Blue and Gold Illustrated

Sept. 24, 2018

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

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30 SEPT. 24, 2018 BLUE & GOLD ILLUSTRATED What Worked Ground Game Rolls: Notre Dame rushed for 249 yards and averaged 2.8 yards per attempt in the first two games of the sea- son, abysmal numbers for an of- fense that averaged 269.5 yards per game and 6.3 yards per at- tempt a season ago. In the 22-17 win over Vander- bilt, the offense finally got its ground attack going, rushing for 245 yards while averaging 5.1 yards per attempt. It wasn't the explosive performance from a season ago, but the Irish were productive. Junior running back Tony Jones Jr. and senior quarterback Brandon Wimbush combined for 202 yards, fueling the of- fense. Jones found success with a strong inside-outside game, which kept Vanderbilt off bal- ance. The junior had runs to the out- side that covered 19, 14 and eight yards. He had inside runs of 20, 14 and 10 yards. Wimbush found success on de- signed runs and scrambles. He had runs of 17, 11 and 10 yards on de- signed runs or read plays when he kept the ball. He added a 12-yard rushing touchdown in the first quar- ter on a third-and-10 scramble play. Wimbush Makes Plays: Evaluat- ing Wimbush as a quarterback isn't easy because he is not someone that is going to throw the ball 40 times and look like a first-round draft pick. He has to focus on limiting mistakes while maximizing his playmaking ability. Against Vanderbilt, Wimbush showed the kind of impact he can have when he's on his game. His stat line wasn't impressive — he com- pleted 13 of 23 passes for 122 yards — but he made plays in this game, and when he is making plays it is harder for defenses to focus on the running backs. The two completions to Jones on wheel routes were good reads and accurate passes, and his 32-yard com- pletion to Jones in the fourth quarter was one of the best throws Wimbush has made for Notre Dame. After Vanderbilt scored late in the third quarter to make it a 16-10 game, Wimbush led the offense on an 11-play touchdown drive in which he completed all four of his pass at- tempts for 53 yards, and converted a fourth down with a sneak to set up the score. Defense Makes Stops When It Matters: The defense had its strug- gles, and there is plenty to improve upon, but several members on that side of the ball made plays when it mattered. Fifth-year senior linebacker Drue Tranquill made multiple open-field tackles to stop Vanderbilt short of first downs that ended up being drive-stopping plays. Tranquill also had a hit on running back Ke'Shawn Vaughn that forced him outside, where junior corner Troy Pride Jr. and junior safety Jalen Elliott brought the back down for a five-yard loss, stalling a drive and forcing a long field goal attempt that was missed. J u n i o r s a f e t y A l o h i G i l m a n stripped the ball from Vanderbilt wide receiver Donaven Tennyson at the Irish 1-yard line, and junior cor- ner Julian Love recovered it while going out of bounds for a touch- back, giving the Irish posses- sion. In addition, Pride picked off a deep pass in the end zone. What Didn't Work Receivers Struggled To Make Plays: While Notre Dame's quarterback and running backs had quality performances, the wide receivers had a rough day. Two passes were dropped after hitting junior Chase Claypool and senior Chris Finke in the hands. Claypool slowed down on a deep out route that likely re- sults in a completion if he keeps running hard. Claypool also whiffed on a block on a screen pass to Finke that could have been a big play. Throughout the game the re- ceivers struggled to get much separation, and the result was a stalled aerial attack that required Wimbush to go to the backs, to make plays with his legs or to fit passes into tight windows. Blown Assignments And Penal- ties Cost Defense: Part of the rea- son Notre Dame's defenders have been on the field so much the last two games are mistakes and costly penalties (against Vanderbilt) that prolong drives. Vanderbilt stumbled early, going three-and-out on three of its first four possessions. Late in the first half, the Commodore coaches decided to go more up-tempo, and Notre Dame failed to adjust. The result was a number of blown assignments and more success for Vanderbilt. Love turned a receiver loose for a 30-yard gain, a miscommunication resulted in a tight end getting wide open just past the line of scrimmage before running for an 18-yard gain, and a blown coverage by Elliott freed up Vanderbilt tight end Jared Pinkney for an 18-yard touchdown to make it 22-17 in the fourth quarter. ✦ Vanderbilt Game: What Worked And What Didn't CLOSER LOOK BRYAN DRISKELL Bryan Driskell has been a football analyst for Blue & Gold Illustrated since April 2015. He can be reached at Junior running back Tony Jones Jr. used an inside-out performance to set a career-high with 118 rushing yards. PHOTO BY BILL PANZICA

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