First Half Analysis: Notre Dame vs. Virginia Tech

First half analysis of the matchup between Notre Dame and Virginia Tech
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Notre Dame fell behind 10-0 but two scoring drives in the second quarter have the Irish leading 14-13 at the half.

OFFENSE

*** Notre Dame is trying to force the run a bit too much in this game so far, including using way too much 12 personnel even though Michael Mayer is out of the game. Instead of using more receivers or the two back alignments Notre Dame is playing freshman Mitchell Evans on a lot of snaps as part of the 12 personnel group.

*** Notre Dame's offensive line continues to shoot itself in the foot. A false start on a 4th-and-1 that forces a punt, losing blocks late and inconsistent movement have been factors in the offensive struggles so far.

*** On a positive note the line is battling, especially right tackle Joshua Lugg, who is playing really good football so far. Lugg had a great block on the 3rd-and-1 on Notre Dame's scoring drive. Along with George Takacs he drove the right side of the defensive line at least five yards down the field and Kyren Williams simply got behind them.

*** Speaking of Williams he is running very hard and showing excellent patience in this game. The holes are coming open late, and outside of a toss play that he rushed he's been patient, stayed back and then waited on the holes to open up.

*** Wide receiver Kevin Austin made two big plays in the game, getting free on an early in cut but then executing a well run go route to get free for a 46-yard gain that set up Notre Dame's first score of the half. Austin used a good stutter move off the line, jabbed hard inside and froze the corner, which gave him the ability to get a step outside. At that point Austin got on top of the corner (stacked him), which gave the quarterback the window to get the ball over top for a big gain. It's amazing what can happen when talented players use good fundamentals and technique.

*** At quarterback Jack Coan showed good poise on his first completion to Austin, staying in the pocket and getting the ball out for a 12-yard gain. He stepped into a sack later in the quarter and kept climbing instead of staying in the pocket. There was no reason to climb there, and he locked onto his first read, which kept him from seeing a backside comeback come open and also from seeing the running back being open on a check down. He has to process quicker, and plays like that only make it worse when the offensive line is struggling. He cannot make those kinds of mistakes on plays where the line gives him time to throw. That's on the quarterback.

*** Freshman QB Tyler Buchner sparked the offense on his first drive, rushing twice for 11 yards (including a score) and throwing a perfect go route to Austin for the 46-yard gain. That set up the first touchdown. Buchner was off target on two throws his next drive, but he made a great read and threw a perfect strike on a backside seam to Avery Davis on the final drive of the half, which went for 37 yards. Buchner was poised on that third drive, which was basically a two-minute drill, converting a 2nd-and-8 with a quick out throw (good timing, placement) and then hitting Kyren Williams for a touchdown with less than a minute left. The ball was behind Williams but Buchner got the ball out so quickly (great read) that the DB never had time to close on Williams as the Irish took the lead.

*** Notre Dame's offensive coaches should watch more Virginia Tech tape and realize that jet sweeps are allowed - and are effective - in college football.

DEFENSE

*** The Irish defense got out-leveraged far too often in the half and had far too many mental mistakes. Not jumping a wheel route, two players executing the same assignment that opens up a third-down scramble conversion. The coverage on the outside was also inconsistent but the defense held Virginia Tech to 10 points.

*** Notre Dame's front has been very disruptive, especially when they are keeping contain. When they aren't making mistakes they are eating up the Virginia Tech offense.

*** The Irish front was setting the edge very well, which is why Virginia Tech had to go to jet sweeps to get outside, which it did twice for big gains on its field goal drive. Veteran end Myron Tagovailoa-Amosa has been very, very active on the edge as both a run defender and getting pressure on the quarterback. Veteran nose tackle Kurt Hinish has been disruptive.

*** Drew White had a rough series on the touchdown drive by Virginia Tech, with two bad run fits setting up positive gains. Outside of that I think he's been quite good and is very active up the middle of the defense. He and the DL are a big reason the Hokie running backs only have 20 yards on 7 carries in the first half.

*** The perimeter pass defense has been a bit soft. They are playing the deep ball well but cornerback TaRiq Bracy was late driving on routes and slipped on another out cut that set up Virginia Tech's first touchdown. 

*** Virginia Tech's quarterbacks have gained 49 yards on the ground (taking out sacks), which is something the Irish coaches will have to find a way to stop that, obviously. Keeping better contain on passes is key to that, especially when Burmeister is in the game.

*** At times Notre Dame is getting diverse just for the sake of being diverse. I'd like to see them stick more with four down fronts in this half and perhaps use Isaiah Foskey to move around the front instead of playing him and Ademilola at linebacker.

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