Typically, when Notre Dame has has five turnover game, we pull our hair out because it cost the Irish a win. This week, we pull our hair out because it cost the Irish a blowout against Syracuse.
After updating my drive chart this weekend and again taking some calculations on available yards gained, I am even more certain of this fact. This past Saturday’s game should have had a storyline of Brian Kelly’s adjustments leading to one of the best offensive nights of his era. Instead, the offense’s performance on this night will forever remind us of the time no one could take care of the ball and rightfully so.
Let’s take a look at just how much those turnovers cost ND. First, let’s compare the available yardage gained for all four games (reminder: junk/garbage drives are removed):[table “” not found /]
The Irish didn’t just gain more yards than they had all season, they started eyeing the Rice blowout in terms of available yards gained.
The Irish also showed massive improvement in the main area of concern from last week when I did this same exercise: available yards gained on punts.
Against, Syracuse, the Irish went from a then season total of 8.68% available yards gained on punting drives to 15.09% against Syracuse. Additionally, the Irish only had a single three and out the entire game and that was the result of Will Fuller not falling forward/cutting upfield to the sticks like he should have.
Usually, when the Irish get going in that fashion, we’ve seen points as the end result thus far. However, as we are well aware, the turnovers absolutely killed that trend. The fumbles in particular were the most damaging as each came late into a drive as opposed to the INTs which came much earlier in the drives.
Here is the available yardage breakdown for those five drives:[table “” not found /]
That’s right, the Irish gained over 70% of all available yards on drives ending in a fumble. At worst, that should be an easy FG for Kyle Brindza as each drive was on the door step of the red zone (and in the case of Golson’s first fumble, he crossed into the red zone). Instead, the Irish missed out on 9-21 points and the potential blowout.
Luckily for the Irish, Syracuse only managed to score 12 points off of those turnovers and each Orange TD came when the Irish were well ahead by three possessions. The damage certainly could have been far worse.
In the end, the Irish offense did manage to take some strides against Syracuse; however, if they fail to protect the ball in this fashion again, we will be talking about much more than just some missed points.