Blue and Gold Illustrated

Oct. 17, 2016

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

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Page 36 of 55 OCT. 17, 2016 37 BY BRYAN DRISKELL STANFORD RUNNING GAME VS. NOTRE DAME RUN DEFENSE Stanford has arguably the nation's top running back in junior Christian McCaffrey, who ranks 13th in the country with 121.3 rushing yards per game. Despite McCaffrey's success, the Cardinal run game has been wildly inconsistent. In wins over USC and UCLA, the Cardinal racked up 302 and 207 rushing yards, respectively. In its sea- son-opening win over Kansas State, the Cardinal was held to just 105 yards. Washington also shut Stanford down, holding it to just 29 yards on 30 attempts. The issues for Stanford have been up front, where the Cardinal has not gotten the push or con- sistent play it is used to from its line. Those strug- gles were part of the reason Stanford switched junior tackles A.T. Hall and Casey Tucker, putting Hall on the left side and Tucker back on the right side, where he previously started 14 games. Notre Dame's rushing defense has struggled for much of the season, ranking 89th nationally with an average of 186.0 rushing yards allowed per game through five weeks. In addition, its 4.2 yards per carry allowed ranked 71st and its 13 rushing touchdowns allowed ranked 112th. But the Irish defense improved in its 50-33 win over Syracuse, holding the Orange to 126 yards and 3.4 yards per rush. Notre Dame is led by senior defensive end Isaac Rochell, who led the team with five tackles for loss. Junior Mike linebacker Nyles Morgan ranked 30th in the country at 9.6 tackles for per game and 18th in the land with 5.8 solo tackles a game through the first five contests. Advantage: Stanford STANFORD PASSING GAME VS. NOTRE DAME PASS DEFENSE The loss of Kevin Hogan at quarterback has proven more impactful than imagined, with the Stanford pass game struggling through four games. Five weeks into the season, Stanford ranked 121st in the country with just 149.0 yards per game through the air and 112th with an average of 10.8 yards per pass. Cardinal quarterbacks ranked 81st in the country in passer efficiency and had tossed just four touchdowns. Junior quarterback Ryan Burns completed 62.3 percent of his passes, but threw for just 546 yards. He had yet to reach the 200-yard mark, with his 156 yards in the opener against Kansas State being his best performance through four contests. McCaffrey (17 catches for 149 yards) and sopho- more wideout Trent Irwin (12 receptions for 172 yards) have been the top receiving targets. The struggles with the pass game have greatly affected fifth-year senior Michael Rector, who had just nine receptions for 97 yards through the first four games, but his speed remains a weapon that teams must contend with. Stanford's line has allowed 12 sacks through four outings, including the eight sacks it gave up in its 44-6 loss to Washington. Notre Dame's pass defense has been almost as bad as Stanford's passing offense. The Irish ranked 106th nationally in passing yards allowed, giving up 275.0 yards per game in the team's first five tilts. It also ranked near the bottom of the country by giving up 8.5 yards per pass attempt (110th) and 13.5 yards per completion (102nd). Not being able to pressure the quarterback has been one of Notre Dame's primary weaknesses on defense, with the Irish registering just three sacks in the first five games. Two of those sacks came GAME PREVIEW: STANFORD On PaPer Despite a slow start to the season (just nine catches for 97 yards and one score through four games), fifth-year senior wide receiver Michael Rector remains a big-play threat for Stanford. PHOTO COURTESY STANFORDPHOTO.COM

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