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Notre Dame Football

(Not So) Instant Reaction | Notre Dame 41 Wisconsin 13

September 26, 2021

There can’t be too many games in the history of college football where the offense averages 3.5 yards per play and also drops 40 on the other team. YPP is a much better indicator of how things went for the Notre Dame offense and how good the Wisconsin defense was than the scoreboard.

Notre Dame did enough on offense to win the game. It ended up being a blowout because of the defense and special teams. And it was a truly dominant performance by Marcus Freeman’s group.

They made Wisconsin one-dimensional. Graham Mertz was going to have to be the one to beat them and he wasn’t capable of doing that as his 5.9 yards per attempt and his four interceptions showed.

- It had to be Mertz because Wisconsin could not run the ball on Notre Dame. It’s been a long time since the Irish left a game and were the less physical team and that didn’t change after Saturday. The Badgers averaged 1.3 yards per carry on 1st down (2.7 overall).

Wisconsin tried to run outside zone and they couldn’t reach block the Irish up front. There was consistent penetration inside from the defensive tackles and the job Howard Cross and Jacob Lacey did in the absence of Kurt Hinish needs to be highlighted.

- Lacey on that 4th and short was one of the plays of the game that might have been forgotten because so much happened after. I wanted to mention it specifically because it was a perfect example of how good the defense was situationally.

The Badgers were 1 for 14 on 3rd down and 0 for 1 on 4th down. If you included the last 14 3rd down attempts in the Purdue game, Notre Dame has stopped the offense on 3rd down on 25 of the last 28 attempts.

There were six trips inside the Notre Dame 40 for Wisconsin. They only managed those 13 points.

- The fact that Paul Chryst kept calling that same slant that got picked off twice by Cam Hart, and almost once earlier when he jumped the route a little too early, says a lot about the limitations of Wisconsin’s offense and the preparation by Notre Dame’s defense.

There is no doubt that Hart was prepared to see that and he took advantage when it presented itself.

- 10-10 game and Tosh Baker gets beat inside on the sack. It’s Drew Pyne’s blindside and the ball is out when he gets hit. Wisconsin recovers and they have all the momentum on the Notre Dame 39-yard line.

The defense holding them to three on that drive was huge because right after that drive, this happened:

- Everyone and their mother knew Notre Dame wasn’t going to run the ball on Wisconsin, which is why a call like the 2nd and goal run call after getting stuffed on 1st down was...puzzling.

There was a lot of good that Tommy Rees did as a play-caller today and he has a very tough job. He’s essentially calling plays with one hand tied behind his back with Notre Dame’s issues running the ball.

That one red zone possession, which ended with a missed field goal, was not great.

- The final offensive touchdown drive was fantastic by Rees. He had the screen to Kevin Austin set up beautifully. If Austin doesn’t stumble, it might be a touchdown.

Then he attacked the middle of the field with Michael Mayer clearing the linebacker and Pyne hitting him down the seam. It was punctuated with Pyne hitting Austin from the slot on a beautiful throw for the touchdown.

We know Pyne isn’t the biggest guy, but he finds windows and isn’t afraid to fit the ball in over the middle. What a performance by him in a tough spot.

- Notre Dame has played three quarterbacks. They have played four players at left tackle. I don’t know if any other program could do that and be 4-0.

They aren’t 4-0 without the defense playing at a high level in the last couple of weeks or getting a big play on special teams to help them when they didn’t produce many explosive plays in the game (only three).

But things should be more dire on offense given the circumstances and they have found a way to be good enough when they need to be. They have to be better and need to find a way to get Kyren Williams and Tyree involved in the passing game more. (Jack Sanborn might argue that Williams was plenty involved in blitz pickup, but I digress.)

I feel good about saying that Notre Dame is now playing like a defense that can keep them in any game. If they get healthier and the offense starts playing better, then 4-0 might just be the start of something.

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