Blue and Gold Illustrated

Oct. 9, 2017

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

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26 OCT. 9, 2017 BLUE & GOLD ILLUSTRATED TURNING POINT For the second week in a row, the selection is going to come at the point when Notre Dame was leading 21-7 — and then a turnover blew it open. Last week at Michigan State, ju- nior nickel back Shaun Crawford forced a fumble at the Irish 1-yard line that he recovered in the end zone for a touchback, and Notre Dame quickly made it 28-7. Versus Miami (Ohio), the Red- Hawks trailed 21-7 but were begin- ning to find a rhythm, including making a stop, and then taking pos- session in good field position at their 43. Three plays later, junior nose guard Jerry Tillery pressured quar- terback Gus Ragland into a fumble that senior defensive end Jay Hayes recovered at the Miami 30. Notre Dame was in the end zone shortly thereafter on a touchdown pass to sophomore Chase Claypool, and the floodgates opened. STAT OF THE GAME The 45 first-half points were the second-most in the modern era of Notre Dame football, behind the 49 points in sophomore quarterback Joe Theismann's first career start during a 56-7 win at Pitt on Nov. 9, 1968. The unbreakable record is the 111 in the first half of Notre Dame's 142-0 victory versus American Medical on Oct. 28, 1905, but that's why record books have to be sepa- rated some in context to a different era, which is often either defined as since the start of the Associated Press poll in 1936 or the aftermath of World War II, when NCAA sta- tistics began to be kept more me- ticulously. In the modern era, the 1977 na- tional champions also scored 48 second-half points in a 69-14 romp over Georgia Tech, which had up- set the Irish the previous season in Atlanta. HALF & HALF The 2017 Notre Dame schedule clearly can be demarcated into two sessions. Outside of the Sept. 9 home game versus Georgia, the "first half" was the part where anything worse than a 5-1 ledger would have portended another dis- appointing season. North Carolina, which the Irish visit this week, has eclipsed Michi- gan State as a Power Five team that has been ravaged most by attrition (13 Tar Heels out for the year with injuries, and counting). On the flip side, the "second half," after the Oct. 14 bye, features six foes with a combined 22-5 re- cord: USC (4-1), North Carolina State (4-1), Wake Forest (4-1), Mi- ami (3-0), Navy (4-0) and Stanford (3-2). The bulk of judgment of this season will be on what kind of "second-half team" Notre Dame becomes. THREE OBSERVATIONS BY LOU SOMOGYI OFFENSE: OFFENSIVE LINE If he would have played more than one quarter this award could have easily gone to junior running back Josh Adams, who rushed for 159 yards and a pair of scores on just eight carries. However, he tweaked his ankle late in the first quarter and remained on the sidelines the rest of the contest as a precaution. Notre Dame's offensive line was truly dominant in the game, and picking just one player would not be fair to the overall per- formance of the group. The line was the driving force behind an attack that racked up 301 yards on the ground (333 total with the fake punt) and gave junior quarterback Brandon Wimbush plenty of time to throw. On one particular throw, the NBC broadcast timed Wimbush as hav- ing seven seconds in the pocket before he found an open receiver. DEFENSE: NT JERRY TILLERY The Irish defense gave up ground against the RedHawks, but it was disruptive and kept them out of the end zone for most of the game. The junior nose tackle was the most disruptive player for the unit, finishing with 1.5 sacks, forcing a fumble and registering another hurry on Miami (Ohio) quarterback Gus Ragland. Tillery's sack late in the first quarter resulted in Ragland fum- bling the ball, which was recovered by senior defensive end Jay Hayes. The Irish offense scored six plays later to make it 28-7. SPECIAL TEAMS: PK JUSTIN YOON It was not a great performance for the Irish special teams, and even the junior kicker hit the upright on a 44-yard missed field goal attempt. But he was good outside of that miss, drilling all seven of his extra point attempts and hitting a 43-yard field goal — his third made field goal of more than 40 yards this season. Yoon also had a tackle on a kick return in the fourth quarter. TOP PLAYERS OF THE GAME BY BRYAN DRISKELL Senior Justin Yoon converted all seven extra points and a 43-yard field goal, had two touchbacks on five kickoffs and recorded a tackle. PHOTO BY BILL PANZICA

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