Blue and Gold Illustrated

Oct. 9, 2017

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

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Page 24 of 55 OCT. 9, 2017 25 MIAMI (OHIO) RUNNING GAME VS. NOTRE DAME RUN DEFENSE Maybe the top surprise was that after finishing with minus-nine yards on the ground in the first quarter, Miami (Ohio) ran relatively well and with authority between the tackles. The trio of Alonzo Smith, Jaylon Bester and Kenny Young combined for 117 yards on 20 carries, or nearly six yards per pop. It was a respectable effort, but not nearly enough by the time the Irish built a 28-7 first-quarter lead. ADVANTAGE: Notre Dame MIAMI (OHIO) PASSING GAME VS. NOTRE DAME PASS DEFENSE Notre Dame played mostly in Cover 4 (also known as "quarters") in which the two corners and safeties were in a four-deep zone with man-to-man principles. The length of 6-4, 216-pound wideout James Gardner was a problem — he snared five passes for 115 yards, notably 34- and 14-yard touchdown catches from Gus Ragland (19-of-37 passing for 262 yards) despite exceptionally tight coverage by senior cornerback Nick Watkins, who also was called for pass interference on a deep ball. A 42-yard interception return by senior linebacker Greer Martini to set up one touchdown, a fumble forced by junior tackle Jerry Tillery to set up another, three sacks, five pressures and six passes broken up evened out this category. ADVANTAGE: Even NOTRE DAME RUNNING GAME VS. MIAMI (OHIO) RUN DEFENSE Notre Dame's 333-yard rushing output went from 158 in the first quarter (159 by junior running back Josh Adams, highlighted by 73- and 59-yard touch- downs, and minus-one by junior quarterback Brandon Wimbush), to 66 in the second quarter, 33 in the third quarter — 32 of them on a fake punt — and 76 during mop-up duty in the fourth quarter. With junior running back Dexter Williams sidelined while resting an ankle injury, Adams shelved as a precaution after his first quarter ankle twist, and sophomore Tony Jones Jr., back from his own injury but knocked woozy on a helmet-to-helmet hit in the first half, the second-half ground attack leaned mainly on sophomore Deon McIntosh (12 carries for 47 yards, most notably a 26-yard touchdown). It marked the second consecutive week the Irish were led in carries by their No. 4 running back. ADVANTAGE: Notre Dame NOTRE DAME PASSING GAME VS. MIAMI (OHIO) PASS DEFENSE Although Wimbush was sacked twice, the pass protection by the Irish often bordered on the ridiculous — or as Miami (Ohio) head coach Chuck Martin described it, trying to rob Fort Knox — with the Irish quarterback often standing alone three to seven seconds in the pocket. Wimbush (7-of-18 passing 119 yards) was not at his sharpest, yet still tossed a career-high three scoring passes to three different receivers in the first half, with the perfectly placed 54-yard toss to junior wideout Miles Boykin on the post the back-breaker right before halftime. A 48-yard completion from sophomore Ian Book to junior Chris Finke on third-and-11 set up the final touchdown. There is much to clean up here that didn't necessarily show itself in this type of blowout. ADVANTAGE: Notre Dame SPECIAL TEAMS The most significant play came in the third quarter when — after Miami (Ohio) reduced its deficit to 35-14 and then looked like it had a three-and-out on defense — Notre Dame's Jones Jr. romped for 32 yards on a fake punt to squelch any hopes of momentum for the RedHawks. That play set up junior kicker Justin Yoon's 43-yard field goal. Yoon's field goal streak of making six straight ended in the fourth quarter with a 44-yard miss, but it was of no consequence. Otherwise, it was so-so on both sides in this area. ADVANTAGE: Notre Dame THIRD-DOWN CONVERSIONS Miami (Ohio) finished with the slightly better numbers at 6 of 15 (40.0 per- cent) compared to Notre Dame's 5 of 13 (38.5 percent). However, the "hidden stat" is the RedHawks were 0 of 2 on fourth down (both in the third quarter) while Notre Dame was 2 of 2 — most notably con- verting fourth-and-11 from the Miami (Ohio) 37 on a Wimbush to sophomore Chase Claypool pass that gained 21 yards to set up the second touchdown. The other fourth-down conversion came on the 32-yard fake punt. The RedHawks' first touchdown came by converting third-and-10 from their 34 on a jump-ball toss into the end zone. ADVANTAGE: Even TURNOVERS Notre Dame didn't turn the football over for a second straight week, and the two the Irish defense generated resulted in short fields that led to 36- and 30- yard touchdown drives — the aforementioned plays by Martini and Tillery — in the first half that staked Notre Dame to a 28-7 lead. It was similar to last week when three first-half turnovers forced at Michigan State resulted in 21 points and a 28-7 advantage at the intermission. ADVANTAGE: Notre Dame ANALYSIS This was a significant mismatch in talent, yet rather than play down to the level of competition — which has not been unusual in recent years by Notre Dame — the Irish asserted their dominance from the outset with 28 first-quar- ter points and 45 by halftime, and never provided Miami (Ohio) any opening to make a game of it or gain any semblance of momentum. There is not much analysis to saying Notre Dame was bigger, faster, stronger and more talented collectively, but when you combine that with much better concentration, determination and coaching after last year's fiasco, that makes for a potent combination. ON PAPER REVISITED BY LOU SOMOGYI Junior quarterback Brandon Wimbush was not at his sharpest — completing only 7 of 18 throws for 119 yards for the game — but still connected on a career-high three touchdown passes to three different receivers during the first half. PHOTO BY BILL PANZICA

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