After the Notre Dame defense was lambasted for giving up over 500 yards of offense against Texas, the Irish defenders bounced back on Saturday against the Nevada Wolfpack. True, the level of competition and the locale made things much different, but putting the clamps on any team helped restore some confidence within this beleaguered group.
A Booster Shot
The game itself was effectively over at halftime with Notre Dame leading 25-0. After the third period, a 39-3 advantage led to mass substitutions, allowing the Wolfpack to gain 124 of their 300 yards of offense. Even that total requires an asterisk because it included one 68-yard pass play that set up the lone Nevada touchdown in the waning moments.
Nowhere to Run
The Wolfpack came into the contest looking to make their mark on the ground. That strategy was never able to gain traction, especially early in the game, when they were stopped repeatedly on first down.
James Butler was the key component of that running game, yet he was held to 50 yards on 17 carries. Never breaking a run for more than 10 yards, his 2.9 yards-per-carry was indicative of his team’s day.
Taking Them Down
Later downs proved to be equally uninviting, with Nevada gaining a collective 120 yards on 31 total plays. That latter amount was once again skewed by a single 44-yard pass play in the third quarter that helped set up Nevada’s first score of the day, though Notre Dame still maintained a 32-3 lead.
A drastic contrast between first down and other downs for the Wolf Pack is seen by the passing effectiveness in the two situations. On first, Nevada connected on eight of 10 passes for 136 yards, but after that, the weak numbers show just four of 16 completions for 65 yards, with the aforementioned 44-yarder in that mix.
The luck of the Irish was so much in evidence that the special teams unit even collected a safety without doing anything. That was thanks to the confused actions of Nevada’s Ahki Muhammad near the end of the first quarter, when he briefly left the end zone, only to come back and mistakenly down the ball.
One Side Stays Consistent
The Notre Dame offense might ordinarily be worthy of recognition after gaining 444 yards of balanced offense on the afternoon. The problem is that it’s similar to the unit’s first game numbers, while the vastly improved defensive side of the ledger stand out more-even if the particular opponent didn’t offer much of a challenge.
Back to the Grind
Both sides of Brian Kelly’s team again need to be focused next Saturday night when the Michigan State Spartans take the field at South Bend. Head coach Mark Dantonio was none too pleased with their mediocre victory over Furman on September 2 and is looking to get his team on track with another tough Big 10 schedule on tap.