Notre Dame’s big runs kept happening, often on what looked like identical plays to the same side of the field. The Fighting Irish had nine “chunk” rushing plays (10 or more yards) and four “chunk” passing plays (15 or more yards) in Saturday’s 42-26 win over Florida State.
Among those: Kyren Williams’ 65-yard run and 46-yard run in the first quarter followed by Chris Tyree 45-yard run in the second quarter. All three runs set up touchdowns for Notre Dame, which led 35-20 at the half.
“Defensively, we’ve got to do a better job of eliminating the explosive play, obviously gave up too many explosive in the run game,” FSU coach Mike Norvell said. “Notre Dame was an experienced offensive front and they did a great job executing their play in what they wanted to do. Just too many times where we either weren’t all 11 playing on the same page, either executing or fitting our gaps. And we had some missed opportunities when we had time to make plays in the backfield.”
FSU’s front seven often struggled. The big plays added up, especially early. Defensive coordinator Adam Fuller was asked if the mistakes were players not knowing what their assignment was or not executing.
“Both. on one it was a missed technique, missed tackle,” Fuller said. “On another one, it was a missed alignment. So there are more big plays than obviously we want to go into detail about. But it was a mixture of both.”
Seven of the nine chunk runs came on first downs. While that may seem like a common denominator, it was also a reflection of Notre Dame averaging 8.4 yards per carry on the night en route to 353 rushing yards. The Seminoles are 61st in the nation vs. the run, allowing 194.2 yards per game.
FSU did improve in limiting chunk plays after halftime, as Notre Dame had runs of 13, 10 and 14 in the fourth quarter. Notre Dame was held to just seven points in the second half, and FSU forced a fourth-down stop late in the game.
“It’s hard to say you settled in when you give up over 40 points,” Fuller said. “You never want to say that. It wasn’t a good overall performance for sure. But I was proud of the second half. I was proud at the end of the game, the fight. And I was proud about the overall effort. We’ve got good kids that want to get better. They’re eager to try and make this thing turn (around) too. And our job is to make sure that we do it the right way constantly, every single day, are able to look them in the eyes and tell them the truth and see the improvement.”
The improvement is notable but the performance by FSU’s defensive line was a sore spot on Saturday. There were no sacks, just one QB pressure (by end Janarius Robinson) and no passes batted down at the line of scrimmage.
Linebacker Amari Gainer led the team in tackles (11) and forced a fumble on Notre Dame’s opening drive, while there was one tackle for loss by linebacker Emmett Rice. None of FSU’s front four had a tackle for loss.
But FSU’s defense has not recorded a sack against an FBS opponent since Gainer and Raymond Woodie III combined on one against Georgia Tech in the season opener.
Offensive coordinator Kenny Dillingham said he liked how Travis was able to absorb coaching during the game at Notre Dame, his first start.
“I was really pleased with how he took information we were giving him, he could see it the next time it happened and then was able to apply it and get us into the right play or make the correct decision,” Dillingham said. “So I have been pleased with how he has played. We just have to continue to improve being in rhythm and consistency in his drops because his success throwing the football comes with his consistency with his feet and his drops. We’ve just got to continue to build that and that’s one of his goals this week.”
Norvell said Travis was “sore” and coaches limited him in Sunday night’s practice. But he also felt Travis is “moving in a positive direction” as far as being able to practice ahead of UNC.
Safety Hamsah Nasirildeen is in a “day-to-day, week-to-week situation,” Norvell said. While he didn’t say Nasirildeen would play only when he’s 100 percent back, that appears to be the plan. “When he’s ready to play, and he can come out there and play to the level we believe he’s capable of, he’s going to go,” Norvell said. “Until then, that’s just going to be part of the process in his rehabilitation. But we’re hopeful and excited to see how this week goes.”
Freshman offensive lineman Thomas Shrader got his ankle rolled the Wednesday before the Jacksonville State game, which has limited his availability, Norvell said. Shrader has not played since the Miami game.
Norvell bonds with Mack Brown
Norvell said he first met UNC coach Mack Brown back when he was an ESPN analyst and did some games at Memphis. Brown is also a 1974 graduate of FSU.
“He’s an incredible coach, incredible person,” Norvell said. “We’ve been able to develop that relationship over the years and stay in touch pretty regularly in the offseason and in the early part of the year. I’ve got a ton of respect for the man, the coach. You see what he’s done reviving the North Carolina program in such a short period of time.”
Reflecting on specialists
Freshman Alex Mastromanno has averaged 43.7 yards per punt, which is 20th in the FBS. Mastromanno has three punts of 50 or more yards, including a 51-yarder at Notre Dame (his season-best is 54 yards).
“I think he’s done a really good job,” special teams coordinator John Papuchis said. “This past week was probably his most solid performance. It does take some time to get used to everything that goes with American football outside of just the punting aspect. Every day, he’s learning rules and how things go, flow of the game. I’m really pleased with his progress. I think we’re at about a 41-yard net, somewhere in that ballpark for the year. If we can stay in that range and continue to get better at it, we can be exactly where we want to be.”
Ryan Fitzgerald is now 3 of 4 on field-goal attempts on the season, including a 42-yard field goal in the loss at Notre Dame.
“His mechanics are all very solid,” Papuchis said. “When you do have good fundamentals, regardless of where you’re playing or the situation, you can always fall back on those. That’s the thing that I think has allowed him to be so consistent as I saw him be throughout the course of fall camp. I know he did miss the kick against Jacksonville State and missed a PAT, but that wasn’t really the Ryan that I had seen up to that point.”