In many ways, Notre Dame’s 38-18 win over the Michigan State Spartans on Saturday night was cathartic. Brandon Wimbush showed signs of progression as a passer, the Notre Dame Fighting Irish defense caused turnovers, and the Irish returned to South Bend with the Megaphone Trophy.
Let’s take a deeper look at the stats that lie and the stats that don’t.
Stats That Lie
Josh Adams had nine carries for 56 yards and no touchdowns. If you told me that Adams couldn’t get loose for a 100+ yard game as the feature back, I never would have guessed that the Irish won by 20 points. Similarly, no Irish runner went over 100 yards on the day. I would have guessed we’d seen a repeat of the Georgia game.
However, due to some minor injuries, four different players got at least eight carries. In addition to Adams’ 56 yards, Brandon Wimbush had eight carries for 52 yards and a touchdown. Dexter Williams (finally) had eight carries, and he went for 40 yards and a touchdown. Deon McIntosh was pressed into duty due to injury and actually got the most carries, 12, and put up 35 yards and a touchdown. Overall, the Irish offense managed 182 yards on the ground, but also had a lot of short fields to work with.
Another potentially misleading set of stats: Michigan State actually out gained the Irish, 496 - 355. When I see a Notre Dame defense giving up 500 yards, I generally don’t feel great given the string of defenses we’ve seen in the past decade. However, you have to take into account the fact that Michigan State ran a lot of plays, and a lot of the yards were garbage time yards, coming after the Irish went up 35-10.
Stats That Don’t
Which brings me to my next point. The Notre Dame defense forced three turnovers (two fumble recoveries and a pick six). The 21 points off of the turnovers ended up being the difference in the game, and that’s no lie. Julian Love’s interception return for a touchdown started the fun, before the Irish defenders forced two more turnovers.
Lastly, Brandon Wimbush is showing progress through the air, and his stat line tells the truth. He was 14/20 for 173 yards and a touchdown. That’s good for a QBR of 89.7, a true improvement to what we’ve seen from Wimbush so far this year. He’ll get a chance to build on those numbers this Saturday against Miami of Ohio, so here’s to hoping he improves even more this week.