Blue and Gold Illustrated

December 2019

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

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Page 22 of 47 DECEMBER 2019 23 STANFORD RUNNING GAME VS. NOTRE DAME RUN DEFENSE Considering the Cardinal entered the contest ranked 123rd among 130 Foot- ball Bowl Subdivision teams in rushing with a 104.4 average, plus started three true freshmen along the offensive line, it did well to finish with 118 yards on the ground, although workhorse Cameron Scarlett's 13 carries netted only 43 yards (3.3 average per attempt). With defensive tackles Myron Tagovailoa-Amosa and Jayson Ademilola both sidelined with injuries, end Ade Ogundeji slid inside. Stanford tested the inte- rior earlier and tasted some success because of the early production with the pass, but it was not sustainable against a still far more veteran overall defense. ADVANTAGE: Notre Dame STANFORD PASSING GAME VS. NOTRE DAME PASS DEFENSE A five-star recruit in 2017, quarterback Davis Mills displayed poise and ac- curacy during the first three drives in which he was 12 of 17 for 144 yards with two touchdowns, plus producing a field goal on the third drive. Notre Dame eventually countered with dropping eight men into coverage, yet was still able to apply decent pressure on Mills off the edge to force some errant throws. Over the final 39:31, he was only 16 of 29 for 132 yards, resulting in seven consecutive punts, four of them on three-and-out series. ADVANTAGE: Notre Dame NOTRE DAME RUNNING GAME VS. STANFORD RUN DEFENSE The ground attack was an auxiliary element the first three quarters because the primary emphasis was on shredding a Stanford defense that ranked 109th in pass efficiency and 118th in passing yards allowed — and was without its top corner (Paulson Adebo) and one of its top safeties (Malik Antoine). Through three quarters, Notre Dame rushed for only 101 yards, highlighted by a 26-yard ad-lib scramble by senior quarterback Ian Book, and seldom did the Irish get much of a push along the line of scrimmage. In the fourth quarter, with the game in hand, the Irish began to wear down a tiring Cardinal defense and rushed for 89 yards in those 15 minutes, highlighted by a tackle-breaking 28-yard run by junior Jafar Armstrong and a 24-yard jet sweep by explosive sophomore wide receiver Braden Lenzy. It was not a dominant effort on Notre Dame's part, but the 190-yard result still surpassed its 175-yard average. ADVANTAGE: Notre Dame NOTRE DAME PASSING GAME VS. STANFORD PASS DEFENSE Like Davis for Stanford, Book spread the wealth early, yet didn't connect with senior wide receiver Chase Claypool until the final two minutes of the first half, with the second a 41-yard back-shoulder touchdown in which Claypool, per usual, high-pointed the ball with excellent timing to put the Irish ahead for good. As excellent an execution on any pass this year was Book's 43-yard strike to Lenzy when the Irish led only 21-17 and were backed up with a first-and-17 situation at their 7-yard line. With good protection, Book patiently waited for Lenzy to cut clear across the field and hit him perfectly in stride. That drive ended with what has been a recent staple — Claypool cutting across the middle in the red zone for an eight-yard score. A 16-yard, check-down screen to senior running back Tony Jones Jr. also was well executed for a score, and Book again demonstrated fine patience on a third-and-goal, six-yard scoring pass to sophomore tight end Tommy Tremble. The Stanford front did bat down four of Book's passes, but he finished 17 of 30 for 255 yards with four scores and no interceptions. ADVANTAGE: Notre Dame SPECIAL TEAMS Perhaps not since Robert Blanton's punt block and touchdown in 2010 for 4-5 Notre Dame while trailing No. 15 Utah 3-0, thus propelling a 28-3 win, has a special teams play other than a field goal had a greater impact in a victory than freshman defensive end Isaiah Foskey's blocked punt early in the second quarter. Trailing 17-7, Foskey's rangy 6-5 frame timed the block perfectly, setting up the Irish at the Stanford 1-yard line. It began a 31-0 run by Notre Dame — which also was aided by a fumble recovery by senior long snapper John Shannon on a muffed Cardinal punt. Add in a 42-yard Jonathan Doerer field goal plus solid Irish coverage on kicks and punts, and it was an exceptional day at the office for the kicking game. ADVANTAGE: Notre Dame THIRD-DOWN CONVERSIONS Both teams were 4 of 14 (28.6 percent), but the difference is Stanford began 4 of 6, highlighted by the 27-yard touchdown pass from Mills to Michael Wilson on third-and-eight that gave the Cardinal a 17-7 advantage with 9:39 left in the first half. Thereafter, it was 0 of 8. Meanwhile, after falling behind 17-7, the Irish tallied on third-and-goal from the 6-yard line with a pass to Tremble. Notre Dame also converted two crucial fourth-and-two situations on two different touchdown drives, the former on a 26-yard scramble by Book to Stanford's 3-yard line. ADVANTAGE: Even TURNOVERS The Irish entered the contest third nationally in turnover margin and third in turnovers forced — and it came out on top 2-0, resulting in 10 points, the latter directly with 41 seconds left in the game when senior end Khalid Kareem recovered a Mills fumble in the end zone forced by Ogundeji. ADVANTAGE: Notre Dame ANALYSIS To Stanford's credit, it came out sharp and played with pride amidst a 4-8 season in which it lost its last four. To Notre Dame's credit, it remained patient, with first special teams and then the defense and ultimately the offense complementing each other during a game-deciding 31-0 run over a span of 27:51 from late in the second quarter to late in the fourth. ON PAPER REVISITED BY LOU SOMOGYI Notre Dame consistently pressured Cardinal quarterback Davis Mills and limited him to 16-of-29 passing for 132 yards over the final 39 minutes of the game. PHOTO BY CHUCK ARAGON

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