Blue and Gold Illustrated

January 2021

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

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32 JANUARY 2021 BLUE & GOLD ILLUSTRATED Mayer ends the season tied for the team lead in receptions with 42. He had 450 yards and two touchdowns. In the fourth quarter, what would have been his third touchdown of the season was called back due to an illegal shift penalty against the Irish. "Coming in as a freshman there are a lot of things you've got to learn about college football," Mayer said. "Seniors and the fifth-years here have done a very good job with me, and they've taught me a lot." NOTRE DAME DEFENSE STRUGGLES ON THIRD DOWN All season long, Notre Dame has been one of the nation's best defenses on third down. That is, until the ACC Championship Dec. 19, when star junior quarterback Trevor Lawrence and the Clemson Tigers converted on eight of 14 chances. Still, the Irish came into the College Football Playoff with the sixth-best third-down defense in the country, allowing the chains to move just 29.4 percent of the time. The problem? The Alabama offense led the nation in third-down conver- sion rate at 59.2 percent. But surely, the Irish could return to form and at least slow down the Crimson Tide and force more than two or three punts. Unfortunately for Notre Dame, Alabama didn't miss a beat and con- verted on six of its 10 third-down tries. Part of the issue was a handful of third-and-short opportunities. On four occasions, the Crimson Tide needed four yards or fewer in order to move the sticks. Each time, they converted. Alabama was also able to produce big plays on third-and-long twice, including once with a 13-yard run up the middle by senior running back Na- jee Harris. "Tell me who has tackled those guys," Notre Dame s e n i o r r o v e r J e r e m i a h O w u s u - K o r a m o a h s a i d . "Everybody has the same problem that I do. It's tack- ling those guys and getting them down. It's the same issue." Where Notre Dame did well was when Alabama needed nine yards or more. On all three occasions, the Crimson Tide failed to gain positive yards. In two in- stances, they actually lost eight yards. "If we get them in third-and-long situations, we can go deeper into our third-down playbook and get some pressure going or get some more stuff going in the coverage game," sophomore safety Kyle Hamilton said prior to the game. "Then the offense is only limited to a certain amount of plays that they can run, too." ✦ TAKES FROM FORMER NOTRE DAME CAPTAIN LINEBACKER MIKE GOOLSBY • " This game, as a fan watching on the couch, was like watching the worst movie ever. You go into it knowing the outcome, and you know it was going to be terrible because you have seen it before. "I don't think Notre Dame embarrassed themselves today, but it didn't seem like Bama was that juiced up. It didn't look like they tried all that hard." • "We did not see Notre Dame match the level of competition or exceed the level of competition this year. We only saw Notre Dame exceed its opponent's level of competi- tion once and that was in the first go-around with Clemson. "Yes, there is a talent gap and we all knew that, and it became evident today. I'm sure there are some takeaways after you look at the film, and yes, the defense played well in terms of limiting the amount of points Ala- bama scored." • "Notre Dame still did not do anything out- side of themselves in order to pull off the upset. Great season, but overall there is still a lot left to be desired." Notre Dame's defense allowed Alabama nine plays of at least 15 yards through three quarters, and Crimson Tide senior running back Najee Harris produced 155 total yards on 19 touches. PHOTO COURTESY COLLEGE FOOTBALL PLAYOFF ALABAMA VS. NOTRE DAME QUARTER-BY-QUARTER COMPARISON Alabama 1st Qtr. 2nd Qtr. 3rd Qtr. 4th Qtr. 1st Half 2nd Half Total Time of Possession 4:47 7:28 8:36 5:26 12:15 14:02 26:17 Third-Down Conversions 0-0 3-4 2-3 1-3 3-4 3-6 6-10 Fourth-Down Conversions 0-0 0-0 0-0 0-0 0-0 0-0 0-0 Average Field Position UA-12 UA-24 UA-31 UA-14 UA-19 UA-26 UA-22 Notre Dame 1st Qtr. 2nd Qtr. 3rd Qtr. 4th Qtr. 1st Half 2nd Half Final Time of Possession 10:13 7:32 6:24 9:34 17:45 15:58 33:43 Third-Down Conversions 3-5 2-5 1-2 2-4 5-10 3-6 8-16 Fourth-Down Conversions 0-0 1-1 0-0 1-2 1-1 1-2 2-3 Average Field Position ND-20 ND-18 ND-17 ND-30 ND-19 ND-25 ND-22 BIG PLAYS (25 YARDS OR MORE) Alabama • 2-10 ND26 Mac Jones pass complete to DeVonta Smith for 26 yards and a touchdown • 1-10 UA35 Najee Harris rush for 53 yards to the ND12 • 1-10 ND34 Mac Jones pass complete to DeVonta Smith for 34 yards and a touchdown • 1-10 UA38 Mac Jones pass complete to John Metchie III for 40 yards to the ND22 Notre Dame • 2-7 ND28 Ian Book pass complete to Chris Tyree for 27 yards to the UA45 PLAY CHART (NO. OF PLAYS) Yards UA ND Nega ve 5 5 0-5 22 47 6-9 11 14 10-19 11 10 20-29 3 4 30-39 1 0 40-49 1 0 50 or more 1 0 RED ZONE EFFICIENCY (INSIDE 20-YARD LINE) No Poss. TD FG Score Alabama 2 2 0 0 Notre Dame 4 2 0 2

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