This week has sure flown by awash in the glory of Notre Dame’s destruction of Texas last week. It’s been an equal part concern over the number of media outlets who are suddenly all about the Fighting Irish. Before we move on entirely to the Virginia Cavaliers, let’s take a long, hard, glorious look at Notre Dame’s offensive performance.
Tex brought me aboard because of my unhealthy love of #SportsMath. Bayou is reluctantly accepting it. I can appreciate both of these perspectives.To be clear, I will always enjoy watching the games more than the math, but I think the numbers help add perspective where our eyes can deceive us. For me, this is also always a personal return to the games and plays. (For that reason, I’m a big fan of us winning rather than losing).
I’ve seen several other sites put up their detailed numbers, and let me briefly point you to why I think you’ll enjoy HLS’s:
- I will always try to explain the numbers and why I think they’re relevant in the simplest terms possible. The short of it is…if I can’t explain it simply, it probably doesn’t belong on our blog.
- Because this data is compiled by myself and maintained locally, I am willing, in fact happy to address specific questions you might have and/or adjust what we’re presenting on a week to week basis.
- I’m going to keep most of my comments short, and all of the tables you see below are sortable by clicking on the appropriate header. We’ve gone interactive, y’all.
There’s not too much to be added from a narrative standpoint on Zaire’s performance. He was in total control of the game from the outset, and it showed. My favorite stat from the game was that Zaire completed every pass attempt targeted towards a running back or wide receiver. As you’ll see below, his completion percentage to tight ends is one of very few places Zaire could actually improve.
The other area, and given Virginia’s defensive coordinator might be interesting, was that Texas very rarely brought 5+ men on a pass rush. I attribute a lot of this to the game plan and play calling as Texas never got comfortable, but each of Zaire’s 3 incompletions came with 5 or more pass rushers. Any notion that teams can sit back and wait for Zaire to make a mistake have instantly disappeared.
How effective was the rushing attack? Good enough that Zaire went 7 for 7 on play action passes and 3 out of 3 on passes from 2 tight end sets…including 2 of his 3 touchdown passes. The 66-yard touchdown to Fuller was the highlight of the night play call-wise for me. Notre Dame started off that drive with 4 straight rushes, all from the two tight end formation. Without changing formation, Kelly subbed in Alize Jones and ran a play action pass with Fuller going long. Texas had a blown coverage, sure. But they had no chance. Well thought out. Perfectly set up and executed.
|Passes >10 Yds||14||13||273||92.9||19.5||3|
|Passes < 10 Yds||8||6||40||75||5||0|
|2 TE sets||3||3||87||100||29||2|
|1 TE sets||19||16||226||84.2||11.89||1|
Player packages emerged among the wide receivers, thought not quite as formulaic as last year’s packages. Will Fuller remains in on basically every play. Chris Brown and Corey Robinson swap out as the boundary receiver. Brown is the early front runner for the “Daniel Smith – Kelly’s trusted run blocking receiver” award. To reiterate: if it was thrown to a receiver this game, it was a catch. Coolest thing I observed: The primary slot receiver tandem of Amir Carlisle and Torii Hunter Jr. combined for 5 receptions. Each reception resulted in a first down.
|WR:||Targets:||Rec:||Yds:||TDs:||# Passing Plays:||Pass Plays per Target|
All 5 targets to Carlisle/Hunter resulted in a first down.
If you told me that 7 plays and 3 rushes into his season Tarean Folston would be done after the Bryant departure, I’m not sure I would have remained optimistic. Yet the new 1-2 tandem of CJ Prosise and Josh Adams did not miss a beat. Adams obviously stole the show with two touchdown rushes. For the rushing stats this week, I focused on rushing play efficiency. I’ve used this metric (as developed by Football Outsiders and Football Study Hall) before to discuss Greg Bryant. It basically evaluates whether a play is “efficient” as it relates to “moving the chains.” A 1st down play’s “efficient” if it gets at least 1/3 of the yards necessary for a first down (under normal circumstances 3.33 yards). A second down play’s efficient if it gets at least 50% of the required yards, and a third down or fourth down play must achieve 100% of the required yardage. The most encouraging number: Prosise’s second down efficiency. The question will be what happens if/when Notre Dame is forced into more third downs.
|RB:||Att||Yds||1D Att||1D Eff||2D Att||2D Eff||3D Att||3D Eff|
Team Play-Calling Tendencies/Results:
This game was a #RTDB’ers dream. It was tough to find any sub-set of situational play where Notre Dame elected to pass the ball more than rush it. Closest it came was the even split on third down attempts. These numbers are a tad deceiving from the standpoint that by the fourth quarter Kelly had completely buttoned the game down. While Zaire was in, Notre Dame averaged more yards per play out of two tight end sets than one tight end sets. Another underrated area of success for the Irish was getting out of situations where they were deep in their own zone. Texas failed to force three and outs and failed to exploit the rare opportunities they had to gain some field position advantage.
One more thing to point out: This game was fun to watch and fun to analyze, but we shouldn’t read too much into the play calling tendencies. When Kelly figures out early that he can bully an opponent, he is more than content to run the same plays over and over again. While he utilized multiple plays out of the same look, all and all the offense did not even bother varying its tendencies too much. Texas’ defense never forced Zaire into a situation where he appeared to be confused. In fact, it was quite the opposite – Zaire’s checks/decisions at the line seemed so calm ( and generally) correct, that whatever the team identified on Texas in film study was showing up on the field without variation.
|Situation/Event||Run Att||Pass Att||Run Yd||Pass Yd||YPP|
|1 TE Set||24||20||96||226||7.32|
|2 TE Set||26||3||121||87||7.17|
|Inside Own 30||14||4||61||77||7.67|
|Inside Opp 30||14||6||49||33||4.1|
Finally, for those of you who want to know who played and how much, here are the snap tallies for the skill position players. It excludes penalties, special teams, and the couple of victory formation snaps (so 73 plays total). Let’s finish this out and move onward to Virginia!
|Hunter, Jr.||Wide Receiver||24|
|St. Brown||Wide Receiver||13|
Survivor of the Davie, O'Leary, Willingham football eras. Southern. Charming and more often than not the wittiest person at his dinner table (he eats alone quite a bit).
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