The Week 9 stop on the 2022 Notre Dame football amusement park ride brought more good prizes than most of us expected.
Although there was enough data and commentary for me to have been confident that this week’s game would turn out some decent results for the Irish, I was wholly prepared to walk away with a set of plastic clappers that are fun for about 2 seconds before you realized that it’s kind of a crappy prize. Instead, we all were gifted with one of those nice stuffed animals (maybe not the giant panda we were hoping for) but nonetheless something we can take back home with pride.
ND went into Syracuse as a very shaky favorite but walked out with a pretty solid 41-24 victory. The team exceeded expectations in a lot of the areas we expected them to do well in and also showed up in some really unanticipated ways (glancing towards the defensive turnover section).
So let’s dig into the data for some more of the details.
Unexpected Scoring Event for the Irish
I was wholly anticipating another low scoring outing from Notre Dame’s offense. The reputation of the Syracuse Orange’s defense going into the game coupled with out offensive “issues” didn’t provide a lot of reason to believe that the team would put up 41 against the #16 team in the country. That final points tally was a team effort, comprised of an Irish Pick-6 on the game’s first play, passing and rushing touchdowns as well as field goals. Even though the offense isn’t where we’d like it to be it’s definitely a bit more comforting knowing that the program is finding ways to put points on the board.
ND fell slightly back into old ways with a slow start and ended up doing most of their offensive feasting in the 2nd and 4th quarters but at this stage you’re not going to get complaints from me.
Lopsided Offensive Day for ND
In terms of total yards, Notre Dame edged out Syracuse 362-286. The lion’s share of that production came on the ground. The Irish only accounted for 34% (116) of the game’s total passing yard but tallied up 80% (246) of total rushing yards.
The Continued Irish Passing Saga
Less than desirable play at the quarterback position is the only thing I’ve really known as a Notre Dame football fan (I graduated in 2013). So while the continued passing struggle don’t help my blood pressure, I also don’t think I’d know what to do with myself if the situation was any different. Syracuse beat out ND by a little over 100 yards in the passing category. Probably one of the most surprising and for another program potentially “unsettling” stats is that the 116 total yards Notre Dame put up through the air is a 2022 season low. We’ve all seen a lot of ugly this season and I’m still not quite sure what to make of a pretty decisive win coming along with arguably the worst game so far for Irish quarterbacks.
But if it’s any solace, it wasn’t the greatest of Saturdays for any quarterback in the JMA Dome. Before exiting due to injury, Syracuse starter Garrett Shrader completed 36% of 14 attempts for a whopping 36 yards. The backup, freshman Carlos Del-Rio Wilson wound up having the best overall game, going 50% on 22 attempts for 190 yards. ND’s Pyne landed in the middle, completing 47% of his 19 attempts.
A Great Day on the Ground for Notre Dame (not so much Syracuse)
The ground game is where the Irish really shined. In terms of total rushing yards, Notre Dame beat Syracuse out 246-61. It was the group’s second-best outing of the season, coming in behind the UNC game.
While ND’s backfield don’t always blow things out of the water in terms of average yard per carry they stayed within their comfort zone. In this matchup they averaged 4.4 yards per carry compared with the Orange’s 2.4 yards.
Given what was going on in the passing area of things, it’s no real surprise that we saw the team post a season high of 56 rushing attempts.
Audric Estime and Logan Diggs were the main stars on the ground, tallying up 20 carries a piece. Estime averaged 6.2 yards per carry while Diggs averaged 4.3 yards per attempt. Estime also wound-up accounting for 50% (123) of the team’s total rushing yards.
Another Game for the ND Receiving Corps
Sophomore wide receiver Deion Colzie had a pretty solid breakout performance this game. He tied Michael Mayer with 3 receptions (I know it’s still not a lot) and averaged around 15 yards per reception. In terms of absolute production, Michael Mayer continued to occupy his usual role, though, tallying up 47% (54) of the Irish’s receiving yards.
Turnover Advantage Goes to the Irish
Turnovers haven’t consistently been a big thorn in this season’s ND football team and except for the one Pyne interception, the Irish held onto the ball really well. The same can’t be said who walked away with 2 “official” interceptions, the first of which resulted in a defensive touchdown that set ND off on excellent footing.
Big Performance from the Irish Defense (Again)
The Irish’s defensive unit was without a doubt the star of the Syracuse game. While the Orange’s Del-Rio Wilson came in and made the game a lost closer than it had to be, Notre Dame’s defense (particularly up front) dominated things. Probably one of their most important accomplishments was holding Syracuse and Sean Tucker to 61 yards on the ground. By neutralizing their rushing threat it forced a freshman quarterback to have to step up and carry the team. All hats off to him for doing what he needed to but the Irish’s defense was playing last night in a manner that few would’ve been able to overcome.
Notre Dame’s win against Syracuse provides the Irish fandom a lot that we can be excited about in both the short and long terms. I’m trying my best (mostly failing) to focus on the long term and not fall into the rabbit hole of we can potentially roll through Clemson next week. Regardless, I slept better Saturday night knowing that this team which has given us more than our fair share of gifts and duds is getting better at taking what it’s got and turning it into positives.
Cheers and Go Irish!!