Nevada ’16: Notre Dame Offense vs. Nevada Defense

Josh Adams and the other Irish backs should be able to run wild this weekend. (Photo: Kevin Jairaj // USA TODAY Sports)
Josh Adams and the other Irish backs should be able to run wild this weekend. (Photo: Kevin Jairaj // USA TODAY Sports)

Returning home for their first game under the Golden Dome, the Notre Dame offense should again be able to put up plenty of points. That’s because instead of facing the Texas Longhorns in front of a hostile crowd, this Notre Dame Nevada contest will be against a team that’s also coming off an overtime contest, though this one was a 30-27 home win against Cal Poly.

The Wolfpack appeared to be managing the game last Friday night, taking a 24-10 advantage into the final quarter. However, two touchdowns, including one with 1:20 left in regulation, sent the game into the extra session.

Nevada Players to Watch

Both the Nevada defensive line and linebacking corps have been overhauled, with the defensive ends the main focus when looking at the front line. Malik Reed finished with four stops against Cal Poly, including one behind the line. His counterpart on the other side, Patrick Choudja collected eight tackles against Cal Poly’s run-based attack.

At linebacker, senior Alex Bertrando led Nevada with 10 tackles last Friday, but lacks any extended experience as a starter. Jaden Sawyer had one pass breakup to go with his five tackles, though given the team’s weak defense of the run, the latter statistic probably won’t matter against the Irish.

The true strength of the Wolfpack defense is in the secondary. Leading this group are safeties Dameon Baber and Asauni Rufus, with Baber being the ballhawk of the two. The problem with their ability is that their high tackle totals offer a window into the overall weakness of the Nevada defense.

Match-Ups Notre Dame Can Exploit

The fact that Cal Poly racked up 383 yards on the ground, averaging 5.4 yards a carry, against the Wolfpack undoubtedly caught the attention of the Notre Dame offense. Four different Mustangs broke off runs of 25 yards or more, with two breaking the 100-yard threshold for the game.

With all of Nevada’s newcomers on defense, there may have been reasons for some opening-night jitters. However, the intimidation factor of this Notre Dame Nevada 2016 clash probably won’t help remove them.

Given the pummeling a lower-level school gave to the Wolfpack defense through the rush, the Irish passing attack may very well be put in dry dock for this game. There’s no reason not to take advantage of this obvious weakness, especially given the available talent at running back and the rushing ability of Malik Zaire and Deshone Kizer.

Match-Ups Notre Dame Should Avoid

With the lone strength on the Nevada defense being the secondary, the idea of even passing once should be ignored by the Irish until the Wolfpack can show any semblance of a rushing defense. If the Notre Dame offense decides to use its passing game, the short game should be sufficient enough.

Considering Baber’s ability to snag errant passes, avoiding his territory is probably wise. That doesn’t necessarily mean that other deep areas lack Baber’s skill level, just that he’s one of the few with a body of work to assess when it comes to this Notre Dame Nevada 2016 matchup.

The Bottom Line

After an overtime battle against Texas, this matchup should be infinitely easier. Given the short turnaround time, it would probably serve the Irish well to take care of business quickly, which may not be difficult against a defense that was on the field for 83 plays last week. That allows Brian Kelly to rest his regulars for Michigan State while enjoying a comfortable Irish victory.

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