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Notre Dame Football

Film Don't Lie | Attacking the Mismatch vs VT

October 12, 2021

One thing I learned very early about football as the son of a high school coach is that the game can be a lot simpler than many make it out to be. Yes, it’s always evolving with schemes and ways to defend those schemes, but there’s still a big part of the game that’s about math and matchups.

Being able to exploit matchups was a huge reason why the offense found success against Virginia Tech. Tommy Rees spread out his formations with no tight end attached on 47.8% of the snaps in this game and playing that way at the end of the first half and the end of the game helped Notre Dame find plenty of favorable matchups.

On the final drive of the half for Notre Dame, they went after Virginia Tech safety Tae Daley, a graduate transfer from Vanderbilt. Avery Davis is the inside receiver and it’s not a contest between him and Daley.

Daley didn’t have inside leverage and with no help in the middle of the field, Virginia Tech was lucky this was only 37-yards and not a touchdown.

Later on the drive they go after Daley again, this time with Kevin Austin in the slot. It’s cover 0 with a six man pressure from the Hokies, which means that Daley is all on his own against Notre Dame’s best receiver.

This isn’t a completion because Daley held Austin. They throw the flag so it’s a first down for Notre Dame. This was probably a smart flag because if this ball was completed, it’s very likely going to be six points for Notre Dame.

Fast forward to a must-score drive for Notre Dame and LB Dax Hollifield has been kicked out for targeting. LB Dean Ferguson is in to replace him and he’s only played 31 snaps on the season before this game. Those snaps came against Middle Tennessee State and Richmond.

What does Tommy Rees and Notre Dame do? They go after the inexperienced backup. There isn’t a world where him going against Davis is going to be good for the Hokies. Jack Coan makes a decisive throw and it’s another first down on their way to an eventual touchdown.

Game is on the line and who is Notre Dame going to get the ball to while trying to get into field goal range? With Michael Mayer out, Austin or Davis would seem like obvious choices.

The unexpected choice would be tight end George Takacs, who literally had zero targets this season before this big catch on the final drive. Why did they go to Takacs? Most likely because they knew they had a mismatch against a true freshman safety, Keonta Jenkins. He’s given up a perfect passer rating when targeted and that stays that way with Takacs beating him easily on this play.

We have to tip our hats to Tyler Buchner, Coan, the protection, and to all of the receivers for executing well in these situations, but Rees deserves plenty of credit as well. Sometimes football can feel very complicated. Sometimes it can feel very simple when it’s about finding the mismatch and attacking it.

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