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Notre Dame Football

Film Don't Lie | Pass Rush Preview

September 5, 2023

Notre Dame didn’t get a ton of practice rushing the passer against Tennessee State. Their quarterbacks weren’t dropping back often and they were mostly trying to not get hit. That explains the 3.0 yards per attempt, 36% completions, and two interceptions.

The Irish generated pressure on 52.6% of TSU’s dropbacks, but they only had an opportunity to rush the passer on 10 true pass sets (true pass sets are pass plays without play action, without a screen, without a rollout, with time to throw between two and four seconds, with more than a three-man rush). They didn’t exactly get enough opportunities to prove much about their pass rush.

That should change this week against North Carolina State. They dropped back 37 times against UCONN and they called a pass play on 51.3% of snaps. The box score didn’t look like it because quarterback Brennan Armstrong scrambled 10 times.

Notre Dame will have a bit different plan of attack against NC State than they did against TSU’s passing game, but we at least got a sneak preview of the Irish pass rush this past Saturday.

We got to see Jaylen Sneed unleashed off the edge a couple of times. This is the kind of thing we saw from him in camp and it looks a lot different than it did against South Carolina at the conclusion of last season.

His alignment isn’t even correct here. He’s too far off the football, but he’s so explosive with his get off that it didn’t even matter. He was so sudden that the quarterback immediately had to react and stepped up into Rylie Mills’ rush. This five-man pressure led to a hit on the quarterback and an incomplete pass.

We also had a chance to see how much better Notre Dame is at timing with their blitz package. Only on a few occasions last season did we see them blitz effectively when they had additional rushers from depth.

This looks like drop eight at the snap, but Marist Liufau (8), JD Bertrand (27), and Thomas Harper (13) are all screaming downhill at the snap, which surprises the quarterback.

The quarterback is immediately thinking of not getting planted by Liufau, the free rusher, and slides right into a sack by Jordan Botelho. The added piece to this was Howard Cross lined up as the nose and showcasing his ability to move laterally with Harper following in behind it.

One thing we might see this week against Armstrong is using someone like Liufau as a spy. That’s what he did here and he gets a hit on the quarterback when he leaves the pocket. Even though the game they were running on the other side didn’t hit, Liufau was ready when the quarterback was flushed out.

Lastly, this six-man pressure completely confused TSU with the right tackle stepping out to pick up Harper and leaving no one to block Josh Burnham and Bertrand because the other O-linemen were trying to get out for a screen.

It wasn’t just that mistake, but the great first step by Liufau that screwed up the timing of the screen that almost ended up being intercepted by Botelho.

Liufau had four pressures. Burnham had three. Sneed, Mills, Botelho, and Cross each had two. All of them are going to be key pieces for Notre Dame’s pass rush this season.

There were some exciting flashes from the Notre Dame defense getting after the passer and this is only a preview of the kind of pressure package Al Golden is going utilize this season.

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