Chip Long came in talking about running the ball. But I was skeptical. After years of listening to Brian Kelly talk about emphasizing the run game and then seeing him abandon the run at the first sign of an extra defender approaching the line of scrimmage, I’ve learned to ignore the rhetoric and see what happens on game day.
Although it’s a small sample size, Chip Long certainly demonstrated a commitment to the run in his first game as the offensive coordinator at Notre Dame. In fact, he even had the quarterback line up under center with a fullback on the field at the same time (well a tight end lined up as a fullback, but hey, beggars can’t be choosers). At first I thought the formation was a mirage. But it wasn’t, and it worked. Let’s take a look at the film and I’ll show you what I mean.
4th and goal in the 4th quarter. A chance to put your opponent away. Under Brian Kelly, the Irish have tended to struggle in this situation. However, this is a bit of a different look compared to what we’ve seen in the past. Hopefully it will yield improved results.
Notre Dame is going to run a pretty simple play. The tight end and tackle will block down (yellow lines) and the guard will kick out (yellow line). The fullback will lead block right off the tight end (blue line) and the running back will follow the fullback (green arrow).
Temple has a hard time adjusting to the formation. They become mesmerized by the double tight ends and end up with 5 defenders (red circle, black arrows) to that side. They look like a gaggle of Canadian Geese on a freshly cut farmer’s field, huddled together looking to clean up any morsels left by the passing combines.
Brandon Wimbush (# 7) is in the process of handing the ball off to Josh Adams (# 33, green star). An alley is starting to form (yellow lines) and freshman tight end Brock Wright (# 89) turned fullback is in position (blue line) to provide a lead block.
On the other side of the formation, the gaggle (red circle), still appears befuddled by the two tight ends and is taking a casual approach to pursing to the ball.
The line has done an excellent job of sealing off the defenders to create an obvious running lane (yellow lines) and the fullback is looking to seal a pursuing defender to the inside (blue arrow).
As for the gaggle of defenders, it looks like one of their hands has made it into the screen shot (red arrow). So that’s something.
3 Temple defenders versus 2 Notre Dame blockers and a ball carrier at the goaline (blue circle). This is all about imposing your will.
This is what an improved off-season conditioning program looks like on the field. The Notre Dame players simply push the Temple defenders backwards into the end zone (blue circle). Touchdown Notre Dame.
As for the gaggle of players that was mesmerized by the 2 tight end side. Two of them are near the ball carrier (red arrows). But as you can see, they did little to impact the outcome of the play.
This was a well designed play. Placing two tight ends to one side of the formation forces the defense to make an adjustment (in this case they overreacted). Putting a fullback in the backfield allows Notre Dame to get an extra blocker at the point of attack. Having the quarterback under center allows for a quicker exchange which means the running back can get moving a littler earlier and run downhill towards the line of scrimmage.
However, this really isn’t about X’s and O’s. It’s about attitude. 4th down and goal in the 4th quarter. Notre Dame is sending a message: we are going to pound the ball down your throat and there is nothing you can do about it.
I like that message. It will be interesting to see if we can deliver that same message to Georgia next week.