Postgame Thread - Notre Dame 31, MSU 13


First of all, hats off to Notre Dame. The Irish offense was very effective at moving the ball when not shooting themselves in the foot (both aspects were on full display today, with 21 points creditable to the offense - not counting the kickoff return or the field goal set up by Harrison Smith's Robert Blanton's interception return - and two offensive turnovers plus a muffed punt). What I didn't expect was for them to completely shut down our running game - not counting sacks, we had 19 carries for 49 yards. That simply won't get the job done.

The good:

  • The defense did fairly well against an explosive but turnover-prone offense; 21 points and 275 yards allowed is certainly nothing to hang your head about. Some tackling issues early (Isaiah Lewis, in particular, stood out to me as taking some bad angles on Cierre Wood on the Irish's opening drive), but they adjusted well after that.
  • Nick Hill looked quite good on kickoff returns; after an ND scoring drive, we were regularly starting at the 40 yard line.
  • Kickoff coverage was good on three out of four kicks, often forcing ND to start around the 20 or 25.
  • B.J. Cunningham: 12 catches, 158 yards. Lots of key catches in big moments.

The bad:

  • Skyler Burkland, starting right tackle, was injured in the second quarter. It did not look pleasant, with a pair of players rolling over his leg from behind. I haven't heard anything further about the injury yet, but it would not surprise me if it's fairly serious.
  • Three out of four is a pretty good success rate for most things. Kickoff coverage is not one of them, especially when the one failure is an 89-yard touchdown.
  • 12 penalties. Several pass interference calls and offensive holds (the latter, especially, on the late drive that ended in the Cousins interception). One of the PI calls turned an apparent 3-and-out into the last Irish touchdown drive.
  • The aforementioned running game. Le'Veon Bell was modestly effective in very limited duty (7 carries, 3.9 YPC aveage); Edwin Baker somewhat less so (10 carries, 2.6 YPC). Our questions about the offensive line may have been answered, and not in a good way.
  • The fake FG. I don't think there was anyone in the stadium who didn't expect it; after all, they remember Little Giants just as well as we do. Worse was the manner of the fake; even if they don't see it coming, a shovel pass right up the middle against a FG block is suicide. There's a reason fake FGs are almost invariably to the outside. If you're going to go for it there (which I think is a reasonable call), just put the offense out there; we shouldn't need trickery to get two yards.
  • The offensive game plan in general. How was Michigan so effective against Notre Dame? They went deep frequently, attacking Gary Gray in particular, and used the aggressiveness of the Irish linebackers against them. Instead, we threw short route after short route right into those linebackers. We couldn't run the ball at all out of the crazy unbalanced line (five on one side of the center, one on the other) formation, though since we weren't very effective out of more standard sets either that may not have been the problem. (On the other hand, play action and weakside bootleg passes seemed to work well from that formation.)

Your thoughts here.

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