Blue and Gold Illustrated

Sept. 19, 2016

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

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Page 26 of 55 SEPT. 19, 2016 27 TAKING A CLOSER LOOK What Worked • Ground Game Rolls, Eventually: It took awhile, but the Notre Dame ground attack took control of the game. In their first three possessions, the Irish ran for just 51 yards on 14 carries (3.6 yards per rush), while the offense sputtered out of the gate. With just a 3-0 lead early in the second quarter, the Irish stated to roll on the ground. On its next five possessions, Notre Dame racked up 151 yards on 21 carries (7.2 yards per rush). When sophomore running back Dexter Williams plunged into the end zone on the last of those carries, the Irish had stretched their lead to 39-3. In the early going, the Notre Dame line was not getting the push it needed, and the linemen were not reaching the second-level defenders. After the slow start, the blockers were getting up to the linebackers and the holes opened up. The "almost there" runs from the first three possessions turned into bigger gains. • Shutting Down The Run Game: Nevada's rushing offense ranked 25th in the nation last season, averag- ing 210.6 yards per game. In its season-opening vic- tory over Cal Poly, the Wolf Pack rushed for 174 yards and averaged 5.1 yards per carry. Notre Dame never allowed the Nevada ground game to get going. Behind a dominant performance from its defensive line, the Irish held Nevada to just 99 yards on 30 carries, good for just 3.3 yards per attempt. Junior running back James Butler — who rushed for 1,342 yards in 2015 — was held to just 50 yards on 17 carries. The Irish front was ready for this challenge, and right away junior nose guard Daniel Cage and fifth- year senior nose guard Jarron Jones controlled the middle of the line. Many of the Nevada inside runs were forced to bounce outside, and the Irish lineback- ers were able to corral their backs for short gains. With its ground game unable to produce, Nevada's play-action and sprint-out pass game struggled might- ily, with fifth-year senior quarterback Tyler Stewart completing just 10 of 23 passes for 113 yards with an interception. What Didn't Work • Penalties Eliminate Big Plays: Notre Dame had opportunities to produce to even greater levels, but penalties and sloppy play kept the Irish in check early. On Notre Dame's opening possession, sophomore wide receiver Equanimeous St. Brown hauled in a 29-yard reception on a crossing route to convert a third-and-four and move the Irish down to the Nevada 27-yard line. An offensive pass interference penalty on senior tight end Durham Smythe eliminated the gain, and the Irish were forced to punt a snap later. Later in the second quarter, an offensive pass in- terference penalty on sophomore wide receiver C.J. Sanders negated a 25-yard reception by St. Brown on the same crossing route. Notre Dame's defense also lost a big opportunity due to an unforced mistake. A second-quarter inter- ception by senior cornerback Cole Luke was wiped out by a roughing the passer penalty on freshman defensive end Khalid Kareem. — Bryan Driskell Junior DeShone Kizer connected on 83.3 percent of his passes (15 of 18) for 156 yards with a pair of touchdowns against Nevada. In the last meeting between the two schools in 2009, Jimmy Clausen also was 15-of-18 passing, but doubled Kizer's yardage (315) and scores (four) in a 35-0 Irish win. PHOTO BY BILL PANZICA 2 Points scored by Notre Dame in the sec- ond quarter on a safety when Nevada's Ahki Muhammad fielded a kickoff in the end zone, stepped past the goal line and then downed the ball while moving back into the end zone, resulting in a safety. The play was reminiscent of Notre Dame's 1987 opening kickoff against Michigan State in which the Spartans' Blake Ezor caught the ball at the 1-yard line and stepped back to down the ball. It will remain forever the fastest score in Notre Dame history, with the clock still reading 15:00. The Irish beat the Rose Bowl champs 31-8 with back-to-back punt returns for touchdowns by Tim Brown. Meanwhile, the safety against Nevada was the first re- corded by Notre Dame since a 57-7 victory at Stanford on Nov. 29, 2003 on an errant punt snap. 3 First-time starters for Notre Dame in the Nevada game after starting seven in the opener versus Texas. Freshman free safety Devin Studstill, sophomore Will linebacker Te'von Coney and sophomore receiver C.J. Sanders all made their starting debuts with the first team. 5:21 Time of possession on Notre Dame's 11-play, 75-yard march that ended with a field goal but opened the game's scoring in the second quarter. It was the longest the Irish owned the ball in the first two games this season. 15-18 Completions-attempts by ju- nior DESHONE KIZER, good for 156 yards. What's interesting is that in Notre Dame's only other meeting with Nevada, a 35-0 win in the 2009 opener, Irish quarterback Jimmy Clausen also completed 15 passes in 18 attempts — although his 315 yards through the air (and four touchdowns) were almost exactly double Kizer's amount. 25 Points scored by Notre Dame in the second quarter to build its 25-0 half- time lead. They were the most points tallied in any single quarter by the Irish since 28 at Pitt on Sept. 3, 2005, a 42-21 victory in head coach Charlie Weis' debut. 30-6 Notre Dame's all-time record against Mountain West Confer- ence opponents, including 2-0 versus Nevada while outscoring the Wolf Pack 74-10. More than 80 percent of the games have been against Air Force, against whom the Irish are 24-6. 239 Yards rushing by Notre Dame in the victory versus the Wolf Pack. Since 2002, or the first season under head coach Tyrone Willingham, the Irish are 39-5 when eclipsing 200 yards rushing in a contest. BY THE NUMBERS BY LOU SOMOGYI

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