The triple option represented a new challenge for freshman defensive tackle Jerry Tillery, starting with his workload.
Tillery played 22 defensive snaps against Texas and 29 against Virginia. Merge those totals and you come up with something closer to the figure he played Saturday as part of a three-man front in between Isaac Rochell and Sheldon Day.
Tillery played 20 snaps in the first half and pushed toward 50 late in the fourth quarter.
“I think Jerry did a really good job,” Rochell said. “You can’t really simulate the option in college football. Even if you went against it in high school, it’s not the same. Not even close. I think he did a really good job of kind of being given a situation and reacting very well. He responded. He played well.”
Cage rotated in some on the interior but played just 10 snaps in the first half and didn’t reach that mark before Notre Dame broke things open in the fourth quarter.
Tillery figures to see plenty of snaps no matter what, but Navy brings another big option stage.
First down prevention
Georgia Tech was 9-of-15 in third down conversions in its first two games. Last year, it had a third down conversion rate of 57.9 percent and went three-and-out 11 times, tops in the nation. On Saturday, Georgia Tech was 3-of-15 on third down conversions and started 0-of-9.
Until two minutes to go in the game, Georgia Tech faced second or third down 34 times, and it reached the first down marker on just six of those tries (5.7 percent). On tackles that prevented first downs on those snaps, Joe Schmidt led the way with 4.5. Greer Martini was next with four. Farley and Tranquill each had two.
Best unit (offense): Offensive line
“Notre Dame is very good I think up front,” said Georgia Tech head coach Paul Johnson. “Their offensive line is big and long and physical. I think that's probably … the strength of their team.”
Notre Dame totaled 215 yards on the ground, 198 of which came from C.J. Prosise.
“They always do a great job for me,” Prosise had. “I can’t thank them enough for how they are getting me to the second level and how they’re getting me to the safeties untouched. They’re doing a great job every week.”
Best unit (defense): Defensive line
How good did the trio of Day, Rochell and Tillery play against the Georgia Tech front line? Brian Kelly could hardly let the question be finished before he asserted the Irish won that matchup handily.
Their play opened the door for Notre Dame linebackers to react with freedom.
“We won that,” Kelly said. “We won that. We were able to get our backers over the top. We were able to do some things to string it out a little bit and buy some time to get through those A-gap blocks, which are so crucial. Jerry and Isaac in particular played very well inside.”
Top play (Offense) - Prosise’s 91-yard TD
Prosise’s 91-yard touchdown with 6:58 remaining in the fourth quarter to put Notre Dame ahead 30-7.
“I honestly don’t remember most of it,” Prosise said. “I just kind of remember the last 20 yards. I was just like finish it, let’s get in the end zone. It just opened up, I saw the crease and took off. I was definitely a little tired at the end, but it felt great to see that hole at the end and run through it.
“I saw a hole and felt a linebacker dive and fall down. I knew when I got past him I was gone.”
The play came on 2nd-and-15 and was believed to be the longest run from the line of scrimmage in the history of Notre Dame stadium.
“It’s definitely a great honor to have my name be in here forever,” Prosise said. “One of my teammates told me about it in the locker room. It’s a pretty awesome feeling to have.”
Top play (Defense): Matthias Farley’s forced fumble
Farley replaced an injured Drue Tranquill in the second half and came up big in his first series. He forced a Justin Thomas fumble on the second play of the third quarter. Jaylon Smith picked it up for a 17-yard return.
“I didn’t even know he fumbled the ball, honestly,” Farley said. “I was just doing my job. I have no idea. I just stood up and Jaylon was running.”
Justin Yoon hit a 29-yard field goal on the ensuing drive to make it 16-7.
Best series (Offense): Prosise’s second TD
Prosise capped off a nine-play, 59-yard drive that spanned three minutes and 24 seconds with a one-yard touchdown run. Justin Yoon’s extra point made it a 23-7 Notre Dame lead with 13:54 left in the fourth quarter after Georgia Tech had managed to stay close for the duration.
“That drive gave us the confidence to know that it was time to step on their throats and end it here,” Prosise said. “After that we scored again. That drive was important because it gave us a cushion and gave our defense confidence to get a stop.”
Best series (Defense): Opening statement
How did the defense set a tone? By forcing Georgia Tech into its first three-and-out of the season to begin the game. Tranquill flew to the ball to stop Qua Searcy for a four-yard loss, forcing a Tech punt.
Notre Dame starting on defense with a three-and-out proved indicative of things to come.
They Said It
Rochell didn’t take kindly to oddsmakers listing Notre Dame as a home underdog:
“The underdog thing, I think that’s a joke. I think that’s disrespectful to us. It obviously, I feel like, gave us a little bit of an edge because people weren’t taking us serious. We were all really frustrated by it. I know the d-line was. Because it’s kind of a joke, you’re just gonna say we’re the underdog. I guess in a way, that put a chip on our shoulder. But we’ve always kind of approached every game with the same attitude.”