Story Poster
Photo by College Football Playoff
Notre Dame Football

Rewatch Notes | ND vs Alabama (Offense)

January 4, 2021

It was obvious Notre Dame had a specific plan for this game. They knew they were overmatched on defense and wanted to play keep away for a long portion of the game.

They accomplished that. They ran 80 plays to Alabama’s 55. They had 10 drives and Alabama finished with eight (minus one play at the end of the first half).

What they failed to accomplish was putting points on the board to keep up with Alabama. It didn’t matter if they were going to hold Alabama to their lowest scoring output in two years if they couldn’t match them on the scoreboard. They didn’t come close to doing that.

While the idea behind what Tommy Rees was trying to do was the right one in my opinion, it was only going to work if they ran the ball better and mixed in a few more explosive plays. There were times he needed to be more creative or aggressive, but even when he was, they offense couldn’t make the plays necessary to stay in it.

- Alabama only had a Havoc Rate of 8.8% so it wasn’t like they were consistently putting Notre Dame behind the sticks. Kyren Williams was only stuffed twice on his 16 carries. But Notre Dame needed more than to only get positive yards. Williams only had one carry that went for longer than 10 yards and it was his first of the game.

The Irish averaged 4.3 yards per carry overall (minus sack yardage) and only 2.9 YPC on 1st down.

This isn’t to say that Williams didn’t run well either. He ran very well and maximized yardage on almost every carry minus one where he tried to bounce it and took a loss. Notre Dame wasn’t going to bully Alabama and they didn’t.

- Only four explosives plays out of 80. One out of every 20 and the last one came in the fourth quarter when the game was already over. WOOF.

I know that they weren’t going to be able to sling it around and win a shootout, but they needed more in this department. They needed to find some way to manufacture an explosive play or two.

- One thing they needed to do was push the ball down the field more. Only 10 of Ian Book’s 39 throws traveled 10 yards or more down the field. Six of those came in the fourth quarter. Notre Dame didn’t run 4 verts until the fourth quarter.

It’s pretty obvious that one team had dynamic players after the catch and one team didn’t. It was a smart move for Rees to get the backs more involved (12 targets for Williams and Chris Tyree). They are the most dynamic players on offense for Notre Dame.

The tight ends and receivers only had 45 yards after the catch. If they weren’t going to get more of that, then Notre Dame had to take at least a few more shots down the field.

- Christian Barmore was a problem. He had seven total pressures and a sack and really gave Tommy Kraemer a tough time when they were matched up. Him and Will Anderson were the two up front who disrupted things.

Barmore’s pressure had an impact on some plays. Notre Dame had not had an interior rusher put that kind of pressure on Book all season.

- I thought Zeke Correll was solid considering it was his second start. He was late helping with some stunts so his recognition has to be better, but he was pretty good in the run game. Jarrett Patterson would have helped with Barmore, though.

- Notre Dame got a stop to start the 3rd quarter. They couldn’t take advantage of it on offense with only 2.3 YPP in the 3rd quarter. Looking at the last two games in the 3rd quarter, it’s fair to say that the opposing coaches came out much better after half time than the Irish staff. The numbers don’t lie.

- They needed Book to create some “improv” yards and couldn’t get enough from him. That’s another area where they lacked in terms of big plays. He only had 18 yards in this game. He had been averaging 64 per game coming into this matchup.

- One thing that I think the Irish should have done more was attack the Alabama safeties. They targeted them 13 times, completing 10 passes for 7.8 yards per attempt. 101 of Book’s 239 yards came with his targets matched up against safeties.

- On to some specific plays…

The first play scramble was the right move from Book. Both his first and second read were covered. Alabama just had the right call against them.

- The throw that was behind Williams was because Kraemer got beat clean by Barmore. Book was trying to make a play out of nothing and it would have been a sack.

- Was that a called draw on 3rd and long on the first drive? The route combinations didn’t give Book much of a shot to convert. It was either a draw or a white flag call.

- Really liked seeing them isolate Michael Mayer against the corner on 3rd and 2 on the next drive. How they used Mayer in this game was something they did right.

- I know many were frustrated by what happened on the quarterback sweep call on 3rd and 7 with Notre Dame electing not to go for it. I think if they had gotten it to 4th and 3 or less, they would have.

They didn’t because Barmore and Anderson owned that play. The Irish had numbers to the boundary, but lost their individual battles. Barmore was too quick for Kraemer and got penetration.

- What a great design on the screen to Tyree. They flipped the tight ends and then put Avery Davis in motion. It caused some confusion on Alabama’s back end and that led to the big play.

- Alabama actually had the perfect call against the draw to Williams. They were running stunts on both sides and should have run right into it. Williams made two players miss and then the linebacker to get a nine yard gain. Williams was really, really good in this game.

- Big no call on the hold by Dylan Moses off the pivot route from Williams. It was completed, but should have been a first down. Williams’ helmet came off and he was forced to come out of the game. This led to a chain of events where Notre Dame was forced to call a timeout with the play clock running down.

This happened for a few reasons.

It happened on the far side line. Williams had to run off to the other side of the field. Rees likely had a call ready, but that was assuming Williams would be on the field. When that changed, I’m sure he had to change the call. They probably didn’t want Tyree to be blocking like on the red zone 3rd down against Clemson so they had to get something ready with him in a pattern.

That takes up time to get that changed. If there’s a penalty, I’m pretty sure Williams could stay in the game and the clock would have stopped. That would have kept one timeout in Notre Dame’s pocket, which they could have used later.

- 3rd and 8 on the next drive and Aaron Banks and Correll were late picking up the T-E stunt from Anderson. That pressure caused a bad throw from Book and they were off the field. It was a low hit and in the NFL that’s 15 yards. It’s not a call they make in college football.

- After Notre Dame got a big play on the quarterback draw and Book made a great throw to Ben Skowronek on the in route, Notre Dame almost had another big play on the flip that was short to Williams.

In hindsight, he should have dropped it and not let the clock run. If it had been further ahead of him, he had a lot of space. That was an example of a play that had worked out well for Book earlier in the year, but not in this game.

- 3rd and 11 and the last play before Jon Doerer’s field goal attempt, Book gets the ball out quickly to Williams who gets out of bounds. There was nine seconds left on the clock when that play was over.

Skowronek was one on one to the boundary. Considering the score (21-7) and the fact that Notre Dame would have had enough time to get down the field and spike it after, that seemed like the right time to take a shot.

- On the first drive of the 3rd quarter, Rees ran a two man route with max protection trying to take a shot after a first down. Javon McKinley had a safety over the top and I don’t think that would have been a smart throw for Book to make.

Book could have thrown it to Skowronek on the dig. He was not wide open, but there was space to fit something in there. He scrambled for three yards and it wasn’t a bad choice, but again, the circumstances of the game at that time meant he needed to take a chance.

- He did take that chance with Mayer later on when Book was intercepted. The play was originally supposed to go to Williams, who had motioned out wide, but he was covered by the corner. Book stepped up to possibly run and saw Mayer open. He just underthrew it. It was the right idea. It just wasn’t a good throw.

- Notre Dame finally runs boot and this was another one where I think Book has to let it go. Mayer was running and out and up and he was open. Not five steps open, but open. It would have been a very tough throw to make, but another one where he needs to take a shot.

Even if it wasn’t that shot, George Takacs was another option on the drag underneath. He threw it away and Alabama ended up with a late hit penalty.

- The next play had no shot. Kraemer got beat inside and Correll was too late to help him. That sack by Barmore pretty much ended the drive with Book having to come out after the play.

- Notre Dame finally ran 4 verts on that great McKinley catch, but Mayer was the guy to throw to if he had not been interfered with. He had the safety beat.

- The game was well over when Book completed a 20-yard gain to Lawrence Keys on Notre Dame’s final touchdown drive. Still, he hung in there and took a huge hit before delivering that ball.

There are things Book isn’t great at. There are areas of his game that aren’t elite. No one can doubt his toughness, though. He is a tough, tough kid. Look at the way he took that hit or the way he ran that quarterback sweep in for what should have been a touchdown in the second quarter.

That is going to be missed as much as anything. When your quarterback is that tough, it helps the whole offense adopt that same mentality.

subscribe Verify your student status
See Subscription Benefits
Trial only available to users who have never subscribed or participated in a previous trial.