Just like Larz, I’ve been away from the Film Room for quite some time. But the 18 Stripes crew is already in mid-season form which means we have two film posts this week. Larz already looked at the defense so today we’ll move to the offensive side of the ball. We’ll take a look at Notre Dame’s first touchdown of the season. It was a great call by offensive coordinator Chip Long and well executed by the Irish.
It’s 1st and 10 from the Michigan 13. Ian Book is in the game after Wimbush was poked in the eye on the previous play. Book has been labeled a “passing quarterback” – even though we all know better – but Chip Long doesn’t care. He’s running right at the Wolverine defense.
Don Brown, maybe expecting a pass, doesn’t exactly load up at the line of scrimmage. He does, however, bring an overload blitz to the right side. You can see three Michigan defenders lined up over right tackle Robert Hainsey. But no matter – Long calls an outside zone run away from the blitz.
Hainsey will kick out the first Michigan linebacker to his right. This is possibly a zone read because the defensive end (red circle) is left unblocked. Right guard Tommy Kraemer climbs to the next level and goes searching for the safety. Center Sam Mustifer blocks the nose tackle lined up directly in front of him. Alex Bars blocks a linebacker and Liam Eichenberg kicks out the defensive end. Tight end Cole Kmet motioned across the formation before the snap and took a linebacker with him (red arrow).
Jafar Armstrong takes the handoff and starts searching for a hole to run though. He doesn’t have to search long because the senior captains have channeled their inner grizzly bear and are mauling their defenders.
Not wanting to be left out, Hainsey throws his defender to the ground for good measure. Armstrong runs through the chasm the line opened up for an easy touchdown.
Perhaps Don Brown overthought this play and expected Book to throw the ball, but either way Chip Long made the perfect call and the offensive line executed perfectly.
There’s been a bit of criticism of the offensive line’s performance on Saturday. While they didn’t play great, I thought they were adequate. The Irish ran the ball pretty effectively in the first half and protected Wimbush long enough to get off those early deep passes. While nursing a lead in the second half, Long still called a few deep passes but was content to run the ball even when Michigan had a +1 advantage in the box. There was no reason to open things up and risk a momentum-killing turnover.
We’ll see how the offensive line looks against much softer defenses in the coming weeks, but I suspect the Irish will be fine.