Blue and Gold Illustrated

Sept. 12, 2016

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

Issue link:

Contents of this Issue


Page 25 of 55

26 SEPT. 12, 2016 BLUE & GOLD ILLUSTRATED TURNING POINT Our choice goes back to control- ling your own destiny, and Notre Dame twice had that opportunity in the fourth quarter. Leading 35-31, the Fighting Irish regained possession at their own 25 with 8:35 remaining and had posted 21 unanswered points while also holding Texas without a first down three straight series. After picking up one first down, Notre Dame faced third-and-five at its 40. Junior quarterback DeShone Kizer kept it on a draw, but was stopped one yard short of the first down. An average 40-yard punt still could have pinned Texas inside its 20 — but a 24-yard shank gave Texas the ball at its 32 to give it a boost. Seven plays later, Texas moved ahead 37-35. With the score tied at 37, the Irish had the ball again at their 29 with 3:23 left, but on third-and-12 called a draw that came up well short. STATS OF THE GAME Texas amassed 517 yards of of- fense after netting only 163 total yards in last year's 38-3 loss at Notre Dame. It also tallied touchdowns on six of its seven red-zone chances. The Longhorns finished 83rd in scoring offense and 92nd in total offense in 2015, prompting a house cleaning there that brought in four new coaches, most notably offensive coordinator/quarterbacks coach Sterlin Gilbert from Tulsa. Whereas Notre Dame is now in year three of implementing a "new" defense that was a dramatic change in philosophy from the previous re- gime on that side of the ball, Texas — with a new staff on offense, a true freshman at quarterback, a true freshman at center, and the right timing on the use a second and oft- maligned quarterback in a differ- ent package — made an exceptional debut. GOING FOR TWO Brian Kelly's decision to go for two points too early in the 2014 loss to Northwestern in overtime (43-40) and Clemson last year (24-22) prompted much criticism about the strategy. But what about when Notre Dame scored a touch- down on its first play of overtime to cut the Texas lead to 44-43? Should it have gone for two to win the game, especially given that the defense was not eliciting confi- dence to make the needed stops? Damned if you do … It didn't take long for the "two- quarterback system" to have a more established figure emerging. While senior Malik Zaire is as good a sec- ond option as one could have in col- lege football, junior DeShone Kizer is too proficient as a passer, runner, reading defenses and in poise/lead- ership to not be the centerpiece of Kelly's offense. THREE OBSERVATIONS BY LOU SOMOGYI Sophomore wide receiver C.J. Sanders provided a needed spark on special teams with his 40-yard punt return in the fourth quarter that temporarily helped Notre Dame to a 35-31 lead. PHOTO BY BILL PANZICA OFFENSE: WR EQUANIMEOUS ST. BROWN The sophomore wide receiver made the most of his first career start. Against Texas, he hauled in five passes for 75 yards and a pair of touchdowns. St. Brown opened the scoring with a 13-yard TD reception on a fade route. In the second quarter, St. Brown worked himself open over the middle of the field, pulling down a 15-yard pass, converting a third-and-13. Three plays later, he beat the Longhorn defense up the left seam, flipping into the end zone for a 30-yard touchdown. DEFENSE: LB NYLES MORGAN It's extremely difficult to overlook the superb effort of senior end Isaac Rochell (nine tackles, 2.5 for loss), but against a Texas team bound and determined to run the football, the junior linebacker had the opportunity to make a number of plays and did just that. Morgan led the Irish in tackles with 13, and his nine solo tackles were also a team high. While the rest of the defense struggled to bring down Texas running backs D'Onta Foreman (249 pounds) and Chris Warren (252 pounds), as well as 249-pound senior quar- terback Tyrone Swoopes, Morgan was able to hold his own. SPECIAL TEAMS: PR C.J. SANDERS The blocked extra point by fifth-year senior nose guard Jarron Jones — which was returned for a two-point conversion by sopho- more cornerback Shaun Crawford — was a huge play, tying the game 37-37 late in the fourth quarter. Before that point, a pair of returns from the sophomore returner sparked Notre Dame. Trailing 31-14 in the third quarter, Sanders returned the kickoff 26 yards to the Longhorns' 40-yard line. Notre Dame finished that drive with a score. Later, a 40-yard punt return to the Texas 46-yard line set up an offensive touchdown that put the Irish up 35-31. TOP PLAYERS OF THE GAME BY BRYAN DRISKELL

Articles in this issue

Archives of this issue

view archives of Blue and Gold Illustrated - Sept. 12, 2016