Eye in the Sky: OL and RB

IrishEyes' full-film review of the team's offensive line and running backs in Saturday's win over Western Michigan.

Offensive Linemen

The Irish front five struggled over the first 30 minutes, their first poor showing since Week Four vs. Stanford.

Chris Stewart was likely the team's top performing lineman during an uneven (poor in the first half) day for the front line. Chris Watt and Mike Golic both showed well in late relief.

Right Tackle Zack Martin: Showed quick feet to get outside his defender, then sealed him inside on a sweep to the right early (Armando Allen fell)…Keyed front side protection on a Dayne Crist roll to the right; the QB hit Michael Floyd for a 12-yard gain on 3d and 11 and an Irish first down…Whiffed on a Paul Hazel spin move inside that forced Crist out of the pocket and resulted in 4-yard gain on 3rd and 13. Back-to-back punts for the Irish on the third and fourth series. Hazel had a major impact on the first half…Along with Trevor Robinson, threw one of two key blocks that afforded wide receiver John Goodman time on the Irish trick play touchdown to begin the second half: Goodman took a misdirection backfield pitch from Crist, pulled up and fired downfield to a well-covered Michael Floyd for a 32-yard post route touchdown. Martin controlled from snap to whistle.

Whiffed badly (terrible footwork) on Hazel's inside rush and Crist gets popped on a 3-yard screen to Floyd…Poor effort to deter Hazel one series later and the 205-pound DE then burned Robinson to sack Crist (explained below)…Chose (correctly, I think) not to block Hazel two plays later and the pass-rusher again influenced a sack, notching half-credit as the Broncos came with a heavy blitz. Martin took on a looping outside linebacker instead so the Irish could have been in trouble due to the design of the protection and Crist's decision to hold onto the ball too long…Good backside protection to stone Hazel one series later…Again controlled Hazel on a speed rush two plays later…Took on Hazel and shoved him to the ground while also knocking out another edge rusher (credit to Crist for this instance of pocket mobility) and allowed the QB to escape outside right to find a wide open Tyler Eifert for a 39-yard crossing TD. (ND 27 WMU 10).

2nd Half: Good block in space to open the half vs. Hazel, then easily sealed his defender on a 39-yard touchdown down the right sideline for Cierre Wood…Another great block to begin the next series, this time driving Hazel backward on Wood's eye-popping 14-yard gain (described in Wood's review below)…Completely dominated the outside linebacker, pancaking him in space to afford Wood room on a stretch run to the right side (negated by a hold on Braxston Cave)…Nice effort on a missed TD (no interference call vs. Floyd) as he held a seal block from snap to whistle…

Right Guard Trevor Robinson: Irrelevant in the end, but was the only player to lose his block on the first-play 80-yard TD pass to Michael Floyd…Beaten badly on a rolling pocket play as Crist was sacked by his assigned defender (Dex Jones) and Chris Prom who hustled across the field to help on the play: an 8-yard loss that forced the first Irish punt…Took his defender completely out of the play on the Goodman-to-Floyd TD pass (described above)…Helped Martin with Hazell to allow Crist time on a crossing route throw to Riddick to set up first and goal at the Broncos 9-yard line (Crist scored on the ensuing play).

Worked over by Paul Hazel on an inside rush by Paul Hazel to sack Crist inside the Irish 15-yard line. Terrible non-effort by Robinson who had an initial chip to work with (not a good one) by Martin on the snap…Executed a 5-second block to allow a scrambling Crist time to find Eifert for a 39-yard TD (also described above). Great effort on the final offensive play of the half by Robinson who had previously played poorly on the afternoon.

Center Braxston Cave: Nice pulling cut block in space to give Allen room on the second series but the hobbled Irish senior slipped down…Double whammy when he lost hit block (and held, but got away with it) as nose guard Drew Nowack whipped him to stop Wood short of the marker on a 3rd and 1 run over left tackle (ND called for a formation penalty as well)…Impressive hustle (and toughness) to bail out Tyler Eifert after the sophomore fumbled following a 15-yard gain…Caught up in traffic (bailed out TE Mike Ragone on a missed block) but then never got to his assigned defender in space and Chris Prom corralled Allen for a 3-yard gain…Gave up too much ground on a 3-step drop and Crist's pass was deflected at the line as a result.

Only lineman not to execute his block (10-yard holding call that negates another impressive run by Wood).

Left Guard Chris Stewart: Found a solid block on a pull to the right but Allen failed to gain…Buried the right outside linebacker on a stretch run with Allen to the left side but teammate Cave never executed his second (key) block…Along with a pulling Robinson, executed one of two key blocks to allow Crist, on a semi-roll to his left, room to find Tyler Eifert in the left flat for a 13-yard gain and Irish first down. ND scored a go-ahead touchdown (14-7) three plays later…Executed a pulling block to give Crist time to find Eifert on a semi-roll to his right but Crist found pressure rather than escaped it, then threw woefully short to the open tight end. But hey, Stewart found his man.

2nd Half: Strong point-of-attack block for Wood to open a gaping hole on the left side but the sophomore ‘back slipped…Never executed a block (first opportunity was a solid 20 yards downfield) as Wood gained 18 on a screen. Long run for the big man…Flipped to right guard late in the 3rd Quarter with Chris Watt taking his place on the left side. Teamed with Cave for a nice pull block late giving Wood a running lane for a spinning 24-yard gain…

Left Tackle Matt Romine: Strong lead block on Cierre Wood's first carry…Beaten around the edge by the speedy Chris Prom but recovered to get enough of the pass rusher as Crist threw complete to Tyler Eifert on 3rd and 6 for an Irish first down…Gave up too much ground, too quickly, on a 3rd and 7 middle screen early in the 2nd Quarter. Crist was buried as he threw low to Allen who would have had room to roam.

2nd half: Pulled to bury a blitzing linebacker, thus allowing Wood room at the line of scrimmage to begin his nifty 14-yard run on the second series. Without that block, Wood gains zero and doesn't have the chance to pull off the move of the season downfield…Took his man 5-yards downfield but Wood slipped on a minimal gain…Found his block in the left flat to pave the way for an 18-yard screen pass to Wood on the following play…Executed a cut-block seven yards downfield to give Wood a gain of eight yards early in the final period…

Left Guard Chris Watt: First action was a pull in space for Hughes on a 5-yard gain. I'm looking forward to Watt on similar plays in the future…Solid strike in space on a tunnel screen to T.J. Jones later in the drive…After moving to right guard, executed a pulling block (right to left) to give Wood room but Toma was able to secure his defender in space and Wood was limited to a minimal gain…A bit off balance on a pull to the right leading Nate Montana for a one-yard first down…

Left Tackle Andrew Nuss: Won on his first seal block to afford Hughes room over the left side on a 5-yard gain…Beaten badly, then held, on the following run to his side. Sloppy effort by Nuss outside…Responded on the next play with a seal to allow Hughes a lane off left tackle (limited to 4 yards)…

Running Backs

Tough to critique four handoffs and a couple of dump passes in a 30-minute first half...Allen wasn't close to 100 percent and Wood has to stop putting the ball on the ground (recovered his own error).

Wood owned the second half, looking intermittently spectacular en route to a career best 94-yards.

Armando Allen: Couldn't handle a poorly thrown swing pass from Crist (behind him) to begin the second series…Slipped in the open field when making a cut on the edge (near the line of scrimmage) on the following play…Ran into traffic inside and couldn't break free on his next carry two plays later…Fought and spun for three yards on a stretch run to the left. Allen did not benefit from quality blocking on the play…

2nd Half: DNP

Cierre Wood: Received a nice push on the left side but didn't get the second level block he needed from a cracking Theo Riddick and was thus limited to three yards on his first carry (third series)…Two nice moves on a middle screen to navigate traffic in a 6-yard gain. Wood could have had more if Romine had found anyone to block in space…technically executed his cut-block on a 3-step drop by Crist that was deflected on the other side of scrimmage…Caught a dump pass to set up 4th and 5 (which became Notre Dame's fourth TD of the first half one play later). Wood fumbled but recovered on the catch.

2nd Half: Found five yards behind Martin and a pulling Cave as the Irish decide to test 200-pound pass rusher Paul Hazel in the run game on the opening play of the second half (Eureka!)…Wood took the ensuing handoff untouched for a 39-yard score down the same sideline and the rout was finally on (ND 34 WMU 17).

In his seventh career contest, Cierre Wood recorded the program's longest touchdown run since Thanksgiving Weekend 2003. Draw your own conclusions…

Gains 14 yards due largely to the best move by a Notre Dame running back in several years (maybe more than a decade), bouncing backwards to deke a second level defender after already running through two arm tackles with a spin move in space. Holy Cow…Showed tremendous vision and balance on a 9-yard run negated by a hold on Braxston Cave…Lost his footing on a cutback (had a pretty big hole) and was limited to two yards…Showed excellent patience, vision and balance on a 24-yard gain early in the final period. Wood's "suddenness" is rivaled only by Theo Riddick (who I still think is quicker) on the current roster.

Robert Hughes: His first snap occurred on ND's final first half drive: Hughes lowered his head and appeared to have his neck snapped to the side on a pass block attempt. The senior was down for more than a minute but returned in the second half.

2nd Half:Lowered his head to finish a 5-yard gain over the left side with under 5:00 remaining in the 3rd Quarter…Upended and fumbled but down by contact after four yards on a left tackle run (Rule of thumb: don't jump when you outweigh the defender by 50 pounds)…

Carried six consecutive for 54 yards to complete the contest:

  • A left side push for five yards behind a solid block from Watt
  • Limited to two yards over the same side though he appeared to have a lane behind Junior Mike Golic who pulled from center over the right side
  • An 8-yard gain up the gut thanks to Golic again. Hughes finished with a brutal blow (low man wins) vs. safety Demetrius Pettaway
  • Found little room over the left side but carried the pile for five yards; then burst for 30 on the following snap, following a pull and seal by Golic over the right side as well as a solid block at the point by right guard Alex Bullard seeing his first action. Hughes spun twice to elude two second-level tackles, then broke through arm tackles for the game's second longest run. Jake Golic through a late block to spring Hughes for the final sprint downfield. Hughes finished with a four-yard gain before QB Tommy Rees took a knee to end the proceedings.

Final Thoughts: A star was (re)born in Wood, who hadn't looked the part since the season opener vs. Purdue. Hughes broke off his second late-game run in excess of 30 yards on the season while Allen struggled to play through the hip flexor injury and with what we assume was less than a full day of practice over the course of the week.

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