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Film Studies: What January’s Fiesta Bowl Match-Up Tells Us About Notre Dame’s Game Plan for Jim Knowles’ Defense

Saturday night’s matchup between Ohio State and Notre Dame is full of unknowns.

film studies

The visiting Irish will be led by 36-year-old head coach Marcus Freeman, who played the role on the sidelines only once before this game at Ohio Stadium. Plus, a true sophomore, Tyler his Buchner was Freeman’s choice to place under the center of his ND offense, and at the college level he made just 35 career passes. Although he tried, his first career got off to a good start.

Of course, your opponent has many unique questions that must be answered.

Jim Knowles was brought in with great fanfare and was expected to quickly revive the dying defense that had kept the program from reaching its lofty goals the past two seasons. But many Buckeye fans are probably wondering how quickly his presence will be felt.

For the most part, in a match like this in week 1, many writers like this would give bossa brothers ¯_(ツ)_/¯ when asked to predict the outcome in advance. be connected. But this time, fighting he has a very clear blueprint for what Eilish can expect when he tries to move the ball against Knowles’ defense. Because all you have to do is turn on the tape from the last match.

Most readers of this site know January 1st as jackson smith nigba day After his record-breaking performance in Pasadena that night, another OSU fan remembers the day for a different reason. is called That’s after the Cowboys overwhelmed Ireland in Freeman’s debut as head coach by his 37-35 margin by 21 points.

The former Buckeye linebacker has made a number of changes to his coaching staff after officially handing over to Brian Kelly, but Tommy Reese’s calling plays for the third straight season has allowed him to revive his offensive brain. Confidence is largely intact. His opponent’s number, Knowles, had left Stillwater for Columbus by the time bowl preparations were underway, but had one of the best defenses in the country last year. The rest of the staff remained in place, as did the players who took their place as one. .

“You have to be prepared for what you see in the movies,” Reese said of Knowles leaving before the Fiesta Bowl. end. There may be some wrinkles, but ultimately we need to be prepared for what we see on film and be ready to deal with what they throw at us. ”

For those familiar with the Cowboys’ defense under Knowles, the Cowboys’ defense against Ireland looked much the same without him. It didn’t seem to change much after taking over the coordinator duties on .

“They have players who make a difference on all three levels,” Reese added when asked about their preparations for the Cowboys. We have to make sure they’re ready for what’s coming back.

By all accounts, Rees’ assessment was spot on, and the Irish seemed well prepared, at least early on, for the system Knowles designed. The Irish, who took to the field without a workhorse to run back Killen Williams, appeared to attack OSU from the air instead, making 68 attempts in the desert that afternoon, before Wisconsin transfer Jack Cohn’s. smashed his career high.

Cohn struggled to find his rhythm early in the season after missing the 2020 campaign at Madison and moving to South Bend in his final year. But by the time his Fiesta bowl turned around, he was clearly getting used to Reese’s system, and the 30-year-old play his caller looked to attack a weak spot in the Cowboys’ system.

The corner played very soft as the OSU safety played aggressively in the early down run game. quarter If the Irish chose to throw the ball, they knew they were effectively on an island. Khosen seemed content with repeatedly hitting quickouts and hitches near the sidelines, taking advantage of those generous cushions to move the ball around easily throughout the first half.

In previous seasons under Kerry, Eilish could easily be described as a “pro-spread” offense, often using two tight ends in place of a larger base manpower (the more common three-receiver look). ) with a general option concept. These options were typical for Ian Book, as he had provided a sizeable running threat from the QB spot over the past three seasons. Zone read A concept found everywhere.

However, with the less mobile Cohan under center, the Irish turned into solid players. RPO We often package quick patterns like the hitch above with an inside run.

Against the Cowboys, Reese showed even more cunning, effectively executing a triple option play, with All-American tight end Michael Mayer becoming the pitchman and using a horizontal arrow route into an unprotected flat.

Reese seemed happy to take what the OSU defense gave him. Cowboy’s secondary downfield matchup In his zone he dropped 7-8 defenders and an aggressive pass while trying to break the pocket with his rush, the Irishman was late running his back his Picked up chunks of yards easily through the screen.

Without Williams, backup Chris Tyree might have struggled to move the ball on the ground, recording just 18 yards on six carries. 6 passes for 118 yards and a touchdown.

That touchdown happened because of one of the weaknesses of Knowles’ approach, so it’s worth pointing out. The veteran defensive his coordinator is famous for sending all-out blitzes on his downs in the third, and Clements followed suit on his 3rd downs and 7s early on.

Trailing 14–0 and hoping to pick up some momentum as the first quarter ended, Clements sent seven defenders into an all-out blitz, leaving four defensive backs in cover. But rather than leaking into one of the easiest 53-yard catch-and-runs we’ve seen, that blitz was supposed to stay in to help Buck block the blitz.

The Cowboys were hesitant to call that kind of pressure after that lengthy touchdown catch, but Reese continued to dial up his manning-friendly passing concept. Proved to be nearly defenseless in the , and proved to be able to escape the safety of the cowboys in one interview…

…and used his big frame and excellent hands to box out smaller defenders like McAllister while fighting for the ball near the goal line.

OSU safety Colby Harvell-Peel said of Mayer after the game, “We knew he was going to be a big part of their offensive plan. Until then, I really don’t know how big he is.”

But as the match progressed, the same Oklahoma defender who seemed very sluggish early on started playing more and more. Zu has proven that after seeing something once, he can stop it the second time.

McAllister, who is expected to follow Knowles to Columbus and start at the same spot in the Buckeyes on Saturday night, stood out again and again throughout the second half.

More notably, OSU’s corner stopped playing with a big cushion, not only helping the ND move the ball around, but also removing the quick throws to the edge that seemed to get Coan into a good rhythm. It’s been a long time.

Cowboys cornerback Jabbar Muhammad said of the team’s halftime adjustment, “In the first half they had a lot of quick access plays, a lot of quick games. And we were about seven or eight yards out. “The emphasis at halftime was that we had to get up in their faces. We had to be aggressive. That’s what we did.” And we felt that’s what we should do from the jump.That’s what we are.”

Despite the multitude of concepts available in Knowles’ vast playbook, the Cowboys turned things around in the second half by employing a number of simple methods. Unmanned coverage (cover 1), betting their personnel against the higher touted Ireland. Notre Dame may appear to consistently outperform Oklahoma State University, but a group of veteran advocates long coached by Knowles have proven they can read and react quickly. .

It’s best illustrated by senior linebacker Malcolm Rodriguez’s interception late in the fourth quarter, effectively sealing the Cowboys’ comeback victory. robbery Otherwise role on a one-to-one basis.

Rodriguez said of his key picks, “I knew they were hitting a lot of emptys at the end, and they were going for hash marks.” I lured him to one receiver’s side, and like I said, I knew they were hitting hash marks, I just sank in the hash and he eventually threw. It’s on the hash.”

A 5-foot-11-inch quarterback out of high school, Rodriguez was the 1,529th rated recruit in his 2017 class.

“Joe Bob [Clements] The defense wanted to be more aggressive,” Rodriguez added when asked about the team’s turnarounds in the second half. It was a scrimmage he was throwing punches at the line but he was the one. pressed. The first half was a playoff, but it didn’t go well. So we went in and adjusted and went to their faces. I wanted to play aggressively, and in the end it worked out. ”

Perhaps because this focus on fundamentals and instincts proved to be the difference between his former team and his next opponent, Knowles made the Fiesta Bowl as he prepared for Saturday’s contest against Notre Dame. I underestimated the importance of the matchup.

“It’s a good game to see what Oklahoma State did and what their opponents did, but it’s just another game,” Knowles said this week. It’s just one of the games of

Unlike the veteran crew Reese and the Irish had seen eight months earlier in Glendale, Arizona, Knowles had only a few months to train his new charge. Buckeye defense might be on paper so talented, but it remains to be seen if a well-designed game plan can respond like other OSUs have when punched in the mouth .

Luckily for them, Reese isn’t working with a proven veteran under the center. But this one is still a coordinator, proving to be able to light up the very plans that Buckeye fans are so excited about. Coan tallied his 509 passing yards in the desert that day, putting him 202 more than the previous high the Cowboys surrendered all season.

Despite the huge yardage that Reese’s team put up against the sane system months ago, the young OC still has great respect for Knowles, and when he discusses the challenge ahead of the Irish on Saturday night. I can speak from experience.

“They’re doing a really great job of mixing up the front and I think they’re doing a really great job of keeping it simple for the players and complex for the offense,” Reese explained last week. Knowles does a really good job of creating offensive indecision.”

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