Aftermath: Notre Dame vs. Stanford

NOTRE DAME, Ind. - Talking points, analysis and observations surrounding Notre Dame's 17-14 win over Stanford

1. The Irish brought pressure yesterday from the likes of its WILL linebacker, strong safety, middle linebacker, defensive ends, and cornerbacks.

Four sacks, seven tackles for loss, and the surrender of a 1.5 average per rush are nothing short of outstanding against a Stanford offensive line.

And still, an overlooked and unappreciated aspect of VanGorder’s myriad of pressures and fronts is the unit’s ability to hold up in coverage when numbers crowd the box.

Notre Dame only gave up 158 yards through the air on 36 attempts, an average of 4.3 yards per throw. Though the front seven ignited the process, it was often signed, sealed and delivered by performances from cornerbacks Cole Luke (four tackles, one sack, one fumble recovery and two interceptions) and Cody Riggs (six tackles and one quarterback hurry).

Brian Kelly said in his post-game press conference:

“We're doing it with guys that are just stepping up and being aggressive on the outside. We talked about the need to clamp down on the perimeter… I think that's where we've really made significant improvement over the course of the year. We're really starting to clamp down on the outside.”

Brian VanGorder created yet another stellar defensive plan, and the defense executed it near to perfection. What appeared to be a formidable task – take a personnel grouping wired with youth and built to stop the spread - and stack it against a staple power run team – proved to be just another day, another dollar for Notre Dame’s defensive coordinator.

2. Can we see more of C.J. Prosise in the backfield?

On 1st and 10 near midfield on Notre Dame’s 10th drive of the game, the Irish opted for the jet sweep to Prosise, and the slot wide receiver headed up the right sideline for a gain of 26.

Prosise features both the quickness to reach the edges and get down field and the physicality to break tackles while doing it. It’s just what the Irish need to stretch the field horizontally and to take some pressure off its delicate offensive line. It moved Notre Dame into the red zone for the first time all game after Stanford was whistled for a personal foul after the play.

Getting creative with the run game could be mandatory going forward as Brian Kelly makes it clear abandoning it isn’t an option… Which brings upon the next point…

5. As pointed out in Tim O’Malley’s column last week, Notre Dame entered yesterday on a 24-game win streak when it rushed the ball at least 30 times.

That’s upped to 25 after yesterday’s 32 rushing attempts. Notre Dame gained 129 rushing yards on the day with its biggest run plays coming in the form of a 33-yard quarterback keeper up in the middle and a 26-yard jet sweep from C.J. Prosise.

A conundrum it appears, as 30 seems to be the magic number but it’s painful at times watching those reps add up. One-yard gain here, loss of two there, lack of decipherable pattern in running back rotation…

Brian Kelly post-game on sticking with the run game despite its woes:

“You have to. You have to. If you just abandon the running game, they're going to drop eight. They're going to double out. You got no chance. So we have to keep their backers in the box. We had to have a semblance, and I thought we did a pretty good job of being patient and hanging in there. And obviously there were some mistakes made, but we're getting better at some of the combination blockings we've been trying to get to with the new combination on the offensive line, and tonight was a big step for us.”

Still, Notre Dame ranks 89th in the country in rush attempts per game (184 through five games). It attempted 43 passes yesterday when Stanford’s first four opponents averaged less than 20.

3. The post-game locker room reaction from the players is what defines college football.

Not suspensions or recruiting sanctions or snarky social media “journalists.”

Between’s Golson’s cool smile and sincere justification of how he had zero doubts on 4th down (“I live for moments like this… “), Schmidt’s explanation of 3rd and 11, and Luke’s confident description of his interception, it was a great bunch to be around last night.

(Click hereto view complete video reaction from Everett Golson, Ben Koyack, Jaylon Smith, Joe Schmidt, Cole Luke and Corey Robinson.)

“I was just sitting over on the bench and I was thinking one play. Man, one play, we screwed it. But then Joe Schmidt came over to me and was like 'You know, let’s cheer our offense on.' And we just rallied around them. We rallied together. And on that play, it was fourth down I believe, and I was just praying to God that we can’t lose this game." – Jaylon Smith

4. Everett Golson snapped the ball with an average of 12.5 seconds remaining on the play clock.

For those keeping count, that gets added to the averages of 13.4, 12.2, 14.3 for Notre Dame’s totals through its first four non-away games, respectively. Golson didn’t audible nearly as much at the line yesterday as compared to what we saw against Notre Dame’s first four opponents; otherwise, the average would have dipped even lower.

At the start of the second quarter facing 1st and 10 at the Stanford 11-yard line, Golson snapped the ball with one second, five seconds, and four seconds remaining on the clock on downs one through three, respectively. The resulting plays: quarterback hurry, five-yard rush (Folston), and interception.

5. A review of who was in attendance yesterday on the recruiting front – click here.

In case you missed it – the nation’s No. 2 ranked offensive tackle in 2016, Tommy Kraemer committed to Notre Dame yesterday before the game, choosing Notre Dame over Ohio State. Buckle up for the number of head-to-head battles ahead you’ll see for 2016 Midwest prospects featuring Notre Dame and the crew in Columbus.

A distant afterthought, but considering where the recruits sit during games (in front of the student section near the 10-yard line) kind of an ideal place on the field for the game-winning play to take place, huh? Brandon Tiassum, Shaun Crawford and Darrin Kirkland were soaking it all in (pun intended) in their poncho-wearing glory.

More to come tomorrow on the weekend in recruiting and what’s at the recruiting forefront of a 5-0 start to the season.

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