Blue and Gold Illustrated

Nov. 19, 2018

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

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30 NOV. 19, 2018 BLUE & GOLD ILLUSTRATED What Worked Deep Shots Open Up Run Game: With starting quarterback Ian Book out with an injury, Notre Dame turned to former starter Brandon Wimbush against the Seminoles. Wimbush is a strong runner that of- ten struggles to throw the football, so what did offensive coordinator Chip Long do early in the game against Florida State? He threw the ball … deep … a lot. Notre Dame's first drive began at the FSU 3-yard line after an inter- ception by senior nickel Nick Cole- man, but on the second drive we saw Long's game plan take effect. Wimbush threw a deep post route to junior wideout Chase Claypool on the first play of the drive, he threw a deep out to senior wide receiver Miles Boykin a snap later, and that was followed by another deep ball to Claypool. Later in the drive, Notre Dame moved the chains after a defen- sive pass interference was called on a deep sideline route to Claypool. Wimbush ended the drive with a touchdown pass to tight end Alizé Mack. There was a method to Long's madness. If you study Wimbush's history, he's had his best games when he took early deep shots, and Long did that in this game. There was a specific Florida State aspect to this early game plan as well. The Seminoles had the nation's 17th-ranked rushing defense com- ing into this matchup, giving up just 111.1 yards per game and 2.9 yards per rush. Long knew he had to do something to soften up the FSU defense, and the early deep shots forced the Semi- noles to back off the ground game and widen their defenders in order to handle the pass game and the Wim- bush runs. With Florida State being forced to play more zone coverage, the between-the-tackles ground game opened up. Senior running back Dexter Williams ripped off scoring runs of 58 yards and 32 yards right up the middle, an area where teams had found little success against the Seminoles in previous weeks. Early Third-Down Success Turns The Tide: The Seminoles entered with the nation's 36th-ranked third- down defense, and the Irish came into the matchup with the 31st- ranked third-down offense. Some- thing had to give, and in the first half it was the FSU defense that buckled. On Notre Dame's second scoring drive of the game, Wimbush hit Clay- pool on an under route to convert a third-and-four and connected with senior slot man Chris Finke on a slant route to convert a third-and-seven. The drive ended when Wimbush found Mack on a corner route in the end zone for a six-yard touchdown on a third-and-goal play. Two series later, the Irish, leading 19-6, faced a third-and-10 at their own 25-yard line. Wimbush dropped back to pass, but saw a crease in the middle of the defense and took off, moving the chains with a 17-yard scramble. A play later, Williams ripped off a back-breaking 58-yard touchdown run. Notre Dame finished the first half 6 of 8 on third-down conversions and went 9 of 16 for the game. Its 56.3 percent third-down conversion rate was the best against the Seminoles since North Carolina on Oct. 1, 2016. Secondary Depth Proves Impact- ful: Two little used defensive backs had a major impact in the Irish vic- tory. Coleman played few mean- ingful snaps in the last month, but against Florida State's up-tempo spread offense he was used as a starter in the slot in the multiple de- fensive back alignments. Coleman responded with a strong performance, including an inter- ception of a tipped pass on the sec- ond play from scrimmage that he returned 27 yards to set up Notre Dame's first touchdown. It was Coleman's first career inter- ception. Freshman cornerback TaRiq Bracy also saw significant playing time against Florida State's talented re- ceivers, and the moment the Semi- nole coaches saw Bracy in the game they went right at him. Bracy was up for the challenge. He was all over the FSU pass catch- ers and showed he had the speed to run with any player that went after him. Bracy also forced a fumble in the game. What Didn't Work Run Defense Disappoints: Flor- ida State rushed for only 106 yards against Notre Dame, but that was about 30 yards above its season aver- age, and the Seminole running backs grinded out 116 yards in the game. There were a number of factors in Notre Dame's inconsistent rush defense. At times the Irish had only five defenders in the box against the FSU spread sets, and the Seminole coaches wisely chose to run the ball inside against those looks. There were some gap integrity issues as well, which means there were snaps where the Irish defenders didn't all execute their assignment against the run. Notre Dame had been a good tack- ling team for much of the year, but a number of missed tackles also added to Florida State's moments of run game success. ✦ Florida State 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 The Fighting Irish took several shots down the field to junior wide receiver Chase Claypool, including this play on which he drew a pass inter- ference penalty during the second scoring drive. PHOTO BY BILL PANZICA

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