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Notre Dame Football

Uyeyama's Keys to the Game | Notre Dame vs Pitt

October 23, 2020
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Notre Dame and Pitt have played six times during the Brian Kelly era. Five of those were one score games. Kelly is 5-1 against Pitt and he’s 9-3 overall against those Mark Dantonio-Pat Narduzzi defenses and his teams have scored 30 or more points in only three of those contests.

Like most of those previous matchups, this should be a low scoring game and yards will be tough to come by. There has only been one game against a Narduzzi coached defense where Kelly’s teams have averaged more than 6.0 yards per play.

It will be more about scoring enough to win than anything else. It likely won’t be pretty, which is not something Notre Dame fans will want to hear after last week, but it’s what to expect given the tough defense they’ll be face.

Here’s my keys to the game for Notre Dame:

Create turnovers

The Notre Dame defense has produced plenty of Havoc, but they only have three takeaways in four games. They only have one forced fumble so far. Last year they were second in the country with 20. I do believe that not having as much practice time before the season could have something to do with it. It is something that Clark Lea has emphasized a lot in practice.

Luck is certainly involved with some of it, there have been dropped interceptions, but Notre Dame’s offense could use some help in this game. It would be huge to have a short field or two to work with against a great Pitt defense.

Don’t let the game-wreckers beat you

Pitt leads the nation in sacks and they are good across the board on the defensive line, but their two starters at defensive end are elite players. Patrick Jones II is first in the country in sacks and Rashad Weaver is tied for first in total pressures this season. He already has 12.5 Havoc plays, which is a very good season total for most players.

They are game-wreckers and Notre Dame has to treat them as such. Notre Dame should try to move the pocket as much as possible to disrupt their normal rushing angles and frequently show them different looks whether it's a trap coming their way off of play-action or chipping them with additional blockers.

It’s a lot harder to deal with when it’s two players and the focus isn’t all on just one guy, but it’s something Notre Dame has to prepare for because Jones and Weaver are that disruptive.

Win vertically, but mix it up

Out of the 15 drives where Pitt has allowed touchdowns, 11 have come on drives of 8 plays or less. Of course Notre Dame will want to run the ball on Pitt, but grinding out double digit drives without big plays on the ground isn’t a recipe to score a lot of points against Pat Narduzzi’s defense.

The Panthers have only allowed three runs of 20 yards or more all season. Even if Notre Dame doubles that in this game, it might not be enough explosive plays.

That’s why they are going to have to win vertically to create explosive plays. As Brian Kelly said earlier this week, they don’t have Chase Claypool and Miles Boykin anymore. So winning on fades and back shoulder throws all day long isn’t a likely option. They’ll have to mix it up to get matchups.

They can take a page from what Miami did last week and leak out the running back. The Hurricanes completed two of these for a combined 80 yards and two touchdowns.

via GIPHY

The QB draw they ran last week with Kyren Williams as a lead blocker could be a set up for a similar play. Or maybe they use Tommy Tremble as a lead blocker and leak him out on a go route.

Notre Dame can also look back to 2015 and what they did to get Will Fuller in a favorable matchup. Here’s another example of constriction to create explosion with a tight formation and Fuller ends up matched up with a safety.

via GIPHY

The Irish may try to create similar matchups for Braden Lenzy or Kevin Austin tomorrow.

Get to the quarterback

Pitt does not have an offense that is capable of consistently sustaining long drives. They have one of worst rushing attacks in the country and when you match that with Notre Dame being one of the best defenses at stuffing the run (4th in the country), it doesn’t look good for Pitt running the ball.

That means that Pitt is going to have to throw the ball a lot to win the game and that will be that way whether it’s Kenny Pickett or Joey Yellen at quarterback.

Notre Dame has to be able to get to them rushing the passer. That means they are going to need more from the defensive line outside of Ade Ogundeji, who has been a top-five pass rusher in the country in terms of pressure. I expect we will see much more of Isaiah Foskey in this game than we did against Louisville.

Pitt gives up pressure 31.4% of drop backs and they’ve allowed 12 sacks on the season.

 
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