Blue and Gold Illustrated

Sept. 19, 2016

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

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Page 27 of 55

28 SEPT. 19, 2016 BLUE & GOLD ILLUSTRATED DEFENSE DOMINATES Notre Dame's defense received much of the blame for the team's 50-47 double-overtime loss at Texas in the season opener. Against Ne- vada, however, the unit set the tone early and carried the Irish to a 39-10 victory. The Irish held Nevada to 300 to- tal yards, including just 99 on the ground. Nevada has made its name running the football over the last de- cade, but the Wolf Pack found little room to run against Notre Dame. The game did not start out well for the home team, though, with Nevada taking its opening possession right down the field and advancing to the Irish 17-yard line. Facing a fourth- and-one, Nevada opted to go for it instead of attempting a field goal, hoping it could take advantage of an unit that has allowed 222.3 rush- ing yards per game over its last four contests. Notre Dame's defensive line blew up the Nevada line on that play, tack- ling sophomore Asauni Rufus for no gain and giving its offense the foot- ball. It was a much-needed boost for the beleaguered Irish defense. "We need some confidence," Notre Dame head coach Brian Kelly said af- ter the game. "That fourth-down stop was definitely a confidence builder for our defense. That really gave us some momentum going into the next couple of drives." Over its next three possessions, Nevada had just nine yards on eight plays, ending drives with a pair of punts and an interception. After experimenting and failing with a three-man front in its loss against Texas, Notre Dame went back to its base 4-3 defense against the Wolf Pack. The return to the four- man look allowed the Irish to control the line of scrimmage and to get into an early rhythm. "It comes down to our ability to stop the run effectively," Kelly noted. "If we can get into our base defense, we feel pretty confident our front four is really good." For the Notre Dame players, it was all about attitude. They believe in themselves, but knew that faith had to turn into on-field production. No- where was that more evident than along the defensive line. "We know we're capable of stop- ping the run, we just had to go out and get our confidence and execute," explained fifth-year senior nose guard Jarron Jones, who made his first career interception in college to set up a four-yard touchdown drive. "That's our culture … we weren't able to do that [against Texas], and we saw the consequences for not do- ing that. Doing it in this game meant a lot to us." Jones and junior nose guard Dan- iel Cage made their presence felt throughout the game, controlling the middle of the line of scrimmage. Cage was in the Nevada backfield often, which threw off the timing of the Wolf Pack run game and kept fifth-year senior quarterback Tyler Stewart from getting comfortable in the pocket. Cage spent his first two years tak- ing on blocks and eating up space. In the early part of the 2016 season, he has been a far more disruptive player. His hit on Stewart near the Nevada goal line in the second quar- ter set the tone for the remainder of the contest. "We lost our two best pass rush- ers and our two best penetrators," Cage said, referring to former Irish linemen Sheldon Day and Romeo Okwara. "As a D-line we have to step up, penetrate and make sure we are doing our jobs the way we need to help the team win." SHIFT IN FOCUS ON OFFENSE Through two games, Notre Dame is averaging 43.0 points and 444.0 yards per game. The Irish are not NEVADA GAME NOTES BY BRYAN DRISKELL Fifth-year senior nose guard Jarron Jones — who made his first career interception — and the Irish defensive line dominated the Wolf Pack run game. PHOTO BY BILL PANZICA MISCELLANEOUS NOTES • Senior cornerback Cole Luke was awarded the No. 1 jersey against Nevada. The honor will be given weekly to the player who best represents the ideals of the program on and off the field. • Junior quarterback DeShone Kizer scored his second touchdown of the season and 12th of his career on a two-yard run in the third quarter. It was the ninth game out of 13 starts that he has scored at least one rushing touchdown. • Senior running back Tarean Folston scored on a two-yard run in the second quarter. It was his 10th career rushing touchdown and his first score since the 2014 Music City Bowl victory against LSU (31-28). • When he stepped in front of a screen pass in the second quarter, fifth-year senior nose guard Jarron Jones hauled in the first intercep- tion of his career. • Freshman wide receiver Chase Claypool carried the ball for the first time in his career on a nine-yard run in the first quarter. He later added his first career catch that picked up six yards.

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