Defensive Review: Part II

KLM, Fleming, Filer, and Ian Williams headline a strong second half by the Irish defensive front.

Below is Part II of our play-by-play recap of the Notre Dame defensive effort vs. the Cougars. Click here for Part I.

Opening Drive/2nd Half

After a Ben Turk punt pinned the Cougars at their own 2-yard line, WSU managed just 7 yards on 3 snaps, punting back to the Irish in plus-territory. The Irish defense employed its Nickel set with Kapron Lewis-Moore inside next to Ethan Johnson; Kerry Neal and Darius Fleming at DE; and Harrison Smith as the "Nickel" defender. Sergio Brown and Kyle McCarthy began as the safeties while Robert Blanton and Gary Gray manned the corners. Manti Te'o and Brian Smith, per usual, served as the two linebackers inside. ND 30 WSU 7

  • From deep in his own end zone, Jeff Tuel lofted a go-route to Johnny Forzani down the left sideline but his underthrown ball was broken up by Robert Blanton. Forzani had two steps on the Irish CB but was 55 yards downfield.
  • After a false start moved the Cougars back to their own 1-yard line (2nd and 11), Tuel hit WR Jeffrey Solomon on a 9-yard hitch to set up 3rd and 2 (Blanton made a jersey tackle after the catch).
  • RB Dwight Tardy is drilled out of bounds by McCarthy on the left sideline to stop a certain first down. The slow-developing run was blown up by Johnson's inside penetration and Neal successfully securing the edge. Te'o read the play well to take away an inside lane.
  • Substitutions: None.

Second Drive/3rd Quarter

Following a Nick Tausch field goal (and subsequent kickoff out of bounds), the Cougars begin with good field position at their own 40-yard line but immediately turn the ball over on a downfield interception at the ND 30-yard line. The Irish came out in 4-3 personnel with Fleming and Steve Filer at DE and Ian Williams on the nose next to Ethan Johnson inside. Harrison Smith lined up at SLB with Sergio Brown still back at Safety. ND 33 WSU 7

  • Tuel's errant throw on the run is picked off by Blanton, who made a fine one-handed interception on the move. Tuel had time on a nice play-action left and designed roll right but his attempted (it appeared) throw-away was well within the field of play. A nice stab by Blanton on the run.
  • Substitutions:None. One play.

End 3rd Quarter/Beginning 4th

WSU takes over with 0:34 remaining in the 3rd period but is again stopped on three plays, punting back to the Irish to begin the final period. Notre Dame begins the series in its 4-3 defense with Filer and Fleming serving as defensive ends and Darrin Walls joining Gray at CB. ND 33 WSU 7

  • Johnson is shoved out of his gap but Te'o fills to stop RB Carl Winston after a 4-yard gain. Fleming fought off a block as well to help out on the tackle.
  • On 2nd and 6, Ian Williams is moved out of the middle and Johnson is pancaked by a Cougars double-team (LG and C). Te'o shakes a late block attempt by Cougars center Kenny Alfred and Brian Smith sheds a seal block as well to combine on the tackle, while LDE Darius Fleming showed a nice interior push. Johnson, in retrospect, was pancaked because his blocker, Zack Williams, held him to the ground (10-yard penalty). Apologies to the Irish sophomore DT!
  • On the final play of the 3rd Quarter, Tuel is dropped for a one-yard loss by NT Ian Williams. Williams destroyed a double-team block from the snap and made a nice play to hang onto a Tuel who was running a designed draw up the middle. Of note, Harrison Smith dropped back to Safety on the play with Sergio Brown up in the Nickel role. Te'o (shedding a block) and McCarthy were in position to make the play as well.
  • On 3rd and 17 from his own 9-yard line, Tuel found Gino Simone on a short cross for a 15-yard gain. Te'o took a poor angle as Simone came across the middle in front of the Irish freshman (from the right slot). Simone eluded Dime Defender Zeke Motta (concrete feet on the play) and was eventually shoved out of bounds (short of the marker) by a hustling (and speedy, it appeared) Kyle McCarthy to force the punt.
  • Substitutions: Zeke Motta on 3rd Down in the Dime Package. Lewis-Moore

Three 3rd Quarter Observations:

  • Motta simply needs more field time to make plays (such as the 3rd Down miss above) in space.
  • Te'o's greatest improvement from freshman to sophomore year will likely be as a pass defender in zone coverage.
  • Ian Williams made a powerful and athletic move vs. the QB draw after two previous ineffective efforts.

Second Drive/4th Quarter

Immediately after receiving a team "lecture" from head coach Charlie Weis on the sideline, the Irish dominated the Cougars, moving the offense back 21 yards on three snaps before forcing another punt. Raeshon McNeil and Walls served as the cornerbacks; Lewis-Moore and Ian Williams manned the interior, and Neal and Filer began the drive at DE with Fleming subbing in for Neal on 2nd Down. ND 33 WSU 7

  • Lewis-Moore is unblocked and makes a backfield stop of Winston for a loss of four yards. Just a breakdown up front by the Cougars OL.
  • Fleming shows shocking quickness, evading a block by LT Tyson Pencer to sack Tuel for a 9-yard loss. Fleming took a hard step outside and burst inside (nearly untouched) before exploding into Tuel for the takedown.
  • On 3rd and 23 from his own 17-yard line, Tuel is sacked for an 8-yard loss by a hustling Filer from the backside. Tuel had rolled right away from the pressure but after sidestepping Brian Smith (with the help of a blocker), Tuel was buried by a full-speed Filer, who forced a fumble on the hit (recovered by the Cougars). Raw speed by Filer in pursuit.
  • Substitutions: Fleming on 2nd Down (sack).

Third Drive/4th Quarter

New Defenders for the Irish: Morrice Richardson (with Filer) at DE; Sean Cwynar next to Ian Williams inside; Walls and McNeil at CB; Toryan Smith and David Posluszny as the team's inside ‘backers (Poz at WILL); Jamoris Slaughter and Ray Herring at Safety and Zeke Motta in the hybrid Nickel/SLB role. ND 40 WSU 7

  • Beginning at his own 31-yard line, Tuel is intercepted on the drive's first play as NT Ian Williams expertly reads a screen pass and makes the leaping interception in traffic (tipped to himself). Heck of a play by Williams.
  • Substitutions: Listed Above

Fourth Drive/4th Quarter

The Irish employ identical personnel from the previous drive in their Base 4-3 defense with the exception of Paddy Mullen (replacing Ian Williams). WSU drives 65 yards in 7 plays (3:06) to get on the board in the second stanza as Tuel again hits Karstetter in a one-on-one situation for the touchdown. 40-7

  • Mitz gains 9 yards on a draw up the middle before being stopped by Posluszny who shed a block downfield. Mullen showed good penetration but did not locate the ball on the draw.
  • Mitz gained another 8 yards around the left side as Filer was a hair late slipping the seal block. Hafis Williams might have been held in pursuit. Posluszny got caught up in traffic with a false step forward.
  • Tardy gains 12 yards over left tackle as Posluszny is controlled by LG Zack Williams and RDE Steve Filer is shielded outside by the LT. Toryan Smith misses a late tackle attempt before Slaughter brings Tardy down on the sideline. Cwynar showed decent penetration on the play.
  • Tuel sidesteps a blitzing Posluszny and hits WR Daniel Blackledge in the right flat for a short first down. McNeil on the tackle.
  • Tardy gains 19 over right guard as Hafis Williams and Richardson are moved inside (right) and Posluszny, after shedding a block, loses a tackle on the runner. Herring missed in space but Motta hustled to spin down Tardy who would have scored. Toryan Smith was blocked outside on the line.
  • Tardy adds five more before Herring and Motta stop him up the gut. Mullen and Cwynar were both handled up front.
  • Tuel hits Karstetter for an 8-yard TD (on 2nd and 5). Jamoris Slaughter stumbled in the end zone in one-on-one coverage vs. the fade.
  • Substitutions: Hafis Williams for Mullen.

Final Drive/4th Quarter

The Irish defensive set remains the same with the exception of Dan McCarthy who took over at Safety for Ray Herring at Safety ND 40 WSU 14

  • Dan McCarthy makes his first career stop from scrimmage, tripping up Winston after a backfield pass gains 14 yards.
  • Toryan Smith immediately tackles Thompson after a 6-yard hook.
  • Mo Richardson diagnoses a swing pass and forces Winston out of bounds for a loss of a year.
  • Tuel gains 16 yards on a spin-roll left, eluding the untouched Zeke Motta in the backfield (Motta never broke down, and was definitely thinking sack/forced fumble on the uncovered blitz).
  • Tuel throws incomplete out of bounds as Motta's late blitz applied pressure.
  • Tuel throws deep left out of bounds into solid coverage by McNeil and Slaughter (FS).
  • Paddy Mullen and Zeke Motta combine on a sack of Tuel to end the game. A nice moment for the senior DT (Mullen) who is congratulated by teammates for his first career sack. Mullen serves as a key member of the team's goal line defense but rarely plays without his back to the goal.
  • Substitutions: NAMES

4th Quarter Observations:

  • Lewis-Moore, Fleming, and Filer put together back-to-back-to-back tackles-for-loss/sacks to open the period.
  • The trip to San Antonio served as a confidence-building contest for Lewis-Moore, Ian Williams, and Steve Filer.
  • Not an easy spot for the Irish backups (cold off the bench vs. the WSU first string) but they put forth a poor effort on the touchdown drive.

Final Score ND 40 WSU 14

Defensive Game Balls: Darius Fleming, Kapron Lewis-Moore, Ethan Johnson, Kerry Neal, Steve Filer, and Ian Williams: the six controlled the line of scrimmage on all but one meaningful possession of the contest.


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