The Eye in the Sky - First Half

IrishEyes reviews the performance of the Notre Dame offense in its weekly two-part feature.

Below is Part I of IrishEyes full game-tape review of the Irish offense vs. the Eagles. The second half will be published later today.

First Notre Dame Drive:

Breakdown: The Irish opened the contest with a 10 play, 53-yard (4:52 time of possession). The drive ended at the BC 19-yard line with a 37-yard field goal by Nick Tausch. Notre Dame 3 Boston College 0

Offensive Line and Key Blockers: Center Eric Olsen guides RDT Kaleb Ramsey out of the middle while LG Chris Stewart seeks and finds LB Mike McLaughlin, neutralizing the Eagles middle ‘backer to open a gaping hole for HB Armando Allen on the game's first play. Irish RG Trevor Robinson with a strong block at the point…RT Sam Young, TE Kyle Rudolph, and Robinson all win up front as Allen gains 8 yards over the right side on the game's second play…Robinson is called for holding (after being beaten to the inside) on a run over the right side (Robert Hughes). Young, Rudolph, and Parris were all neutralized on the carry that gained just over a yard prior to penalty…On 2nd and 17, Olsen wins at the point while LT Paul Duncan loses his defender at the last moment. Stewart is shed on a kick-out attempt and Hughes is held to 3 yards over the left side… Hughes is stuffed for no gain off right tackle as DLT Nick Rossi sheds Robinson's blocks while skating down the line to make the tackle. Rudolph, Young, and Kamara (crack-back) each threw quality blocks on the play…

'Backs and Receivers: On Allen's opening gain of 12 yards, slot receiver Golden Tate drilled easily handled BC strong side linebacker Mike Morrissey to allow Allen a lane at the second level. As usual, Allen hit the whole hard, accelerated, but lost his balance on the slick grass in space. Not much of a block by WR Robby Parris downfield…WR Duval Kamara gets his man on Allen's 8-yard gain off right tackle…Tate collects a bubble screen pass from Jimmy Clausen and Parris gets enough of SLB Mike Morrissey to allow Tate a cutback lane inside for a gain of 15 yards…On 1st and 20, Clausen hits Kamara on a hitch for 3 yards but two Eagles combine to bring down the big target…On 3rd and 14, Clausen spins left to roll out of the pocket and after squaring his hips to throw, hits Tate with a bullet near the left sideline for an Irish first down. Tate gained another 6-7 yards after the catch for the 22-yard completion. Tate originally ran a square-in (left to right) but moved back left with his QB to help make the play….Clausen's fade left to Parris in the back corner appeared to hit Parris in the left arm but the senior could not make the catch (tough concentration situation for Parris, but the ball was thrown well). I can't recall Parris catching a fade route this season…After stepping up in the pocket vs. a 2-man outside rush (both DTs dropped into a short middle zone), Clausen's pass to Rudolph in the post is broken up by a diving Wes Davis. Nice zone coverage and play on the ball by the Eagles' FS. The Irish settle for a 37-yard field goal.

Second Notre Dame Drive:

Breakdown: Leading 3-0, the Irish muddled through 5 plays, taking 1:21 off the game clock before losing 15 yards and incurring an intentional grounding penalty in the end zone…an automatic safety. The official yardage on the drive was 0. ND 3 BC 2

Offensive Line and Key Blockers: On the drive's 2nd play, Young and Robinson win on the right side, Rudolph seals LDE Jim Ramella outside and Allen bursts over right tackle for an 11-yard gain. Kamara completely stoned CB Roderick Rollins with a block as well but it was a pulling block by Stewart from left guard through the right side that made the play for Allen…Rudolph loses WLB Luke Huechly on a cut block and the BC freshman regains his balance to drop Allen after 3 yards. Young executed his block outside and Robinson dominated at the point. At the tail end of the play, Duncan is called for clipping (15 yards away from the action) to bring the ball back to the ND 15 for 1st and 21, negating Allen's last two gains. Bit of a cheap play by Duncan, and completely unnecessary (to the play).

'Backs and Receivers: Clausen hits Parris (slot) for a 3-yard bubble screen. Kamara gets his block, but Parris is corralled easily by the outside defender. The bubble pass to Parris isn't playing to the senior's strength as a player. An odd 1st down personnel and play call after a change of possession. Parris (re)injured his ankle on the play and missed the rest of the contest…Allen makes a beautiful spin move to gain 3 extra yards on the drive's 2nd play (blocking above)…Goodman drops a 7-yard out from Clausen then takes a shot from CB DeLeon Gause…Clausen is (correctly) called for Intentional Grounding in the end zone, resulting in a Safety and 2 points for the Eagles. Clausen had room to step up in the pocket vs. a 3-man rush but fell into the old habit of automatically rolling right. LDE Jim Ramella, who was correctly blocked outside by Young, put pressure on Clausen for the 2-point play. The game announcers incorrectly blamed Young for the pressure (he might have yielded just a bit too much ground) but this one is on Clausen.

Third Notre Dame Drive:

Breakdown: Gaining possession at their own 7-yard line, the Irish managed 4 plays for 18 yards (2:15) before punting back to the Eagles. ND 3 BC 2

Offensive Line and Key Blockers: The Irish gain 11 yards over the left side with Allen as the Wildcat QB. A pulling Olsen absorbs a big run blitz while Duncan completely dominates at the point to open a lane for the junior ‘back. Young, unbalanced line left) also buries his man and Dan Wenger, subbing at RG for he series, shoots out to control the weak side ‘backer Alexander DiSanzo on the back side. Duval Kamara controls his defender from the slot and FB/TE Bobby Burger throws an excellent lead block downfield. Tate also makes a strong block after coming in motion to lead Allen through the hole. Almost perfectly blocked by the Irish as Gause (coming off Clausen wide left) makes the downfield tackle…on the ensuing play, Wenger and Rudolph are destroyed up the middle (another Wildcat) as is, surprisingly, Burger on the backside. Burger appeared to be dazed after taking a helmet-to-helmet hit on his block. Wenger was pushed five yards into the backfield. Olsen, Kamara, Duncan, and Young, all perfectly executed their blocks at the second level and this could have been a huge gain for the Irish. (Tate blocked no one in the scrum after the fake hand-off) as Allen is dropped for a 1-yard loss…Tate loses two yards taking a hand-off from Clausen (2-back Shotgun formation with Tate as the left halfback). Dan Wenger completely missed his block (left guard) on the play. The Irish gave away a series taking Stewart out of his left guard position. There should be no more No.1 and No. 1A listing at left guard this year for the Irish.

'Backs and Receivers: On the drive's final play (3rd and 13 from the ND 21-yard line) freshman slot receiver Roby Toma catches his first pass in an Irish uniform for 6 yards underneath but the Irish are forced to punt. Good coverage downfield by the Eagles (again).

ND Drive Bisects end of 1st/beginning of 3rd Quarter:

Breakdown: Again beginning at its own 7-yard line, ND gained 31 yards on 6 plays (2:42) before punting back to BC with 14:12 remaining in the 1st Half. ND 3 BC 2

Offensive Line and Key Blockers: On the drive's third play (first two below), Allen follows Duncan and Stewart down blocks through the left B-Gap (between tackle and guard) for a 4-yard gain and 1st Down. I hate the 2nd and 1 rushing play, but the plan was likely to change field position after spending much of the 1st period with their backs to the goal…Allen hits a scrum for a 3-yard gain on 1st and 10. ND blocked the play well (Duncan, Stewart, Olsen, Robinson and Rudolph all earned stalemates) but ND was ultimately outnumbered in the box as FS Wes Davis snuck up to fill against the run… Blitzing SLB Mike Morrissey beats Robinson (who dropped into the pocket to pick up the outside rusher), and forces Clausen left for an intentional throw-away to end the 1st Quarter…Allen is held to three yards on 3rd and 7 from the ND 35-yard line and the Irish are forced to punt to begin the 2nd Period. It appeared a pulling Robinson should have continued outside rather then looking inside for a block. Allen would have had a lane over the left side as Rudolph did an excellent job securing the edge. Allen was hit a full second late with a shot to his helmet from the elbow of Austin Giles at the end of the play, but the obvious penalty was not called. An extremely conservative play-call by Charlie Weis though the ancillary result (after BC's offensive series) was a change in field position as the Irish regained possession three minutes later near midfield.

'Backs and Receivers: Backed up to his own goal line, Clausen hits Kamara for a 7-yard hitch and the powerful receiver does the rest, picking up 5 yards after the catch for an Irish first down…Clausen hits Goodman for a 9-yard out route and a first down. Clausen threw the ball perfectly at 10 yards but Goodman was sloppy at the end of his route, rolling into the ball and stepping out after a 9-yard gain…

1st Quarter Observations:

  • Notre Dame's first 14 formations featured a 3-wide receiver set. ND ended the USC contest one week prior with 41 of its final 46 snaps out of a similar 3-wide look.
  • Unless 335-pound LG Chris Stewart needs a couple series per game on the sidelines to maintain his wind, I see no reason to sit the effective and vastly improved senior blocker, who is better in space and far better at the point than his replacement.
  • Boston College excels at muddling the game, slowing opposing offenses, and playing an old fashioned, boring, yet ultimately highly effective field position-style of football.

First Full Drive/2nd Quarter:

Breakdown: Still leading 3-2, the Irish took possession at their own 48-yard line and traveled 36 yards and 10 plays (2:31 time of possession), settling for a Tausch field goal (after a touchdown was called back due to penalty - described below). ND 6 BC 2

Offensive Line and Key Blockers: Later in the drive (1st and 10 at the BC 12-yard line), the Irish block a counter to the right well as Stewart pulls to get his man (Kuechly) in space while Rudolph (seal outside) Robinson (head up) and Young (down block) each win their assignment. Kamara was a bit late going after a full-speed Wes Davis. Ultimately Hughes needs to break the final tackle (he spun off a hit from the boundary cornerback but fell) and keep his feet for what could have been a 12-yard touchdown run rather than 3-yard gain.

'Backs and Receivers: Clausen opens the drive with a 5-yard short cross (right to left under the linebackers) to a slotted John Goodman…Clausen then hit Kamara on a 10-yard stop route outside. Kamara gained four yards after the catch with his forward lean…Another out to Goodman, this time on the left side for 8 yards. Goodman needs to maintain his focus as his defender fell down and there was at least first down yardage, if not significantly more left on the field as Goodman eased out of bounds. More playing time is probably the only cure for sloppy routes by the sophomore…Hughes drops a swing pass on the next play…after a BC timeout and ensuing offsides penalty (drawn by an alert Kyle Rudolph, who responded to the Eagles' neutral zone infraction) allows the Irish an easy first down, Clausen hits Kamara on a hook outside right for 12 yards and another first down. Kamara used a stiff-arm and leg drive to gain the final four yards on the play…Facing 2nd and 7 at the BC 10-yard line, Clausen cannot find a receiver with a full six seconds in the pocket and is nearly picked off, forcing a throw to the left side to Golden Tate. Clausen could have bought more time sliding left or simply run for a few yards on the play…On 3rd and 7 from the BC 10, Clausen uncharacteristically misses Rudolph on a smash route, throwing about a yard inside the big tight end who had broken outside right after hooking in the end zone.

Fake Field Goal: On 4th and Goal from the BC 10, holder Eric Maust collects (an unintentionally) high snap, fakes placement of the football as kicker Nick Tausch approaches per usual, and Maust then takes off over the right side for an easy touchdown. The play is called back due to a Lane Clelland hold (correctly called) outside and the Irish settle for a field goal attempt and 6-2 advantage on the ensuing play. Stewart (inside right) Duncan (2nd from end right) and Mike Ragone (offset protector on the right side of the formation) each perfectly execute their blocking assignment on the fake.

Second Drive/2nd Quarter:

Breakdown: Trailing 9-6 after a BC touchdown, ND drove 74 yards in 12 plays to take a 13-9 lead heading into the break. 73 of the drive's 74 yards came courtesy of Clausen's right arm and legs (two runs including a first down).

Offensive Line and Key Blockers: After three completions to start the drive, Allen is limited to one-yard by boundary CB Roderick Rollins. Rollins made a tremendous play to shed a Kamara block and corral Allen with his outside arm. RG Dan Wenger should be noted for a fine pulling block after a rough first series earlier in the game…

'Backs and Receivers: Clausen fires an immediate right side hook to Tate for 7 yards (Tate fought for three after the catch)…Clausen follows with a quick out, this time to the left to Toma (lined up wide left) for 8 yards and an Irish first down. Good to see classmate and Irish KR Theo Riddick encouraging Toma after the play on the sideline…Another quick pass to Tate on the right for 6 yards. Tate continues to fight for yards after every catch…Facing 3rd and 3 from his own 48-yard line, Clausen scrambled to his left and stretches for a key first down…Clausen to Kamara for 5 yards on the right is followed by Clausen to Allen for 9 yards over the middle on a check-down for a 1st Down. One of the few clean backfield releases by an Irish ‘back on the afternoon...Clausen then hits Rudolph on a smash-route to the outside right for another first down. Following the play, Clausen gets in the face of DT Austin Giles…Toma drops a delayed out-route on first down. That can't happen to a possession receiver who's already involved in the contest (two prior catches). Like Goodman, Toma will simply gain confidence/field presence with more playing time…Clausen then stepped up to evade pocket pressure and scrambled to his right out of bounds for a six-yard gain, setting up 3rd and 4 from the BC 18-yard line. Clausen flipped he ball to Giles who was near him out of bounds after the play…Clausen then finds Tate for 7 yards and an Irish first down on a sideline out in front of the cornerback. Excellent catch of the high throw by Tate…Clausen is flushed to his right (Young cleared a path by burying Giles, who also slipped on his outside rush) to hit Tate for an 11-yard touchdown on the right sideline. Tate ran an in-route and adjusted to Clausen's roll right, coming back to help the QB for the go-ahead touchdown.

2nd Quarter Observations:

  • Boston College's ploy of using its defensive linemen (both ends and tackles) to hit/hold/delay Irish running backs trying to slip out into the pass patterns had to be frustrating for Weis and the Irish.
  • Clausen showed why he's the nation's best offensive player to date on the half's final drive. He has the game presence of Brady Quinn and the innate pocket presence of 1993 Irish QB/leader Kevin McDougal but Clausen is, of course, light years ahead of McDougal as a passer.
  • Much better series by Wenger in relief of Stewart on the final drive.

Halftime Score: ND 13 BC 9

Personal Groupings (Includes Penalties and Irish sets prior to time-outs):

  • Three-Wide Receiver Sets: 41 (including first 14 snaps).
  • Wild-Cat (Armando Allen as "QB"): 3
  • Two-Tight End Sets: 1 (Touchdown to Golden Tate to end the half)
  • Shotgun Two-Back 1
  • One Fake Field Goal

In a span covering the 2nd half of last week's contest vs. USC and Saturday's matchup with Boston College, Notre Dame line up in a 3-WR set on 82 of 92 snaps.

Part II of our Eye in the Sky review will be published this afternoon.


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