Tag Archives: Will Fuller

Rumble in the Desert – A Weekend Preview

-GoIrishGlory

Sun Devils

Its elimination weekend in college football as there are multiple marquee games around the country between playoff contending teams. Among those games is Notre Dame traveling to take on Arizona State in a high profile top 10 matchup that will help dictate the rest of the season for both teams. Both the Irish and the Sun Devils enter the contest ranked 10th and 9th respectively. Each team only has one loss on their record with the Irish losing a close game at Florida State, while Arizona State got absolutely steamrolled by UCLA earlier this season. Both teams are desperate for a marquee win to add to their resume. Arizona State’s best win so far this season is against 17th ranked Utah while Notre Dame has yet to defeat a top 25 team yet this season and whose “best” win came against a four loss Stanford team. Both teams need no extra motivation for this one. Its pretty simple what lies ahead. The winner stays alive in the College Football Playoff picture. The loser is eliminated. Brian Kelly has a history of getting his team ready to play in big games away from Notre Dame (except Alabama but lets just forget that happened) and a win against Arizona State on the road would be a huge boost the Notre Dame’s playoff hopes.

Notre Dame’s offense is firing on all cylinders right now. While the game against Navy was much closer than most had expected or hoped, it was not due to a lack of production on offense. Since going on a three game streak of having huge turnover problems earlier in the season, Everett Golson is taking much better care of the football having thrown only two interceptions in the last two games. The key for the Irish offense against the Sun Devils this weekend is getting the running game going early to set up the play action pass to attack downfield and take advantage of the stable of athletes that Notre Dame has at the wide receiver position. Arizona State’s defense utilizes their safeties heavily in the running game so if the Irish are able to successfully run the ball and continue to suck in the safeties to play the run, they can then beat them over the top with the play action pass that is such a vital part of the Irish offense. Tarean Folson has burst onto the scene for the Irish in the past three games and he should be able to continue his success against the Sun Devil run defense that is giving up over 180 yards on the ground per game ranking 88th nationally.

folston navy

Somewhat similarly to the Irish defensive scheme, Arizona State loves to bring pressure and blitz the quarterback early and often. The Sun Devils send five or more pass rushers on 55 percent of their plays which is second nationally. Everett Golson has gotten much better in noticing and adjusting to defenses blitzes and it will be vital this week against a very aggressive defense that will do their best to force turnovers. Golson is the best quarterback the Sun Devils have faced so far this season however and he should be able to move the ball effectively. UCLA’s Brett Hundley shredded Arizona State for 355 yards passing and four touchdowns with zero interceptions in their blowout win earlier this season and I see no reason why Golson can not have the same success. The Irish offensive line has really come together since the Florida State game and is playing their best football of the season. If Notre Dame can protect Golson like they have in recent weeks, he should have plenty of time to find Will Fuller, Corey Robinson, or CJ Prosise for big plays. With Fuller, Robinson, and Prosise all being dangerous threats, the Sun Devils are not able to put their focus on just one which will leave a lot of one-on-one match ups down the field. Simply put, with how successful the offense has been for the Irish, they should have no problem scoring a lot of points.

golson

The play of the Notre Dame defense will dictate whether or not Notre Dame wins or loses this game. After looking like one of the best defenses in the country early on in the season, shaky performances against North Carolina and Navy have brought expectations for the defensive unit down a bit. Add the loss of starting middle linebacker and leader of the defense Joe Schmidt into the mix and it can be very understandable why many are nervous about how the defense will perform against one of the nations most potent offenses. Arizona State is 38th nationally in scoring averaging 34.4 points per game largely in part to their success throwing the football. The Sun Devils are 23rd in passing offense averaging 291 yards through the air per game. The big play threat for Arizona State is star receiver Jalen Strong who already this season has 57 receptions for 821 yards and 8 touchdowns. It is paramount for Notre Dame to not let Strong beat them as he is by far their best player on offense. Quarterback Taylor Kelly has not played particularly well in his last two games since returning from injury and has been sacked eleven times in the last two games. Sheldon Day and Jarron Jones have been doing a great job on the defensive line getting pressure on opposing quarterbacks and that should continue this week. Brian VanGorder will bring pressure early and often to rattle Kelly which has spelled trouble for Arizona State all season. Turnovers have been a big problem for the Sun Devils and its no secret that the Irish will do their best to force Kelly to make bad decisions which lead to take aways. Nyles Morgan will be making his first start at middle linebacker for the Irish and he will be responsible for all of the defensive calls. He played well last week when Schmidt went down and it will be interesting to see how he performs in his first full game on such a big stage. It is not reasonable to expect the Irish defense to completely shut down Arizona State. However they should be able to slow down the Sun Devil’s, who have struggled in the last two weeks against tough defenses.

defense

Prediction 

Get your guns ready folks because this one is going to be a shootout. Both of these offenses are very good units that are filled with skill players. What the game will come down too is which team makes the least amount of mistakes and which team is able to make just enough defensive stops. In the last few weeks Notre Dame’s offensive line has been playing their best football while Arizona State’s offensive line has struggled protecting Taylor Kelly. This will be the difference in the game. The young but aggressive defense of Notre Dame will play like they did against Florida State a few weeks ago and wreck havoc on Taylor Kelly making him make bad decisions. The defense will give up some big plays but overall they play an overall solid game. Golson and company continue to perform at a high level on offense and lead the Irish to victory. Notre Dame 38 Arizona State 30

Other Games Around the Country

5 Alabama at 16 LSU – LSU has already done Notre Dame one favor this season, handing Ole Miss their first loss of the season, and they will be looking to do it again. After looking pretty bad early in the season the Tigers are playing really good physical football and have been winning with good defense and a very physical running game. While Alabama gets all the respect from the talking heads because they are Alabama, when you look at who they have played they have not been all that impressive. Death Valley is a really tough place to play especially at night. LSU helps out Notre Dame yet again. LSU 23 Alabama 20

4 Oregon at 17 Utah- The Utes are fresh off a tough loss to Arizona State last week but their defense played one of their better games of the season holding the Sun Devils to only 19 points. They face another tough challenge this week as Marcus Mariotta and the Oregon Ducks come to town. Utah will play well and keep it close for a while but I just don’t see their offense scoring enough points to win. Oregon 37 Utah 24

7 Kansas State at 6 TCU – TCU is fresh off a tough game against West Virginia last week and looks to put another win over a tough opponent on their resume. Treyvon Boykin has played very well this season but struggled a bit last week against a West Virginia defense that has not been very good this season. Kansas State is one of the better defenses in the Big 12 which will provide for another tough challenge for TCU. Notre Dame fans are really pulling for Kansas State to win here. The Wildcats helped Notre Dame out in 2012 by losing and this season will again help out the Irish by winning. Kansas State 31 TCU 30

Fire the Torpedo’s! Its Time to Sink Navy – A Weekend Preview

-GoIrishGlory

Its finally time to get back to actual football. Since the heart breaking and gut wrenching last second loss to Florida State two weeks ago, Irish fans have been without Notre Dame football and instead had to deal with the incessant talk about polls for a playoff that are still over two months away as well as Justin Brent’s encounter with porn star Lisa Ann over fall break. Enough of all that. Its time to get back to the game played on the field. Notre Dame travels to Maryland this week to take on the Midshipmen of the Naval Academy at FedEx Field. The Irish enter the contest with a 6-1 record and ranked 10th in the College Football Playoff Rankings while Navy brings in a 4-4 record and a two game winning streak. Notre Dame will look to put the loss to Florida State in the rear view mirror and turn their focus to the remaining five games on the schedule as they try remain in the playoff picture. The Irish are by far the better team in this matchup with Navy, but as we all know the Naval Academy has played very well against Notre Dame in the last few years and the triple option attack used by Navy is tough for any defense.

When Brian Kelly first arrived at Notre Dame, everyone was excited about the offense that he would bring with him to South Bend after his success at Cincinnati. However in his first couple seasons, the offense did not live up to the expectations for a variety of reasons, most importantly the quarterback position. This season the offense is FINALLY playing to level we all expected. After looking very impressive during the first half of the season, the offense looked like it had put it all together against Florida State and the task now is to maintain that level of play. The Irish should be able to continue to build on their continued success on offense this week with Everett Golson at the helm going against a Navy defense that has struggled this season giving up 27.6 points per game ranking them 75th in the nation in scoring defense. Navy also ranks 75th nationally in rushing defense, giving up 170.9 yards per game on the ground which should allow for the Irish’s newly minted “feature back”, Tarean Folston, to continue to shine. Since Notre Dame went to Folston as the feature back the Irish are averaging 186.5 yards on the ground per game which is 25 yards more than their season average of 162.4. The Irish should be able to continue to have success on the ground this week.

folston

Navy’s passing defense is not much better than their mediocre at best rushing defense. The Midshipmen are giving up 242.9 yards through the air per game and they have not played an offense with a passing attack anywhere near as dynamic as they will see against the Irish on Saturday night. The Irish are averaging 285.1 passing yards per game ranking 29th nationally. Everett Golson played arguable the best game of his career against Florida State and he should have a field day throwing to wide open receivers all game long. Will Fuller speed is going to be very difficult for Navy to slow down, and Corey Robinson is quickly becoming a huge part of the Irish offense. Expect both to have great games as the Navy secondary will be unable to slow them down.

robinson

The biggest challenge for this game is for the Irish defense as they go up against the dreaded triple option attack that we have all grown to despise. Navy is bringing the nation’s leading rushing attack into this matchup averaging over 350 yards per game on the ground. However the Midshipmen rushing game will face their toughest test against the Irish, which is only allowing 102.7 yards per game ranking 12th nationally in rushing defense. The Irish front seven has continued to improve all season long with stellar performances by Jarron Jones, Issac Rochell, and Andrew Trumbeti along the defensive line and Joe Schmidt and Jaylon Smith in the linebacking corps. While Navy’s rushing stats look impressive on paper, it is important to point out that at least one reason why their yards per game is so high is because running the ball is the only thing the Navy offense does. The Midshipmen rank second to last in passying offense averaging only 91.6 yards per game. The Navy quarterback Keenan Reynolds is really just another running back in their offensive attack and anytime that the Irish can force him to throw is a win for the defense. It will be interesting to see Brian VanGorder’s game plan against the option as he has admitted to not having face the option for years. Notre Dame is bigger, stronger, and faster than Navy and as long as the Irish defenders maintain their assignments, they should be able to slow down the triple option and force a few turnovers.

This is probably one of the worst Navy teams that Notre Dame will have faced during Brian Kelly’s tenure, including their 2012 team that lost 50-10 to Notre Dame in Ireland. Keenan Reynolds is a very good player however they are missing the talent at fullback and tailback that they have had in the past. Teams like Air Force have been able to hold Navy to 21 points this season, so their is no doubt in my mind that the Irish defense will be able to stop the triple option. Notre Dame needs to start blowing out the remaining teams on the schedule this season in order to stay in the playoff discussion and that starts this weekend. Irish fire the torpedo’s and sink Navy. Notre Dame 49 Navy 17 

Burning ship

Other Games Around the Country

3 Auburn at 4 Ole Miss- This game is a playoff eliminator. Both teams enter the contest with a loss and I highly doubt that a two loss team will be making the playoff. Ole Miss is strangely ranked 4th in the playoff rankings after losing to a mediocre LSU team last week and it looks as if the Rebels were exposed in Death Valley. While they may have a very good defense, their offense is not that good. Auburn is an overall better team with a better coach. The dream in Oxford ends this weekend. Auburn 28 Ole Miss 21

7 TCU at 20 West Virginia- TCU completely embarrasses a really bad Texas Tech team last week dropping 82 points on the Red Raiders. The Horned Frogs have looked very impressive all season minus the 4th quarter against Baylor. West Virginia however has also played very well as of late with the Clint Tricket to Kevin White connection. TCU has looked really bad on defense at times this season and playing in Morgantown is no easy task. For the second time this season, it will be couch burning time for the Mountaineers. West Virginia 45 TCU 41

Tuesday’s With Brian Kelly – Stanford Week

-SSG Shamrock

Brian Kelly met with the media for his weekly Tuesday press conference as the Irish prepare to take on Stanford on Saturday at Notre Dame Stadium. Down the Tunnel was there and sifts through the coach speak to provide you the key tidbits.

  • Coach Kelly talked about the challenge Stanford will present this weekend. He praised their veteran players including quarterback Kevin Hogan and receiver Ty Montgomery. He also called Stanford’s defense the best in the country
  • In discussing some of the turnovers from the Syracuse game Coach Kelly talked about the fumble on the direct snap when Golson was trying to spike the ball at the end of the first half. Kelly said that Golson heard the whistle blow and he stopped playing which is the way he was taught.
  • Coach Kelly also talked about the play of the receiving corps through the first four games of the season. He was very impressed with the entire group and praised their perimeter blocking. Coach mentioned that Will Fuller is getting more and more confident every week.
  • Everett Golson was the FBS Independent Offensive Player of the week however when Coach Kelly told Golson he wasn’t all that excited about it and maybe felt that he didn’t deserve it.
  • Ben Council will be a part of the defensive rotation this weekend against Stanford
  • Amir Carlise is clear for all activities and should be good to go this weekend. Austin Collinsworth should also be able to contribute this weekend.
  • Jared Grace is continuing to make progress everyday but its unclear when he will have that “break through day”
  • Coach Kelly stated that he has no idea what the process is this week with the academic hearings and also does not know when the decisions of the hears will be completed.
  • Kelly make it clear that Notre Dame is going to need to get big chunk plays on offense if they expect to beat Stanford. Coming into the game Stanford has only allowed four plays of 20 yards or more all season long.
  • In the most bizarre question of the day, someone actually asked Coach Kelly if he had any thoughts of inserting Malik Zaire into the game against Syracuse. Not joking. And to be expected Kelly stated the thought never crossed his mind.
  • Kelly praised CJ Prosise’s skill set of having a burst, he can catch the football, and he can block very well. He still needs to work on route running and tracking he deep ball but Kelly is pleased with his play so far.

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

Taking a Look at the Spring Game

-Sgt Shamrock

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Its finally here. The 2014 football season begins this Saturday with the 85th Annual Blue Gold game. Its that time of year where the fan base is actually optimistic for a change. Well at least most of the fan base. There are always those outliers who always want to complain about something or another. But I digress. Saturday will be our first glimpse at the 2014 version of the Irish football squad. Now while the spring game is nothing more than a glorified scrimmage and we as fans are not going to see to much of anything in terms of scheme and the playbook, it is a good opportunity to see how some of the individual players have progressed through spring practice and to get an idea of who might be ready to contribute on the field this fall. And almost even more importantly, it will give anyone who is coming to town to watch the game a chance to come by the first ever Down the Tunnel Tailgate with our partners at Indiana Whiskey. So along with meeting good people and enjoying some great whiskey, here are some things to watch for on Saturday.

What to Watch For:

Receiving corps- With Davaris Daniels suspended for the spring and TJ Jones and Troy Niklas headed to the NFL, the Irish receiving corps is going to look very different this spring than what we have grown accustomed to over the last couple years. While some of the young receivers did get playing time last season, Tommy Rees was the one throwing them the ball. In fact only one receiver who is on the roster for the spring game has actually caught a pass from Everett Golson; Chris Brown. While the amount of talent in the receiving corps is not argued, it will be interesting to see how the connection between Golson and receivers like Corey Robinson, Will Fuller, and Justin Brent will look after being away from the team for over a year.

Everett Golson- Speaking of Golson, this will be the first opportunity for Irish fans to see him on the field since he was dismissed from the university last spring. During his time away, Golson worked with renowned quarterback guru George Whitfield and so far the reports out of practice paint Golson as a “Bigger, stronger, and faster” version than before. Yes it is just the spring game, but this will give everyone an opportunity to see how Golson has improved in his year away from the program.

The defensive line- After losing Louis Nix, Stephon Tuitt, and Kona Schwenke to the NFL the defensive line is a bit too thin for my liking. Sheldon Day, who has shown flashes of brilliance so far in his career, is going to have to be the leader in the group and we all expect Ishaq Williams, who was moved to defensive end from OLB this spring, to finally start living up the hype he received when he signed with Notre Dame. Now the defensive line we see Saturday will most likely not include everyone who will receive playing time next season, as incoming freshman like Jay Hayes will almost certainly be among the rotation if not only due to the lack of depth at the positions. Don’t expect to see any new wrinkles in the new defensive scheme that Defensive Coordinator Brian Van Gorder has brought with him to South Bend just yet. Coaches don’t normally do anything but run a plain base defense in a spring game. But it will be nice to see the individual players along the D-line and be able to see who has stepped up to fill in some large voids

It’s good to finally have football back, if only for a short while. The Spring game is always a fun event that helps bring excitement to a new season of Notre Dame football. So if you are in town to attend the game, enjoy the great experience and make sure to stop by the Down the Tunnel tailgate. Indiana Whiskey will be there along with a lot of other delicious beverages, tasty foods, and good people. I have the final details and information for everyone tomorrow so stay tuned. Its going to be a fun weekend. If you are watching from home, just kick back have a drink and enjoy the first glimpse of 2014 Notre Dame Football.  

 

A Trip to the Big Apple. Pinstripe Bowl Preview

-Sgt Shamrock

Christmas is around the corner and while we are all preparing for presents, holiday dinners, and eggnog, the Notre Dame Football team is in New York City making their final preparations to take on Rutgers in the New Era Pinstripe Bowl. The Irish and the Scarlet Knights will face off in iconic Yankee Stadium on Saturday in the Big Apple. The Irish enter the contest with an 8-4 record while the Scarlet Knights finished their season at 6-6. Both teams have lost key members of their coaching staff in the weeks leading up to the matchup. Bob Diaco and Chuck Martin left the Irish to take head coaching positions at UConn and Miami of Ohio, while Rutgers head coach fired defensive coordinator Dave Cohen, as well as the quarterbacks coach, and the offensive line coach. While playing in the Pinstripe Bowl was not what the Irish had planned at the start of the season, they still have a chance to finish the season with 9 wins and carry momentum into the 2014 season.

Rutgers offense has had trouble running the ball as season long and relies on the passing game to score points. The Scarlet Knights are averaging 242 yards through the air ranking 52nd nationally, while the running game is averaging a measly 133 yards per game ranking 98th nationally. The offensive line for Rutgers has been a weak link all season long. Not only is the rushing game one of the worst in the country, but the Scarlet Knights have also given up 31 sacks this season which ranks them 98th nationally in sacks allowed. Even with Louis Nix unable to play due to injury, the Irish defensive line led by Stephon Tuitt should be able to have a field day with the Rutgers offensive line. With Rutgers struggling to run the football, expect the Scarlet Knights to pass and pass often allowing the strong Irish defensive line to pin their ears back and rush the quarterback. The strength of the Irish defense is stopping the pass, as they rank in the top 20 nationally. The matchup between the Irish secondary and the Scarlet Knights passing game could very well be the key this game.

While the Irish offense has struggled at times this year with execution and consistency, they should be able to move the ball and put points on the board against a very shaky Rutgers defense. The Scarlet Knights are allowing close to 30 points per game ranking them as one of the worst scoring defenses in the nation. To make matters worst for Rutgers, their passing defense is flat out atrocious allowing 310 yards per game. Only Troy, Idaho, and Cal are worst at defending the pass in the nation this season. Tommy Rees and the receiving corps should be able to throw the ball at will against this awful passing defense. Rutgers game plan is to try and shut down TJ Jones, so look for Davaris Daniels, Will Fuller, and Corey Robinson to make an impact on this game. The Irish are going to need to pass the ball effectively to win this game, since the Rutgers rushing defense is one of the best in the nation. The Scarlet Knights are ranked 4th nationally in rushing defense allowing only 94 yards on the ground per game. Only Michigan State, Louisville, and Stanford are better at stopping the run this season. Notre Dame has had trouble rushing the ball against quality rushing defenses this season but they are going to need to find some production to keep the Rutgers defense honest.   

Notre Dame is a heavy favorite in this game and they should be. Rutgers is not a very good football team and this year has been a rough one already costing three assistant coaches their jobs, and head coach Kyle Flood is on the hot seat. The Irish have the advantage in almost every key matchup in this game and I fully expect the Irish to come to play in this game. While the season has not gone the way they had hoped, they still have the ability to win 9 games this season following a slue of injuries and without Everett Golson, who has recently been readmitted and will be ready to go for next season. This is the last game for the Notre Dame seniors, who as a group have been the foundation for the improvement in the program over the last 4-5 years. Playing in New York City is always exciting for college kids and you can tell by the reaction of many of the players they are ready to play in this game. While 2013 has been an awful year for Notre Dame Athletics, Irish fans should be able to finish this snake bitten year off with a smile. Notre Dame should win this game and it shouldn’t be close.

Players to Watch

Offense- While Rutgers is going to do everything they can to slow down TJ Jones, Davaris Daniels is due for a breakout game. After some early success to start the season, Daniels has since been inconstant and not producing at the level a lot of fans had hoped for. Look for Tommy Rees to find Daniels running through the Rutgers secondary as they try to double team TJ Jones.

Defense- With Louis Nix officially gone for the NFL we now get to see if Jarron Jones cant carry to load at Nose Tackle. Jones has played well late in this season and now we get a glimpse at what is most likely the future at the nose next season. The Rutgers offensive line has struggled this season so I am excited to see how Jones handles the opportunity.

Prediction

Notre Dame 38 Rutgers 17

From all of us at Down the Tunnel, we wish you a Merry Christmas. Go Irish

Familiar Foe sails to town. A Navy Preview

The first football weekend of November is upon us, and with it brings a visit from longtime rivals from the Naval Academy. The Notre Dame vs. Navy matchup, which began in 1927, is the longest uninterrupted rivalry game in the country. This will be the 87th consecutive meeting between these two schools in what has been as lopsided a matchup as they come. Notre Dame leads the overall series 71-12-1 and held the longest winning streak over an opponent at 43 games before the 2007 overtime loss. Brian Kelly has lost to Navy once in his short career, the 2010 disaster that all of us would like to forget. However since that loss Brian Kelly and his staff seemed to have altered the game plan and  figured out the option attack and have not lost since winning the remaining matchups to date by a large margin. Notre Dame is coming into this matchup off of a shellacking of Air Force last week in Colorado Springs 45-10. All aspects of the Irish team played well last week  and its safe to expect the same against the Midshipmen

Last week I really thought the Irish were going to take advantage of the weak Air Force rushing defense to establish the running game, something the Irish really need to improve on if they want to make a run at the BCS. I did think that Tommy Rees would have a good game but I did not expect him to throw 5 touchdowns and play a practically flawless football. I have been very critical of Rees in the past and very outspoken about his limitations, but he is playing the best football of his career right now and its happening at the best time of the year as we head into November. Coming into the weekend Tommy Rees has throw for 20 TD’s only 6 interceptions and 1944 passing yards, which is 25th in all of FBS schools. However his greatest improvements are the intangibles. His pocket presence, his ball placement, and decision making have all improved vastly and are a key factor to his success. What may be the biggest improvement to me though, is his ability to distribute the ball evenly to different receivers. Last season and in 2011, Tommy Rees had the tendency to lock into his favorite targets of Michael Floyd and Tyler Eifert. This season Rees has been throwing to all of his receivers which makes the passing attack that much more lethal.

Unlike Air Force however, Navy had a pretty good passing defense giving up only 204.4 passing yards per game which ranks 21st nationally. The rushing defense is a different story. Navy is giving up 187.9 yards per game ranking 89th in all FBS schools which provides yet another chance for the Irish to get their running game going against a poor rushing defense. The Irish need to find the running game this week to get some much needed improvement before playing the stout defense of BYU and Stanford later in the season. A healthy dose of Cam “Blue Steel” McDaniel and Tarean Folston would be the ideal situation, since George Atkinson III and Amir Carlise have not been getting the job done.

The Irish defense has an almost identical matchup as they did a week ago. Its the staple of triple options teams. They run the ball very well and cant pass to save their life. This week is no different. Navy ranks near the bottom of the barrel in passing offense at 120th nationally averaging only 103.9 yards through the air per game. The strength of the Navy academy has been and continues to be their triple option rushing attack. The Midshipmen are averaging 292.1 yards on the ground putting them as the 10th best rushing attack in the nation. The Irish defense looks to face a bit more or a physical running attack than they did against Air Force but I expect more of the same and should have no problems stopping Navy from scoring.

Overall I expect Notre Dame to dominate this game as they should. Good teams do not lose to teams like this and good teams don’t even let teams like this hang around. Expect this game to be over by half time with Tommy Rees playing well again at home and the rushing attack to add some much needed balance before heading into a tough stretch to end the season. Navy will come out fired up like they always do, but Notre Dame is just a flat out better team in all aspects of the game.

Players to watch

Offense- Will Fuller caught is first touchdown pass of his young career last week against Air Force, showing off some serious speed as well. With the offense air attack getting hot at the right time of the season, I really see Fuller starting to get a bigger role. Im looking forward to seeing some of that speed this weekend.

Defense- Kavaire Russell played outstanding last week sealing the edge and making some key tackles. Facing another triple option team this week should be another chance for Russell to show his versatility on defense. After an outstanding rookie season last year, Russell seemed to have some sophomore struggles early in the season but over the last few weeks he has started playing at the level we expect from him

Prediction

Notre Dame 49 Navy 13

Other games around the country

7 Miami at 3 Florida State- This may be the most lopsided top 10 matchup of the season. Miami, in my opinion, is one of the most over rated teams in the country and its going to show this weekend. Miami has played one of the weakest schedules of any of the top 20 teams in the country and have needed two straight 4th quarter comebacks to avoid the upset. Florida State is one of the hottest teams in the country and is oozing with NFL talent. Florida State is going to embarrass Miami this weekend. Florida State 41 Miami 17

21 Michigan at 22 Michigan State- Michigan State boasts one of the toughest defenses in the country this year. Michigan has had its struggles after beating the Irish earlier in the season. Michigan is going to have a tough time with that defense of the Spartans and Devin Gardner will probably continue to be a turnover machine. Michigan State 24 Michigan 21

18 Oklahoma State at 15 Texas Tech- Texas Tech has benefited from playing a very week schedule and finally lost when they played a good team in Oklahoma. Both Oklahoma State and Texas Tech rely on their offense to win but the Cowboys will bring a few more bullets to this shootout.  Oklahoma State 45 Texas Tech 41

Irish future stars shine. A week 9 recap.

After sobering up from yesterday’s drunk fest and finally getting some sleep after college football kept me awake until around 3 am, I was finally able to really delve into the 45-10 win for the Irish over the Air Force Falcons. There were a lot of good things to take away from the win but one really stood out to me and should have caught everyone’s attention. The Irish freshman playmakers are really good. Both Corey Robinson and Will Fuller scored their first career touchdowns and did so in an impressive fashion. Corey Robinson opened up the scoring for the Irish, hauling in a 35 yard pass from Tommy Rees that I’m sure made everyone cringe. I sure as hell know I did. Tommy boy threw the ball off of his back foot and screamed interception until the Little Admiral grabbed it out of the air to tie the game. Will Fuller scored on a beautifully thrown pass by Tommy Rees. Fuller ran a strait seem route and flat out burned his defender, showing some serious speed that we have all been waiting to see. Notre Dame Air Force Football

Notre Dame Air Force Football

Fuller and Robinson were not the only freshman to show some skill yesterday. Steve Elmer, who was making his first career start, played very well along an offensive line that only gave 1 sack and gave Tommy Rees all sorts of time to slice and dice the thin Falcons secondary. Jaylon Smith played like a beast. This is nothing new for Irish fans who have been watching him play this season. The speed he has for a linebacker is just remarkable and he is starting to make his presence felt more and more each week. He should have had his first career touchdown yesterday if not for the officials blowing the whistle way to early on an Air Force fumble. Both Cole Luke and Devin Butler got some serious playing time in the Irish secondary. Tarean Folston didn’t get as many carries as I thought he would early in the game, but I was very pleased to see Brian Kelly give him a ton of snaps with the first team offense before more of the backups came into close out the game. He showed some serious vision and speed that we all heard about during his recruitment.

Notre Dame Air Force Football

What does this all mean? Yes they played well and the Irish won the game. That’s looking at in the short term. What has me very very excited is that this Irish team will continue to get better every year. Brian Kelly is one hell of a recruiter and he knows what kind of talent he wants. Tim Calhoun, the Air Force head coach, said something interesting yesterday in his post game press conference. He said that this may been the best receiving corps that Notre Dame has ever had. While I don’t know if its the best receiving corps EVER, I do agree its the best we have seen in a long while and they have the chance to be the best ever. And most of the receiving corps is still very young. The future for the Irish offense and the team overall is very bright and everyone should be very excited about what it means for the future of Notre Dame football.

This weeks polls

I have had about enough with these polls and the voters and coaches. It aggravates me so much. Notre Dame finally cracked the coaches poll this week checking in at 25 but the writers didn’t see it that way leaving the Irish on the outside looking in. That’s already bad enough put when look at the two team that checked in at 24 and 25 you will want to punch something. Michigan State and Arizona State. Yes both of those teams were beaten by the Irish. It makes no sense. Especially Arizona state who has the exact same record as Notre Dame.

Raise your hand if your not surprised about this one. An SEC team who loses doesn’t fall nearly as far as they should. Missouri who lost to number 21 South Carolina at home yesterday after blowing at 17 point fourth quarter lead fell from number 5 to number 10. How that team stays in the top 10 is beyond me but hey they are in the SEC so I guess its ok. Oh and that South Carolina team that just beat them? Ranked 14th. Yea that makes sense.

I’m not surprised that Texas A&M is ranked 12th even with two loses. Should they be ranked 12th? Absolutely not. Their defense is awful and the only good teams they have played have beaten them. But they have Johnny Field Goal and the media’s love affair with the SEC so that explains that.

What in the world is UCLA still doing in the top 20? They have now lost two games in a row and just got flat out embarrassed by the Oregon Ducks. Their best win this season? At Utah. They are just not that good.

Miami is one of the most over rated teams in America this season. Yes they are 7-0. They have played NOBODY. The best team they have played is Florida and they are awful. Not only that, but Miami has now almost lost to two straight unranked teams. But don’t worry folks they wont be up there at 7 for very long. They have the pleasure of getting waxed on national TV this weekend by Florida State. Its going to be murder.

Other observations

Stanford is beatable. They really are. Yes their defense is very good as always but the offense is not as dangerous as it has been in the past especially through the air. Their dangerous tight ends have moved onto the NFL and Kevin Hogan has looked mediocre to say the least. It will be a tough game for the Irish but a win is not out of the question.

Don’t worry about Fresno State and Northern Illinois busting the BCS. Both of these teams will lose. Fresno State got lucky last night and will find a lose on their remaining schedule. I really believe Northern Illinois will end up losing to Ball State. Mark it down

Heisman Watch

1. Jameis Winston

2. Marcus Mariotta

3. Bryce Petty

4. Johnny Field Goal

Notre Dame 45 Air Force 10. Instant reaction

Notre Dame v MichiganTommy Rees went 17 for 22 for 284 yards and 5 touchdowns in a 45-10 win over Air Force in Colorado Springs. Tommy Rees threw 5 touchdown passes to 5 different Irish receivers, the first time that has happened in Irish history. Two of those touchdown passes were completed to true freshman Will Fuller and Little Admiral Corey Robinson. The Notre Dame defense which looked a bit confused to start the game, settled down quickly and played the triple option as good as you could play it, only giving up 10 points and giving up 339 yards to the Falcons offense.

The Irish offense went over the 400 yard mark for the 5th time this season racking up 466 yards against a Falcons defense that looked lost the entire game. Chris Brown, Will Fuller, and Corey Robinson all caught their first career touchdown passes and TJ Jones and Ben Koyack added the other two scores. Cam “Blue Steel” McDaniel lead the Irish in rushing with 61 yards. Tarean Folston got a lot of carries in the second half once the game was in hand. He showed some brilliant moves and ran for 47 yards. Andrew Hendrix FINALLY completed a pass with a 45 yard bomb to Will Fuller and ran for a TD to close out the game.

The defense stepped up to the plate after a shaky start and forced two turnovers and shut down the Air Force triple offense attack. Jaylon Smith played outstanding against the option and should have had a touchdown on an Air Force fumble but the officials jumped the gun calling the play dead. Sheldon Day tweeked his ankle again and we will await for from Brian Kelly on his injury and his availability for next week.526c602346c23.image

The Irish play another triple option team in Navy next week in South Bend. Check back tomorrow for a more in depth recap of this game and others around the country once I sober up a bit.