Twice is Nice

Part II of our drive-by-drive review of the Notre Dame defensive effort vs. the Huskies, including a blow-by-blow of the squad's double-goal line stand in the fourth quarter.

For a review of the first half, click here.

1st Drive/3rd Quarter

  • Blanton is undressed on stop-and-go sideline route by Kearse, but Locker misses the wide open touchdown pass. Wow.
  • Good penetration by Ethan Johnson but Polk runs between him and a well-blocked Kerry Neal. McCarthy and Te'o (blocked initially) combine on the tackle 12 yards downfield.
  • Te'o forces a toss left too wide (taking on two blocks) while hustling Ethan Johnson and John Ryan come across the field (down the line of scrimmage) to make a 3-yard stop on Polk). Johnson makes the actual tackle.
  • ND gets caught with two middle run blitzes (by B-Smith and Te'o) and a simple bubble screen gains nine yards for the first down (McCarthy on the tackle). Walls and Brown with solid efforts, forcing the play back inside, but there was no one home due to the double inside blitz by Smith and Te'o.
  • Bubble Screen again (same play, this time to the left). Brown is a bit soft at the point this time while Blanton sheds his blocks and makes tackle, though 15 yards downfield. B-Smith took a poor (flat, again) angle and runs behind the play. That's 22 easy yards on consecutive bubble screens for the Huskies.
  • B-Smith loses his feet on sideline vs. backup tailback Fogerson (Smith was faked to the ground on ugly lunge attempt) and Brown's signature shoulder bump gently nudges the runner out of bounds after a gain of seven yards. If you're keeping track: three consecutive passes at the line of scrimmage for 29 yards this series.
  • Locker runs another designed QB draw, this time up the gut as Lewis-Moore and Johnson (who was double-teamed) stunt out of the A-Gap. Ryan too easily blocked by the right tackle (he had dropped into a short zone). Bad angle by Harrison Smith coming up too hard and the final damage is incurred by Darrin Walls, who denies a touchdown, but is shoved to the ground in a heap by the left stiff arm of Locker near the Irish band.
  • Ryan keeps his assignment against a Locker roll-out (Locker actually handed off, but this is a key development later in the contest) while Lewis-Moore again sheds his block inside to stop Polk for loss of two yards. Ethan Johnson actually made the play with a fantastic interior bull rush to collapse the line, and Neal shed after being initially stalemated on the edge. Brian Smith filled his lane nicely on the outside. Johnson totally destroyed the play with an inside push. Wow.
  • A too-easy square-in from right-to-left beat outside CB Darrin Walls for an 8-yard touchdown on 2nd and Goal. Walls is ticketed for pass interference as well. An odd call, as generally a defender has to be "close" to the receiver to technically interfere.

2nd Drive/3rd Quarter

  • A missed coverage assignment on UW's offset tight end (think it was Te'os responsibility) results in slip-screen gain of 12 yards by Middleton. K-Mac goes low to make tackle with Te'o in pursuit.
  • Neal (RDE) stays home on shot-gun read option play and Johnson absolutely blows up his man to "stop" Locker for three yards, but the play should have resulted in a two-yard loss. Locker is a man.
  • Neal controlled on right edge; B-Smith totally lost and Brown is successfully blocked as Polk runs off left tackle for a gain of 41 yards due largely to an unconscionable tackling effort by Harrison Smith. Brian Smith actually recovered to grab Polk's jersey, and Blanton had a shot as well, falling on what should have been the pile-up, but Harrison Smith's arrived in name only, bringing no power (nor either of his feet) to the "tackle" as Polk gained an additional 30 yards after contact. K-Mac and Te'o combine on stop downfield.
  • Perfect coverage by CB Raeshon McNeil, who UW obviously targeted for a pump-and-go wheel route (from the backfield) to his (McNeil's) deep quarter responsibility. McNeil stayed home and Locker settled for 4-yard outlet pass to Kearse on the sideline. Neal, dropping into short zone, delivered a nice pop.
  • Ryan (LDE) again stays home and denies Locker time on designed roll. Fogerson dropped the pass after Ryan bumped and released him into flat. Blanton had beaten the outside wide receiver's block and might have had chance to drop Fogerson for loss had the running back hung onto the pass.
  • Washington's 3rd and 16 at ND 30 (after a second procedure penalty) turns into 1st and Goal at Irish 8-yard line as Locker hits James Johnson for 22 yards. Prior to the snap (and actually AT the snap) Irish linebackers and defensive backs are hurriedly communicating a late change. McNeil covered another stop-and-go extremely well, but Locker wisely adjusted and threw a pass to a sliding/stopping Johnson's back shoulder for 22 yards. Almost an un-guardable play (stop-go-stop route, thrown to the receiver's back shoulder, when it appeared Johnson was going to continue to the deep corner.
  • Four-Play Goal Line Stand: (3rd Quarter)

  • 1st and Goal from 8-yard line: The Irish employ a 4-3 defense with Scott Smith at SAM and McNeil and Blanton on the corner. A toss left to Polk and B-Smith takes the perfect angle and delivers a shot but fails to wrap-up (and got a shoulder stinger for his efforts). Ian Williams also misses a wrap-up for what would have been a four-yard loss after Smith's initial blow Blanton had initially forced the edge nicely, but badly overran Polk's cutback on the sideline. Harrison Smith makes the stop for a four-yard gain. Ryan was guilty of an unsuccessful arm tackle as well. Polk ran hard and deserves plenty of credit for his effort vs. the Irish.
  • 2nd and Goal from 4-yard line (4-3 with sophomore Hafis Williams in for Ian Williams). Locker runs a designed QB Draw off left tackle and is stopped by Harrison Smith and Brian Smith for a three-yard gain. H-Williams penetrated (but was actually baited inside by the action of the play as well). Te'o was controlled this time by blocking fullback Paul Homer (who's better than I thought).
  • 3rd and Goal from 1-yard line (The Irish remain in a 4-3 Defense with their backs to the goal line): A tremendous push by both Williams's (Hafis and Ian) then a clean-up tackle by Harrison Smith and McCarthy on Locker's sneak attempt.
  • 4th and Goal from 1-yard line: After timeout, Irish stay 4-3, bring in Brown for Scott Smith, and Ethan Johnson for Hafis Williams. Johnson gets a strong line surge while Te'o and Neal stop Locker cold again. The Irish defense actually seemed confused on the perimeter (judging by Brown's pre-snap movement and post-play conference with McNeil). Johnson deserves kudos for his penetration in the middle again.

1st Drive/4th Quarter

  • UW picks up an Irish blitz but solid recognition in zone coverage by Te'o helps force a low pass to Goodwin incomplete. Te'o has potential in coverage as an upperclassman.
  • Sophomore Steve Filer, in his first action from scrimmage in three weeks, makes stop on Polk for no gain from his RDE spot. Filer split the LT and LG to make the play while Johnson controlled the middle. Lewis-Moore also won at the point of attack on the play. Filer is then taken out in favor on the Dime Package (and for the duration of the contest, I believe).
  • On 3rd and 10, Locker beats the Irish Dime scheme with a designed roll left, forcing McCarthy to commit (too early, probably) to the run and Locker finds Kearse standing alone on the sideline for 12 yards and a first down. Either Brown or Gray was vulnerable to the deep flag route run from the slot, though Gray appeared to recover late in his deep quarter zone responsibility.
  • Johnson controlled in the middle this time, as was Neal from his RDE spot. Polk took advantage, running over left tackle for 20 yards behind a great lead block by fullback Paul Homer vs. McCarthy in space. Ryan and Lewis-Moore hustle to make the downfield stop. The play would have been nullified at the line but a perfectly timed middle blitz by Te'o resulted in an uncalled and blatant hold of the freshman ‘backer. Harrison Smith with another poor tackling effort in the open field allows the final five yards.
  • Gray is solid in deep coverage down the right sideline though Kearse out-maneuvered the junior corner and nearly made an incredible juggling catch.
  • Cwynar is moved from his gap and McCarthy makes a saving ankle tackle to limit Fogerson to 7 yards up the gut.
  • A 3rd and 3 pass to Goodwin is incomplete (high) over the middle. Scott Smith had been targeted in coverage (actually recovered nicely though he was beaten on the snap). Once again, there appeared to be pre-snap confusion with Smith looking back at McCarthy while the ball was snapped.
  • On 4th and 3, Sergio Brown is beaten by a slant from the slot (decent coverage as Brown took just one false step). Brown was obviously targeted after the timeout. The Irish safety, who regularly struggles in pass defense, was put in a tough coverage situation with no help behind him against a talented tight end. Again, the question needs to be asked: Why don't the Irish employ an extra cornerback in Nickel and Dime coverage? The Irish rushed Locker with six on the play.
  • Four consecutive runs by Polk gain 29 yards: First: Neal is collapsed at RDE and Gray and McCarthy are controlled in space. Te'o hangs on to make the stop for 16 yards downfield. Second: Lewis-Moore and Cwynar are controlled on a run up the gut for 6 yards. Third: Good penetration by Johnson while Ryan and B-Smith make the stop for a gain of two yards.
  • 3rd and 1 - McCarthy and McNeil (and the replay booth) keep Polk out of end zone after the entire right side was collapsed( including Harrison Smith on a lead block by Homer). Which sets up…

Goal Line Stand - Part I

  • 1st and Goal at 1-yard line: Johnson and Scott Smith win at the point (EJ dominates) and Toryan Smith, in his first action, fills the gap perfectly, stopping Polk for a one-yard loss.
  • 2nd and Goal at 2-yard line: Locker rolls right and fires a catchable ball to Goodwin but the slippery pigskin glances through the receiver's hands. Harrison Smith and Sergio Brown (looked like his man, at least pre-snap) trailed in coverage.
  • 3rd and Goal at 2-yard line: Locker rolls right, but Ryan, from his left outside linebacker spot, expertly stays home on the play and controls the block of lead fullback Paul Homer. Ryan does not allow Locker a free roll to the right which takes away the main passing option on the play. Smart (close to perfect) "football play" by Brian Smith, who drills Middleton (tight end) releasing across the backfield and the tight end is taken out of the play as Locker's underneath passing option. A hustling Toryan Smith (along with Paddy Mullen) fill Locker's inside cutback lane to make the stop. Ryan and B-Smith made the play, but Brown deserves recognition for strong defensive coverage on a crossing route. great, smart plays.
  • 4th Down (after a delay of game on UW): Ian Williams is called for Roughing the Snapper on the converted field goal try. The penalty gives the Huskies a new set of down at the Irish 1-yard line. Give me a break…

Goal Line Stand - Part II

  • 1st and Goal at 1-yard line: Johnson and Scott Smith stand up their opposing blockers and Toryan Smith fills perfectly to stop Polk for no gain.
  • 2nd and Goal at 6-yard line (following a delayed-call false start against the Huskies, prior to which Scott Smith, Ian Williams, Lewis-Moore, and Brian Smith drilled Polk for a loss before the whistles blew the play dead): Locker looks left and hits Homer out of the backfield, but yet another touchdown-saving (low) diving tackle by McCarthy drops Homer at the 1-yard line. Nice clean up by Harrison Smith a the end as Homer was reaching for the end zone though Homer appeared to be Smith's responsibility and McCarthy left his coverage to save the day.
  • 3rd and Goal at 1-yard line: Locker gains zero inches on middle sneak. Credit to Ian Williams and Paddy Mullen dominating at the point of attack. Washington simply did not move Notre Dame's interior defensive line. Toryan-and-Harrison Smith ensure there's no second surge TD by the powerful Locker. Note: Maybe Paddy Mullen should play more in short-yardage situations (not just goal line packages).
  • 4th and Goal: The Huskies field goal is good and the Irish trail 27-22 rather than a nearly insurmountable 31-22 with 3:04 remaining.

Final Drive of 4th Quarter

Real-time note: Why use safeties Ray Herring and Sergio Brown rather than two additional cornerbacks (Gray and McNeil) in the final 1:20?

  • The Huskies begin at the 10-yard line but complete a quick in-route, followed by a second down pass interference call on Brown (which was technically correct, though Brown had solid coverage). UW gained 18 total yards on two plays setting up 1st Down at the Irish 28-yard line.
  • Walls is beaten and barely recovers on slant and go. Incomplete, but poor situational defense by Walls.
  • Neal's backside (RDE pressure forces Locker to throw away on a roll to the right and bring up 3rd and 10 from the Irish 28-yard line.
  • Blanton simply has to win that battle with the ball in the air. The sophomore is positioned well in coverage but barely leaves his feet and the Huskies gain 37 yards and new life.
  • McCarthy's near-interception clearly hit the ground…two Locker runs later (including a Herring missed tackle in bounds) sets up the game-tying 37-yard FG and OT…

Overtime Defense

The Irish lead 37-30 and the Huskies need a touchdown and extra-point to tie and force a second overtime.

  • 1st and 10 from the ND 25: Nice coverage by Blanton vs. a slot-wheel route though he needs to locate ball earlier. Walls had excellent lock-down (hold?) coverage on the wheel-route's accompanying slant pattern.
  • 2nd and 10: Neal makes the play of the game with an outside speed rush and sack of Locker to set up 3rd and 19. The Irish junior beat the Huskies best offensive lineman, LT Ben Ossai, on the rush.
  • 3rd and 19 from the 34-yard line: What's up with Notre Dame's Cover 3 scheme at the end of close games? An easy first down goes right through the hands of a wide-open Kearse on the Irish sideline. At first, I thought Blanton made a major error but upon review, I think the struggling sophomore might have saved game, dropping into the deep third (and thus, the left corner) to deny a passing lane and help out Sergio Brown who was caught in his worst coverage: defending the slot receiver on a corner/flag route. I can only surmise that either Harrison Smith or possibly Brown would then have responsibility for the (open) receiver on the sideline.
  • 4th and 19 from the 34-yard line: Kyle McCarthy absolutely destroys an open Goodwin to jar loose a perfect Locker pass that would have set up the Huskies with a 1st and Goal inside the Irish 5-yard line. Harrison Smith helps clean up with a second hit on Goodwin.

GAME OVER - Notre Dame 37 Washington 30 Top Stories