Sunday Morning Drive Thru

Detailed highlights of Notre Dame's 35-0 season-opening victory over Nevada.

Note: This is the first of 13 Sunday AM columns reviewing Saturday's game (based almost entirely on my in-game notes and stats provided by Notre Dame Sports Information). Additionally, IrishEyes will feature a full game tape breakdown each Monday throughout the season.

First Quarter

The Irish opened with a 12-play, 67-yard drive that featured five different personnel groupings:

  • Two tight end sets: (5 – Kyle Rudolph and Mike Ragone);
  • I-formation or offset I-formation: (2 – James Aldridge as the fullback in front of Armando Allen);
  • Three wide receivers: (3 – Robby Parris joined Golden Tate and Michael Floyd)
  • Five receivers: (1 – Allen, Rudolph, Parris, Tate, and Floyd with Allen eventually coming in motion back to the backfield)
  • One "Wildcat" with Clausen split wide and Allen taking a direct shotgun snap.

The drive culminated in a Clausen-to-Rudolph, 19-yard touchdown pass on 3rd and 16 to give the Irish a 7-0 advantage.

As expected, the Notre Dame defense took a few hits on the Wolf Pack's first quarter forays, but Irish weak side linebacker Brian Smith made a key tackle on quarterback Colin Kaepernick, dropping the elusive runner for a 7-yard loss on 2nd and 5 to put Nevada in an uncomfortable obvious passing down. The Irish defense survived the 8-play, 52-yard drive as Wolf Pack kicker Ricky Drake's 38-yard field goal sailed badly wide right.

First Quarter Stats:

  • Rushing Yards: Notre Dame: 11 carries, 41 yards (long 10); Nevada: 5 carries, 29 yards (long 17).
  • Passing Yards: Clausen: 8-9, 90 yards, 19-yard touchdown (long 36 to Golden Tate); Kaepernick: 2-2, 23 yards (long 19).

Second Quarter

Notre Dame began the second period at the Wolf Pack 24-yard line after marching 47 yards on 8 plays following Nevada's failed field goal attempt. Facing a 3rd and 9, Clausen opened the quarter with a 24-yard touchdown pass to Floyd. The play (or at least Floyd's route) appeared to be similar to Floyd's 18-yard touchdown catch vs. Pittsburgh last November.

ND's second touchdown drive covered 78 yards in nine plays and featured seven personnel groupings:

  • Two tight ends (2)
  • Three tight ends, with senior Bobby Burger joining Ragone and Rudolph (1)
  • I-formation or offset I-formation, with Aldridge at fullback (3)
  • Shotgun split-back, with Aldridge and sophomore half back Jonas Gray flanking Clausen (1)
  • Three-wide receivers, with Parris joining Tate and Floyd (1)
  • The "Wildcat" with Allen again taking a direct snap and Clausen split wide (1)

After forcing the Wolf Pack into a three-and-out, including freshman Manti Te'o's first collegiate tackle, a hustling stop of the scrambling Kaepernick on 3rd and 15, Notre Dame responded with a two-play scoring drive, featuring a 9-yard carry for solo-back James Aldridge off the right side and a 70-yard "bubble screen" from the I-formation (Aldridge at fullback in front of Allen) to Michael Floyd. Floyd caught the pass from Clausen at/slightly behind the line of scrimmage and after two effective screen blocks from Golden Tate, Floyd sprinted untouched 70 yards down the Irish sideline for the score and a 21-0 lead.

Nevada answered with another three-and-out thanks to a 3rd down pass break-up by John Ryan off the right end. The Irish took the field with Dayne Crist at quarterback and the redshirt-freshman completed his first college pass – a two-yard tight end screen to Kyle Rudolph that, Weis later mentioned in the post-game press conference, was designed as a big-gainer vs. the Wolf Pack defense.

Crist's first collegiate possession ended in a three-and-out and Nevada took over after an Eric Maust punt at their own 43-yard line.

Nevada picked up two rushing first downs and 38 yards on the drive, but on 4th and 1 at the Notre Dame 19-yard line, Irish senior middle linebacker Toryan Smith shot through the Wolf Pack interior to crush running back Vai Taua for a one-yard loss and a first down for the Irish.

Notre Dame responded with an 8 play-80 yard march featuring the following personnel groupings:

  • Two tight ends (4 – Ragone and Rudolph)
  • Three wide receivers (2 – Parris and then Duval Kamara joined Tate and Floyd)
  • I-formation (1 – with Gray behind Aldridge).
  • Offset I-formation with three tight ends (1 – with Allen behind Aldridge and Burger for a touchdown)

The key plays included a 26-yard screen pass to Allen with senior center Eric Olsen and senior guard Chris Stewart leading the charge and two plays later, a 19-yard gain by Gray on a toss-right, as Olsen pulled from his center spot to crush a would-be-tackler allowing Gray a path to the sideline for a diving touchdown (attempt).

With the ball marked just short at the Nevada 1-yard line, Allen sauntered around the left side with a lead-block from Aldridge and an untouched score, giving the Irish an insurmountable 28-0 advantage.

Sophomore Robert Blanton ended Nevada's final threat of the half, and 8-play, 42-yard drive to the Irish 35-yard line with an end zone interception at the gun.

Halftime Stats:

  • Rushing Yards: Notre Dame: 18 carries for 87 yards, 1 touchdown; (long 19 yards by Jonas Gray)
  • Passing Yards: Clausen: 11-13, 210 yards, 3 touchdowns (long 70 yards to Michael Floyd; Crist: 1-1 for 2 yards. Kaepernick: 6-12, 79 yards, 1 interception (long 23).
  • Notre Dame Tackles/Assists: McCarthy 6-1; T. Smith 3-1 (two for lost yardage); B. Smith 2-0 (two for lost yardage including a sack)
  • Interceptions: (Blanton)

Third Quarter

The Irish held Nevada to one first down and 33 yards on five plays on the Wolf Pack's first possession of the 2nd half, an 18-yard burst by Taua doing most of the damage. ND's offense responded with a four play, 99-yard drive after an apparent Wolf Pack touchback punt was downed at the Irish 1-yard line.

Allen carried three times behind a three tight end set for 11 yards including a key 3rd and 1 carry on a sweep to the right for a two-yard gain and a much-needed first down.

On first down from his own 12-yard line, Clausen threw a deep jump ball to Floyd and the sophomore receiver out-leapt his defender, stayed on his feet and sauntered down the Irish sideline for his third score of the day and the third longest passing touchdown, 88 yards, in program history.

Neither team scored for the remaining 25 minutes and 12 seconds.

Third Quarter Notables: A 3rd and 7 interception by SS Kyle McCarthy at the Notre Dame 31-yard line; a hustling, 2nd and goal fumble recovery by redshirt freshman Kapron Lewis-Moore at the Irish 5-yard line; redshirt freshman CB Jamoris Slaughter's first career tackle (after a 17-yard first down completion); a solid hit/form tackle by junior CB Gary Gray after an 8-yard gain; a touchdown-saving tackle by McCarthy who fought off two blocks to take down Taua at the Notre Dame 6-yard line.

Fourth Quarter

The Irish ran 16 plays and picked up four first downs in an effort to mercifully end the lopsided affair.

Fourth Quarter Notables: An 15-yard comeback route on first down from Crist to fellow redshirt freshman, WR Deion Walker;two crowd-pleasing hits by freshman WLB Manti Te'o;appearances from junior Robert Hughes, who was suspended for the first half. Hughes carried six times for 20 yards and a first down to end the contest; five consecutive carries for freshman half back Theo Riddick good for 19 yards and a first down. Riddick was also stopped on 3rd and 1 for a one-yard loss and resulting Irish punt; a 24-yard punt return by redshirt freshman WR John Goodman;

Final Statistics

Notre Dame:

  • Rushing: 41 carries for 178 yards and one touchdown (Allen)
  • Passing: 17-20 for 332 yards and four touchdowns (Rudolph, and three for Floyd). Clausen finished 15-18 for 315 yards and the aforementioned four scores
  • Total Offense: 510 yards on 61 snaps; 8.4 yards per play.
  • Interceptions: Blanton, McCarthy
  • Fumbles Recovered: Lewis-Moore
  • Turnovers: None
  • Sacks: Two – B.Smith and T.Smith

Nevada:

  • Rushing: 29 carries for 153 yards.
  • Passing: 13-27 for 154 yards and two interceptions.
  • Total Offense: 307 yards on 56 snaps for 5.5 yards per play.
  • Interceptions: None
  • Fumbles Recovered: None
  • Turnovers: Three
  • Sacks: Officially none, but that will be changed to one (Coulson) on a 6-yard loss by Jimmy Clausen.

Note: Coming Monday Morning: A full-game film review followed by extended Nevada game coverage through Coach Weis' press conference Tuesday afternoon. (After which Nevada may never appear on these pages again...)


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