Blue and Gold Illustrated

February 2018

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

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26 FEBRUARY 2018 BLUE & GOLD ILLUSTRATED What Worked Read Zone Proves Effective: Notre Dame struggled to run the ball in the final three games of the regular season, averaging just 142.0 yards per game on the ground after rushing for 324.8 yards per outing in the first nine contests. Defenses overloaded the box and forced Notre Dame to beat them with the pass, and the Irish offense strug- gled to make that happen. Another issue was the ineffectiveness of the read zone concepts, with junior quar- terback Brandon Wimbush failing to make the plays he did in his first eight starts. Notre Dame was able to get the read zone back on track against LSU, and the result was a ground game that did what it had to do for the win. On Notre Dame's second series, Wimbush kept the ball on a read and took off for a 31-yard gain. Sopho- more quarterback Ian Book was especially effective with the read concepts. He converted a second- and-one on a read to help set up Notre Dame's field goal to end the first half. His 16-yard gain on a read zone in the third quarter set up the second field goal. Book gained nine yards on Notre Dame's first touch- down drive, which tied the game at 14-14 in the fourth quarter. Notre Dame was able to hurt LSU with the quarterback run game, keeping the Tigers from keying the ground attack. That not only opened up other runs — including a 31-yard gain from Dexter Williams in the fourth quarter — it also helped open up the pass game on the outside. Red Zone Defense Makes The Difference: In a hard-fought game like this, it is often the unsung plays that prove most impactful. Most will remember the tremendous throws from Book to junior wideout Miles Boykin, but a pair of red zone stops made the difference in this matchup. In the second quarter, the Tigers had two straight plays from the 1-yard line, but senior linebackers Nyles Morgan and Greer Martini made back-to-back big stops to force a LSU field goal that the Tigers missed. Late in the fourth quarter with the game tied 14-14, the Tigers had the ball third-and-goal at the Notre Dame 3-yard line. LSU quarterback Danny Etling hit 218-pound running back Derrius Guice on a shovel pass, but Irish freshman safety Jordan Genmark Heath and sophomore end Daelin Hayes stopped Guice short of the end zone, forcing yet another LSU field goal. LSU made that kick, but the stop allowed the Irish offense to march on a 73-yard game-winning drive on the ensuing possession. The Tigers even had to work for the one goal-to-go score it did notch, with LSU needing three plays to go three yards for a touchdown that made it 14-6. What Didn't Work Missed Opportunities Plague The Offense: Statistically it would seem that LSU did a good job defending Notre Dame for the first three quar- ters. The Irish were able to mount a pair of fourth-quarter touchdown drives, but it could muster only six points in the first three quarters. While LSU performed well on de- fense, the Irish suffered mainly from a number of self-inflicted wounds and missed opportunities. On the first play of Notre Dame's third offensive series, Wimbush had junior running back Josh Adams wide open on a wheel route but the throw was short and tipped away. A completed pass might have gone for a very long touchdown. Two plays later, facing a third-and-13, junior wideout Equanimeous St. Brown was wide open on a cross route that would have gone for a big gain, but Wimbush threw it over his head. In the second quarter, Wimbush had St. Brown open again on a drag route on a flea-flicker play, but made the wrong read and threw the ball deep instead of getting it outside for a big gain. Notre Dame took its first drive of the third quarter deep into LSU territory, but Book locked onto Boykin and threw an interception in- stead of hitting a wide open Michael Young for a solid gain. Those missed opportunities kept the Irish offense from producing in the manner it should have based on what was open. Safety Play: Notre Dame would have been far more effective on de- fense if it was able to perform better on third down. LSU converted 10 of 19 third-down attempts, and far too often there were plays to be made, but for the most part the Irish safeties couldn't get the job done. Junior Nick Coleman was beat across the field by LSU wide receiver Dee Anderson on a scramble recep- tion that resulted in a 30-yard gain on third-and-16. Sophomore Jalen Elliott was beat by tight end Foster Moreau on a similar play that allowed LSU to convert a third-and-five, picking up 26 yards. Better safety play would have al- lowed the Irish to come up with even more stops in the game. ✦ LSU: What Worked And What Didn't Work CLOSER LOOK BRYAN DRISKELL Bryan Driskell has been a football analyst for Blue & Gold Illustrated since April 2015. He can be reached at Junior linebacker Te'von Coney and the Irish defense had two impactful goal-line stands against LSU. PHOTO BY BILL PANZICA

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