For those of you who missed last week, go back and read. Great, glad we are all caught up.
Continuing on with the seventh installment, the Notre Dame Fighting Irish headed home after an emotional victory in Blacksburg to take on the struggling Pittsburgh Panthers. This was absolutely pegged as a trap game, but so much so that you almost thought it wasn’t a trap game (that’s how my logic works).
However, this game played out in pure trap fashion.....Bad turnovers by Ian Book, abysmal special teams all over the field, and a Pitt team that was just....hanging around. With that said, the game drudged on, with the defense holding steady and the offense sputtering. With 8:16 remaining in the 4th quarter the Irish trailed 12-14 when Pitt came up to the line in with a critical 3rd and 3 from the Irish 48.
Notre Dame lines up and appears to have called an aggressive blitz, with Alohi Gilman starting to creep up from his safety position. Jalen Elliott starts getting depth to cover the middle of the field and the corners begin to tighten up their alignments.
As the quarterback completes his pre-snap reads, both Gilman and Drue Tranquill get out of their disguises and bring a blitz from the boundary side.
As you can see, the quarterback makes the correct read as Drop End Julian Okwara is going to be matched up on the running back. He immediately looks at his running back and, under normal circumstances, has an incredible 1 on 1 matchup in space.
With the boundary receiver slanting in, the running back gets the ball and is 1 on 1 with Okwara, who has little to no help in this very unfavorable matchup. If he picks up this first down, Pitt is very likely to get a field goal, and very well could score a touchdown, making it a 2 possession game with little time remaining. Needless to say, this opportunity in space is massive for each side.
As you can see, the running back has a 2 way go, but Okwara makes an unbelievable play, stopping the runner dead in his tracks. I cannot express how difficult this play is as a former safety**** (see video below of me failing to make this same play), let alone a defensive end.
This play forces a punt and allows Notre Dame’s offense to FINALLY get going with a solid Dexter Williams run, and an incredible throw and catch from Ian Book to Miles Boykin to take the lead. Ultimately, I am assuming fans only remember the Boykin catch from this game, but none of that would be possible without the Herculean effort by Okwara.
Thought it should be a different play? Let me know! As this is a new column taking place over the course of the next 12 weeks, I would love any and all feedback, and as always, GO IRISH!
****That’s me on the bottom coming downhill at the running back when our blitz didn’t hit home.
As you can see, (at 1:23) I am in similar position to Okwara...but the end result was slightlllllly different. GO CRUSADERS!