Blue and Gold Illustrated

Oct. 23, 2017

Blue & Gold Illustrated: America's Foremost Authority on Notre Dame Football

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Page 22 of 55 OCT. 23, 2017 23 NORTH CAROLINA RUNNING GAME VS. NOTRE DAME RUN DEFENSE The lone potential salvation for the Tar Heels running attack was relying on the ad-lib skills of redshirt freshman quarterback Chazz Surratt to bail them out with a scramble. Surratt (12 carries for 32 yards) gave a valiant effort while under heavy duress all afternoon, and a couple of times had decent gains (but none longer than 16 yards) off the QB counter play. Sophomore running back Jordon Brown also had a late 16-yard run, but his other 10 carries netted 12 yards. Notre Dame's defensive front controlled the action while limiting the Tar Heels to 86 rushing yards, even with only two sacks. ADVANTAGE: Notre Dame NORTH CAROLINA PASSING GAME VS. NOTRE DAME PASS DEFENSE Sacks don't always tell the story of how effective or dominant a defense is at negatively affecting the quarterback. The record book shows the Irish with only two sacks, but there were 11 quarterback hurries — led by sophomore end Julian Okwara's three — and seven passes broken up. The combination of Notre Dame's pass pressure and North Carolina not pos- sessing a receiver other than sophomore Anthony Ratliff-Williams (five catches for 55 yards and one touchdown) having separation ability allowed the Irish defensive backs to sit on their coverages because of no fear of a deep threat, helping result in a lot of the passes defended. Surratt was seldom able to stand in the pocket, and he averaged less than 10 yards on his 19 completions and a meager 4.3 yards on his 42 attempts. ADVANTAGE: Notre Dame NOTRE DAME RUNNING GAME VS. NORTH CAROLINA RUN DEFENSE For the sixth time in only six games this fall, junior Josh Adams had a run of at least 59 yards, with his 73-yard scoring jaunt in the second quarter providing a 14-0 lead. It was the fourth time in six games that Adams was past the 100-yard rushing mark by halftime. Rainy conditions suited the power attack well, and the Irish racked up 341 rushing yards— 122 of which came in the fourth quarter after 10 North Caro- lina possessions saw the Tar Heels lose the ball after three plays or less. The UNC defense gradually wore down, while Notre Dame sophomore run- ning back Deon McIntosh (12 carries for 124 yards) finished as the top rusher, with the lion's share coming in the second half. ADVANTAGE: Notre Dame NOTRE DAME PASSING GAME VS. NORTH CAROLINA PASS DEFENSE With sophomore quarterback Ian Book making his first start and a strong ground game and defense to lean on, the aerial game was kept conservative, relying mostly on short hitches and roll-out plays that did not require Book to go through many, if any, progressions. Junior tight end Alizé Mack's team-high six catches totaled a modest 38 yards, and only one of Book's 17 completions in 31 attempts advanced the ball more than 15 yards (23 by sophomore Chase Claypool). The combination of North Carolina allowing only 4.7 yards per attempt plus picking off two passes gave them the edge in this category. The overall Irish receiving corps has remained sporadic. ADVANTAGE: North Carolina SPECIAL TEAMS North Carolina's punting game, including downing three balls inside the 20- yard line, kept it competitive in the first 30 minutes despite getting dominated on both sides of the line. However, the Irish special teams also excelled, beginning with senior punter Tyler Newsome (50.0-yard average on six kicks) seeing his punt downed at the 1-yard line in the final minute of the first half — setting up a safety that dimmed the home stadium's morale while falling behind 16-7 at halftime. A 23-yard punt return by junior Chris Finke (four returns for 44 yards) set up the first TD of the second half, and junior kicker Justin Yoon's three kickoffs in the third quarter were all touchbacks, while adding a 29-yard field goal. ADVANTAGE: Notre Dame THIRD-DOWN CONVERSIONS Neither team prospered here with Notre Dame finishing 5 of 16 (31.3 per- cent) and North Carolina 6 of 18 (33.3 percent). The Irish did convert three fourth-and-shorts in four tries, while North Carolina was unsuccessful on its lone attempt. The top play was Surratt completing a third-and-10 pass to a well-covered but leaping Ratliff-Williams in the end zone for a 25-yard score that cut UNC's deficit to 14-7 in the second quarter. ADVANTAGE: Even TURNOVERS Notre Dame came out ahead 3-2, with both teams losing the ball once in the red zone. North Carolina actually outscored Notre Dame 7-3 off the turnovers, but the Tar Heels needed at least a plus-two advantage in this category to have the chance to stay competitive. ADVANTAGE: Notre Dame ANALYSIS With more than a dozen players lost for the season already because of in- juries (about half of them starters), North Carolina is in the throes of "one of those years" like Notre Dame and Michigan State were in 2016. Neither team was at its optimal level, each committing 10 penalties apiece, but to Notre Dame's credit its consistency in the attitude toward competition has remained steadfast in all six games the first half of the season. The Irish maximize their two greatest strengths — the ground game led by a veteran line, and a fundamentally sound and constantly improving defense — and have established their identity this year winning with the most basic tenets of football to complement an omnipresent, motivated approach. ON PAPER REVISITED BY LOU SOMOGYI The Irish forced three more turnovers against the Tar Heels, including senior rover Drue Tranquill's strip and fumble recovery. PHOTO BY BILL PANZICA

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