A brilliant defensive scheme can help stop even the most dynamic of offensives, but sometimes, less is more, and a coordinator needs to know when that is the case.
For Brian VanGorder, the defensive coordinator for the Notre Dame Fighting Irish who is known for his complex blitzing schemes, identified this week as an opportunity to tone it down against the old-school triple option heavy Georgia Tech team.
Notre Dame Defense Stops Vaunted Tech Running Game
Instead of dialing up complicated rushes, he let his athletes go to work — and go to work they did.
Against one of the most vaunted running attack in the nation, Notre Dame’s defense held strong and kept the high-flying Yellow Jacket offense to just one rushing touchdown.
The 216 yards on the ground allowed cut the Yellow Jackets season average in half, and the Irish’s containment eventually forced the Georgia Tech to throw the ball an usuably high total of 24 times.
There is little doubting that the Fighting Irish’s defense is chalk full of athletes, but against Georgia Tech they really had a chance to showcase it.
Among the obvious Jaylon Smith and Joe Schmidt, Greer Martini and Drue Tranquil — who were plugged into the lineup especially for this game — stepped into the lineup and made plays throughout the evening.
Tech’s offense, which thrives on quick decisions and forcing its opponents to over commit on the ball, presented all sorts of potential problems to a defense that struggled in last week’s squeaker win against Virginia, but throughout the entire game they stayed at home and forced opposing quarterback Justin Thomas make the first move.
The sophomore Tranquil, made his presence known quickly, making a big hit on an option pitch to stuff the runner for a loss during the opening series. Unfortunately, after making a play in the endzone, breaking up a pass, Tranquil was forced to leave the game with an injury.
After coming up with the pass breakup, Tranquil went and jumped in the air to celebrate with a teammate but came down awkwardly, grabbing his knee afterwards. He was seen later on the sidelines on crutches, with a big brace on his knee.
At the time of his injury, Tranquil had made four tackles, two for a loss, and broke up the pass in the endzone.
Graduate student Matthias Farley stepped into Tranquil’s place and made four tackles of his own. Bouncing in and out of the starting lineup for most of his Notre Dame career, Farley may be called upon again to log crucial playing time.
Martini — also a sophomore — made his third career start (had two last year) for the Irish, and finished the game with eight total tackles.
Smith was everywhere again, even if he just finished with just five tackles. He forced a fumble, recovered one — nearly taking it back for touchdown — and broke up two passes. Showing his pure athleticism, Smith stayed stride for stride with the Yellow Jackets’ slot receiver, breaking up the pass in the process.
He showed a quick burst that few have, squaring up to Georgia Tech’s quarterback to force a pitch, and then breaking to the runner and making the tackle.
Even though they let off the gas pedal at the end of the game, letting Georgia Tech come back to within eight points, this was a performance that the Irish could use going forward, especially with a game against Clemson looming.