Blue and Gold Illustrated

Oct. 17, 2020

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

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24 OCT. 17, 2020 BLUE & GOLD ILLUSTRATED TURNING POINT After Florida State pulled to within 28-20 on a field goal with 1:17 left in the first half, it had the momentum — plus it would receive the second- half kickoff. Notre Dame then answered with a kickoff return to the Irish 43-yard line by senior running back Jafar Armstrong. Aided by a costly Florida State 15-yard personal foul penalty on linebacker Jaleel McRae, plus the running effectiveness of fifth-year senior quarterback Ian Book, Notre Dame extended the lead to 35-20 with 11 seconds remaining after a six-yard touchdown pass from Book to junior wide receiver Braden Lenzy on a crossing route. That two-score advantage at the intermission proved to be pivotal because Florida State fielded the second-half kickoff and drove for a touchdown. Notre Dame answered right back with a tally to keep the advantage at two scores (42-26), but it was the late first-half touchdown that provided the needed cushion. STAT OF THE GAME On offense it's unquestionably Notre Dame rushing for 353 yards at 8.4 yards per attempt, especially against a defensive line that has sev- eral NFL-caliber players. Still, the running game slowed down some in the second half while scor- ing just seven points. More notable on the other side of the ball is the Irish came into the game No. 2 in the country in third-down defense (20.0 percent, 6 of 30). They improved by limiting Florida State to two conversions on 14 third downs (14.3 percent). Where it was especially important was hold- ing the Seminoles to two field goals when they had the ball deep in Notre Dame territory. In the fourth quarter, sixth-year senior cornerback Shaun Crawford also intercepted a third-and-goal pass near the goal line with the Irish ahead 42-26. The Seminoles did convert all three of their fourth-down attempts, but that came later when the game had been pretty much decided. COLLEGE FOOTBALL'S ARENA LEAGUE College football is becoming like the now defunct Arena Football League where the rules and talent of the game have swung so much toward the offense, that defense is more about damage control. Examples from the Oct. 10 weekend included No. 2 Alabama surviving a 63-48 shootout with Ole Miss, No. 4 Florida falling 41-38 to Texas A&M, No. 8 North Carolina hanging on for a 56-45 win at home versus Virginia Tech, and even reigning national champ LSU losing 45-41 to unranked Missouri two weeks after getting upset 44-34 by Mississippi State. Might this be the kind of high-scoring affair Notre Dame will need Nov. 7 against No. 1 Clemson? Part of it is how the game has evolved. But with COVID-19 and the way schools are cautiously ap- proaching practices, tackling fundamentals, among other basics, could easily become diminished and become a struggle to compound the problems on defense. THREE OBSERVATIONS BY LOU SOMOGYI OFFENSE: OFFENSIVE LINE Notre Dame was dominant on the ground all evening against Florida State, with the offensive line opening up canyon-sized holes for Irish ball carriers. The starting five of fifth-year senior left tackle Liam Eichenberg, senior left guard Aaron Banks, junior center Jarrett Patterson, fifth-year senior right guard Tommy Kraemer and senior right tackle Robert Hainsey set the tone early and never let up, even after Eichenberg went out temporarily with an injury in the second quarter. All told, the Fighting Irish racked up 353 rushing yards and four touchdowns on 42 carries (8.4 yards per attempt) against the Seminoles. In addition, the Irish blockers didn't allow a sack and gave up just three quarterback hits against a talented FSU defensive line. DEFENSE: DB SHAUN CRAWFORD The sixth-year senior defensive back's biggest play of the game came early in the fourth quarter when Florida State was driving to make it a one-possession game. On third-and-goal from the 5-yard line, Seminoles quarterback Jordan Travis tar- geted 6-4 wide receiver Tamorrion Terry, but the 5-9 Crawford slipped in front of the pass, picked it off and returned it 23 yards. This is made even more impressive by the fact that until this week, all of Crawford's reps during the season had come at safety. But he started the game and played cornerback be- cause other players hadn't practiced much due to COVID-19 protocols. Crawford finished the game with three tackles, one intercep- tion and two passes broken up. SPECIAL TEAMS: LB JD BERTRAND The sophomore linebacker flashed often on special teams against Florida State, and was frequently the first man down the field when it came to kickoffs and punts. This resulted in Bertrand having three special teams tackles against the Seminoles, which tied him for sixth among Fighting Irish players in terms of total tackles in the game. TOP PLAYERS OF THE GAME BY ANDREW MENTOCK Despite getting beat on this first-quarter touchdown, sixth-year senior Shaun Crawford finished with three tackles and two passes broken up, and came up with a clutch interception in the fourth quarter. PHOTO COURTESY NOTRE DAME ATHLETICS

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