Last Saturday at Notre Dame Stadium, the Notre Dame Fighting Irish defeated the Vanderbilt Commodores, 22-17. As always, there were stats. As always, many folks are going to dig into those stats, looking for the story they tell. Turns out, I am one of those folks. Welcome back to Stats That Lie and Stats That Don’t, the Vanderbilt edition.
Stats That Lie
The close win for the Irish was, in my opinion, a pretty straight forward game on the stat sheet. Most everything can be explained without digging too deep, a fact you’ll see me cover in the second section of this article.
But, I guess if you buy into the idea that the referees made some pivotal calls wrong or were routinely turning blind eyes to other potential big calls, you can consider this stat to maaaaaybe be a liar: Notre Dame committed six penalties, racking up 63 yards. The ‘Dores, on the other hand, were guilty of five infractions, good for 60 yards.
Sounds even, right? But many folks on either side will disagree. Those with Commodore slants (or you know, people looking for opportunities to spout cliches about Notre Dame) thought the Irish got some hometown cooking. On the other side, some on Notre Dame’s side pointed out many missed holding calls on Vanderbilt linemen, as well as some uncalled late hits.
To each their own. Were some of those calls wrong? Probably. Are many objective? Sure. Is going low on a kick-out block legal? Yes. Is it dirty? Maybe.
With all that said, I don’t believe those calls affected the outcome of the game, but you can believe it if you so choose. Now, on to the next part of the story.
Stats That Don’t
Vanderbilt turned the ball over three times to Notre Dame’s zero. That’s a tough stat to overcome, further enforced by the fact that the Commodores came away with a 420-380 advantage in total yards. After all, the game was all but won thanks to a goal-line fumble by the ‘Dores.
On the other side of the ball, Notre Dame’s offensive line seems to be figuring things out. Now I’m not sold on whether or not this stat IS actually telling the truth, I think that remains to be see. But Notre Dame gained 245 yards on the ground on 48 attempts, good for 5.1 yards per carry. It’s not the standard the Irish became accustomed to last year, but it’s an improvement.
If you’re Notre Dame, you hope this is a sign of good things to come up front, especially given the teams the Irish will play in the near future.
The rest of the stat sheet was pretty indicative of a close game. Vandy’s 326 yards through the air was far more than Notre Dame’s 135, but the Irish made up for it with the advantage on the ground (Notre Dame only gave up 94 rushing yards) and the three takeaways.
The Irish match up against the Wake Forest Demon Deacons on the road this weekend with an opportunity to see if the rushing improvement was a lie all along, or if we’re in for more of the truth and nothing but it.