Blue and Gold Illustrated

Nov. 19, 2018

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

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Page 22 of 55 NOV. 19, 2018 23 FSU RUNNING GAME VS. NOTRE DAME RUN DEFENSE Notre Dame will not face a better combination at running back this regular season than Cam Akers (12 carries for 63 yards, and two touchdowns) and Jacques Patrick (16 carries for 53 yards), both of whom have NFL-caliber skills. Yet FSU entered the contest 127th among 129 Football Bowl Subdivision teams in rushing yards per game with a miniscule 78.7 average. It finished 27 yards above that figure at 106 while exploiting the middle several times. However, no one can contend that figure is good enough to beat a top-five team of Notre Dame's vintage. ADVANTAGE: Notre Dame FSU PASSING GAME VS. NOTRE DAME PASS DEFENSE Playing a heavy dose of nickel coverage throughout the game — which in part helped Florida State be more effective than its average with the run — Notre Dame held quarterback Deondre Francois to less than 50 percent passing (23 of 47), forced 10 hurried passes (while recording a misleading one sack), broke up four throws and set the tone on the game's second play when senior nickel Nick Coleman grabbed a tipped pass for a 27-yard interception return to the FSU 3-yard line. Several passes, especially on crossing plays, were dropped, but the coverage was consistently good, even on a perfectly placed 40-yard gain to wide receiver Nyqwan Murray. Less than 10 yards per completion and a paltry 4.5 yards per attempt will be taken by a defense any day. ADVANTAGE: Notre Dame NOTRE DAME RUNNING GAME VS. FSU RUN DEFENSE The on-field stat of the day was that against a defense that ranked 17th nationally against the run (111.1 yards allowed per game) and fifth in fewest yards given up per carry (2.84), Notre Dame finished with 365 yards and 7.3 yards per carry. Both were the most versus the Seminoles since 2009, when triple-option Georgia Tech had 401 and Florida with quarterback Tim Tebow topped the 7.3 mark. With senior quarterback Brandon Wimbush, the attack was far more predi- cated on zone reads and designed runs than the run-pass options when Ian Book is at the throttle, mainly because of their different skill sets. The Irish ran for 141 yards in the first half and 224 in the second, highlighted by a 97-yard scoring drive in which all 12 plays were kept on the ground, allow- ing senior Dexter Williams to become the first back to rush for more than 200 yards against FSU (202) since 1982. The power running attack was augmented with junior right guard Tommy Kraemer more in his wheelhouse in that aspect of the game. ADVANTAGE: Notre Dame NOTRE DAME PASSING GAME VS. FSU PASS DEFENSE Wimbush fired deep early to help loosen the Seminoles defense, which paid off with the rushing totals. Enough was done, especially two sensational touchdown grabs by senior tight end Alizé Mack, to keep FSU honest, but a below average 5.2 yards per attempt and two interceptions give the overall nod to Florida State. ADVANTAGE: Florida State SPECIAL TEAMS There were more positives than negatives for Notre Dame, highlighted by a blocked point after try by senior defensive tackle Jerry Tillery that was returned for two points by junior Julian Love, senior Justin Yoon converting both field goal attempts and senior Chris Finke returning a punt 28 yards, although that was offset by a Wimbush interception toss. Two FSU punts inside the Irish 20-yard line, a 31-yard kickoff return and an- other out-of-bounds kickoff by the Irish almost made it even. ADVANTAGE: Notre Dame THIRD-DOWN CONVERSIONS Notre Dame was 9 of 16 (56.3 percent) and crushed the Seminoles in this area in the first half three times. On the second touchdown drive of the game it was 4 of 4 on third down (all a minimum of four yards to go), including the six-yard touchdown to Mack on third-and-goal. Then after FSU cut its deficit to 19-6, Wimbush scrambled for 17 yards on third-and-10 the play prior to Williams' back-breaking 58-yard touchdown tally. Finally, during the fourth Irish touchdown drive that made it 32-6 at halftime, Wimbush found Finke for 17 yards on third-and-six on the play prior to the 15- yard touchdown to Mack. Meanwhile, the Seminoles were only 6 of 17 (35.2 percent), which was offset a little by 3 of 6 on fourth down. However, most of that came well after the game was in hand for Notre Dame. TURNOVERS Both of Florida State's miscues occurred in the first nine minutes of the first quarter, helping set up 10 points for Notre Dame while it built a 17-0 cushion. Florida State was never quite able to recover from that early onslaught. Wimbush also tossed two interceptions, but both came in the second half after the Irish were ahead 32-6. The first did set up a Seminole touchdown to open the third quarter. ADVANTAGE: Even ANALYSIS This game had a 2017 feel to it, or at least the one where Notre Dame began 8-1: the offensive line/ground game dominated with 365 rushing yards, Wim- bush balanced enough good as a passer to compensate for a roughly 50-per- cent (12 of 25) performance, and while the defense bent while giving up some yardage, it kept the points down and was particularly effective in the red zone, allowing only two scores in four trips made there. Seven of the first nine 2017 foes were defeated by at least 20 points, as was FSU by 29. The question now becomes which identity in the final two games — power running with Wimbush or precision passing with the currently healing Ian Book — better fits and aids the team overall for the final two games and, if earned, the College Football Playoff. ON PAPER REVISITED BY LOU SOMOGYI Junior right guard Tommy Kraemer and the Irish offensive line paved the way for 365 rushing yards and 7.3 yards per carry — both of which were the most versus Florida State since 2009. PHOTO BY BILL PANZICA

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