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Beyond the Box Score with Brian Fremeau: Turnovers

Oct 7, 2013, 1:03 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

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Following a 35-21 loss to Oklahoma, the Fighting Irish bounced back with a 37-34 victory over Arizona State on Saturday night in the fifth installment of the Shamrock Series. The story of each of the last two games was turnovers, a recurring theme throughout the season. Notre Dame gave up three turnovers to the Sooners and were unable to record any of their own. Against the Sun Devils, the Irish won the turnover battle three to one.

With just over four minutes left in the third quarter against Arizona State, defensive back Bennett Jackson forced the first Sun Devils turnover, a fumble setting up the Irish offense for quick strike touchdown and a 24-13 lead. The fumble was the first Irish turnover forced in nearly eight full quarters of game action. Since a Mathias Farley interception in the third quarter against Michigan State on September 21st, Notre Dame’s defense had faced 25 straight opponent offensive drives without recording a turnover.

That 25-possession stretch matched the longest stretch between turnovers of the 2012 season. From late in the Oklahoma game last year through the Pittsburgh game and deep into the Boston College game, Irish opponents had 25 straight offensive possessions that did not result in either a fumble or interception. In that span, Notre Dame gave up 595 yards and two touchdowns. As illustrated in the chart above, the Irish defense gave up 813 yards and four touchdowns before Jackson ended the turnover drought.

Notre Dame forced two more turnovers on Arizona State’s final five drives, including a Dan Fox pick-six that extended the Irish lead to 37-27 late in the fourth quarter. Of the six turnovers forced by Notre Dame so far this season, the Irish defense scored a touchdown on three of those plays.

The chart above outlines each possession sequence between turnovers for Notre Dame and its opponents so far in 2013. The Irish offense has scored 2.1 touchdowns per turnover (compared to 2.5 touchdowns per turnover in 2012). The Irish defense has given up 2.7 touchdowns per turnover on the season (compared to 0.7 touchdowns per turnover in 2012).

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