Oct 22, 2012, 2:06 PM EDT
Notre Dame edged BYU 17-14 over the weekend to move to 7-0 on the year, and once again, the victory was led by a very stubborn defense. The Irish streak of not surrendering a touchdown came to an end, but both BYU touchdown drives came on their two shortest fields of the day. The Cougars reached the end zone on a 56-yard drive and a 30-yard drive, but no other drives ended across the ND 25-yard line.
The Irish defense has made its mark this year in a number of statistical categories, and killing long drives is one of them. BYU had a 13-play, 50-yard drive in the second half on Saturday that ended in a punt. On the year, the Irish have given up only 1.7 points per methodical drive (possessions that last at least 10 plays), the third best rate in the country. On the season, Notre Dame has faced 66 opponent offensive drives started at or inside their own 40-yard line. The Irish have given up one touchdown on those 66 drives, a 3-play, 75-yard drive by Navy.
That 75 yard touchdown drive by Navy is also one of only two opponent possessions this season that have averaged better than 10 yards per play against the Irish. The second was also by Navy, a 2-play, 39-yard garbage time “drive” that ended the game. In non-garbage possessions on the year, the Irish defense ranks first nationally in limiting explosive drives, offensive possessions that average 10 or more yards per play. As illustrated in the chart above, it is the best explosive drive rate ND has posted in at least a decade. Notre Dame is currently on a six-game streak of not allowing a single explosive drive.
Brian Fremeau (’99) is a college football writer, stats analyst, and data visualization designer. His work regularly appears at ESPN Insider, ESPN the Magazine, Football Outsiders, and on his own site, BCF Toys. He develops and publishes numerous possession-based statistics including the Fremeau Efficiency Index (FEI), a college football rating system based on opponent-adjusted drive efficiency. Follow Brian on Twitter.
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