Game Observations: Notre Dame Offense Struggles In Win Over Wisconsin

Analysis of the Notre Dame offense, which struggled in the 41-13 win over Wisconsin
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Notre Dame earned a convincing 41-13 victory over the Wisconsin Badgers to pull off what is considered an "upset" due to the fact the Irish were 6.5-point underdogs.

The Notre Dame offense, however, had some problems in this game. The Irish offense accounted for 20 points in the game while its defense and special teams accounted for 21 direct points.

Here is my analysis of the Irish offense from the win.

*** For all the problems I'm doing to discuss one thing that I really liked about this offense was its ability to capitalize on its own defense giving it short fields. Jack Coan hit Kevin Austin for a touchdown following Cam Hart's first interception. Drew Pyne hit Austin for a touchdown after Jayson Ademilola's strip sack and the Irish got a field goal after Hart's second interception.

*** We saw some good use of motions in this game, but the Irish will have to figure out more ways schematically to protect the offensive line, which had a brutally bad performance in this game. Whether its screens, more outside runs (quicks) or moving the pocket there just has to be more.

*** Some positives from the game plan today is that we saw Notre Dame try to run some kickouts and gap scheme plays. They weren't effective because the line got no push, but I liked that OC Tommy Rees tried to mix things up in the run game in hopes of getting something going. The Irish had a few quality runs late in the game with a good push, but for most of the game the line got very little push in the run game and were often knocked back. There's just not a lot a coordinator can do when this is happening, but at least Rees is trying something. I'd like to see some jets, quick pitches and maybe a reverse or two in order to try and break something, but right now the traditional runs aren't doing much due to the poor play of the line.

*** We also some more routes over the middle that proved impactful in the game.

*** Quarterback Jack Coan had an up-and-down performance prior to going out. There were some excellent throws from Coan in the game, including his touchdown strike to Austin. He also made a tremendous throw with great timing to hit Avery Davis up the seam to turn a 2nd-and-17 into a first down on the first long drive of the game. Coan also converted three third-downs in the opening half, picked up another with a QB sneak and had a 9-yard completion on a 3rd-and-10 that set up a fourth-down conversion.

*** The down part for Coan was two-fold. He underthrew two deep balls that could have gone for big plays and too many times he stepped into the pocket to avoid legit outside pressure but he didn't keep his eyes downfield and he didn't set his feet, which cost him chances to get the ball out to receivers. 

*** Drew Pyne replaced Coan after the starter injured his ankle early in the third quarter. Pyne came out and showed tremendous poise from the moment he stepped on the field. His first two throws went for 15 and 17 yards respectively, and his third-down throw to Joe Wilkins Jr. hit the Irish wideout right in the hands but was dropped against tight coverage. 

*** Pyne turned the ball over when he was hit from behind on his next series but it did not phase him at all. How did he respond? Well, Pyne responded by going 4-4 for 49 yards and a score the next time he stepped on the field. Pyne's seam throw to Michael Mayer was a thing of beauty from both a read and quick release standpoint. Pyne's touchdown pass to Austin was him going to his secondary reads. He looked left to the three-receiver side and saw both linebackers to that side running with Mayer, so Pyne quickly came back to his right, knowing Austin was running a crossing route right into that zone. Great read, great poise, great throw.

*** Kevin Austin bounced back from a brutally bad performance against Purdue with an outstanding performance, which shows an impressive level of mental toughness for Austin. He made a strong catch on his first touchdown and did a good job finding a soft spot for this second. Austin also had an excellent catch of a throw throw to convert a third-down that set up his second touchdown.

*** Avery Davis did a great job working the seams and middle of the field in this game. Braden Lenzy wasn't given much of a chance to make plays, but even on the underthrows he has to be more aggressive fighting for the ball. Rees needs to figure out ways to get Lenzy the ball on throws that aren't just deep shots.

*** Kyren Williams made a number of misreads in this game as a runner, but with how bad the line is I kind of understand why he is freelancing so much. At times it paid off, as Williams was able to make plays even when the line got whipped, but it also resulted in some negatives and missed chances for positive yards. Williams also put the ball on the ground again, something that happens way too much with him.

*** In the pass game Williams had two huge blitz pick ups in the game. He had a miss in pass pro, but for the most part his pass pro was very, very good.

*** I'll give the offensive line credit in one regard, they at least battled. Their technique is awful, they clearly aren't prepared on how to execute pass protection with any kind of consistency and they got no movement in the run game, but at least they tried hard. That's how bad it is right now, we are giving the line credit for trying hard. Notre Dame's backs, which are two of the best in the nation, combined for just 39 yards rushing on 20 carries. That's 99% on the offensive line.

*** The pass protection was bad for much of the game but it did get a bit better in the second and third quarter and there were snaps when they did in fact give the quarterbacks a pocket.

*** A big problem today was the line, almost to a man, stops their feet when they engage in contact. Against a line as big and physical as Wisconsin you aren't going to get movement in those situations and will often get knocked back. That's what we saw today.

*** In the pass game the edge technique is brutally bad, and it's across the board. The two most fundamentally sound tackles we've seen this year have been Blake Fisher and Joe Alt, two true freshmen. That's a really bad sign.

*** I'll dive into the film to get a further read and grade on the offensive line, but the inability to get any kind of push and the continued misses in pass protection would have cost a team that didn't have a brilliant defense the game. Notre Dame finished with 242 yards of offense and averaged 3.5 yards per play. The offense was outscored by its own special teams and defense, who racked up 21 direct points in the win.

*** This has to get fixed immediately, because this offense has far too many weapons to only go for 242 total yards and just 3 rushing yards in a game, no matter who Notre Dame is playing.

*** Chris Tyree didn't get many touches on offense (just three touches) but his 96-yard kick return touchdown took away all the third quarter momentum that Wisconsin had accumulated.

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