#1 Notre Dame’s offense was clicking on all cylinders against Wake Forest last Saturday night in South Bend. 584 yards of offense and 38 points in three quarters points to a unit that is confident in themselves and their coaches. Although it was an impressive performance there were will a few things that need to be improved upon before heading to USC next week.
Let’s go series by series and take a look at the good, the bad, and the ugly.
1st Series (4 plays – Result: Touchdown)
Good – The fast starts of the past few games continue, except this time instead of a long, drawn-out drive, the Irish score in four plays to take a 7-0 lead.
The only third down of the series, a third and 11, quarterback Everett Golson, throws a strike to running back Theo Riddick for a 24-yad gain. Riddick ran a seam right up the middle of the defense and Golson hit him right between the linebackers and the safety.
The last play of the drive Golson reads the speed option perfectly and pitches to running back Cierre Wood who dashes 68 yards for a touchdown. Credit wide receivers TJ Jones, Daniel Smith, and Chris Brown, who stuck with his block all the way from the other side of the play, with great blocks that really helped spring Wood.
Bad - The second play of the drive Notre Dame runs an outside zone and Wake Forest nose-guard Nikita Whitlock beats center Braxton Cave across his face on a combo block. Cave should have never stopped blocking Whitlock in the first place because he slanted in the direction of the play. Cave should have stayed on him and right guard Mike Golic Jr. should have went to linebacker level.
Ugly – Nothing
2nd Series (8 plays – Result: Touchdown)
Good – Notre Dame takes advantage of a defensive takeaway and converts the Wake turnover into a touchdown.
The first three passes of the series Golson shows off his arm strength and accuracy with sideline routes to Jones, Smith, and John Goodman.
The fifth play of the drive, and second and one, the offensive line and receivers do a great job of creating an alley for Wood to gain 20 yards on a beautifully executed outside zone.
The last play of the drive Golson throws a nice fade route to tight end Tyler Eifert for a two-yard touchdown. Eifert does a nice job of using his body to establish his ground before leaping up to make the catch.
Bad – On first and goal from the one, tight end Troy Niklas has a miscommunication with left tackle Zack Martin. It’s clear that Niklas thought he was getting help from Martin who was covered and working a combo block with left guard Chris Watt. Niklas lets his man go inside and he makes the tackle on Wood for a one yard loss.
Ugly – On second and goal Golson throws an awkward pass to Eifert who’s running a fade route toward the corner of the end zone. The timing and the trajectory of the pass just seemed a bit off.
3rd Series (6 plays – Result: Touchdown)
Good – Notre Dame scores a touchdown on their first three drives of a game for the first time all season. A good mix of run and pass, along with some explosive big plays, quickly pushes their lead to 21-0.
The second play of the series, a second and ten, the Irish run swing pass to Riddick who picks up key perimeter blocks from Jones, Smith, and Eifert while on his way to a first down.
The sixth play of the drive Goodman shows his penchant for catching touchdown passes when he hauls in a 50-yarder from Golson. Goodman really showed incredible concentration of the ball, which was underthrown a bit by Golson.
Bad – The first play of the series Notre Dame runs a play-action deep post to Brown. Golson waits too long to throw the ball and the pass is broken up by the Wake defender. This is not the first time that Golson has thrown a ball that Brown has had to slow down for toward the end of his route. Golson has to throw the ball earlier and let Brown use his speed to get under it for a better chance at catching the football.
Ugly – The fourth play of the series, a second and seven, the Irish run a counter out of the gun with a tackle pull and Golic whiffs on his fill block for Christian Lombard. Golic dips his head and gets overextended leaving himself vulnerable to be beaten by a quick swim move. The same play Martin stops his feet on a one-on-one base block and doesn’t get any movement off the line of scrimmage.
4th Series (7 plays – Result: Interception)
Good – The second play of the series, a second and 11, Golson rolls out on a bootleg and as a Wake linebacker is grabbing his left arm he throws a perfect strike to Jones for a first down. To be able to throw a pass with that kind of accuracy and velocity while someone is basically hanging off of you is a pretty amazing accomplishment.
Golson’s ability to be an effective play-action passer has really improved since the beginning of the season. On the fourth play of the drive he sells an outside zone left perfectly and rolls back to his right while completing a 15-yard pass to a dragging Eifert.
The fifth play of the drive, a first and ten, Golson buys time in the pocket and hits Robby Toma on the far sideline for a 27-yard gain. Golson is just so relaxed and under control in the pocket. He makes difficult tasks look surprisingly easy.
Bad – The last play of the drive Golson, who seems to have had a goal on Saturday of getting every senior on the team a touchdown catch, forces a throw to Toma which is easily intercepted by Wake in the end zone. Not the best decision by Golson on a drive that was showing real promise in terms of producing more points for the Irish.
Ugly – The third play of the series, a first and ten, Toma is blocking for a screen pass but completely gives up on blocking the most threatening defensive player even though he had an angle on him.
5th Series (6 plays – Result: Touchdown)
Good – The third play of the drive, a third and 11, Golson reads one safety in the middle of the field when he moves slightly toward his left he throws to Riddick on another seam for a 22-yard gain. Great decision on the throw by Golson based upon the single safety and which direction that safety moved during the play.
The very next play, a first and ten, the offensive line clicks on two combo blocks, one by Watt and Martin, and the other by Cave and Golic. Wood makes a great cut and does the rest for a 16-yard gain that puts him over 100 yards for the half.
The last play of the drive Golson shows one of the prettiest pump fakes you’ll ever see and hits Jones on an out and up route for a 34-yard touchdown. Not much more to say on that except that play seems to have been brewing all season with the large amount to sideline routes Golson has been throwing to Jones.
Bad –The first two plays of the series, a reverse to Atkinson and an inside zone ran by Golson, go for minus one yard. The offense may be able to get out of a third and long hole against Wake Forest, but against the likes USC and Alabama there has to be better production on first and second down.
Ugly – Nothing
6th Series (3 plays – Result: Punt)
Good – Not much this series, but I will say Golson has had all day to throw the football. The offensive line did a great job this series and just about every series the entire game.
Bad – The first play of the series the Irish run an outside zone to the boundary and Eifert gets strung out to the sideline, which prevents Wood from being able to cut up-field in a timely manner.
The last play of the drive Golson hits Toma on a crossing route and instead of planting his left foot and powering toward the first down he stutter-steps trying to make a move. He ends up two yards shy of the marker and Notre Dame has to punt for the first time in the game.
Ugly – The second play of the drive Smith runs a beautiful post-corner route, but Golson throws the ball out of bounds to the wide open receiver.
7th Series (6 plays – Result: Field Goal)
Good – The Irish get the ball back with just over two minutes left in the half and put together a drive that produces points just before half.
The second play of the drive Eifert shows the nation why he’s the best tight end in the country with a great catch on an underthrown jump ball by Golson. Golson was again late on the throw, but was saved by Eifert on the 38-yard gain.
Bad - Nothing
Ugly - The goal line sequence after the Eifert catch left a little to be desired. The problem lies when your first down play from the eight is an incomplete you’re almost locked into throwing it the next two downs. I would have liked to have seen a run or even a play-action pass on first down and if that fails then go ahead and sling it on second and third down.
8th Series (7 plays – Result: Missed field goal)
Good – The first play of the series Golson hits Eifert on a 15-yard pass which pushes him to the top of the list of receptions by a Notre Dame tight end. What a special player to have had the privilege of watching the past three seasons.
Bad – The third play of the series Goodman misses a block on a swing pass and nearly gets Wood’s head taken off. He took a poor angle to the corner and was never able to square up to make the necessary block.
It was kind of a strange series for the Irish as they rush the ball for only five yards and find themselves in two third and long situations.
Ugly – Kicker Kyle Brindza’s woes continue as he pulls a 40-yard field goal wide left.
9th Series (7 plays – Result: Touchdown)
Good – Golson gets benched after a terrific performance and in an effort to keep him healthy Tommy Rees comes in the game to take his place.
The first play of the series the Irish run an inside zone to Riddick and the offensive line executes another round of really sound combo blocks. At the end of the play four of Wake’s front seven are on the ground.
The second play of the series Ben Koyack shows us he can still catch the ball and takes a pass from Rees for an 11-yard gain.
The third play of the series Lombard pulls around on a counter and lays a nice block on the inside linebacker springing Wood for a 43-yard gain. Watt and Cave blew out the nose-guard as well.
The last play of the drive, with the Martin brothers playing next to each other, Atkinson cuts back right behind them on an inside zone and scores form nine yards out.
Bad - Nothing
Ugly – Watt gets pulled rather quickly when he comes up hobbling two plays before the touchdown. He ends up being okay, but there’s always a fine line with how long you should keep your starters in when you’re blowing a team out.
10th Series (6 plays – Result: Punt)
Good – I like the way some of these young linemen like Nick Martin and Conor Hanratty get after it when they get a chance. They get off the ball hard and are really aggressive.
Brown shows he can catch the short routes too when he hauls in a 6-yard pass from Rees on the fourth play of the drive.
Bad – Brown shows he can drop the short routes when he lets a Rees pass fall the ground on third and long. He let the pass get to his body rather than catch it with his hands.
Ugly – Hanratty gets called for holding on a second and medium play which pushed the Irish back to second and long.
11th Series (3 plays – Result: Punt)
Good – Nick Martin took snaps at center, which shows me the coaching staff is grooming him to play multiple positions on the offensive line.
Bad – Rees has Brown open on a quick hitch and overthrows him, forcing an Irish punt.
Ugly – Kelly shuffles quarterbacks in and out and ends up with a delay of game penalty which pushes the Irish back from third and one to third and six.
Notre Dame had very few mistakes and put an inferior opponent away right from the start. They were able to run the ball when they needed to and turned to an explosive passing game for some big chunk plays. Golson showed that even though he has to clean up some little things here and there he is a big time talent with a big time arm. On to USC as they reach for the goal of an undefeated season and a chance to be national champions.