Signs of Life

IrishEyes offers a full, two-part, drive-by-drive review of the Notre Dame defensive effort vs. Washington.

With a five-game recap of each individual defensive player on tap for the weekend, our post-game "Personnel-ly Speaking" column follows a new format (for at least one week). Below is our drive-by-drive recap of the Notre Dame first half defensive effort vs. the Huskies.

The second half will be published later today.

Opening Drive

  • Manti Te'o and John Ryan shed initial blocks to limit tailback Chris Polk to 5 yards. Kapron Lewis-Moore is controlled.
  • Kyle McCarthy with a nice open field hold-up of Polk and Te'o shows tremendous hustle, attacking the football to force fumble (overturned). The Irish brought a heavy blitz with Sergio Brown and Brian Smith on the play.
  • B-Smith comes on a delayed blitz on 3rd and 6 that's picked up. Smith sheds, but can't corral slippery Huskies QB Jake Locker with a lunge back into the hole. Te'o is blocked by an obvious shot to his back but there's no flag…he had a shot at Locker.
  • Te'o's run blitz is collapsed but B-Smith expertly fills and makes a full-speed leg tackle on the left edge. CB Darrin Walls goes low to take out pulling lineman.
  • No pass rush from front four on 2nd and 7 and both Te'o and B-Smith allow Goodwin through their short zone (Te'o and Smith were too close to each other in zone coverage. Goodwin gains 7 while a hustling Scott Smith and Robert Blanton support to set up 3rd and 1.
  • Scott Smith is controlled at the point, Lewis-Moore stunts inside (the play goes off-tackle); Te'o sheds, doesn't take a great angle, but recovers to make the tackle in pursuit of Polk 10 yards downfield. B-Smith took a bad angle to the ball carrier (way too flat) and K-Mac was blocked by lead fullback Paul Homer. Blanton showed good effort in support after being blocked. Ian Williams excellent effort down line and just misses.
  • Te'o follows action left but the "Rocket" or "Tunnel" screen goes right and RDE Kerry Neal makes a tackle 12 yards downfield (after falling at line of scrimmage…great hustle by Neal). Ryan blocked too easily on the play by Polk (soft play by Ryan that time).
  • K-Mac a little soft in his zone allows tight end Kavario Middleton five yards on 1st and 10 from the Irish 11 (Middleton fell down immediately or there would have been a collision near the goal line).
  • Williams, Lewis-Moore, and Ethan Johnson are controlled and Te'o is slightly hesitant in his gap responsibility (though I couldn't tell, honestly, which way he should have flowed) on Locker's designed QB draw touchdown run from 5-yard line. B-Smith is taken out by center Ryan Tolar.

Second Huskies Drive (1st Quarter)

  • Te'o redirects slot receiver in his zone enough to disrupt the route (incomplete pass).
  • Best play of game thus far for Te'o who fills and limits Polk to two yards. Ian Williams and Neal hold up on the edge.
  • Te'o and freshman Dime safety Zeke Motta come on 3rd and 9 blitz (ends up being tunnel screen), K-Mac fight against a double-team block and LDE John Ryan makes ahustling tackle 10 yards downfield after dropping in (the offense's) right flat. Ryan made the play on left hash. Also, terrible call against Ethan Johnson (roughing the QB) on the play.
  • Good pressure by both Johnson and Lewis-Moore to force quick throw incompletion in left flat.
  • Lewis-Moore sheds a block from his Nickel DT spot and makes a stop of Polk after a 5-yard gain. Te'o blocked but eventually sheds.
  • Neal plays his assignment (controlled pass rush) at RDE, sheds LT Ben Ossai, and stops Locker for short gain on 3rd and 5 (Locker stepped up in the pocket and Neal made the stop after two yards). Ethan Johnson hustled from the left side (after a stunt) back to middle to help with the tackle. Not sure why B-Smith over-pursued on this play though. Nice coverage by non-blitzing Irish.

1st Drive/2nd Quarter

  • Ryan (RDE) and Williams are controlled and B-Smith misses a leg tackle of Polk on a 1st down gain of six. Te'o blocked but spins to shed and help a hustling KPLM to make another tackle.
  • A stunt by sophomore Sean Cwynar and (especially) Ian Williams inside is successful while sheer speed from Te'o blitzing on the outside combine to drop Polk for a gain of two yards. B-Smith gets best of a pulling lineman on the play (shoves him to ground at point of attack).
  • Lewis-Moore records a sack on busted screen pass, but Ian Williams made the play by immediately slipping by the center. Scott Smith somewhat disrupts Locker's passing lane to the outside right and Ryan takes away Locker's running late to his left. Cwynar stays home in the middle. Great team defense to end a 3rd and 2 threat.

2nd Drive/2nd Quarter

  • Brown and Blanton playing "man-under" coverage on the defenses right side and attempt to stay with his receiver on an immediate cross/pick play. Brown recovers ncely chasing his receiver on a wheel to the sideline, never sees the ball, but his recovery speed disrupts the play a bit and Goodwin drops a perfectly thrown pass. FS Harrison Smith was a bit late slow in deep help.
  • Walls a tad behind in coverage for a square-in, but the pass is dropped over the middle(would have been good for 15 yards).
  • Nice open-field tackle by B-Smith after Locker's fake forced Te'o off balance on a 3rd down scramble.

3rd Drive/2nd Quarter

  • Irish appear to be in Cover 3 (if not, they're in something that will never work) which gives Blanton this coverage error, biting inside while the slot receiver (covered by Walls), runs under a pick at the line and upfield ("Wheel Route") for a 30-yard gain from Locker. Washington has now targeted ND twice on this play in the last two drives (last time in "man under" - which offers Safety help to CB over the top; this time in what looked like Cover 3).
  • Lewis-Moore, again lined up as the Nickel DT, sheds block to help Te'o, who completely slips past his defender (all quickness by Te'o this time), holding Polk to two yards.
  • Neal (RDE) shows great quickness off the ball, slipping between LT and LG (looked like LG missed assignment) to drop Polk for a loss of four yards on 2nd and 8. Ryan cleaned him up after a stunt from LDE.
  • ND brings five defenders (all picked up with only slight pressure) on 3rd and 12, but B-Smith and Brown are both solid in zone coverage as Smith undercuts a crossing route, forcing an incomplete pass and subsequent punt.

4th Drive/2nd Quarter

  • Ethan Johnson stunts outside and shows impressive quickness, closing on Locker in the pocket to force a fumble on a blind side hit. John Ryan reacts with a very athletic fumble recovery before taking one in the chin from diving linemen.

Final Drive/2nd Quarter

  • Lewis-Moore shows good recognition vs. a middle screen, limiting Polk to five yards.
  • Nice pressure by Johnson again (on penalized play - ineligible lineman downfield on the Huskies).
  • Coach Tenuta and/or Coach Brown are asking too much of B-Smith to run 25 yards downfield with slot receiver into a deep middle zone ("Tampa Two" possibly? If so, that's still too far). Locker easily finds his open slot man in the middle of the Irish defense. I simply can't understand why the Irish would play a Base Nickel defense (one DB…Sergio Brown) when the Huskies have less than 30 seconds remaining in the half. The Irish regularly employ four cornerbacks: can three not take the field simultaneously? Four, in this situation would be appropriate.
  • Brown is targeted by Locker for a deep in-route (vs. another soft zone). Completely nonsensical defensive scheme by the Irish in the final 51 seconds of the half allows Washington to travel terrible from their own 25-yard line in three plays for a gift field goal.

Halftime Score: Washington 17 Notre Dame 16 Top Stories