That game was exceedingly boring. I think there are three things to blame for that. First, there were only two turnovers - each team fumbled once. Second, Notre Dame’s offense moved methodically down the field and ate up time. Third, our offense moved very little. Let’s get into it and break this game down a little more.
In a word I’d call the offense “bleh”. We had 76 yards at the half, and half of those came from a weird drive at the end to burn out the clock. Neither side of the ball looked particularly comfortable, but the passing game especially was rough. Mixed in with some badly missed throws were the most passes completed for negative yards I think I’ve ever seen. The rushing game was a little more successful but not by much - we still only totalled 88 rushing yards on 33 attempts. Again I think the O-line is the biggest culprit. Notre Dame was able to get 5 sacks, 2 QB hurries, and 9 tackles for loss.
There was exactly one good offensive play, a wonderful 39 yard completion to Jalen Camp, and we fumbled the ball on the very next play. Even though it was our only turnover of the game, it was yet again extremely untimely as we were coming out of the half looking to score in a close game. All in all, Notre Dame is a stellar defense but 6 total offensive points (not scored until 7 minutes remained in the game) isn’t great.
I’ll actually give the defense an “okay” rating for this one - holding Notre Dame to 31 points is a win in my book. The big thing here is obviously Zamari Walton’s scoop-and-score. Without that this might’ve been a very different game. It’s nice to see the defense making a big game-altering play.
While I’m okay with giving up 31 points to a team of this caliber, the rest of the defensive aspects of this game aren’t particularly inspiring. We still struggle to get off the field on third down - allowing a 67% conversion rate is no way to win a football game. Look at how the Irish offense completely controlled the first half - their first drive went for 15 plays and 8:44, their second went 8 and 3:53, and their third went 7 and 3:55. All three reached into our redzone and two ended in touchdowns. They dominated possession time and were content to slowly and methodically work their way down the field, especially in the run game where they tallied 277 total yards.
The defense has to get better at not letting offenses impose their will so much. We struggled with UCF’s tempo and now we’ve struggled with Notre Dame’s slugging. We continue to allow every offense we face to play their game and it is clearly not working out.
This was bad all around. Normally the saving grace, the punting in this game was pretty bad and well-below where it’s been all season. There wasn’t much place-kicking to do, but by golly did it go poorly. Our one field goal attempt was a 44-yarder that looked about 20 yards wide and 10 yards short - it was nowhere close and it didn’t look blocked. That puts us at 1-of-6 on the year.
Up next is a much-needed bye week. After that is the eternal enigma, Pitt. The Panthers have another suffocating defense, however they’re on a four game losing streak that includes getting absolutely stomped by Notre Dame and a weird loss to NC State. Pitt’s had our number the last few years, winning 4 of the last 5, and I never feel particularly confident against them. They’re never great, but we rarely seem to play our best against them and it’s usually because they have dominant offensive and defensive lines (and 2020 is no different in this regard). This isn’t shaping up to be a high-scoring affair, so hopefully we can create one or two big opportunities that swing the game.