Picking up the pieces from its disastrous performance on Sunday night, the Notre Dame defense is looking for answers on how to solidify a unit that allowed 517 yards of offense by the Texas Longhorns.
Big Plays Still Haunt Notre Dame
Though slightly more than two-thirds of the 86 Texas plays came on the ground, the Irish still fell victim to the big play, allowing a pair of passes over 65 yards. Seven other pass plays of 10 yards or more were part of the 280 yards collected on the night.
The aforementioned two Texas big-pass plays, accounted for 140 yards of offense—exactly half of their output on the night. Both of them came in virtual back-to-back fashion, with a 68-yard grab by Jerrod Heard and the 72-yard touchdown reception to John Burt on the third quarter’s second play sandwiched around a half-ending kneel down.
Taking away those two plays, the other 14 Longhorn receptions averaged 10 yards apiece. Still, a trio of missed tackles allowed Burt to gain nearly half of his 111 yards after the catch, a flaw that needs to be immediately addressed.
Texas’ 1st Down & Quarterback Running Success
The Longhorns thrived on first down, where they gained nearly half of their yardage. The run was the call on 32 of 39 plays here, yet the Irish still had problems bringing down Texas’ main weapon, D’onta Foreman. The running back gained 81 of his 131 yards in this particular situation.
Freshman quarterback Shane Buechele did all of the Longhorn passing damage and added 33 yards on the ground. However, Notre Dame also had its problems containing the other Texas signal caller, Tyrone Swoopes. Considering the Irish defense knew that his entire game focused on the run, Swoopes still managed to gain 53 yards.
Notre Dame’s Blitz Was Actually Effective
Delving deeper into the numbers, the blitz figures to be a larger part of the Irish pass defense in the weeks ahead. Used just 15 percent of the time, Texas was limited to 42 yards. In contrast, not having to worry about the blitz allowed Buechele to rack up 238 yards and two touchdowns.
Those strategies might be attributed to the Irish secondary issues, though the team’s struggles on run defense don’t support the theory. The Longhorn line, thought to be banged up entering the game, opened up enough holes to gain 237 yards, with the play of left tackle Connor Williams a key factor.
Notre Dame’s Defense Couldn’t Get Off the Field
Failing to come up with the big stop was also a theme in this Notre Dame Texas clash. On third and fourth down, the Longhorns converted seven of 11 times, including on both fourth down plays. One of those third down efforts came in a third-and-33 situation, which effectively means that the Notre Dame defense came up short 70 percent of the time.
This Notre Dame Texas matchup is history and though a relatively easy opponent, Nevada, is next up, the Irish need to get their defensive house in order. This defeat has put their tenuous grip on a playoff berth one loss away from being permanently loosened.