Blue and Gold Illustrated

Sept. 19, 2016

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

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Page 24 of 55 SEPT. 19, 2016 25 NEVADA RUNNING GAME VS. NOTRE DAME RUN DEFENSE The Wolf Pack attempted to be creative with misdirection, mixing formations and inserting backup quarterback Ty Gangi on multiple occasions to enhance the perimeter attack, because the collective whole was physically not going to be able to match up with Notre Dame. Nevada had brief spurts, but nothing sustained against an Irish front line that played a fairly simple base defense with four men usually up front. Star junior running back James Butler's 17 carries netted only 50 yards. It was a "consistent" effort in that Nevada had only eight carries for 30 yards in the first quarter, eight for 18 yards in the second, nine for 20 yards in the third and five for 31 yards in the fourth. ADVANTAGE: Notre Dame NEVADA PASSING GAME VS. NOTRE DAME PASS DEFENSE Fifth-year senior quarterback Tyler Stewart (10-of-23 passing for 113 yards with an interception) did not have a sharp outing while throwing several inac- curate passes, and he especially didn't seem comfortable with the roll-out throws that repeatedly sailed on him. Fifth-year senior nose guard Jarron Jones' interception inside the Nevada 10, when he sniffed out a screen and then perfectly timed his break toward the ball, was huge in breaking open the game. A blown coverage late by the Irish reserves led to a 68-yard catch and run from Gangi to Andrew Celis, but that was merely window dressing for the Wolf Pack's stats. ADVANTAGE: Notre Dame NOTRE DAME RUNNING GAME VS. NEVADA RUN DEFENSE Three Irish players accounted for 10 carries apiece, including junior quar- terback DeShone Kizer, while sophomore Dexter Williams — the team's No. 3 running back — added eight carries for 59 yards. The clear standout was sophomore Josh Adams, who finished with 106 yards on his 10 attempts. Even without his 43-yard run, he averaged 7.0 yards a carry while demonstrating greater physicality to complement his outside burst. Kizer still appears to be the favorite north-south option inside the opposi- tion's 10-yard line, but he also added to his repertoire an option pitch to Folston for a two-yard score. The Irish finished with 239 rushing yards for an average of 5.2 yards per carry. ADVANTAGE: Notre Dame NOTRE DAME PASSING GAME VS. NEVADA PASS DEFENSE Without the lone veteran target — senior Torii Hunter Jr. (concussion) — in the lineup, Kizer's maturity was on display. He showed patience to not force passes downfield, and to be content with screens and short and intermediate tosses, leading to his efficient 15-of-18 passing for 156 yards, led by sophomore Equanimeous St. Brown's six grabs for 85 yards. All signs point to St. Brown, who is demonstrating he is not a one-trick pony with routes, becoming the 70-catch figure in this offense. Windy conditions might have affected the two worst passes Kizer threw downfield, one of them resulting in an interception. Still, four players caught their first career passes, highlighted by freshman Kevin Stepherson's four-yard scoring grab in heavy traffic. Surprisingly, the tight ends have been AWOL in the passing attack (one catch in two games) despite the shorter and intermediate areas being more open. ADVANTAGE: Notre Dame SPECIAL TEAMS This category helped blow open the game in the second quarter. A blocking in the back penalty on Nevada after Notre Dame's first score forced it to start from its 7-yard line. The punt by Nevada three plays later was returned 24 yards by sophomore C.J. Sanders to the Nevada 25, and Sanders caught a seven-yard touchdown pass three plays later. Then on the ensuing kickoff, Nevada's Ahki Muhammad fielded the ball in the end zone and took a half step out before stepping back into the end zone to down the ball, which resulted in a safety. Irish coverage units remained strong, and Justin Yoon's kickoffs were aimed well, with four resulting in touchbacks. For good measure, the final Irish TD was set up by a 37-yard kickoff return by Sanders to the Irish 43-yard line. ADVANTAGE: Notre Dame THIRD-DOWN CONVERSIONS Notre Dame's second touchdown came on third-and-goal from the 4-yard line when Kizer found Stepherson across the middle to help the Irish build an 18-0 cushion midway through the second quarter. Later that same quarter, Notre Dame converted three third downs — most notably a 15-yard pass to junior Corey Holmes on third-and-14 from the Irish 8-yard line on the scoring march that made it 25-0. On Notre Dame's first possession of the second half, it converted a third-and- four and fourth-and-two on an 85-yard TD drive. It also converted on fourth- and-eight on a shovel flip from senior Malik Zaire to Stepherson that would help extend the Irish lead to 39-3. The disparity was significant with Notre Dame converting 7 of 15 (46.7 percent) third downs and both fourth downs, while Nevada was 3 of 12 (25.0 percent) and missed on fourth-and-one at the Irish 17 in the first quarter when the game was still scoreless. Advantage: Notre Dame TURNOVERS Both teams had one, but Notre Dame's was far more beneficial with Jones' interception setting up a four-yard touchdown drive that provided an 18-0 cushion in the second quarter. ADVANTAGE: Notre Dame SUMMARY There is really not much to be gleaned from this contest other than Notre Dame did what was expected. The Irish were favored by 28 points and won by 29 against a team that cannot recruit at its level. Pronouncements about how the defense has suddenly found itself or that the receiving corps has arrived would be premature. The Michigan State contest this week should provide a stronger gauge of whether Notre Dame can return to its preseason top-10 forecasts. ON PAPER REVISITED BY LOU SOMOGYI Freshman wide receiver Kevin Stephenson notched his first career catch for Notre Dame, a four-yard touchdown grab that staked the Irish to an 18-0 lead, and finished with three receptions for 35 yards against Nevada. PHOTO BY BILL PANZICA

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