Blue and Gold Illustrated

October 28, 2023

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

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6 OCT. 28, 2023 BLUE & GOLD ILLUSTRATED UNDER THE DOME BY TYLER HORKA T here is a reason one of the most cliché phrases in college football is "*insert team name here* hasn't played anybody yet!" It's because when that team actually does play somebody, everything tends to look a whole lot different. Notre Dame took that to the extreme this season. The Fighting Irish averaged 46.0 points per game against Navy, Ten- nessee State, North Carolina State and Central Michigan. That number dipped to 18.3 against Ohio State, Duke and Louisville, three ranked, undefeated teams at the time of kickoff. Notre Dame did not score three touchdowns in any of those games. The Irish crossed the goal line just twice in all three. Suddenly, an offense that could do no wrong with sixth-year graduate student quarterback Sam Hartman taking the shots couldn't do anything right. Night and day. Notre Dame putting up 45 points against North Carolina State Sept. 9 was supposed to be the sign that every- thing would be fine when the Irish got into the gauntlet section of the sched- ule. What happened in Raleigh turned out to be no sort of indicator of what was to come. Until a miraculous, game-winning 95-yard drive in the final minutes at Duke Sept. 30, the Notre Dame offense's showing versus Ohio State was actually the team's most well-rounded perfor- mance on that side of the ball out of any of the three games post-Central Michi- gan. The Irish just couldn't put the ball in the end zone that night, and it cost them. Against Duke and Louisville, the Irish couldn't even move it. Notre Dame went 6 of 28 (21.4 per- cent) on third down against Duke and Louisville. The issue ran deeper than a simple third-down conversion rate, which would be the worst in the na- tion if it was a season-long figure. Notre Dame had first- and second-down weaknesses, too, and those bled into the money down. Notre Dame often goes to big, bruis- ing, 233-pound tailback Audric Estimé on first down. He averaged eight first- down carries per game versus Ohio State, Duke and Louisville and had only 67 yards to show for them — an average of 2.8 yards per rush. The lower that number is, the higher Notre Dame's dis- tance to go on third down is, making conversions less and less likely. Notre Dame had an average distance to go on third down of 8.9 yards versus Duke and 7.5 yards against Louisville. Yes, there is an issue with the Irish's third-and-short conversion percentage too. The Irish offense only moved the chains once in seven tries when needing 1 to 4 yards on third down against Duke and Louisville. But any offense would still take those opportunities over facing third-and-8 or longer. UNDER THE DOME WHAT HAPPENED? Once a juggernaut in 2023, the Notre Dame offense stumbled against stiffer competition in a 1-2 stretch Offensive coordinator Gerad Parker's unit averaged 46.0 points in Notre Dame's first four games of 2023, but that scoring output dipped to 18.3 in the next three. PHOTO BY CHAD WEAVER

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