Sack Up? Sack Down?

Bruce Davis

As we mentioned earlier, the Notre Dame Offensive Line got called out by UCLA’s “sack master,” Bruce Davis this week. To save you the risk of carpel-tunnel caused by scrolling, here’s the quote again…

“Jimmy Clausen is one of the better true freshman quarterbacks I’ve seen the whole time I’ve been here,” Davis said. “Unfortunately, his O-line is just falling apart. They can’t block a soul. That’s going to hurt your team. That’s going to hurt your offense. That’s going to get you to 0-5.”

And, of course, having given up an NCAA D1 worst 29 sacks though 5 games, it’s hard to argue with the guy that forced a fumble and tallied 2 sacks against a “good” ND squad last season.

But just how bad is the ND offensive line in pass protection?

To figure that out, we took a look at ND’s first 5 opponents’s sack statistics, figured out how good those stats would be if they hadn’t played ND, and then figured out the “ND Sack Value,” or how many sacks ND allows over or under their opponents’ non-ND averages.

team Nat’l Rank Avg Sacks/Game Total Sacks Sacks v. ND Sacks w/o ND w/o ND Avg. diff in avgs ND Sack Value Rank w/o ND
GaTech 3 4.3 21 9 12 3 1.3 6 20
PSU 5 3.8 19 6 13 3.25 0.55 2.75 15
Michigan (sucks!) 5 3.8 19 8 11 2.75 1.05 5.25 28
MSU 2 4.6 23 4 19 4.75 -0.15 -0.75 2
Purdue 61 1.8 9 2 7 1.75 .05 .25 73
Average 15.2 3.66 18.2 5.8 12.4 3.1 0.56 2.7 27.6

Now, UCLA is ranked 16th in the nation in sacks achieved. They have garnered 16 sacks over 5 games for an average of 3.2 sacks per game. Without ND in the equation, the “ND Opponent” averages 3.1 sacks per game and would rank about 28th nationally. ND has been good for an extra 2.7 sacks per game for ND opponents thus far. That’s approximately 3 more sacks, and, likely 3 more killed ND offensive drives per game, experienced by the ND opponent. If that holds, then UCLA should get 6 sacks against ND, assuming ND’s offensive line hasn’t figured things out at this point.

What is interesting is that, even without some really terrible protection performances by ND, 3 of ND’s opponents would be ranked in the top 25 in sacks. A 4th would be close to the top 25. And Purdue? Well, let’s just say we shouldn’t get too excited about ND’s protection performance against Purdue.

So overall, ND has faced some really excellent pass rushing teams, and… performed horribly, with the exception of the MSU game. Which makes sense considering the MSU game is the only game ND has managed to put together any sort of running game thus far in the season.

Wait, that leads to a question then, what sort of relationship might sacks have with pass plays being called by ND?

Team ND Called Pass Plays % Resulting in a Sack
GaTech 31 29%
PSU 38 16%
Michigan (sucks!) 30 27%
MSU 28 15%
Purdue 54 4%
Average 36.2 18%

Hmm. Tough to say. The Purdue game really throws things off. Of 54 pass plays, we had 52 pass attempts and 2 sacks. A pretty good ratio. Georgia Tech and their mad-scientist scheme gave ND fits, as did Michigan (sucks!) (though ND folded up against Michigan (sucks!) before the 2nd half). Really, the O-Line’s performance has been very Jekyll and Hyde, going from horrid, to bad, to horrid, to bad, and then pretty good. But these numbers are all over the place. All that can be said, it seems, is that against really good pass rushing teams, when things go bad for ND, they go really bad. But ND also shows that they’re capable of slowing down a good pass rush (see MSU) if they are able to have success in the running game. Which tells me that the line has the talent needed to get the job done, but they haven’t shown the capability. When they simply out-class a team talent-wise (see Purdue), they can do great (it also helps when the opponent isn’t blitzing).

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  • http://www.really?.com The Biscuit

    Did we really call 31 pass plays against Ga Tech? I’d have guessed 20 tops. Huh.

  • http://www.really?.com The Biscuit

    oh, and when I get there I’m telling Davis to ‘sack this, tool’ and then running away and yelling “Po Po” as Blink-182 plays in the background. “Loveburger. Well done.”

  • atepesm

    It should be noted that Coach Weis was aware that Purdue had an extremely potent offense and in order to keep ND in the game, ND had to pass. Purdue also was known to be susceptible to the passing game.

    ND could attempt to sustain a running game plan against other ND opponents since they didn’t have the same caliber of offense (on paper) that Purdue does.

    BTW, Purdue’s still going to end up in the middle of the Big10 as their inevitable meltdown will start this weekend.

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