As always, if you want to play along and see the numbers I’m referencing, you can do that here.
Let’s the the obvious out of the way: the offense was abysmal. We didn’t get a TD until the fourth quarter and the game was pretty much over. We only had five plays in the red zone total. We couldn’t convert a third down to save our lives as well (4-13, 30.77%).
As far as play calling balance goes, Notre Dame set a season high in pass play percentage at 70.59%. Unlike the last two weeks in which the Irish were able to squeeze more plays in the fast-paced Kelly offense, the Irish were only able to run 68 plays as opposed to 76 and 81 the two week prior. The amount of plays is more along the lines of what we ran against Purdue (62) and in that game the Irish had a 53.23% run play percentage.
Granted, we were playing catch up for most of the game; however, we weren’t too far out of reach for well over a half. And that fact still doesn’t take away the horrifying fact that rushing plays feel for the fourth consecutive week to 20 plays (three weeks prior: 33, 31, and 25). Even more disheartening was the yards per rush feel again to an abysmal 1.91 for 44 total.
Our rushing attack is on life support and, in this game, we became without a shadow of a doubt a one dimensional team.
Crist’s passing percentage this week was another disappointing effort at only 57.78% which was just slightly lower than last week. The 73.08% completion rate against Purdue seems like a distant memory right now.
A piss poor rushing attack and a shaky passing game equals disaster. This is by far the best defense that ND has faced to date, but you would still hope for the numbers to look even just a little bit better than this.
I don’t doubt the potency of this offense. Crist being a little more accurate alone will do wonders. A bit of help from the rushing game sure wouldn’t hurt either though.
I think each time I run the numbers after a game, I continue to be surprised at how well the defense did all things considered.
Stanford scored 17 points off of turnovers. 7 of those, the defense couldn’t do a damned thing about as it came on an INT return by Stanford. 3 came from a Dayne Crist fumble in which Stanford started that drive on the ND 15 and was the only three and out for the defense all game. The remaining 7 came off the ND failed fourth down conversion and the defense again had a short field as the drive started on the ND 49.
Stanford also had one more drive start in plus position after the failed ND onside kick, which resulted in a field goal. Toss on those 3 points and you have a grand total of 20 points scored on a defense that was absolutely put into a hole.
Even more sickening is the fact that the Irish defense was able to force two Stanford turnovers from a QB that doesn’t throw picks and the offense got a big ‘ol goose egg in return. The only points scored off a turnover came from a gift that Stanford’s punt returner coughed up to us at the start of the game.
The defense was far from phenomenal, don’t get me wrong, but again, they probably played well enough to win and kept the Irish in this game for far longer than they should have been. They gave up 404 yards, which while not great is the least amount of yards given up to an opponent in a loss.
Stanford attacked ND primarily on the ground and kept it there to nurse the lead late, creating a total run percentage of 57.89%. The defense had their best performance against the run since Purdue giving up only 3.77 yards/carry, which is nearly a full yard improvement from last week against the Spartans.
While all this is a thin silver lining in a horrid loss, there is one spot in which the defense can absolutely not be forgiven and that is on third down. Stanford converted 11 of their 16 third down attempts (68.75%) which damn near doubles their second “worst” performance in this category which was against Michigan State at 35.29%.
Far too many drives were kept alive longer than they should’ve been. Considering ND’s offensive woes, I doubt this would’ve changed the game drastically at all; however, this definitely needs to be a one game hiccup that goes away because a third down conversion rate that high is flat out unacceptable.
Um…Maybe This Does Mean Something…
Remember last week how I said ND has lost two games in a row that lasted 3 hours and 37 minutes? And the only win against Purdue had a game time of 3 hours and 1 minute?
Game time against Stanford: 3 hours 35 minutes.
I’m not saying it’s a trend, but I will say this: if ND can only win games that are around 3 hours, it’s a freakin’ win-win for everyone.