From the 30,000 foot view, the Irish program posted its 11th Shamrock Series victory and continues to be undefeated in the games. On top of being able to deliver that win in the really cool looking Allegiant Stadium (jealous I wasn’t there in person) and providing what appeared to be a great time for the fanbase, the team notched the victory against a talented, #16 ranked opponent. Check out this bye week piece for some reference about where this game fits in with the history of the Shamrock Series.
Drilling back down to the here and now, it was a really big night for this 2022 team. BYU is the first ranked opponent that we’ve faced since Ohio State in Week 1 and given how everything has gone since then, it was destined to be a big moment. Fortunately the team showed up as a collective with a lot of energy and rose to the occasion.
So let’s jump into the data.
Close on the Scoreboard
The final score of 28-20 provides a somewhat misleading idea of how well the Irish performed during the game. I know a lot of us, me included, have been hoping that this year’s team will have larger point differences in its wins. It doesn’t look like that’s going to be the case and I’m really starting to become more okay with that. Overall the team is averaging 25 points scored per game and 32 points scored in wins (with UNC’s outlier impacting a lot). Even if they don’t light up scoreboards, though, I’m ok with them getting solid, more complete team wins through the remainder of the season.
Notre Dame owed a lot of its scoring success to the passing game, which accounted for all three of the touchdowns. A couple of field goals and an optimally timed safety rounded out the rest of the Irish’s scoring distribution in the matchup. Similar to what we’ve seen up to this point, the 2nd and 3rd quarters (3rd to a lesser extent) have been where the Irish have really shone from a scoring perspective.
BYU came into the with a trend of being able to at least go score for score with opponents but they just didn’t get it going this week. They put up 6 (with a failed extra point kick) early in the 1st quarter but were only able to find the end zone two more times in the 2nd half.
Offense Leading the Way
As a collective, I think we all knew that the Notre Dame offense was going to play a big role in the final outcome of this game. The big ild card was whether or not it would help or hurt. Maybe others were more optimistic than I am but I didn’t envision them playing such a big role in a positive way. The Irish offense put up its second highest total yardage output, 496 yards, of the season against the Cougars. The load was pretty evenly split between the passing and rushing sides of things. Notre Dame accounted for 69%, 262 yards, of the game’s overall passing offense and 59%, 234 yards, of the game’s overall rushing offense.
Probably one of the biggest takeaways for the offense is time of possession. ND held the ball for around 41 minutes of the game. With that time they were able to turn drives into points and keep a struggling but still capable BYU offense off the field and that factor played a big part in the game’s final outcome.
Drew Pyne Continues to Shine
Drew Pyne entered his role as Notre Dame quarterback under some of the most unfortunate circumstances. But he’s stepped up in the short term and is definitely trending in a direction we should conservatively be excited about. In this Week 6 game, Pyne put up 262 passing yards and completed 79% of his 28 attempts. Jaren Hall came into the came highly touted and I think that a lot of that acclaim is still relevant. Hall didn’t have the greatest of performances against the Irish defense by most production metrics. He threw his second interception of the season, the only other one coming in Week 1, but his overall play is what kept the Cougars in the game.
Rushing Unit Continues to Get Better
Notre Dame’s rushing game continues to get better after a slow start to the season. The rushing stable put up a total of 234 yards, bested only by their performance in the previous game against UNC. With 45 attempts, the ground game also played a big factor in the amount of time the Irish offense was able to spend with the ball as well as overall production, even if there weren’t any rushing touchdowns tallied. ND settled in with an average of 5.2 yards per carry.
Logan Diggs led the Irish rushing game in carries this game. On his 17 carries he averaged 5.5 yards per attempt and accounted for 39% (93) of the team’s total rushing yards. Estime and Tyree rounded out the rest of Notre Dame rushing game. Estime got slightly fewer carries, 14, but averaged 6.9 yards per carry and accounted for 41% (97) of the team’s total rushing yards.
Michael Mayer and a Maturing Receiver Corp
While the collective Irish receiving game still leaves a lot to be desired, for the second week in a row they’ve been showing signs of life.
Mayer continues to go out there and do phenomenal things both production and energy wise. This week, though, we got a chance to see freshman receiver Jayden Thomas contribute in some big ways. Mayer pulled in the vast majority, 11, of total receptions and accounted for 45% (118) of the team’s total receiving yards. Thomas only tallied up 3 receptions but those accounted for 28% (74) of the team’s receiving yards and a 30 yard touchdown reception in the 2nd quarter.
Mixed Results Moving the Ball
If there is one aspect of the BYU game that was less than desirable for Notre Dame, it was ball movement in some key moments. It doesn’t really pop from the data but there were a lot of conversion situations where the team likely wishes the circumstances would’ve been better. The Irish had a total of 24 first downs compared with the Cougar’s 13 first downs. ND converted on a season high 69% of its third downs but if you were watching the game, those 11 conversions weren’t the cleanest or most reassuring.
Stable Defensive Performance
With the offense holding the ball for close to 41 minutes, the defense didn’t have a ton of time to put up data points for us to review. They set the tone in the best way possible, though, by picking off Cougar quarterback Hall on his first attempt of the game. This interception was also the defensive unit’s first of the season. Throughout the rest of the game, they’d have other close calls but couldn’t produce anymore. No complaints from me here. They also tallied up 2 sacks and 4 tackles for loss, helping to contain what we expected to be a much more dangerous and prolific BYU offense.
From an overall drive perspective, ND still has a lot of room for growth. It was good to see the offense get off to an earlier start, but the end of the game struggles persisted. The occurrence of long opponent drives resulting in touchdowns accompanied by ND offensive challenges in the 2nd half doesn’t afford us the privilege of taking our eyes off games until the final whistle is blown. Once again, not ideal but no real complaints from me in this area given the conversations we were having about this team coming out of Week 2.
All in all, I’m really excited about the direction the season is headed. During the preseason, I wasn’t planning on seeing the team come together so incrementally from week to week but it’s giving me a lot more confidence with setting short and long term expectations. Here’s to more improvements and continued success.
Cheers and Go Irish!!