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Notre Dame Football

Rewatch Notes | ACC Championship Game (Offense)

December 21, 2020

When an offense scores 10 points, there’s always plays left on the field. This game was no exception.

Missed opportunities was a consistent theme, but it was more than that for Notre Dame. Credit needs to be given to Brent Venables and Clemson, who had a much better game plan this time around. The return of Tyler Davis and James Skalski made an impact as well.

But Notre Dame started out strong in this game. They averaged 7.1 yards per play in the first quarter. The first play of the second quarter was a 30-yard completion to Tommy Tremble that put Notre Dame at the Clemson 35-yard line.

From that point on, things came crashing down.

The Irish averaged 2.8 YPP the rest of the game. The only play they had longer than 20-yards was Chris Tyree’s touchdown when the game was already over.

They couldn’t produce explosive plays, they were bad at situational football, and Tommy Rees had no answers. The players and coaches had to be humbled after a performance like that.

They showed early in the game that they are better than that result. All they can do is learn from it and try to be better when they get their next chance to play another tough opponent in the next game.

- Notre Dame averaged 2.1 yards per carry on first down. Some of that had to do with Clemson loading the box and outnumbering them. Some of that had to do with poor execution blocking and running.

The Irish had six passes of 15-yards or more and all came on first down. Ian Book was 11 of 14 for 139 (9.9 yards per attempt) on first down.

Hindsight is always 20/20, but they clearly should have thrown the ball more on first down. Those free access throws to the field were working well.

The lack of RPOs and quick game stood out in this game. I know Notre Dame wants to play to their identity, but they put themselves in a poor position with the running game and could have done more to gain easy yards.

- Notre Dame had zero 3rd down attempts that were less than five yards in this game. They were 7 of 10 on those shorter 3rd downs in the last game. That’s all about lack of success on first down.

- In terms of the play selection with the running game, I thought it lacked some of the creativity we had seen from the offense earlier in the season. I also thought they made a mistake by not calling more designed runs for Book.

He wasn’t a threat and if he was, that could have opened up things for the backs.

- The line, in general, was pretty good in pass protection. Josh Lugg and Tommy Kraemer had some issues anchoring, but many of the sacks would have been credited to Book or Kyren Williams. He had a much tougher time in blitz pickup.

- Venables backing off blitzing was a huge difference from the last time these two teams met. He only blitzed Book 35.1% of the time, which was down 20% from last game.

Backing off paid off huge even though their defensive line wasn’t winning one on ones. Book had to throw with anticipation and get the ball out earlier than he did on more than a few throws. While there weren’t players running wide open, Book has to trust his guys more to win contested catches or get the ball to them when they are coming out of their breaks.

He had been doing that much better in the second half of the season.

- Book has 32 “improv” yards. In the first matchup he had 84 and a touchdown. They played him to contain him in the pocket more and it worked. It should be noted that the Avery Davis drop on 4th down in the second quarter was a play where Book created outside of the framework of the call and that would have changed some things for Notre Dame if it had been completed.

- On to some specific plays…

First run of the game and Tyler Davis stones Aaron Banks at the point of attack and makes a tackle. Skalski was splashier with his plays, but Davis was more of a factor in stopping the run. He made a difference.

- The first 3rd down conversion of the game to Michael Mayer was a blown coverage by Skalski. They needed to isolate him more in coverage when he wasn’t blitzing. That’s by far the weakest part of his game.

- Notre Dame moving players late had Clemson misaligned when they tried to adjust on the second drive. That and Skalski being way too tight to the line of scrimmage allowed Kyren Williams to break that big run that put Notre Dame in the red zone.

- I’m still scratching my head on Williams not being in on that 3rd and goal. Even if he tapped out on the play, it was critical enough that they should have called a timeout to make sure they were good. Tyree got blown up on the blitz.

Even with that happening, the ball should have been out of Book’s hands instead of him scrambling to his right. Mayer was open on a corner route. He had separation and Book had to let the ball go.

It should have been a touchdown. Instead it was a doink from Jon Doerer and three plays later it’s 7-3 Clemson.

- Two great plays to start the next drive on the jet sweep to Avery Davis (with a great block by Brock Wright) and then a boot where Book hit Tremble for a big gain.

The next play had the Irish in Wildcat and I know some might question it, but it was set up to be a big play. Kraemer didn’t get to Skalski. If he did, it had a chance to hit.

- Man, I want to give credit to Skalski for how violent he is as a blitzer, but Lugg needs to do a better job on the play he got blown up into the backfield. He sat and waited instead of meeting Skalski.This wasn’t perfect timing on the blitz.

Lugg had a chance to attack and saw Skalski coming. He absorbed and it was a mistake.

- Should Davis have throttled down on that 4th and 3? Should Book have led him? Who cares. Davis still needed to make the catch.

Book also could have thrown it a bit sooner as well, but I’m 100% sure Davis would say that play was on him. Have to have those against Clemson.

- After Notre Dame gets a 2nd and 1 on the next drive, they are looking for a shot play. Book ended up getting sacked. That’s on him. He has to have a clock there if the deep shot isn’t open.

He could either try to force it into Wright (who was running a crosser and could have had a first) or throw the ball away.

- They still have a shot to convert on 3rd down, but Williams whiffed on the blitz pickup of the corner. Again, even with that miss, Book needed to get the ball out to Ben Skowronek who was open. He knew the blitz was coming and assumed he would have more time.

- I don’t really need to get into anything specific on the next couple of drives other than to say it wasn’t pretty with the interior of the offensive line.

- I’ll finish it off by saying that just about everyone on offense played worse and Notre Dame coached worse as well. Clemson played better and coached better.

That’s how a team can go from over 500 yards of offense to just over half of that against the same opponent.

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