Notre Dame had a truly outstanding defensive performance during the 33-9 victory over Iowa State. The Fighting Irish defense had a strong early game plan, but the adjustments at halftime were even better.
Notre Dame held Iowa State to nine points and just 272 yards of offense, which included just 45 rushing yards. It was Iowa State’s fewest points since scoring just three points in the 2018 season opening loss to Iowa. The 272 yards of offense was Iowa State’s second lowest output of the season, as was the 4.6 yards per play. Iowa State’s 45 rushing yards was also its lowest total since the Sep. 8, 2018 game at Iowa.
Iowa State had just 68 yards of offense in the second half.
According to the Fremeau Efficiency index, Iowa State came into the game ranked 11th in the country in explosive plays, but Notre Dame significantly limited the effectiveness of the Cyclone big play offense. Iowa State did not have a single play of 30 or more yards and had just four plays of at least 20 yards.
In the breakdown of the Iowa State offense I noted how Iowa State likes to run a lot of crossing routes while utilizing a number of high-low concepts. Notre Dame had a great game plan to limit these concepts, and the execution of that game plan was excellent. The linebackers and safeties all had a role in slowing down these concepts, and Notre Dame shutting down these concepts and limiting Iowa State’s effectiveness in the quick game is why ISU quarterback Brock Purdy completed just 56.7-percent of his passes, which was his second lowest mark of the season.
Notre Dame tackled extremely well, the defensive line controlled the action and the Irish were able to make key stops.
Iowa State was just 5-15 on third-down and both of its red zone trips ended with the Cyclones settling on field goals.
The Irish defense also gave its offense a number of short fields. A forced fumble on the first series of the game gave the offense the ball at its own 42-yard line. Leading 13-3 in the second quarter, the defense made a huge 4th-and-1 stop to give the offense the ball at the Iowa State 45-yard line. Four plays later the Irish offense punched it in the end zone to make it a 20-3 game, and the game was never competitive after that.
Iowa State had a very hard time handling Notre Dame’s speed on all three levels of the defense, especially at linebacker.
*** On the first defensive play of the game a Notre Dame defensive lineman missed his gap, resulting in a 23-yard run. After that mistake the Irish defensive line took over the game and controlled the action. Notre Dame threw waves of big men at Iowa State, and it didn’t seem to matter who was in the game, the Irish front controlled the action.
*** Iowa State could get no movement in the run game as the Irish defensive line used its quickness to beat the Cyclone blockers into gaps snap after snap. When ISU ran the football there was nowhere to go, with the Irish line getting a push, throwing off the timing and of the run game and opening up run lanes for the Irish linebackers to get through for stops. Notre Dame also played with power, especially on the edge. Purdy rarely looked comfortable in the pocket thanks to Notre Dame effectively getting a number of four-man pressures on the ISU quarterback.
*** Senior end Ade Ogundeji made a number of standpoint plays in the game. Ogundeji had strong power rushes off the edge, but it was his run defense that proved most impactful. He got a strong push and set the edge effectively thoughout the game. Fellow senior end Khalid Kareem had a couple of quality pressures that forced quick throws, and he was solid in the run game for the Irish defense.
*** The same is true of senior drop end Jamir Jones, who made plays against the run, had good pressures and also had a good play in coverage in the game. Jones played a quick pitch perfectly after the long opening run. On the second series, Jones had an effective 3rd-and-10 edge rush that forced Purdy to scramble and then throw the ball incomplete down the field, ending the Cyclone drive.
*** Inside, junior defensive tackle Myron Tagovailoa-Amosa was the player that made the gap mistake on the first play of the game. He made up for it, playing a strong all-around game for the remainder of the contest. It was also Tagovailoa-Amosa that shot into the gap on the 4th-and-1 snap, blowing up the run. He didn’t make any plays on the ball, but his penetration freed up the linebackers for a number of plays. Junior nose tackle Kurt Hinish held up relatively well at the point of attack and did a good job clogging up the middle of the line.
*** The young defensive tackles also played well in this game. Sophomore Jayson Ademilola had a number of effective pass rushes in the game, and Iowa State had trouble with his quickness all game long. Freshman Jacob Lacey and sophomore Ja’mion Franklin were physical at the point of attack, and Lacey also used his quickness to be effective.
*** The star of the game for the Irish defense was rover Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah, who led the defense with 8 tackles, 4 tackles for loss and three sacks. On the opening drive he stripped the ball from Purdy to end that drive, and in the fourth quarter he knocked Purdy out of the game by sacking the ISU quarterback on fourth-down.
*** Iowa State had no answer for Owusu-Koramoah’s speed and range. The Irish junior made plays all over the field and in every way possible. He was outstanding in coverage, he made plays in space by eating up the perimeter runs, he was effective as a pass rusher and he was physical at the point of attack in the run game. This was one of the most dominant individual defensive performances we’ve seen from an Irish defender all season.
*** Notre Dame’s inside linebackers were also outstanding in the game, both against the run and in coverage. They were tasked with playing an aggressive downhill game against the run, but they were also the first line of defense against the crossing routes, and being able to play effectively against both was a tall task, but the Irish inside backers handled it beautifully.
*** Fifth-year senior Asmar Bilal finished with seven tackles and was highly effective against the run game. Bilal was active attacking downhill, he tackled well in space and he was physical at the point of attack. He took full advantage of the play by his line, which allowed Bilal to fly to the ball and make plays near the line of scrimmage. Bilal was highly effective in coverage, jumping crossing routes, getting to the backs on the edge and he finished with a pass break up.
*** Junior linebacker Drew White also had an outstanding two-way performance. White had five tackles in the game, but his production was much better than his numbers would otherwise dictate. There were many plays made by Bilal and other Irish defenders that were a direct result of White blowing up the runs. White did a great job making quick reads and then exploding into his gap, which often resulted in the Iowa State backs having to cut well behind the line. White also did an effective job getting depth on his pass drops, which helped eat up the crossing routes and in cuts.
*** Senior safety Alohi Gilman made a huge play on special teams, stripping an Iowa State returner on the team’s first punt of the game. That turnover set up the first Irish field goal. Gilman finished the game with 8 tackles and was very active coming down in the run game. He cleaned up a lot of action and did a solid job jumping seam routes and in-breaking cuts. Gilman did get beat up the seam for a 28-yard gain that helped get Iowa State into the red zone, but the entire secondary shut things down in the red zone, forcing a field goal.
*** Senior safety Jalen Elliott had a strong performance for the Irish defense. Elliott also had 8 tackles, and his coverage was outstanding in the game. Elliott did a great job shutting down standout tight end Charlie Kolar, who had just 3 catches for 22 yards, and one of those grabs wasn’t on Elliott. Elliott was impressive in space as a tackler, and his ability to close on routes when playing zone was a big part of Notre Dame limiting the effectiveness of the Iowa State skill players after the catch.
*** Freshman safety Kyle Hamilton was solid in coverage as well. Even when he got beat initially the talented safety used his speed and range to close on routes and make plays.
*** Senior cornerback Troy Pride Jr. got beat on a downfield one-on-one that set up a field goal, and he got sloppy with his technique on a second half throw that resulted in a pass interference penalty. Outside of that, Pride was highly effective in coverage. He was all over the Iowa State pass catchers, keeping windows small and making Purdy uncomfortable attacking his man. Pride had a clutch breakup on a post route in the first quarter that helped stall an Iowa State drive. Pride also made a strong third-down tackle of Kolar, which stopped the ISU tight end short of the first-down marker, forcing a punt.
*** Sophomore cornerback TaRiq Bracy made a number of impressive coverage plays in the game. In the second quarter he was beat on a slant-and-go route, but Bracy used his speed to recover and he knocked the ball out of the receiver’s hands in the end zone. Later on that drive, Bracy jumped a deep in cut that Purdy wanted to hit on third-down, which forced the ISU quarterback to throw the ball away and the offense had to settle for a field goal attempt. His footwork got him in trouble on a few snaps - including the slant-and-go - but Bracy’s speed allows him to compensate in those situations. Bracy also had a clutch third-down coverage on an out cut that forced another ISU field goal attempt.