Eye in the Sky: OL and 'Backs

IrishEyes offers its full film review of Notre Dame's offensive linemen and running backs in Saturday's win over Pittsburgh.

Offensive Linemen

Aside from a terrible final block on a key third down, right guard Trevor Robinson was likely the team's lineman of the game, though Zack Martin was a close second after a rough opening quarter and with a much tougher assignment.

Right Tackle Zack Martin:Rough initiation to the right side of scrimmage for the redshirt-freshman as Pitt DE Jabaal Sheard looked like a running back making Martin whiff in space with an inside move for a game-opening sack of Dayne Crist, who had no chance on the play. Martin wisely helped up his fallen quarterback after the play…Whiffed on a pulling block attempt (in front of Dayne Crist's read-option keeper) and MLB Greg Williams limited the Irish QB to two yards…Failed to secure a double team (with Robinson) vs. backup DT Tyler Tkach who stopped Allen short on 1st and G from the 2-yard line…

Tremendous one-on-one on the backside pass protection vs. Sheard as Crist drilled an 11-yard strike to Riddick, earning a 1st down at the Panthers 29-yard line on 3rd and 7 midway through the 2nd quarter…Committed a false start penalty near the goal line, turning 2nd and 5 into 2nd and 10 (Crist scored on next play)…I don't think Martin was at fault on Sheard's drive-ending strip of Crist (the QB must protect the ball and feel the pressure) near the goal line late in the 2nd Quarter.

2nd Half:Sealed the outside (per usual) on Dayne Crist's designed QB draw for a gain of 8 yards…Nice job of protecting Crist for the bulk of an otherwise ineffective 3rd quarter for the Irish offense…Completely stymied a Sheard bull rush to allow Crist plenty of time on the missed wheel route to a badly hobbled Kyle Rudolph…Completely negated Sheard on a 9-yard run by Wood later in the drive…Lost his block vs. Sheard on a moving pocket to the right, forcing Crist to throw early (but accurate) incomplete on a bad drop by Rudolph.

Right Guard Trevor Robinson: Failed to lend double-team help to Martin on the game's first play (sack of Crist). A mental error by Robinson…Completely dominated NT Myles Caragein on the next series, allowing Allen 6 yards over right guard…Controlled Caragein on the ensuing play to allow Allen 7 yards on 3rd and 2 from the Pitt 38-yard line…Executed a cut-block (as did Martin) to allow Crist an outside passing lane to Theo Riddick for a 14-yard catch-and-run…Chipped Caragein on his way to middle linebacker Max Gruder aiding Allen on a 10-yard run.

Allowed deep penetration vs. Chas Alecxih who combined with others to stop Allen at the line on a 2nd and 7 early in the 2nd period…Fought Alecxih one-on-one two plays later to allow Crist ample pocket time and room to throw (incomplete).

2nd Half:On the second series, held a spinning Alecxih despite late double-team help available from Zack Martin; the Irish never recovered from the 1st and 20 situation…Failed to seal Gruder on a pulling attempt to his left and the Panthers LB stopped Allen behind the line…Provided key one-on-one interior protection on a Crist-to-Riddick pass to the right for a 15-yard gain…Solid block in space vs. Gruder to allow Riddick room on a tunnel screen two plays later (16-yard gain)…Stood up DT Tyler Tkach to give Wood room for a 9-yard gain over right tackle…Overrun far too easily by linebacker Tristan Roberts on the offense's key 3rd and 4 play with just under 1:50 remaining. Roberts pressured a rolling Crist into an incompletion, forcing a punt. Bad time for Robinson's worst effort of the afternoon.

Center Braxston Cave: Lost a 3rd and long block vs. Myles Caragein on the first series that resulted in delayed pressure on a Crist incompletion to force an opening punt…Handled Caragein on Allen's 10-yard run up the gut the following series, turning the defender outside…Only interior blocker to completely secure his block when Allen was stopped short of the goal on 1st and 2 on the second series.

Either Cave or Robinson failed to account for Gruder to open Notre Dame's first 2nd Quarter drive (Wood managed 5 yards)…Found Gruder in space two plays later to help Wood on a 7-yard gain…Three plays later, Cave lost his block on Greg Williams in space or Allen could have had much more than 7 yards over the left side…Executed a key double team with Robinson to allow Wood 4 yards on 3rd and 2 from the Panthers 20-yard line…Executed the key block vs. stunting RDE Brandon Lindsey to allow Crist plenty of time and a cushion on his 37-yard post to T.J. Jones.

2nd Half:Missed a backside seal that resulted in a limited gain for Allen to open the second half…Obvious hold vs. Caragein negated a 45-yard deep post to Michael Floyd. The Irish punted three plays later…Blocked LB Tristan Roberts 12 yards down field on a 9-yard Allen run.

Left Guard Chris Stewart: Won head-up vs. the defensive tackle on the game's first 3rd and short, a 7-yard gain by Armando Allen…Won again vs. Chas Alecxih on a 10-yard Allen carry on the second series…Missed Alecxih near the goal line and the DT contributed to a 1st and G stop of Allen inside.

Held up man-to-man vs. bull rush in pass protection to allow Crist room in the pocket for a 12-yard out to Rudolph…Key seal block the following play to open a hole for Allen and another 7 yards…Again held up one-on-one for a Cierre Wood short-yardage carry but the rest of the side failed and Wood was limited to 2 yards.

2nd Half:Looks to help when his zone space isn't occupied by a defender or delayed blitzer…Won up front to begin the quarter's final drive, paving the way for a 7-yard gain by Allen…Just a tick off from a quality block on the 4th quarter shuffle pass to Riddick, though the play gained 6 yards.

Left Tackle Matt Romine: 2nd series holding call (offset) an easy see for the officials; Romine failed to seal outside vs. DE Brandon Lindsey…Impressive block in space to help on a double-team of Sheard for Allen's first 6-yard burst on the following series…Recovered from a bull rush vs. Lindsey to allow Crist a passing lane in the Panthers red zone (play called back due to offsetting penalties)…Lost the same assignment the following play but Crist was able to release early and hit Floyd for an in-route and a 14-yard gain to the Panthers 7-yard line…Not Romine's fault on Lindsey's ensuing sack of Crist; the Irish QB must avoid that token pressure.

Appeared to miss an assignment vs. WLB Max Gruder in space, instead running into a double-team block with Martin vs. Sheard (Wood limited to a yard as a result)…Does not seal the outside as well as Martin and it showed on Allen's first no gain of the day early in the 2nd quarter…Solid backside protection for Crist on an out to Ragone, the senior's first catch of the year…Blocked Lindsey for eight game seconds on Dayne Crist's TD run (to the opposite side)…Allowed too much penetration by Lindsey in his next red zone matchup on the ensuing series. Crist missed Floyd on the play (mis-communication, too).

2nd half: Executed one-on-one block on the edge for a solid four seconds early in the half but Crist missed his target downfield…Executed a seal block and nearly a second hit in space to help Allen to a 7-yard gain…Too slow in pursuit of linebacker Max Gruder on a quick flare to Riddick early in the 4th period (Riddick gained 10)…Failed to secure Sheard coming down the line of scrimmage; Sheard limited Allen to one yard on 2nd and 1 but there might have been a decent gain had Allen made one LB miss.

Delivered a shot to Gruder in space to give Allen room on a 9-yard gain, but Gruder did recover to make the tackle…Sealed Alecxih inside one play later to afford Crist an open lane over the left side and a 5-yard gain for an ND first down… Recovered to fend off Lindsey on the (called back) touchdown pass to Michael Floyd.

Running Backs

The running game was abandoned in the second half (12 rushes in 34 snaps) so it's difficult to judge either Allen or Wood harshly. Wood ran hard for the first time since the opener. As much as I like Allen, I'd like to see Wood get 12-15 carries a game (a nearly exact split with Allen) depending on which has the hot hand that day.

Armando Allen: Still forced to navigate too much traffic on most delayed draw runs…Consistently runs hard through ankle tackles; a 180 from the first two seasons of his Irish career…Picked up an unblocked Sheard to allow Crist plenty of time on a (missed) TD pass to Floyd in the far left corner. Excellent protection by Allen.

2nd Half:Lost his block, albeit 7 yards downfield, vs. Greg Williams who tackled Crist after an 8-yard gain on a 1st and 20 designed QB Draw…Again ran hard through the hole but appeared to have a cutback lane to his right on a 7-yard sprint over left guard…Ruled down but Allen appeared to fumble for the fourth time in as many games (forward progress negated the miscue)…Missed a cut block attempt that resulted in a batted pass with just under six minutes remaining…Allen's best run of the day occurred on a 1st and 10 with under 2:30 remaining: a gain of six yards after breaking or eluding three tackles. That's what you like to see from your lead back.

Cierre Wood: Entered on the first drive of the 2nd Quarter and benefitted from a nice double-team seal from Matt Romine but could not shake a second defender (Max Gruder) on his first carry…Wood gained 5 yards with a hesitation just past the line on the ensuing play (Gruder again)…Good vision through two vertical holes (to borrow from Bob Diaco) and a spin-move results in a nifty 7-yard gain and an Irish first down on 3rd and 4…Picked up a 1st Down on 3rd and 2 with a full-speed straight-ahead run over right guard…Not much room but definitely danced a bit too much on a right-side 2nd and Goal sprint one play before Dayne Crist's TD run.

2nd Half:Hit the hole with authority to gain 9 yards over the right side setting up the Irish with 2nd an 1 at the Pittsburgh 21 with just over 10:20 remaining. Wood carried just twice in the second half.

Robert Hughes: Barreled for 3 yards on 2nd and 1 to give the Irish a first down on their first touchdown drive. Followed the interior trio of Stewart, Cave and Robinson for the first down yardage. Incidentally, Hughes was guilty of an illegal shift that negated the next play: an 8-yard pass to Rudolph (the penalty was offset by a Panthers offside).

Final Thoughts: Allen wasn't quite as impressive (Saturday) as he seemed live though there was very little room to run for the majority of the afternoon. Still runs hard on every snap and gives it his all as a blocker. At the very least, you beat opponents you should beat with guys like Allen populating your lineup. Wood will be better at the second level over the next three years – an innate skill set that has remained Allen's chief weakness to date.

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