Blue and Gold Illustrated

Nov. 25, 2023

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

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34 NOV. 25, 2023 BLUE & GOLD ILLUSTRATED GAME PREVIEW: STANFORD BY JACK SOBLE STANFORD RUNNING GAME VS. NOTRE DAME RUN DEFENSE Stanford employs one of the more interesting run games in college football, because more than half of it is quarterback-driven. The Cardinal's leading rusher is sophomore quarterback Justin Lamson, who has 82 sack- and scramble-adjusted carries for 317 yards (3.3 yards per carry) and 4 touchdowns. Lamson is not actually Stanford's starting quarterback; that honor goes to sopho- more Ashton Daniels. He has 37 carries for a much more efficient 337 yards, clocking in at 5.0 yards per carry. This is not the triple option — it is much more balanced than what you would see from Navy — but it does, on occasion, feature some similar ele- ments. The Cardinal likes to use motion, and most of its run concepts are the quick-hitting kind. Stan- ford will often bring Lamson in on short yardage, which is a big reason why his yards per carry is as low as it is. Quarterback power is an effective play when your blockers are flat-out better than the other team's front, and while Lamson is a talented runner, that hasn't been the case this season. Stanford's offensive line isn't filled with world- beaters, but when this run game is at its best, it doesn't allow tackles for loss and tries to nickel- and-dime the other team to death. It's certainly a creative system and it's fun to watch when it works, but when Notre Dame has gotten gashed against the run this year, it's been via the big play. That's not Stanford's game, and Notre Dame has plenty of excellent run defenders (graduate stu- dent defensive tackle Howard Cross III and gradu- ate student defensive end Javontae Jean-Baptiste are the two best up front) to create the havoc plays that the Cardinal can't afford to give up. Advantage: Notre Dame STANFORD PASSING GAME VS. NOTRE DAME PASS DEFENSE As it often is when a team is in a Year 1 rebuild, the problem in Stanford's passing game is the offensive line. Senior center Levi Rogers has a 79.4 Pro Football Focus pass-blocking grade, but the next-highest mark for a regular contributor throughout most of the season is senior right tackle Connor McLaughlin at 61.4. Sophomore left tackle Fisher Anderson and freshman right guard Simione Pale were replaced after Week 8 due to abysmal pass-blocking performances. It will not shock you to learn that Stanford has allowed the 12th-most sacks in the country through Week 11, tied with Virginia at 36. Notre Dame ratcheted up the QB pressure as the season went on, with Cross leading the team with 30 pressures and Jean-Baptiste not far behind at 28. Defensive coordinator Al Golden's third-down pressure package is working, with graduate stu- dent linebacker Marist Liufau and sophomore line- backer Jaylen Sneed combining for 29 pressures in 161 pass-rush snaps (Cross is at about 261, for reference). The Irish are tied for 78th in the coun- try with 20 sacks, but their pass rush as a whole has been better than that number would indicate. Stanford's passing attack ranks ninth in the high- flying Pac-12 at 6.9 yards per attempt, which is certainly higher than was expected. Daniels, still a young signal-caller, has a stronger and more accurate arm than most give him credit for, with Stanford so far off the national radar this sea- son. The Cardinal also have what the Irish don't: a bona fide No. 1 wide receiver. Elic Ayomanor, also a sophomore, has 52 grabs for 912 yards and 6 touchdowns this season. However, given its protection issues and their youth — which has come into play this season in low-scoring losses like a 42-7 defeat against a stout UCLA defense — Stanford likely won't do much against Notre Dame. The Irish feature the fifth-best pass efficiency defense in America at 5.47 yards per attempt against, and it's hard to fathom that the Cardinal will do much to change that. Advantage: Notre Dame NOTRE DAME RUNNING GAME VS. STANFORD RUN DEFENSE Stanford's run defense is vulnerable. The Cardi- nal allows 4.4 yards per carry, which is ninth in the On PaPer Senior tight end Benjamin Yurosek, who has missed four games because of injury, is third on the team with 16 catches for 239 yards and 1 touchdown in six games played. PHOTO COURTESY STANFORD ATHLETICS

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