September 28, 2013 - Boomer Sooner goes the dynamite

Well it was bound to happen sooner or later. We would be exposed by a better team. We would throw an interception for touchdown. It all came crashing down today and Oklahoma got their second series win against Notre Dame since the series started in 1952.

Oklahoma was spotted 14 points to start the game after a pick-six 49 seconds into the game and a second interception that set up a touchdown 2:45 into the game. This is believed to be the quickest an opponent has scored two touchdowns to start a game in Notre Dame stadium. Despite trailing 14-0, the offense settled down and started using a running attack with Hendrix mixed in to effectively move down the field for a touchdown. After a 4th down stop in the second quarter, Rees would throw his 3rd interception on the day after the team got into field goal range. Instead of the score being 14-14 or 14-10, OU responded to make it 21-7. All 21 points came directly off of turnovers. Q: The last time an Irish quarterback threw three interceptions in a half? A: Brady Quinn at Purdue in 2003. Notre Dame got the ball back with 0:43 left in the first half and all three time outs remaining, only to quickly kneel the bal and head in. Lack of confidence in the thrower? Not enough time (as Kelly mentioned)? Either way, it was a telling moment of the thoughts on the sideline.

OU got the ball to start the second half (which makes the first half kneel down more baffling), the defense forces a punt after four OU plays. On the very next play, George Atikinson III reels off a 80 yard touchdown run. Lead is cut to 21-14. Again, frustrating to kneel out the end of the half. The next two Oklahoma possessions, the defense held them to field goals opening the game to 27-14. Then everything clicked for ND. Here is the following series:

  • Atkinson 9 yard rush
  • Atkinson 14 yard rush
  • Atkinson 2 yard rush
  • Carlisle 2 yard rush
  • 13 yard Pass to Daniels
  • Atkinson 5 yard rush
  • 30 yard TD play-action pass to Niklas
The rush used perfectly to set up the pass which led to Niklas being wide open and an easy catch to the end zone.

Now trailing 27-21, the game was back in hand. The defense had OU at 3rd and 3, but a 6 yard pass and 48 yards after the catch would finish the game off. OU made the two-point conversion easily on the same bubble screen/pass to the flat they had used all day. Relying on yards after catch to stretch plays. Blake Bell's ability to run kept our defense soft just long enough to make the short pass. Rees in the empty set with no threat to run allowed blitz after blitz, a sack finally leading to the pick-six. Notre Dame would then have a 9 yard pass, loss of 2 yards rush and then throw 7 incomplete passes to trot off the field every time. Trailing by 14 for the third time in the game, the run game was completely an afterthought. Empty formation, cover the receivers and throw in complete. With our "catching wide receivers" in the game (opposed to our "run blocking wide receivers"), pass after pass was swatted away.

         1  2  3  4    F
#14 OU  14  7  6  8   35
#22 ND   7  0  7  7   21

What Worked?
- Running the ball. Notre Dame gained 220 yards rushing, their most of the season. This also included an 80 yard touchdown run, the longest since 2000. When rushing for at least 200 yards, Notre Dame had won the prior 25 games. Mixing in Andrew Hendrix allowed the read option that Golson used last year to return. The commitment to running also allowed the play-action to be used effectively and directly result in an easy 30 yard touchdown pass.
- Sticking to the plan. Even though Notre Dame trailed by 14 multiple times, they stuck to the plan and ran the ball while mixing in well timed passes. The first two times the offense got the game back to one possession, closing within 6 as the fourth quarter began. It wouldn't be until the 4th quarter that the plan was thrown out and the "grip it and rip it" of Michigan State returned.
- Third Down Defense. Oklahoma converted 5 of 14 third downs (the touchdown conversion was most costly). Add in the failed fourth down conversion and OU converted 33%. The failed conversions Blake Bell was held in check and keyed in on. Multiple times he would rush for a loss on these third-and-short scenarios.

What Didn't Work?
- Turnovers. Three first half interceptions by Rees quickly put the Irish in a hole. A hole time and time again the team cannot get themselves out of. Rees now has 5 INTs on the season and the team has another fumble for 6 giveaways. The defense has 4 takeaways, but the fumble recovery against Temple came very late in the game. The pick-six by Tuitt against Michigan, pick-six by Jackson against Purdue, and interception by Farley against Michigan State were all pivotal. Being negative in the turnover battle never ends well.
- Making Changes. Through five games there does not appear to be many improvements or changes to try and improve. We continually see an empty formation whenever we are in a 3rd and 4+ situation. The empty formation has been highly ineffective (such as 4-16 completions against MSU). For the first time this year, numerous run plays were called and they worked well. But late in the game when trailing by 14 again, we crawled back into our turtle shell and reverted back to our prior tendencies. Yes "better execution" will obviously create better success, but when there is a continued history of "not ideal execution" perhaps a new strategy should be employed.
- Predictability. With players constantly going between the field and sideline, this gives the defense time to sub. So much for the "up-tempo" offense that keeps favorable defensive personnel on the field. As our packages sub in and out, the players on the field for different situations lead to tendencies in the run or pass game. Folston, Smith, Koyack, and Niklas on the field? Run. Jones, Daniels, Robinson, and Atkinson/Carlisle on the field? Pass. Empty backfield? Pass all the way.

The season is now at a defining point. Sitting at 3-2, next week features a high-powered offense by #22 Arizona State. After the BYE week, six more games await with (currently coachless) Southern Cal and #5 Stanford book ending the second half. Will the coaching staff and team make any changes to put the team in position for success, or will we stay on our current trajectory of the third 8-5 season in four years and wait for Golson's return next year?

(Also, does anyone know of another team to go so quickly from being ranked #1 to being unranked? Kansas state may be able to give us a run for this category.)

Keywords: football, oklahoma, andrew hendrix, tommy rees, brian kelly, george atkinson iii, amir carlisle, davaris daniels, troy niklas, tj jones, corey robinson, tarean folston, ben koyack, purdue, michigan, michigan state, arizona state, everett golson, southern cal, stanford, brady quinn, kansas state

Posted On: 2013-09-29 11:45:54 by IrishTrpt07


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