Game day grades: BYU vs. Notre Dame

On a day in which the Fighting Irish celebrated their seniors, Notre Dame beat the Cougars 23-13 on a cold and freezing afternoon in South Bend. Once again the game was won in the trenches, and Notre Dame proved to be the more physical team on a day that tested the hearts of men.

Offense

Despite missing some key players and depth on defense, the Irish front seven was able to keep BYU in check. While Notre Dame never trailed against the Cougars, BYU was able to keep it close until the fourth quarter. The Cougars came away with 55 fewer total yards and one fewer first down than the Irish, and had three chances to score touchdowns in the blue zone, but came away with two field goals and a blocked chip shot by a third-string backup nose guard that could have been the difference.

Quarterback: B

This was a tough day for the passing game simply because the conditions weren't favorable. BYU passed the ball 36 times for only 168 total yards. Most of Taysom Hill's ability to gash the Irish defense was on the ground, with him sustaining drives with his legs to give the offense a further chance to score. Hill tied with Paul Lasike for a team-high 101 net rushing yards, albeit on 20 more rushes. Much of BYU's chances to come away with the victory stemmed from the heart of Hill, who left it all out on the field once again.

Running backs: C+

Jamaal Williams struggled between the tackles against a tough Irish front seven. With the horrible weather conditions, this was a game that favored the ground game and BYU just wasn't able to sustain drives on the ground against the Irish defense enough in order to make a difference. Lasike was able to gash the defense on four carries for 101 yards to lead all running backs. It was clear the Irish defense was keying in on Williams, who was bottled up for the most part on Saturday and averaged just 2.4 yards per carry.

Receivers/tight Ends: C+

The conditions could have played a big part in the passing issues this past game, but there were some nice catches made by Skyler Ridley, who led all the team with six catches for 52 yards. Cody Hoffman needed to come up big when the opportunities came, but had just five catches for 49 yards. There were some dropped passes, but again, much of the passing issues could have been the unfavorable conditions. The Cougar offense only managed 168 passing yards on the day, and with the ground game struggling to find any consistency, more yards and completions were needed for the Cougars to come out of South Bend with a victory.

Offensive line: C-

One again the offensive linemen just weren't as physical as their opponent, and that was against a banged-up defensive front that featured a third-string nose guard. In a game where the offensive line needed to play physical to establish the ground game, the line wasn't able to do so. The line also didn't protect Hill well enough in the passing game. Notre Dame was able to pressure Hill eight times in the pocket while sacking him twice.

Defense

Defensive line: C-

The Irish offensive line did what BYU's couldn't, getting a good push up front and giving Notre Dame quarterback Tommy Rees time to throw the ball and pick apart BYU's secondary. BYU was only able to get pressure on Rees once, and that came from Bronson Kaufusi. No sacks were recorded on the day, and this game was largely won and lost in the trenches on both sides of the ball.

Linebackers: B+

The game plan by Coach Kelly to neutralize the outside linebackers with the tight ends seemed to work well. Kyle Van Noy was largely ineffective in the pass rush, as was Alani Fua. While there were quite a few missed tackles, there was still some success on the day. Uani Unga recorded an amazing 19 tackles to lead the defense and set a new school record for tackles in a game. Unga had a great game from the middle, raising the overall effectiveness of linebacker play.

Secondary: C

The Cougar secondary struggled to keep the Irish receivers in check. The success of the Irish ground game caught the secondary looking in the backfield a few times, leading to big passing gains. The Cougars' inability to put pressure on Rees up front placed more strain on the secondary, which saw quite a few players being rotated in and out at the cornerback position. Rees ended up with 235 passing yards on only 15 completions.

Special teams: B

Adam Hine was the highlight on special teams, returning kicks to give BYU's offense good field position to work with. He returned the ball four times for 91 yards. Justin Sorensen was successful on two of his three field goal attempts. There was one blocked, but that doesn't fall on his shoulders. Rather, it falls on the blocking up front. The punting game under Scott Arellano struggled quite a bit, averaging just 36.5 yards per punt.


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