As a former college football player, I am going to try and take a deeper dive from an X’s and O’s perspective on what I deem is the turning point play in Notre Dame Fighting Irish football games this season. I’ll do my best to inform readers as to why certain players reacted certain ways, both on the offensive and defensive sides fo the ball. If you thought the turning point was a different play, feel free to share! Now let’s take it to the play against the Bowling Green Falcons
Setting the Stage
Honestly, there was not much of a “turning point” play in this game. Generally I like to focus on a critical point in the game with a play that changed momentum or ultimately the outcome. Since this game was over very quickly and was never in doubt, I wanted to highlight a play that may seem very simple, but is important for other reasons (development of redshirt freshman Phil Jurkovec). Notre Dame was up 38-0, with PJ leading the way. He had just completed a long pass down the middle of the field to utility man Avery Davis. They hurry down the field and look to get a play in quickly to score from about 8 yards out.
Notre Dame comes out in 20 personnel (2 backs no tight ends) with Davis and Jahmir Smith lined up next to Jurkovec. This is a unique position grouping since Avery Davis is a running back, but is often treated like a slot receiver. Expect to see two running backs very consistently this weekend with Jafar Armstrong being both in the backfield as well as in the slot. There will be a heavy doses of 22 and 21 personnel this upcoming week, which can create some real nightmare matchups.
Back to the play. Notre Dame spreads the field with 2 WRs to the top of the field, one into the boundary, and backs flanking Jurkovec.
This is is a set where Notre Dame is going to have some type of play action, threat of quarterback run, or a quick route out of the backfield. As you can see, Davis is just SLIGHTLY lined up about a half yard in front of Smith here. As a DB, this makes me think they will be crossing since if they were on the same levels, they may collide as one person naturally has to go first.
The designed play call is going to do just that, with Davis crossing in front of Smith quickly (why he is lined up a half yard up), to allow for a Jurkovec to run play action.
As you can see, Jurkovec has his eyes both on the incoming D end as well as the outside linebacker. There doesn’t appear to be RPO (run pass option) threat since Smith clearly looks like he doesn’t think he is getting the ball. Jurkovec does a good, but not great job of selling the run, which almost causes the play to blow up. If he sells the fake to Smith a little bit more, the DE is much more likely to crash hard, opening up the outside and allowing PJ to get outside of the pocket cleanly.
Fortunately, Smith gets juuuuust enough of the D end before he is in PJ’s face. Also, while all of this is going on, Avery Davis quickly gets one step on the outside linebacker, and more importantly, gets his head turned immediately. If his head is not turned right away, the play is over. He and PJ lock eyes and he begins the separate, but it is by no means a gimmie throw, with any error potentially resulting in a pick 6.
The linebacker is not in great position by any means, as his job is to have contain and be on top of the running back, but he is still in a spot where he could potentially make a play on a poorly thrown pass. With pressure quickly coming, PJ knows he must put this ball low and away, or it will be returned for a pick 6. He is also throwing off of his back foot, so the margin for error is even slimmer.
He puts it exactly where it needs to be, low and away, where only Avery Davis can catch it. This is a great throw, which then allow Davis to walk into the end zone for his second touchdown of the season and the first of Phil Jurkovec’s young career.
Welcome to the party, @pjurkovec and @realaverydavis.— Notre Dame Football (@NDFootball) October 5, 2019
Phil Jurkovec takes the offense 75 yards in six plays and adds on a touchdown late in the third quarter.
#9 ND 45 | Bowling Green 0
2:24 3Q | NBC#GoIrish ☘️ #BGvsND pic.twitter.com/02z580ibsf
Thought it should be a different play, or want to see another play broken down? Let me know! As this column place over the course of the rest of the season, I would love any and all feedback, and as always, GO IRISH!