Once Brian Kelly’s squad dries out from the monsoon-like conditions they faced in Raleigh, they can determine exactly why it took the Notre Dame offense over 50 minutes to figure out how to get going. That could have made the difference in this Notre Dame North Carolina State matchup that was decided by a blocked punt early in the fourth quarter.
The Push to Pass
With heavy rain a problem for both teams from the outset, Notre Dame seemed stubbornly wedded to proving that they could pass. Their first drive consisted of two passes that managed to gain a total of three yards and ended up with nine receptions on a seemingly inexplicable 26 attempts. It didn’t help that on three separate occasions, a snap that DeShone Kizer was either unable to handle or wasn’t prepared for helped kill momentum. One of those came during the final drive.
Running in Place
Even with 60 yards gained during their final drive, Notre Dame still failed to put any points on the board. That yardage constituted more than half of their entire offensive output in this Notre Dame North Carolina State 2016 clash. Even worse, the 44 rushing yards were three-quarters of the entire running game. In contrast, the Wolfpack still managed to nearly triple the Irish rushing totals with a total of 159 yards.
The Notre Dame running game was effectively reduced to either Josh Adams and Kizer, who had 29 of the 38 rushing attempts. Malik Zaire, who’s the runner among the signal callers, was reduced to a cameo during that final drive, losing a yard. That single carry matched Dexter Williams’ use during that portion of the Notre Dame North Carolina State contest, with Williams finishing with 15 yards on six carries.
Third Down Doom
Third down production was again a disaster, with the Notre Dame offense converting once on 15 attempts. One factor in those failures was that eight times, the Irish had to try and collect double-digit yardage. Not surprisingly, they failed every time, including on third-and-goal from the Wolfpack 19 that resulted in Kizer’s lone interception.
Not Keeping Drives Alive
Before that final Notre Dame drive, the inability to keep the offense on the field was connected to the fact that the average span of the 12 previous drives was just 1:40. While the Irish defense took advantage of the miserable conditions in this Notre Dame North Carolina State 2016 game by not allowing a touchdown, it’s readily apparent that keeping them off the field affords the team the best chance at winning.
While the Irish return to South Bend next Saturday, their opponent will be the Stanford Cardinal, which remains a Top 25 team. Reaching that stratosphere is likely becoming wishful thinking for Notre Dame, which means that simply staying bowl-worthy has become the mantra for the remainder of the regular season.