What The Irish Learned

Pittsburgh: What The Irish Learned

Seven down. Five to go.

It wasn’t easy, but for the fourth time in 2018 Notre Dame showed it has what it takes to prevail in a close game. Pittsburgh held the lead for three periods, but the Irish came from behind on a late Ian Book-to-Miles Boykin scoring connection.

At 7-0 Notre Dame football takes a week off — with an open date listed on the schedule for Oct. 20. Then the Irish go back to work Oct. 27 in San Diego against old rival Navy.

Notre Dame this week joins Alabama and Ohio State as the lone 7-0 teams in the country. Clemson, Cincinnati, UCF and USF are 6-0 and North Carolina State is 5-0.

Here’s what the Irish learned in their matchup with Pittsburgh:

  • OK, so he’s consistent. It’s difficult to imagine how Irish quarterback Ian Book could throw the ball with any more consistency. In his four starts, he has attempted 32, 33, 34 and 35 passes (games in no particular order). He has completed 24, 25, 25 and 26 passes (no order). He has thrown a combined 31 incompletions in those four outings in 134 attempts. He has completed at least 70 percent of his passes four weeks running, something never done at Notre Dame. He now ranks 12th nationally in passing efficiency at 167.9.
  • Irish mid-term.Since Notre Dame players spent a fair share of time last week dealing with academics, let’s provide mid-term numbers for the Irish football team, too. Here are Notre Dame statistical averages for 2018 — compared to 2017 after seven games and 2012 full-season numbers (the last time the Irish were 7-0, on their way to 12-0):
2018 (7 games) 2017 (7 games) 2012 (13 games)
Total Offense 427.7 474.9 412.1
Rush Offense 179.1 317.9 189.3
Pass Offense 248.6 157.0 227.8
Pass Efficiency 147.33 109.85 128.7
Scoring Offense 32.6 41.3 25.8
Total Defense 340.9 361.4 305.5
Rush Defense 126.1 126.1 105.7
Pass Defense 214.7 235.3 199.8
Pass Efficiency Defense 105.11 116.46 111.4
Scoring Defense 18.7 16.4 12.8
  • Irish play smart. Here are some midseason NCAA team stat ratings that suggest Notre Dame is playing with great intelligence and execution so far in 2018: 2nd nationally in fumbles lost (1), 9th in fewest penalties (4.43 per game), 13th in pass efficiency defense and 16th in pass completion percentage (.674). In addition, punter Tyler Newsome is eighth in that category at 46.3 yards per boot.
  • Seven quarterback hurries? Really? Irish junior Julian Okwara was credited with seven quarterback hurries Saturday (and Notre Dame as a team had 10). That’s such a new stat that neither the NCAA nor the Notre Dame record books list figures in that category — so it’s tough to compare Okwara’s effort. Hurries don’t even appear on Notre Dame’s season stat sheet. But, in Notre Dame’s first six games in 2018 the Irish as a team never had more than nine hurries (Ball State) and no player had more than four in a game (Okwara versus Ball State). Over seven games Okwara has 14 hurries. Against Pitt, three of Okwara’s hurries came on the final three Panther plays in the game — and two more came on the previous Pitt possession (all in the final 5:43 of the game).

John Heisler, senior associate athletics director at the University of Notre Dame, has been part of the Fighting Irish athletics communications team since 1978. A South Bend, Indiana, native, he is a graduate of the University of Missouri School of Journalism and a member of the College Sports Information Directors of America Hall of Fame. He is editor of the award-winning “Strong of Heart” series.