Eye in the Sky: OL and RBs

A full-film review of Notre Dame's offensive linemen and the running back tandem of Cierre Wood and Robert Hughes during Saturday's loss to Tulsa.

Right Tackle Zack Martin

Solid block on the first run to his side but an assignment was missed behind him…Beaten around the edge quickly on the first series' 3rd and long. The pressure by freshman DE Shawn Jackson forced Crist to throw away a designed screen…Strong seal inside on Tommy Rees' first snap, a gain of six yards by Cierre Wood off Martin's outside shoulder…False start on an early 3rd and 3 though the Irish earned a first-down due to penalty one play later…Recovered after a false step to keep outside pressure away from Rees as the QB hit John Goodman for 9 yards down to the Tulsa 4-yard line.

Took on a blitzing OLB and completely stoned him to allow Rees a passing lane over the left side…Missed a cut block and his standing defender batted down a WR screen intended for T.J. Jones…Completely dominated his man on a 5-yard direct snap run by Robert Hughes inside the 10-yard line…Turned his man inside on a touchdown pass to Floyd (20-12 ND).

2nd Half: Tremendous pulling block to open a lane for Wood on the sophomore's longest gain of the afternoon. Martin came across the line of scrimmage to seal the right outside linebacker on an 18-yard counter by Wood…Executed two blocks: the first a double-team effort with Stewart, then kicked out to the second level to secure the inside ‘backer, opening a lane for Wood to gain 5 yards on 2nd and 1…Fell offside due to a fake blitz in front of him, costing the Irish five yards on 2nd and 10 (punt two snaps later)…Missed a backside block vs. Shawn Jackson (though on a roll away from his side); nevertheless, Jackson's sprint after Rees forced the freshman to throw the ball away vs. what otherwise would have been perfect protection.

Rare occurrence of a missed pulling block on the ensuing play as LB Cody Wilson sub-marined low to drop Hughes after three yards on what appeared to be an open right side…Picked up an outside blitzer and shoved him behind the pocket but Rees bailed on what became a nice pocket by throwing high and out of bounds…(Final drive): Absorbed, then shoved an edge rusher out of the way of Rees to give the QB a passing angle on a 6-yard out to Floyd.

Right Guard Trevor Robinson

Took one false step outside and whiffed badly (zero contact) on a well-timed blitz that pressure Dayne Crist into his second incompletion in as many attempts…Followed his man across the line on a stunt which allowed a delayed blitz a free run at QB Tommy Rees. Interesting that the Irish would block head-up in pass protection inside the 5-yard line…Absorbed a bull rush on the following play to allow Rees room in the pocket on his first career TD toss: a 10-yard strike to Michael Floyd.

Unable to secure his block on a shuffle to Robert Hughes early in the second quarter, though that's a design flaw more so than the fault of Robinson…Great job in space to pull over left guard and open a hole for Robert Hughes on a direct snap…Took the lazy approach, absorbing a bull rush while being pushed back into the pocket but Rees still hit Floyd for 9 yards.

2nd Half: Strong effort in protection from the Pistol formation on a play-action fake but there was no one open downfield (Cierre Wood on a wheel route was the target)…Took out a blitzing linebacker with a pin block inside, allowing Rees a 12-yard scramble to the right…Poor effort executing a second level assignment vs. inside linebacker Cody Wilson, who helped drop Wood for a two-yard loss. Robinson secured his first block on the play but was way late, waving his arm at the charging Wilson to end the 3rd Quarter.

Head-shaking lack of effort/execution on a Wood run over right tackle as the pulling Robinson openly whiffed (and played way too high) as the Irish runner was dropped after a two yard gain, forcing a punt from the Tulsa 38-yard line. An easy first down if Robinson secures his assignment or if Wood shows a little bit more patience/wiggle to the outside.

Center Braxston Cave

Whiffed on MLB in space on the first play (tackle made in front of him anyway)…Chose to change assignments midway through a pull to the left side and his linebacker filled to drill Wood after one-yard on 2nd and 15. In fairness to Cave, it was another slow-developing stretch run that might have been stopped for a loss from behind had the center not peeled off to block backside pursuit.

Recovered with sheer strength after being beaten by a bull rush off the snap. Cave completely controlled his man despite losing initial leverage…Overrun on an inside blitz and the resulting pressure forced a quick Rees throw short of the marker, forcing an Irish punt late in the half.

2nd Half: Teamed with Trevor Robinson to pancake the nose guard on Wood's 18-yard run over right tackle…Lost leverage and was shoved to the ground on a stretch run to the left (then again, he kept his defender off his feet as well and away from the play)…Low snap on the first play of the final drive but Rees handled it well.

Left Guard Chris Stewart

Miscommunication with LT Zack Martin on an outside blitz during the second series. The ensuing pressure forced Dayne Crist from the pocket and the QB was lost for the season due to a non-contact injury at the tail end of the play…Power block for Robert Hughes on a direct snap run directly behind the massive left guard…Nice adjustment to an inside stunt to allow Rees time to throw deep (incomplete).

2nd Half: Teamed with Cave on a double-team block to provide Wood a lane but the sophomore hesitated a bit and was limited to four yards…Pulled to the right and pancaked his defender in space but Stewart's timing was way off with Wood running behind him on a designed roll and shuffle-pass from Rees…Poor leverage on a Pistol hand-off to the right though Zack Martin neglecting a backside block behind him is what technically caused Wood to suffer a two-yard loss (to end the 3rd Quarter)…Got away with a hold on a pull over the right side though Wood was limited to two yards, regardless.

Right Tackle Taylor Dever

After first driving his man inside, lost block due to a spin move and defensive end Corry Dorris stopped Wood after a yard in the hole (also a slow-developing play)…Whiffed on the first 3rd and long and his defender contributed to a harassed Dayne Crist who was forced to throw away a screen attempt…Secured his man to the outside to allow Tommy Rees a passing lane, finding Floyd on an out to the right vs. zone coverage…Secured his one-on-one block to allow Rees room on a pass down the right seam for 14 yards.

Left a double-team effort with Robinson to pickup a looping outside stunt, allowing Rees a 26-yard toss over the middle to Robby Toma…Failure to cut an outside blitz on the next snap resulted in a pass tipped at the line - one that was intercepted and returned 66 yards for a crippling end-half touchdown by the visitors. Notre Dame started the play at the Tulsa 30-yard line with 50 seconds remaining and an 8-point lead. It ended the half up 20-19. A microcosm of the ND season.

2nd Half: Secured the edge early in the half to aid Wood on his 18-yard counter over right tackle…Beaten outside but recovered to bury the OLB on an edge rush, thus allowing Rees a 12-yard scramble over the right side…Nice effort channeling an inside rusher to the middle, then picking up a looping stunt outside (Rees threw incomplete)…(Final Drive): Solid one-on-one protection but Rees missed Floyd high on a square-in. Late in blitz pickup of a looping stunt to the outside on the final play as Rees rolled right (and into pressure) on his fated throw.

Left Tackle Matt Romine

Entered the contest to begin the 2nd Quarter and was immediately beaten off the edge. Romine recovered late to barely push the pressure beyond Rees on a 4-yard out to John Goodman…Alertly allowed an inside stunt room, then sealed inside as Rees rolled outside away from pressure, connecting an 11-yard gain to Floyd…Nice backside, one-on-one protection allowed Rees time on a square-in to Tyler Eifert for 21 yards and a first down inside the Tulsa 20-yard line…Lost his block on Robert Hughes' 3rd consecutive direct snap run (though the Irish were outnumbered, to boot).

2nd half: Entered early in the 4th Quarter and pinned the defensive end inside for an off-tackle run but both Zack Martin (pulling) and Robert Hughes (the ball carrier) were tentative on the play. Romine played sparingly in the second half.

Note: Tulsa's blocked PAT that resulted in 2-points on the ensuing full-field return was the result of DL Cory Dorris splitting the snapper (Bill Flavin) and right guard Lane Clelland.

Running Back Cierre Wood

Opening drive: Wood runs a bit too tentatively from the Pistol attack, finding the minimal number of yards on both of his first two carries…Absolutely destroyed backside pursuit of Dayne Crist with a downfield block on the QBs 29-yard, season-ending run. Easily the most physical play of the season by the redshirt-freshman…Showed nice vision and one-cut quickness to the outside on the ensuing play, a six-yard counter over left tackle…One series later, nice cut before slipping down after a 9-yard gain on backfield swing pass to the left side…Took a well-designed hook-and-lateral pitch from T.J. Jones (who caught a bubble screen from Tommy Rees) untouched down the Irish sideline for his first career TD reception. Wood sprinted unmolested for 23 yards. Good speed, but every RB in the country should score on the play.

Showed outside quickness to follow a Zack Martin seal for 5 yards over the left side, setting up the Irish with 2nd Down at the Tulsa 13-yard line…Cut block vs. blitzing inside linebacker allowed Rees time (and space) to find Michael Floyd for a 4-yard touchdown strike. Best half of the season for Wood as a blocker: one vicious hit in space, and one crucial stop in pass protection.

Taken down one-on-one in the hole on a read-option play: Rees should have kept the ball and Wood shouldn't turn sideways into oncoming linebackers…Cut down another outside blitz one play later but a well-thrown slant by Tommy Rees was dropped…Two plays later, aggressively hit a delayed blitzer in the upper thigh (another effective block by Wood)…Aggressive blitz pickup caused a miss in space, though Wood got enough of the blitzer's outside shoulder to deter him on what would have been a direct route to Rees. I'll take aggression over technique for a first-year running back in pass protection any day…Too tentative on a 3rd and 7 run to the right that appeared promising - it should be noted that Robinson whiffed badly on a block in front of him.

2nd Half: Finished through tacklers at the second level on his first carry of the half, an 18-yard counter over the right side. Good vision, balance and power by the first-year runner…Tentative, then missed a lane over the left side, tripping over Zack Martin's outside leg for a four-yard gain…Easy touchdown catch - his second of the game and the contest - on a 6-yard wheel route to give the Irish a 27-18 edge. Terrible coverage by the Golden Hurricanes who quit on the play when they saw a flag at the snap. That's the first two TD reception game by an Irish RB since Tony Fisher turned the trick in 2000.

Gained 9 yards on a 3rd and 9 draw midway through the 3rd Quarter, showing nice vision and feet to avoid a tackle just past scrimmage…Missed a weak side blitz pickup by Shawn Jackson and the result was a 7-yard sack and big hit (helmet-to-helmet) on Tommy Rees (the Irish punted one play later).

(Final Drive): Strong cut block in blitz pickup to begin the drive (incomplete pass)…Athletic adjustment to catch a swing pass behind him on the ensuing play; Wood spun after the catch and ran through two arm tackles and finally over a third for a 14-yard gain…Sealed his man downfield to allow Floyd yards after the catch but its worth noting that had Wood stoned his defender, Floyd would have rambled for a 58-yard go-ahead score down the Irish sidelines (instead of a 26-yard first down to the Tulsa 32…Gained a disciplined 3 yards over right tackle to pick up the first down at the Tulsa 21-yard line. There might have been a cutback lane inside but Wood did the right thing under the circumstances by ensuring the first down…Next play (the final before Rees' interception), barreled over the left side to set up Notre Dame perfectly at the Tulsa 19-yard line. It's probably better if I stop watching at this point.

Of Note: Wood has improved greatly in blitz pickup though he did have one key missed assignment resulting in weak side sack (and big hit) of Tommy Rees.

Running Back Robert Hughes

Got his first taste of action at the beginning of the 2nd Quarter, catching a 1-yard shuffle from Rees that fooled no one on the Tulsa defense…Big interior blitz pickup on the next play allowed Rees time for a 4-yard gain…Two plays later, provided an additional shoulder on the move to aid LT Zack Martin on a roll left (short completion)…Expertly picked up an outside blitz two snaps later though the pass sailed incomplete…Took a "Leprechaun" formation run into the line for 3 yards on 2nd and 5 down to the Tulsa 10-yard line…Next snap, same formation: followed a power block from Chris Stewart and Zack Martin, and more important - a pulling block in the whole from RG Trevor Robinson over left guard for 5 yards and an Irish first down inside the Tulsa 5-yard line.

2nd Half: Dropped a catchable, though not easy dump-off pass, taking a shot from the side in the process…Good vision through a slight lane over the left side to gain 5 yards on 2nd and 1…Buried on 1st and 10 because Rees is not a running threat on the read-option at this point…Might have missed an outside lane on an off-tackle run to the right midway through the final period. Hughes either missed the opening or ran too tentatively inside as one linebacker won vs. Hughes and a pulling Zack Martin (Wood entered for Hughes on the next play…and also missed a running lane).

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