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Notre Dame Football

Tracking Notre Dame's Explosive Plays in 2023

November 29, 2023
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Every team outside of Iowa is searching for explosive playmakers and LSU quarterback Jayden Daniels set a new bar this year as the Heisman contender has one of the most absurd stats of the 2023 season. 

In 12 games, Daniels recorded 90 plays of over 20 yards this year (70 passing/20 rushing), which is quite the statement. 

For comparison, Bo Nix completed 23 passes of 20 yards or more (ball traveling 20 yards), which is great, but Daniels threw 22 touchdowns of 20 yards or more. 

As it relates to Notre Dame, the Irish were right in line in recent years with the amount of explosive plays created, which is good, but there is also a slightly high level. In 2023, Notre Dame recorded 71 plays of over 20 yards with running back Audric Estime responsible for 38 of them on the ground, which was good enough for No. 12 in the country. 

NOTRE DAME EXPLOSIVE PLAYS

YEAR National Rank 20+ 30+
2023 12 71 31
2022 43 66 25
2021 35 69 33
2020 17 62 23
2019 13 81 32
2018 20 74 30
2017 12 82 44
2016 50 67 27
2015 33 73 36

EXPLOSIVE PLAYS in 2023 

TEAM PLAYS OVER 20+
LSU 102
USC 82
UCF 80
North Texas 79
Washington 78
Ole Miss 77
SMU 75
Liberty 74
Georgia 73
Oklahoma 73
Arizona 72
Alabama 71
Notre Dame 71
Texas State  71

The irony of Notre Dame and Alabama tied for the same amount of 20+ yard plays is quite funny, but it’s also interesting when you consider the narratives around both offenses as each fanbase has expressed concern about the offensive coordinator position. 

When you look at Notre Dame, it shouldn't be a surprise to see 2015, 2017, 2018 and 2019 be the highest-producing big play teams for the Irish in recent years. Josh Adams, Chase Claypool, Miles Boykin and Dexter Williams, Ian Book and Brandon Wimbush are easy names to remember for creating chunk plays. 

Perhaps what was surprising was the 2015 team given the fact Notre Dame had Will Fuller and Chris Brown at receiver, while CJ Prosise topped 1,000 yards, Josh Adams was over 800 and then DeShone Kizer had a big arm and ran for over 500 yards. 

Rankings aside, is it surprising Notre Dame finished 2023 with 71 plays over 20 yards given its personnel and lack of experience at the receiver position? I think it’s probably a little surprising given Estime had 38 of those plays. 

Notre Dame also stacked up fairly well against the top teams on the schedule in regards to explosive plays, but as you know, explosive plays only go so far when turnovers or not having 11 players on the field are trump cards. 

Notre Dame vs. NC State 

TEAM 15+ Passing 10+ Rushing
Notre Dame 5 3
NC State 8 1

Notre Dame vs. Ohio State

TEAM 15+ Passing 10+ Rushing
Notre Dame 4 7
Ohio State 6 1

Notre Dame vs. Duke

TEAM 15+ Passing 10+ Rushing
Notre Dame 7 3
Duke 3 6

Notre Dame vs. Louisville

TEAM 15+ Passing 10+ Rushing
Notre Dame 6 3
Louisville 5 2

Notre Dame vs. USC

TEAM 15+ Passing 10+ Rushing
Notre Dame 3 4
USC 2 5

Notre Dame vs. Clemson

TEAM 15+ Passing 10+ Rushing
Notre Dame 4 5
Clemson 2 6

As mentioned, turnovers really hurt Notre Dame in the Clemson and Louisville game. The five turnovers against Louisville was simply a death sentence as you can have all the explosive plays you want, but winning becomes challenging even for the best teams. And in fairness, five of the explosive plays in the Louisville game came in the fourth quarter. 

The Clemson game was a little unique as Clemson turned it over too, but the Irish didn’t get a pick six or short fields following turnovers. 

In the Ohio State game, neither team turned the ball over and the Irish won the explosive play battle, but ironically failed to convert 4th-and-short twice and missed on forcing turnovers on a few golden opportunities. 

Against Duke, the explosive plays separated the Irish as Notre Dame recorded four plays of over 15 yards on the go-ahead drive, including Estime’s 30-yard touchdown run. 

All that said, Notre Dame should be encouraged moving forward as they found ways to create explosive plays through scheme or players being better than the opposition. The skill talent is only improving with guys like Cam Williams and Logan Saldate entering the receiver room and those freshmen receivers who went through growing pains this fall will be better. Jeremiyah Love and Jadarian Price are more explosive playmakers than Estime given their speed. 

2024 quarterback commit CJ Carr throws a good deep ball and 2025 quarterback Deuce Knight brings a different element to the table with his legs where explosive plays could come in a variety of ways similar to Daniels. 

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