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Notre Dame Football

Rewatch Notes | ACC Championship Game (Defense)

December 21, 2020

34 points compared to 33 points in regulation against Clemson makes it seem like the defense was around the same as they were in the first meeting. Anyone who watched would know that it couldn’t be further from the truth.

Though they had zero help from the offense, the Notre Dame defense didn’t do enough to help themselves either. A unit that has thrived on making plays managed only a 15.2% Havoc Rate (9.1% in the first half). They stuffed Travis Etienne zero times and were beaten repeatedly by Trevor Lawrence running too.

Normally the negative plays help them make up for giving up explosives, but they didn’t get the Havoc that they typically do and gave up the same number of passes 20-yards or more (seven).

Much like the offense, this was a game where Notre Dame’s players didn’t execute nearly good enough and the coaches didn’t coach anywhere close to as well as they have all season.

- The explosive plays were huge. They scored all four of their touchdowns on plays of 30-yards or more. Notre Dame had been so good against short yardage all season and Clemson had two touchdown runs on 3rd and 1 and 4th and 1 for a combined 78-yards.

- How much Clark Lea wasn’t focused on this game compared to every other opponent is going to be a topic of discussion because he was interviewing for another job while preparing for this game. I’m sure he was also talking to potential future staff members.

By no means do I think that Lea didn’t work hard on a game plan for this matchup, but there wer clearly less hours for him to prepare considering the circumstances. I think that’s fair to say.

The defense did a poor job in being ready for Lawrence as a runner. Clemson knew the focus was going to be on stopping Etienne and took advantage of that with Lawrence pulling the ball on reads and designed runs. Notre Dame had to know that would be coming. This was the most carries Lawrence has had in a game since Ohio State last season.

They adjusted to it, but it came at a cost because players would abandon their reads on some plays thinking the ball would be kept by Lawrence. Then, BOOM, Etienne would get the ball with less people rallying to him.

There’s a lot of specific plays where Notre Dame ends up getting outnumbered because of the threat of the quarterback, which made things extremely difficult to defend.

Tony Elliott called a great game and had a great plan. Lawrence gives them that option to force defenses to defend in ways that leave them vulnerable in other areas.

- If we’re looking at one positive in this game it was that Notre Dame did generate more pressure. They had pressure on 42.9% of drop backs, which is up from 25% in the previous meeting. Myron Tagovaila-Amosa and Jayson Ademilola really did a great job with their matchups inside. They had four pressures each.

Lawrence only competed 50% of his throws when pressured. The problem is that he was 75% when not pressured. That’s been his average so it’s not like it was unexpected. Notre Dame needed to make him play below his average and couldn’t.

- There is still a learning curve for Clarence Lewis at corner, but I think he has a bright future. He wasn’t perfect. He keeps getting better, though.

He gave up that ridiculous one-handed grab to EJ Williams for 22 yards. He was targeted four other times and gave up two catches for 13.

- On to some specific plays…

Great read by Lewis and great finish by Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah to get Clemson into 3rd and long to start the first drive. Then it was a big time throw by Lawrence on 3rd and 9 with pressure in his face.

There’s less than a handful of quarterbacks in college football completing a play like that.

- That first quarterback counter by Lawrence was really a masterful bit of patience to wait for his blocks to set up and then cut.

- On the Kyle Hamilton pick, Lawrence saw Notre Dame had a blitz called. Drew White was going to shoot a gap. He checked out of the play and determined pre-snap he was going to throw the slant.

Notre Dame checked out of the blitz, which put White in the throwing lane to get the tip and then the pick. Regardless of the result of the game, this was a fantastic play.

- The next drive it starts out with Lawrence keeping on the read and he outran Lewis to the corner for seven yards. Nothing wrong with the defense. Just have to not get beat.

Right after Lea called a run blitz and it should have led to Hamilton meeting Etienne right in the hole for a loss or a stuff. He missed the tackle and it was a first down.

- The Rodgers touchdown was a stack release. I thought ShaunCrawford was maybe thinking there was going to be a bubble and jumped it, but on closer watch it was just an awesome inside release by Rodgers. Crawford thought he was running a wheel and he took the inside and Rodgers burned him.

Hamilton was the single high safety and Lawrence manipulated him with his eyes. He looked off Hamilton and that left Crawford all by himself with no help. Touchdown.

- RPO to start the next drive and it’s a poor job by JOK getting sucked inside and then beaten to the edge by Lawrence. It was also another example of how Lawrence is fast enough to exploit even the best athletes Notre Dame has if they didn’t play their responsibility properly.

- MTA had a couple of pressures on this drive, including having Lawrence in the grasp for an almost sack. I really don’t want to keep heaping praise on Lawrence, but how can you not when he turns a sack into 2nd and 2?

- The very next play was a bust in coverage. Notre Dame is playing matchup zone. Hamilton is running with the vertical route. Williams is running an in and is supposed to be carried by either JOK or Shayne Simon.

This is one where I’d love to hear whether this had to do with Simon not being deep enough or if this was just the right call to beat this coverage.

- On the next drive Notre Dame made an adjustment to take away the keep by Lawrence with White looping out, but Daelin Hayes didn’t get across the face of the tackle. It left a big hole for Etienne to run through for 11-yards. This happened a few times with Notre Dame’s defensive lineman not winning when slanting.

- 1 and 15 on the final drive of the half and Ade Ogundeji has to find a way to get Lawrence down for a safety there. That’s the kind of play that could have swung the game back into a competitive situation (at least temporarily).

- They run a draw on 3 and long and Jayson Ademilola is about to run right into it for a tackle for loss. Eitenne saw it and bounced back out and it turns into a big gain.

In a perfect world DJ Brown sees that and attacks without hesitation, but the world was far from perfect for Notre Dame against Clemson.

- Big gap on 3rd and 1 later on the drive because Jayson Ademilola didn’t get into the A-gap from his 3-technique spot. He has to get there because White is blitzing B. That left an open hole and an easy conversion for Etienne.

- 4 and 1 on the same drive and what you can’t do is give up a 44-yard touchdown. White is too late to recognize because he’s respecting the Lawrence keep too much. Ogundeji is supposed to be going straight to Etienne on the stretch, but he is playing it for the Lawrence keep as well.

Notre Dame got this fixed later, but that didn’t help here. Then it’s Crawford missing a tackle and it’s ball game.

- The defense did come out and give Notre Dame’s offense a shot to make this respectable with two three-and-outs to start the second half. To no one’s surprise, they played really hard and Ademilola, Ogundeji, and others had zero quit in them.

But when the offense averages 1.8 YPP in the 3rd quarter, there is going to be a breaking point.

- I wanted to highlight one more play that pretty much sums up the frustration of having to play against Lawrence.

Marist Liufau had a blitz that looked almost exactly like the ones he had against North Carolina. He exploded with great timing and occupied two blockers to disrupt the play.

Against UNC, it ended up in a sack.

Against Lawrence, he sensed trouble and bolted out of the pocket for a nine yard gain.

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