Notre Dame vs. Georgia: Winning In The Margins

We’ve heard the phrase “in the trenches” quite a bit this week. And for good reason. It’s where most football games are won. This week especially so, with the strengths of both teams being their running games. So it’s natural to focus on the offensive and defensive lines for both teams. It’s pretty much they key to the whole thing, right?

The problem with projecting, though, we always pick what’s obvious because the other things, the things that happen in the margins, are variable. So, we look at the match ups. This isn’t wrong, but football is a weird sport and very often games that involve equally matched teams get decided by any number of different factors. And today I want to focus on some of the smaller, marginal things that could decide the outcome for either team.

Who Wins On 3rd And Long?

Notre Dame on offense: The Irish excelled in many phases offensively last week, but one of the areas they struggled was converting 3rd downs longer than 7 yards.  Brandon Wimbush was 1-5 passing for 4 yards, an interception, and zero first downs gained in those situations. That’s bad. Notre Dame can try to minimize their exposure to long 3rd down situations a few ways, but Georgia is talented enough on defense that we know they are going to come up. Wimbush is going to have to be more accurate, and receivers not named St. Brown are going to have to gain better separation and make some plays.

Georgia on offense: If Notre Dame is going to try and limit these the Bulldogs are really going to try and prevent these situations for their true freshman quarterback Jake Fromm. He wasn’t involved in a lot of five step drops against Appalachian State, and he didn’t complete an intermediate throw all game. In fact, on all of their 3rd and 7+ third down attempts last week (there were 4), all four were runs, and Fromm was 0-2 on 3rd down passes between 4-6 yards. They didn’t even drop him back on 3rd and long. Some of that might be his lack of knowledge of the offense, some might be the lack of confidence in the offensive line.

Overall: In close games, third downs are key, and it can be a factor in deciding the game. As an example, in 2015 against Stanford, the Notre Dame offense was 3 of 9 on third down. The Stanford offense was 8 of 12. Notre Dame loses 38-36. Three more stops on defense and three more conversions on offense and they win easily.

Who Wins The Vertical Game?

Notre Dame on offense: The thing about a strong running game, especially with backs who can hit the home run like Josh Adams and Dexter Williams, is the safeties are always thinking about it. They creep just a little closer than they should and are a little too eager to look for the run, because they don’t want to get caught out of position and forced to chase a back who just went untouched through the line. It also forces defensive coordinators to take some chances and send extra people on a run blitz, like we saw Temple try to do last week on first down in the 4th quarter. They blitzed the corner, St. Brown ran right by the safety, and Wimbush just missed him.

Notre Dame took an over the top vertical shot just the one time, and they’ll need to try a few more this week. They’ve got St. Brown, they’ve got Chase Claypool, and they’ve got Cam Smith. If they hit, it puts more pressure on the safeties and opens up the running game.

Georgia on offense: Everything I just said above also applies to the Georgia running game affecting the Notre Dame secondary. And other than a few sideline heaves with the quarterback under pressure, Temple didn’t challenge Notre Dame vertically, especially the safeties. You can expect Georgia to take some shots, because a.) the Irish are likely to send some safeties in the running game, especially on first down b.) they’ve got some dudes at receiver c.) they don’t require reads by the quarterback and d.) they’ve seen the Texas film from last season.

Overall: Lets say both teams throw it deep four times, one converts three of those for big plays, the other converts none. A three play disparity can make all the difference, if everything else is equal.

Who Wins In The Red Zone?

Overall: The red zone is always a key factor in games like this, it sometimes goes without saying, but scoring touchdowns has been a thorn in Notre Dame’s side in seasons past, and Georgia was 100th in the nation last year in red zone touchdown percentage (Notre Dame was 55th). The Irish were 6-6 last week with six touchdowns, so very good. As in perfect. Georgia was 4-4 with three touchdowns and a field goal. Also good. This one is obvious but still worth mentioning.

Who Wins The Kicking Game?

Notre Dame kicking: Justin Yoon was 0-2 last week on attempts of 44 and 47 yards, although it should be noted both kicks had plenty of distance. This is a question of accuracy, not range. A faulty kicker can alter a play call, drive strategy, and force a coach to do something they aren’t all the way comfortable with, for example on 4th and 5 on the Georgia 30 down two with four minutes left. Yoon has struggled early his entire career, currently 6 of 12 in August/September and 22-24 the rest of the way. Close games often come down to kickers. Which Yoon will we get?

Georgia kicking: For his part Georgia kicker Rodrigo Blankenship had a similar season to Yoon in 2016, going 14-18 and made his only attempt this season. He’s got a similar touchback percentage to Yoon, which tells me he’s got a similar type of leg to Yoon. There doesn’t appear to be a significant advantage either way. Make or miss type of deal.

The X Factor

Brandon Wimbush Can Run And Fromm Can’t

Lost in all of the above analysis about running games, offensive lines, and deep balls, is the fact that Brandon Wimbush can do real damage with his legs and Jake Fromm can’t. College football often comes down to the broken play and Notre Dame has a significant advantage in this area. I could see a stalemate on the lines, both teams hitting their running games and big plays in the passing game. At the end of the day, Notre Dame has a guy who can create something out of nothing and Georgia does not, and we’ve seen it time and time again in college football. It’s hard to prepare for a running quarterback, especially when you are consumed with other things. You can essentially “win” a play on defense with the right play call, only to get beaten by a scramble. Will it be decisive? We’ll have to watch Saturday night to find out.

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  1. One more comment before my rant later today on who the scalpers are. What’s up with the continuing saga of Coach Kelly’s invisible players? Dexter Williams – invisible…Stepherson- invisible…our fullback (if we even have one on the roster) – invisible. Please feel free to add to my short list.

    Bruce G. Curme
    La Crosse, Indiana

    1. Absolutely agree about Williams. I kept waiting for him to be put out there. ND was trying to rush, where was our other RB. It was all Adams and Wimbush.

  2. Found all my posts…they were on Frankie V’s Prediction. My mistake. I was too upset for my own good about the sellouts. As for who the sellouts are…that’s coming soon. To whet your appetite here’s a tidbit: Early in Coach Davie’s career, we beat Texas A&M for an opener, similar to our win this year against Temple. That game was followed by a game against a great Nebraska team the following week, similar to Temple being followed by Georgia. Exactly what the sellouts dream of during the spring and summer! My “old dad” was still alive, so we were sitting in his seats on the ND twenty, as usual, with a sea of red peppered all around us. Behind us often sat a coach of one of the female sports – let’s call her “Butchina” to protect her identity. She was a real cheerleader…one of those “Get up, Get up and yell” types. We usually waved hello, but nothing else…we did not really know her. I turned around to greet her, and there were two bright red T-shirted fans sitting in her seats.
    The next home game after that, she was back, again bellowing “Stand up, Stand up.” I was about to turn around and say something curt but acerbic to her when some other faithful friends of ours in Section 25 turned around first and started chanting “SIT DOWN SELLOUTS, SIT DOWN SELLOUTS.” Her cheeks turned redder than a Husker Jersey, and she sat down and shut up, possibly for the first time in her life. But the sellouts had already done their damage to the university. Deja Vu all over again. Much more to come.

    Bruce G. Curme
    La Crosse, Indiana

    1. BJ , add O-Line coach HH to that list. He’s been over rated since he was hired 6 or 7 years ago. He’s heralded for producing talented O-line players to NFL rosters. Yet he can’t get a college O-line to play as a unit against the elite teams. Same old familiar story Saturday , Irish failing to beat the big boys on their schedule. Coach Smelly , as the “CEO” should have told his OC to get Dexter Williams in the game. When asked at post game presser– If Williams was injured , he said no. Asked why he didn’t play , and he said that’s the coaches choice. Was Kelly throwing his offensive coaches under the bus ? Well , like poster Damian pointed out — too many unknowns about this team and appears this will be the case in all the upcoming games on schedule. Finally , if Alize Mack can’t catch a easy pass to him—get somebody out there that will. Weishar , Kmet or Wright can do the job.

      1. Southside is right again. Coach Long himself (not HH) needs to bring the “O” line to Jesus. And to Mike McGlinchey: Sir, I believe you are better than your final whiff, just like I believed Yoon was better than his Temple showing. But sir, I do not know where you will play in the League, but I do know this: any more of that and it sure won’t be left tackle. I’m no NFL fan, I don’t even watch the stuff till playoffs. But I’m not so naïve about it that I don’t know that they have no sense of humor about watching 10 million guaranteed dollars get flushed down the toilet on a blindside hit during game two of the season! Time to “meet Jesus” dudes. Defense – you did us proud, you really did. Don’t lose heart – redouble your efforts and double again. Sellouts – go to hell and add your foul odor to the already unimaginable stink down there. Administration: tell the truth…it’s not that you CAN’T stop most of the scalping…it’s that you WON’T. There is a big difference. You are surrounded on every side by people who never hit lower than a 700 on an SAT test in their lives and you think we are so stupid as to believe that you can’t stop it? Please. You use it as a job perk…and we ND insiders all know it. You damned invertebrates!

      2. I’m starting to wonder about Hiestand myself now. I overlooked him last year because our defense was so bad and there were a lot of bad calls. But they got dominated last night. It’s great they dominated Temple. Hell, they may dominate a number of teams this year. But these are the games they need to prove themselves and they keep failing at that. Now I’m not to the point of he should be fired quite yet. But it’s put up or shut up time. The O-line will get other chances to prove themselves this year. But they weren’t up to the task last night. Also I too am curious about the disappearance of Williams. Adams is getting his but kicked play after play. Why didn’t they mix it up. The most frustrating thing is the defense, THE DEFENSE, gave this team a chance to win. When they needed that last 3 and out, the defense delivered. They had 2 minutes…all they needed to do was get in FG range. That’s it. And what does the offense do, fumble. Game over.

  3. What happened to my after game post? It’s gone. The one about McGlinchey’s wiff at left tackle on our last offensive play?
    And about the sellouts WHO WORK FOR AND AT THE UNIVERSITY! It’s gone. And about Long needing to set up a MEET JESUS meeting with the “O” line and the blocking backs? It’s gone! Did anybody get a chance to read it? Or am I posting to myself?

    Bruce G. Curme
    La Crosse, Indiana

    1. Incidentally, I know I’m paranoid, and that’s a medical fact. But I also know I saw my own after game comment post. If I find out that I’m the only one who saw it, and that now it’s gone, I’ll do my best to make sure that all 8 billion people on this rock see it and a hell of a lot more stuff. Just try me and see. They’ll even be reading it in North Korea you MF’s!

      Bruce G. Curme
      La Crosse, Indiana

      1. Now that I look this thing over, my halftime post disappeared too.

        Bruce G. Curme
        La Crosse, Indiana

  4. Maybe I’m jacked up but are canteen and smith really the 2nd best receivers we have? This is a joke. Got to put young more explosive receivers in the freakin game. Especially when offense is this stagnant against Dogs. Fink’s is ok in slot like a welker type but what about sanders, Claypool, Stepherson? Get some speed on the field guys who are explosive! Defense held up ok but TBD how good Georgia “O” actually is. Also running ball – where was Williams and Jones? Change it up a bit. TE and WR dropped key balls too. O line was decent but speed of Georgia D was evident. For the record, all you dumbass who think kelly should go, you are wrong. Who would ND be able to get instead? In light of this game you’re going to tell me that long and elko are also blind like kelly? You think a Saban, stoops or Meyer level coach is going to take ND job? You can see same challenges with Shaw at Stanford (see USC score tonight) and we aren’t getting Shaw to leave. I challenge those who think kelly should go to provide a real option to hire as head coach who is out there. Is there room for improvement? Sure but cmon man be real about expectations. NFL can’t find good coaches so you think ND would have it that easy. Overall we held our own. Offense needs work. Still long way to go and Wimbush is talented but inexperienced. Should see improvement week to week but to expect playoff run is out of question I think.

    1. IrishPope96,
      One of the three reasons I still back BK is that he came here believing he could win big at ND even with the constraints of the place. That means a lot to me. I don’t want a coach here who doesn’t believe he can win here. Two of the three coaches (at least) you mentioned do not believe that they themselves could do it under the conditions here at ND. They have said so privately and/or publically. The other two reasons are: BK recruits well – the cupboard is far from bare, as it critically was when Coach Ty left.
      Reason 3: My 89 year old mother is Coach K’s greatest fan and she’ll slap/shame me if she hears even a word of criticism about him! She never had that problem with Garry or Chunky Charlie. And besides – who amongst us, if asked BEFORE the Georgia game if we would take this situation – Quarter four -First down…two minutes to go, Yoon is hot as a pistol, and we trail by one point, would have said NO? Tell the truth now. (BJ excepted…he thinks ARA would have been leading Georgia by 40 at halftime).

  5. Nobody here has the guts to say it but
    Jenkins Swarbrick and Kelly have made Notre Dame football a pathetic joke and a laughing stock. It’s the corporate model where the only goals are job security and financial success. Sadly the Catholics have become convicts.

    1. Really? Who would you hire do AD and HC? You guys are nuts. It rips my heart out to watch a loss like this but to think swabrick and Kelly should go is assanine. Get a clue on what is really going on in CFB. Also if you are true ND fan do you really understand what it means? I highly doubt that based on your comments. We don’t sacrifice honor, god, academics etc just to win football games. Sellout!!

    2. I’ll say it. Kelly is a politician running for office someplace else. Swarbrick is a lawyer. And Jenkins is a wimp who probably likes little boys.

      The place really hasn’t been the same since Hesburgh retired.

    3. Hey other Bruce…it isn’t BK who scalped 20000 tix, and it isn’t BK who allows it to happen. It’s part of the employee culture out there since we became a “National Catholic Research Institution” decades ago. But it is BK who will be the patsy for the Administration to blame for it. We are going 9-3 this year, BJ…and you can’t stand it, can you?

      Bruce G. Curme
      La Crosse, Indiana

  6. Well I was wrong. I kept saying the offense would score a lot. I was fooled. I was also just trying this new thing about trying to be as positive about everything ND this season but was quickly let down. Dexter Williams didn’t get one effing carry tonight and Adams was clearly tired. That is all Kelly. Moron. Fresh legs could have made a huge difference and Dexter plays with heart.

    Agree with everyone that our Oline blows. One of our best lineman and captains got smoked all night. Wimbush didn’t play well but he took a beating all night long. You could tell it was wearing on him.

    And lastly our defense played their guts out tonight and the o really let them down. Really proud of those guys for stepping up big. Other than a Beckham sick catch and a very questionable late hit which would have been a punt in a crucial point in the game, they played very well. Okwara has to know though to just tap the qb there and not even risk it. Hitting him there literally does nothing as he is going out of bounds no matter what.

    Season isn’t over but now “things have to work out” for ND to make the playoff considering everyone has a conference championship game now. Let’s see if we can win out. Go Irish!

  7. Was on campus a few weeks ago. A lot of buzz about how a lot of folks in the University community want Kelly gone.

    Stanford and USC will be losses. What about Miami?
    Navy? UNC? NC State?

    Still no fire on this team.

    1. God, I am so sick and tired of waiting for next year. I suppose if they win out….oh forget it. It’s not going to happen.

  8. I’ll tell you, I’m starting to have my doubts about Hiestand. I gave him a Mulligan last year because of many times the defense wasn’t making stops and the poor play calling on offense. But the O-line got dominated tonight. All week we’ve heard about ND’s elite O-line. Well, these are the games they need to prove that.

    I didn’t think I’d be able to say this but the defense put ND in a position to win. They weren’t perfect. But when push came to shove, they gave the offense a chance to win. All they needed to do was get in FG range and the offense failed.

    If this were year 2 or 3 of BK’s tenure, this game would still sting, but you could say it was a step in the right direction. But year 8. One point loss. ND needs to start turning these games into wins. We keep hearing about how close some of these losses are. Well, it’s past time these games start being wins.

    The year is not lost yet. I thought coming in a NY Day 6 Bowl win was really necessary to say we were on the right track. That’s still very possible. If they keep it to 1 or 2 losses they’re in that bowl. If Georgia is the real deal and has a great year, this loss won’t hurt ND’s strength of schedule. I do think because of last years 4-8 record a playoff spot is likely out. They will get no mulligans this year.

    I also agree with SFR about NBC. I don’t expect them to gush about ND, but I felt like I was watching Georgia announcers call the game. They were almost openly celebrating Georgia’s win. They also seem to take great pride in continually calling out how Georgia seemed to have 40% of the fans in the stands. Mayock was much more evenhanded.

    1. Damian this is the same crap weve seen from Kelly for way to long now. Its time for Kelly to go away. Georgia has a horrible offense even with those two stud RBs. Makes NDs defense look better than they really are. Wait till USC comes into South Bend this year. SC will hang 50 on ND.

      1. I agree about BK. I’ll continue holding out hope by some miracle they win out and get a big win at a NY Day bowl. But hoping and believing are not the same thing. I do like some what I’ve seen out of the defense thus far. I still have concerns, but I have no doubt if this were last year under BVG, Georgia would have probably hung 40 points on us with big play and our defenders walking around confused with their hands in the air. And the defense gave the offense every chance to win this game, esp. the last 3 and out. The offense needed to get out there and take care of business. If they had gone 4 and out, that would still suck, but you tried, you just couldn’t punch it in. But to turn the ball over with a fumble. There’s just no excuse for that.

  9. At every opportunity Kelly showed why he sn’t a great coach. Fourth and one field goal fourth and two field goal
    He never believed in his players especially the offensive line and they never put the game away. The perfect strategy nonrisk no reward. Fire this fool.

    1. BJ,
      The field goals on fourth and one were exactly the correct calls. We were down by one point in our own stadium with two minutes to go and possession. It should have been n easy win for us at that point. But our “O” line can’t protect our QB. That’s why we lost – not because of bad calls by Coach K. Now you could argue that it’s BK’s fault that our “O” line only plays well consistently in the press and that might be a solid criticism. But bypassing three pointers in a one point game? That’s nuts, and a rookie mistake you are advocating.

      1. It’s football not badminton
        It’s about intimidation
        And self confidence
        At every turn Kelly showed he has no confidence in himself or his players
        This is why they never rise
        Above and win the big one
        And don’t ever call another Domer a rookie.

      2. BJ, I did not say you were a rookie, I said it was a rookie mistake. You just are flat wrong about your criticism. The real criticism, the real question is this: why did the “O” line coach survive the housecleaning? That was Coach Kelly’s mistake, not taking three pointers in a one point game where we had a “hot” Yoon, the last possession, and a first down with two minutes to go. You go after Coach K all the time…and you’re right about a lot of it…but can’t you see the Administration just getting their plan B ready…blaming BK for everything when they fire him? The problems out there are systemic, other Bruce…and they have somewhere between little and nothing to do with BK…but he’ll be blamed for all. Don’t ever think that I don’t respect you or your point of view. I do. And I think you do a service to the University when you call them out. But I also think you only see negatives; in fact I know it.

  10. Oddly enough this game is coming down to a defensive battle. Elko has done an amazing job. They’re not perfect, but there is definite improvement. Offense looks like it’s taken a step back.

    Disappointed with how ND fans seemed to have allowed Georgia fans to take over ND’s stadium though. It almost seems like a Georgia home game. We can’t let other teams take over ND’s stadium like that.

    1. Unfortunately, Notre Dame will see tickets resold all year. Real Notre Dame fans and alums expect a real winner. Remembering Ara harkens back to the time when Notre Dame really was great. The opponents fans want to see what all the fuss was about 50 years ago.
      Notre Dame fans know that the cycle of Davie, Willingham, Weis, and now Kelly have killed it. Kelly has buried it deep. Traditions have been destroyed. Kelly runs a business. This is not a program that relates to Our Lady’s University. And so expect no magic.
      So for the price of admission it’s now more interesting for opponents to come to the museum of a stadium while their teams dance on our 50 yard line.

      1. This is just the first time I really noticed a concerted effort by an opposing team’s fanbase to take over ND stadium. I’m sort of surprised ND fans would sell their tickets for this game being that this was a big game for both sides, and after the dominating win over Temple their was some excitement for ND.

        Of course, maybe I’m overstating how much Georgia owned the stadium because NBC was openly gushing about how many Georgia fans were in the stadium. I saw a lot of red, but it’s hard to get a read on the ND fans because as Frank pointed out in an earlier article, ND fans don’t do a good job of coordinating their colors.

      2. C-Dog,
        The sellouts are not the alums, nor even the subway fans for the most part. They are Notre Dame faculty, staff, and other employees, and grad students mostly. I’ll post about who they are exactly a bit later. I have to wash the vomit they inspired out of my mouth first.

  11. The whole O is horrible.

    Temple was no real test.

    Smoke and mirror O. All hype, especially the O line.

    Once more ND proves it’s not ready for prime time.

  12. How in the hell does anyone think he’ll lead a successful passing attack when he doesn’t know how to grip the football? Taught by Tommy interception? That explains a lot! He is winging those passes up for grabs with prayer behind each pass and it’s going to cost ND in the long run! Somebody, please teach him how to grip the ball !!!!! Unbelievable that no one has taught this junior high school concept to him. ?‍♂️

    How much are these coaches making per year? Google Wimbush photos and you’ll see his ridiculous grip on the ball.

  13. Greg,
    Wow! By George, I think you’ve got it! As for who will win this game…it sounds cliché like, but I’d say 1. the team that protects the ball the best, 2. the team (if either) who can hit a couple of those deep “run by” patterns you mentioned, and 3. (as multiple posters have said) the team whose “O” line best protects their QB (if either), and opens holes for the running backs.
    Greg, your analysis is right on the money and probably fixed in the minds of both sets of coaches along with a dozen other things they also have to worry about.
    One last thing: I’m tired of hearing posters and commentators saying there are two great running backs in this game…the truth is this: there are FOUR great running backs in this game, and I hope the two who are being slighted by the press and the media TAKE IT PERSONNALY – I would if it were me!

    Thanks Greg,

    Bruce G. Curme
    La Crosse, Indiana

    1. Same with QB. “Georgia has an inexperienced Quarterback”. Both Fromm and Wimbush are inexperienced.
      Is Brandon now a veteran because he started ONE game?

  14. Good, thoughtful breakdown. I’ve seen way too much ‘cotton candy’ analysis of this game that holds no football relevance. Individual matchups will be key: who on either O-Line requires help in passing situations permitting pressure without committing to a blitz, which safeties need to sit on the run game and force man coverage; but also, more simply, which defense forces more turnovers. Should be in for a great game in a great atmosphere. I’m a die-hard Irish fan, but respect the heck out of UGA fans. Enjoy a great game with two great teams and fan bases.

  15. It all boils down to Wimbush’s play. Making quick accurate decisions. I hope to see some plays under center. A two, three step drop from center keeps the linebackers honest. Immensely helps the o linemen. Notre Dame has tall wide receivers and tight ends that can go over the middle and catch passes in stride. Then, you fake the pass and hand it off to the running back. Linebackers can’t load the box and and disrupt the rushing attack. It all comes down to how well the qb performs.

  16. As awesome as the SEC defenses are, they frequently struggle with guys like Wimbush. Johnny Manziel comes to mind, but there have been others.

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