Blue and Gold Illustrated

Sept. 19, 2020

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

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Page 22 of 55 SEPT. 19, 2020 23 DUKE RUNNING GAME VS. NOTRE DAME RUN DEFENSE On several occasions throughout the game, Notre Dame's middle seemed vulnerable to quick traps, especially at the outset. Veteran running back Deon Jackson carried seven times in the first quarter for 31 yards, part of why Duke was able to control time of possession (10:17 to 4:43) in the initial frame. That produc- tion also helped make the play-action passing, especially off bootlegs, effective. The Irish defense tightened up afterwards with Jackson thereafter picking up only 21 yards on eight carries. Ultimately, Duke's running backs managed 59 yards on 20 attempts, which is a good day's work for the defense. ADVANTAGE: Notre Dame DUKE PASSING GAME VS. NOTRE DAME PASS DEFENSE Because of some early success with the run, redshirt junior quarterback Chase Brice also was productive as a passer in the first quarter, completing seven throws for 112 yards (16.0 yards per completion), half coming on a "pick" play with a screen. The final three quarters it was 13 for 147 yards (11.3 average). More significant was a strong pass rush led by sophomore vyper Isaiah Foskey and quality coverage from both cornerbacks, junior TaRiq Bracy and fifth-year senior Nick McCloud. They were challenged to press coverage and overall acquitted themselves well. Brice did complete 20 of 37 passes for 259 yards to keep Duke competitive, but the Irish pass rush responded well on third downs and in the red zone. ADVANTAGE: Even NOTRE DAME RUNNING GAME VS. DUKE RUN DEFENSE First-year offensive coordinator Tommy Rees remained relatively patient at- tempting to establish a ground attack, but with an Irish receiving corps in flux, and the secondary and pass rush Duke's top strength, the Blue Devils' game plan centered on stopping the run. It was highly successful in the first half when the Irish totaled only 43 rushing yards. However, in the third quarter alone, with a little more counter action, sophomore Kyren Williams picked up 66 yards on six carries, highlighted by a 26-yard touchdown scamper on fourth-and-one. Notre Dame didn't dominate with the run (178 yards on 42 carries), but did enough in the second half to at least achieve a draw. ADVANTAGE: Even NOTRE DAME PASSING GAME VS. DUKE PASS DEFENSE It was not a strong outing for fifth-year senior quarterback Ian Book, even though the stats (19 of 31 for 263 yards with one touchdown and one interception) are far from poor. Notre Dame's screen game hit for several huge plays, but also missed on a number of other opportunities where it could have racked up 50-70 more yards. The long game was non-existent other than one deep pass attempt to junior wide receiver Lawrence Keys III that fell incomplete, and the short game had numerous hurried or sailed throws by Book, although part of it stemmed from the Blue Devils' strong defensive end play with the pass rush. The final touchdown drive to make it 24-13 is what gives the Irish the slightest edge. On that series, freshman tight end Michael Mayer bulldozed for a crucial first down on third-and-seven when it first appeared he would be tackled well short of the marker. Then on third-and-10, senior slot receiver Avery Davis made a leaping Chase Claypool-like 17-yard touchdown catch in which he demonstrated strong hands and determination. ADVANTAGE: Notre Dame SPECIAL TEAMS With the Irish offense reeling and trailing 3-0 after four possessions (while producing just one first down), sophomore punter Jay Bramblett's 14-yard run off a fake on fourth-and-eight awoke Notre Dame from its slumber. It set up the game's first touchdown, too. He also pinned Duke inside the 20-yard line three times, although one short punt did help set up a Blue Devils' touchdown. Senior kicker Jonathan Doerer was clutch again with 48- and 34-yard field goals on his lone two attempts, the former as time expired in the first half. ADVANTAGE: Notre Dame THIRD-DOWN CONVERSIONS Notre Dame finished 7 of 16 (43.8 percent), with the clutch plays by Mayer and Davis on the final touchdown drive the difference. Duke was 4 of 15 (26.7 percent), and also missed on its lone fourth-down attempt, where Notre Dame was 2 of 2 with Bramblett's game-changing fake and Williams' 26-yard touchdown. ADVANTAGE: Notre Dame TURNOVERS Notre Dame won 2-1. Along with Bramblett's fake punt, the top game- changing play was senior rover Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah forcing a fumble by Duke wideout Jalon Calhoun that sixth-year senior safety Shaun Crawford recovered at the Irish 41-yard line in the third quarter. At the time, Notre Dame was leading only 10-6, but that play set up Williams' 26-yard scoring run. ADVANTAGE: Notre Dame ANALYSIS This became a battle of attrition, and Notre Dame's quality defensive depth, adjustment and execution eventually rose to the surface after a slow start. Reserves such as Foskey and junior Mike linebacker Bo Bauer, among others, provided exceptional work to augment the starters. The offense, though bland, eventually found a consistent mainstay with Williams and made just enough plays after the first quarter to produce the workmanlike victory. But similar to the Stanford game last year when Notre Dame fell behind 17-7, special teams provided the initial spark. ON PAPER REVISITED BY LOU SOMOGYI Senior wide receiver Avery Davis hauled in an impressive leaping touchdown catch for a crucial third-down conversion that gave the Irish a 24-13 lead in the fourth quarter. PHOTO COURTESY NOTRE DAME ATHLETICS

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