Before the Boxscore: Stats Preview for Notre Dame’s Matchup with N.C. State

Comparing numbers between the Irish and Wolfpack for Saturday's battle

Looking at Notre Dame’s first two games of the 2023 campaign, the overall numbers offer a somewhat skewed take on the overall strength of both the Irish’s running and passing games. That’s because the impressive numbers put forth so far were collected against two weak teams, a situation that could change on the road on Saturday against North Carolina State.

Still, the dominance shown thus far by Marcus Freeman’s squad is something that was absent after last season’s frustrating 0-2 start. Matching up the two schools in a variety of statistical comparisons could help provide a window into how this weekend’s game unfolds.

Rushing to Judgment

Notre Dame is averaging 206 yards rushing per contest, gains that have come on 6.3 yards per carry and have resulted in five scores. Based on North Carolina State’s struggles to contain the Connecticut rushing game last Thursday, it may be advantageous to focus on the run. Against the Huskies, the Wolfpack game up an average of 6.2 yards per carry.

The Irish defense faced run-dominant Navy and shut them down in the opener, then performed even better against the Tennessee State ground game. Over those two contests, Notre Dame has allowed just 2.6 yards per carry. In their opener, North Carolina State ran the ball 46 times (compared to 26 pass attempts), averaging 4.5 yards per carry and scoring three times.

Passing Fancy

Sam Hartman will get his toughest test yet with the Irish and may even have to scramble after basking in nearly perfect protection during the first two victories. The ease of those wins has made it possible for 16 different receivers to catch a pass from three different Notre Dame signal-callers.

Brennan Armstrong largely stuck to the short passing game against Connecticut and spread his 17 completions among nine different receivers. Whether or not he’s forced to air it out against the Irish may depend on how well they contain his dangerous running ability that led to him topping the Wolfpack rushers last week.

Red Zone Alert

During Monday’s press conference, Freeman was enthused about Notre Dame’s Red Zone performance on both sides of the ball. On the young season, the Irish have converted seven of their eight trips (87.5 percent) to that area into scores, all of them touchdowns. Notre Dame’s defense has allowed just two field goals in five Red Zone visits by their opponents, some early promise after last year’s 94.1 success rate for opponents.

The Wolfpack only got into the Red Zone three times last week but made the most of it with three touchdowns. Last season, with a different quarterback under center, North Carolina State converted 39 of 45 opportunities. Those 39 conversions were effectively split right down the middle with 20 touchdowns and 19 field goals. Their defense only allowed one visit into that area last week, but it resulted in a touchdown. That was after 2022’s effort of 31 opposing conversions in 36 attempts, including 21 touchdowns.

Converting in the Clutch

On 18 third-down attempts in 2023, Notre Dame’s offense has managed to move the chains on 14 occasions, good for a 77.8 success rate. While admittedly coming against overmatched foes, that number is still an improvement from last year’s 47.2 percentage. Thus far, the Irish have only needed to convert one fourth-down attempt and accomplished it.

On defense, Notre Dame has only allowed eight third-down conversions on 28 attempts. That 28.6 percent rate of success is an improvement on last season’s 36.3 percent number. On fourth down this year, the defense hasn’t stopped four of the five attempts, compared to an opponent success rate of 10 of 22 attempts, a 45.5 percent rate.

North Carolina State found itself facing third down 15 times against Connecticut, converting eight times. That 53.3 percent success rate is an improvement from last year’s weak rate of 36.2 percent. On fourth down, the Wolfpack failed to convert on its only fourth down effort. During the previous two seasons, the success percentage has hovered around 40 percent.

Defending on third down against Connecticut resulted in eight of 12 stops, a rate that the Wolfpack have generally been consistent with since 2021. Fourth down arrived twice against the Huskies, with North Carolina State unable to stop either attempt. During the past two seasons, that success rate has been just over 40 percent, which shows the need for improvement.

Injury Report

Notre Dame: Two players who are definitely out are: DT Gabe Rubio, who underwent arthroscopic knee surgery after being injured against Navy; and WR Matt Salerno, who’s out for an extended stretch after suffering a leg injury against Tennessee State. RB Devyn Ford’s status remains day-to-day after he was placed in concussion protocol after taking a hit last Saturday.

North Carolina State: S Rakeim Ashford is out after being taken off the field by paramedics following a hit against Connecticut.

Weather Forecast

For most of this week, Raleigh has been baking in 90-degree temperatures. Saturday’s forecast calls for slightly cooler weather in the 80s, with some rain possible. However, high humidity will still make things uncomfortable.

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  1. This will be the fourth time Hartman faces NCSt, having not won in Raleigh.
    Doubtful NCSt. showed much vs. an overmatched UConn last week.
    Like Navy and TN St., new formations will be shown vs. ND, so a quick start by Irish is needed.
    Blitzes and stunts from NC St., especially up the middle, will be likely. Turnovers could be critical.
    ND running the ball successfully will neutralize that. Some big chunk plays would be helpful.
    Containing QB Armstrong will be the challenge. Hit him early and often!
    Don’t over pursue when pressuring Armstrong. Unlike the last ten years or so, if the game is close going into the fourth quarter, I’ll feel much more confident with Hartman and NDs depth.

  2. “The impressive numbers put forth so far were collected against two weak teams, a situation that could change on the road on Saturday against North Carolina State.”

    Well, it can’t help but change. On Saturday, we’ll be putting impressive numbers up against a STRONG team. 🙂

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