Beyond the Boxscore: Notre Dame v. Duke ’16

Photo: Matt Cashore-USA TODAY Sports

If the Notre Dame defense was looking to boost their confidence against a team that had struggled offensively the past two weeks, that goal failed miserably on Saturday afternoon against a heavy underdog in the Duke Blue Devils. Instead, the Irish defenders were ripped apart for 498 yards, allowing more than 200 yards apiece on the ground and through the air.

First Quarter Mirage

During the Blue Devils’ first series, Notre Dame held them to a single yard, the high point of the day. In between that series, the Irish scored a pair of touchdowns and it looked as if the rout was on. Instead, it sparked four touchdowns by Duke before the end of the first half.

Second (Down) Thoughts

Notre Dame couldn’t build any momentum after any solid stops on first down and was especially vulnerable to the run on second-and-long. On five carries in that situation, the Blue Devils collected 76 yards for an eye-popping 15.2 yards per carry.

While the damage wasn’t as bad when Duke went to the pass on that down, they still managed to complete eight of their nine passes. That pecking away by Blue Devil signal caller Daniel Jones was a continuing problem all day, with Jones ending the afternoon connecting on 24 of 32 passes for 290 yards.

Missed Targets

Jones regularly found the duo of T.J. Rahming and Anthony Nash open, with the pair combining for 14 catches and 210 yards. Nash’s second score of the day, a 64-yard fourth quarter jaunt symbolized the day for the Irish as a short grab in Duke territory turned into a touchdown, thanks to poor coverage and missed tackles.

That score was especially aggravating, given that Notre Dame had just re-taken the lead midway through the fourth quarter. Jones’ score wiped out any momentum in the span of just 59 seconds and effectively set the stage for the later game-winning field goal.

Failure in the Clutch

When the Blue Devils started their last drive in Irish territory with 5:11 left, the Notre Dame defense had their chance to step up. They didn’t, thanks to consecutive pass receptions garnering first downs that put Duke in the red zone, allowing them to eat up a good portion of the clock.

The Notre Dame shortcomings on pass defense certainly got the attention of the Blue Devils’ offense. One example came when looking at third-and-short plays, where it actually proved to be better strategy to go with the pass. The pass was called on three occasions and converted every time, in contrast to the run splitting its two opportunities.

Next Up

With the Irish reeling and Brian Kelly indicating in postgame comments that personnel changes are coming, they now begin a two-game road trip, beginning with a neutral matchup against Syracuse. Ominously, the Orangemen are more of a passing team, which could make it another long afternoon for the Notre Dame defense.

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6 comments

  1. Bruce Gregory Curme 3 years ago

    Actually, Lou did not win big right away…but when he turned things around in year 2 they stayed turned around.
    When I was a little kid in South Bend (a “faculty brat”), and Kuharich was the coach, a lot of people said that Notre Dame’s academic standards were too high, they’d never be the power they were under Leahy again. Ara did not believe it, and neither did interim coach Devore, who recruited some awesome freshmen that would later be stars for Ara.
    After Garry turned Devine’s program upside down, we heard the same thing – Notre Dame will never be able to get enough athletes to come here out of the smaller pool that qualify. We won’t be able to recruit the speed we need, etc. That actually sounded a little racist to me. Lou recruited what he needed, with a few, and I mean a very few, prop 25 exceptions – both of whom graduated in four years, and one rare transfer student, who also graduated.
    Stanford gets, and develops, fine players. So have we under BK. But it seems like on defense, we have not seen those game changing recruits (Page and Lynch for Ara, or Zorich and others, for Holtz), who set the tone for their eras at ND. (Teo was not a Kelly recruit).
    If BK is really going to step us up we need those big play guys on defense.
    We do not need to lower our standards, and Father Jenkins won’t do it anyway, and rightly so.
    What we DO NEED to do is to change our archaic attitudes towards transfer student/athletes for football.
    That is killing us slowly. We need to start taking some guys from Junior Colleges (we take them academically from JC’s and other colleges all the time – I was one myself, as were two of my brothers – why not as student athletes?) It’s archaic, obsolete, and pointless. We also need to get onboard with the new graduate transfer rules. It is not a solution, and should be used sparingly only, but we should welcome grad transfers who can fill a hole for a year, especially if they are smart enough to actually go after a Master’s or an MBA while they are here – not just advertise themselves for the NFL.
    Bruce Curme
    La Crosse, Indiana

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  2. Mike "King" Kelly 3 years ago

    Same old Brian Kelly team ( no defense, just like when He was at UOf C.) . Shades of Ty Willingham and CharlieWeis. This act sucks, We gotta finda new Captain to rightt thisShip, sorry Brian, you just didn’t cut it.

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  3. pete 3 years ago

    I have been following Notre Dame football since 1964 and this is the most disappointed I have ever been. When Notre Dame had bad stretches before it was always because of the coach. When they brought in a big time coach they won big right away. Examples, Lou replacing Gerrry Faust, Ara replacing Joe Kuharick, Leahy replacing Anderson. However I wonder now if the problems go much deeper than just a new coach. Brian Kelly has won big everywhere he has been and yet he is not producing here at the level Notre Dame claims they inspire to- an elite perrienal national title contender. It maybe a combination of a bunch of factors, schedule, academic standards, coaching, facilities, . I don’t know. I know one thing. I’m doing other things with my Saturdays.

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  4. Pissed off fan 3 years ago

    Interesting how Stanford can be so successful with very similar (maybe higher) academics. For those of you who just watched them take care of business against UCLA (far superior opponent then Duke). I have tried hard to believe in BK but this regime continues to disappoint. Unless the recruiting rankings are totally off base he has not been able to utilize superior talent and motivate them to be winners! There are no excuses anymore. Sad part is I just don’t see ND getting much better unless the make some wholesale culture changes. Total crap considering how much money the program brings in and what people are willing to pay to support.

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  5. Philip O'Brien 3 years ago

    There is no D-Line or O-line of consistency like in the past.. But the young Defensive secondary can’t tackle, or are anxious to make a play so much they miss read or tackle consistently.. Be surprised if ND is favored by 3 TD’s per next 2 road games.. Bend not break is okay, but we are unable to rise to mediocre teams challenge consistently for 60 minutes.. better be 3-3 when Stanford comes

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  6. ccb 3 years ago

    I was at the game = disgusting performance, embarrassing loss/ A new coaching staff is in order/ Defense is miserable.

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