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Notre Dame Football

Film Don't Lie | Old School and Checks

January 5, 2020

I thought there was a pretty good chance that Notre Dame was going to have a frustrating day against Iowa State’s defense in the Camping World Bowl. Facing an unusual scheme with a first time play-caller, the evidence was there that it could be the case.

Welp, I was wrong.

The Irish scored on five of their first seven drives, punctuated by a long touchdown run to start the second half. They found success with big plays both running and passing. I’ve highlighted four of those and a couple of other 3rd downs where Notre Dame made a check at the line into a different play.

Check with me

I don’t know exactly why, but for some reason or another the “check with me” audibles were no longer used for Notre Dame. At least not in the way they used to be or the way they are with most other programs in college football.

I just didn’t see Ian Book going up to the line and then receiving communication from the sideline in order to switch into a different play.

They had a play called here on 3rd and 9 on the first drive of the game and they didn’t like it against the look ISU gave them. Book loved over to the sideline and switched it up with Jafar Armstrong (8) moving over to the right side.

It was a pitch and it put Armstrong one on one with the edge defender. Armstrong was able to beat him to the corner, but the safety eventually made the tackle after a six yard gain.

Obviously you’d like to see Armstrong break a tackle there and move the sticks, but this was an early sign in the game that things were going to be a bit different (in a good way) with Tom Rees and the offensive staff.

“Check with me” on 3rd downs would show up later in the game.


Big play ISO

This is old school. There just isn’t a lot of isolation football these days with a fullback other than in short yardage situations, but here Notre Dame is with Tommy Tremble (24) lined up flexed out as a traditional fullback.

They did a bit of this at Virginia with him coming in motion as an H-back, but this was a little different. They don’t see this in the Big 12 very often.

This is well blocked, but the reason this was so successful has everything to do with the numbers advantage. Cole Kmet (84) just has to kick out the edge defender. Him coming up the field so hard instead of squeezing the gap essentially does the job for Kmet.

Josh Lugg (75) steps down and has to wait for the linebacker to come to him. He didn’t even have to block anyone from the playside. This could have been blown up by Trevor Ruhalnd (57) getting his butt kicked off the ball by the ISU D-lineman, but fortunately it wasn’t.

Jarrett Patterson (55) does a great job stepping up to the linebacker and reaching him. All Aaron Banks (69) has to do is step to the playside and protect that gap. He doesn’t have to block anyone because the DT was slanting in the opposite direction.

Chris Finke (10) is tasked with blocking the safety and the key thing is that he sticks on his man despite the safety fighting hard to get across his face. Tremble has no linebacker/2nd level defender to block. He doesn’t have to pick anyone up until he gets to the cornerback.

This is an incredibly tough block for Liam Eichenberg (74) to make on the backside linebacker. He hustles hard to get to the angle, but there is such a big hole on the right side that Tony Jones (6) changed the normal pursuit angle of the linebacker.

I don’t want to disparage Jones’ ability to break away as a runner when he tore of an 84-yard run in this same game, but if this was a back with great burst, this is a house call. Look at the daylight in front of him.

Great execution and great job taking advantage of a defense who clearly wasn’t prepared for this look/play.


4 verts (again)

Oh, 4’ve been great to Notre Dame this season. From Tommy Tremble’s touchdown down the seam against Louisville to so many deep ball scores for Chase Claypool (83), Book hooked up with his favorite target for six one last time in 2019 when Notre Dame ran a 4 verts concept.

Kmet is lined up in the slot and when him and Claypool are lined up on the same side, it’s a nightmare scenario for a defense. Kmet runs easily by the jam and he is free down the seam, but a safety is there over the top.

This why it’s so difficult to defend. Kmet beats his man and Book freezes the safety by looking at Kmet. Claypool dusts the corner at the line of scrimmage and he’s running open. Book’s eyes leave a window for him to throw to Claypool and Book puts it where it needs to be for the touchdown.

What’s the safety supposed to do there? There is nothing he can do.

If he cheats it to Claypool and Book sees Kmet down the seam, it’s a touchdown. There is not a solution against that with the way ISU’s defenders got beat clean at the start of the play.

I should mention that this was another 3rd down play where Book checked with the sideline. They obviously liked the look they were getting and the result was pretty nice.


Play-action jet sweep sets up Claypool

Braden Lenzy has been a weapon in the running game on jet sweeps and reverses. Teams have to respect it and ISU came out in this game prepared for it. Notre Dame ran Lenzy three times in this game, but gained only 12 yards.

On this play it’s Lawrence Keys (13) coming in motion and faking the jet sweep look and you can see ISU’s having to respect that action. Both safeties step forward expecting Keys to get the ball. They aren’t reading the line, which is showing pass.

The safeties stepping up means Claypool is one on one with the corner. That’s going to be a win for the Irish.

You can’t tell from this angle, but Book did a really nice job of throwing this with anticipation. He let the ball go before Claypool got out of his break. He was forced to, though, because Ruhland did a poor job of holding his ground. Book was hit right after he threw this and couldn’t really step into it like I’m sure he wanted to.

If he did, this could have been another big play touchdown to Claypool.


Jones surprises everyone

First of all, I couldn’t have been more excited to see Jones score on this play. He’s someone who does so many of the little things well as a running back and 84-yard touchdowns are not a normal occurrence for him. What a way to finish a college career.

We’ll get back to Jones, but let’s focus on the play in general. This is ISO again. As Bill Regan pointed out on Power Hour last week, this is really just zone lead. The entire line is stepping to the left.

It’s a numbers game when you run the football. Finke goes in motion and notice that the linebacker, walked out on to Finke before he went in motion, stays out wide. He’s essentially a useless defender here only taking away a possible slant.

That’s one less defender in the box that the Irish have to worry about.

When Finke comes across, the corner bumps out with him. That leaves the edge defender, defensive end (lined up pretty much head up on Eichenberg) and the inside linebacker to that side in the box versus Kmet, Eichenberg, Banks, and Tremble.

Kmet kicks out the edge. Eichenberg and Banks double the end before Eichenberg scrapes off to get the linebacker. That leaves Tremble with no one to block but a defensive back again.

Finke comes down on the safety and the opposite side safety tries to shoot inside of that to make a play near the line of scrimmage. If he gets there, it’s a great play. If he doesn’t, this is what can happen.

He doesn’t get there.

Tremble now is blocking the corner. Jones just has to read it and is running outside to daylight. The corner from the opposite side is the only player who has a shot to catch him and he did, but what a finish on this play by Jones.

The stiff arm helped him carry that corner for 15-yards before being brought down in the end zone.


Another check with me

The game is over with Notre Dame up three touchdowns at this point. This easily could have been a draw up the middle and a punt. Instead, the offense didn’t settle on 3rd and long.

It was another check from the sideline after seeing they had man coverage. The protection up front was reset and Book hit Kmet on an out to get the 1st down.

Book’s 3rd down completion percentage dropped from 65.9% to 56.2 in 2019. His yards per attempt dropped from 8.1 to 5.9. His pass efficiency dropped from 158.0 to 126.9.

Being able to check into better plays or having help to check into better plays will help him get back to passer he was on 3rd down in 2018. Whoever ends up running the offense next year, it will be important to continue to have checks like this to keep drives alive.


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