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, on both the offensive and defensive sides fo the ball. This week was not so fun, but hopefully these will be full big plays and touchdowns for, not against the Irish. Now let’s take it to the play against the Georgia Bulldogs.
Setting the Stage
13:23 left in the fourth quarter, Georgia leading 13-10. Up until this point, the game had been a bloodbath, with momentum definitely shifting towards Georgia. After a GREAT pass breakup by TaRiq Bracy on 2nd and 7, Jake Fromm heads up to the line from 15 yards out. Needless to say, this was a critical point for the Irish, either going down 10, or getting a stand and going down 6. Do they sit in a tight zone to take away the quick throws? Do they try to get to Fromm with pressure and play man across the board? Irish defensive coordinate Clark Lea knew that he must do something to disrupt the Georgia offense at this critical point in the game.
Georgia comes out in 11 personnel (1 back, 1 tight end, 3 WRs) with a bunched formation to the field. The Irish come out in Dime, with Kyle Hamilton and Jack Lamb entering the game, clearly anticipating a pass play here.
At first glance, it looks as though Notre Dame will definitely be bringing some type of pressure, which is highlighted by Lamb’s position on the outside. One thing to note is that Jalen Elliott is pressing the point man, who is a tight end. This is done so that the corners (TaRiq Bracy and Shaun Crawford) can bracket the two wide receivers. This will also prevent pick routes and allow one to take the inside route and the other to take the outside route.
Holding the Disguise
On the backside, Notre Dame is trying to disguise where the other blitzers will be coming from. Troy Pride Jr. And Kyle Hamilton are lined up at around the same depth, so either one could be coming. Hamilton will want to hold his position long enough so that Fromm can’t hit an easy slant in man coverage vs. Troy Pride Jr, which would be a short throw through a decent sized window. Kyle Hamilton gets the call and will be making a path through the center/guard gap. This will naturally open up as the center and guard take on the respective men in front of them.
The tricky part here is how long do you hold to take away the slant vs. making sure you can hit the blitz full speed and disrupt the throw. We are talking milliseconds here, folks.
As you can see, Hamilton holds his disguise juuuuust a bit too long and the ball is snapped when he is still about a full 5 yards from the line of scrimmage, and another 5 yards from Fromm, who will take a 3 step drop, putting him even further out of reach.
Luckily, Hamilton is a freak and comes blazing in, with Alohi Gilman trailing on the other side. Goergia RB D’Andre Swift will now have to make a choice of who he picks up.
He sees Gilman first as he started on the right side of Fromm, leaving Hamilton to come through clean. Hamilton must be salivating at this point, knowing if the ball doesn’t come out immediately, and I mean immediately, he has a free shot at the quarterback.
Unfortunately, Fromm identifies the man coverage at the top and gets the ball out asap, and Hamilton misses getting a hand on the ball by such a small margin (The white line is the gap between the ball and his hand).
If he blitzes earlier, he might get to Fromm, but if he shows too early, Fromm might check out of the call or shift the protection to pick him up. Regardless, the blitz does not get home and Fromm looks to 6’5 WR Lawrence Cager, who is well covered by Troy Pride Jr.
Pride is in damn near perfect coverage, and they both have hands on each other. Does he push off to get separation? Absolutely. Are the refs/should the refs call it offensive pass interference? No. They had been letting the secondary play physically all game, and consistency is key. Fromm does a HELL of a job getting the ball out quickly and putting in high and away, in a spot where either Cager catches it, or the ball goes out of bounds.
Great pass, great catch, great play....SAD. Pride attempts to push him out of bounds, but Cager gets one leg in bounds for the score.
What. A. Grab! Lawrence Cager puts the Dawgs up by 10. Sanford Stadium is right now. pic.twitter.com/Kob5uA8AWv— MyBookie Sportsbook (@betmybookie) September 22, 2019
All in all, football is a game of inches and milliseconds. This entire play happens in the span of 2 and a half seconds. Jake Fromm is an elite quarterback from coverage recognition to pinpoint accuracy. The right call was made on defense, the players were in the right position, but sometimes there is no defense for a perfect throw. Hats off to Georgia, but shit do I hate to write about plays like this. Hopefully next week will be better to dissect as we take on the Virginia Cavaliers, and as always, GO IRISH!