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Beyond the Box Score with Brian Fremeau: The First Five Drives

Nov 26, 2013, 12:05 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,

source:  Notre Dame defeated BYU in frigid, windy conditions on Saturday by a final score of 23-13. The Irish scored touchdowns on each of its first two possessions and followed those up with a Kyle Brindza field goal two possessions later. Brindza chipped in two field goals in the second half, including a clutch 51-yard attempt that pushed the scoring margin to 10 points and ultimately sealed the victory.

The Irish only had the ball five times in the first half against BYU, and though they only scored 17 points in that stretch, the Notre Dame offense moved the ball very well over those early possessions. Since the start of the Brian Kelly era in 2010 (a 50 game span), the Irish have earned at least 225 yards over its first five possessions a total of 16 times. As illustrated in the chart above, Notre Dame produced at least 225 yards in its first five possessions twice in 2010, three times in 2011, five times in 2012, and six times (so far) in 2013. Notre Dame won all 16 games.

BYU’s other nine FBS opponents to date managed to score an average of only 6.3 points over their first five offensive possessions against the Cougars.

A strong start on offense has been key to many victories, and two touchdown drives over the first five drives has proven to be a consistent catalyst. Notre Dame has scored at least 14 points in its first five possessions a total of 24 times in the last four seasons. The Irish have won 22 of those 24 games, including each of the last 16 occasions. Notre Dame’s only two losses in those situations came in 2010 against Tulsa and in 2011 against Michigan. Those two games are the only examples in the Brian Kelly era in which Notre Dame earned at least 200 yards over its first five drives but failed to win the game.

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