As I was watching Notre Dame launching a furious yet ultimately unsuccessful rally at Arizona State today on an otherwise relatively slow day of college football, I noticed that the Sun Devils had successfully stymied a major part of the Irish’s attack: Quarterback Everett Golson’s improvisational running for positive yardage.
Whether by design or not, a staple of the Notre Dame offense is using Golson’s athletic ability to create positive yardage on the ground. “Countless” would accurately describe the number of times on third down Notre Dame has called a pass, and Golson has gone off-script and beaten a defensive end or a linebacker to the corner for a first down. Notre Dame has a good enough offensive line and Golson is athletic enough to make this kind of improvisation a meaningful tactic on third- or fourth- and ten or less.
Today, Arizona State got out in front of Notre Dame quickly enough that slowly chipping away yardage on the ground by Golson or anyone else in the backfield just wasn’t an option.
Also, Arizona State employed a brilliant defensive strategy against the elusive Golson. The Sun Devils blitzed from the outside repeatedly while the defensive tackles bull rushed and closed any running lanes up the middle. The end result: No room to run outside, no middle running lanes, very little time to read and throw, Golson having to throw 41 passes on the day, and the quarterback’s rushing totals falling to a dismal negative-11 yards on sixteen carries.