Blue and Gold Illustrated

Oct. 1, 2018

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

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Page 29 of 55

30 OCT. 1, 2018 BLUE & GOLD ILLUSTRATED What Worked Pass Offense Shows Life: Notre Dame came out sling‑ ing the football against Mich‑ igan, jumping out to a 14‑0 lead due to the passing ability of senior quarterback Bran‑ don Wimbush. Over the next three quarters the Irish aerial attack could not get on track, and even in games where the yards were there (like Ball State) costly turnovers hindered the offense. That is the primary reason the Fighting Irish chose to start junior quarterback Ian Book, a difficult decision for a team that was 3‑0 and had a quar‑ terback that had gone 12‑3 as a starter. Book rewarded the coaches with a brilliant perfor‑ mance, completing 73.5 per‑ cent of his passes for 325 yards. Book took advantage of a game plan that called for precision passing, attacking the short to intermediate zones and being accurate on a num‑ ber of quick perimeter screens. He got the ball quickly out to his weapons on offense, and they re‑ warded him by making plays after the catch, with the biggest being sopho‑ more wideout Michael Young ripping off a 66‑yard gain after catching the ball behind the line of scrimmage. Book's accuracy and getting it out quickly also allowed Notre Dame to push the tempo more than we've seen all season. Notre Dame's team speed and tempo overwhelmed the Demon Deacons defense. Aggressive But Sound Defensive Game Plan: When I broke down film of the Wake Forest offense, I saw two mistakes that defensive coordinators tended to make. One was being too aggressive with pressures and line movements, and the result was Wake Forest ripping off big plays when it beat the first line of defense. The other was when opponents sat back and tried to keep everything in front of them, it allowed Wake For‑ est to churn out first down after first down — a reason its offense ranked second nationally in plays per game coming into the Notre Dame matchup. Notre Dame defensive coordina‑ tor Clark Lea's game plan was the ideal balance between aggressiveness and sound play. The Irish dialed up a number of edge pressures designed to limit Wake Forest's penchant for quickly attacking the perimeter. Lea also had his front four execute a lot of quick movements inside of those pressures, which gave the Demon Deacons offensive line trouble. Lea had his secondary play tighter than in past weeks, keeping the Dea‑ cons from hurting his defense with quick perimeter throws. Wake Forest had at least 512 total yards in each of its first three games and churned out 587 against the Irish a season ago — but Lea's defense held them to just 398, and 82 of them came against the backups. Lea also had a specific game plan to keep Wake Forest star wide receiver Greg Dortch from making a big im‑ pact. Notre Dame played an inside‑ out coverage that often had two dif‑ ferent defenders keying on Dortch. The talented redshirt sophomore had just 56 yards on his six receptions. What Didn't Work Sloppy Play Stalls Offense Early: Notre Dame flipped the script a bit offensively against Wake Forest. The Irish had started fast in the first three games and then stalled, but during the first road game of the season the offense sput‑ tered early, mostly due to self‑ inflicted wounds. Two dropped passes, an in‑ eligible man downfield negat‑ ing a third‑down conversion and a quarterback adjusting to being in the lineup were the culprits early on, but no play was more damaging than sophomore wide receiver Mi‑ chael Young's fumble on the second play of the third series. After the defense bailed them out by holding Wake Forest to a field goal, the Irish scored touchdowns on their next four possessions and eight of their next nine. Costly Miscues Extend Drives: The Irish defense overall excelled against the Wake Forest offense, but the results should have been better. There were several unforced errors that extended Wake Forest drives. After Notre Dame took a 21‑6 lead, the defense was poised to get off the field with its second straight three‑ and‑out, but fifth‑year senior nose guard Jonathan Bonner was called for roughing the passer after a third‑ down incompletion. Six plays later with Wake Forest in the red zone, the Irish defense again appeared poised to make a stop that would have forced a field goal attempt, but senior safety Nick Coleman misplayed a route and was flagged for pass interference. Wake Forest finished that drive with a touchdown to make it a 21‑13 game. On Notre Dame's next posses‑ sion it caught a break when a pass intended for Kendall Hinton was thrown behind him after the con‑ verted quarterback had beaten Notre Dame freshman safety Houston Griffith for what would have been a 75‑yard touchdown pass had the ball not been thrown off target. ✦ Wake Forest 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 quarterback Ian Book overcame a slow start to execute the game plan at an incredibly efficient rate, completing 73.5 percent of his passes for 325 yards. PHOTO BY BILL PANZICA

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