Eye in the Sky: 3rd Quarter

Our 3rd Quarter offensive review examines a gutsy play call on 4th and 1; more undisciplined red zone efforts (but ultimately, success); and a curious coaching decision on the blocked extra point.

Below is the Part III of IrishEyes full game-tape review of the Irish offense vs. the Panthers.

For Parts I and II, click here.

First ND Drive/3rd Quarter

Breakdown: The Irish began the second half at their own 20-yard line and drove 43 yards in 8 plays (3:13 time of possession) before punting at the Pittsburgh 37-yard line. Dan Wenger took over for Trevor Robinson at right guard for the duration of the contest. Pitt 10 ND 3

  • (Shotgun Split-Back/3-Wide): Jimmy Clausen's inside handoff to right halfback Armando Allen gains five yards to the left side thanks to a tremendous lead (cut) block by left halfback Theo Riddick in space. Left guard Chris Stewart did not get out to block MIKE linebacker Adam Gunn who tracked down Allen for the stop. Golden Tate held up with a decent initial block on the outside but Allen was forced into his space by Gunn.
  • (3-Wide): Right guard Dan Wenger is immediately beaten off the snap by Panthers nose tackle Gus Mustakas who strings Allen wide on a play intended to go through the right B-Gap (between guard and tackle). Thanks to a solid seal block by tight end Mike Ragone (Ragone held his block for a solid three seconds) and a determined kick-out by right tackle Sam Young, Allen was able to pick his way for nine yards and an Irish first down. Wide receivers Michael Floyd and Duval Kamara dominated their defenders on the run as well.
  • (3-Wide): Clausen's quick out to Kamara was batted down at the line by LDE Jabaal Sheard.
  • (3-Wide): Allen broke off 11 more yards with yet another tough inside run. Both Stewart and left tackle Paul Duncan completely cleared out the side while center Eric Olsen found and controlled his assigned ‘backer in space. After being initially beaten, Wenger recovered nicely to clear a path for Allen's cutback while Sam Young cut down another potential tackler in space. Kamara continued to look for blocks through and after the whistle.
  • (3-Wide): After a play-action fake to Riddick, Clausen hit Tate on a near-side out to the right for 10 yards. Tate (of course) broke free of an ankle tackle and turned the quick out into a 22-yard gain.
  • (3-Wide): Floyd is stopped for a one-yard loss on an ill-conceived bubble screen. Notre Dame's illegal shift penalty (Floyd) is declined. Tate missed his cut block attempt (though Floyd was corralled man-to-man).
  • (Shotgun Split-Back/3-Wide): Following a Notre Dame timeout, Clausen's go-route to Michael Floyd down the right side falls incomplete thanks to fantastic position by CB Aaron Berry, though his delay in front of Floyd's route would have been called pass interference in the NFL.
  • (4-Wide): Facing 3rd and 11, Clausen is afforded great protection but Floyd uncharacteristically drops a first down catch that hit him between the numbers and the Irish are forced to punt. (A dropped snap and subsequent running 17-yard shank by Eric Maust).)
  • Skill position subs on the drive: Robby Parris, whose substitution at wide receiver forced the Irish to call timeout.

Second ND Drive/3rd Quarter:

Breakdown: After the Irish hold the Panthers to another field goal, Notre Dame is held without a first down, gaining three yards on three plays before punting back to Pittsburgh from their own 35-yard line. Pitt 13 ND 3

  • (3-Wide): After sneaking out of the shotgun backfield, Riddick drops Clausen's pass in the left flat.
  • (3-Wide): Riddick, lined up solo-left, is stopped on a draw run for a one-yard loss. Eric Olsen was beaten badly inside by Mustakas who secured Riddick around the ankles. Both Wenger (man-up) and Young (seal) executed their blocks to create a running lane for Riddick while Ragone had caved in the strongside linebacker as well. This play is represents a clear illustration how one missed block can destroy an entire offensive play/series as Riddick would have been one-on-one about eight yards downfield.
  • (4-Wide): On 3rd and 11, Clausen is hurried by Sheard and forced to flip a shuffle pass to Armando Allen on the left side for a 4-yard gain. Sheard put an impressive spin move on Young who barely touched him in pass protection as Sheard burst inside to flush Clausen from the pocket. Pitt rushed two on the play.

    Maust's ensuing punt travels 20 yards off the side of his foot.

  • Skill position subs on the drive: Robby Parris on first down. John Goodman entered the game as the fourth receiver on 3rd down.

Third ND Drive/3rd Quarter:

Breakdown: After a Ray Graham touchdown (following his 2009-highlight reel run), the Irish finally answer with an 11-play, 80-yard drive (6:40 time of possession) and a Jimmy Clausen QB sneak touchdown. Placekicker David Ruffer's PAT wass blocked by Panthers DE Greg Romeus. Pitt 20 ND 9

  • (3-Wide): Clausen steps up in the pocket and hits Floyd on a nine-yard comeback (gain of 11). Solid protection by Young on the outside to allow Clausen a passing lane.
  • (3-Wide): Clausen steps up to hit Allen over the middle for a gain of six yards. Duncan was initially beaten around the edge by Romeus but recovered nicely.
  • (3-Wide): Tate is drilled on a quick slant and shoved back into the backfield (he, of course, wouldn't go down) but is marked with a two-yard gain due to forward progress.
  • (3-Wide): On 3rd and 2, Allen is limited to one yard over left guard. Duncan and Stewart were victimized by Romeus' backfield penetration though Romeus appeared to be offsides (no call).
  • (Offset-I): On 4th and 1 from his own 40-yard line, Clausen, after a play-action fake to Allen up the gut, fires downfield to Michal Floyd for a 45-yard gain on a gutsy deep post call. Clausen, pressured due to poor pass protection by Wenger, actually under-threw Floyd who had three yards on the nearest defender. Floyd made a tremendous leaping catch to keep Irish hopes alive.
  • (3-Wide): Clausen's back-shoulder fade to Tate (he was going toward the front pylon with his throw) is knocked down at the line by Romeus.
  • (4-Wide): Clausen's 11-yard completion to Goodman on the right sideline is negated by a holding penalty by Duncan on Romeus, who split Duncan and Stewart with a devastating inside pass rush.
  • (3-Wide): 2nd and 20 – Clausen's 14-yard comeback on the right side to Michael Floyd is called back due to an illegal formation penalty on Matt Romine who checked in as a second tight end. Pretty weak call, I might add.
  • (2 TE/3-Wide/Empty Backfield): After an off-sides penalty on Pitt give the Irish 2nd and 20 at the Panthers 25-yard line, Clausen fires a 10-yard out route to Tate to set up a manageable 3rd and 10 situation. Both tight ends (Mike Ragone and Bobby Burger) remained in pass protection on the play. Tate again posed over a fallen defender on the sideline though gave him a sportsmanlike tap on the helmet walking back to the huddle.
  • (2-TE/3-Wide/Empty Backfield): 3rd and 10 – Clausen hits Floyd with a high throw for a 12-yard stop/hook route on the right side and an Irish first down.
  • (2-TE): Allen barrels off right tackle but is stopped at the 1-yard line as both Kamara and Young deliver blows but don't secure their blocks. Mustakas split a double-team block by Wenger and Olsen to bother Allen behind the line though Olsen recovered to BURY an oncoming linebacker.
  • (2-TE/Offset-I): With Romine as the second tight end; Taylor Dever as a sixth OL (unbalance line to the right) and Burger as the lead fullback, Allen is stopped for no gain over the left side. Ragone showed a solid effort holding his block but Romine lost his late as Allen was forced outside by MIKE LB Adam Gunn's penetration. Burger appeared to be assigned to SS Dom DeCicco rather than Gunn (if so, leaving Gunn uncovered was a mistake).
  • (2-TE): Dever lined up as the second tight end to the right but Clausen followed Olsen and Stewart up the gut for the score. Duncan also executed his down block on the play.
  • Substitutions on the drive: Dever and Romine as extra tight ends and tackles; Burger as the lead fullback. Goodman at WR.

Three 3rd Quarter Observations:

  • I don't need to look at official statistics to tell you ND has the least reliable punting game in the free world.
  • I'd like to trade for Panthers redshirt-junior DE Greg Romeus.
  • Trevor Robinson was removed from the game in favor of Dan Wenger, presumably because Robinson wasn't at full strength due to a right ankle injury. Why was he part of the offensive line on the blocked extra point? (Romeus ran directly through Robinson's right side).

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