Blue and Gold Illustrated

Sept. 12, 2016

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

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Page 24 of 55 SEPT. 12, 2016 25 TEXAS RUNNING GAME VS. NOTRE DAME RUN DEFENSE Last year, Texas' Smash Brothers D'Onta Foreman and Chris Warren III com- bined to carry six times for nine yards at Notre Dame. This time their 38 attempts netted 177 yards, with Foreman's 131 yards averaging 5.5 yards per attempt. Probably the surprise of the game was Texas' relatively young offensive line winning the battle up front overall, although Irish senior end Isaac Rochell (nine tackles, five solo, and 2.5 for loss, plus one QB hurry) was a consistent force. The main difference was Texas ideally utilized 249-pound quarterback Tyrone Swoopes (13 carries for 53 yards) in the power/option attack. It showed how a two-quarterback system with different skills sets can be handled effectively. ADVANTAGE: Texas TEXAS PASSING GAME VS. NOTRE DAME PASS DEFENSE Texas averaged a meager 145.9 passing yards per game last year, but freshman quarterback Shane Buechele nearly doubled that in his debut, completing 16 of 26 attempts for 280 yards. The 10.8 yards per attempt says it all. While the early emphasis was getting the ball out of his hands quickly with high percentage tosses, Texas shredded Notre Dame's attempts at press coverage — with no safety help — by going deep often, notably a 68-yard toss to sophomore QB-turned-receiver Jerrod Heard to take the Longhorns to the Notre Dame 1-yard line, and a 72-yard strike to John Burt on the second play of the third quarter to provide a 28-14 Longhorn cushion. Earlier in the game, Burt got behind the Irish defense but dropped a potential 85-yard scoring play. Notre Dame played more off-coverage afterwards, but the absence of pro- jected starters Max Redfield at free safety (dismissal) and Nick Watkins at corner (broken arm) was conspicuous — and fully exploited. The margin of error in the youth-laden secondary is extremely thin, and it showed. ADVANTAGE: Texas NOTRE DAME RUNNING GAME VS. TEXAS RUN DEFENSE The reason we call this even is that after the 54-yard jaunt by Tarean Folston on Notre Dame's first run from scrimmage, the Irish were held to 152 yards on 45 attempts thereafter, a sort of moral victory for the Longhorns. Folston amassed 34 yards on his other 17 carries, and the main weapon was quarterback DeShone Kizer (13 attempts for 77 yards) keeping on the zone read, highlighted by his 29-yard touchdown. Notre Dame did not lose its commitment to running after falling behind 31-14, but it had to turn more to the pass in crunch time. ADVANTAGE: Even NOTRE DAME PASSING GAME VS. TEXAS PASS DEFENSE The young receiving corps led by sophomore Equanimeous St. Brown (five catches for 75 yards and two scores) demonstrated the flashes that should make them standouts in the future, and Kizer spread the ball around well while averag- ing 9.0 yards per attempt. Kizer's composure in the pocket — a little less with the more improvisational Malik Zaire — was crucial to Notre Dame's comeback after falling behind 31-14. ADVANTAGE: Notre Dame SPECIAL TEAMS Texas was called for four penalties on special teams, which made them lose some valuable real estate. Notre Dame's negative came when it trailed 31-28 early in the fourth quarter and had a 36-yard field goal attempt by Justin Yoon blocked by Naashon Hughes. However, that was canceled out the next series when a 40-yard punt return by sophomore C.J. Sanders set up the Irish at the Texas 46 for a soon-to-be 35-31 lead. Junior punter Tyler Newsome's shanked 24-yard punt gave Texas better field position to move ahead 37-35 — but then fifth-year senior nose guard Jarron Jones' fifth career blocked kick, on a Texas extra point, was turned into a two- point play by sophomore defensive back Shaun Crawford to help send the game into overtime. ADVANTAGE: Notre Dame THIRD-DOWN CONVERSIONS This was relatively even with Texas converting 8 of 18 (44.4 percent) to Notre Dame's 7 of 16 (43.8 percent), but the Longhorns also converted both of their fourth down chances. On its way to a 21-14 halftime lead, Texas moved the chains on a third-and-two and fourth-and-one on the first touchdown march. On the 88-yard touchdown drive that put Texas ahead 14-7, Buechele completed 21- and 12-yard passes on third-and-seven and third-and-eight. Notre Dame in the first half made good on third-and-four on its first TD drive, and the second was made possible on a 15-yard completion from Kizer to St. Brown on third-and-13. ADVANTAGE: Texas TURNOVERS The lone turnover occurred when Buechele, deep in his territory, was forced by Rochell to hurry a throw that Crawford intercepted and returned to the Texas six. Senior wideout Torii Hunter Jr. scored three players later on a pass from Kizer, who deftly avoided a strong rush while scrambling to his left. ADVANTAGE: Notre Dame ANALYSIS Entering the game, the two popular topics of discussion among Notre Dame faithful were how a two-quarterback system would function and if the fragile back end of the defense could limit the damage done against it. Kizer pretty much rendered the former moot, but the issues on defense remain acute as ever. The offense might still be capable of taking Notre Dame to a New Year's Six bowl, but the defense's continued inability to make game-altering plays while displaying a similar proclivity to give up massive chunks of yardage will keep the Irish more status quo, top-25 tier, instead of evolving into a consistent program challenging for much more. ON PAPER REVISITED BY LOU SOMOGYI Senior running back Tarean Folston romped for this 54-yard gain on his first carry, but his other 17 in the game netted only 34 yards, thereby helping Texas' run defense earn at least a draw against Notre Dame. PHOTO BY BILL PANZICA

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