Eye in the Sky: QB and Tight Ends

A full film review of Tommy Rees and the Irish tight ends during Saturday's contest vs. Tulsa.

Tommy Rees

(Rees entered the contest on the game's second series after a 29-yard run by Dayne Crist during which Crist was lost to the season due to a knee injury).

After a quick swing pass to Wood to ease early jitters, Rees threw high under pressure to Michael Floyd on a WR Screen. The play was limited to a yard but the Rees took a late hit for 15 yards and an automatic first down…Strong throw on an out route to Floyd that turned into a 16-yard catch and run…Made the correct read of a flooded right side, hitting John Goodman on a 9-yard hook route inside the Tulsa zone at the 5-yard line…Missed Goodman (high) on a delayed slant for an easy touchdown though the Irish were penalized by an illegal shift (two men moving) regardless…Followed that with a boundary side comeback to Floyd for a 10-yard touchdown – the first of his Irish career…

Looked off the inside ‘backer, then calmly drilled a slant to Floyd behind him for a 14-yard gain (actually a bit high…but its Michael Floyd)…Fired a perfect pass on a roll right to Goodman but the Fort Wayne junior dropped the pass on the Irish sideline (Rees began the contest 8 for 8 before the drop)…Showed impressive arm strength on a far hash out to the Irish sideline, gaining 4 yards to John Goodman (not sure about the risk/reward of that throw)…Good accuracy on a rolling throw to Floyd to pick up 22 on 1st and 10 (Rees 12 of 13 at this point)…Dangerous screen tipped at the line intended for Jones; followed that by missing Eifert (high and behind) on 33rd and 10. A fake punt run by Bennett Jackson gave the Irish a new set of downs. Jackson's hurdle was appropriate to gain extra yards at the tail end of the play (that's rare in a football game).

Drilled a square-in to Eifert for 21 yards over the middle…Good read and throw to Michael Floyd on a 4-yard dig route across the back of the end zone…Delivered a bullet to Goodman's chest on 3rd and 1 but the ball was again dropped (ND received a reprieve on a running into the punter call on 4th Down)…Unleashed a pass too high on a far hash out to Tai-ler Jones who had shed his man coming down the stem (back to the ball)…Bailed out on a throw over the middle to a crossing Floyd and the ball bounced harmlessly on 3rd and 10, forcing the second punt of the drive.

Missed Floyd deep at the 3:09 mark. The receiver had safety help over the top though Rees could have drilled it to him earlier in the post-route….Missed his sixth straight pass (almost picked off) throwing late to a well-covered Robby Toma…

Found Toma for a 26-yard catch-and-run from the bunch formation; Rees waited patiently for Toma to break underneath the deep receivers and across the field…Took a helmet-to-helmet shot from Shawn Jackson. The penalty moved the Irish down to the Tulsa 30-yard line…Jackson earned his revenge one play later as Rees had pass tipped at the line, then caught and returned by Jackson 66 yards for a score to cut the Irish lead to two points near the end of the half. Rees looked tentative in pursuit. ND 20 Tulsa 18. Threw a pick on his next throw but no harm was down as Tulsa ran for two yards to end the half. Poor decision and throw by the true freshman, late and behind the intended receiver as Rees never set his back foot on a designed roll.

2nd Half: Wisely threw the ball away after (good) protection broke down with no one open downfield (RB Cierre Wood ran a wheel-route but was well-covered)…Escaped pressure and scrambled to the open right-side for 12 yards to the Tulsa 4-yard line. Not exactly Steve Young outside the pocket, is he? Patiently hit Cierre Wood out of the backfield on a wheel route (to the seam) for a 4-yard score. His fourth and final touchdown pass of the game and Notre Dame's final scoring play of the day. ND 27 Tulsa 18

Designed roll left gained 9 yards to T.J. Jones…Read the blitz on the following snap to hit Toma on a bubble screen and an 11-yard gain. Another solid block by Jones who put his assigned defender on the ground…Poor timing on a designed roll right with a shuffle pass underneath to running back Cierre Wood. Hard to tell if the timing issue was on Rees, Wood, pulling guard Chris Stewart, or all of the above. The main issue was the pre-determined shuffle that simply hadn't developed…Drilled on a nearside blitz by Shawn Jackson (who was all over the field); great job by Rees not to fumble as he was struck in the head.

Drilled a 3rd and 3 slant to Eifert early in the 4th Quarter but the freshman QB saw his third dropped pass of the day…Hit Eifert on the following series with a 13-yard skinny post inside Tulsa territory…Missed high and inside on a throw to T.J. Jones who had broken open outside. Rees rushed the throw, seeing pressure to his left that was eventually controlled.

Final Drive: Wisely threw away the first pass with ample time, a roll right, but no one open downfield…Swing pass to 14 yards (again behind him) starts the Irish momentum down field…Bailed out by Floyd on a remarkable one-handed catch on 1st Down but missed the open junior over the middle on 2nd Down. Too high as Floyd broke open inside zone coverage…Hit Floyd on a far side out from the slot and the Irish star did the rest, bursting upfield then down the sideline for a 26-yard gain on 3rd and 4.

Hit Jones for 8 yards inside on the following snap, setting up the Irish with 2nd and 2 at the Tulsa 24-yard line...Facing 2nd and 8 at the Tulsa 19-yard line with 42 seconds remaining, Rees rolled to his right and threw off his back foot into the end zone to a well-covered Michael Floyd. Rees badly under threw the pass which was intercepted by the Golden Hurricane to end the contest. To add insult to injury, T.J. Jones was wide open down the opposite (left) sideline.

For my opinion on the strategy (eschewing a field goal for the win), click here.

Tight End Tyler Eifert

Eifert is an advanced run blocker for a first year player; stood up the LDE on the first stretch run to his side…Sealed his man inside on the following series but Michael Floyd missed a block in space, a rarity for the junior receiver this season…Caught a quick out from the right slot (the Kyle Rudolph special) from Rees for a gain of 14 yards near the end of the first period…Made solid contact on a block to help Wood on a 9-yard swing to the left, though Eifert's man eventually made the tackle…Failed to secure a block in space on an 2nd Quarter shuffle to Robert Hughes, then again, so did everyone else…Caught a short out on a roll left from Rees, who looks comfortable throwing on the move (yes, I remember the game's last pass)…

Looked like an old pro, playing off contact (pushing off) and moving inside to secure a high throw from Rees for 21 yards…Received double team help from Ragone to secure the outside edge on a Hughes run for 5 yards and a 1st Down…Caught a harmless out route for 4 yards on 3rd and 10 as Rees threw late.

2nd Half:Blocked his defender 10 yards downfield on the first snap of the half to aid Toma on a 14-yard gain…Sealed OLB Shawn Jackson on the backside to aid Cierre Wood on an 18-yard carry over the right side…Lost a 3rd and long block in space though Wood still gained 9 yards (punt followed).

Dropped a well-thrown slant pass on the near side. Had perfect position but needed to use his body to settle into the throw that was slightly behind him…Caught an inside (skinny post vs. zone) for a 17--yard gain on the next series…Saw Shawn Jackson shed his block at the point of attack to drop Wood after two yards.

Final Drive: Great lead blocking downfield on a 14-yard swing pass to Cierre Wood.

Tight End Mike Ragone

Found and buried the OLB on the move on the game's first play, but the rest of the right side failed and Wood was limited to a minimal gain…Secured his man in space two snaps late (as did Robby Toma outside) but the Irish front five was outmanned and Wood was held to a one-yard gain…Failed to block a linebacker filling the gap on Robert Hughes' first "Leprechaun" run over left guard. Ragone ran past the linebacker to block no one in particular…Took on an outside blitzer three plays later to give Hughes room but the interior line failed to offer a push.

2nd Half: Played sparingly (if at all) in the second stanza.

Dayne Crist

Pressured immediately after the snap on his only two pass attempts…Stepped out quickly in the pocket on 3rd and 8, then sprinted past the linebacker to escape outside down the Irish sideline for a 29-yard gain, the longest of his career. Crist was lost for the season on the play due to a non-contact knee injury (he took a shot, but high. The patellar tendon in his knee apparently tore due to whiplash action after the fall. Terrible luck for the snake-bitten junior.

Bobby Burger to Bennett Jackson (Fake Punt): Facing 4th and 10 from their own 42-yard line, Burger took a punt snap at his own 32-yard line, and after four steps to his left, pitched back to a sprinting Jackson who looped around the formation for a 20-yard gain to the wide side and an Irish first down. LB Brian Smith slowed on a blocking assignment or Jackson would have sprinted down the sidelines until (at least) an encounter with Tulsa's punt returner…

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