Blue and Gold Illustrated

Oct.10, 2016

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

Issue link:

Contents of this Issue


Page 27 of 55

28 OCT. 10, 2016 BLUE & GOLD ILLUSTRATED DEFENSIVE IMPROVEMENT KEY TO VICTORY On paper, the matchup of the Syra- cuse offense against the struggling Notre Dame defense seemed like a mismatch. Syracuse entered the con- test with the nation's 25th-ranked of- fense and the eighth-best passing at- tack, while Notre Dame ranked 103rd in total defense and 87th in passing defense. Syracuse finished with fine num- bers — scoring 33 points and racking up 489 yards — but the Irish defense more than held its own. "This offense is difficult to prepare for; they're very similar to an option team in terms of trying to get accli- mated to them," Notre Dame head coach Brian Kelly said of Syracuse's uptempo attack. "It took a little while to get acclimated to them." Syracuse started fast, scoring 20 points and racking up 281 yards (29 plays) on its first six series. It appeared the Notre Dame defense was on pace for another brutal performance, but this time the Irish bounced back. On its final 12 possessions, Syra- cuse had just 208 yards of offense on 59 plays (3.5 yards per play). Six of those possessions totaled less than 15 yards. The only Syracuse drive of more than 29 yards during that stretch came late in the fourth quar- ter with Notre Dame holding a com- manding 50-27 lead. Despite Syracuse having early suc- cess, Kelly was confident his defense would respond. "I felt pretty good, I just felt like we were going to be fine," Kelly noted. "They had the one seam throw, we made an adjustment to get them out of the seam with a couple of good calls that I thought were very timely. "[We] made a couple of adjustments at halftime that I thought helped us." Kelly knew that once his team caught up to the speed of the Syra- cuse offense it would be able to make plays and come up with stops. "When you're playing a team that spreads it, you have to get acclimated to positioning on the field, where the ball is at all times, and when it hap- pens so quickly you can't duplicate that in practice," the Irish head coach said. "Once they got that sense of receiver spread sets, calls and checks, they were able to duplicate that play in and play out." Syracuse was known as a passing of- fense, but its offense is at its best when it can remain balanced and run the football. Notre Dame was set on shut- ting down the Orange ground attack. "I knew they weren't going to be able to run the football," Kelly said, surprising for a coach whose team entered the game giving up 201.0 yards per game on the ground. "I think what really was the effective part for us is that we were able to re- ally stop them from running the foot- ball, and got them in some predict- able down-and-distance situations." The Orange finished the game with 126 yards on the ground (3.4 yards per carry), but 48 of those yards came in the final two drives of the game. Dur- ing its final 12 possessions, Syracuse averaged 7.1 yards to go on its 11 third- down opportunities. Notre Dame held the Orange to just 2 of 11 (18.2 percent) conversions during that stretch. The adjustments made by Kelly and new defensive coordinator Greg Hud- son proved beneficial in the victory. "We did a couple things today … that you haven't seen before," Kelly explained. "A little more 3-4 defense, a little more tightening up of some things. Not a ton of calls, some base [defense]." Senior Cole Luke — a 30-game starter at cornerback — made his first career start at the nickel posi- tion. That change also contributed to Notre Dame's defense success. "Cole, as you saw, was the nickel, I really like Cole in the nickel," Kelly said. "He's smart, he's savvy. He just gives us some versatility in there I like." SYRACUSE GAME NOTES BY BRYAN DRISKELL Freshman cornerback Donte Vaughn notched a career-high six tackles and did a good job containing Syracuse's top receiver Amba Etta Tawo. PHOTO BY RICK KIMBALL MISCELLANEOUS NOTES • Notre Dame is now 5-3 all time against Syracuse and 73-24 all time against current members of the Atlantic Coast Conference. • Notre Dame is 389-94-8 all time in October and 19-5 under Brian Kelly. • The 33 points scored by Notre Dame in the first half against Syracuse were the most in the first 30 minutes of the game since last year's 62-27 victory versus UMass. In that game Notre Dame built up a 35-20 cushion at the intermission. • The honor of wearing the No. 1 jersey in the first four games reflected Notre Dame's place at the top of the all-time winning per- centage list. The loss to Duke dropped Notre Dame behind Michigan, so it will no longer hand out the No. 1 jersey until the Irish are back on top. • St. Brown had his second multi-touchdown game of the season; the other came in the opener against Texas. • St. Brown (79 yards), freshman receiver Kevin Stepherson (54 yards), sophomore running back Josh Adams (44 yards) and sophomore wideout Miles Boykin (25 yards) all hauled in career-long receptions against Syracuse.

Articles in this issue

Archives of this issue

view archives of Blue and Gold Illustrated - Oct.10, 2016