Blue and Gold Illustrated

Oct.10, 2016

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

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Page 24 of 55 OCT. 10, 2016 25 SYRACUSE RUNNING GAME VS. NOTRE DAME RUN DEFENSE Although the Orange attempted to get the ground game established, espe- cially when the Notre Dame plan looked like it would drop seven and eight defenders into coverage, it was unable to generate much against the Irish front. Running back Dontae Strickland had a 13-yard gash on the first series and then an 18-yarder on the third, but his other 10 carries netted 12 yards. Quarterback draws and scrambles by Eric Dungey (17 carries for 49 yards), who scored three times, were the most effective running play overall. Once the Irish front played more downhill and the linebackers shot the gaps in the second half — 21 tackles from the Mike (Nyles Morgan) and Will positions (Te'von Coney and Greer Martini) — Notre Dame was able to control the line of scrimmage in the second half. ADVANTAGE: Notre Dame SYRACUSE PASSING GAME VS. NOTRE DAME PASS DEFENSE Senior cornerback Cole Luke was shifted to nickel and played there the entire game, while freshmen Julian Love and Donte Vaughn, along with Troy Pride Jr., manned the outside coverage. Luke provides better tackling skills by playing on the inside, while there was improved safety help over the top to protect the rookie corners when they played press coverage. It was business as usual in the first half when Syracuse passed for 265 yards, but bringing more four- and five-man rushes in the second half created better disruption of timing and helped take away Syracuse's quick, short passes that had been their bread and butter. ADVANTAGE: Syracuse NOTRE DAME RUNNING GAME VS. SYRACUSE RUN DEFENSE A patchwork Orange defense performed respectably for the most part, while Irish senior running back Tarean Folston was sidelined with an injury. On 26 of the 28 carries shared between sophomores Josh Adams (20 attempts for 102 yards) and Dexter Williams (eight rushes for 80 yards), they netted only 95 yards, or 3.7 yards per carry. However, Adams added a 28-yard carry and Williams had a backbreaking 59-yard reverse-the-field jaunt in which it looked like he should have been thrown for a five-yard loss. The Irish ran mainly horizontally, which often developed slowly, before be- coming a little more consistently effective between the tackles and on the zone stretch in the second half. ADVANTAGE: Notre Dame NOTRE DAME PASSING GAME VS. SYRACUSE PASS DEFENSE Other than an interception toss forced by junior DeShone Kizer right before halftime, the middle was open pretty much all afternoon with deep in-cut routes against Syracuse's zone defense, and the Irish exploited it from the outset. The game's opening play was such a play with a 79-yard catch and run by sophomore wide receiver Equanimeous St. Brown on a slant. A lot of deep shots early on by Kizer, including a 67-yard score to Brown on the second series, helped create the consistent openings underneath. Kizer nearly set an NCAA record in yards per completion (minimum 20 completions) with his 20.5-yard average, and the protection was exceptional. ADVANTAGE: Notre Dame SPECIAL TEAMS The first quarter was a significant advantage for Notre Dame with a blocked point after attempt returned for two points, a 93-yard kickoff return for a touchdown by sophomore C.J. Sanders and then a 13-yard shanked punt by the Orange. The second quarter was Syracuse's when Notre Dame had a personal foul on kick coverage and a 74-yard punt return by Brisly Estime that set up a 14- yard touchdown with 30 seconds left to narrow the Orange deficit to 33-27 at halftime. The negative was Cole Murphy missed a 40-yard field goal on the last play of the first half. Another 38-yard return by Estime in the third quarter resulted in no points. Pass interference on Notre Dame in the fourth quarter on a fake punt set up Syracuse's touchdown that pulled it within 50-33 after a second missed extra point. Although punt coverage was a problem, Notre Dame converted 2 of 3 field goals, while the Orange missed on two extra points plus its lone field goal try. ADVANTAGE: Even THIRD-DOWN CONVERSIONS It would seem odd that the third-down efficiency was so poor on both of- fenses in a game that saw 83 points scored. Notre Dame was 3 of 12 (25.0 percent), while Syracuse was 3 of 15 (20.0 percent). The Irish scored on a 67-yard pass on third-and-three to St. Brown. Syracuse cut its deficit to 23-20 on a one-yard draw by Dungey on fourth-and-goal. The Orange stayed in the game in the first half by limiting the Irish to 1 of 6 on third down, and the Irish weren't much better in the second half at 2 of 6. ADVANTAGE: Notre Dame TURNOVERS Kizer had the game's first and lone turnover when he tossed an interception right before halftime that resulted in no points for the Orange. It was the first game this year that the Irish didn't generate a turnover. ADVANTAGE: Syracuse ANALYSIS The first half looked like an Arena Football League game, minus the arena, and was won 33-27 by Notre Dame. The second half looked more like conven- tional football with some appreciably improved execution and discipline on defense by the Irish while winning the final 30 minutes, 17-6. Putting up points likely won't be an issue for Notre Dame most of this year, but if it's going to get back into the top 25, and hopefully higher, the second- half defense it played against Syracuse is going to have to be more the norm. ON PAPER REVISITED BY LOU SOMOGYI After struggling throughout the first half, Notre Dame's defense played more downhill and aggressive in the second half while swarming to the ball and holding Syracuse's attack in check. PHOTO BY RICK KIMBALL

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