Blue and Gold Illustrated

February 2021

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

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24 FEBRUARY 2021 BLUE & GOLD ILLUSTRATED BY LOU SOMOGYI A mong 127 teams that played in the Foot- ball Bowl Subdivision this year, here were Notre Dame's final NCAA placements in notable categories: OFFENSE: TIER 2 LEVEL Rushing Offense: 24th — 211.1 Yards Per Game The ground output was the second highest in the 11-year Brian Kelly era, behind the 269.5 mark in 2017, and 32 yards more per game than last season. Aiding the efforts was the most veteran line re- turning in school history, a strong tight end corps and the emergence of sophomore running back Kyren Williams (1,125 rushing yards). Passing Offense: 58th — 237.4 Yards Per Game Team Passing Efficiency: 43rd — 141.9 Rating The 2020 group joined 2015 as the only ones under Kelly to average more than 200 yards both rushing and passing. The team pass efficiency rating dropped 23 spots from last year while the Irish spent most of the first half of this season trying to cobble together a receiving corps. In the past three years, fifth- year senior quarterback Ian Book's pass efficiency dropped from 17th in 2018 (the highest by anyone under Kelly) to 24th in 2019 and 33rd this past year. Total Offense: 26th — 448.5 Yards Per Game Other than his first season in 2010, every offense in Kelly's 11 years averaged at least 412 yards. The highest output under him was the 466.4 by the 10-3 outfit in 2015. Scoring Offense: 30th — 33.4 Points Per Game Last year's 36.8 figure (13th in the country) was the highest in Kelly's 11 seasons. A glaring disparity remains versus the elite programs that regularly qualify for the College Football Playoff. They are generally in the 44- to 48-point range. This year it included Alabama (48.5), Clemson (43.5), Oklahoma (43.0) and Ohio State (41.0). The school record remains 37.6 — set 52 years ago by Ara Parseghian's 1968 outfit. Turnovers Lost: 43rd — 11 (8 Fumbles, 3 Inter- ceptions) Turnover Margin: 30th — Plus-0.50 When including bowl games, Notre Dame's 11 turnovers this year not only matched last year's total that was fifth in the country, but also tied the second fewest in a season for the Irish, behind only the 10 by the 11-1 unit in 1993. The lower ranking stems from the amount of games, which makes this highly misleading. The top seven in this category played five or fewer games, whereas the Irish played 12. The only team that had 12 games this season and fewer turnovers than Notre Dame was Brigham Young with nine. Third-Down Conversions: 8th — 49.1 Percent A huge improvement from last year's 40.2 mark that ranked 65th. A prime reason was Notre Dame thrived in third-and-short situations much better this year after going a disappointing 24 of 52 on third-and-three or less in 2019. Red Zone Offense: 102nd — 76.7 Percent No single area anywhere on the team had a more precipitous drop after finishing 10th last year when it scored 51 times in 55 chances (92.7 percent), with 42 of them touchdowns. Part of it is that in five cases late in the game, Kelly and Co. took a knee in the red zone when they could have scored, so the final tally was 46 scores (35 touchdowns, 11 field goals) in 60 DATA POINTS Notre Dame's final statistical rankings among the 127 Football Bowl Subdivision teams in 2020 The Fighting Irish offensive line paved the way for 211.1 rushing yards per game, which ranked 24th in the nation. PHOTO COURTESY ACC MEDIA

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