Matt Cashore /

Beyond the Numbers

Our weekly examination of Notre Dame’s most important plays and the players that made them – and what each indicates going forward.

With 20 targets in his first two contests, star junior Will Fuller is on pace to exceed his total of 119 through the 13-game slate last fall.

Fuller was targeted 13 times Saturday in Charlottesville, but that’s not the most notable pattern: senior Chris Brown was targeted by Irish quarterbacks on eight occasions – seven times to open drives, including the first three of the game. 

Fuller (20) – 12 receptions, 4 TD
Brown (11) – 6 receptions, 1 TD
Carlisle (5) – 5 receptions
Prosise (5) – 4 receptions
Hunter (3) – 2 receptions
Robinson (3) – 3 receptions, all first downs
Durham Smythe (3) – 3 receptions, including a touchdown
Aliz’e Jones (1) – Dropped a hitch route in the opener
Tyler Luatua (1) – Pass sailed out of bounds

What it means for Saturday: Well they might want to avoid Brown to open drives once-in-awhile – of his seven drive-opening targets only two were completions.

Fuller will understandably be the Alpha Dog throughout the season but Brown’s total of 11 targets with the team’s next three best receivers – Robinson, Carlisle, and Hunter – totaling just 11 combined isn’t advantageous for an offense that thrives on keeping a defense spread and honest in terms of the numbers dictating how often the Irish run the ball. 

Fuller was targeted on five of Kizer’s 12 passes Saturday including four on the final drive. It’s understandable to favor the All-America candidate but Kizer should resist focusing his Irish eyes on Fuller too often against a veteran Georgia Tech secondary

Notre Dame’s offense has been buoyed by the big play through two contests, but gains between 10 and 25 yards have been the welcomed norm, with senior running back C.J. Prosise leading the charge.

Prosise: 11 (10 rushes) including a 24-yard touchdown – that’s 11 gains of between 10 and 25 yards on just 42 touches from scrimmage.
Will Fuller: 4 including a 16-yard touchdown
Chris Brown: 4 with a pair in both contests
Malik Zaire: 4 including three against the Cavaliers
Amir Carlisle: 2 both against Texas
Corey Robinson: 2 including a crucial first down on the final drive vs. Virginia
Josh Adams: 2, both against Texas, both for touchdowns
Tarean Folston: 1 against Texas, injured on the play
Torii Hunter, Jr: 1 for 20 yards against Texas

As for the longer gains (30+), that’s the speedster Fuller’s domain: 66 yards (TD), 59 (TD), 39 (game-winning TD) and 30 yards (Texas).

Malik Zaire added a 39-yard rush against the Cavaliers.

What it means for Saturday: The Yellow Jackets will doubtless keep an extra defender in the box to slow Prosise’s remarkable roll. In response it’s not necessary that Kizer complete a high percentage of passes, only that he makes defensive coordinator Ted Roof’s unit pay with a preponderance of gains in the 10-20 yard range.

Downfield passing, not a horizontal screen game, is the best way to open the all-important rush lanes.

Which Irish players have moved the chains the most through two contests? Seven Irish have produced 41 of Notre Dame’s 50 first downs to date.

-- RB C.J. Prosise (14 First Downs/1 TD) – Including 13 via the rush
-- WR Will Fuller (8/4 TD) – Fuller has averaged 31.6 yards per play on his eight TD/first down receptions.
-- WR Chris Brown (5/1TD) – With the exception of his six-yard touchdown vs. Texas, each has gained at least 15 yards
-- QB Malik Zaire (5)
-- WR Amir Carlisle (3) – All against Texas, and each occurred on 1st-and-10 – with gains of 13, 17, and 26 yards.
-- WR Corey Robinson (3) – Including one on the game-winning drive Saturday in Scott Stadium
-- RB Josh Adams (3) – Includes two TD against Texas

Sacks and tackles for loss (TFL) are self-explanatory. “Stuffs” as noted in a summer column, is the Irish Illustrated statistic that tracks tackles after short gains (0, 1, and 2 yards not resulting in a first down). Of note, in college football, every sack likewise counts as a TFL.

-- Jaylon Smith (5.5): Includes three tackles-for-loss
-- Elijah Shumate (5): Includes a facemask penalty against Texas that negated one of his tackles for loss. Shumate posted 2.5 stuffs in both games.
-- Isaac Rochell (4): Including 3.5 vs. the Cavaliers
-- Romeo Okwara (2.5)
-- Sheldon Day (2) –
Both Solo
-- Joe Schmidt (2) – Actually four shared stuffs
-- Daniel Cage (2) – One in both contests

Doug Randolph, Jerry Tillery, KeiVarae Russell (a sack/forced fumble), Andrew Trumbetti, and Drue Tranquill (a shared in both games), have each totaled one stuff (as has the nebulous “team” stat) while Nick Watkins, Cole Luke and Max Redfield have a half apiece for a total of 30 TFL/Stuffs on the season.

What it means for Saturday: The Irish had 15 stuffs/TFL vs both Texas and Virginia. The same total would suffice each week – with the exception of games against the triple-option (Saturday and Oct. 11 vs. Navy). Putting the Yellow Jackets “behind the chains” on first and second down is the only way to keep Georgia Tech below the 28-point mark over 60 minutes.
Barring turnovers created, Notre Dame might need 20 stuffs/TFL to win.

The other guys have scholarships, too, and Notre Dame ball carriers have been dropped for loss, no gain, or 1-2 yards a few too many touches to date. (Note, the final two drives of the Texas contest in which Notre Dame was killing the clock are not included):

-- Prosise: 13 (includes three on 3rd- or 4th-and-short
-- Zaire: 9 (includes 2 sacks)
-- Adams: 3 (includes one 3rd-and-short)
-- Fuller: 2 (both passes)
-- Carlisle: 2 (both rushes)
-- Hunter: 2 (both rushes)
-- Kizer: 1 (Sack)
-- Folston: 1

-- Troubling Note: In competitive game situations, among Notre Dame runners, only DeShone Kizer has picked up a first down on 3rd- or 4th-and-short. The rest of the team (Prosise, Adams, and Zaire) are a combined 0-5. The Irish also committed a false start (vs. Texas) on 4th-and-1 and missed on a 3rd-and-2 throw against Virginia to round out a 1-8 performance on 3rd- or 4th-and-short to date.

What it means for Saturday: Notre Dame will lose, period, if it doesn’t drastically improve in short-yardage situations. They can likely incur a few “Stuffs” because of the ability to move the chains with downfield passes, but short-yardage failures will spell doom vs. a Rambling Wreck squad that owns the same situations offensively.

Our film review credited Notre Dame’s defense with 11 quarterback pressures against Texas. That total dropped to a paltry five vs. Virginia, with three by a blitzing Joe Schmidt.

-- Sheldon Day 4.5
-- Joe Schmidt 3
-- Drue Tranquill 3
-- Isaac Rochell 1.5
-- Jaylon Smith 2 (saved a touchdown against Virginia)
-- Andrew Trumbetti 1, though you could argue 1.5
-- Jonathan Bonner 1
-- Greer Martini 1
-- James Onwualu 1

What it means for Saturday: At the offense’s peak, Georgia Tech needs to pass 10-15 times to keep a quality defense honest. Pressures will be held to a minimum this week, but if a handful can be manufactured in 3rd-and-6 or 3rd-and-7 situations, the Irish can force four or more punts – key to any defense keeping points off the board against this vexing offensive approach.

The Yellow Jackets punted more than three times (four vs. Virginia Tech in a 27-24 win) in 11 matchups vs. Power Conference teams last season.

And there’s your Week One look Beyond the Numbers… Top Stories