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Notre Dame Football

Film Don't Lie | Red Zone Woes

October 21, 2020

Only one touchdown on four red zone trips was disappointing for Notre Dame fans expecting efficiency against Louisville. That’s how you end up with 12 points even after possessing the football for 60% of the game.

When looking back at it, there was clearly some meat left on the bone. Notre Dame should have scored touchdowns and not just on the Kevin Austin catch that was called back. I picked some plays that show why Notre Dame’s offense didn’t get it done like they have in the past.

QB Draw

Notre Dame had run a quarterback draw earlier on this same drive and it was successful. I have no problem with them going to it again, but this time it didn’t work as well in the red zone.

They are bringing a blitzer off the edge and that’s one more man to block, which Liam Eichenberg (74) does. He slides out and picks up that defender. That leaves the defensive lineman coming free. On the previous draw, he was working outside on a rush and Eichenberg pushed him that way. On this play he is coming right through the B gap and ends up unblocked.

Here’s a key piece of this play. Aaron Banks (69) is stepping down to help with the nose guard, but the nose is slanting to the left. All of the D-linemen are slanting that way and the blitzer is replacing the gap of the end. It’s a run blitz and it was the perfect call against this.

Kyren Williams (23) needed to block that lineman. He didn’t need to run through him. He just needed to get in his way so Ian Book could hit that inside. It’s easy to say this in hindsight, but much tougher for Williams to do in real time because his original assignment is to pick up that linebacker.

Even if Williams did get a piece of that lineman, Book is still getting tackled by the linebacker (17) so it would have been a short gain. But that’s better than a loss and even that short gain would have set up Notre Dame for more success on the next down.


Missing Davis

This was right after that and it should have been a touchdown. Everyone who watched the game saw Avery Davis (3) running wide open on the crosser. If Book throws it to him, he can walk in for a score. He didn’t and took a sack instead.

Credit to Louisville for calling a corner blitz here. They bring 7 off the edge and if they don’t, Book probably finds Davis easily. That pressure from the outside makes this play for Louisville.

Here’s where it gets a bit confusing: why was Book drifting to his right with his drop? I think it might have had to do with him finding a window to throw out of. He’s not the tallest guy who can drop back and see everything over the line. Maybe he is moving to find the window to be able to throw this? That’s one explanation I can think of. The other is that he was moving that way assuming he was throwing to Williams (he was covered).

If that’s not the case, I have no idea why he is sliding to the right. It ends up hurting him because the blitz is coming from that direction.

In an ideal scenario, Book slides back to the left even after drifting right and hits Davis on the move. This was less than ideal and Notre Dame settled for a field goal.


Stuck in a pivot

This might have been a throw the remote at the wall moment for some Notre Dame fans. No one wants to see a sack happen on this play. This sack isn’t on the protection. You could say it’s on Book, but that’s not entirely fair either. He’s just trying to make something out of nothing after things fall apart with the route.

Davis (3) is in the slot. I don’t know if he’s the first read or if it’s Ben Skowronek (11), but Book is looking right away to his left. It’s man coverage on the slot and man on the outside as well. The difference is that Skowronek is running an in route and the linebacker is dropping to take that away. So if that’s Book’s first read, he knows immediately that he can’t go to it.

That leaves Davis. He’s running a pivot. Or at least trying to. A pivot route is when the receiver breaks one way and pivots back the other. That’s what Davis is trying to do, but he lost his footing and didn’t explode out of the cut. The defender just let him run into him and by the time Davis regained his balance, he was thinking about blocking for Book.

So there are really no options here for Book. He also has a linebacker spying him and another linebacker who has Williams man to man, but when he sees Williams engage in a block, he blitzes (it’s called a Green Dog).

The one linebacker flushes Book out of the pocket and the spy, Monty Montgomery, runs him down. There was no time to scan the whole field. He needed Davis to win his one on one and he didn’t.


QB counter

This wasn’t in the red zone, but it had a chance to go for big yards and was requested by a member of ISD. I think it’s worth taking a look at as well.

This is like the counter play Notre Dame has had success running with their backs in the last two weeks, but this time it’s Book keeping and using Williams as a blocker. I love this play. I hope Tommy Rees comes back to it because it will hit big if they block it right.

It’s set up perfectly. Notre Dame has numbers to the boundary with Tommy Kraemer (78) pulling and taking out the edge (just a horrendously weak job from that guy). Michael Mayer (87) is the lead blocker here instead of Tommy Tremble. He does nothing wrong coming from his wing position and combining with Williams on the inside linebacker. If anything you’d want Williams to leave that guy and go pick up the safety, but this wasn’t bad. Neither of them were in the wrong.

It’s the backside inside linebacker who makes the play. Montgomery did this a lot. He had 11 solo tackles. Banks was supposed to block him, but Eichenberg does such a good job on his down block that the defender runs into Banks as he is trying to get off to Montgomery. That’s why he stumbles and misses.

It might have been that Banks was trying to help Jarrett Patterson (55), who did a really solid job on the nose guard, and that kept him from getting out to Montgomery quicker as well. If they block Montgomery, Book is one on one with a safety and it’s at least a 10 yard gain with a possibility for a lot more.


BONUS: Skowronek BOOM 

I’m not going to get deep into the nitty gritty of this play. This is just here so everyone can see Ben Skowronek come down like a heat seeking missile and absolutely crack the safety. You love to see it.


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