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Five Factors Review: Georgia Tech

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Best defensive performance of the BK era? The numbers back it up.

Joe Robbins/Getty Images

(Confused? Check out the first Five Factors review from Texas or Bill Connelly's Five Factors - the most important stats that determine who wins a college football game)

A quarter of the way through the regular season, and the Irish are 3-0. That's not entirely surprising, but the way it's happened feels like a season's worth of drama. Saturday's game against the Yellow Jackets was the same way - a 30-22 Notre Dame win was a little surprising on its surface, but the way it unfolded was an even better story.

Explosiveness

I was conflicted about taking out garbage time here - technically much of the final quarter was garbage time by the standard definition of a 4th quarter lead of 14 points or more. But Notre Dame's starters were never removed on offense or defense, so I've included only the plays after the Irish went up 30-7 as garbage time, and shown it with and without those Yellow Jacket drives:

Plays

Yards

YPP

Notre Dame

60

457

7.62

Georgia Tech

69

337

4.88

Georgia Tech (non-GT)

55

217

3.95

A myth will be started after Saturday's game, and I bet you hear it by the middle of the week (if not sooner). An ESPN analyst, writer, or even a Notre Dame fan will say something like this: "Great game by the Irish, but Georgia Tech hadn't played anyone and their offense can't work against 5-star defenders. That offense is a gimmick and once you figure it out they can't come back".

The Yellow Jacket offense was a top-3 offense last season (with a good case for #1) and returned its most critical pieces this year. Tech was held to less than 25 points zero times last year, which included averaging 31 points against defenses as talented or more than Notre Dame (Clemson, Georgia, and FSU).

Is it possible they've taken a small step backwards offensively this year? Sure. Did the Yellow Jackets play their best game? No way. But all the evidence we've had against other opponents over the last 15 games pointed to Georgia Tech being one of the best offenses in the country, and until proven otherwise, that makes this an all-time defensive effort from Notre Dame to hold them for 7 points through 59 minutes.

Runs 10+

% of Runs

Passes 20+

% Passes

Overall Explosive Play %

Notre Dame

5

17.2%

4

12.9%

15.0%

Georgia Tech

5

11.1%

2

8.3%

10.1%

Georgia Tech (non-GT)

5

13.2%

0

0.0%

9.1%

CJ Prosise and the Irish running game continue to consistently hit explosive plays in the running game, and the explosion in the passing game is essentially Will Fuller. It's a huge advantage to have a player like Fuller consistently breaking off huge plays, but a second explosive receiving threat is one of the few nits you can pick with the Irish offense.

The defensive theme is going to be repetitive, but in a fun, let's sing "We are the Champions" on repeat with our trophy like it's the end of Mighty Ducks 2 kind of way. Georgia Tech was the third most explosive offense last season and was kept in complete check. After allowing Virginia to hit a few long passes, Justin Thomas couldn't hit long pass play until garbage time and was under duress on almost every passing attempt. Any opportunities downfield required passes into small windows, and there weren't any major coverage busts until late in the fourth quarter (not sure what exactly happened on those two passes). Take a bow, Brian Van Gorder.

Efficiency

Now let's take out garbage time for Georgia Tech- I'm done being nice to them, and going by the book it was garbage time. The only disclaimer I'll add is it would have been great to see the defense stop the last two touchdowns in clear passing situations.

Pass Success Rate

Run Success Rate

Overall Success Rate

Notre Dame

45.2%

55.2%

50.0%

Georgia Tech

23.5%

34.2%

30.9%

Huge credit has to go to DeShone Kizer here - in his first start, Notre Dame saw no drop-off in offensive efficiency overall or in the passing game. The run game continues to roll, and still has room for improvement, which should frighten the rest of the schedule.

The defense held Georgia Tech to what I'd assume was their least efficient game since 2013. In competitive time the Jackets were 1-12 on third down. That was the result of great work on first and second down forcing the Yellow Jackets out of their usual comfort zone - only three of those third down opportunities came with six yards to go or fewer. Paul Johnson's offense isn't built to convert long third downs in passing situations, and everyone knows that, but defenses can rarely force them into those scenarios consistently.

Player

Carries

YPC

Rushing SR

CJ Prosise

22

9.00

63.6%

DeShone Kizer

4

4.00

25.0%

Josh Adams

2

3.50

0.0%

Torii Hunter Jr.

1

8.00

100.0%

Against three P5 opponents (none of Vandy/Wake Forest/Purdue variety, either) here's CJ Prosise's average stat line in his first three career games at running back: 20 carries, 150 yards (7.6 YPC,), 1.3 TDs. I haven't seen much on his NFL stock, but the man has a place in the NFL, and I'm so glad he's found his position.

Player

Targets

Catches

Yards

Yards/Target

SR %

Will Fuller

7

6

131

18.7

57%

Chris Brown

11

8

65

5.9

55%

Alize Jones

5

3

19

3.8

60%

Torii Hunter Jr.

1

1

17

17.0

100%

Nic Weishar

1

1

6

6.0

0%

CJ Prosise

2

1

5

2.5

0%

Corey Robinson

2

1

-1

-0.5

0%

Not too many surprises here - a big game for Chris Brown moving the chains on short and intermediate routes. The tight ends remain extremely quiet in the passing game, although Alize Jones was getting a lot of looks prior to his fumble.

Field Position

Team

Avg. Starting Position

Notre Dame

OWN 32

Georgia Tech

OWN 30

A small win here for the Irish, who moved the ball much better than the Jackets. Both teams were a little shaky in special teams - full breakdown to come later in the week. For the third straight game Notre Dame wasn't able to take advantage of its best field position - drives starting at the Tech 18 and 43 resulted in a total of three points.  It's a small area for improvement that hasn't come back to haunt the Irish yet, but great teams make opponents pay for giving them a short field.

Finishing Drives

Drives

Inside 40

PPD Inside 40

Notre Dame

12

7

4.3

Georgia Tech

14

6

3

Let me know if you've heard this before: the Irish defense was excellent in an area where Paul Johnson's offense usually excels. The Jackets were first in the nation last year in finishing drives, but hit walls and missed field goals in scoring opportunities in South Bend. The first four Tech trips inside the Notre Dame 40 only translated into seven total points thanks to missed field goals and a holding penalty that took back a Thomas TD run.

The Irish offense has been consistent this year in averaging around 4.5 points per scoring opportunity, which is good but not great considering how well they've moved the ball in their own end and the middle of the field. The interception in the end zone was a killer, but a learning opportunity for Kizer. Brian Kelly did choose to punt inside the opponents 40 for the second time this year (which I usually hate), but on both occasions he's had the lead and a defense playing lights out at home to justify the decision.

Turnovers

The Irish lost the turnover battle 2-1 with the first interception and lost fumble of the year. The interception on the fade to Robinson was mentioned by Kelly as a missed identification of coverage, but overall I was impressed with Kizer's decision-making. Alize Jones, please secure the football.  Georgia Tech had a few errant pitches but only last one fumble, with Farley and Jaylon Smith making a huge play to help Notre Dame gain momentum starting the second half.

First quarter report card: A

It's been a crazy ride, but Notre Dame is exactly where they hoped to be at this point in the season with a front-loaded schedule. The key players have changed, and I don't think anyone thought Virginia would be a closer contest than Texas and Georgia Tech, but there have been some extremely impressive performances by talented veterans like Jaylon Smith, Sheldon Day, and CJ Prosise who have been consistently excellent.

The game against UMass should provide ND a chance to keep improving and iron some things out  - a few things that would be great to see:

  • The playbook continuing to expand for DeShone Kizer
  • Kizer and the offensive line on the same page - 2 or less false start or formation penalties
  • A tight end becoming more involved in the passing game
  • A wide receiver not named Will Fuller having success as a deep threat
  • Josh Adams or Dexter Williams getting more carries
  • Continued improvement by the secondary in pass coverage

Offensively, I think the most important of those bullets will be the emergence of a second running back -today Brian Kelly reiterated something that everyone pretty much knows -  the positions that really can't sustain another injury are QB and RB. Over the last two games, CJ Prosise has 64% of Notre Dame's carries. Malik Zaire (pre-injury) and Kizer combine for 21%. Everyone else - Josh Adams, Amir Carlisle, Torii Hunter, etc.? Just 15% of the workload running the ball.