Blue and Gold Illustrated

Sept. 17, 2022

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

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38 SEPT. 17, 2022 BLUE & GOLD ILLUSTRATED GAME PREVIEW: CALIFORNIA BY TODD D. BURLAGE CAL RUNNING GAME VS. NOTRE DAME RUN DEFENSE With only three offensive starters back from a Cal team that averaged just 23.8 points a game last season, maybe the heavy player turnover in 2022 isn't necessarily a detriment. Cal lost its leading rusher from 2021 when Chris- topher Brooks transferred to BYU. But there was a good tailback rotation last season between Brooks and Damien Moore. Moore, a 220-pound junior, is back after finishing second on the team last season with 517 rush- ing yards and leading the squad with 6 rushing touchdowns. Moore will get his carries this season. But in the Bears' season opener, true freshman Jaydn Ott got the bulk of the work. In the 34-13 win over UC Davis Sept. 3, he carried the ball 17 times for 104 rushing yards (6.1 yards per attempt). As a team vs. UC Davis, Cal compiled 147 yards rushing but managed only 4.3 yards per carry. Beyond versatile redshirt junior offensive line- man Ben Coleman, Cal features limited experience and a new cast of characters up front. For Notre Dame, run defense has been a mixed bag early this season. The best test so far came in the season opener against Ohio State, and the Irish held up well in a tough road environment. The Buckeyes finished with a solid 172 rushing yards. But Notre Dame didn't give up a rush attempt of more than 16 yards in the game and allowed only 1 rushing touchdown in the 21-10 loss. Irish senior linebackers Jack Kiser and Marist Liufau are off to quick starts and should be among the team's top tacklers all year. Advantage: Notre Dame CAL PASSING GAME VS. NOTRE DAME PASS DEFENSE Veteran quarterback Chase Garbers is gone af- ter throwing for 6,580 yards and 50 touchdowns in four seasons at Cal. But the Bears appear to be in good hands at the position with the addi- tion of Jack Plummer, a graduate transfer from Purdue. Plummer immediately became the 2022 starter and has played well so far. In his first start for Cal against UC Davis, Plummer connected on 23 of 35 throws for 268 yards with 3 touchdowns and 1 interception. Plummer was sacked twice and is more of a prototypical passing quarterback than a dual-threat player. Plummer spread the ball around against UC Da- vis, with 11 different receivers catching at least 1 pass and six pass catchers notching multiple grabs. Junior wide receiver Jeremiah Hunter is emerg- ing as Plummer's favorite target. Hunter had 6 catches for 78 yards with a touchdown against UC Davis. At 6-2, 200 pounds, Hunter is a breakout candidate for Cal after he averaged reeled in 21 receptions for 388 yards (18.5 yards per catch) and 1 touchdown in 2021. For Notre Dame, the cornerback three-pack of junior Clarence Lewis, senior Cam Hart and gradu- ate student TaRiq Bracy held up well for the most part against the high-powered Ohio State passing offense. Though, scoring tosses late in the third and fourth quarters broke open the game and sealed the 11-point win for the Buckeyes. Quarterback pressure will remain key for the Notre Dame pass defense this season. And against Ohio State, it showed very little. Senior defensive lineman Howard Cross III managed the only sack for Notre Dame against the Buckeyes' Heisman hopeful quarterback C.J. Stroud. And, as a team, the Irish didn't record a single batted ball or quarterback hurry in the game. Advantage: Notre Dame NOTRE DAME RUNNING GAME VS. CAL RUN DEFENSE First-year Notre Dame head coach Marcus Free- man preached a consistent message during the preseason of wanting to build a "run the ball, stop the run" identity for his team. Tough opponents and lingering questions about the health of All-American offensive lineman and Irish captain Jarrett Patterson have stunted Free- man's identity search so far. Notre Dame showed occasional success on the ground early in the game against Ohio State, but finished with only 76 rush- ing yards on 30 carries for an average of 2.5 yards per attempt. The three-headed tailback combination of junior Chris Tyree and sophomores Audric Estime and Logan Diggs combined for 19 carries and just 68 yards against the Buckeyes. For Cal, its rushing defense finished a respectable 41st nationally last season with 137.2 yards al- lowed per game. That was good enough for fourth in the Pac-12. Cal head coach Justin Wilcox has featured above- average rushing defenses during his first five full seasons on the job. And 2022 should be no differ- ent, even with the losses of two defensive starters from last season to the NFL Draft. Graduate student safety Daniel Scott is back as a preseason first-team All-Pac-12 selection. Scott, On PaPer True freshman running back Jadyn Ott rushed for a team-high 104 yards in Cal's season-opening 34-13 victory over UC Davis Sept. 3. PHOTO COURTESY CAL ATHLETICS/AL SERMENO

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