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Notre Dame Football

Film Don't Lie | Scheming up Success vs South Carolina

January 3, 2023

South Carolina came out of the gates sprinting. They had a good opening script, were throwing the ball out of Wildcat, and threw the kitchen sink at Notre Dame when it came to gadget plays. It helped them take an early lead and they had full control of the game in the first half.

Then reality set in. The team with better talent and a better game plan took over as the game went along. Even a couple of pick-sixes weren’t enough to keep the Irish from winning as they adjusted to South Carolina’s unexpected tempo and the Irish running game overwhelmed the Gamecocks.

Taking out lost yardage on sacks, Notre Dame averaged 6.5 yards per carry on the ground, 285 total rushing yards, and they averaged 8.3 YPC in the fourth quarter. They didn’t do this simply by bullying South Carolina. Tommy Rees used a great scheme to set up opportunities on the ground.

They also had a great scheme to set up Logan Diggs’ long touchdown and Chris Tyree’s key 3rd down conversion in the fourth quarter. It was a really good day for the Irish offense and it wasn’t a fluke that it happened.

Split zone with an added twist

Notre Dame has run plenty of split zone this season. That’s when the line is zone blocking one way and the tight end is coming across the formation to block the back side. It’s something that can stress the linebacker who may be keying on the tight end/H-back as a lead blocker, but also seeing the zone blocking the opposite direction up front.

Here it is earlier in the season against North Carolina.

What Notre Dame did in this game is add a wide receiver with the tight end. The receiver is tight to the formation, shuffles in motion, and then is moving to block on the other side of the formation. Rees had two plays off of this action that both were successful.

The first was the simple zone run inside and the action from the tight end and the receiver widened out the defenders to open things up inside. The second was Tyler Buchner keeping and then using those two as lead blockers (with a crack block from Matt Salerno) that Notre Dame ran a couple of times for big gains.

Whenever Notre Dame gave it to the back or kept it with Buchner, South Carolina defenders seemed to be expecting the other one.

Scheming up a big play to Diggs

Right before Diggs’ 75-yard touchdown, I tweeted out that this was a big drive to win “Middle 8”. It turns out they scored too quickly for it to be even considered part of the “Middle 8”.

It all starts with Matt Salerno going in motion and the safety moving with him. As soon as that happens, the only defender on that side is the corner who is being cleared out by a vertical route from Braden Lenzy. Diggs is running right to the flat here and the linebacker has him in man coverage.

This might look like a blown coverage by him, but the reason he is out-leveraged so badly has to do with what Notre Dame is doing up front. The offensive line is blocking like they are running an outside zone play to the boundary. The linebacker sees that and it freezes him for a split second. That’s enough to give Diggs plenty of space and the only defender who has a chance to make a play here is the corner, but he didn’t realize that Diggs had the ball until it was too late.

It might sound simple, but just showing the line blocking outside zone up front is what did enough to get Diggs wide open and then it all fell into place from there. Two parts to the Tyree 3rd down conversion This is the good stuff right here.

This is a play that shows why Rees deserves a lot more credit than he gets from a good chunk of Notre Dame fans. It all starts with Tyree originally lining up out wide for one specific reason: to identify the coverage. The linebacker walks out with him and then Notre Dame knows it’s man coverage.

After that, they know they have the call that should work perfectly to move the sticks. Tyree comes back to the backfield and there is a tight bunch on the right side.

The key part of this is Jayden Thomas running a (legal) pick on the linebacker who has Tyree man to man. Why is it legal? Because Tyree catches the ball behind the line of scrimmage. That’s why there is no flag on the play for offensive pass interference. With that linebacker out of the play, Tyree has the space to turn a pass that is caught two yards behind the line of scrimmage and turn it into a nine-yard gain.

South Carolina is lucky that the safety, 21, recognized what was going on or else this probably turns into a touchdown instead. A first down was good enough, though.

The Irish didn’t have to settle for a long field goal try because they converted here and they scored their touchdown three plays later.

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