Blue and Gold Illustrated

January 2018

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

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Page 32 of 55 JANUARY 2018 33 BY BRYAN DRISKELL LSU RUNNING GAME VS. NOTRE DAME RUN DEFENSE Junior running back Derrius Guice finished the season with 1,153 yards (5.3 per carry) and 11 touchdowns. Guice wasn't always healthy, though, which opened up the door for senior Darrel Wil- liams to emerge as a key contributor. Williams set career highs in rushing yards (776), yards per carry (5.7) and rushing touchdowns (nine), while topping the 100-yard mark twice during the season. Guice and Williams run behind a line that aver- ages 311.2 pounds, which allows LSU to grind it out on the ground. Eight times this season, the Tigers averaged less than five yards per rush. Notre Dame boasted one of the nation's best run defenses during the first two months of the season. The Irish ranked 16th nationally after the first eight contests, allowing just 116.6 yards per game, 3.4 yards per rush and a national-best one rushing touchdown. The Irish wore down as the season went on, and during the final four games they had a much harder time slowing down the opposing ground at- tacks. Notre Dame's final four opponents averaged 226.3 rushing yards per game. If the Irish are going to defeat LSU, their run defense must get back on track. If Notre Dame can play run defense the way it did during the first eight games, it should be able to keep the Tigers' offense in check. Advantage: Even LSU PASSING GAME VS. NOTRE DAME PASS DEFENSE This fall, the Tigers ranked just 85th nationally in passing yards per game (201.3), but their 151.5 pass efficiency rating was 18th — a significant im- provement over their 2016 ranking of 65th. Senior quarterback Danny Etling — who spent two seasons at Purdue before transferring to LSU in June 2015 — has thrown just 14 touchdown passes, but only two of his 242 pass attempts were intercepted. Thanks to their physical run game, the Tigers have been able to establish an effective deep game that is built largely around play-action passes. LSU ranked ninth in the country in yards per completion (15.1) and 10th in yards per attempt (9.0). Senior wide receiver DJ Chark has greatly benefited from the improved aerial attack. The 6-4, 198-pounder led LSU in receptions (35) and receiving yards (811), and he was fourth in the SEC in yards per catch (23.2). Etling also has made a living getting the ball to his running backs. LSU's tailbacks combined for 56 catches, 697 receiving yards and three touchdowns during the regular season. One area where LSU struggled in the pass game was protecting the quarterback. Despite throwing only 267 passes — the 21st fewest in the country — LSU allowed 28 sacks. The 2.3 sacks allowed per game ranked the Tigers offense 84th nationally. Notre Dame was 53rd in the country in passing yards allowed per game (213.5) thanks to it having a number of big leads in the second half. That is evi- denced by the fact Notre Dame ranked 37th in pass efficiency defense, 18th in yards allowed per attempt (6.2) and 16th in yards allowed per completion (11.0). Notre Dame was effective getting after the quar- terback during the first eight games, registering 20 sacks and 54 hurries. In the final four tilts, though, the Irish managed just two sacks and five hurries. Sophomore ends Daelin Hayes, Khalid Kareem and Julian Okwara combined for 7.5 sacks and 17 quarterback hurries, and they will be counted on to provide a pass rush against LSU offensive On PaPer GAME PREVIEW: LSU Junior running back Derrius Guice has been a force when healthy this season, rushing for 1,153 yards and 11 touchdowns. PHOTO BY CHRIS PARENT/LSU ATHLETICS

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