Notre Dame’s Defensive Grades For Syracuse


Sep 27, 2014; East Rutherford, NJ, USA; Notre Dame Fighting Irish defensive coordinator Brian VanGorder gestures on the sideline in the third quarter of the game against the Syracuse Orange at MetLife Stadium. Notre Dame won 31-15. Mandatory Credit: Matt Cashore-USA TODAY Sports

For the two weeks leading up to Notre Dame’s matchup with Syracuse, pundits praised the Orange’s physical running attack. While Notre Dame was home licking their wounds, the Orange hung up 370 rushing yards against Maryland. This meant that Notre Dame’s inexperienced front seven was going to have their hands full with Terrel Hunt and company. But if you think about it, wasn’t this the same concern people had the week before Michigan? The Wolverines rushed for 350 yards against Appalachian State week before their showdown with the Irish. But, was only able to muster up 100 yards against the Irish. Fast Forward to Saturday night, and the Notre Dame’s defense stifles the Orange to 135 yards. Not bad seeing that 42 of those yards came on a Syracuse fake punt.

Overall, Notre Dame’s defense had a decent game. There are many areas the Irish need to improve before Stanford comes to town. But for now, let’s grade Notre Dame’s defense against Syracuse.

Defensive Line – A

Six defensive lineman recorded stats against Syracuse with Sheldon Day leading the way with five tackles and two tackles for lost. Day quite possible had his best game of the season against the Orange by consistently being at the point of attack. You are able to see Day’s motor on a 3rd down play in the fourth quarter. Prince-Tyson Galley takes a handoff on 3rd and five but is stopped three yards behind the line of scrimmage. This is because Day manhandles an Orange offense lineman and exploded into the backfield. But his biggest play came on a 4th and 1 when Hunt kept the ball and Day and company pushed Cuse back and denied the first down.

Andrew Trumbetti and Issac Rochell both added tackles for losses for the Irish defense. Jarron Jones added a block kick and we saw Grant Blankeship get in on the action. It was an overall dominant performance for the Irish defensive line.

Romeo Okwara was penalized with the games knee jerk penalty when he was flagged for roughing Terrel Hunt. Okwara had a textbook tackle on the quarterback but the Irish were flagged because of it. Overall, if the D line could play similar or even a little better than they did against Cuse, then they should be able to hold their own against Stanford.

Linebackers – B-

Jaylon Smith and Joe Schmidt lead the way for the linebackers posting nine and seven tackles, respectively. Smith is quickly ascending himself into one of the best linebackers in the all of College Football. Schmidt is slowing winning over Irish fans as being a solid football player. The linebackers aided the defensive line in stopping the Orange rushing attack. But there were a few hiccups along the way.

Smith was burned on Syracuse’s first play from scrimmage. Hunt completed a 38-yard completion that was dropped right on Smith’s head. Some people could chalk that play up to a prefect pass, but it still could have been prevented. Also, James Onwualu was stiff armed by Hunt on a rushing touchdown. This was Notre Dame’s first rushing score surrendered this season, and another play that could have been avoided.

Secondary – C

The secondary wasn’t exposed per say, but they were giving up big chunk plays which cannot happen in October. Cole Luke was burnt on multiple pass plays in which he didn’t even turn around to find the ball.

Even though he was gift-wrapped an interception in the first half, Farley was burnt by tight end Tyler Lewis for 46 yards. Cody Riggs also got in on giving up huge pass plays when he gave up a 26-yard pass as time expired in the 3rd.

The most troubling play came in the 3rd quarter where an Orange receiver was able to get behind both Farley and Redfield. The pass was too far for the receiver to handle, but you cannot allow coverage to break down like that.

The secondary needs to play better than it did Saturday night if they want to compete in October. In all due respect to Terrel Hunt, he is not the caliber player of the ones that the Irish will face in the next three weeks. Winston will not miss many throws.