Aftermath: Notre Dame vs. Michigan
1. Notre Dame’s offense hasn’t committed to being up-tempo… but you don’t “fix” what isn’t broken… Against Michigan, Golson snapped the ball with an average of 12.2 seconds remaining on the play clock. Recall that against Rice, the average was 13.4. Notre Dame’s four touchdown drives chewed an average of 3:35 off the clock. The Irish toyed with the idea of picking up the speed on its third drive, snapping the ball with 23 seconds and 28 seconds left on the clock on 1st and 2nd down respectively, but after picking up a 1st down on its second play of the drive, Golson slowed it down, audibled at the line and snapped it with 17 seconds remaining. That play was a Greg Bryant 4-yard rush. The up-tempo offense is designed with the purpose to catch opposing defenses off guard and not allow them the time to get set. Notre Dame is getting the same end result, but instead of the pace of offense setting the tone, it’s the variety of attack. Whether it’s a scramble from Golson, a trio of running backs, or speed, size and depth at wide receiver, pick your poison. 2. Golson has opened the season generous in zone read selection. Unlike feeling pressure and knowing when to scramble, it’s not a natural instinct to know when to keep it and when to hand it off. There were a few times on Saturday when Golson would have been better suited to keep the ball himself. Perhaps a small, but nonetheless contributing factor to Notre Dame’s 1.7 average per rush attempt against Michigan. 3. Matthias Farley was on a mission Saturday night. He finished with just three tackles, but in leader-like fashion, he was a playmaker. On Michigan’s first drive of the game, with the Wolverines driving at Notre Dame’s 30-yard line, Farley read the screen pass perfectly and made the tackle for a loss of two on 2nd down to force third and long. Beginning with how Farley led the team onto the field out of the tunnel, and ending in the 4th quarter with a great tackle in space against Michigan’s best wide receiver, Devin Funchess, to force third down, Notre Dame’s senior nickel back brought bouts of energy, physicality and leadership not just to the secondary, or the defensive unit, but to the entire team. 4. Michigan was 4-of-13 on third down conversions. The Wolverines were just 1-of-7 in that category at half time. The mix of the dime (Drue Tranquill) and blitzing the freshmen duo of Tranquill and Kolin Hill off the edge was effective all night. When you have the youth at defense and you combine that with the leadership of Joe Schmidt, Matthias Farley and Jaylon Smith who define the "team-first" mentality, it's amazing how the transition to a new defensive coordinator can look. The term "youth" has been tossed around often when talking about Notre Dame's defense this season. Call me biased because I know this freshmen class on a different level as a recruiting reporter than as a beat writer, but the freshmen, especially the ones on defense seeing early playing time (Andrew Trumbetti, Kolin Hill, Drue Tranquill, Grant Blankenship), embrace the "us against the world" mentality. They have a quiet confidence in their ability, but it's certainly not cockiness. It's a group willing to soak in everything the learning curve of being a freshman has to offer. And, therein lies the unique distinction of Notre Dame's youth. Obviously, Brian VanGorder has something (a lot) to do with the defense's success so far as well. “He (VanGorder) does a great job of making it simple for us when it’s difficult,” Cody Riggs said. “He does a great job of making calls. Sometimes we’re going to mess things up, but at the end of day, if we’re on the same page, we’re going to play well and he’s going to correct (us) later."
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