Eye in the Sky: first half offense

A review of Notre Dame's offense in the first half of Saturday's upset win over the visiting Utes.

At the line of scrimmage

Brian Kelly noted the Irish ran a power set on 18 occasions. If Kyle Rudolph is unable to return (or chooses not to) next fall, you wonder if senior tight end Mike Ragone will be granted a fifth-season to serve as the team's blocking presence at the position?

Tyler Eifert's extremely poor effort to cut block Brian Blechen destroyed the opening drive's 4th down run by Wood over the right side. Great play by the true freshman safety, but a head-shaking choice to cut by Eifert in space…Not sure about the tunnel screen to Eifert from the slot as he's more of a straight-liner (Rees' throw was slightly off the mark too on the one-yard gain).

Trevor Robinson was overwhelmed by Sealver Siliga to begin the second series…Brian Kelly said it best in the pre-season, when Braxston Cave gets his hands on you and keeps his feet moving, you stay blocked…Failure to cut by Taylor Dever nearly resulted in a defensive line interception by the Utes. Dever had previously executed two keep blocks on the first drive including one at the second level (but others failed around him).

A nice block in the backfield by Chris Watt and one at the second level by Zack Martin helped backup Jonas Gray gain 7 yards on his first carry in more than a month to open the second quarter…Two snaps later, Gray nearly replicated a broken play run he showcased in April's Blue Gold Game, bouncing off a tackle inside and sprinting around the edge for a 36-yard gain down the Irish sideline. (Gray did the same on a 38-yard burst down the opposite sideline for a score in April…this one was a bit more important).

A false start on Watt registered as Notre Dame's first penalty (4:25) of the first half. Meanwhile, Utah had already suffered through 10 flags and minus 65 yards as a result.

Wood's chief two-game and off-season goal: better ball security…A north-south run up the gut by Wood (with Rees under center) gains four yards, though it doesn't help establish a sense of dominance up front when the ensuing 2nd and 6 snap features an empty backfield. It was however, effective, as Wood gained 8 on a tunnel screen thanks to a great block in space by Trevor Robinson and a fairly cheap cut block by Chris Stewart on the backside.

Irish on the perimeter

Rees missed a wide open Michael Floyd and a complete uncovered Cierre Wood on 3rd and 5, instead forcing to a well-covered Duval Kamara. Wood did not hide his displeasure…Poor pocket awareness by Rees on the ensuing series caused a three-yard sack…Good location (high and away to Superman) on his first touchdown pass of the day: a 3-yard skinny to Floyd…No idea what happened on Rees bouncer to Toma in the right flat (tipped? slipped?).

Michael Floyd received a lot of press for his crack-back block on Gray's 36-yard run but it was Duval Kamara who blocked his man downfield and pushed him to the ground throughout the run that opened up Gray's outside lane…Floyd one-on-one on a skinny post at the goal line is unfair to college cornerbacks. Touchdown Notre Dame: 14-3

Floyd simply refuses to go down after the catch and it would behoove Rees to improve his accuracy on the easy outside throws so his All-American can do work.

A fake handoff and ensuing wheel route to a wide open Wood was one of the ugliest plays (in terms of execution) of the season. Poor throw and a youth-league look to the failed catch…Rees put a seam route in Eifert's breadbasket on the following snap for an Irish first down. A bullet throw by Rees with perfect location…Rees was sacked on the next play despite solid protection. The freshman has to get rid of the football or see the open lane to his right side.

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