Film Analysis: Louisville’s limited pressure made big impact against Notre Dame

Tyler James
South Bend Tribune

Louisville didn’t quite pressure Notre Dame quarterback Ian Book as frequently as the box score may have suggested.

The Cardinals sacked Book four times by taking advantage of their limited opportunities to pressure him. Book was only pressured on five of his 27 dropbacks in Notre Dame’s 12-7 victory over Louisville.

Allowing Book to be pressured on 18.5 percent of his dropbacks qualified as the third-best rating in each of the last two seasons. But a low pressure rate means much less when the pressures result in as much wreckage as the Cardinals caused.

On all five of the dropbacks Book was pressured, he never threw the ball. The Irish lost a total of 16 yards on those plays with four sacks for a loss of 21 yards and one Book run for five yards. Two of those sacks ended Notre Dame drives on third downs.

That timely execution by Louisville’s pass rush made an impact on the game. Two pressures came from unblocked defenders. Another came after Book danced around in the pocket for too long and forced himself into a sack. The other two pressures came on mistakes by right guard Tommy Kraemer and center Jarrett Patterson.

Let’s take a closer look at how Louisville generated its pressure against Notre Dame and break down how the Irish offense fared in other aspects.

Pass protection

Louisville opted to rush four defenders on most of Notre Dame’s dropbacks, which left the Irish with a numbers advantage in pass protection for most of the day. But Louisville did choose to rush five or six defenders on seven dropbacks.

Louisville never sent more pass rushers than Notre Dame had pass protectors. The numbers were even on four dropbacks. Book was sacked three times for a loss of 18 yards and completed one pass for seven yards on those plays.

Here’s how Book fared against the different pass rush combinations.

Three-man rush (5 times): 3-of-4 for 24 yards with one 50-50 ball. One run for three yards. No pressure.

Four-man rush (15 times): 6-of-11 for 63 yards with three off-target throws and two PBUs. Four runs, including one sack, for 35 yards and 1 TD. Two pressures.

Five-man rush (4 times): 1-of-3 for 12 yards with one off-target throw and one drop. One sack for a five-yard loss on one pressure.

Six-man rush (3 times): 1-of-1 for 7 yards. Two sacks for a loss of 13 yards on two pressures.

Passing depth

Despite opening the game trying to stretch the field a little on a windy day in South Bend, Book completed just one pass beyond 10 yards of the line of scrimmage on six attempts.

The passing game was so limited that Book’s 11 completed passes came at an average depth of 3.1 yards. Of his 106 passing yards, 72 yards came after catches.

Here’s how Book, who finished 11-of-19 for 106 yards, fared on passes relative to the line of scrimmage.

Behind the line to 0: 3-of-3 for 25 yards.

1-5 yards: 5-of-7 for 40 yards with one PBU and one off-target throw.

6-10 yards: 2-of-3 for 25 yards with one drop.

11-15 yards: 1-of-3 for 16 yards with two off-target throws.

16-20 yards: 0-of-1 with one PBU.

21-30 yards: 0-of-2 with one off-target throw and one 50-50 ball.

31-plus yards: N/A.

Passing wrinkles

A little more than half of Notre Dame’s yards after catches came on its three screen passes. The three receptions for 25 yards, made by running back Chris Tyree (two for 15) and wide receiver Avery Davis (one for 10), included 37 yards after the catch.

Notre Dame didn’t find much traction with play action despite the running game producing 232 yards. Following seven play fakes, Book completed two passes for 30 yards. The five incomplete passes came on three off-target throws, one pass breakup and one drop.

Run direction

Notre Dame’s designed runs were most efficient when run to the outside. Outside runs averaged 6.5 yards per carry. Inside runs averaged 4.6 yards per carry.

Runs to the right were also a bit more effective than runs to the left. Right side runs averaged 6.2 yards per carry opposed to 4.7 yards per carry to the left side.

On Notre Dame’s 38 designed runs, the Irish gained 211 yards (5.5 YPC). Three of those runs went up the middle via quarterback draw by Book for 21 yards.

Snap location

Notre Dame ran the vast majority of its plays out of the shotgun against Louisville. The play calling was fairly balanced with 25 dropbacks and 21 designed runs combining for 94 passing yards, 143 rushing yards and one touchdown.

The Irish were run heavy when Book took snaps from under center or in the pistol formation. He only dropped back for a pass on two of the 15 plays from under center. All four plays from the pistol were designed runs. Notre Dame totaled 76 yards from under center and 24 yards from the pistol.

Personnel production

Excluding Notre Dame’s fake field goal attempt and a pair of kneel downs to end the game, the Irish offense ran 65 plays for 337 yards and one touchdown.

Almost half of those yards came with three wide receivers on the field for the Irish. In three-receiver sets, Notre Dame averaged 6.2 yards per play. Eighteen dropbacks produced 85 passing yards, 15 rushing yards and one touchdown. Nine designed runs resulted in 68 yards.

Though the three-wide receiver sets were the most productive (6.2 yards per play), the Irish ran more plays out of two-tight end sets. The 31 plays with two tight ends on the field produced 133 yards (4.3 YPP). The play selection was run-heavy with 22 designed runs for 107 yards and nine dropbacks for 21 passing yards and five rushing yards.

Notre Dame called six designed runs with three tight ends on the field for 34 yards. A two-running back set gained two rushing yards on one designed run.

Notre Dame’s Ian Book (12) is hit by Boston College's Isaiah McDuffie (55) during the Notre Dame-Boston College game last season.