Blue and Gold Illustrated

Oct. 17, 2016

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

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Page 26 of 55 Oct. 17, 2016 27 tAkiNG A cLOsEr LOOk What Worked • Defensive Improvements Continue. Notre Dame's defense has played very good football in its last seven quarters, holding Syracuse and NC State to just 449 total yards (3.5 yards per play). Its performance against the Wolfpack was outstanding, regardless of the assist that came from Hurricane Matthew. Under new defensive coordinator Greg Hudson, the Fighting Irish has continued its philosophical shift. Notre Dame lined up in a 3-3-5 alignment to start the game (three defensive linemen, three linebackers, five defen- sive backs), but it also spent a lot of snaps in a 3-4 align- ment that resembled the defensive structure it utilized under former coordinator Bob Diaco (2010-13). Notre Dame's defensive linemen continued to be ag- gressive and disruptive, and the overall scheme is clearly not as complex as it was under former coordinator Brian VanGorder. The difference is most noticeable prior to the snap, where the defenders do not communicate or move as much as they had under the former defensive boss. This adjustment allowed the Irish defense to play with more speed against NC State. The unit had its best game of the season in pursuit, making a number of plays near the sideline and constantly rallying to the football. When one defender missed, another was immediately there to help out. Notre Dame's three forced fumbles were a direct result of this, as well as the improved physicality of the defense. On two of the three forced fumbles (by rookie defensive lineman Daelin Hayes and freshman safety Devin Stud- still), the ball was knocked out by the second defender to arrive at the ball. What Didn't Work • Questionable Offensive Play-Calling. Notre Dame never trailed by more than seven points against NC State, and for 47½ minutes of the game it was either tied or trailed by only three points. That reality — combined with incredibly wet and windy field conditions — makes Notre Dame's offensive play-calling all the more ques- tionable. Taking out the muffed snaps, Notre Dame called 34 pass plays and 30 run plays on a day when it was obvious the offense was having a hard time completing throws. Kizer finished the game 9-of-26 passing for just 54 yards. Notre Dame's performance once it got inside the Wolf- pack's 25-yard line was incredibly puzzling. The Irish offense ran 19 plays — 17 passes and two runs — at or inside the Wolfpack 25-yard line. Kizer went just 1 of 13 for 11 yards with three sacks and an interception with the Irish offense in scoring position. • Special Teams Fail Again. For the fourth straight game, Notre Dame's special teams either directly gave up a touchdown or made an error that resulted in the opponent scoring on the following possession. With the game tied 3-3 early in the fourth quarter, junior punter Tyler Newsome had a punt blocked, which NC State scooped up and returned for a touchdown. That mistake proved to be the difference in the game. Newsome made a mistake by taking too long to get the punt off, but the Irish staff used a two-man protection in- stead of the three-man protection it had been using most of the last two seasons. In a game with terrible weather conditions, having the third blocker seemed necessary. — Bryan Driskell Junior punter tyler Newsome unleashed a 69-yard punt in the second quarter to help flip the field position advantage back to Notre Dame. Photo by Larry bLankenshiP 0 Points in the first half by Notre Dame, while North Carolina State held a 3-0 lead at the intermission. It was the first time since the 2013 BCS National Championship game the Irish were blanked in the first half (28-0), a span of 45 games. Notre Dame accumu- lated 48 yards of total offense in the first 30 minutes. The three total points were the fewest since a 38-3 loss at USC in the Nov. 29, 2008 regular- season finale. 1 Notre Dame made its first fumble recov- ery of the season with 9:56 left in the first half when freshman cornerback Julian Love pounced on a loose ball at the Wolfpack 22-yard line. Entering the contest, Notre Dame and Toledo were the only two teams yet to recover a fumble this season. The Irish recov- ered a second lost fumble by the Wolfpack in the second half. 2 Teams in history that now own a 2-0 all- time record against Notre Dame: North Carolina State and Oregon State (both in bowls). All four defeats have occurred since 2000. 2-4 Record for Notre Dame, its worst after six games since a 1-5 start in 2007. The other 2-4 starts in school history oc- curred in 2003, 1997, 1986, 1981, 1963, 1962, 1960, 1956 and 1933. 3- 9 Notre Dame's record in its last 12 "true" road games, or at on-campus sites of the opponent rather than neutral sites. This dates back to the 28-21 loss at Pitt in Novem- ber, 2013. The Irish are 0-2 this season, losing at Texas in the opener and then in Raleigh ver- sus the Wolfpack. The only other such game remaining is at USC on Nov. 26. 6-4 Record head coach Brian Kelly owns at Notre Dame in games played in the rain — although last Saturday might have been a higher classification than "rain." The wins occurred in 2010 (Utah and USC), 2011 (Boston College), 2012 (Stanford and Pitt, both in overtime) and 2014 (Stanford again). The defeats were in 2010 (at Michigan State in overtime), 2011 (South Florida) 2015 (at Clemson) and now NC State. 7 Seasons at Notre Dame before Kelly lost for the first time in his sixth game — the lone game from 1-13 he had been unbeaten in through his first six years. In the previous game sixes, his teams defeated Pitt (2010), Air Force (2011), Stanford (2012), Arizona State (2013), North Carolina (2014) and Navy (2015). 10 Fumbles combined by the two teams in the horrible, slippery conditions. Notre Dame put it on the ground four times (three on bad snaps) and lost two, while North Carolina State had six such miscues, with two of them recovered by Notre Dame. 31 Punts in junior punter Tyler New- some's one-and-a-half years that have traveled 50 or more yards. His 69-yard punt on the second play of the second quarter moved the ball from Notre Dame's 14-yard line to North Carolina State's 17. By thE NUmBErs By lou somogyi

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