The first half of Notre Dame's 2021 Blue-Gold Game is in the books. In the second half we'll see a running clock, so the majority of the action is behind us.
INITIAL THOUGHTS - NOTRE DAME OFFENSE
*** It's not showing as much as it would with better OL play (see below), but I like what I'm seeing from the offense schematically. A lot of RPOs are being run, they are running some new pass concepts that I really like (Flood concept, Post-Out, Mesh) and when given time the quarterbacks are making plays.
*** I really like how much we are seeing the backs involved in the pass game so far, not just on check downs but designed routes.
*** The offensive lines for both units are struggling to protect the quarterback, and they aren't getting much movement in the run game either. There is way too much catching, miscommunications, sloppy technique and far too few instances where they are pushing linemen off the ball.
*** As expected, Jack Coan is throwing the deep ball well in the game. He went 11-17 in the first half for 136 yards and had three completions of over 20 yards. That includes back-to-back drops on the second series. There were two more completions that would have happened if not for early whistles, including hitting a wideout on a 3rd-and-10 for what would have been a first down. Coan has done a really good job keeping his eyes downfield, going through his progressions and getting the ball out on time, and he's hit several far hash throws in the game.
*** Coan is clearly still trying to get on the same page with wideouts, which kept him from getting a couple balls out he should have, and he locked in on Kyren Williams on an out cut and forced a pass that was picked off, which is a mistake he can't make.
*** Drew Pyne made quick, decisive reads early in the game, and when he had time he played quality ball. He went 11-23 for 146 yards and had a great seam throw to Lawrence Keys III late in the half, but he threw off his back foot on a couple of outs that died and he rushed reads and throws on the final drive of the half and didn't give his wideouts opportunities to make the catch.
*** Running back Chris Tyree had a very good first half, making room where none existed on multiple runs. He bounced a pair of nice runs outside and had two excellent vertical cuts up the middle. Tyree caught an out cut for 18 yards on a very well designed play where OC Tommy Rees used the slot receiver to clear out the coverage, which opened up Tyree in the flats, and he did the rest.
*** Wide receiver Lawrence Keys III looks really good, and he's gotten open more than his 2 catches for 53 yards would otherwise indicate. Joe Wilkins Jr. made a great catch on the first play of the game for 32 yards, but he dropped his next target and he's struggling to get open.
*** The young tight ends (Cane Berrong, Mitchell Evans) are playing well in the pass game. Evans hauled in a 32 yard gain on a drag route, and I was really impressed with how quickly he got across the field and got into Coan's line of sight. Evans also converted a 4th-and-2 against tight coverage. He's a pretty good athlete for that size and his hands impressed. Berrong worked himself open on a couple of throws as well.
INITIAL THOUGHTS - NOTRE DAME DEFENSE
*** The defense has been very aggressive, and DC Marcus Freeman is mixing up his coverages a lot more than we saw at Cincinnati. A lot of press, but then they will bail, we've seen two-high safeties more than I expected and its mostly been four-down fronts in early downs. He's been more aggressive with his coverages on third-down.
*** Defensive end Myron Tagovailoa-Amosa, Isaiah Foskey and Jordan Botelho have all been very active in the game, and Justin Ademilola has been good against the run to go with a late pass rush. Tagovailoa-Amosa looks very quick off the edge and Botelho absolutely destroyed Tosh Baker on a pass rush that would have been a huge hit/sack on the quarterback.
*** Sophomore Alexander Ehrensberger had a great TFL, but he's held up well at the point of attack on many snaps. He looks good.
*** I haven't been able to watch the interior DL much, and that analysis will come later after I break down the film.
*** LB Bo Bauer is excellent between the tackles in this game but he's gotten in trouble a time or two when he gets in space. JD Bertrand is playing hard, and Shayne Simon is playing with a lot more confidence, and not just on the snap where he stepped in front of Williams for the interception. Jack Kiser looks great at rover, both playing perimeter runs and quick throws, but also opening up and running vertically in coverage.
*** Cam Hart got beat on snap one but he was actually in good position. He just needs to play the ball better. Other than that he's been pretty good in coverage, as has TaRiq Bracy and Clarence Lewis. Caleb Offord had a really nice break up on a seam route against Keys.
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