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Statistically Speaking: Notre Dame vs. Washington

By · October 26th, 2008 · 0 Comments · 2,056 views
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Statistically Speaking:  Notre Dame vs. Washington

Notre Dame owned an edge in nearly every statistical category in their 33-7 win over the Washington Huskies. The Irish offense didn’t punt once, and the defense limited the Huskies to only a few first downs through every meaningful minute of play.

The Irish had nearly a 15 minute edge in time of possession, was perfect scoring in four red zone attempts, only turned the ball over once, and converted nearly 43 percent of third down attempts while holding the Huskies to less than 28 percent of their third down tries (through three quarters).

Notre Dame had 25 first downs to Washington’s nine and ran 29 more plays for a 459-124 advantage in total offense. The Irish also averaged six yards per play to 2.6 for the Huskies. If head coach Charlie Weis hadn’t cleared his bench, the contest likely would have been even more lopsided.

After this game, about the only concern for Notre Dame fans should be a lackluster performance from quarterback Jimmy Clausen, breakdowns in pass protection against a very average pass rush, a handful of injuries, and a continued reliance on the big play.

For the first time in a long time the Irish didn’t play down to their competition, got up early, and rode an effective ground game to victory.

Offense

The Irish ran the ball on 63.6 percent of their plays, surpassing only the Michigan game when they enjoyed a similar early lead. However, against Washington, Notre Dame’s ground game was much more effective.

The Irish averaged a blistering 5.1 yards per carry (49 attempts for 252 yards), a value that grows to 5.8 when two Husky sacks are subtracted. Notre Dame also recorded five runs of more than 15 yards (including the Harrison Smith fake punt), second only to the Purdue game.

Leading the way on the ground were junior James Aldridge (13 carries, 84 yards, 6.5 yards per carry, 2 touchdowns), sophomore Armando Allen (15 carries, 62 yards, 4.1 yards per carry), and freshman Jonas Gray (9 carries, 61 yards, 6.8 yards per carry). The second half, in particular, saw huge holes open up for the Irish running backs. A five-minute advantage in first half time of possession is mostly to thank for such high yard-per-carry averages.

When the Irish did throw, they were most effective down the field, or at least with big gains. Notre Dame attempted only 28 passes, completing 53.6 percent of their attempts for 207 yards. That’s good for 7.4 yards per attempt and 13.8 yards per completion, both staggering values.

However, the Irish did have eight big plays (rush greater than 15 yards, pass greater than 20 yards) that comprised nearly 50 percent of the total offensive output. In the passing game this was even more apparent where 116 passing yards came on only three plays. In other words, 10.7 percent of passing plays garnered 56 percent of the total yards through the air.

With big plays subtracted the very respectable six-yard per play average dips to 3.4 yards per play. Keeping with their performance on the year, the Irish offense struggled to move the ball consistently without large gains, mostly through the air.

The offense also continues to achieve unmanageable third down distances. For the game Notre Dame spent 73.3 percent of third downs with five or more yards needed to move the chains. This problem was mitigated by first and second down play as the Irish needed three downs on less than 46 percent of first down series.

Perhaps the most disturbing statistic on offense was the two sacks. Coming into the game Washington had only recorded three sacks on the year. Against a typically solid Irish front five the Huskies managed two sacks and multiple hurries. The Irish surrendered one sack per 14 passing attempts, a value far down from their season average of more than 24.

Defense

While the Irish offense did what just about every other Husky opponent has done this season, the defense played exceptionally well.

Through three quarters of play Washington’s offense had virtually nothing to show for their 17 minutes of possession. Only in garbage time with a host of second teamers did the Irish defense give up any substantial amount of yardage.

The defense held Washington to 26 yards on 23 carries for a 1.1 yard per carry average. Even the longest Husky rush on the day covered only eight yards. Subtracting the four sacks still yields a respectable 67 yards on 19 carries (3.5 yard per carry average). In other words, Notre Dame stuffed the run.

But the numbers in the passing game were even better.

The Irish secondary held Husky quarterback Ronnie Fouch to a 44 percent completion percentage, a paltry 3.9 yards per attempt, and only 8.9 yards per completion. Additionally, the Notre Dame defense nearly matched their season high sack total, notching four for 44 yards.

Linebackers Harrison and Brian Smith led the way for the Irish, recording three of the four sacks and creating havoc for most of the day.

Special Teams

The Irish averaged 45.7 net yards per kickoff, a combination of 61.6 yards per kick and allowing only 15.9 yards per kickoff return.

Additionally, kicker Brandon Walker made both field goal attempts. Continued consistency in the kicking game will go a long way in helping the offense increase a red zone offense that ranked last in the country entering Saturday’s game.

Summary

The enthusiasm of the offensive performance should be tempered by the quality of the opponent. Going into the game Washington’s defense was a known liability. The Irish offense merely accomplished what every other Husky opponent had this season.

Facing a tougher challenge next week Weis and offensive coordinator Mike Haywood will need to knock the dust off their passing attack and better protect Clausen.

But the defense played an outstanding game of football, perhaps their best in two years. Fresh from a dominant time of possession edge, Notre Dame looked more Jon Tenuta and less Corwin Brown. The front seven played fast and furious, and the secondary played much tighter in coverage than they had in the past.

It’s only one game, but the defense looks to have significantly benefited from a bye week of self-examination and communication between Tenuta and Brown.

Furthermore

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