Notre Dame doesn’t see a lot of man-to-man coverage. Maybe it’s because we’ve seen Will Fuller beat just about every team willing to run one-on-one with him into submission—starting with Texas and continuing all the way through to the tire tracks he left on Pittsburgh.
As Notre Dame prepares to take on Boston College’s No. 1 rated defense, the Irish will get a chance to go strength vs. strength. The Eagles will continue doing what they do defensively—play downhill, aggressive defense at the point of attack, sometimes leaving their covermen on islands. The Irish? They’ll get a chance to counterpunch, finding great matchups and hoping to make the Eagles pay.
It’s not logical to assume the Irish will be able to get their big-play offense back on track against a defense that gives up just a shade over 2.1 yards per carry and less points than anyone else in the country. But there will be big plays available if the Irish can execute. With C.J. Prosise in the lineup and the Irish receiving corps at full strength, that’s the objective of DeShone Kizer, who admittedly got a little vanilla against Wake Forest.
“These guys go hard and they take risks,” quarterback DeShone Kizer said on Wednesday. “And they’ve been really successful throughout the year.”
Kizer knows those risks also signify opportunities. Not just with the chance to hit Fuller when he’s matched up alone on the outside, but to target difficult one-on-one covers like Corey Robinson. The Irish may also be able to find ways to isolate their slot receivers, especially as Boston College is forced to substitute inexperienced defensive backs after injuries hit their starting lineup.
While establishing the running game will allow the Irish to stay balanced, getting vertical with the receiving corps could turn this game lopsided in a hurry. Boston College’s offense hasn’t been able to score points. Take away the 100 points they scored against Howard and Maine and they’re averaging less than 10 points a game against FBS competition.
So while Kelly, associate head coach Mike Denbrock and offensive coordinator Mike Sanford need to find ways to manufacture a running game, what they really need is a quarterback willing to stay smart but aggressive, with Kizer understanding that he’ll have chances to allow his receivers to go make plays.
“If you’re not going to challenge them vertically, then challenge them on the outside,” Kizer explained. “They have the ability to do a bunch of different things. They like to play their man coverage, but they play some really cool zone coverages in which there are not many open areas, and you’ve got to be able to understand when those are coming at you.”
Kizer is evolving still as a quarterback. While he’s clearly shown a mastery not often seen in a first-year player, sometimes you still see the gears churning. That was evident on some passing downs against Wake Forest, when the Demon Deacons changed looks and made things tough on the young quarterback, forcing him to do a little too much thinking.
That’s likely the mission for Boston College’s defense, knowing they have little offensive support. While the Eagles offense is decidedly vanilla, the defense will continue rolling the dice, hoping to change the game while the offense bleeds the clock, hopefully able to take advantage of the opportunities afforded them.
Kizer has shown the ability to hit the long ball. More importantly, he’s shown the smarts to stay out of trouble, his only two-turnover game coming against Temple. This Boston College defense is a new challenge for him. Not necessarily because it’ll be scheme heavy, but rather because they are just really good at what they do.
“They have complete confidence in what they’re doing right now,” Kizer explained.”They know what they’re doing, they know who they are, and they’re really good at what they do. And when you have confidence in what you’re doing, it allows you to play more competitively and be able to take a couple more risks that end up in game-changing plays on defense.”