Before the Boxscore: Stat Perusal for Notre Dame’s Regular Season Swan Song

Notre Dame’s matchup against the Stanford Cardinal on Saturday afternoon renews a rivalry that’s tinged with some motivation for revenge by the Irish. Last season’s tight loss at Notre Dame still resonates more than 13 months later for Marcus Freeman’s squad, who hopes to conclude the 2023 regular season with a 9-3 mark.

Stanford may have a new head coach on its sidelines but the issues that have been prevalent in recent years remain and help to explain their woeful 3-8 season record. Unlike the Irish, there’s no bowl game awaiting them after this contest. That stark reality means that coming away with a win in this clash could help offer promise for next season.

Below are some key numbers worth taking into account:

Battle Between the Lines

One of the reasons for the divergent paths each school has taken this season stems from their ability to protect the quarterback. In the case of Stanford, struggles to keep upright whoever happens to be lined up behind center has been a problem all season. Cardinal quarterbacks have been brought down 37 times, losing 207 yards in the process.

Notre Dame has had moments this season that have presented a strong unit up front. However, certain games have also seen glitches in handling the pressures of playing on the road. The first of these was the breakdown that led to four sacks in a win over North Carolina State in Week 3. Yet, losses to Louisville and Clemson were also notable for the seven sacks allowed, with the three games in question accounting for 11 of the 14 sacks given up all season.

When it comes to the respective pass rushes, both teams have 23 sacks on the year. Yet, the vast difference in winning percentage shows that not all sacks are created equal. In Stanford’s three wins, they collected a total of 13 sacks in games against a trio of teams whose collective record is 13-21.

Notre Dame’s collection of quarterback takedowns has been more balanced, with the Irish having six games with two or more sacks. The most impressive performance among this group was the six sacks in the rout of USC. Away from the Golden Dome, Notre Dame hasn’t been as prolific in this area, with just eight sacks in their five games this season.

Running Back Usage

When it comes to a breakdown of the workload for each team’s running backs, Notre Dame has been heavily dependent upon Audric Estime this season. Entering what very likely will be his final regular season game, he’s gained just over 60 percent of the rushing yardage on the year. Meanwhile, the triumvirate of Jeremiyah Love, Jadarian Price and Gi’Bran Payne have collectively accounted for 31 percent. That leaves roughly eight percent of the remaining yardage split among 10 different ballcarriers.

In contrast, Stanford’s previous pipeline of NFL-bound running backs has now evolved into one that focuses on a group mindset. The leading rusher is actually starting quarterback Ashton Daniels with 291 yards on the year. He’s followed by three backs who have each gained at least 200 yards and collectively gained 684 on the ground. Justin Lamson tops that trio with just 252 yards.

Creating the Big Play

Forcing turnovers is the lifeblood of any successful team, with the differences in numbers compiled by Notre Dame and Stanford a telling example of that adage. Notre Dame enters the game with 14 interceptions, half of those by Xavier Watts. Of that total, 12 of them came in just four games. When it comes to fumbles, the Irish have been good at forcing them, with 16 to their credit. Yet, they’ve only managed to recover seven of those opponent errors.

The Cardinal defense has struggled to make things happen, with just six interceptions on the year and only one fumble recovery. In addition, Stanford has only managed to force one fumble. That inability to get the ball back or make important stops has resulted in opponents averaging over 456 yards of offense every game and managing 6.4 yards per play.

Red Zone Contrasts

Among the many aspects of last Saturday’s rout of Wake Forest that pleased Freeman was the team’s effectiveness when entering the Demon Deacons’ Red Zone. For the season, the Irish have scored on 90.5 percent (38 of 42) of their forays into this area. They’ve also managed to offer balance in doing it, with 17 rushing touchdowns and 13 scores through the air supplemented by eight field goals.

Stanford has managed to score on 87.1 percent (27 of 31) of their Red Zone efforts. Yet, a closer look shows that besides the 11 fewer scores tallied by the Cardinal, their breakdown has decidedly leaned to the run. On 13 occasions, a Stanford runner has scored, compared to just three passing touchdowns. On 11 occasions, the Cardinal have been forced to settle for a field goal.

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  1. Win was great but the initial sputtering on offense and turnovers could have been costly especially if it were against a higher caliber team. I will miss seeing Estime wearing a gold helmet as I assume he will be playing Sundays next year. Freeman still needs to make a change at OC and I wouldn’t complain if he looked at changing WR and O Line coaches too.

  2. If we turn the ball over like this in our bowl, we will lose. If we sputter and stall on most of our 1st quarter “drives” we will fall behind by anywhere from 10 – 17 points and we will NEVER QUITE catch up. We have all heard this tale told before.
    So let’s just wake up and fly right AND JUST WIN, BABY!

    PS: If it is LSU, there may be Curmes “in the House.” We can stay with relatives at no charge.

    BGC 77 82

  3. Michigan Ohio state. Ryan Day might already be asking for the body of Bo Schembeckler to be exumed so he can fight him.

    I only wish it were possible for both teams to lose. I want more forMichigan to lose because they advertise that they are clean when it’s obvious they aren’t. And sadly they cheat on the academic rigor for players just like Ohio State and the SEC. We all know Ohio State is a corrupt version of an SEC team.

  4. Stadium will likely be mostly empty.
    Hopefully more ND fans. We cancelled a trip there. ND needs the win but frankly watching other top teams makes you realize this was a season lost to underachieving and really coaching that needs to get to the next level. Close but not quite there

    1. I hope Parker was watching this Michigan, Ohio State game. Did you see how Michigan stayed on the ground straight ahead with his best runner Corum. Also did you see those short 3rd and 4th down play when he rolled MCCARTHY out and he threw a short pass to the tight end for a 1st down. One time he had Corum leap over the stack for a 1st down. Also did you see Michigan put the pass rush on McCord instead of laying back and given McCord all day to throw on 3rd and nineteen. Finally, I don’t like Michigan but I can’t stand Ohio State and their obnoxious, arrogant fans and smart blank coach.

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