Eye in the Sky: Defense

Part II of our film review examines the Irish pass defense and rush defense from Saturday night's win over Michigan.

Players reviewed below include: nose tackles Jarron Jones and Daniel Cage, defensive ends Isaac Rochell, Romeo Okwara, Andrew Trumbetti, and Grant Blankenship, defensive tackles Sheldon Day and Justin Utupo, linebackers Jaylon Smith, Joe Schmidt, and James Onwualu, nickel Matthias Farley, cornerbacks Cole Luke and Cody Riggs, safeties Elijah Shumate and Max Redfield, and dime package specialists Kolin Hill (rush end) and Drue Tranquill (athlete)

Rush Defense Notes

-- Jones sheds a hold at scrimmage to stop Michigan's Derrick Green for one yard on the game's first snap. Rochell played the zone read first, then crashed down to deliver a blow on the tackle…

-- Rochell gets sucked in about one yard too close to scrimmage as an end-around to slot receiver Dennis Norfleet gains 13…Well-timed play-call by Michigan early in the contest to catch the hyper Irish in (over)pursuit… Looked like Jaylon Smith didn't trust his teammate (Redfield) to fill the inside lane responsibility and Smith subsequently gets sealed, opening an outside lane for Norfleet and nine extra yards as a result...Regardless, good blocking in space by Wolverines FB Joe Kerridge to make it possible…

-- Cage is double-teamed on his first snap and sealed inside, Derrick Green gained 7 yards as a result…

-- Backup RB De'Veon Smith takes two rushes up the gut, first for 5, then for 9 yards, the latter was well-blocked as Onwualu was sealed inside on a boundary run left…

-- Cage totally overwhelmed at first by a double-team on 1st-and-15 that gains 6. Smith blocked to the ground as well -- Cage recovers to make the tackle. Impressive effort after initially losing upon the snap...

-- Violent hands by Okwara who shoves the left tackle back and destroys a 2nd-and-9 rush up the gut, limiting it to two yards. Most physical I've seen him to date on that snap...

-- Smith is a special player. Fights off a good block on the edge to dive and tackle Norfleet -- who was already past him -- after a 7-yard gain…

-- Good job by Rochell to sniff out a Gardner bootleg to the wide side but he can't allow himself to be stiff-armed by a QB in space. Gain of 9….

-- Rochell follows one play later to crash on Green after 2 yards (albeit on 2nd-and-1)…

-- Good fill by Smith on a 2nd and 7 vs. Green to limit an inside run to 2 yards...

-- No Gain as Sheldon Day is held (no call) but he makes a one armed stop anyway…

-- A zone-read keeper by Gardner tricks freshman rush end Kolin Hill on 2nd and 10, welcoming the youngster to base defense football -- a gain of 9 yards. Hill had little chance on the play designed to take advantage of his inexperience. Previously his only job was to get upfield and rush the passer...

-- Strong first hit applied by Utupo after his quick upfield penetration. It allows Cage and Shumate to combine for a tackle on De'Veon Smith after one yard. Utupo gave Notre Dame quality snaps in short relief of Sheldon Day Saturday night...

-- A run fit by Riggs to the boundary side limits a rush to one yard. Day was also there, because, well, he always was…

-- Jones and Trumbetti both win at the point to limit Green to one yard. Jones simply stood up the left guard, Erik Magnuson

-- Schmidt and Blankenship limit Green to no gain. The Irish defense remained at full speed, ahead 31-0 with 9 minutes left…

-- Schmidt again, this time limits an inside run to two yards…

-- Jones and Okwara limit the gain to one inside. Jones played his best game in an Irish uniform Saturday night. Can he follow with a strong, focused effort against an inferior foe in Purdue?

Pass Coverage Notes

-- Team defensive effort by Luke and Smith to limit Funchess to two yards on a boundary bubble screen. Luke fended off the lead block well, negating an outside lane and Smith crashed for the stop…

-- Smith expertly plays a wheel route by Norfleet from the backfield but Gardner throws his best pass of the game and drops it in the breadbasket over Smith's outstretched hand for 7 yards. Wow. Trumbetti takes a vicious helmet-to-helmet hit from backup TE Khalid Hill attempting to make the tackle. That's a penalty, Mr. Official, and absolutely pathetic that game announcer Mike Mayock did not point out the hit's blatantly illegal nature, then ranted later about Redfield's shot on Gardner that included no helmet-to-helmet contact…

-- Underrated play of the game: with Michigan seizing momentum on its opening drive, facing a 2nd-and-3 at the ND 30-yard line, Farley immediately diagnoses a field-side bubble screen and destroys Norfleet for a two-yard loss. Michigan missed a long field goal two snaps later. Just a beautiful defensive play in every aspect by Farley, who diagnosed, exploded upfield, came to balance, went low, and wrapped up the 5'7" receiver…

-- Asking Okwara (or all DEs) to drop and cover a tight end in zone blitz situations is part of the 2014 Irish defense. But asking him to cover Funchess in that situation is ludicrous. +27 catch-and-run and it was no contest at any point in the play…

-- Comeback route by Chesson gets the Irish for 16 yards on a roll right. Riggs was afraid Chesson was headed deep and took an extra step back as the receiver planted to come back to the football...

-- Riggs is all over a field-side bubble to stop Chesson for loss. Great fundamental play and immediate read by the studious Riggs, the best player among two handfuls of newcomers on this Irish squad…

-- Norfleet had Schmidt beaten down the post near the end of the half but couldn't come up with the under thrown ball. Still, Schmidt ran 30 yards with him and had Shumate coming over the top to lay the wood to Norfleet had the pass been higher…

-- Good downfield coverage by Riggs on the left sideline as the Wolverines take a shot near the end of the half…

-- Early in the second half, a stretch run away from Smith in which the backside tackle is supposed to secure him in space worked about as well as you'd guess. What a pursuit angle by the sophomore! Destroys the play, unblocked backside for a loss of three yards. (Underrated play in that it made it 3rd and 7 and a pick by Redfield ensues)…Schmidt was there as well had Smith not destroyed the rush attempt…

-- GREAT form tackle in space by Farley on Funchess who limits a 7-yard cross to exactly that -- 7 yards -- on 2nd-and-14…

-- Quick hitter for 10 yards to Funchess but Riggs allowed no more upon the catch. Tough press coverage assignment for Riggs at 5'9" 190 against Funchess, 6'5" 235…

-- Riggs gives up a 33-yarder on a stop-and-go to Funchess. Never turned around but did adroitly go for the strip upon reception. He complained of a push off -- Funchess got him with one arm -- but that won't be called often…

-- Riggs jumps a hitch route and picks off a Gardner pass. The 5th-year senior transfer told me post-game he sensed a pattern both in-game and during film study and saw a hitch coming pre-snap…

-- Schmidt is all over Funchess after short hitch to limit the gain...

-- Jones with another disciplined pass rush and stop of Gardner on the scramble +3 yards on 1st and 10…

-- Farley in space, again, on Funchess. After making the tackle he waves his finger Dikembe Mutumbo style, limiting the play to just two yards…Farley's best game since at least Stanford 2012 and this was better for a 60-minute span...

-- Luke gives up one first down on a down and out. Still solid coverage by the sophomore who has yet to allow anything of consequence this season..

-- Luke decent recovery in coverage against a double move after biting initially on an out-route. But Mayock was right, that could have been six points if a different football team was on the opposite sidelines with a better passer...

-- PD by Riggs late in the contest. He just competes on every play…

-- Shumate with a nice read on his game-ending interception. And that's textbook blocking on the return by the Irish including a great hit by Redfield, though one that's technically illegal in these days, on Gardner. If the QB is protected from all harm, he probably shouldn't be allowed to make a tackle following a pick.

I appreciate the No Mercy approach employed by VanGorder's unit Saturday night.

Pass Rushing Notes

-- Shumate's delayed safety blitz from 10 yards deep forced a Gardner throw to a well-covered Funchess (Smith was all over him) on a shallow cross. It's impossible to watch this 2nd and 10 snap and not marvel at the increased athleticism of the 2014 Irish defense…That said, Shumate missed a chance to deliver a hit on Gardner, but he did force the throw (kind of whiffed on a stationary Gardner, and he knew it)...

-- Jarron Jones impacts another play with a good push, forcing Gardner to pull back a pass attempt that was destined to get knocked down at the line. Jones' contact with the recoiled arm/football causes a fumble and subsequent 17-yard loss on the play as Okwara finished Gardner off for the official stat…

-- Pressure by Jones on UM's last drive of the half. Showed good discipline staying in his lane and hitting Garder as he threw (incomplete)… -- QB hurry by Trumbetti who worked through FB Ryan Kerridge. Smith cleans up the tackle along with the freshman DE who hustled in pursuit of Gardner, escaping upfield…

-- 2nd and 9, Gardner scrambles, dances, and takes a big hit from Schmidt to force the fumble… Rochell brought initial (late) pressure as Gardner danced against a four-man rush, later spinning into Schmidt's hit in an effort to avoid Utupo and the ball-hawking Smith…Rochell fittingly recovers the fumble.

-- Cage and Utupo show a disciplined pass rush that ends with Utupo's first career sack.


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