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Beyond the Box Score with Brian Fremeau: Available Yards

Sep 23, 2013, 12:12 PM EDT

“Beyond The Box Score With Brian Fremeau” is a weekly series that takes you inside the stats with in-depth analysis through numbers and graphics. Fremeau, a 1999 graduate of Notre Dame, is a longtime writer for ESPN Insider, Football Outsiders and his personal graphical analysis website, BCFToys.com

source:  The Fighting Irish moved to 3-1 with a 17-13 victory over Michigan State on Saturday. The win over the Spartans was Notre Dame’s 10th victory in its last 11 games that were decided by a single score. As with many of those close games, the Irish needed its defense to play its best down the stretch. They delivered.

Michigan State forced a Notre Dame three-and-out midway through the fourth quarter, and started the first of its final three drives of the game at its own 26-yard line. The Irish gave up only 19 yards in six plays on that possession, forcing a punt. Three plays later, the Irish defense was back on the field, this time facing a Michigan State drive starting from the Spartans’ 32-yard line. Notre Dame gave up only three yards before forcing another punt. After yet another three-and-out for the Irish, Michigan State started its final drive of the game from its own 33-yard line. Four plays and two yards later, the Irish had forced a turnover on downs and proceeded to run out the clock over the final 1:46 of the game.

On those three drives, Michigan State’s starting field position presented a total of 209 available yards. The Notre Dame defense gave up only 20 yards on 13 plays in that sequence, a total of 9.6 percent of available yards. As illustrated in the chart above, it was the second most dominant performance down the stretch in the last 11 single-score games Notre Dame has played. Only the final three-possession sequence in regulation against Pittsburgh last season (9 plays, negative-4 yards) was more efficient.

Under Brian Kelly, Notre Dame has won its last seven games that were decided by a single score. That streak ties Kelly with Ara Parseghian for third among Notre Dame head coaches.

1. Elmer Layden (12 single-score wins without a single-score loss, 1937-1939)
2. Knute Rockne (10 single-score wins without a single-score loss, 1927-1930)
t-3. Brian Kelly (7 single-score wins without a single-score loss, 2012-present)
t-3. Ara Parseghian (7 single-score wins without a single-score loss, 1972-1975)
5. Lou Holtz (6 single-score wins without a single-score loss, 1988-1990)