to go for 1st:

9.46

7.57

5.33

Change from previous game average yards to go:

-0.54 yards

+1.30

-0.59

Efficiency %:*

39%

43%

47%

Efficiency +/- previous game:

-14%

+4%

+1%

Eff. 3 > 5yds to go

N/A

N/A

17% (1/6)

Eff. 3 <= 5 yds to go

N/A

N/A

67% (6/9)

* the folks at http://www.FootballOutsiders.com use a play efficiency metric to decide whether a play was efficient or not. It’s easy to think about in the context of third downs: Did the play result in 100% of the required yardage to get a first down/score? For first down, the metric is 50% of required yardage. Second down is 70% of required yardage. These are my calculations based on their formula.

** Excluded kneel down at end of game.

*** Notre Dame was 1/1 on 4th Down conversions.

^ Both defensive penalties were pass interference calls resulting in a first down.

^^ All 3 false start infractions for the offense have occurred on second down.

Down Analysis: The most noticeable difference from Rice to Michigan was the efficiency on first down. Versus Rice, over half of all first down plays gained at least 50% of the necessary yardage to get a first down. That dipped by 14% and led to longer second downs. The Irish had well over a yard more to go on average on second down this week than last. Despite the extra yardage they were slightly improved on second down performance. Over one game this really only means an extra play or two went well. Speaking of oddities….The Irish had one penalty on the offensive line in the game called on Steve Elmer. This also came on second down meaning through the first two games, all of the offensive line penalties have occurred on second down. Weird. Not relevant.

Offensive Player Usage

The chart below shows how many snaps each offensive player was in the game for (regardless of whether they touched the ball on a given play). There were a total of 67 non-special teams snaps. Additionally, in this game, I excluded the end of the game victory snap. The percentages will not necessarily add up to 100% for each position since multiple tight ends or receivers were used on the same play. This information is derived from my personal observation and re-watch of the game. My confidence level is about 98% for this game.

Player: QB Use % RB Use % TE Use % WR

Use %

Most

Golson 96 Folston 36 Koyack 94 Fuller

96

Zaire

4 McDaniel 36 Smythe 7 Prosise

52

Bryant

28 Luatua 1 Robinson

51

Brown

49

Carlisle

45

Holmes

4

The number one take away from player usage was that Will Fuller continues to never come off the field. This game saw more pre-set packages. Notably, Corey Robinson and Amir Carlisle tended to be in on the same plays while Chris Brown and C.J. Prosise served as the other unit. There were a handful of plays where Prosise played with Robinson instead of Carlisle, but that’s about it in terms of mix and match. Robinson and Carlisle were in for the first series along with Folston. I don’t take this to mean those players are the “ones” as much as whatever grouping of plays Brian Kelly wanted to use just involved them.

I’m not separating out package usage this week because there was virtually none. Notre Dame near exclusively used 11 personnel. Tyler Luatua made his cameo once again in the first half in an H-Back set up, but it was for just one play on a third and short. There were only two plays that used an “empty back” set that I’ll discuss below. While I’d like to see some more mix and match in terms of types of packages, the impression I’m getting is Kelly is comfortable with the multiple roles both Koyack and the backs can fill in terms of set-up. While I haven’t been tracking it, Koyack’s getting a good amount of use set up wide in a similar capacity to how each of Rudolph, Eifert, and Niklas were used. While perhaps not quite as dynamic as those guys, I have nothing but kind things to say about Koyack at the present.

Passing Targets:

Player:

Thrown To:

Receptions: Yards:

TD’s:

Will Fuller

12

9 89

1

Amir Carlisle

7

7 61

2

Ben Koyack

4

2 14

0

Chris Brown

4

1* 5

0

C.J. Prosise

3

1 18

0

Cam McDaniel

2

2 17

0

Corey Robinson

2

1** 22

0

Thrown Away

2

N/A N/A

N/A

* Brown drew a pass interference call for a first down. His effective plays was 2/4, or 50%.

** Robinson drew a pass interference call for a first down. His effective plays was 2/2, or 100%.

My favorite stat of the week involves Amir Carlisle. Despite seeing the field less than any receiver not named Corey Holmes, Amir Carlisle was second on the team in targets with 7, and even better, each target resulted in a reception. While Carlisle was the poster boy of efficiency, C.J. Prosise had another bad drop making it two in two weeks. I would expect to see a greater usage rate for Carlisle this coming week given the diverging performances of the two primary slot receivers.

Will Fuller is quickly turning into the most intriguing player on the field for me. His speed, feet, and skill in releasing off the line is evident. Michigan’s corners were clearly intimidated by that speed allowing Fuller to effectively use slant routes and convert an important fourth down conversion in the second quarter. Fuller’s day could have been even better were it not for some less exciting hands. He bobbled an opportunity in the early going that resulted in a reception but went for a minimal gain. Had the catch been clean, he might still be running given the blocking that was set up in front of him. I’m not sure who Fuller reminds me of at the present. He’s bigger than a pure speed guy which makes him so unique, and his agility was on display on the 24 yard touchdown reception. Fuller served as the field side wide receiver on almost every play while the taller Robinson and Brown took the boundary side.

Speaking of Brown on the boundary side, as noted above, the Irish ran two plays from an “empty back” set. Both had Cam McDaniel lined up as a receiver. Both times, the 4 other receiver targets lined up on the field side in an effort to set up a one-on-one isolation for Brown on the boundary, and both plays involved pre-snap decisions by Golson that the look was there to go to Brown. The first resulted in a pass interference call against Michigan. The second occurred in Michigan’s red zone on the play Golson got called for intentional grounding. Golson was locked into Brown from the outset (as Mike Mayock noted during the broadcast), however, the route was slow developing, and the Michigan defense in the compressed field was able to provide safety help over the top which disrupted the play.

Drive Efficiency:

Team:

Drives:

Avg. Start Pos. Net Yards: Poss. Net Yards:

Net Yard %

Notre Dame

11

Own 36 317 703

45%

Michigan

12

Own 23 275 927

30%

One unusual aspect to the game was that Michigan had 289 yards of total offense while Notre Dame had 280 yards of total offense. Forgetting about the 4 turnovers and the 2 missed field goals for a moment, the chart above explains why the total offensive yard numbers are misleading. Despite fewer total offensive yards, the Irish offense was actually the more effective and efficient throughout the night. First off, Michigan had 9 more total yards with one more full possession. Additionally, once penalty adjustments are included, you can see that Notre Dame move forward more than Michigan by a total of 317-275 net yards.

The Irish also frequently worked with a shorter field and were better at getting those yards. Possible net yards takes the starting position for each drive and calculates the number of yards the team could get if it scored a touchdown. Net yard percentage is therefore a gauge of how absolutely efficient an offense was in getting every yard it could have. Notre Dame was 50% more efficient at claiming available yards than Michigan.

Let me give you one more number:

2 – As in at least 2 first downs on a given drive. On Saturday, Notre Dame had 4 drives during which they claimed at least 2 first downs on a given drive. The Irish converted all 4 of these drives for touchdowns. Basically, if the offense started moving, they were not stopped.

Obviously, Michigan did not do that. In fact, their longest drive of the game was their first one: An 11 play, 47 yard drive that ended in a missed field goal.

And so, we finally make it to my final number: 2006. As in the year 2006 (thank you @andrewwinn for catching my mistake when I cited 2007 originally. Follow him, please.) That was the last time Notre Dame started the season 2-0 without committing a turnover. I won’t speak about what happened in the third game with our rival. Suffice it to say, I’m not as concerned for a similar let down against Purdue this coming week.

Let me know your thoughts, feelings, hopes, and dreams for this article on Twitter @IrishMoonJ. If there’s something you want to see, I’m but 140 characters away.

-Go Irish!

- Moons