That was really tough to watch.
In the preview article to the Stanford game, I noted that the Cardinal were coming into the weekend with a mixed bag of a resume and that made it hard to chart out in detail what a Notre Dame victory would look like. I still called an Irish win, though. Because I had no idea that such a dysfunctional mess would end up taking place under the lights at Notre Dame Stadium.
In the pit of my stomach, I felt that a return to the team’s early season form, even after the solid wins against UNC and BYU, would come. I hoped that it would at least come staggered and not all at once to completely tank a game, though. Alas, the college football fates had other things in mind.
So let’s see what the data has to tell us about that ugly Week 7 loss to the Stanford Cardinal.
Another Low Scoring Affair
Neither team came into the matchup blowing the numbers off the scoreboard. Through Week 6, Notre Dame averaged around 25 points per game and Stanford averaged 29 points per game. A lot of us were hoping that we’d see the Irish offense build on some of the cohesion seen during the BYU game and change that scoring trend but that was far from the case.
The only silver lining in this area was that Notre Dame’s defense (it’s not all roses) managed to hold the Cardinal to their lowest total points per game so far this season. Their only touchdown came in the first quarter but successful field goals in each remaining quarter allowed Stanford to stay ever so slightly ahead of a Notre Dame offense that seemed trapped in a scoring desert. It wasn’t until late in the third quarter that they reached somewhat of an oasis and Notre Dame count the end zone in two consecutive drives. A late turnover on downs sealed the deal for the scoring struggles to fully turn the corner, though.
Yardage Drought for both Sides
Neither team blew the roof off in terms of total yards. Stanford ended up settling in around where it’s been through its last three games with 385 total yards. ND jumped a bit off the cliff, though following up the 496 total yard performance against BYU with just 301 total yards this game.
Passing Game as the Main Culprit
The Irish’s struggles at the quarterback position and moving the ball through the air reared their ugly heads with a vengeance. ND put up extremely close to a season low of 151 passing yards against Stanford. The responsibility bread crumb trails can be picked up from a few different places but the trail leading toe Pyne is likely the most defined. The Notre Dame quarterback came into the game completing upwards of 70% of his passes. Tonight, though, he threw for an astounding 48% completion rate. Tanner McKee didn’t have a Hall of Fame game but he outshone Pyne in a way that we had gotten accustomed to see going in the other direction the last couple of games. With that kind of performance at the quarterback, the rest of the offense’s woes were almost destined to show up.
Some Support from the Rushing Game
Although it didn’t provide an overwhelming amount of relief, Notre Dame’s rushing game did make what could’ve made a bad game worse. Just by the numbers, the rushing game didn’t fall off as steeply from recent performances than the passing unit.
The total number of carries was relatively evenly spread across the running backs with Logan Diggs tallying up the most carries. Estime got 1 fewer carries than Diggs but they matched each other with overall output, tallying up 57 yards a piece. Drew Pyne used his wheels a bit more this game and it helped in some crucial moments that don’t really show up in the data.
Back to the Drawing Boards for Receiving
The BYU game was a big one for Michael Mayer and we even got to see some of the other receivers jump more into things.
I guess if I’m being honest with myself, despite his swag and that great head of hair, you can’t expect that kind of kind of performance week to week from Mayer. He still led the unit in overall production but was largely contained and the rest of the receivers couldn’t find a way to get more involved. Tobias Merriweather had a flash but the lack of consistency in catching balls or getting yards plague the team’s performance.
The Ball Movement Saga Continues
Moving the ball has been a challenge for the Irish offense throughout the season and most of the improvements we had seen in recent weeks got wiped off the board against Stanford. The team had only 16 first downs and converted on only 25% of its 3rd downs.
The story of turnovers for both teams in this game was mind boggling.
The Cardinal came into the matchup with a total of 13 turnovers on the season but walked away from this week’s game with none. The Irish had done a really good job of turning the ball over up until this point but ended the game with zero interceptions (silver lining?) and 2 lost fumbles. Beyond the official stats, though, the ball was flying all over the place for both teams throughout the night and I’ve got to believe that some folks on the staffs were considering taking It back to the Little Rascals and just gluing the football to carriers. Given Notre Dame’s issues with converting, these ill-timed fumbles almost guaranteed that the team would be on the wrong side of things when it was all said and done.
Less than Stellar Defensive Performance
The defense did its part in keeping the Cardinal’s offense from scoring as much as it could but just didn’t look like the unit we’d been accustomed to seeing. There were a lot of short stretches where they made big plays, got pressure and provided much needed hope for the fans. Those were accompanied by periods where they just couldn’t completely shut down Stanford’s passing game and comparatively deeper receiver corps. They don’t get a gold star from me for this weekend’s performance but other than a complete shutout I’m not sure what more we could’ve expected from them.
It wasn’t a good game and definitely one I won’t be replaying anytime soon. I know there’s a ton of doom and gloom coming out of the loss but I’m not in complete distress. Minus the turnover issues, there wasn’t a ton of new bad that we haven’t seen so far from this season’s team. We’ve seen a lot better and I can’t deny that somewhere, that capacity is still there. Just really wish that things wouldn’t have broken down like this all in one game. Oh well.
Cheers and Go Irish!!