Blue and Gold Illustrated

Nov. 26, 2018

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

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24 NOV. 26, 2018 BLUE & GOLD ILLUSTRATED TURNING POINT The most logical answer might be when Syra- cuse star senior quarterback Eric Dungey was injured and had to leave the game for good at the 5:44 mark of the first quarter. However, the Orange was still scrapping and clawing to stay competitive, including an interception in the end zone in the second quarter when trailing 13-0. After the turnover, Syracuse began to find a rhythm with a 14-yard draw on third-and-seven and a 17-yard pass to freshman wideout Taj Har- ris to cross midfield. Backup redshirt freshman quarterback Tommy DeVito then found Harris for what looked like would be a 20-yard completion, but junior safety Alohi Gilman dislodged the ball, intercepted the pass and returned it 54 yards to the Orange 9-yard line. On the next play, sophomore running back Jafar Armstrong took a misdirection handoff for an easy score and a 20-0 cushion with 4:52 remain- ing in the first half. That sequence basically squelched any remain- ing hope for Syracuse. STATS OF THE GAME Syracuse finished 41.4 points under its scoring average that placed it No. 7 in the country during an 8-2 start this year. There have been few, if any, instances in Notre Dame annals when there was such an immense disparity in scoring average coming into a contest (44.4 points per game) and then the result (three points) versus the Fighting Irish this late into a season. It was the first time Notre Dame limited the opposition to single digits since a 44-6 win versus Army in a Shamrock Series contest on Nov. 12, 2016, and it was the fewest points yielded in a game by the Fighting Irish since the 38-3 victory versus Texas on Sept. 5, 2015. The Orange totaled only 122 total yards through three quarters, with minus-eight on its three three-and-out possessions in the third quarter when the Irish crushed any hope Syra- cuse might have had. Forty-eight percent of Syracuse's 234 yards came in the fourth quarter when mainly the Irish reserves were playing. IS THIS DEFENSE BETTER THAN 2012? The 2012 unit that spearheaded the 12-0 regu- lar season before falling 42-14 to Alabama al- lowed 12.8 points per game — the lowest in 32 years at the school (including bowls) — whereas this year's is at 17.3. However, there are two reasons why this crew might be better. One is depth, particularly on the line and in secondary. The rotation is more liberal, keeping the troops fresher. Pro Football Focus ranked the Irish behind only Clemson and Alabama for best pass rush, and that was before Notre Dame posted six sacks versus Syracuse. Meanwhile, the pass defense efficiency numbers will be even better than the No. 6 national rating (100.39) it had going into the game. The 2012 secondary had to be protected because it included two converted receivers starting for the first time (Bennett Jackson and Matthias Farley), plus a true freshman moved from offense (KeiVarae Russell). This 2018 back end is far more seasoned and replete with playmakers. It complements the lethal front seven much better. THREE OBSERVATIONS BY LOU SOMOGYI OFFENSE: WR CHASE CLAYPOOL There were some sloppy moments from the Notre Dame offense, but the junior wide receiver was one player that brought his "A" game in the win over Syracuse. He fin- ished with six catches for a team-high 98 yards and a touchdown, but it was how and when he made plays that was so impressive. Claypool's 27-yard catch and run set up Notre Dame's first touchdown. Two series later, he made an acrobatic 33-yard grab, twisting his body around and hauling in a difficult catch on a back shoulder throw. He helped put the game away in the third quarter, pulling in an under route in traffic and then dragging a Syracuse defender into the end zone. DEFENSE: S ALOHI GILMAN Notre Dame dominated on the defensive side of the ball, and a number of players stood out, but the junior safety was the headliner. He finished the game with eight tackles and the first two interceptions of his Notre Dame career. In the second quarter, he read the eyes of Syracuse fresh- man quarterback Tommy DeVito and intercepted a deep throw to end a Syracuse drive. Two series later, he knocked the ball out of the hands of a Syracuse receiver and then intercepted the pass, running it back 54 yards to set up a nine-yard touchdown on the next play. SPECIAL TEAMS: PK JUSTIN YOON Notre Dame's usually reliable red zone offense struggled in the victory over Syracuse. That put a greater burden on the senior placekicker, and he came through. Yoon nailed two field goals in the first quarter to help the Irish jump out to a 13-0 lead in the opening 15 minutes. His final field goal extended the lead to 23-0 in the third quarter. TOP PLAYERS OF THE GAME BY BRYAN DRISKELL Junior wide receiver Chase Claypool hauled in six receptions for 98 yards and one touchdown in the 36-3 win over the Orange. PHOTO BY ANGELA DRISKELL

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