Analysis: Notre Dame's offensive line took control against Florida State

Tyler James
South Bend Tribune

Notre Dame’s offensive line had to step up to the challenge.

With Brandon Wimbush replacing an injured Ian Book at quarterback for the Florida State game on Saturday night, an impressive performance from the Irish front five was needed to establish a running game to support Wimbush.

The line did just that. The unit helped clear the way for the best rushing output of the season and didn’t allow a sack in pass protection of Wimbush.

It wasn’t a flawless performance, but it was one that was required. The Irish offense finished the 42-13 victory with 365 rushing yards, two rushing touchdowns, 130 passing yards and three passing touchdowns. That was due in large part to one of the best games of the season from Notre Dame’s offensive line.

Here are some of the numbers behind Notre Dame’s offensive production against Florida State.

• Of Notre Dame’s 50 carries, 47 of them came on designed runs for a total of 341 rushing yards. Most of that yardage came before the Irish ball carriers were forcibly contacted. I’m qualifying with the word forcibly because Dexter Williams was touched on both of his long runs, but the contact wasn’t more than a hand reaching out for his hip, and he sprinted through the defense. It only seemed fair to not count that as contact.

Notre Dame’s ball carriers were running hard to allow for 138 yards after contact, but the Irish offensive line did a good job of keeping them clean near the line of scrimmage.

Here’s how each ball carrier fared with yards before and after contact on designed runs.

Williams: 136 yards before contact; 66 yards after contact. 20 carries for 202 yards.

Wimbush: 25 yards before contact; 19 yards after contact. 9 carries for 44 yards.

Jafar Armstrong: 28 yards before contact; 16 yards after contact. 7 carries for 44 yards

Tony Jones Jr.: 12 yards before contact; 27 yards after contact. 6 carries for 39 yards

Davis: 4 yards before contact; 6 yards after contact. 4 carries for 10 yards.

Jurkovec: -2 yards before contact; 4 yards after contact. 1 carry for 2 yards.

• Wimbush was pressured on only seven of his 28 dropbacks against Florida State. That 25 percent pressure rate ranks fourth-best of the season for Notre Dame. It’s better than the protection Wimbush was provided in any of his three starts at the beginning of the season.

When the Seminoles were able to generate pressure, it typically came on the edge, with defensive end Brian Burns being a tough assignment. The pressure often came from multiple defenders too. Five of the seven pressures included two rushers closing in on Wimbush.

That resulted in me crediting 12 matchup losses on those seven dropbacks with pressure. Left tackle Liam Eichenberg (six losses) and right tackle Robert Hainsey (three losses) were the only offensive lineman I assigned responsibility to for pressures. Three other matchup losses for pressure came from tight end Cole Kmet, Armstrong and one unblocked defender.

Those pressures clearly affected Wimbush. On the seven dropbacks with pressure, Wimbush failed to complete any of his six passes. Those incompletions included both of his interceptions, two pass breakups, one bad throw and one throwaway. Wimbush also rushed once for four yards in that situation.

• Florida State was able to create pressure with just a four-man rush, but the Seminoles did bring a fifth or sixth defender on occasion. These were the results for Wimbush.

Four-man rush (17 times): 7-of-14 for 87 yards with one interception and six pass breakups. Wimbush ran three times for 24 yards. Florida State generated four pressures with a four-man rush.

Five-man rush (9 times): 5-of-9 for 43 yards and two touchdowns with one interception, two pass breakups and one overthrow. Florida generated one pressure with a five-man rush.

Six-man rush (2 times): 0-of-2 with one bad throw and one throwaway. Florida State generated pressure on both times it used a six-man rush.

• Wimbush found most of his passing success on intermediate routes, deeper than five yards but within 20 yards of the line of scrimmage. Here’s the breakdown of his passing chart.

Behind or at line of scrimmage: 3-of-5 for 22 yards with two PBUs.

1-5 yards: 1-of-6 for 12 yards and one interception with three PBUs and one bad throw.

6-10 yards: 3-of-5 for 23 yards and one touchdown with one PBU and one throwaway.

11-15 yards: 3-of-4 for 37 yards and one touchdown with one interception.

16-20 yards: 2-of-2 for 36 yards and one touchdown.

21-30 yards: 0-of-1 on one overthrow.

31-plus yards: 0-of-2 with two PBUs.

The Notre Dame offense lines up during the Florida State game, Nov. 10 at Notre Dame Stadium.