Notre Dame football: Defensive keys vs Cal in 2022 Week 3
Stopping Cal: Players to Focus On
California plays a very conservative style of offense and benefits greatly from drawing momentum from their defense remaining stout and making stops. That being said, they do their best work on offense in short-field situations, or at least that is their game plan.
Through two games so far this season, the Golden Bears have managed just 4 drives longer than 59 yards. They have also struggled to be explosive on offense, with their longest play of the season coming on a 37-yard pass play against UNLV in week two.
Cal’s offense runs through their QB Jack Plummer, and his ability to execute the quick passing game. Plummer currently owns a 69% completion percentage and his average yards per pass attempt sits at 7.4. He has been very good through the first two games this year, throwing 4 TDs, but he also has thrown 2 interceptions, and regardless of Notre Dame’s struggles this season Plummer will be facing a sharp step up in competition this Saturday.
ND needs to get to him quickly via the blitz and make him force bad passes into traffic. It would also benefit ND to shut down the quick pass game Cal likes to run and force them to throw the ball over the top of the defense, where Notre Dame has excelled so far this season. Forcing a turnover or two would do wonders for the confidence of this defensive group for the Irish.
Plummer’s favorite target so far this year has been WR Jeremiah Hunter, who has 11 catches for 156 yards and a touchdown so far this year. He is also Cal’s primary downfield threat. Another wideout to keep an eye on for the Irish is J. Michael Sturdivant, who is the only other Cal receiver who is over 100 yards so far on the young season. I would expect Tariq Bracey and Cam Hart to shadow Hunter and Sturdivant, respectively.
Cal’s workhorse at the running back position is Jaydn Ott, who has rushed for 156 and the team’s lone rushing TD so far this season. Ott has shown some burst and quickness though, as he averages 6.5 yards per carry, proving he has consistently gotten into the second level of the defense to force linebackers to tackle him.
DeCarlos Brooks is another name to watch in Cal’s backfield, but Ott has been far more effective up to this point in the year. Regardless, I would expect both backs to get some work running the ball. Notre Dame needs to show that they can control the line of scrimmage.
Because Cal prefers to throw the ball, it would be in NDs best interest to make the Bears one dimensional by shutting down the run game early.