THE RIGHT STUFF
Georgia Tech executed 29 first half snaps Saturday in South Bend – on 11 of them the end result was a gain of two yards or fewer. Leading the charge on such plays was Mike linebacker Joe Schmidt, whose game high 10 tackles fails to illustrate his dominance in the trenches vs. the Yellow Jackets vaunted triple-option.
Schmidt finished the contest with six stops that resulted in loss or gains of zero to two yards (“Stuffs” per the Irish Illustrated vernacular), while adding a trio of quarterback pressures including two on third down to stifle Georgia Tech drives.
“I think the sky is the limit,” said Schmidt. “It’s a matter of how we work though. If we don’t come to work every day, we’re not going to be very good. But if we do that, I love playing with this football team and I think we have a very high potential.
“I love being a member of this defense. I love being a member of this football team.”
Notre Dame finished with 18 stuffs on the visitor’s first 55 snaps en route to a 30-7 advantage.
THE LONGEST YARDS
With 8:03 remaining in the fourth quarter, senior running back C.J. Prosise had produced a quality effort in his second career start: 20 carries, 102 yards, two touchdowns.
Then lighting struck. Prosise, 91 yards of green turf, and the longest touchdown run in Notre Dame Stadium’s storied history to put the game on ice.
“I saw the hole and I felt the linebacker dive and when I got past that I knew I was gone. Throughout the game, the (offensive line) was starting to push more and more. That was kind of icing on the cake.”
A RECEIVER IN FULL
To be clear, since the outset of the 2014 football season, Will Fuller has been contained during a football contest by a lone nemesis, one he seems to have since shed.
Notre Dame’s junior wide receiver scored on a leaping 46-yard touchdown Saturday, it was his 20th over the last 16 games dating back to the beginning of his sophomore season. Fuller’s only games without major impact in that span occurred vs. Navy (he scored a touchdown, but drew the ire of head coach Brian Kelly for his efforts) and at USC, a game in which he admittedly lost focus along with the rest of his Irish mates.
Saturday he was a difference-maker in a contest that was headed toward an unforeseen defensive struggle until Fuller struck with his familiar down-the-right-side-lines sprint.
“(He’s) awesome,” said quarterback DeShone Kizer of Fuller who finished with a game-high 131 yards. “You pretty much got to throw it up for him, he’s going to come down with it. You throw it high, he’s going to jump a spectacular way and get it. Will Fuller is one of the best route runners in the country. There’s nothing I can say I did amazing about it.”
Leave amazing to Fuller, the nation’s best wide receiver through three games.
STUFFING THE STAT SHEET
-- In addition to Schmidt’s aforementioned six stuffs were another three by Greer Martini, 2.5 by Drue Tranquill (in less than a half of football), two by both Isaac Rochell and Sheldon Day, and 1.5 by Jaylon Smith.
-- Fuller hit for receptions of 46 (TD), 36, and 27 yards among his six receptions. He now has seven receptions in excess of 20 yards this season, averaging 45.2 yards per touchdown catch.
-- In addition to his 91-yard jaunt, Prosise finished with rushes of 11, 14, and 17 (TD) yards, pushing his total rushes of 10 yards or more through three games to a whopping 14.
-- Notre Dame won despite two turnovers Saturday, improving the program’s record under Kelly to 8-6. The Irish are 32-2 when committing one or zero turnovers in a contest.
-- Prosise picked up a team high seven first downs with senior Chris Brown adding four and Fuller a three-spot. Junior Torii Hunter added a pair (one rush, one reception)
Prosise leads the squad with 21 through three games.
-- Chris Brown led the team in pass targets (11) and receptions (a career-best 8) en route to 65 yards. Brown’s 20-yard catch-and-run on third down in the second half marked his longest of the season.
-- Sophomore Greer Martini finished with eight tackles in his first start of the season, adding a pair of quarterback hurries. Martini registered nine stops in his first career start last November 1 against triple-option foe Navy.
-- Junior linebacker Jaylon Smith forced and recovered a fumble (two different plays) while also adding a pair of passes defended to augment his five tackles. Sheldon Day inked a pair of quarterback hurries to go with a tackle-for-loss and an additional “Stuff.”
-- Sophomore Drue Tranquill injured his right knee in the second quarter after breaking up an end zone pass. Tranquill made two tackles-for-loss and contributed to another pair of stuffs to aid teammates. His status for the rest of the season is unknown. The nearby Fort Wayne, Ind. product tore his left ACL last November.
-- Georgia Tech converted just three of 15 third-down opportunities Saturday including none of its first nine. The Yellow Jackets began the contest with a pair of three-and-out possessions and suffered four more over the course of the contest.
They were the first six such possessions of the 2015 season for the previously potent Yellow Jackets.
NEVER TOO LATE
“I think that they did a lot of game-planning this off-season and they did a great job this week. You have to really tip your hat to Coach (Brian) VanGorder and Coach (Bob) Elliott, spent a ton of time on this. They had a great plan and the guys believed in it.
“Tuesday we were drinking through an absolute fire hose. The funniest part was we were making tweaks up until game time. But that’s what makes it fun. That’s why I love playing for coach (Brian) VanGorder. I can go into him on Friday and say, ‘I really like this look. And I really want to see if we can do it.’ And he drew it up and said we could try it out. That’s how he is – he’s a player’s coach and he’s always trying to put us in the best position possible to be successful.” – Joe Schmidt on the continuous preparation of the Irish coaching staff to combat the triple-option.