Missed It By That Much: Pittsburgh Instant Reaction

This team is different. They’re not going to play down to the competition. The offense is too good to let that happen.

That was the subtext, if not the text, of the bulk of the national media’s discussion of Notre Dame this week. So with Pitt, tormentor of worlds (see 2008 and nearly 2012), coming to town, we really should have seen this coming.

Luckily, the Irish defense blanked Pitt after their first drive (notwithstanding a kickoff return), and that was barely enough for the Irish to win, 19-14, and get to the bye week at 7-0.

And while Ian Book did his job at the end, make no mistake about it, this was a win by the defense.

The question is, why was it necessary?

This Pitt defense has been awful. The only team that scored fewer than 19 points against them this year so far was Albany. They gave up 38 to North Carolina and 37 to Syracuse. And this week, their top tackler blew out his knee and was knocked out for the season.

At least one writer on Twitter hypothesized that Pitt must have shown something different on film than on Saturday. That seems logical enough. Ian Book seemed out of sync most of the day (this is weird, by the way, since he completed over 80 percent of his throws, including all of them after his second interception). His numbers against the blitz were and are poor, but general opinion held that was due to the rarity with which he saw them.

Pitt coach Pat Narduzzi decided to test that theory by blitzing seemingly every play, and it worked. ND couldn’t do much of anything on offense, especially on the ground. Luckily, they started to figure it out in the second half, and Book delivered big TD throws to Chase Claypool and, most importantly, to Miles Boykin, ultimately the game-winning score.

Some key notes from the game:

Special teams… Not Good

Justin Yoon is great, and Tyler Newsome is usually great, and there was nothing wrong with either today, but it still wasn’t the best day for special teams. Another kickoff return for a touchdown occurred, and that would’ve been among the most infuriating things ever if it had cost the Irish the game. Jonathan Doerer is an enigma, as is the question of why he is played, since he is an enigma. Just wind up and destroy the ball, man. For those with your skills, it isn’t that difficult.

Defense. Good.

The Irish D might not have surrendered a point all day if it hadn’t been for Nicco Fertitta’s jumping offside. (Nicco, if you’re going to commit penalties, we have an over/under on targeting ejections for you.) As it was, after that, and the TD drive it spawned, it was a shutout, with an assist from Pitt missing 2 field goals (we have good luck with that, huh?).

My favorite part was probably the end of the game, when beacon of wisdom Doug Flutie informed us he didn’t like rushing only three players on 4th-and-long because it let Pitt’s quarterback have too long to throw. Now, ordinarily, I can get on board with this. But when the three rushing are Khalid Kareem, Jerry Tillery and Julian Okwara, I’m kind of ok rushing three. And sure enough, they got plenty of pressure on Kenny Pickett, forcing a bad throw.

Fake punts?

Pat Narduzzi apparently went to the Mark Dantonio School of Completely Obvious Fake Kicks in his previous job at Michigan State, because for some crazy reason, on what he thought would be Pitt’s final chance on a 4th down (not even a long 4th down), he sent reserve quarterback Jeff George Jr. out there (in an unnamed #96 jersey, no less) for a pseudo-fake punt. ND didn’t even remove its defense from the field, and the play never had a chance. Narduzzi might have been better off putting the punter’s jersey on George, Gordon Bombay-style. Thanks for the assist, Pat. Oh, and when your guy catches the ball 5 yards out of bounds on the final 4th down, pointing as if he was in ain’t gonna fool anybody.

Clutch Book

I’ll say this for Ian Book: Again, this was not among his greatest days, but as frustrating as the game was, I was never all that concerned that he would struggle all day. There was definitely a “he’s gonna get us points when we need them” vibe. I am not, generally, Mr. Optimism, so the fact that Book has managed to break that exterior is, from a personal standpoint anyway, pretty impressive. And in the end, he threw for over eight yards per attempt and completed over 80 percent. The kid comes through. Let’s hope it’s a while before he’s asked to in that kind of spot again.

Just move on

This is one of those “great win, now burn the game film and never speak of it again” kind of afternoons. That’s three of those this year, albeit Book’s first. It’s not a pattern until it happens a second time with Book at the controls, but there are some long-term questions. Luckily, we as fans get to ask those questions with ND holding a 7-0 record.

(Photo credit Matt Cashore)

By |2018-10-13T18:49:17+00:00October 13th, 2018|Football|16 Comments

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Orlok
Orlok

Book looked solid in the second half, except for that damn slide. Anyone know what adjustments they made against the blitz?

farquad2012
farquad2012

He had to slide there. Probably wasn’t going to take another snap if he had tried to get the final yard for the first down.

spider-man
spider-man

While I was frustrated that he came up short for the first down, I would much rather have the starting QB sliding to protect himself than taking big hits.

KLM2
KLM2

I have watched Pitt play 3 times this year and their defense never came close to what I saw today. I wished that we would have thrown the ball more because Pitt was not going to let our running game get going today. BK said in hindsight that we should have thrown the ball 45-50 times and I agree completely. Book looked a little confused in that first half with their different blitz packages but adjustments were made after the half and you just had a feeling that it was only a matter of time before our talent trumped theirs and we took the lead back.

Extremely happy to be undefeated heading into the bye but if we want to run the table we will have to play a lot better. Play like this on the road @ Northwestern or @ USC and we lose.

nd09hls12
nd09hls12

He’s gotten a lot of praise so far this year – justifiably – so I think it’s fair to say now: that was an absolutely garbage gameplan from Chip Long. The first two deep shots in the entire game were on our last TD drive. Results: (1) open receiver interfered with; (2) touchdown. That should have happened way, way earlier.

Also, Fertitta should have played his last plays as an ND player today.

Thank goodness for the defense.

Clay Cossé fka Mouth
Clay Cossé fka Mouth

Not to defend him, but I wonder if Kelly said “hey I don’t want a repeat of last week, let’s establish the run early,” and they just stuck with it too long. Not to let either of them off the hook….also one possession in the first quarter had to throw things off somewhat.

kiwifan
kiwifan

I thought their Dline beat our Oline most of the day, putting pressure on Book and stifling our run game. The backs never had any room to run.

Speaking of running, does Mack ever break a tackle?

nd09hls12
nd09hls12

Speaking of guys who never break a tackle: Avery Davis is not a D1 running back. It’s time to stop pretending like he is.

KG
KG

I’d thought he’d be a slightly better Amir Carlile. Turns out he’s a slightly worse Amir Carlile.

Notre_Dame_Joe
Notre_Dame_Joe

He also had an all-time great whiff on a blitzing safety. Almost as good as the one Hainsey (I think it was him) didn’t apply on the screen to Williams late in the game.

Clay Cossé fka Mouth
Clay Cossé fka Mouth

They need to get he and Kmet running vertically. When they do that well see some tackles broken. How hard is it to tackle a guy running laterally who just caught a pass, even if you’re giving up 30 lbs.

KLM2
KLM2

I don’t know if I can lay the blame on Chip Long. Book simply had happy feet the first two quarters. Sure he was pressured but even when he was protected he still looked to move out the pocket when he didn’t have to. Listening to Boykin he said that the WR were getting open in the first half. Regardless of who was to blame. Today was most certainly a learning experience for everyone.

Concrete Charlie
Concrete Charlie

I heard that the Umpire on the ACC crew has two years of eligibility left. Potential stop-gap replacement for Bars? Dude made some fantastic blocks.

kiwifan
kiwifan

I heard he’s transferring to the SEC.

HolyCrossHog
HolyCrossHog

”I told him winning is fun, but let’s not win like this again”

Boykin