As I wrote earlier, coming into the season everyone expected our experienced and talented secondary to be ND’s strength. We expected shut down passing games, with teams forced to run against a younger DL. We learned early on at Michigan that our secondary struggled, especially against a mobile quarterback, and most especially against middle yardage passing plays underneath. It seemed like every new/young/inexperienced QB turned into a world-beater against ND.
But how did ND’s D compare to our competitors’ competition? And have we gotten better? Let’s take a look.
While conversion rates and yards per catch are good metrics for this, I just went with total passing yards to make it simple.
Here’s how our competition thus far fared in passing yards (total yards per game) vs. ND and vs. their Non-ND Competition.
Vs. ND Vs. Non-ND Comp %Diff
Nevada 149yds 202 -26%
Michigan 240 164 47%
MSU 354 279 27%
Purdue 289 247 17%
Washington 281 251 12%
Average 263 228 15%
As you can see, ND started off great against Nevada, holding them to 26% fewer passing yards than they hauled in against the rest of their schedule to date. But that’s where ND went bad. We made Tate look WAY better than he is, allowing him to put up 240 yards – 47% more than the rest of their schedule has given up.
The absolute yardage yield has gotten worse from there, as ND yielded the world to MSU, and almost 300 yards to Purdue and Washington. BUT, relatively speaking, we’ve been improving. Because while those are ugly yardage totals, we’ve been closing the gap vs. Non-ND competition – Washington still put up a lot of yards, but only 12% more against ND than they have against the rest of their competition.
It’s not the greatest story, as the ND pass defense still has a long way to go, but it’s nice to see that ND is starting to hold QBs closer to their average against other teams (yes, baby steps). It’s not leaps and bounds, but inch by inch they do appear to be getting better.
We won’t call it real progress until ND starts holding teams to FEWER yards than their season averages, but we’ll take improvement over the alternative.
We’ll see if ND can make meaningful progress in communication, coverage and tackling during the BYE week, and bring out a more competent pass defense unit against SC.