Blue and Gold Illustrated

Oct. 30, 2017

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

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6 OCT. 30, 2017 BLUE & GOLD ILLUSTRATED BY BRYAN DRISKELL D uring Notre Dame's 5‑1 start in the first half of the season, the running game fueled the offense by ranking No. 5 nationally in yards per game with a 308.0 figure. If maintained, that would be the team's highest output since the 1973 national champs produced a school‑ record 350.2 rushing yards per con‑ test. Based on research during the bye week (prior to the Irish facing USC Oct. 21), a few items stand out about that data: • First is the impact the quarter‑ back runs from the passing game have had on the overall run attack. Brandon Wimbush had 15 scrambles for 222 yards (14.8 average) and three touchdowns, while Ian Book had six scrambles for 41 yards (6.8 average). The ability of the quarterbacks to scramble — and avoid sacks — neu‑ tralizes the impact the pass game can have on the overall run game numbers. Notre Dame's scrambles and sacks accounted for an average of 6.9 yards per play — but the called runs also accounted for 6.9 yards per play. • The directional run balance in coordinator Chip Long's offense was impressive. It would be understand‑ able if Long wanted to design the majority of his ground game behind his elite left side of Mike McGlinchey and Quenton Nelson, but Long has tried to balance out his play calls as much as possible. Notre Dame has been more effec‑ tive running to the left (7.6 per rush), but at 5.8 yards per rush the right side of the line has still been effective. Consider that Notre Dame's potent 2015 offense averaged 5.6 yards per rush overall and the 2012 offense av‑ eraged 4.9 yards per carry. • Early in the season the Irish had a heavy boundary run option, but the numbers ended up around 60 per‑ cent boundary and 40 percent field through six games, a good ratio that limits teams from predicting where the ball is going to go. Note: The overall numbers won't match the official statistics. Any run that isn't impacted by an offensive penalty (like holding) is counted when evaluating a play's success. Plays where the offense takes a knee at the end of a half or game are not included. Also, the 32‑yard gain on the fake punt against Miami (Ohio) is not included. All the numbers in these breakdowns are runs with the offense. PERSONNEL GROUPS A personnel group — 11, 12, 21 — refers to the specific skill players on the field. The first number is always the number of running backs on the field and the second number is the amount of tight ends on the field. The number of receivers aren't listed, but if you subtract the num‑ ber of backs and tight ends from five (how many skill players are on the field at a time), you get the number of receivers. Notre Dame's 11 personnel (one running back, one tight end and three receivers) continues to be the top grouping used, with the Irish running 52.3 percent of their run plays from it. The 12 personnel group (one run‑ ning back, two tight ends and two receivers) has been used 40.4 percent of the time. In past seasons, the 11 personnel group was closer to 80 percent, so this is yet another example of better balance in the run game. The pass game numbers are similarly bal‑ anced, so there are no run‑pass ten‑ dencies from these alignments. The Irish offense also has more than one tight end on the field 45.1 percent of the time. UNDER THE DOME RUNNING IT UP An analysis of Notre Dame's ground game through the first half of 2017 Junior quarterback Brandon Wimbush and junior running back Josh Adams have spearheaded a Notre Dame ground game that has been well balanced from many different angles. PHOTO BY ANGELA DRISKELL

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