Duranko’s Digest: What did we see against Boston College?

While we had cognitive dissonance over Alabama’s loss to A&M, and while dreaming dreams and seeing visions of BCS glory,  we saw an excellent, big swift, skilled Notre Dame team, comfortable outside of South Bend, dominate BC with cold efficiency and cooler passion. The Irish, surprisingly leading D-1A in drives of five minutes or more, controlled the ball at will for the first three quarters, but squandered scoring opportunities with atypical fumbles from the running backs.

Kelly, know for audacity in seeking victory, coached as if he were merely avoiding a loss.  Knowing he had enough points with 21, he basically buttoned it up in the 4th stanza.

It was a simple formula, balancing the run and the pass, converting third downs, stopping BC’s run, letting Rettig’s receivers catch the ball, then tackling them immediately.  Diaco let Rettig dink and dunk, garnering less than 9 yards per completion (golson’s was a healthy 12 per completion).

For the fourth time this season. with Michigan State, Michigan, Miami the first three, the Irish D pitched not a shutout, but did not allow a touchdown.

Warm fuzzy feeling award: Goodman catching a touchdown pass Is this guy improving as much as we think award??:  Danny Spond

 HOW GOOD ARE THE IRISH?

Defense

THIS IS A BCS CALIBER DEFENSE

Defenses are entire units but the anvil and the hammer of this Irish defense is in its front seven.  The starters are filled with NFL prospects.  This unit will stop the run and not let you rely on it.  You are only allowed to run after you have established the pass.  The power of Tuitt, Nix, and KLM is daunting. They offer nearly a half of a ton of mass themselves, and they play with attitude.  There is enough depth, especially with the precocious Day, to  keep them fresh in the 4th quarter.

The linebackers are led by the remarkable Te’o, but the others are worthy enough of being on the field with him.  Shembo carries a sledgehammer onto the field, is a sledgehammer on the field after the whistle blows. Fox/Calabrese are a veteran duo, with Fox skilled at covering receivers, and Calabrese a sure tackler.  Spond has improved significantly this year, and can stay on the field in passing situations.

The unit is not a great pass-rushing group, but if you hold the ball too long….

The secondary has improved, and is still protected by Diaco with his cornucopia of zone defenses.  Their tackling has improved, and Jackson and Russell have improved in their man-to-man coverage skills.  They are among the top five defenses in America, whether by the eyeball test or statistically.

You want data? #1 in scoring defense (we’re haircutting the Tide because they played Western Kentucky and the might OWLS of Florida Atlantic), 10th in Pass Efficiency Defense, 8th in Total

Defense, 6th in Rush Defense.  REMARKABLE!

OFFENSE

A New Year’s Day  Bowl Quality Offense.

Started slowly in September, breaking in a new QB, young receivers, and new blocking schemes.
The vet OL jelled after the September break and has led the offense.
The Irish offense has increased its  ability to engineer sustained drives, cleverly mixing running and passing.
The quarterback has grown, and has brought the young receiving corps with him.
Kelly enjoys playing  multiple TE packages, and while the nonpareil Eifert will sneak out on pass plays,
his blocking is now NFL caliber. The Irish are capable of wearing you down in the 4th quarter,
Stanford style.

This offense is improving throughtout the season. To justify their now higher rating, let’s examine some numbers.

OFFENSIVE PRODUCTIVITY SINCE THE SEPTEMBER BREAK

Now, among you quants “data-mining” is a capital sin, but I’m about to commit it. We look at the data for the 4 September games.  Then we examine the string of games from Miami through Pitt.  We have calculated the averages for points, rushing offense, passing offense, total offense and compared them to the GROSS averages for all of D-1 through games of 11/3.  Here are the totals and the “pro forma” rankings.

In the first 4 games, the Irish AVERAGED 25.75 points, 19 First Downs, 140 yards per game rushing at 3.5 a carry, 211 yards passing at 57.5% completion average and 351 yards per game total offense.   The averages for the Miami through Pitt were 28 points, 24.2 First Downs, 231 yards per game rushing at 5.1 yards per carry, 201 yards per game passing at 57% completion rate for 459 yards per game.

POINTS PER GAME

Up from 25.75 to 28.  A modest 9% increase.  But if you throw out the two non-BCS conference teams, Navy early and BYU in October, the averages become 17.7 and 30 ppg.  This is a 70% jump in ppg. 30 per game would rank 55th in the nation.

First downs moved from 19 per game to 24.2 per game, a 28% increase, but more importantly, an extra first down per quarter is a HUGE difference in ball control.

Rushing yardage went from 140 per game to 248.4, a 77% increase. The rank would be 12th in rushing yardage nationally.  The more intriguing improvement is from 3.5 yards per carry to 5.1 yards per carry.  This is moving from a measurement on third down, to having gobbled up the first down in two plays.  It was never “three yards and a cloud of dust” it was “four yards and a cloud of dust.”

The passing yards actually decreased by 4% with the same completion rate.  The rank here is 90th.

The total offense increased from 351 per game to 459 per game, a 30% increase. 459 would rank us 30th in the country.

Now, note two things:  In the October/November traunch, we played three very good defensive teams-Stanford, BYU and OU, one competent one, Pitt, and a sieve in Miami.So these numbers came against sound competition.

Second, the final thing to arrive in any offense is red zone efficiency and, in Phil Steele’s favorite number, yards per point (like golf, lower is better)  This means you leave fewer points on the field.

THE OCTOBER OFFENSE WAS MUCH BETTER THAN THE SEPTEMBER OFFENSE.

Is this team done improving?  Again, we have the rest of the regular season and then 5 weeks between SC and the BCS bowl game.

The offense that takes the field in the BCS game will be a far better offense than the one that opened the season, and better than the one that played in October.  Stick around, this could be fun!

 SPECIAL TEAMS

Bowl quality

The first principle is that we have, in deference to our defensive dominance, a conservative approach to special teams.

Brindza, subbing for Tausch, while gritty, has missed some kicks.

On the empirical side, Phil Steele’s blended ranking is as good as we have.  The Irish were 46th through the game of November 3rd.

We don’t win games on special teams.  We don’t lose games on special teams.

 A KEY FEATURE OF THIS IRISH TEAM: SIZE

Many, like the Oklahoma Sooners, are taken aback by the sheer length and mass of the Notre Dame team.  Back when the regime began, Kelly and Diaco talked about the size (height) profile of the players in the front seven, the cornerbacks, et. al.  Kelly also mentioned the importance of Paul Longo.

The eye becomes indifferent to what we see routinely (do you really look at the paintings on the wall of your house?)

But each time the Irish take the field, they are never out physiqued.  And we often outphysique the opponent.  Football is not a contact sport, thank you Mr. Lombardi, dancing is a contact sport, while football is a collision sport.  And the Irish are well-equipped to initiate, withstand and prevail in collisions.

This will not go away, it will only become more prevalent.  For a glimpse, just examine the three 2014 commitments who are not yet in the second half of their junior year (which means that they, if they redshirt, will be playing in Longo developed bodies in 2018) They are Brent, Martini, Hayes, 6’3″ 196, 6’3″ 220, 6’5″ 270. BIG

PREVIEW: THE 2013 SCHEDULE

The schedule giveth and the schedule taketh away.
Out-Miami, BC, Wake Forest
In- Arizona State, Air Force Academy, Temple

Two open dates-one between Arizona State and USC, another between Pitt and BYU.  We lose the advantage of opening with Navy and getting that out of the way, but we do, after SC, play Air Force and Navy back-to-back. So the defense will practice against the option for two successive weeks.

There are so many supervening, intervening events, coaching changes, attrition, injury, transfers. It would be  a fool’s errand to even attempt to project the relative strength of our 2013 opponents.  But as Elvis sung, fools rush in…..

THE BCS game candidates

Michigan, Oklahoma, Stanford, Southern Cal.  Only Stanford returns its quarterback, whether Hogan or Nunes.  This flips the script on the other three, as we bid adieu to Robinson, Jones and Barkley.
Let’s try this:

(1) Michigan-The key here is that Hoke is in his third year.  Some think he’s an outstanding coach, and we saw what Kelly did in his third year (overall improvement, record improves while breaking in new quarterback).  Hoke has recruited up a storm, and Mattison builds defenses.  Borges has had to work around Denard Robinson’s nuances.  Whether it is Gardner, workmanlike against Minnesota and Northwestern, or wunderkind Morris, Borges will have a serviceable quarterback next Fall.
(2) Stanford-a remarkable physical football team, rock steady.  While Shaw may be dropping off in recruiting, he has one more year of Harbaugh’s pipeline.  And remember that OL recruiting class of Garnett, Murphy and Peat.  They will be our final 2013 game.  It will be brutal.
(3) OU-will have skill players if they can find a QB.  They’ve known Landry is leaving, so we’d expect they will.  Mike Stoops will be in his second year and the defense will be better.
(4) SC-They are hard to get a fix on in 2012, who knows what they’ll be like next October?
We’ll be home.  Check the ball pressure.

 SOLID BOWL TEAMS

Arizona State, Michigan State, Pitt, Byu.
(5) Arizona State-Kelly is only a soph, and Todd Graham, in 2010 at Tulsa, and in 2011 at Pitt gave the Irish all they wanted.  Expect him to hit JC recruiting hard. Neutral Dallas.  Hey, they always loved us in the Cotton Bowl!
(6) Michigan State-Dantonio produces the Big X’s most consistent performance each year.  They will be modest offensively and tough defensively.  Even with their massive defensive losses this year.  A tough out.
(7) Pitt-two extraordinary coaching stories in Pennsylvania this year, what Bill O’brien  did in State College, and Chryst stabilizing  the ship and then righting it at Pitt.  QB? Remember, he’s the one who brought in Russell Wilson at Wisconsin for his senior year.  Don’t bet against him going back to that well.
(8) BYU-Nelson graduates, and their new hero, Taysom Hill will take over at QB.  He will rush for a lot of yardage and many touchdowns.  But NOT against Notre Dame!

 TEAMS WE SHOULD EASILY HANDLE IF NOT OVERCONFIDENT(easier said than done)

Air Force, Navy, Purdue, Temple.
(9) Air Force Academy-though they lost to both other academies this Fall, should be  the strongest.  Reason? Recruiting advantage-kids would rather prepare for a career in the airline industry than getting shot at in the Army.
(10)Navy-last seen in hot pursuit of the galloping ghost of Dublin, Stephon Tuitt, they are 6-3. Niumatalolo is a wonder!
(11) Purdue-sunk without trace this year, signature win over Marshall! Yikes!
(12) Temple-from the Golden Pastures of North Broad Street.  Do you bring kids for the campus visit at night?

 WHAT WILL WE SEE AGAINST WAKE FOREST?

(1) More than seniors like Te’o, Klm, Golic, Motta, who will be looking through  salty teary eyes and play accordingly.  It is a rite of November in South Bend.
(2) Kelly continues to expand the passing game to prepare for SC and the BCS game.
(3) Riley Skinner will stress-test our secondary, but they only get 3.3 ypc rushing against mere mortals.  Wait until they get a load of our front seven!
(4) Hopefully a lot of depth, a lot of young players. This will fuel their practice enthusiasm as we go through the next six weeks.
(5) A funny look from fans and players as they leave the stadium.  SC is next.

And we can assume NOTHING!

Go Irish!