For the second time in 4 weeks Notre Dame running back C.J. Prosise was shut down while carrying the ball. After the final whistle he finished the game against Temple with only 25 yards on 14 carries.
Today, I wanted to take a look at his negative runs to see what some of the big problems were for the Irish on Saturday.
Drive 1, Play 4, 1st & 10, -3 Rush
It's first down early in the game and the Irish have trips receivers to the field side and tight Nic Weishar (#82) attached next to right tackle Mike McGlinchey (#68). Temple has 8 men in the box which is going to be a tough set to run the ball against. There's some hope if the blocking is perfect and the ball goes to the left. Notre Dame tries to pull McGlinchey and has a chance as 3 defenders back off right at the snap.
However, defensive end Hasaon Reddick (#58) takes full advantage of McGlinchey's pull, uses the space to quickly get across the face of tight end Weishar, and drops Prosise (#20) before the play can develop. The only good thing about this play was center Nick Martin (#72) working to the second level and pancaking
Joe Schmidt Tyler Matakevich (#8) which was a surprise.
Notice the receivers running routes? This looked liked a package play that opened the door later in the game for Notre Dame to start getting a lot of yards off screens and short passes as Temple loaded up against Prosise. Even if Weishar blocks Reddick this probably goes nowhere. Defensive tackle Matt Ioannidis (#9) gets across of right guard Steve Elmer (#79) which forces McGlinchey to run into a pile of bodies--plus middle linebacker Jarred Alwan (#41) is completely unblocked anyway. Which is what often happens when you run against 8 in the box with 6 blockers.
Drive 1, Play 11, 1st & Goal, -1 Rush
Just prior to scoring a touchdown the Irish run this play on 1st down from the 3-yard line. The offense is in the Pistol with tight end Chase Hounshell (#18) attached next to left tackle Ronnie Stanley (#78) and tight end Tyler Luatua (#13) off-set to Hounshell's left side. Temple is ready for a run with 8 in the box, plus a single-high safety tip-toeing toward the line in support.
At the snap, center Nick Martin pulls to the right and tackle Ioannidis is automatically into the back-field as Elmer isn't quick enough to slow him down. McGlinchey does a nice job against the defensive end, driving him back several yards toward the pylon. Quenton Nelson gets to the second level and cuts off the middle linebacker, while the pulling Martin initially gets a hat on Matakevich.
The problem arises when Matakevich gets outside of Martin and forces Prosise to cut inside. Back towards the line, nose tackle Hershey Walton (#72) pancakes Stanley (who runs into Elmer who couldn't block Ioannidis), does a great job in pursuit, and shrinks Prosise's cut-back lane. The single-high safety cleans things up and comes down hill to stop the runner's momentum for a loss of 1-yard.
Drive 3, Play 3, 1 & 10, -3 Rush
A couple series later and Notre Dame comes out again in trips, this time to the boundary side with receiver Torri Hunter (#16) in the slot. Tight end Nic Weishar is lined up off-set next to McGlinchey. Just before the snap, Hunter comes across on a jet sweep and Kizer fakes a quick pitch to him. Temple has 8 in the box again as Hunter's jet sweep drags Matakevich towards the line.
At the snap, Elmer pulls from his right guard spot and does a nice job sealing the defensive end. Weishar comes across the line to act as a lead blocker for Prosise. The Irish run into trouble when Stanley gets up to the second-level, doesn't block the middle linebacker, and ends up standing 5 yards down field doing nothing.
This allows Alwan to flow to the ball unobstructed which clearly spooks Prosise. Once Matakevich does a nice job maintaining outside leverage and setting the edge Prosise panics. He should have just lowered his pads, cut up-field and got whatever positive yardage possible after taking on the middle linebacker. Instead, his inexperience makes matter worse.
Drive 3, Play 4, 2nd & 13, -5 Rush
The very next play and you can tell Notre Dame is clearly frustrated because this is a down and distance we almost never run the ball from and gosh darn it we're going to try! The Irish come out with a two tight end set as Luatu is anchored to the field side and Hounshell is on the boundary side. The Kizer-Prosise backfield is in the Pistol as Temple once again has 8 defenders in the box.
At the snap, Temple blitzes a defensive back from the field side as the Irish try to run an outside zone to the boundary. McGlinchey moves to the second level which leaves Luatua with the defensive end. The rest of the line blocks down but they make the huge mistake of not blocking Matakevich who comes through the B-gap on a blitz. Perhaps left guard Quenton Nelson was supposed to work to the next level and pick up Matakevich here and you can almost hear him and center Nick Martin say "oh, crap" as Temple's weak-side linebacker makes a big stop.
Drive 7, Play 13, 2nd & Goal, -3 Rush
This is from the opening offensive drive of the second half with Notre Dame trying to take a 21-10 lead. Notre Dame is again in a two tight end set with Hounshell and Luatua on each end of the line. Just before the snap, Prosise moves from the Pistol to just off Kizer's right hip. Temple is once again playing the run and leaving Notre Dame's receivers out on islands with single coverage.
At the snap, this one is pretty simple. Right guard Steve Elmer gets abused by Ioannidis who is in the back-field right as Prosise gets the ball from Kizer. In the event that Prosise could have shaken the tackle from the DT he was likely going nowhere as defensive end Sharif Finch (#56) pushes Luatua into the back-field and right at the running back.
We say this a lot but college football fans, and sports fans in general, attempt to boil down bad plays like this into broad sweeping generalizations mostly revolving around coaching and coaching decisions.
In reality, it's often due to several factors working together at once, or in parts a snap at a time. Just in these 5 plays we see a poor formation against the defense (definitely play number one), poor blocking, lack of execution, inexperience coming home to roost, and most of all impressive efforts by the opponent.
This is a blueprint for stopping Prosise but several questions remain:
- Can Notre Dame block better?
- Can the Irish clean up some mental errors?
- Can Prosise be a little more decisive and take a 2-yard gain instead of a 3-yard loss?
- Is there a better way to combat 8, and sometimes 9, defenders in the box when running the ball?
- Can Notre Dame punish defenses for leaving so many large passing windows open?
- How many better players will the Irish face than Matakevich and Ioannidis?