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First Half Analysis: Notre Dame 24, Stanford 0

First half analysis of the Notre Dame vs. Stanford game, which Notre Dame leads 24-0

Notre Dame took a 24-0 lead into halftime over Stanford, a game the Irish have controlled.

OFFENSE

*** Notre Dame's first series was a clinic. I really liked what we saw from OC Tommy Rees, as Notre Dame never got to third-down on the series. Rees began with a play-action pass that opened up Kevin Austin on the backside, which was aided by the linebackers stepping up to play the run. Once Notre Dame got near the red zone, Rees went 12 personnel (two tight ends), but he threw the ball both times. The touchdown was a well-designed and executed play.

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*** The 12 personnel look meant both sides were reduced inside a bit, which opened up the post route. Notre Dame ran a post-wheel concept and quarterback Jack Coan read the field safety perfectly and banged the throw behind the safety to Lenzy for the touchdown.

*** There were a couple of calls I really didn't like (pitch read, fake reverse pass), but other than that I thought Rees called a really good first half. We didn't see him trying to over-play the run against Stanford's bad run defense. He clearly saw what I saw (read here) and knew that Stanford couldn't run with his receivers and tight ends. There were a lot of slants/quick posts, crosses, drags, in cuts that put Stanford's second and third level players in chase mode, and they simply can't run with Notre Dame's pass catchers. 

*** Coan put on a clinic in the first half and shredded the Cardinal secondary. He had three mistakes in the half. He threw inside on a third-down throw that almost got picked, he missed Chris Tyree on a wide fade (another great play design) and he should have thrown a corner route to Deion Colzie on a 2nd-24 play where he threw a hitch to Michael Mayer. Outside of that he was excellent. Coan was patient when he needed to be, which opened up a lot of the crossing routes, but when he needed to be decisive he was. Coan's ball placement, outside of the miss to Tyree, was as good as its been all season.

*** Rees did a lot in this game to get his backs involved even when the run game wasn't working. Chris Tyree ran the ball the ball the best in the first half. He was decisive on his first two runs and showed his speed getting to the edge on a counter run where his line got pushed back.

*** Stanford had no answers for Michael Mayer, who made plays across the middle, was money on third-down and we saw Notre Dame attack up the seam with Mayer, which I was quite pleased with. Mayer also had one of his better blocking halves of the season, as did George Takacs, who also caught a touchdown in the first half.

*** Kevin Austin and Braden Lenzy both made key plays in the first half. Austin was very good on third down getting open on crossing routes and on a stop route, and he did a very good job getting yards after the catch on his first catch. It was the second straight game he started things off with a 30-plus yard gain to start the game for the offense. Lenzy had a crucial drop in the game but also made some plays. He ran a good route quick post route on the touchdown and used his speed to get open multiple times.

*** The offensive line did a great job giving Coan plenty of time to throw but the run game was bad. Stanford is giving up 241.7 rushing yards per game but the Irish rushed for just 36 yards (I think that gets corrected to over 40) in the first half and got very, very little movement up front. Cain Madden was slow getting around on counters, which allowed Stanford to consistently push them back and force a bounce. Josh Lugg had multiple strong blocks on the edge in the run game.

DEFENSE

*** Notre Dame employed a relatively simple game plan against Stanford, which I liked. Stanford is a relatively basic offense that used a lot of two tight end sets in this game. Notre Dame focused on gap control and playing hard downhill, and Marcus Freeman trusted his corners and safeties to do more man coverage than we've seen in recent weeks, and it worked quite well.

*** Notre Dame held Stanford to just 47 yards of offense and did not allow a touchdown for the 14th straight quarter.

*** Stanford had a couple good runs on cutbacks where the backside lost contain - once with Myron Tagovailoa-Amosa and once with JD Bertrand - but other than that Notre Dame clogged up the run lanes throughout the half.

*** Notre Dame's ends - especially Isaiah Foskey - did a very good job setting the edge in the run game and forced everything back inside. The defensive tackles, for the most part, did a good job betting penetration and eating up blocks, which allowed the linebackers to play hard downhill.

*** DT Jayson Ademilola and DE Justin Ademilola both had great first halves. Justin played with a great motor and had a crucial sack in the game, a play in which he stunted inside, out-hustled a guard and got to the quarterback, forcing a fumble. Jayson was stout against the run, did a great job reading a screen on the game's first third-down and he had a good third-down stop on Stanford's final drive on the half.

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*** Cornerback Cam Hart had a strong first half. He was sticky in coverage against Stanford's bigger, slower receivers and broke up a key third-down pass early in the game. He also came up hard against the perimeter run and screens. Fellow cornerback Clarence Lewis caught a break in the second quarter. He was beat on a go route by Michael Wilson, but Wilson dropped the pass, negating what should have been a big play.

*** Stanford didn't test TaRiq Bracy outside of one play, which he broke up. He was in perfect position in coverage and played the ball well. Stanford ran a wide fade on the throw, so they clearly wanted the matchup of Elijah Higgins and Bracy, but Bracy was all over him. Stanford has great size at WR, so I expected them to take more chances against him but Bracy was all over the Stanford receivers.

*** Notre Dame's safeties came down hill aggressively and handled the run game effectively.

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