Eye in the Sky: Shut-out Finish

O'Malley's final film review examines Notre Dame's defensive effort in the second-half of Saturday's 17-14 win over Brigham Young.

Our first half breakdowns can be found at the links below:

Click here for a film review of Notre Dame's first quarter defense vs. the Cougars.

And here for a rarity in 2012: a breakdown of Notre Dame's touchdowns allowed.

Second Half Defense

Brigham Young took possession in the third with a 14-7 advantage, but advanced the chains just once, gaining 15 yards on six snaps.

Kapron Lewis-Moore was sealed on a toss-sweep to start the drive with Te'o a touch late coming through the hole (Prince Shembo and Lewis-Moore made the stop five yards downfield)…A dual-inside 'backer blitz (Te'o and Dan Fox) forced Cougars quarterback Riley Nelson from the pocket and his panicked (forward) pitch to Williams was initially ruled a fumble covert by Te'o and the Irish. The call was rightly overturned as a forward pass, setting up BYU with 3rd and 6 from their own 34-yard line…Stand-up nickel pass rusher Ishaq Williams offered a strong pocket push but Nelson's quick out to sly receiver J.D. Falslev was enough for a first down as Danny Spond was caught too far inside in coverage…

The Cougars stalled thereafter with nose guard Louis Nix making a backfield hit that Te'o and Shembo cleaned up after 2 yards, then then with Shembo tackling Nelson for a one-yard gain as the pocket collapsed around him courtesy pressure by Lewis-Moore inside…3rd and 6 brought a five yard completion to tight end Kaneakua Friel, one stopped short of the sticks thanks to tight coverage by Spond. Notre Dame brought a blitz around the right side (picked up) with Dan Fox while the four-man nickel line of Williams (RDE), Tuitt (RDT), Lewis-Moore (LDT) and Shembo (RDE) maintained their lanes pushing the pocket….

After forcing the Irish offense into a three-and-out, the Cougars next drive was a nine-play march that ultimately ended in a missed 46-yard field goal by Justin Sorensen. BYU came out throwing, targeting freshman Keivarae Russell with a boundary swing pass (nice open-field stop by Russell who played it well, first trailing a motioning receiver to his side), then reading a Russell corner blitz for a 19-yard gain to the vacated sign, Cody Hoffman absorbing a big hit from safety Matthias Farley on the play. Carlo Calabrese was not deep enough in his help side coverage and Farley was a half-tick late…

After Spond limited a Jamaal Williams rush to no gain (Spond set the edge perfectly with Nix and Tony Springmann clogging the middle), the Cougars attempted to beat Russell with another boundary screen, but the competitive freshman fought off a Ross block to record a two-yard loss…The resulting 3rd and 12 was converted when Nelson delivered a strike to Ross between Russell (trailing) and Farley on a boundary corner route. Russell gave up inside position to the much taller Hoffman. Tuitt and Shembo gave good edge pressure but the stand-up blitz by Ishaq Williams did not push the pocket…

Hoffman and BYU attacked Russell again, this time for 3 yards to the boundary. A field side rush by Williams followed, limited to a yard gain when cornerback Bennett Jackson and Te'o combined to clean up a run first stymied inside by backup nose guard Kona Schwenke's penetration. Jackson injured his neck on the play but returned later in the contest…

Brigham Young's ensuing 3rd and 6 was disrupted by pressure up the gut from Nix, the 330-pound standout completely collapsed a solo block attempt while Tuitt came around Nelson's legs as well as the Irish remained in a base defense (redshirt-freshman Jalen Brown in for the injured Jackson). The pressure negated what would have been an easy first down pass to open slot receiver JD Falslev...Sorenson's missed field goal followed and the Irish still trailed 14-7 with 6:31 remaining in the third.

Lockdown

The Cougars had just two more legitimate shots at the Irish, first going three-and-out to end the quarter after Notre Dame cut the visitors lead to 14-10 on a Kyle Brindza field goal.

BYU elected three straight passes in response, first throwing incomplete thanks to front-side pressure from Shembo who showed impressive speed chasing a bootleg to his side. Nelson hit Ross Apo for 7 yards on a bubble screen but Spond and safety Zeke Motta saved a potential first down with a solid sideline stop. The Cougars third-and-three throw fell incomplete as Nelson panicked in the pocket with pressure the result of looping stunts by Shembo and Ishaq Williams, the former freeing defensive tackle Kapron Lewis-Moore a lane into Nelson's face…

Bend...and Attack

Now trailing 17-14 after a George Atkinson touchdown run, Brigham Young's lone fourth quarter drive was their best of the contest, a 13-play, 50-yard march that took 6:42 off the clock but ultimately ended in a Cougars punt.

First pinning the Cougars at their own 16-yard line to start the drive, the Irish dominated BYU up front with with Lewis-Moore held on an opening scramble by Nelson, then Nix destroying an inside hand-off to Williams after splitting a weak double team block first. Nix struck again two snaps later on 3rd and 16, but this time with a negative for his defense, splitting a double team again but then grasping and turning the face mask of Nelson who was escaping the pocket and had no chance at gaining anything close to first-down yardage on the scramble.

Nix responded on 1st and 10 by blowing through the Cougars interior to force Nelson up in the pocket, his resulting throw broken up by a diving Danny Spond who came off his underneath coverage just in time to breakup a pass thrown to a receiver more than five yards behind him -- an incredible, NFL-worthy defensive pass breakup by Spond…

Lewis-Moore diagnosed and defended his second shuffle pass of the day, stopping Williams after five yards with help from Te'o…Nelson escaped on 3rd and 5 thanks to a void up the middle as Dan Fox vacated his responsibility in containment, choosing to double-team a backfield release instead…Two more 5-yard advances gave the Cougars another first down before Nelson threw incomplete to Hoffman on 1st and 10 from the Irish 46. Hoffman had broken free vs. a busted Irish coverage for an easy touchdown but Nelson threw behind a wide open Hoffman down the post…

With the game's biggest bullet dodged, the Irish defense nonetheless yielded gains of 8 and 7 yards on back-to-back passes, the first underneath to Hoffman vs. Russell, then on 3rd and 2 as Nelson ran a designed draw for 8 yards as the Irish were successfully blocked…

Stressed to their 31-yard line, Diaco's defense responded with another dual-inside 'backer blitz, this time Calabrese and Te'o with the former combining on a sack with Tuitt who came off right tackle…Faced with 2nd and 19, Nelson managed just six (Fox on the stop after Russell helped slow the bubble screen pass) then threw incomplete on 3rd and 13 from the ND-34 -- the final QB hurry of the game by Lewis-Moore who broke through a double team inside and, upon further review, might have been the player of the game (I chose Nix post-game).

Notre Dame's final defensive series was a prevent scenario with BYU backed up to its own 20 at the 0:22 mark. Danny Spond ended the threat with a downfield interception, the first of his college career.

Final Observations

It speaks volumes to the development of both the team's backup defensive backs (negative) and the versatility that Notre Dame's base defenders (positive) that the defenses's chosen personnel on both 3rd and long and prevent situations involves 3-4 linebackers and four defensive backs rather than 5-6 of the latter…

- Ishaq Williams has taken over the nickel defender role of late, with freshman Elijah Shumate not appearing form scrimmage Saturday, and playing just four snaps vs. Stanford (and five vs. Miami). Williams length helps in short zone coverage and his ability to rush the passer from either a standup position inside or down defensive end spot adds another wrinkle…

- First appearing in the role vs. Miami, Danny Spond plays a de facto cornerback role -- underneath coverage with safety help -- in obvious passing situations…

- Louis Nix won the Irisheyes.com defensive MVP award in my weekly "At First Glance" column…upon further film review, Kapron Lewis-Moore was the best, followed by Spond, Nix, Te'o, and down the line, Tuitt and Shembo. Tuitt's two mental errors were costly Saturday, but he still dominated physically often, with a missed tackle in space an instance of poor technique (too high without breaking down to make contact)…

- Tony Springmann was highly effective at both 3-4 end and 4-3 tackle -- his progress has completely offset the pre-season loss of presumed No. 6 DL Chase Hounshell (shoulder surgery)…Kona Schwenke contributed some early pressure on Nelson as well, though he remains a bit inconsistent at holding the point vs. the run. If Schwenke emerges over the next six games, the Irish will be impossible to beat up front, as freshman defensive end Sheldon Day continues to apply pressure and hold his own with his hand on the ground…

- Irish fans will have to take the good with the bad regarding Calabrese -- at his best going downhill after one step as both an occasional blitzed and gap-filling 'backer, but susceptible to the pass and oncoming blockers when forced to skate laterally…Fox was uncharacteristically out of position vs. BYU on a crucial third down -- he's far better snap-to-snap than credited by most Irish fans…

- Matthias Farley suffered what might have been his only sub par game to date; his safety-mate Zeke Motta was quiet though its notable BYU's longest pass play was 20 yards, and that on their first snap…

- We'll see how far first-time starters Bennett Jackson and KeiVarae Russell have come on the corner this Saturday in Norman vs. the powerful Oklahoma Sooners. Tackling after the catch will likely determine which side of the W-L ledger Brian Kelly's Irish occupy.


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