Blue and Gold Illustrated

December 2021

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

Issue link:

Contents of this Issue


Page 25 of 47

26 DECEMBER 2021 BLUE & GOLD ILLUSTRATED 1. Another Stout Defensive Game Notre Dame's defense allowed a touchdown for the first time in 14 quarters and 219:17 of game time when Stanford running back Austin Jones plunged into the end zone from five yards out early in the second half. Not since a 31-yard Sam Howell touchdown run in the fourth quarter of the Irish's 44-34 win over North Carolina Oct. 30 had an opponent scored on something other than a field goal. It's also worth pointing out Stanford traveled just 13 yards to score after it took over following gradu- ate student quarterback Jack Coan's interception. The Cardinal tacked on a garbage-time score early in the fourth quarter on a 75-yard drive, which ended with tight end Benjamin Yurosek's 49-yard touchdown grab. Even with it, Notre Dame still held Stanford to 4.8 yards per play. Until Yurosek's score, Stanford's longest gain was a 12-yard catch on third-and-20 — which receiver Michael Wilson fumbled. This was another day of making an overmatched of- fense looked helpless. 2. Secondary Tackling Marvel at the futility of Stanford sophomore quarterback Tanner McKee's first-half stat line of 6-of-9 passing for nine yards all you'd like, but Notre Dame's tackling deserves a bit of credit for it. Stanford's receivers found little room after the catch in a quick-strike game plan. Cornerbacks Cam Hart and Clarence Lewis each had a tackle for loss in the first half. Hart added another tackle for loss in the second half when he read a screen pass the entire way, ran past an offensive lineman trying to block him and dropped receiver Bryce Farrell for a seven-yard loss. Elsewhere, senior safety Houston Griffith had three tackles. Sophomore safety Xavier Watts made a couple open-field stops, though his poor angle led to Yurosek's 49-yard touchdown catch. Hart and Lewis combined for seven tackles. Take out Yurosek's score and Stanford averaged just 6.5 yards per completion. Four pass plays went for zero or negative yardage. Notre Dame also sacked McKee twice and stopped him for no gain on a scramble. Senior defensive end Justin Ademilola forced and recovered a fumble on one of those sacks. 3. Stanford Sells Out To Stop The Run Stanford played heavy boxes at the start and seemed intent on not letting running back Kyren Williams pop big runs. To a degree, it worked. Williams had just two carries in the first quarter. Notre Dame's passing offense, though, moved the ball against a suspect secondary. Stanford didn't have the defensive personnel to cover sophomore tight end Michael Mayer or senior wide receiver Kevin Austin Jr. Coan looked to Austin early and often, finding him four times for 57 yards in the first quarter alone. Austin ended the game with six catches for 125 yards on eight targets. Mayer had nine catches, including a 24-yarder in the second quarter on a seam route where he ran past a linebacker with no resistance. He totaled 105 yards and caught 100 percent of his targets. Notre Dame also took advantage of Stanford's aggressiveness with play action. Coan's 61-yard completion to Austin was a play-action pass. On the play before it, Notre Dame ran a reverse with senior wide receiver Braden Lenzy after faking a toss to Williams. Williams still had an impact on the game. He scored two touchdowns and finished with 74 yards, putting him over 1,000 yards for the second straight year. 4. Quarterback Rotation As Notre Dame's offense found its footing in November, it has moved further away from a two- quarterback system. Freshman Tyler Buchner is still involved, but as more of an occasional change-of-pace rather than an essential piece. With Coan stringing together steady games and a functional rushing attack, play- ing Buchner becomes less about need and more about adding another look. Coan cleared 300 passing yards for the first time since opening night in Tallahassee. All told, he was 26-of-35 passing for 345 yards with two touch- downs and one interception. When Notre Dame needed to throw early on, he delivered. In the first quarter, he completed 10 of 12 throws for 115 yards and two touchdowns. Coan has completed at least 70 percent of his passes in five of his last six starts. Notre Dame isn't asking him to unload the ball down the field too often, but its quick passing game requires him to be efficient. On that front, he has delivered. 5. Sloppy Stanford A 3-8 record entering the game indicated this Stanford team wasn't stocked with the same talent prior ones had. On cue, the skill difference wasn't hard to spot. What was unexpected, though, was the Cardinal's sloppiness and lack of discipline — two things not associated with them in the past decade or so. A quick rundown of some notable Stanford mistakes: • Two offside penalties by the same player on Notre Dame's opening drive and a third on the first extra point attempt. • Illegal motion on a punt. • A hands to the face penalty to set up Notre Dame's second touchdown. • A facemask penalty to put Notre Dame in the red zone. • A chop block to negate a 44-yard touchdown pass on a perfectly executed trick play. That was just in the first half. Stanford without the sloppiness had slim chances of beating Notre Dame. Add it in, and the Cardinal had no shot. FIVE THOUGHTS: NOTRE DAME ROUTS STANFORD, 45-14 BY PATRICK ENGEL Freshman quarterback Tyler Buchner — who had a 33-yard rushing touchdown against Stanford — is still involved in the offense, but as more of an occasional change-of-pace rather than an essential piece. PHOTO BY CHUCK ARAGON

Articles in this issue

Archives of this issue

view archives of Blue and Gold Illustrated - December 2021