Matt Cashore /

Beyond the Numbers

A review of Notre Dame’s defensive efforts on third down through three games this season.

Notre Dame enters Week Four ranked 88th nationally (among 128 teams) in third-down conversion defense, yielding opponents’ a first down on nearly 42 percent of their collective opportunities.

The Irish defense has faced 48 third downs and stopped 28  – a combined 12 of them courtesy the efforts of Isaac Rochell, Cole Luke, and Nickel linebacker Greer Martini.

Below is a review of Notre Dame’s defensive efforts on third down, broken down by distance to the chains.

  • 3rd-and-short (3 yards or less) is considered an “obvious run.” The Irish defense has stopped just 33 percent of these, 6-of-18.
  • 3rd-and-medium yardage (4-6 yards to gain) put coordinators in a bit of a run/pass quandary. The Irish have stopped foes 9 of 16 (56.25%) in this range though two of the nine were later negated by 4th-down (both 4th-and-1) conversions, lowering the overall success to 50 percent (9-of-18).
  • 3rd-and-long (7-9 yards) are expected passing downs and the Irish have stopped 5-of-9 (55.%) though just 3-of-7 combined vs. Texas and Michigan State.
  • 3rd-and-10 yards or more are obvious passing situations. Notre Dame has stopped 7-of-8 with the only conversion belonging to Nevada when the game was no longer in doubt.
  • An Extra Down: Opponents are 3-of-4 vs. the Irish in 4th-down conversion attempts this season as detailed below. (Texas and Michigan State a combined 3-for-3.)

TEXAS (10 for 20 on 3rd/4th Down)

The ‘Horns converted 8 of 18 third-down opportunities into first downs but two of Notre Dame’s stops among the 10 were negated by Texas fourth-down conversions thereafter.

3rd-and-short (3 yards or less): Stopped just 3-of-8 opportunities with one of those wins negated by a Texas 4th-and-2 conversion thereafter. Among these eight chances, Irish defenders came up with just one TFL (Rochell on 3rd-and-1).

3rd-and-medium (needing 4-6 yards to gain/run or pass situation): Stopped 3-of-4 but one of those was negated by a 4th-and-1 conversion. Texas managed one chunk gain (19 yards) vs. the Irish and it was due to an Avery Sebastian missed tackle. Notre Dame also aided Texas on a “no play” 3rd-and-6 situation in which Andrew Trumbetti jumped offside and the Longhorns converted thereafter on 4th-and-1.

3rd-and-long (7-9 yards allowed/likely passing situations): Stopped just 1-of-3 including a 21-yard gain allowed due to a missed tackle by Sebastian. The only win by the Irish D in this category was a dropped bomb touchdown by speedster John Burt.

3rd-and-10 or more (Obvious passing situation): Brian VanGorder’s crew stopped both – both at 3rd-and-33, to boot. Well done…

-- Individually, Rochell led the charge, contributing to 3.5 of the eight total third down wins by the Irish in Austin. (3.5 stands as the single-game high for a Notre Dame player through three contests.)

NEVADA (3 for 13 on 3rd/4th Down)

Includes 0-1 on fourth down attempts – in this case, a 4th-and-1 in Notre Dame’s red zone on the Wolf Pack’s opening possession.

3rd-and-short (3 yards or less): Stopped 2-of-5 with one of Nevada’s conversion due to an offside call on Jarron Jones. No chunk gains allowed.

3rd-and-medium (needing 4-6 yards to gain/run or pass situation): Stopped both opportunities and doubled down with a 4th-and-1 stop for no gain in the red zone courtesy Daniel Cage.

3rd-and-long (7-9 yards allowed/likely passing situations): Stopped both Wolf Pack chances in this range, limiting to gains of 1 and 2 yards in the process.

3rd-and-10 or more (Obvious passing situation): Held true on 3-of-4 but did allow a 44-yard chunk gain due to secondary miscommunication.

-- Clearly the Wolf Pack was less equipped athletically to challenge the Irish on third down. Of note, Michigan State and Nevada faced the same number of 3rd-and-short situations (5)

MICHIGAN STATE (10 for 19 on 3rd/4th Down)

Includes a fourth-down conversion – from their own 44-yard line on the game’s opening possession, it must be stated – as the Spartans set the tone from the outset.

3rd-and-short (3 yards or less): Stopped just 1-of-5 Spartans chance yielding two gains in excess of 20 yards. The stop came courtesy Rochell and a 9-yard tackle-for-loss on a Jet Sweep.

3rd-and-medium (needing 4-6 yards to gain/run or pass situation): Stopped 4-of-7 though one was negated by a 4th-and-1 conversion by Michigan State thereafter. No chunk gains allowed. 

3rd-and-long (7-9 yards allowed/likely passing situations): Stopped just 2-of-4 including the game’s decisive 3rd-and-7-conversion pass from Tyler O’Connor to Donnie Corley that gained 28 yards. The Irish defense was likewise victimized by a gain of 16 yards on 3rd-and-8.

3rd-and-10 or more (Obvious passing situation): The Irish stopped both (2-for-2) with two passes defended including one that resulted in Devin Studstill’s first career interception.

-- Greer Martini led the way with three stops, all from his Nickel Linebacker position, with each of them a solo tackle vs. a scrambling O’Connor.

-- Of note, Notre Dame’s final two foes last season, Stanford and Ohio State, combined to convert against the Irish defense on 19 of 31 third- and fourth-down chances. Combine those totals with the efforts of Texas and Michigan State and the Irish defense has surrendered a first down on


Departed junior linebacker Jaylon Smith led this category last season with 20.5 in what amounted to just over 12 games played.

-- Rochell 5
-- Luke 3.5
-- Martini 3.5
-- Cage 2.5
-- Te’von Coney 2
-- Morgan 1.5
-- Daelin Hayes, Julian Love, Donte Vaughn and Devin Studstill with 1 apiece
-- James Onwualu, Jerry Tillery, Drue Tranquill, and Asmar Bilal combined with a teammate for a third-down “Win”
-- 2 Bad passes by the opponent as a result of team pressure
-- 1 bad snap on 3rd-and-33
-- 1 incomplete on 3rd-and-33

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