Blue and Gold Illustrated

March 2020

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

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70 MARCH 2020 BLUE & GOLD ILLUSTRATED BY LOU SOMOGYI E xcelling in all three phases of football — offense, defense and special teams — is uncommon. In 2019, only five of the 130 Football Bowl Sub- division teams finished among the top 25 in the Fremeau Efficiency Index (FEI), per Football Outsiders: Alabama, Florida, Notre Dame, Ohio State and Penn State. Here are the statistical breakdowns in major categories for the 2019 Fighting Irish, who finished with an 11-2 record. OFFENSE: BALL SECURITY A HIGHLIGHT Rushing Offense: 45th — 179.0 yards per game The Irish had to use some smoke and mirrors to not have too much of a drop- off from their 182.6-yard rushing average (51st nationally) from 2018. They came in the form of utilizing senior quarterback Ian Book more often as a runner, and using receivers — especially sophomore speedster Braden Lenzy — on jet sweeps. Book finished as the second-leading rusher with 546 yards — the second most in the Kelly era by a QB — while Lenzy was third with 200 yards, averaging 15.4 yards per pop. This helped compensate some for the inability to far too often not get enough push and movement up front, although the graduating Tony Jones Jr. (857 yards, 6.0 yards per carry) fulfilled expectations. Passing Offense: 49th — 252.2 yards per game Team Passing Efficiency Rating: 20th — 153.47 rating Pro Football Focus graded Notre Dame's offen- sive line No. 2 in its evaluation of pass blocking efficiency. A year earlier, quarterback Ian Book's individual 154.0 rating was nearly identical to the team's 153.47 in 2019. Total Offense: 43rd — 431.2 yards per game Other than his first season at Notre Dame in 2010, every offense in head coach Brian Kelly's 10 seasons has averaged at least 412 yards. The highest output under him was the 466.4 average by the 10-3 outfit in 2015. Scoring Offense: 13th — 36.8 points per game The school record remains 37.6 set way back in 1968. However, this was the highest figure in Kelly's 10 years, eclipsing the previous 34.2 standard set in 2015 and matched in 2017. The tier-one programs are generally in the 44 to 48 range. This year it in- cluded LSU (48.4), Ohio State (46.9), Clemson (43.9), Oklahoma (42.1) and Alabama (47.2). All five ranked among the top six. Turnovers Lost: Fifth — 11 Turnover Margin: Fourth — Plus-1.31 Only one Notre Dame team ever committed fewer turnovers in a season when including bowl games: The 11-1 edition in 1993 that finished No. 2 had 10. This year's squad had only six interceptions and five fumbles. The amazing streak of 1,273 carries that spanned five years by an Irish run- ning back without losing a fumble, however, came to an end. Third-Down Conversion Percentage: 65th — 40.2 This dropped from the 43.0 to 44.0 percent marks the previous two seasons. It started poorly in the first three games (10 of 35, 28.6 percent) and was 3 of 13 (23.1 percent) in the bowl win, but was respectable in between. Only three teams finished above 50.0 percent, with Ohio State's 55.2 at the top. National champ LSU was fourth at 49.7. Red Zone Offense: 10th — .927 (51 of 55) This category finished among the top 15 for the second time in three years. Of the 55 opportunities inside the opponent's 20-yard line, 42 resulted in touchdowns (nine were field goals and four had no score). This stat needs to be evaluated efficiency-wise. For example, Kansas State finished No. 1 by scoring on 50 of its 52 opportunities (96.2 percent) — but only 35 of 52 (67.3 percent) were touchdowns. Meanwhile, 42 of Notre Dame's 55 chances (76.4 percent) were touchdowns. Which would you rather have? RATIONAL NUMBERS Notre Dame's final statistical rankings among 130 Football Bowl Subdivision teams Senior running back Tony Jones Jr. led the team with averages of 6.0 yards per carry and 71.4 yards per game, while Notre Dame finished No. 45 nationally in rushing offense with 179.0 yards per game. PHOTO BY ANDRIS VISOCKIS

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