Eye in the Sky: Crist and the passing game

The first of a two-part review detailing Notre Dame's passing attack in Saturday's matchup vs. South Florida.

Rushing Offense: first half

Rushing Defense: second half

Players reviewed below include: LT Zack Martin, LG Chris Watt, C Braxston Cave, RG Trevor Robinson, RT Taylor Dever, Tight Ends Tyler Eifert and Mike Ragone, wide receivers Mike Floyd, T.J. Jones, and Theo Riddick, running back Cierre Wood, and quarterback Dayne Crist.

First Quarter – Crisp Start Spoiled

Crist's opening flair pass to Wood, good for 31 yards, was reviewed among Notre Dame's rushing plays (linked above).

The senior's first downfield strike to Floyd was a boundary-side slant that gained 26 yards including 17 after the catch. Floyd runs with abandon through downfield arm tackles…

It was the final pass of the drive prior to Jonas Gray's 96-yard error. In fact, Crist threw only one pass on a five-play second possession, a bail-out throw to the flat to Eifert well short of the marker on 3rd Down…

Crist's next two passes (third series) fell incomplete, vexing because Gray provided a 2nd and 1 opportunity with a nine-yard run to start the drive. A rolling Crist first missed Riddick high by about five yards – Riddick had broken relatively free running a deep cross beyond the right hash; Floyd might have been open underneath though Crist should have probably tucked and run…Following a delay of game, Crist then threw high and outside to a wide open Floyd on a field-side slant that would have moved the chains – a terrible pass that forced the Irish to punt…

Crist got back on track with a field side look to Jones who powered through the tackler to gain eight yards after the catch, earning 13 yards on his first reception of the season…Following an 18-yard rush by Wood, Crist found Floyd for 11 yards on another quick look pass with yards after the catch, this time to the boundary. The Irish ended the quarter at the USF 26-yard line, trailing 13-0

Second Quarter – Physical Errors Abound

Crist opened the second quarter with a check-down to Ragone in the boundary flat for 12 yards and a first down…Following a called-back touchdown and a pair of runs resulting in 2nd and Goal, Crist threw a bit behind Jones on a field side slant – a catch able ball to be sure, but not a great throw as a low inside throw would have resulted in six points…

Crist's next throw was an inexplicable soft toss to a well-covered Riddick in the back of the end zone; one that landed softy in the hands of trailing linebacker DeDe Lattimore. I'm not sure what was worse: the decision or the lobbed toss…I disagree with Kelly and the prevailing sentiment that Floyd was open on the play: I think he would have been tackled at the 2-yard line by linebacker Sam Barrington who had already stepped toward the crossing senior…

Following a debut false start by 5th-year senior left guard Andrew Nuss, Crist's accuracy issues continued into the next Irish drive, missing Eifert on a 2nd and 5 pass rolling to the left (field) side. On the following 3rd and 5 attempt, Riddick's hands betrayed him: dropping an easy ball that hit him in both hands at the first down marker – a head-shaking drop for a player we were told has "great" hands…

Thanks to a botched punt return by Riddick and subsequent Bulls field goal, the Irish finished the half with two uninspired drives: Crist was sacked for an 11-yard loss on first down during which he appeared to stay in the pocket, unaware of the pressure to his right – right tackle Taylor Dever allowed outside leverage then was overpowered by the defender to allow the sack.

Crist then threw late and behind Eifert on a crossing pattern for first down yardage – Eifert needs to make that catch as the ball hit him in the hands at shoulder level…His two other passes were inconsequential, the latter incomplete due to immediate backside pressure.

The Irish ended the half trailing 16-0 with Crist hitting just 7 of 15 passes for 95 yards and an end zone interception.

First-half Observations:

  • Crist began 5-7 for 85 yards, though he enjoyed just a pair of completions on passes thrown more than a few yards beyond the line of scrimmage. Of his final eight throws, one was an unconscionable interception, two were dropped, one was knocked down (likely thrown late) and one was a rushed incompletion as the result of backside pressure. His two second quarter completions were check down throws gaining 12 and 0 yards.

  • The Irish used the quick look throw across scrimmage to pickup at least 13 yards after the catch on two completions (Jones and Floyd) – it will become a staple of the offense, regardless of the week's chosen quarterback, to balance a running game that might have just one reliable competitor.

  • Crist's missed slant to Floyd in the first quarter was inexcusable from a college quarterback; Jones, Riddick, and Eifert each could have helped their senior quarterback keep his job with touchdown and two first down receptions, respectively.

  • Crist threw four passes to the boundary, seven to the field, and four down the middle/seams…numbers that I expect will become notable upon completion of the second half review and Tommy Rees' efforts in the passing game.

Note: The second half review of Tommy Rees performance in the passing game is forthcoming.

IrishIllustrated.com Top Stories