Defense vs Up-Tempo Wake Forest Offense
The unquestioned bright spot of the first three games has been the play of the Irish defense. They have been a high-energy, relentless group that has gotten after the quarterback and shut down opposing running games so far. Jerry Tillery is having a dominant start to his season in the middle of that defensive line. Te’von Coney and Drue Tranquill are the one-two monsters of the defense as we expected them to be, while Navy transfer Alohi Gilman has provided a great spark of energy to the defensive backfield.
The Irish are giving up just over 16 points a game, which is good enough for 31st in the nation and only 107 rushing yards a game — which is 26th in the nation.
While the defense has had success, they have struggled when teams have ran a more up-tempo style of offense. Ball State ran 97 plays vs. the Irish two weeks ago, and the fatigue certainly set in and made it difficult to stop their offense at points throughout the game — especially on 3rd down. Last week, Wake Forest ran 105 plays in a loss to Boston College and are ranked 3rd in the nation with 93.3 pays per game.
This up-tempo style of play will be a factor all-game, especially late. Depth and endurance will be one of the most important factors for the defense, as substitutions and playing time will need to be managed very well to make sure the right guys are in at the right time.
The best way to keep a team from running 93 plays is to make sure they don’t have enough time to do so. It will be critical that the Notre Dame offense finds ways to convert third downs and keep the ball to let the defense rest. Continuous three-and-outs on offense won’t cut it. For Notre Dame’s defense, they can do their part by stopping Wake Forest on third down and getting off the field. If the Irish can find a nice balance of these two factors, the up-tempo Demon Deacon offense should be tamed.