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. If you thought the turning point was a different play, feel free to share! Now let’s take it to the play against the Virginia Cavaliers
Setting the Stage
Notre Dame was down 17-14 after an uninspiring first half and a critical special teams error to start off the second half. After a stout defensive stand, the offense had another dull drive, going three and out with their backs against their own goal line. After Jay Bramblett punted from his own end zone, Virginia came out with a chance to score and put the game in real jeopardy. To say the least, Notre Dame did not have any momentum and Bryce Perkins had a great opportunity to put the fear of God into the whole Irish unit (and fanbase). After back to back incomplete passes, the Irish bring out their Dime defense, staring at a key 3rd and 10 with 9:50 remaining in the third quarter.
Virginia comes out in 11 personnel (1 back 1 TE). Notre Dame comes out in the dime package, with Kyle Hamilton and Jack Lamb entering the game. They are clearly anticipating a pass play, as Virginia had 0 luck running the ball up to this point.
As you can see, Clark Lea is either bringing pressure, or trying to show pressure to confuse the Virginia offense. Not giving the blitz or the coverage away is such an underrated part of defensive game planning. Good quarterbacks can and will pick you apart if you show things too early, or hold the disguise too late (remember Jake Fromm?).
The entire defense does a great job holding the disguise as Gilman bails and Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah also drops into coverage. The combo of them plus Troy Pride Jr. are responsible for all intermediate routes while the safeties play over the top. The Irish actually don’t end up bringing any pressure, in favor of having Jack Lamb spy Perkins, who is very mobile.
JOK does a great job of anticipating the in route, while also staying in the curl window. Perkins first option is clearly #13 for Virginia, and his second option is #2. By holding inside position, JOK essentially takes away both routes, forcing Perkins to hold the ball a half second longer than he should.
Enter Jamir Jones
Remember Jamir Jones? He was supposed to redshirt this year so he could come back next year as a starter, but don’t tell him that. He filled in for the injured Daelin Hayes, and made the play of the game. As you can see below, he is on the outside and gets a favorable matchup with a running back as the guard took on Jack Lamb (who he must have thought was blitzing).
He is able to beat the running back and the half second that JOK provided allows him to get his hand right on the ball. Myron Tagovailoa-Amosa is also coming in hot and closing fast. The ball pops straight into the air after a punch by Jones, and Amosa is in the right place, at the right time.
This is some serious awareness. Believe it or not, linemen do NOT have the opportunity to get their hands on the ball very often. A lot of times when they do, they either panic, fall on it, or simply...drop it. However, he catches it and looks to take it to the crib!
Can we talk about the big man’s speed? This made me even more excited about Lord Myron’s future here. This is not just a big man to plug up the middle, this is an athlete who has been flashing all season. Sadly, he gets caught from behind and we get ROBBED of a big man touchdown celebration.
Big plays run in the family.— Sporting News (@sportingnews) September 28, 2019
Myron Tagovailoa-Amosa snatches the Virginia fumble and nearly houses it for Notre Dame.pic.twitter.com/znkw8tq3bJ
This totally changed the course of the game. MTA gets a lot of the praise, but Jamir Jones is the hero here. Momentum completely changed after this play and the Irish didn’t look back. It is difficult to describe what this type of play does for the entire team. Not a turnover, but a highlight reel, big man turnover. Seriously, the excitement you feel when a player who shouldn’t be carrying a ball nearly takes it in from 40+ yards......is indescribable. From this point on they had 4 more turnovers after this play, one of which was returned for a touchdown. The Irish do not put the foot off the gas in route to a 35-20 top 20 victory.
Thought it should be a different play? Let me know! As this is a new column taking place over the course of the rest of the season, I would love any and all feedback, and as always, GO IRISH!