Eye in the Sky: 2nd Half Offense

Notre Dame needed just one downfield pass (and a pair of shuffles) to balance 270 second-half rushing yards in Saturday night's humbling of the Hurricanes.

Notre Dame

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The Irish began the half with a swing pass to running back Cierre Wood who gained nine thanks to a secure block by slot receiver Robby Toma…Wood then executed a stretch over the right side for a first down on 2nd and 1…Quarterback Everett Golson completed his second pass of the drive and his final pass of the contest, a 24-yard post route to redshirt-freshman wide receiver DaVaris Daniels for 24 yards. The pitch-and-catch was one of the prettiest of the season for the pair…the rest of the quarter belonged to Wood and sophomore 'back George Atkinson:

Wood took the ensuing handoff 37 yards over the right side (a recurring theme in the second stanza) down to the Miami 2-yard line, barreling over right guard and center for the untouched score thereafter. Wood's long gain was made possible by a patient cutback behind scrimmage, allowing right tackle Christian Lombard to seal over the middle (the newly created backside of the play). Right guard Mike Golic, center Braxston Cave, and move tight end Troy Niklas each provided strong blocks at the point as well, as did tight end Tyler Eifert at the second level. Wood did the rest with a stiff-arm to create space and enough room to score thanks to a phenomenal downfield block at the goal line by wide receiver T.J. Jones. Wood however stepped out at the two prior to his dive…

Wood's score one snap later was his first of 2012; left guard Chris Watt, right guard Mike Golic (pulling) and left tackle Zack Martin dominated at the point for Wood's score, as did a quick-developing Troy Niklas inline. Niklas just disposed of his assigned defender.

Decisive Drive

Leading 20-3 and retaking possession at its own 14-yard line, Notre Dame embarked on a 12-play, 86-yard touchdown drive.

  • After Atkinson took it over right tackle for three yards, Wood burst for 12 in the same direction, using a stiff-arm after seals by Lombard and Eifert and a quality power block by Golic…

  • Wood hit for six more on consecutive carries: a cut-back over the middle followed by another straight up the gut thanks to a collection of quality blocks at the point from Niklas, Martin, Watt, and Cave with Golic delivering a pop at the second level to ensure the first down yardage…

  • Atkinson provided the drive's biggest play, taking a shuffle pitch from Golson over the right for 31 yards down to the Miami 28-yard line. Atkinson benefitted from a seal block from Eifert wide and an absolutely dominant effort from Niklas in the slot (Niklas deserves a game ball as part of the offensive line). Atkinson's first contact was 8-yards downfield and he ran right through it…

  • Wood gained 5 yards (right, behind Lombard) then 6 yards (left: Martin, Cave, Watt, Niklas); he added 3 yards (center, behind Cave, Golic, Lombard), Atkinson another 4 (center, Cave might have chosen a different defender that made a tackle in space), and Wood another two (Eifert lost his block late) to set up 4th and 1 at the Hurricanes 8-yard line. Miami though committed a personal foul, setting up the Irish with 1st and Goal at the Miami 4-yard line.

  • Wood hammered over left guard for a yard (the Irish front was outnumbered due to a run blitz as Golic executed his pulling block, then Wood finished the drive with a 3-yard cutback over right guard for the score and a 27-3 lead. Credit Golic's pull block for room in the backfield, a push by Lombard, and a seal by Niklas for the score.

Wood's score put him over 100 yards for the first time in 2012. The drive included five rushes to the right, four up the gut, and three more over the left side.

Quick Strike Courtesy GA3: Leading 27-3 after a Miami three-and-out, Notre Dame took just three snaps to score: a 12-yard gain by Wood thanks to Lombard and Golic winning at the point with Toma provided some room in space off the slot (Lombard completely sealed his man outside); a 4-yard gain on a shuffle right by Atkinson for first down yardage (Lombard and Niklas won; the latter in dominating fashion) and then the death knell for the 'Canes -- a 55-yard sprint and score by Atkinson, whose breathtaking speed put the final nail in Miami's Windy City Coffin…

Thanks to a huge push up front, Atkinson took a handoff from center over a vacated right side (thanks to an ill-timed cornerback blitz), switched the ball to his right arm, and simply outran everything South Beach's finest had to offer, outrunning laughable angles by the ready-to-quit 'Canes.

Ball Game.

The Final Quarter

Junior quarterback Tommy Rees started the contest and also finished it, taking every offensive snap of the fourth quarter and directing a 13-play, 93-yard scoring march that included just one pass attempt, a 21-yard shuffle pass to Cam McDaniel that could have been scored as a rushing attempt…

Atkinson tore off an 18-yard gain thanks to quality blocks from tight end Ben Koyack, Cave, Golic, backup left guard Conor Hanratty, and Lombard.. Niklas was again there to provide a pop at the point…Cam McDaniel used two quick cuts, one at scrimmage and one just past for 8 yards over the right side…McDaniel then went left for five yards picking up a downfield block by Daniel Smith as McDaniel was leveled on the carry but not until he gained first down yardage. Nice move block by Koyack as well…

McDaniel touched the rock on each of the drive's next 10 snaps (and 12 of 13 overall) accounting for 75 of the 93 yards gained en route to a 41-3 lead and final margin.

His longest play was technically a pass, a 21-yard shuffle left from Rees in which Niklas and Smith dominated their defenders in space, giving McDaniel a 13-yard head start before even minimal contact could occur…McDaniel added 3, 7, 0, 7 (on 4th and 5), 6, 15, 0, 2 (on 2nd and Goal at the 3-yard line) and finally a 1-yard plunge for his first career score.

McDaniel's 4th and 5 gain of 7 yards kept the drive alive and was the result of a quality push up front by backups Matt Hegarty ©, RG Bruce Heggie, LG Hanratty, and LT Nick Martin…McDaniel's 15-yard burst over left tackle included a nifty cut at scrimmage and 15-yard thanks to a Koyack seal and a horse-collar tackle that placed the Irish at the Miami 4-yard line. McDaniel scored three snaps later, barreling the first touchdown of his Irish career. Left tackle Nick Martin, pulling right guard Bruce Heggie, Koyack, and fourth-string tight end Jake Golic in his first action of the season executed the key blocks.

Notre Dame 41 Miami 3

Additional Observations

The Irish attempted only three passes in the second half (all complete) and did not attempt to throw from the fifth snap of the opening drive through the xth snap of their final offensive series. Notre Dame ran 31 times for 270 yards and four touchdowns in the half…

Junior Tate Nichols made his collegiate debut Saturday night, coming in midway through the fourth quarter and contributing from right tackle to Notre Dame's final scoring drive.

Notre Dame "won" 25 snaps, lost 13 and had 12 neutral by my rating system in the first half, with three big plays and two huge, drive-changing plays (including a roughing the punter call on Miami) in the offense's favor. Among the 12 "losses" on offensive snaps were one big play and one huge momentum switch (Kyle Brindza's missed field goal to end the half.

In the decisive third quarter, Notre Dame produced 15 wins including three big plays and three drive/game changing chunks, just two lost snaps (one a false start on the Irish) and five neutral snaps. It was the most dominant quarter of the 2012 season by Brian Kelly's Irish.

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